Saturday, April 11, 2015

Second Empire Style in the 1890's part one

Over the past few days I've done a lot of research on the "Empire" style in the early 1890's.  There is still a ton of research to do, but I thought I'd share what I've discovered so far.

What started me on this track was the fact I did not want to make a bustle gown.  I love the look of a bustle gown.  They are stunning to behold.  However, they style I happen to like is the super crazy takes-way-too-many-hours-of-pain trimmed out styles.  I have some lovely orange silk and bone silk brocade that would make a stunning gown together...but I just have too many other projects right now and can't spend the time to make the dress exactly as I want it to be.  So, for a "simple" Victorian bustle, I saw a few of the seaside bustles and contemplated doing those.

However, I just didn't feel that that really was what I wanted to do either.  I wanted 1890's with stupid big sleeves of enormity and swooping skirts.  I haven't done a period correct 1890's before and figured I could suck it up, wear the generic "bustle era" Strawberry Shortcake corset I made a few years ago under anything 1890's.  Yet, another issue.  The idea of driving two or so hours in a corset just didn't appeal to me.  At all.   Those that have driven in a corset know why.  Those that haven't, try driving with a back brace that won't let you lean back and you have to sit up bone straight the entire two hours.   It's not fun.

Enter in my (Re)discovery of the Empire stays:

I wrote a bit about these the other day.  I've since discovered a couple more styles.

Harper's bazar: Volume XXVI, Number 8             Harper's bazar: Volume XXVI, Number 2

Both of the above are taken from different issues of Harper's Bazar in 1893. I haven't looked into other years yet but both of these tell an interesting story already. First, the Empire corset terminates at the waistline. Even the "health corsets" (or "waists" as they were sometimes called) of the time extended over the hips. Although, there is this extant one that - based on the web archive- is a health corset:

Web Archive Link to Antique Corset Gallery

However, after seeing the Regency corset, I began to doubt that it was an 1875 health corset. On the archived website, it states:
First advertised in 1875, this example is most likely from the late 1870's. A black sateen sanitary corset made by the Warner Bros. Corset Company. The sanitary corset was the created by two brothers who were physicians, I. De Ver Warner and Lucien C. Warner when they became alarmed by the effects a badly fitting corset could have on the health of a woman.

Given that information, I searched for patents by De Ver Warner filed during the 1870's (1871-1880). I found a few:
1878 Corset Patent
1875 Corset Patent
1877 Corset Patent
1877 Corset Patent
1879 Corset Patent

The first thing I noticed was that all the corsets depicted here extend below the natural waistline, unlike the extant black health corset. Also, none of them have buttons. (Sorry, I have a love for button front corsets so it's the first thing I notice!) Noticing differences, I decided to conduct a search on Empire stays from 1885 to 1895 to see what would turn up. Nothing. I tried a ton of different searches and finally found this:

1912 Brassiere Patent

Although some of the shaping is different from the extant black one, I believe that there are enough similarities that the black one is just the predecessor of this brassiere. Mainly, the up and down stays, the length, the shoulder straps, and, most importantly, the rows of elastic in the back.

The more research I did, the more I became convinced that the black extant garment is not a "health corset" but an early example of a brassiere or bust supporter. However, I believe that it's too late in style to be included as part of the "Second Empire" fashion examples for now. I might look up more later but I doubt it's before 1895 and, as I'll show, the Second Empire fashions tend to be from 1892 to 1894.


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