Thursday, February 14, 2013

Artifact of the Month - February

This month's artifact was selected by our intern, Erin White. Erin is currently photographing our costume collection. Here are her thoughts on this item:

When scrabbling about the offsite storage room in the process of cataloging, we here at the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center stumbled across a box marked simply as “Women’s Undergarments.” Upon opening the box, lo and behold, we discovered many items that were indeed part of that category.  Nightgowns, camisoles, brassieres, and, last but not least, corsets filled the box. While most of these objects are still normal parts of women’s daily attire, the corsets were the items that sparked the most awe and, admittedly, some fear.

While corsets are not typical parts of a contemporary woman’s wardrobe, they were necessities for most women, and some men, well up into the early-20th century for creating a more flattering figure. The typical construction of a corset is a soft cloth that is stiffened with inserted boning. In the 19th century, material like elephant, moose, or whale bones were common boning materials. This particular corset comes from the late-19th century. It was produced by P.N. Corsets and made with cork steel boning, which was patented by the company in 1880.  To actually wear this, one would ideally have the help of another. The corset would wrap about the midsection, fastened in the front, and the laces tightened and tied in the back (this is where help might have been necessary). This would create the highly coveted hourglass figure. The lengths one will go for beauty…

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