Bound to Please by Leigh Summers

By Leigh Summers

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To do so would of course impinge on pregnancy taboos. Worse still, it would automatically reveal to nineteenth-century women, who were plagued by unreliable contraception, that the commonplace corset offered an almost undetectable method of disguising pregnancy and disposing of the smallerthan-average foetus if it was born prematurely, or was stillborn. Lionel Rose has briefly discussed several case histories of working- and middleclass women whose illegitimate babies were successfully concealed from families and employees in nineteenth-century Britain.

Whether the women involved in the corset industry were professional middle-class Figure 17 Interior of Worcester Corset Factory Massachusetts, c 1900 reveals the dominance of women in the industry. ) TO VIEW THIS FIGURE PLEASE REFER TO THE PRINTED EDITION ‘Elegance, Comfort, Durability’ Figure 18 The employees’ Dining Room at the Royal Worcester Corset Company appeared crowded, but was orderly and well ventilated. The tables were set with plentiful food and drink. There is an element of what might be considered a ‘contrived’ respectability in evidence in this photograph.

Though the number 4 self regulating gestation corset seems to have been an improvement on Amesbury’s Adjustable Figure 22 Roxy Caplin’s ‘Hygienic Gestation Corset…adapted to the special conditions of the body’ This maternity corset featured bones running horizontally across the abdomen. These helped it retain its uncompromising hourglass shape, despite the expansion of the uterus. TO VIEW THIS FIGURE PLEASE REFER TO THE PRINTED EDITION Corsetry and Invisibility of Maternal Body Figure 23 Festa’s Maternity Corset Patent.

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