I am obsessed with corsets as an object d'art and have studied books on their construction. One of the best displays of corsets is in the permanent collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England. (Don't miss the second floor galleries which also include corsets, stays and bodices in amongst the other museum pieces).
This particular example called a stay moulded the wearer's torso into an inverted cone, which was the fashionable shape of the 1780s. A tiny waist was not the aim of this undergarment. Rather stays helped achieve smoothness of profile and firmness of contour. At this time in history, stays were plain without decoration.
By the late 19th century, manufacturers attempted to produce more comfortable corset designs. This ventilated corset, which was designed for sports and summer wear, had spaces in between the whalebone and cotton tapes allowing air to circulate and perspiration to evaporate.
Victoria and Albert Museum www.vam.ac.uk
Cromwell Road, South Kensington
London, UK SW7 2R7
+44 020 7942 2000