The truth behind the tiny waists of women in the early 1900s!
Women who could afford to do so dressed in elegant full-length dresses that required elaborate underwear. A woman first donned a tight corset, a torturous device worn around the midsection that could mold most bellies into hourglass figures. Corsets were girdles with vertical strips of curved bone or steel embedded in the fabric. They normally laced up the back, and they could exert as much as eighty pounds of compacting pressure, forcing a woman’s waistline bulk into her chest cavity, thus enlarging her bustline while pinching her middle.
Some models extended well below the waist to contain flabbly backsides. A linen corset cover protected delicate dresses from being damaged by the corset’s functional strings and eyelets. Petticoats, which gave shape to dress skirts, were often very frilly and cumbersome, consisting of yards of fabric. During the 1870s the stylish woman wore a bustle at the small of the back. Made of horsehair or a special spring, the bustle enabled fashion designers to drape layers of fine fabrics of various textures across the full skirt. In a gesture toward simplicity women in the 1880s and 1890s wore only one petticoat instead of the five to seven worn earlier.