• Gift of Vernes
  • Circa 1820
  • White cotton
  • GAL1957.16.17
  • Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris

This undergarment is rarely found in museum collections. Its unusual structure of overlapping strips and laces makes it a challenge to fit it on a dummy and restore its original shape. Worn over a long singlet, it is in fact a kind of corset: it fulfils the function of a corset, but unlike the traditional model is flexible, without whalebone stays. The required support is obtained from the way it is put on: from the securing point beneath the bosom it goes around the waist and then over each shoulder. In the interests of a close fit, 'straps' cross at the back and are tied together at the waist. Thus the undergarment serves the purpose both of a corset, in narrowing the waist as desired, and of the modern uplift bra, surrounding the upper body with a ribbed fabric that opens out towards the top via a system of gussets. The resulting body shape suggests the fashionable silhouettes of a century later – the fluid shape known as the "Empire" line – most notably practised by a couturier like Paul Poiret in the 1910s.

Notice's author : Anne Zazzo