Edwardian Athletic Corsets For The Edwardian Sportswoman

Edwardian Sportswear, The Athletic Corset
Fencing corset, 1903

‘As every girl who loves the outdoor sports knows, corsets and athletics have long been on unfriendly terms with each other. For some strange reason, not entirely understood by those who devote a part of every day to athletics, the designers of feminine harness have made little or no study of a corset suitable for such exercise, and they certainly have made no effort to combine the straight front with the freedom of movement required in playing golf and tennis.

For the very first time on record peace has been established. We now have the pliable, easy straight front that is adapted to the needs of the athlete.

The contrivances of the summer girl have been so numerous that at first they were funny, but they even passed the comic stage and grew into something pathetic and almost tragic. The girl who cares enough for sports to give up her beauty sleep certainly cares enough for her personal appearance not to resemble a first-class meal bag. She knows full well that it is all very smart to be perfectly devoted to golf, tennis or rowing, but she likewise understands the full value of looking chic and at her best. The lassie of this generation has not lived her twenty summers to naught.

Girdles & Corset Covers Instead Of Corsets

Hitherto she has taken to girdles, which are suited to only the slender figures, or else she has put on her ordinary corset and let it out at the hips and waist until she could bend with absolute freedom, but even then the front steels, which are long and stiff, were always jabbing her and giving gentle hints that they were not to be forgotten. Both these arrangements have their decided disadvantages, however, especially for the girl whose bones are well covered with flesh. A girdle is nothing more than a belt to hang her skirt bands from and there is not the faintest suspicion of a straight front in all its rows of dainty ribbon and lace.

The slim, girlish girl is far better off, in fact, she does not need any consideration at all, for she looks just about as trim and neat in a tight-fitting corset cover as she would in a heavy boned affair and she can bend, twist and turn to her heart’s content without being hampered in the slightest.’ (San Francisco Call, 1903)

‘There is also the empire girdle, which merely supports the bust and gives a svelte, graceful roundness at the waist. […] For the woman who goes in for the so-called hygienic corset there is a new model that is delightfully cool and smart composed of finely woven strappings of interlaced webbing and attractive “bust girdles” to be worn with empire robes.’ (Evening Star, 1906)

Pliable Straight-Front Corset

‘On the other hand, the fashionable stays, if they are cut well, are possessed of good lines – even doctors agree that they are the least harmful that have so far been designed, but even though they do admit of so much freedom and liberty above the waist line they are so heavily boned, steeled and stitched about the hips and over the abdomen that they are

Edwardian Sports Corset Long Unboned Corset 1903
Long unboned corset, 1903

rendered far from suitable for the swinging of clubs, of a tennis racket or a golf club. What is wanted is a corset that conforms to prevailing modes while at the same time it remains light and flexible, and in response to the numerous demands for an article of this kind there is now offered a novelty in which may be found all the qualities perfectly blended.

The new straight front corset looks so much like its sister vise that you could never see any difference without inspecting it closely. The great pity of it is that so far they are not to be found in all shops, and the better ones are ordered by your number.

It has taken time and a great deal of patience and experimenting to finally arrive at anything satisfactory in the corset problem, the women themselves being one of the most serious obstacles, for their main idea seemed to be that a corset that was not made up of fifty-eleven bones, girded with several steels and cords, was nothing that resembled a corset or that could be used for a single instant. Unless it was the regulation vise it was absolutely no good at all. So far as the ribbon girdles were concerned they were light and dainty, but you might just as well go without one at all as to wear the pretty bauble – that is, so far as any support was concerned.

The new athletic stays are usually made of white coutille, and they are cut almost exactly on the lines of the approved street models. They have the long dip over the hips, with the upward curve toward the front, which comes to ever so slight a point directly over the abdomen. One radically new thing about them is that they have not the long front straight, as a board, so that the figure looks as thick at the waist as it does at the largest part of the hips. A slight curve is natural, and it is far more lovely than a straight line; and it may be as well to mention that this season will see the return of this curved waist line, but just how soon it will reach this coast remains to be seen. Paris sets the fashions, and they travel slowly to New York and from there out here, so that no matter how we strive to keep up with the times we always seem to be anywhere from six months to a year late.

Of course, this does not mean that the straight front is going to be abandoned. It is quite possible with the best cut corset to give the long front and the straight lines at the side toward the front, and yet have a little curve at the waist.

One splendid thing in the new corset is its decided spring in the front, so that the diaphragm and lower ribs have plenty of room for expansion and curve without any confining pressure. The steels down the front are just stiff enough to serve their purpose and from there to the back there is not a sign of a bone or cord, so you can readily imagine how limber and loose they are. It is perfectly comfortable and cozy without being sloppy. In fact, it is in every sense an easy stay that any woman may wear and feel as trim in as she would in her very best Sunday one. There is no negligee sensation such as there is apt to be when only a ribbon girdle is worn. In place of that there is a snugness and a fitness that is a great relief as well as a feeling of ease. The back of this new boon is cut rather low above the waist and quite high below, so that there is a very pretty curve from the long hip to the lacings.’ (San Francisco Call, 1903)

Elastic Corset

‘A clever invention, too, is the sports corset in elastic. This is very lightly boned and gives with every movement of the wearer, and is providing itself an ideal garment not alone to the sportswoman, but to the woman who sings, allowing full play for deep breathing, strenuous exercise and the like. There is a variant of this corset made with elastic gores all the way up each side which is less pliable and more acceptable to wearers who like to feel more support than the all-elastic model can supply.’ (Evening Star, 1906)

Drawback Of The Athletic Corset

‘There is just one fault to find with the straight front corset, and that is the pulling in of the front so that it may answer as an abdominal support has resulted in producing any number of flat backs. This necessitates the wearing of a bustle or pad and no matter how small they

Edwardian Sports Corset Fishing Corset 1903
Fishing corset, 1903

may be they are always warm and more or less heavy. To be absolutely healthy the less weight one carries about the better, especially on the small of the back.

For the average figure considerable space is given the front to a point near the lower end of the steel hooks, and this arrangement increases the freedom of the torso muscles. Not only is it perfectly easy to slip the hand down the front quite to the lower end of the corset, but you can get them so that the steels are held away from the ribs by means of a soft lace or curled hair pad made in the shape of a heart.

Not until you have worn one to your sport will you ever be able to realize the wonderful amount of liberty that is yours. You may bend forward, backward or to the side without the least feeling of restraint, yet at the same time be conscious of a pleasing feeling and know within yourself that you are presenting a trig appearance.

Don’t be afraid that the unboned portion will wrinkle with each movement, for that is really so and it would be strange if it didn’t, but it curls up but slightly on account of the gentle pressure of the garters, which are fastened to the direct front and sides, just as they are to all corsets. By the way, garters are as much a feature of the athletic corset as they are of any other kind, and just because there are two sets of them that fasten just over the hips and in front does not signify that you are about to be harnessed up in an uncomfortable manner. The elastics serve to hold the stays down, and the stockings up and do not in any way add stiffness to the original pliability.’ (San Francisco Call, 1903)

Edwardian Riding Corset

‘Then there is a riding corset in broche coutil, high above the waist and short in front, dipping gradually on the hips.’ (Evening Star, 1906)

‘The girl who rides a great deal will appreciate what this new corset means, for she has found it utterly impossible to ride with her ordinary apparel. For such uses the front steel is a little shorter, but the main departure is in the size of the hip. The right side, which is always higher when on the horse, is made somewhat larger than the left, but it has the same long unboned curve that is so characteristic of the golf, tennis and hockey girl.

This model does not confine anywhere and it is not long enough to interfere in the many free movements of any of the outdoor games. No woman, be she young or old, wants to look other than trim, and every one will be quick to appreciate the advantages of the newest try in the favor of athletics, comfort and trimness.

Plain Athletic Corsets

Strange as it may seem, there has been but little demand for fancy fabrics and dainty trimmings. There is always a flat band of lace around the top of even the plainest corset, and this is drawn down to a deep narrow point in front to give an air to the affair of steel and bones. This wee bit of trimming seems quite enough, for one seldom associates ornamentation with vigorous exercises. Girdles always have been and probably always will be far more elaborate, as the foundation itself is generally of moire silk or satin in some delicate tint, fastened under the bust with a pretty chou of ribbon and lace.

Girdle For Girls Aka The Ribbon Corset

For the very slender girl, who alone can wear one of the fragile things without looking unprotected and undressed, a new and popular cut has just come in. The girdle comes to

Edwardian Sports Corset Hockey Corset 1903
Hockey corset, 1903

just a suggestion of a point in front, while the back is cut off square and so straight up and down as to invariably punch the wearer under the shoulder. At intervals there are strips of cream or white batiste stiffened ever so little with thin bones, and these upright bands are held together by means of narrow ribbons, which run around from the front steels to the back ones. The ribbons are run underneath the batiste and end at the front in a fluffy bow.

Where no weight is wanted on the hips, not even the support of the skirts, a narrow piece of batiste – for durability – covered with colored ribbon is fastened from the shoulder pieces and comes to the front, where it is fastened with tiny safety pins. The pins may not look as well as a silk eyelet, but they are by far the most serviceable thing that has been found as yet, and they permit of changes without the least trouble, a thing greatly to be desired in such a garment.

New Corset Trimming Idea

A clever little idea in the trimmings of corsets is the introduction of flowers, small blossoms, of course, such as forget-me-nots on a light moire, lilies of the valley on a white batiste or almond blossoms on pink satin. If you don’t think such a combination is smart try it yourself and find out whether or not you like the effect. You certainly can afford a pale pink batiste without a vestige of trimming. Then hie yourself to the nearest shop and invest in some small flowers that take your eye, a bit of ribbon to match or to be a direct contrast, and put it on to the best of your ability. Probably you will be surprised at the pleasing effect yourself, for it rarely fails to delight.’ (San Francisco Call, 1903)

3 thoughts on “Edwardian Athletic Corsets For The Edwardian Sportswoman

  1. Have you made a sporting corset? I’m would like to make a corset for everyday wear. I’ve been thinking a corded corset might be an option.

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