The Corset Work

Box covered with Dover Book cloth, linen finish,

machine embroidered label

Closed Outside Edge Length: 18 1/2”

Closed Outside Edge Width: 14”

Height Outside Edge: 2 1/2”

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Images Copyright © 2015 by Tamar Stone. All Rights Reserved.
No images may be reproduced without the expressed written permission of the artist.

The Effect of the Whole  © 2012-15

This project was inspired by, and designed around original documents that supported the corset and orthopedic appliance industry from the late 19th century through the early 20th century. 

Female body proportions are used in the advertising for figure-defining undergarments, on a small piece of historical female ephemera, an advertising measuring tape for The Chicago Corset Co. Ball’s Health Preserving Corset.  Printed on the tiny tape measure are bold statements that declare, “The Only Corset a Growing Girl Should Wear,” as well as “The Most Comfortable of all, and The Only Corset Not Injurious to the Wearer.” In addition, written declarations by wearers of the corset confirm how well the corset works, and it is indeed, “Health-Preserving” as its title states.

The P.W. Hanicke Manufacturing Co. sales pamphlet contained an array of images with descriptive text for orthopedic corsets used to correct various degrees of spinal curvature, as well as other disfiguring body ailments.

The combination of these materials, as well as text from historical medical books concerning the measuring and twisting of the spine (in some instances due to the wearing of corsets), as well as corset advertising, and deportment manuals, create the narrative for this piece.

The instructions to women regarding their proportions, appearance and more include,

    …the external indications as to mind may be derived from figure, from gait, and from dress.

    …the eye is pleased by the exactness of corresponding parts; and that symmetry is the first Character of Beauty in thinking beings.

    That woman who acknowledges to herself her own deficiencies, and bases her dress upon her finest points, will make the most pleasing impression.

From those thoughts, it is further stated,

    Every woman expresses her character in her dress; and where “slouchiness” exists, it means something more than comfortable dressing. It means a lack of neatness and order, a want in the ideas of suitability. It is sure to manifest itself in other ways, and will not be prevented by dresses never so tightly fitting.

From the description of the correct angles for the body, to correcting or enhancing female curves, a woman’s body didn’t appear to be her own domain, with so many opinions assessing her deportment. Unfortunately these discussions seem to be continuing, although with updated language, as a woman’s body is constantly being defined, and even still – confined, for the sake of a “proper” appearance.

Click here: EffctOfTheWhole_TxtSpcsBibl_112315.pdf
to download the complete text and specs

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Interior box covered with Bertini paper.  Outside cover vest held in place with twill tape loops.

Width: 29”

The Effect of the Whole in video

Outside Cover Vest: Antique girls’ corset vest with 10 glass buttons (6 front, 2 sets on each side).

2 antique celluloid buttons on shoulder straps. Laced in back. Machine stitched, cotton embroidered text.

Length: 12” (17” including shoulder straps)

Width closed: 12”

Outside Cover Vest: Width opened: 26 1/2”

Inside Cover Vest Lining: Ink jet printed, cotton sateen fabric.

Interior Book Covers: Machine and hand embroidered, vintage cotton fabric.

Book covers: 8” (L) x 9” (W)

Book pages: 7 1/4” x 9” (W)

Pages Bound: 1 3/4 (H)

Interior Book pages: 18 pages including covers

Front cover inside back, page 1 front

Interior book pages: chiffon and vintage cotton fabric with ink jet printed images,
hand embroidered details

Page Height: 7 1/2”

Page Width: 9”

Interior pages: 3 back, 4 front

Binding: Facsimile of the Chicago Corset
Co., Ball’s Health Preserving Corset,
antique measuring tape.

Twill tape loops
with antique glass buttons attached
to corset.

Interior pages: 5 back, 6 front

Interior pages: 7 back, 8 front

Interior page: 5 back, detail

Interior page: 8 front, detail

Interior page:

3 back, detail

Interior pages: 8 back, sheer 9 front

Interior page:

sheer 9 front, detail

Interior pages: 11 back, 12 front

Interior page: 12 front, detail

Interior pages: 13 back, 14 front

Interior pages: 13 back, 14 front, details

Interior pages: 15 back, sheer 15 front

Interior pages: sheer 15 back, 16 front, details

Interior pages: 17 back, 18 front (inside Back Cover)

Interior pages: 17 front, detail

Interior Book: Back Cover, detail

Interior Book: Front, Back Cover