I wrote earlier about my visit to the Kent State University Museum to see the exhibit on resist dye techniques. Upstairs was another fascinating exhibit, on lingerie and underthings across the centuries. Kent State has a world-class fashion program and its museum has lots of shows on clothing and design. This one, called "Undress," will be up through next September 1. Not sure I'd recommend a special trip, unless you're into garment history, but it's certainly fun if you're in the neighborhood.
I was both fascinated and appalled at the undergarments that our foremothers had to wear. Apparently deep breathing and bending over were not activities that clothing was designed to encourage.
Here's a set of stays, from the end of the 1700s. Linen trimmed with leather and stiffened with baleen (whalebone).
Here's a corset from 1836.
From the 1880s, a corset from Poland.
Toward the end of the century, here's a nursing corset. You can unbutton to get to the breast, and there's (allegedly) lots of room for the postpartum tummy.
Another corset, from about 1900. Made of ribbons stiffened with steel. The notes say that this corset, "much lighter and with less boning, would probably have been worn as undress or negligee. Similar corsets were also worn when participating in active sports."
From the same year, here's a "mono-bosom style" of cotton with boning. This style pushed your chest out in front and your fanny out in back for the fashionable S silhouette.
Presumably female modesty was a big deal in these days, judging from the claustrophobic nature of these undergarments. I couldn't help but wonder whether the boobs fit inside these corsets or just rested on top as on a shelf. Which seems pretty risque, not to mention courting wardrobe malfunction.