and their Foundations
I'm sure the majority of Charis corsetieres were hardworking, housewives trying their best to make an additional income, however, judging from the pictures below, the Charis literature seems to specialise in fierce corsetieres.
Charis achieved quite some success with their remarkable arrangement of lacing. Twin overlapping under-belts were laced into the corset so that the lacing was accessible from the exterior. Any bending movement was accommodated by the under-belts riding over each other. The garments were not that strongly boned and the majority sold were corselettes. Like Camp, the garments were not truly made-to-measure, however, with so many components in the construction, each one could be ordered to an different size and assembled to fit any shape of wearer. A corsetiere was really necessary to make the measurements and suggest one of the myriad options.
From the Charis catalogue of 1937 come these photographs from an era that all but seems inconceivable today. Firstly, the Charis corsetiere was encouraged, as were the Spirella and Spencer fitters, to demonstrate the excellent qualities of the garment by wearing an example themselves.
The Charis corsetiere checks that everything is in place.
The fit and flexibility of the garment are demonstrated. Corsetieres were told to wear front opening dresses so that the corset could easily be displayed without the corsetiere completely undressing, or even removing her hat for that matter !
The engineering of the garment and the complex lacing is demonstrated. The underbelts, the back and the front of the corset were all laced together which meant that each lacing controlled three separate pieces of material. I have tried to demonstrate the complexity of this arrangement in some examples from the Ivy Leaf collection.
At the Charis school, the long-suffering client has her measurements taken again and again for the benefit of the students.
The older corsetiere examines a trainee for correct procedure. The trainee is unlikely to have worn such a garment in real life (unlike the instructor), however, her shapely body made the garment look even more effective than it already was.
I find the last photograph on the right vaguely sinister. It reminds me of the uncomfortable relationship that Alison had with her manager. Note in two of the photographs, the models have their slips rolled up over their bosoms. This was for the obvious purpose of displaying the garment and also to disguise the décolletage.
Sinister or not, these corsetieres sold some beautiful garments. Quite frankly, however, fierce or intimidating a corsetiere might be (and most are not), they will not stay in business if the product is poorly designed or constructed. One sad fact about the decline in the corset industry is that the companies lost sight of this fact and that some garments were unattractive and poorly made. It takes decades to make a reputation a precious little time to lose it. Nevertheless, let us return to an age of elegance.
The Complexity of the Corset
The Charis corset once adjusted, stayed adjusted! This is in contrast with CAMP, for example, where each day the lacing is loosened and fastened to shape the wearer's figure.