Cartoons

Cartoons on the subject of corsetry have appeared in many places, however, a special mention must go to two characters, both superb artists in their own right, who bought that quintessentially English 'seaside humour' to the masses:

James Bamforth (1842 - 1911) and Fred Spurgin (1882 - 1968)

We have tried to capture those that share a theme or depict the corset either badly or rather well. Spirella often included cartoons in their house magazine. So many of the cartoons show that long-lasting tradition of lacing one's corsets with a foot in the back. Since so many corset wearers have bad backs, this is hardly recommended! See the section on 'corset lacing'. Inevitably, the 'stout woman' has been the but of numerous jokes and cartoons. Without this long-suffering creature, how would the sea-side picture postcard industry have survived? Atrocious 'double entendres' abound in this fantastical world and yet, occasionally the art-work can be rather accurate. On the left is a wonderful cartoon from Lilian Rivers' book 'Corsets in Africa.' The bra, the girdle and the bulges are all very real. In other cartoons, one wonders if the artist had ever seen a women in a corset; in others, the sight of the stout, disagreeable matron in her stays would have been a daily occurrence. Perhaps the cartoonist was the long-suffering husband in question.

On the right, we see the archetypal stout woman. Well-to-do; middle-aged with a prodigious bosom balanced by an equally large posterior. The large torso tapers downwards to end in small, delicate feet. In reality this was actually very often the case as is depicted in other cartoons here.

 

 

 

        

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

The cartoons sometimes have the virtue of being particularly accurate. The maid hasn't pushed her knee or foot into the back of the corset as have the struggling helpers on the left. The large women leans forward against the pull of her maid, an effective way to tighten the laces, although the laces should never pull the corset completely closed. The corset is not designed to put a waist on the wearer, rather to support the wearer's abdomen and prevent it from bulging; this is exactly the Spirella principle. The corset is very long both above and below the waist. Above the waist, this is designed to prevent any unsightly rolls of spare flesh bulging beneath the armpits. Below the waist, this will control her undoubtedly substantial thighs. I hope, however, the the corset is cut shorter at the front than it appears, otherwise, this lady will never, ever manage to sit down. I feel that the cartoonist's wife was stout; and that he had seen this picture in real life. He didn't have to imagine it. The black and white picture in the middle is drawn in a similar vein.

 

The poor corsetiere on the right's tape measure is too short. Our Spencer friend from Liverpool has encountered exactly this problem, and keeps a special tape handy. It is embarrassing for the client if the corsetiere has to tie two tape measures together!

 

 

      

 

Time and time again, we see the same joke attached to a different cartoon and, moreover, the same cartoon in slightly differing renditions.

 

   

 

 

Here the cartoonist has the laces of the corset off centre simply to show the lacing as a quintessential part of the corset.

 

 

 

Making ends meet occurs in many of the cartoons and the famous "What bust?" "Nothing; they wore out!" occurs so many times.

 

      

 

     

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

        

 

The Scotsman comes in for his fair share of lampooning

 

   

 

      

 

The Lost Chord is a famous one and birthdays and valentines provide no end of entertainment, perhaps inspired by Spirella's own cartoons.

 

       

 

 

   

It's a shame, but we cannot find a higher resolution version of the cartoon on the left. "Have you one that stretches more than two ways?" asks the stout lady querying the advertised two-way stretch girdle.

She should have asked for Playtex that, at one point, advertised seven-way stretch.

 

       

     

All of the above are rather older cartoons and show the Grecian Bend (albeit exaggerated) to comical effect.

 

 

 

   

 

The subject of sex is ever-present but never mentioned directly

 

   

 

 

There appears to be no end of the cartoonist's imagination regarding the stout woman and her corsets. Even the word 'corset' elicits almost a schoolboyish smirk and snigger. Failing to extract humour from references or images of corsets and girdles,

the cartoonist will poke fun at the poor lady's over-sized bosom!

 

   

The style of these two on the left is so similar I assume that the same artist was involved. Love or the abuse of it features on the right, but why is the lady dining in her corsets?

 

    

 

   

   

 

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

Sometimes, the same cartoon has two or more different captions. The cartoons range from subtle and observant to downright rude

 

     

Inevitably the embarrassment of the man in the same context as female underwear gets an airing!

 

   

Of course, at the opposite end of the fat lady spectrum sits the thin spinster (the cartoon below by Spurgin could well be the maiden in her corsets above).

 

 

 

 

The cartoonist extracts some mileage from the (non-) mention of 'bloomers'.

 

        

 

The theme of the girder strangely appears in two instances, whilst the cartoons on the right are so very American including the strip cartoon below:-

 

 

 

The most unlikely characters are found to be wearing corsets...

 

 

 

.... but ....

 

 

I think we should leave this page to the quintessentially English humour of the sea-side postcard where even the mention of the word "corsets" evokes a laugh!