Mme D C Medeq
The delightful Cathie Jung (2014) holds the original brass name plate that used to adorn Diana's premises in London. The belt with the silver engravings was a present from Diana to Cathie.
What's in name? As the career of Diana progressed from a nurse skilled in needlework to a provider of corsetry to the stars, Medical Equipment Supplies was abbreviated to Medeq in the trading name of Medeq Corsetičres Ltd., and latterly, almost to a stage persona, Madame D C Medeq. Whether this was even intended by Diana is uncertain, however, when garments carried her label, there was Mme D C, and in a larger script Medeq. It certainly lends an exotic air to the prosaic title Medical Equipment Supplies!
Diana was a nurse at a London teaching hospital during and just after the war years where she met and married an orthopaedic surgeon. The surgeon had offices on Duke Street where Diana, a skilled seamstress, used her and her husband's knowledge of anatomy to construct surgical corsets. Her husband sadly contracted cancer and after nursing him for five years he passed away at a very young age. Diana was left penniless, but still with the impressive London premises. She found the surgical corset business dull and started to make more theatrical corsets. She re-married a gentleman who became a barrister. Slowly she built up a clientele and her reputation grew such that she was asked to provide the corsetry for the 1971 film 'Nicholas and Alexandra'. Her reputation was now assured and her clientele from the theatre and the world of tight-lacing beat a path to her door.
She helped out with John Sutcliffe’s designs and David Kunzle’s researches whilst never immersing herself personally in the fetish world that these gentleman occupied. She was extremely broad-minded and let people get on with their own pleasures. If that involved wearing tight corsets or bizarre leather gear, then she was happy to help with their enthusiasm. She made many of the corsets for Ethel Granger in the 1960's and 70's and for Cathy Jung until she retired from corset-making after the death of her second husband in 1985. She moved to Sussex and started to indulge her passion for animals by breeding prize sheep.
This amazing lady, now in her mid-80's still leads her independent life to her own rules, yet if you met her in the street, you would simply think "here goes another rural WI member" and you would be right, but like the iceberg, you would miss the 90% that lies beneath the surface.
A Visit to Sussex: 2011
Several months ago, we were delighted to receive a communication from Bob and Cathie Jung concerning their long-time friend, Diana of Medeq Corsetry. To our pleasant surprise, we realised that she lived very close to the route that we take on our regular journeys to Holland and we phoned her to arrange a meeting.
As described so well by Frangard2, we approached her house through charming rural Sussex. At first sight, her bungalow is unexceptional, however, her lands are extensive and encompass an orchard and paddocks, for since she gave up corsetry 26 years ago, she has concentrated on animal husbandry. Determining where the front door might be, we encountered a gate with the alarming message “Beware of the Dog!” I love dogs, but my husband is less sure and visibly quailed at the sight of the huge black mastiff on the other side of the gate! That the dog had a fluffy tigger toy in its jaws and was wagging its tail was, however, quite encouraging.
On approaching the front door with our new found canine friend, a sprightly, albeit elderly lady emerged and we exchanged pleasantries and went inside. The house was a veritable museum of anything and everything. One might be excused for considering the lady to be eccentric, however, in short order, we realised that this was a person who wrote her own rules and lived life to the full, if not to the conventional pattern.
For a lady in her mid-80’s, she was bright, alert and possessed of excellent hearing. My husband helped her with the coffee and with some rather heavy suitcases and boxes that had been stacked in the drawing room. This was politeness on my husband’s part for she was well capable of doing everything herself.
We gave her a copy of the 2010 calendar to break the ice and she launched into the story of her life. We sat spellbound and wondered how many elderly ladies could tell such a tale! Perhaps more than we imagine. Frangard2 has described her story so we will not repeat it here other than to reveal the provenance of the name MEDEQ, or Madame Medeq as some referred to her. Prosaically, it is a contraction of Medical Equipment, for she started out making surgical corsets in the premises that her surgeon husband occupied. Finding this dull, she moved towards the theatrical corset and using her knowledge of anatomy, for she trained as a nurse, produced anatomically excellent garments that could put a Victorian waist on the most recalcitrant of torsos! Her fame spread and the world of the tight-lacers beat a path to her door. She made the corsets for Ethel Granger and Cathy Jung. She helped out with John Sutcliffe’s designs and David Kunzle’s researches whilst never immersing herself personally in the fetish world that these gentleman occupied. Completely non-judgemental, she was extremely broad-minded and let people get on with their own pleasures. If that involved wearing tight corsets or bizarre leather gear, then that was their concern.
From the suitcase and boxes, she showed us some examples of her craft and we were amazed by the strength, the complexity, the quality of materials and astonished by the tiny size of some of the corsets. I might wear a corset, but it is mainly for support. I was slightly embarrassed to realise that the smaller corsets would not even fit around my thighs!
Before we left, Diana took us into the garden and insisted that we collect two full bags of apples from the orchard. What an amazing woman and what a privilege to have met her.
An Example of her Work: This can be found in the web page 'Corset Detectives'
|They don't make them like that anymore! This is a beautifully made corset that only a few talented corsetičres could have produced. Laced tight, it would produce a waist of barely 20 inches. The materials are sumptuous and expensive. The corset abounds with those touches that only the experienced corset wearer would demand from the corsetičre; the plush lining of the busk, the heavy fabric flap under the lacing, the reinforced eyelets, eight suspenders, heavy-duty laces and tape binding at the waist. The wear and tear on the exterior surface and the concave set of the busk speak of very, very tight-lacing. Such a corset brings to mind Ethel Granger and Cathie Jung, but this would be far too big on either, nevertheless, it is another classic from Madame Diana Medeq of Duke Street London.||
The Professionalism of Madame Medeq by Frangard 2
Diana is a charming person, with broad interests and was wonderfully understanding and sympathetic of the motivations of all her customers who tight-laced. You so rightly say:
“...she showed us some examples of her craft and we were amazed by the strength, the complexity, the quality of materials and astonished by the tiny size of some of the corsets.”
Tiny those corsets may be in length as well as waist they would certainly cinch their wearers’ figures and enhance their boudoir attire and show how truly beautiful a corset can be.
What a contrast therefore is the corset shown above which is another of Madame M’s wonderful creations; one which, I would argue comes close to the epitome of the corsetiere’s art.
“The corset abounds with those touches that only the experienced corset wearer would demand from the corsetičre; the plush lining of the busk, the heavy fabric flap under the lacing, the reinforced eyelets, eight suspenders, heavy-duty laces and tape binding at the waist. The wear and tear on the exterior surface and the concave set of the busk speak of very, very tight-lacing. ”
As one of those who regard themselves as one of those experienced corset wearers, I feel compelled to point out, if only for purposes of educating the younger generation, additional details that are immediately discernable to a tight lacer and which we feel are part of the lost art. In the case of this corset its owner clearly needed to experience not only the control it offered but also the additional satisfaction derived from having one's stockings very tautly suspendered. Her suspenders weren’t fitted simply to hold up stockings!
Although I have used five pairs of suspenders myself for close to 30 years, I will not quarrel with the choice of four pairs, since one’s choice of number and length of each pair of suspenders are highly individual matters. That said, it is good to see that, in all other senses, the owner was as fastidious about her suspenders as am I. That is we would have been in close agreement on matters of:-
1) width and strength of the elastic, which albeit is showing signs of strain no doubt from prolonged periods serving at high tension!
2) the lovely satin ribbon flaps to the suspender clips which hide tell tale 'suspender bumps' on close-fitting skirts and no doubt those clip buttons will have the central rivet.
3) last, and most importantly in my humble opinion, the fundamental necessity of;
a) having graduated lengths of one’s suspender elastics - relatively short in the front increasing to very long for the back pair.
b) correctly positioning those suspenders on the corset hem. In this case Madame M. has strategically sewn each of them directly below each of the doubled steels (bones) so that the pull from each suspender elastic is transmitted into the counterpart boning case above. This stops the facing and lining from over-rucking which always leads to the ends of the steels abrading the fabric and pushing out at inconvenient moments!
c) understanding that one’s back suspenders should be at the back, which is close to the flat pair of back steels near the eyelet line. Yes I know how annoying most wearers found back suspenders to be but, in the case of this owner (and myself), that problem was/is partially obviated by the provision of the very long elastic and no doubt, as I have done, the owner found, by trial and error I am sure, the most prudent moment in her corset fitting process at which to clip her back suspenders to her stockings.
Some of the details above would have been worked out over time by the owner herself, but many of the details result from the fact that corsetieres, like Diana Medeq, the late Iris Norris (La Guepiere) and the late Michael Garrod of True Grace, were able to draw on the requirements made by their many discerning clients. This knowledge and experience was put to good purpose, first in counselling customers and reconciling sometimes impossible demands at consultations, then in incorporating their great knowledge in every detail as the corset was made. Finally, a satisfied client would leave the salon corseted to perfection.
The Roscoe Catalogue
Frangard 2 kindly sent us some pages from a 'exotic wear' catalogue that illustrate Diana's considerable and diverse skills and also reinforce a comment made by the late John Sutcliffe that her professionalism and integrity were matched only by her prices!!