The Abominable Corset


Below are a few small items of interest I read in a book published in 1954 by Molly Lefebure 'Murder on the Home Front'. This is a true account of a secretary who worked for a pathologist during the war and she comments:


I could never get them [detectives] to appreciate the difference between a corset and a roll-on. But perhaps it didn't really matter."


"But my missus, she's always last, she takes a long time to dress. You see, she wears one of these 'ere abominable belts and it takes quite some time to put on." By 'abominable belt' I realised he meant an abdominal belt. But, when all is said and done, abominable is, I should think, a pretty good name for them. This  describes preparations to get into the garden air raid shelter. It is interesting to note that with bombs about to drop, the lady still takes time to get into her corsets.

At a formal dinner, a retired major discovered that the lady on his left was a Spirella corsetière. The lady was used to the stilted effect that such revelations could have on subsequent conversation, however, the major volunteered that his wife, "The old Memsaab" as he called her, wore abominable corsets to hold in her tummy. "I think you mean abdominal" the corsetière replied. "Exactly!" retorted the major, "That's what I said."





Spirella (left), Camp (centre) and Strodex (right and below) show off their interpretation of the abdominal belt.


Marjorie measures Madeleine for her new abdominal corset. Forget the convenient fan-lacing of her trusty Camp corset. Madeleine needs straps, plenty of them and a dished and heavily boned front panel.

Although the standard measuring garment covered a huge range of women, variations were adopted for the more specialised corsets, particularly that old favourite the abdominal support with the strongly dished front.

The AL Woman is a case in point. 'AL' was what Spirella called 'abdominal large'. Their measuring garments ran from S and M to L (small, medium, large). Extra large women were encased in extended portions of the large garment,

however, Spirella felt that the pendulous abdomen needed special support, hence AL.


Let us consider the less well known manufacturer of somewhat more formidable corsets, William S.Rice. They were largely forgotten decades ago and no wonder if you read the following article from their brochure of 1936:-

It gets off to positive start, if you weight 250 pounds (112 kg) that is! But read on "..those great layers of fat that bulge over the abdomen and roll down in waves .." "..saggy stomach and flabby, overhanging abdominal wall".

With a doctorate in engineering one might fathom how to adjust the three full length lacers, the convenience lacer, the double asymmetric sacro-strapping and the frightening "Under Pressure Belt". One had to fasten the device properly or one began to experience that "..smothered feeling from undue pressure on the heart." Mind you, if the corset, as it is claimed, reduced you from 250 pounds to the appearance of 175 pounds, something somewhere is going to get smothered.

No advice for a healthy lifestyle from Rice. Once you were at this stage of, what Spirella called it, "A physical shipwreck," expensive corsetry of alarming complexity would be the only solution.

The Berlei "Controlacing" Liftbac, No. 7296, for the heavy abdominal figure.