The German Abdomen

as supported by the corset

and, the corselette

(see also bad back )

 

There are many, very beautiful German women, both in the present, and in history. However, the number of corsets that still appear at auctions, and that can be found on the back shelves of the few remaining corset shops (and some modern surgical supplies) reveal that the German abdomen, left to age and gravity, may assume alarming proportions unless controlled and confined. This phenomenon was explained to me by a French corsetiere in Strasbourg, the city situated by the present French / German border. Her remarks in French were so apposite, however, in English they translate roughly to, "the firm strapping of pendulous avoirdupois!"

In one of the biographies of Mae West, the following comment appears; "Mae was of German stock; her mother a famous corset model. If Mae was released from the confines of the strongest that the Spirella Corset Company could offer, she had a distressing tendency to plumpness."  

At the risk of categorising a nation I have to admit a fondness for this cherubic lady on the right. "Ski corsets and brassieres for the stout woman". Direct, to the point, and no beating about the bush. A true characteristic that is not shared on the island side of the English Channel. 

 

As pasta effects the Italian woman in later life, so the German ‘hausfrau’ has a tendency to develop an alarming ‘avoirdupois’, particularly in the region of the abdomen. Just as beer will thicken a man’s waistline, so, presumably, the high fat diet of the rural German woman swelled the middle regions until gravity took its inevitable toll. This explains the large number of German corsets that are primarily abdomen supporters.

 

Often back-laced, there are frequently straps coming round to the front to pull the abdomen into it proper place. These garments will never flatten the tummy, but they do prevent unreasonable stretching and unsightly bulging. Both my husband and I noticed on a trip to the Rhine in 1993, a number of well-built, but fashionable, ladies, their figures disguised by their drop-waisted dresses, but obviously quite tightly strapped in. The abdominal support is very much a feature of the German corset, and it survives in the German branch of CAMP today, as well as the in the Figesta corsets.

 

 

Below are shown an amazing selection of what my husband refers to as "Anti-gravity" devices!

 

 

 

The pictures above show that from the 1950's (and probably well before that), to the 1990's (below), the mature Teutonic figure had access to the best abdominal supports on offer. They all have the same principle, whereby the weight of the abdomen is supported by straps leading to the small of the back. What remains of one's stomach after the appropriate strapping, lacing and buckling, is held firmly in a concavity of rich brocade or satin. The more modern example below (1990's), is a beautiful corset. I have tried one and it is truly effective; it would have to be. Millions of German Hausfraus have worn such corsets, and they wouldn't stand for anything less. "Voorsprung durch technik" murmured my husband.

 

It should be noted that the model above barely has an abdomen worthy of such a well-made and fine garment. Neither would a lady wear a panty-girdle under the corset, since 'toileting' would be nigh on impossible, however, she does show off the garment rather well. 

 

Sadly, the magnificent construction of the corsets (above) that shouts "My tummy sags, but I'll dress in style", is replaced five decades later by a sad apologies that are little more than a pair of elastic underpants with a nominal abdominal strap. Sad, modern and one of the reasons that my husband  and I decided to document what we could about the 'fashionable age of corsetry' before it was too late.