Research: Edwardian Ribbon Corsets Part I

Ribbon Corsets are one of those things which I feel have a sort of mystery hanging over them. How can these beautiful and delicate things be real? Were they prevalently worn? A passing fancy?

I went down the rabbit trail on newspapers.com to help me shed light on this. I have a prior blog post from 1905 which lists them as popular for sports, but surely these beautiful contraptions had more use. Follow along as I find mentions of ribbon corsets and their colors and fabrics.

Cliff notes version: they originated in France in the 1890s and were popular for warm weather and among slender women. Most common colors were white, pink, and blue.

Corset. American. 1903. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

“White silk satin-covered boned sections joined by satin ribbons embroidered with floral motifs and wreathed initials “MOB.” Steel hook-and eye closure on busk with heart-shaped pad at base; lacing at back. Marked “Bon Ton Model, 825, 19.””

Daily Republican, April 22, 1898, page 4.

“Glove-Fitting Ribbons

Upon the fit and style of the corset will depend much of the smartness of the coming spring and summer gowns.  The day of loose blouses has passed, and the molded bodice, not tight, but perfect, will be the required waist for elegant dressing upon and after Eastertide.

Poking about in the marts for toilet accessories, I have come upon what the Parisian calls a “high novelty,” writes Margery Daw:  It is a taffeta ribbon corset, exquisite in cut, enticing in fabric.  The ribbon corset was first made in Paris, but it has been re-created in this country. Seven-inch ribbon is used, and each section has four lengths overlapping ingeniously, so that the stay, when worn, incloses the figure as a glove.  Plaid ribbon, in gayly contrasted lines, is seen oftener than solid colorings.

April 22, 1898- Ribbon Corset via Newspapers.com

These luxuries are sold even to women of finer taste.  To women who a few years ago would have expressed indignation if such pronounced colorings had been submitted to them.  Twenty-five dollars is the price of a ribbon corset of this sort.  IT is out of question for those of us who are in moderate circumstances.  But if one has seen the smartest things she has a guide for expenditures within her means.

Kansas City Journal (Kansas City, MO) April 3, 1898- Page 15

New Ribbon Corset

It is all Soft Curves and Graceful Outlines, Comfort and Fashion.

April 3, 1898- Ribbon Corset. Via Newspapers.com

Here is a new ribbon corset, which is all soft curves and graceful outlines, and which set gives just a pleasant amount of support to the figure.  You will see its form and fashion from the little sketch: and note how it is cute quite short in the hips, so that the skirt may fit smoothly and closely over the rounded figure in the fashion which is now our chief aim in life to secure.  At the sides and back the little corset is strengthened by the addition of whalebone: and I can assure you that it is perfection of comfort, as well as the height of fashion-  though perhaps height is hardly the right word to use in this connection, seeing that the new corset is little more than a low belt!

San Fransisco Chronicle, January 26, 1902. Page 8. This included in a larger section as it is fascinating to see described how a fashionable lady dressed from the skin out in 1902.

“I had the pleasure and privilege the other day of watching the most famous beauty in town dress herself for an evening reception.  It was our friend, Miss V., the debutante, but you will not breathe it, I am sure.  She aims to be the slenderest girl in society and everybody supposes her figure to be naturally so lithe, when really it is part underclothes.  And this is actually what she wears.

Next her, from her yoke down to her ankles, she puts on tights.  They were in pink to exactly match her skin.  Her stockings, which were of openwork, revealed the tone of her tights and so, of course, there must be no beginning and no end, just flesh color.  The whole structure buttoned down the front, from the neck downward, all the way with flat buttons.  And the whole fitted like her own neat gloves with which she later finished her toilette.

Then came a ribbon corset, the dearest thing, all in Persian silk ribbon.  The strips were three inches wide and there were seven of them, one at the belt line and three above and three below, one overlapping the other and all meeting at a neat pair of steels in front.  We are all wearing these ribbon corsets, and nicely they do for us.  But for those who are too plump or have a tendency to telescope, look out.

Over the ribbon corset came a bolero corset cover. It was in narrow strips of lace and nainsook, and it was a little more than a pair of armholes.  It terminated above the waist line, with all the fullness over the bust, s that it assisted with the latest fashion mandate that thou shalt be fat where thou wannest to be fat and thin where it is best to be so.

Then came the thinnest of white taffeta petticoats, coming up under a silver corset hook, set very low on the corset, and, finally, a Princess gown.  You can imagine how the whole served to make the figure slender, even slenderer than it would ordinarily have been, yet how comfortable it all was.  Good-by to the flannel petticoat of sacred memory, good-by to the quilted satin petticoat of tradition,  Farewell forever to the bifurcated lace-trimmed undergarment ‘neath the petticoat, that once seemed like an article of one’s creed.  There is a great deal that is new in the world, dear.  You make take it upon the word of your NEW YORK COUSIN.”

The Indianapolis News, May 24, 1902. Page 26

Ribbon Corset and Flounced Chemise

Some of the most comfortable of the summer corsets are made entirely of strips of narrow satin ribbon.  The corsets are very short, and the ribbon of the stoutest quality, and since the gayest colors are used for them, they have quite a frivolous air.

One is of golf ribbon bordered with white, corsets of plain linen tape coming in the same skeleton model.  Those in the Watteau ribbons- pale colors with delicate flowerings- are very beautiful, and some of these lace at the front as well as at the back.

Chemises are not as long as of yore, and are now elaborately flounced at then bottom to take the place of the short petticoat.  French lace forms the fluffy bertha and skirt frills, narrow pale blue ribbon, through a  lace beading, heading the top one.  At the left knee a round rosette of wider blue ribbon is coquettishly placed.

The Chapman Advertiser (Chapman, Kansas) December 26, 1902. Page 4.

The ribbon corset is still with us and bids fair to stay, for the slender woman has made it popular.

One corset is in double satin ribbon, a pale primrose in color, and made a little broader than the ribbon corsets worn this summer.  It fastens with four silver clasps and has six rows of stitching under each arm in dark primrose silk.

Stark County Democrat (Canton, Ohio), June 27, 1903. Page 8.

Dainty Ribbon Corsets

Redfern— style “500.”  Straight front ribbon corsets made up in exquisite colors— pink, blue an white.  You’ll find it a very cool and comfortable corset for summer wear.  It’s a swell corset indeed.  Be sure to ask to see it.

The San Fransisco Call, July 30, 1905. Page 5.

“It would not be found difficult to make what is called the ribbon corsets at home, although they can be bought in any color that may be becoming.  To make them will require about four and a half yards of two-inch-wide ribbon, together with the best whalebone that can be had, for the little side pieces.  These ribbon corsets are not only very comfortable, but they are very pretty…

…At one time these ribbon corsets were very much in vogue and were worn by many women in society, and it is pleasant to see that they are coming into fashion again.  These short corsets can be bought made of tape instead of ribbon, and they are very cheap, but is only a slender figure that can wear them.”

Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Kentucky. October 10, 1906, page 6.

Ribbon corsets are among the fall novelties.  They are beautifully made of rows and rows of wide satin ribbon, each ribbon overlapping the one below and held securely in place by hand embroidered daisies, fleur-de-lis, or rosebuds.  At the top there is an edging of baby ribbon fulled on or a piece of sheer valenciennes lace gathered to make a tiny finish.  In white ribbon these corsets are delicate enough for a bride, but for practical use the ones of tan, light blue, or pink are most serviceable.

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW Australia), November 27, 1906, page 12

Advertisement from Reuben Brasch- From Maker to Wearer. Smart, Well Made, Up-To-Date, Underwear, For Ladies. This is good to know the cost, fabrics, and colors available.

  • Special Grey Ribbon Corset with Suspenders 1/3
  • Grey Coutille Ribbon Corset With Suspenders 1/9
  • White Broche Ribbon Corset 2/3
  • Pink or Sky Broche Ribbon Corset 2/3
  • White Ribbon Corsets, with Frise Silk designs, in Pink or Sky 2/9

2 Comments on Research: Edwardian Ribbon Corsets Part I

  1. Julie
    January 31, 2020 at 11:11 pm (2 months ago)

    Thanks for this very interesting article which I have shared on my Facebook page.

    Reply
  2. Leimomi - The Dreamstress
    February 1, 2020 at 1:48 pm (2 months ago)

    What a great series of articles! I particularly like the San Fran Chronicle one – so many people ask what layers garments go on, and that’s such a clear description of one possibility.

    Reply

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