Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Use and Abuse of The corset - A 1909 Delineator Article By Charlotte C. West, M.D.

Today my darlings, I have found for you a fascinating article about the proper and improper use of corsets. This article comes from my collection of Antique Delineator Magazines.

The September 1909 issue of the Delineator Magazine.

It was originally published in the September 1909 issue of the Delineator Magazine (as produced by Butterick) and I have transcribed the original for you to save your eyes from evil small-print. It gives an interesting medical perspective in favor of the corset from the viewpoint of a female M.D.!
(According to one source, women at this time made up about 5% of the medical workforce in the United States.)

The Use and Abuse of the corset -
The September 1909 issue of the Delineator Magazine

It May Give Strength and Support if Rightly Worn

"THROW that into the furnace when you get home," was the invariable comment of a noted medical man, as with a disdainful gesture he indicated the corset of each clinical patient who was presented to him for examination, at the same time casting a sidelong glance of disapproval at his woman assistant, who was obviously always well corseted.
The woman physician worked along silently in this clinic until an opportunity enabled her to show one of the patients that her condition-gastroptosis and en­teroptosis (prolapse or falling of the stomach and intestines)-was caused by the improper use of corsets.
"Yes," quickly remarked the professor, "throw them into the furnace when you get home, and don't wear them home!''
"But I can't 'do' without my corsets'." wailed the patient, whereupon the well-­corseted woman physician said:
"The improper use, not the use of it. You are abusing the most sensible and most hygienic garment women wear, because you don't know how to wear it.

"Because, in my dissecting days, I, with a number of other students, was horrified when our instructor called us around the body of a young woman, a mere girl (evidently a danseuse), whose ribs were overlapped several inches and whose abdominal organs, the liver especially, were pressed down almost into the pelvis. Although I have never forgotten this terrible picture, I did not scorn the innocent piece of wearing apparel by means of which this poor girl had so fearfully mutilated her body; but rather I felt a sickening sense of shame that there had existed an intelligence so perverted as to cripple the highest work of creation, for what: That she might be squeezed into a sixteen-inch waist!"
"Well," put in the professor, waving his hand toward the patient, "here is another who comes to us with a train of symptoms traceable to the use of corsets."

"No!" interposed the woman doctor, "to the abuse of the corset. She will now be taught how to wear it, and its proper use will not alone restore the prolapsed organs, but will give this poor woman renewed strength and vigor."
The professor looked incredulous. However, with the open mind of the true scientist, he was willing to vacate the premises he had always maintained, could he be convinced of his biased attitude. So well was he ultimately convinced that he suggested the doctor "write up" the corset from a medical view point.

How long have women (and a good many men) worn some form of garment such as that now termed a corset? In prehistoric days man fashioned some kind of raiment with which to "gird his loins." Our first knowledge of any sort of covering for women includes a band or mammallière, worn under the breasts, or mammae, to support them. From these two articles of attire, it would be interesting to trace the gradual evolution of the modern corset, unquestionably made necessary by the advancement of civilization. And is it not reasonable to assert that an article of apparel which has for centuries withstood the shafts of ridicule, possesses some extraordinary virtue, and has not been dependent upon vanity for its survival through the ages?
It seems strange, in view of these facts, that the medical profession has persist­ently maintained its opposition to this garment, and only now is awakening to an appreciation of its therapeutic value.
In man, because of the erect posture,. the abdomen is undoubtedly the most vulnerable portion of the body, and all are agreed that its natural supports (the thin muscular walls) are an insufficient protection to the organs which they cover.
When from faulty positions in sitting, standing or walking, from gradual relaxation of the ligamentous and bony vertebral column, from disease of the internal organs, from the accumulation of abdominal fat, and from other causes this muscular wall becomes weakened and flaccid, what pressure nature intended it to exert upon the abdominal contents is reduced to a minimum or lost; and consequently it becomes impossible for these great organs to retain their normal relations.
What happens? A gradual "shifting" of the stomach, liver or kidneys from their moorings; they descend, gravitate, to­ward the lower abdominal zone, carrying with them the intestines and other structures. Physicians who have made a study of such conditions find that many cases of nurasthenia, "irritable" spine, chronic headache, lumbago and constant backache, etc., etc., are due to prolapsed abdominal organs and intestines and can be corrected, not by means of surgery, as has been the vogue, but by properly fitted artificial supports -by the corset analytically adjusted.

A short corset curved in just below the breast bone (such as those which were commonly worn ten years ago), laced snugly around the waist and loose over the abdomen and flanks, is an abomination! Such a corset breeds all sorts of mischief by pushing down the liver and stomach; these, exerting further pressure, cause serious damage to the pelvic organs and to the circulation there. The evils resulting from this poorly constructed corset, so wretchedly worn, are as far-reaching as is the wonderfully good effect of a proper garment correctly adjusted.
If it were possible to assume and to retain an ideally erect posture, with the brim of the pelvis (the lower bony supports of the trunk) at a right angle with the spinal column, we would require no artificial aids. Unfortunately this ideal posture is rarely seen unaided. It has its best expression in military men.
This ideal posture can readily be ac­quired by judicious pelvic and abdominal supports. A healthy and sensible corset is one which reaches from five to seven inches below the hips, completely encircling the lower abdomen and bony structures which form the pelvis. The hygienic hose supporters assist in keeping the corset in this situation; it is now laced from below upward. The pelvis is thus held firmly in its normal horizontal position. The spinal column assumes its normal vertical position, and the support is uniformly upward.
One unconsciously assumes the ideally erect posture. Over the bony structures, which completely take in the hips and upper portion of the thighs, the pressure can be relatively great; as the softer parts are reached, there must be no compression, simply a good, comfortable fit. In men the garment need reach no higher than the waistline; in women it is loosely adjusted to protect and support the bust.
Both men and women with protruding and pendulous abdomen make a great mistake when they hamper themselves with various devices constructed of unyielding materials which are built upon an absolutely erroneous conception of the needs they are supposed to fulfill.
Every corset and every abdominal supporter should encircle the upper thighs and pelvis, and be fitted upon the person who is to wear it. An immense variety of forms are carried by all large houses, and women are employed who are specially instructed in the art of fitting.
Abdominal supporters for both sexes, built of soft materials, and in accordance with modern medical ideas upon the subject, are procurable in all large cities.

Metchnikoff, the great biologist, in his "Prolongation of Life," shows that women live longer than men, and this irrespective of station or race; and since in every walk of life women wear some form of corset, is it not fair to presume that it has not been an agency for harm? On the contrary, who can say that the longevity of women may not be dependant upon the beneficent effect of the much-maligned corset?

A W.B. Reduso Corsets ad from the same 1909 September magazine.

If you enjoyed this article, you can find a digital copy of the fashion and highlights from this magazine available at Mrs. Depew Vintage.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, my goodness! I don't know whether to laugh or cry! Thanks for the read!