Health and beauty by Caplin/Chapter VI
ON THE ADAPTATION OF THE CORSET TO THE BODY.
THE reader will have already observed that the reason why our corset differs from every other that has been offered to the public is, that we have taken a totally different view of the whole matter from any of our predecessors. Staymakers have studied fashion, and imagined that beauty consisted in following the Magazine des Modes as it came from Paris, and hence have carried the waist up to the breasts, or depressed it down on the hips, according to the whim of the time. We, on the other hand, have studied Nature—taken the human frame as our standard, and in all our labours have attempted to perfect that according to our ideal of its particular type of beauty: hence, instead of displaying fashion we display the human figure, and by giving freedom to every organ and support where it is needed, are enabled to impart all the advantages which can result from the addition of another muscular envelope to the figure. It was this adaptation which secured for us the approbation of the Report made by a special commission at the Athếnếe des Arts de Paris (sitting 10th April, 1848), on Madame Caplin' s Hygienic Corsets :—
"Gentlemen,—The corset now under your consideration, invented and manufactured by Madame Caplin, of London, has been presented by her husband, Dr. Caplin, a corresponding member of the society, at present residing in London, and who, when amongst us, nearly twenty years ago, used to take an active part in our scientific work, and who frequently met with your approbation for the many communications he made to the society on Objects of art.
"This corset, to which she has given the name of Hygienic, is totally different from the other corsets hitherto made, under two different points of view. But before entering into the details of its construction, we must say that, like many others, the principal object
of the inventor was to find a point of support for the superincumbent weight of the head, the superior limbs, and the organs of lactation and respiration, on that part of the body which, in consequence of the elements of strength that nature has accumulated around it, in adapting so perfectly the pelvis for the functions it is destined to perform, cannot suffer any irksome influence from pressure. Corsets may be considered as made of three contiguous parts, which we are about to describe separately, beginning from the bottom to the top.
"The first one, or the inferior part, surrounds the summit of the hips, and affords the point of support previously mentioned.
"The second part, or middle one, extends from the hip to the thorax, and is destined to confine the region of the abdomen, which contains those moveable organs that, from their nature, may be compressed without much inconvenience, for the purpose of producing the slender waist so much sought for fashion's sake, and which so many ladies will obtain at any price.
"The third, or superior part, is intended to envelope and support the thoracic region, and must produce but a very slight pressure, or else it would cause disastrous consequences, by impeding the respiration, and preventing the development of the organs to which Nature has confided the care of preparing the aliments intended for supplying the first food of man.
"The corset invented by Madame Caplin does not leave any apprehension of the danger we have alluded to in the above remarks; not only is the shape calculated so as not to permit any real pressure, but the inventor has found the means of providing for a particular flexibility, in replacing, in different parts in the width of the corset, the hard, unyielding material they are made of, by a very elastic tissue, disposed longitudinally, and maintained by bones of various lengths; by so doing she has obtained the following results—that the upper part of the corsets are dilatable under such a slight power as to allow a perfect freedom for the movements of inspiration and expiration, without, nevertheless, doing away with the principal end of this article of apparel, viz.—to sustain the weight of the thoracic organs, and to maintain the uprightness of the superior regions of the body.
"In addition to this improvement which characterizes the invention of Madame Caplin, we must notice another, which, although perhaps less important in appearance, is deserving of attention; it is relative to the mode of lacing. Madame C., instead of lacing the corset all at once in one direction, and beginning from one extremity, commences the operation from the middle of the waist, upward and downward. This method allows the means of regulating the pressure, according as it may be requisite, to the different parts of the body on which the corset is applied, whilst by the ordinary process it must, as a matter of course, exert the same power in every part.
"The modifications we have related in the construction of an article so generally worn, and which has been much abused, have appeared important enough to the members of the commission you have named, to submit them to your notice, as improvements deserving your approbation; we therefore purpose, as conclusions of this report—
"First,—That a letter be addressed to. Dr. Caplin, to congratulate him on the result his wife has obtained in the construction of her Corset, as also to encourage her in the pursuit of other improvements.
"Secondly,—That her invention be favourably mentioned in the printed annual report of the Society."
"This being the only reward which, according to the regulations of the institution, you are permitted to grant to anyone of its members.
"The society unanimously adopt the above conclusions.
"DR. CARON.—Médecin de la préfecture de Police, et du bureau de Beinfaisance, du 4eme arrondissement: "Auteur d'un appercu d'Hygiène, sur l'alimentation par le café au lait.
"DR. GENEST.—Ancien chef de Clinique à l'Hotel Dieu; auteur des Leçons de Cliniques Méédicales, sur la fièvre Typhoide. "Rédacteur de la Gazette Mếdicale, pour la Pathologie interne.
"DR. RIBES.—Ancien Médecin du Roi par quartier-Mếdecin de l'Hotel Royal des Invalides."
N.B.—The copy of the above report, duly signed and sealed by the secretary of l'Athénée des Arts, Sciences, et Belles Lettres, de Paris, is to to be seen at Madame Caplin's Establishment, 58, Berners Street, London.
As an appendage to the above we may insert here the notice from the
report of the Juries of the Great Exhibition of 1851, Sientific Department, Class X. See page 346. "Corsets ingeniously adapted for giving support to the trunk without confinement to the thorax."
As we have but one principle of adaptation to guide us, it will naturally follow that, properly speaking, we have only one corset, and that all the others are nothing more than modifications of this, rendered necessary by the great variety of bodily formations which are presented to us. And first, then, we have the plain Hygienic Corset for ordinary use. This is always made expressly for the wearer and adapted to her peculiar form. We here presume a state of healthy natural formation, and have therefore nothing to do but to preserve the true form as we find it. A glance at our illustration will show that the waist is put in the natural position—that is, across the abdomen, below the floating ribs, and just over the hips; by doing this we avoid all injurious effects, which are laid—and that truly—at the door of the ordinary corset, and by placing the waist in its natural position give not only a more beautiful but a more slender appearance.
The first modification of this is in the elastic front, which is inserted for the purpose of affording an extra flexibility to the chest for ladies practising singing, or of delicate constitution; but as most of those adaptations will have to be mentioned in future chapters, we shall simply present a list of them here, as submitted to the Exhibition.
No. 1. Hygienic Corset-Plain.
For ordinary use.
No. 2. Do. Elastic Front,
affording an extra flexibility to the chest, for ladies practising singing, or of delicate constitution.
No. 3. Do. Mechanical Front,
put on and off instantaneously without assistance, and affording the means of relieving the chest or stomach without undressing.
No. 4. Do. Self-Regulating Gestation,
calculated to answer all the phases of pregnancy. Elastic and dilatable, affords support without pressure, and thereby preventing abortion, resulting from deficiency of muscular power.
No. 5. Do. Riding,
avoiding the inconvenience from the position of the body while on horseback.
No. 6. Do. Semi-Corset,
affording support to the back and abdomen, without interfering with the chest or bosom.
No. 7. Do. Corporiform,
for corpulent ladies, combining the means of fitting most accurately, and to improve the figure, while giving ease and comfort, by affording local support.
No. 8. Do. Self-Adjusting Corporiform,
yielding to, and following the form of the body in its various positions, and resuming its former shape.
No. 9. Do. Corporiform, with Invisible Props,
affording perfect support in case of corpulence combined with deficiency of physical power.
No. 10. Do. Symmetrico-Restorator Corporiform,
for restoring the appearance of the figure in case of slight distortion of the spine, or malposition of the shoulders.
No. 11. Do. Invisible Spinal,
intended for invalids, or persons predisposed to distortion of the spine; used with great advantage in the first stage of spinal complaint.
No. 12. Original Elastic Bodice.
Most valuable for infants, children, young ladies, and slight figures, affording the greatest amount of freedom of movement, and thereby promoting the development, suppleness, and grace of the body.
No. 13. Juvenile Hygienic Corset,
for young ladies growing too rapidly. They afford support and elasticity, directing the regular growth of the frame, without interfering with the free play of the vital organs.
No. 14. Riverso-Tractor Hygienic Corset,
for preventing children standing on one leg, and in such positions of the body which are generally the primary cause of spinal distortion.
No. 15. Young Lady's Riding Belt,
to prevent concussion taking place in the lower region of the spine during horseriding exercise.
No. 16. Abdominal Supporter Belt,
for preventing the increase and relaxation of the muscles of the abdomen.
No. 17. Elastic Compressing Belt,
No. 18. Gestation Belt,
combining support and elasticity, keeping up the centre of gravity, and making locomotion easy; it permits the wearer to take exercise to the last period of gestation.
No. 19. Contracting Belt,
superseding the bandages commonly used during confinement. Smooth, cool, regulated at pleasure by the wearer, affording constantly a gentle equal pressure, and susceptible of being worn without inconvenience until the figure is perfectly restored.
No. 20. Dropsical Belt,
to support the weight of the abdomen and prevent the filtration of the serous liquid into the cellulary tissues.
No. 21. Medical Belt,
for prevention and cure of bearing down and prolapsus uteri.
No. 22. Dorso-Abdominal Supporter,
to maintain the centre of gravity, thereby allowing locomotion and bodily exercise; adapted to all ages.
No. 23. Invisible Scapula Contractor.
In the construction of corsets we lay claim to several things as especially ours.
First. The invention of the hook in front, for the purpose of keeping the under clothing in its proper place. This was very soon pirated by others; and although the exact pattern could not be taken, in consequence of our patent, still a rough imitation sewed on to the front of the corset came into very general use.
Secondly. The insertion of elastic into the bodice, by which the corset was rendered flexible and yielding to those parts of the body where pressure would have been injurious. This also was imitated; but what rendered the imitation at once ridiculous and injurious, was the insertion of the elastic in the back instead of the front and side. The result, as a matter of course, was, that in attempting to imitate mine they spoiled their own corset—if, indeed, theirs could ever be said to have possessed any value.
Thirdly. No one that we are aware of except ourselves ever studied the human body for the purpose of adapting the corset to its requirements. Clever staymakers there have been in great abundance, so far as the stitching and padding are concerned; but they left the knowledge of anatomy and physiology where they found it, in the hands of the medical practitioners, and worked on without any consideration of the structure and functions of the organs which they were about to compress; and in this we stand perfectly alone. Those who copy everything else that we do let us alone in this, and make their corsets now with as little regard to the anatomical structure of the body and the requirements of the vital organs, as if science had made no progress nor art any advancement. This is greatly to be regretted. We have no desire, neither have we the means, to manufacture corsets for all the women in the united kingdom; but common humanity makes us hope that we shall not always have to witness the suffering and deformity that it is our lot to behold at present.
Although we have only spoken of the above, let no one suppose that this comprehends the whole that we have done to improve the corset, or that it in any way represents the special adaptations which we have made for the ever-varying wants that are presented to us. Let any one look upon the first hundred ladies that may be met with, and take notice of the different figures, from the most sylph-like form down to the absolutely deformed, and just think for a moment that we have to meet the wants of everyone of them; to sustain the grace and elegance of one, and repair the deficiencies of another; prop up a dilapidated side, and compress the protruding shoulder; and to do this in every case without inflicting pain or interfering with the perfect parts of the system, and it will be at once perceived that scores of different adaptations and inventions are required to accomplish those various purposes.
The contrast between ours and the ordinary corset may be best seen by looking at Plate I., Figs. 1 and 2. In the first figure all the beauty and symmetry are preserved and displayed; in the second the head is poking forward, the chest is contracted, and all the great organs of life are suffering from the compression to which they are subjected; add to this, that the beauty is destroyed, and you may then, from the homeliness of the person and the failing health of the subject, form an idea of the evils resulting from an ill-fitting corset.
A still further illustration of this is given in Plate II. In Fig. 1 the shoulder is depressed, the side contracted, and the whole body thrown out of proportion; whilst her companion, wearing a corset adapted to the body, displays all the grace and elegance of a finely-developed figure. Reverse the attire. Let the deformed lady be properly supported, and in six months her figure will be equal to that of her companion.
An example of the ugly gait consequent upon the common style of dress is shown in Plate III., Fig. 1; and the same figure restored to
its normal state by the aid of our corsets and mode of dressing, in Fig. 2. The symmetry, the ease and beauty imparted to the wearer, say more for our adaptations than any written description that we could pen.
In Plate IV. Fig. 1, we have a case of absolute deformity. The shoulders are raised and pushed forward, the neck bent, and the curvature of the spine actually commenced. A glance at Fig. 2, in her easy, upright, and graceful posture, shows how soon the body may be brought into an easy position by the use of our Corset and Reverso Contractor. The reader is requested to bear in mind, also, that none of these are sketches of the fancy, but real and veritable human beings—ladies who have come under our own observation, and been restored by our aid.
All who have laboured hard at any given purpose know that there is no joy like that of conquest, and no consolation so sweet as that which springs from success; and those who do succeed have a right to be proud of their triumph. What else shall repay us for the daily toil and nightly study, for going with the anatomist through the body, and, by calculating all its mechanical adaptations, discovering to a hair's-breadth the proper point of support? What, but the conviction that we have rendered a service to womankind for which thousands shall daily bless us.
Hitherto we have only spoken of the corset, and have avoided any allusion to the other articles of dress, which in many cases are equally faulty in their construction. Many ladies will say, and say truly, that they never lace tightly, but who at the same time, make the dress so tight as to completely crush in the stays, and, in pressing the unyielding bodice of the dress upon the folded underclothing, produce more evil than a tight corset would. It becomes, therefore, a matter of some importance to arrange the whole of the underclothing upon such principles as shall give all the warmth and comfort necessary, and, at the same time, allow the natural and healthy action of every organ, whilst it displays the full beauty of the human form. We have for this purpose constructed a petticoat suspender which will be found to answer every purpose that can be desired.
A glance at the illustration below will give a good idea of the manner in which this purpose is accomplished. All the petticoats are united in one band, by which means an equal distribution of the whole weight and fullness of the clothing is obtained, and the point of support being properly taken, the pressure is removed from the yielding portion of the body and thrown upon that which is able to bear it. The effect of this distribution of the clothing is shown in the accompanying figure, which, with the under clothing properly adjusted, displays all the grace and beauty of the form, and indicates the ease and comfort of the wearer.
The Petticoat Suspender is a simple band of jean, cotille, or any other material that may be preferred, fastened to and forming a part of the corset. It has three rows of buttons, to which the petticoats are buttoned on. By this simple contrivance the weight of the clothing is not only thrown upon the parts that should support it, but, by removing the strings from the waist, it has a more slender appearance; and the petticoats, being properly suspended and thrown off the hips, there is no need for dress improvers, crinoline, or hoops, for the purpose of displaying the lower part of the dress.
The full advantage of the Petticoat Suspender can only be appreciated by a minute inspection of the article and a clear conception of its uses. When this is done, it will be seen that the two objects which we ever keep in view—utility and elegance—are fully realised. See how nicely the full contour of the figure is displayed; the beauty of all the undulating lines which throw an indescribable charm over the figure of Venus are here preserved. The motions are easy, the breathing natural, the carriage graceful; and as
"The rose, besides its beauty, is a cure,"
so the clothing here answers the double purpose of displaying the figure and preserving the health. We have in the course of a long and successful career invented many things. Our steel spring for the cap has been adopted by every civilized nation in the world; the hook at the bottom of the corset has met with a similar reception; and as for our Hygienic Corset, it is either pirated or attempted by almost every staymaker in London and Paris; and our band will share the same fate. Before this was written we kept the secret pretty well, and only allowed a few of our friends to possess it; but within six months after this is published it will be displayed and advertised in all directions, cut and twisted into every shape to make it look unlike ours; and we should not be surprised if some genius or other should turn it upside down, just to display her originality. Well, so be it; the only thing that we desire is, that those who use it will use it properly, and have the good taste and honesty to award the credit of the invention to the parties to whom it is due.