Health and beauty by Caplin/Introduction

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Health & Beauty Madame Caplin



Corset and Clothing,







"Health is the base, and instruction the ornament, of education."—SPURZHEIM.






"Madame Caplin has made the manufacture of Corsets a complete study, embracing at once the several designs of anatomy, geometry, drawing and mechanics. Every portion of her Articles is worked and modelled on the premises, and passes through her own hands; consequently the artist may be traced in all, and her system of measurement is at once perfect and infallible."—Court Magazine, June, 1843.

"MADAME CAPLIN'S CORSETS.—It is rarely that anatomical principles are applied to the fashioning of any article of ladies' attire, and still more rarely that they are applied, as we are assured on com­petent female authority, with such complete success as in the ingenious and very elegant articles named at the head of this paragraph. Madame Caplin is here on a short visit, and we earnestly invite our fair friends to avail themselves of the brief opportunity for paying her a call."—Manchester Chronicle, August 29, 1846.

"It is not easy to convey an adequate idea of the pleasure to be derived by" seeing Madame Caplin's specimens, and her admirable mode of measurement, and hearing her very instructive anatomical expla­nations. Our own friends are grateful to her, and we can, unreservedly, advise all ladies to give her a call."—Liverpool Mercury, Nov. 15, 1844.

"Madame Caplin has combined such means as have neither of these inconveniences, and which have met the approbation of the gentlemen to whom they have already been submitted; uniting flexibility and lightness, they afford a gentle support, while, on the other hand, by the combination of Geometrical lines, the corsets are made outwardly to the shape corresponding to the other side of the figure."—Poly­technic Review, Feb. 3, 1844.

"Madame Caplin has studied carefully, for many years, the anatomy of the body. This enables her to know precisely how to adapt her Corsets and Bodices to the human figure. She makes nothing at random; but adapts, in every case, what is worn on the body to the person who is to wear it. This knowledge of anatomy places her at the very top of her profession, for she can give ease and elegance united. How we could enlarge upon this, did space permit!
"That the Medical Profession approve the inven­tion, is 'something.' That a Grand Medal, at the 'Exhibition of all Nations,' was awarded Madame Caplin, is 'something.' That she has a very large connection, is 'something.' But we go beyond all this. We have seen and proved the value of the in­vention; and this enables us to speak of it in terms of unqualified praise."—Kidd's Own Journal, Jan. 7, 1854.

"On a recent occasion" (see vol. iv., p. 368) "we penned an article on the still too prevalent custom of confining the female figure in a cruelly narrow prison of whalebone and steel; and we directed special attention to the unceasing efforts of Madame Caplin (Berners Street) to effect a reform in this matter. We dwelt at much length, too, on the manner in which this is effected; and showed how many thousands of lives were saved annually by the exer­cise of only a little common sense. Unfortunately, this last commodity is not the reigning 'fashion;' hence its banishment from society! We are pleased to see that Dr. Tilt quite takes our view of this great question, and that Madame Caplin's almost super­human efforts to bring people to reason are not lost upon him. Philanthropists are not met with every day, and they deserve the encouragement of all good men and women—alas, how few!"—Review of Dr. Tilt's Work, in Kidd's Own Journal, April, 1854.

"We were also much gratified in inspecting the models and numerous inventions which were exhi­bited by Madame Caplin at the Great Exhibition, and where she received the only prize granted in the United Kingdom for adaptations of this kind. They are twenty-three in number, commencing with in­fancy, and following the different phases of woman's life up to old age. Among this collection are in­cluded corsets, belts, contractors, and supports of every description; but we now speak more particu­larly of the contracting belt, which we consider a great desideratum with regard to ease and comfort, as it embraces the whole of the lower part of the body, and can be regulated at will by the wearer. It is strictly anatomical in its construction. The front is composed of elastic, in which are inserted medicated plates, thus combining perfect support and elasticity."—Ladies' Newspaper.

"The perfect outline of the human body is so well delineated, that it proves at once the capability of that lady to adapt corsets to the most delicate figure, on scientific principles, which are the only ones adaptable to the human frame. We advise ladies to inspect the various inventions exhibited by Madame Caplin, and judge for themselves of the improve­ments made in this important department,"—Morning Post, July 4, 1851.

"In this sense Madame Caplin's collection is well worthy of attention, as everything that mechanical art, directed by medical science, could do to render the corset consistent with health has there been brought into requisition, so as to render it an object not merely of fashionable but of sanitary interest."—­Daily News, Aug. 4, 1851.

"The 'Hygienic' corset embraces every attainable advantage; and, were the principle more generally adopted, a great evil would be obviated. We com­mend the invention of Madame Caplin as an unpre­cedented exhibition of female skill." —Globe, July 22, 1851.

"Madame Caplin, 58, Berners Street, Anatomical Corset Manufacturer. Class 20, No. 32, and Class 10, No. 370.—In the useful article of female attire, known as the corset, but little general practical improvement appears to have been hitherto made: and it was in vain that we looked among the specimens of our continental neighbours, hitherto deemed the leaders of fashion in this article: but fashion, it would appear, is greatly at fault, aiming at the making, instead of preserving, a figure; a mode in which the undue and unnatural compression tends to produce pulmonary diseases and consequent short­ening of life. The specimens exhibited by this artiste are constructed upon anatomical principles, with a view to effect the desideratum of adding elegance and grace to the human body, and render­ing this article, usually one of discomfort, a really useful and beneficial support."—Morning Advertiser, July 17, 1851.

"Madame Caplin clearly proves that at all ages it is requisite to protect the body from the weight of the under-clothing. This appears to be her great argu­mentative point-and it seems to us to be by far the most rational suggestion we have ever heard upon the subject."—Ladies' Newspaper, Sept. 11, 1851.



On the condemnation of Corsets by Medical Writers.—Dr. Copeland’s opinions controverted, and the true principles of the adaptation of clothing to the body defined, page vii-xii.


The absurdities of Fashion and the manner in which they are spoken of by ancient Authors.—On mutilating the body.—Chinese, Indians, &c.—Tight-lacing.—Dress in the fifteenth century.—Of Beauty.—The three different kinds, Minerva, Venus, Diana.—Of the erect position and stooping.—Difference between the male and female figure.—Of Dress in general, page 1-6.


Of birth, and the bandages which should be provided.—Pins, &c.—Evils resulting from carrying the child constantly upon one arm.—Clothing adapted to a new-born child.—Position in which infants should sleep.—Of the umbilical band, page 7-11.


Baby is "short-coated."—Nursemaids dragging their charge across the streets.—"A step–father."—Education, schooling and playing.—Schools.—Weight of the clothes, how it should be supported.—Loose dressing, evils resulting from it.—Right-footed children.—Cure of a little boy, page 12-18.


Of dress and exercise.—Processes necessary to life.—Motion.—The chest.—Breathing.—The skin.—Physical training of the child.—Bad habits.—Injurious fashions.—The East and West in matters of clothing.—The utility of the gymnastic Pilaster.—Boys’ clothing, page 19-34.


Its general condemnation by the medical faculty.—They do not understand its use. —History of the Corset.—Laws regulating Dress.—True object of the Corset.—­Nature of its construction.—The "Hygienic corporiform Corset," page 35-41.


Construction of Corset.—Report of the "Athenée des Arts et Sciences de Paris."—Report of the Great Exhibition of 1851.—List of inventions and adaptations.—­Claims of originality.—Explanations of plates.—"Petticoat-suspender," page 42-51.


On the phenomena of Gestation and the support necessary at that time.—"Gestation Corset."—Parturition.—The contracting belt, &c., page 52-60.


Middle life defined.—Changes which take place in the body at that time.—Hottentot women and their pendulous mammæ.—Irish women.—Deformities of the breasts.—­African and European women compared.—French and German Corsets.—How Corsets should be constructed.—Constitutions of women stronger than that of men.—How a corpulent lady should be dressed, page 61-67.


Importance of healthy exercises to children.—The erect position.—Structure of the spine.—Laurence's ideas.—Respiration.—Gentlemen's braces.—Dr. Caplin's "Lec­tures on Spinal Deformities" quoted.—The invisible crutch.—Scapula-contractor.—Monitor bodice, &c. &c., page 68-79.


Painful feelings associated with the idea of old age.—Walker on the third age of woman.—Physiological changes.—"Premature old age."—What we can do to aid; nature, page 80-83.


In an introduction to a work of the kind which we here present to the public, the reader will expect to find some clear definition of our purpose and a general outline of the principles which are to guide us through­out the whole of our labours; and this we may promise at the very outset. Our object is clear and definite, and we hope to make it plain to everyone who will bestow a very limited attention to what we have written.

Clothing is not only a want of mankind, but it is one of those wants upon which people are disposed to bestow the greatest amount of con­sideration. In two ways the clothing is supposed to represent the wearer. The course Jersey frock and fustian jacket advertise the labourer, whilst the superfine cloth and elegant fit indicate the taste and habits of the gentleman; but it is not simply in these things that clothes are symbolical. The extreme of fashion generally indicates the fop, and however fine the materials and faultless the fit there is something stamped upon the individual that indicates a want of brain, and leads us to expect to find that frivolity of character which is generally associated with it. Now everyone wishes to dress well, not simply that the clothing should be of good quality and the fashion unquestioned; but as they prefer pleasure to pain, so far they desire that the articles worn should be adapted to the body and afford all the protection and comfort that is derived from well-made articles of clothing.

There is one distinction between ours and all other books on dress that have come under our observation, and that is, that we are dealing with the necessary and not the ornamental part of clothing. Most authors have written upon the history of costume, or the absurdity or elegance of some particular fashion, or of the harmony of the colours and relation of the dress to the figure of the individual—have dealt only with the exterior. We, on the contrary, have commenced from within, have analysed the wants and noted the structure of all the internal organs, and then adapted the clothing that envelopes them in such a manner as not only to preserve the health but to impart the greatest benefit to the wearer.

The principal writers upon the subject of corsets have been medical men, who, great as is their knowledge of their part of the question, certainly know nothing of ours; and hence what they have written has been almost entirely without practical utility. If a corset maker wrote an essay upon any medical contrivance—say, for instance, the lancet or blister—we expect that she would meet with the derision of the whole faculty; and the medical practitioner must not be angry if he also should excite a smile when he speaks of things with which he also is unacquainted. That our readers may perfectly comprehend what we mean we insert here an extract from a medical work of the very highest authority, which contains at one view all the merits and demerits of this class of writers. The evils are all portrayed by a master hand, but there is not one hint that can be of the least service to the world by way of remedying it.

"In connection with the use of stays the usual mode of their con­struction requires some notice, whilst they are so made as to press down­wards and together the lower ribs; to reduce the cavity of the chest, especially at its base; to press injuriously upon the heart, lungs, liver, stomach, and colon, and even partially to displace those vital organs; they leave the upper region of the chest exposed—those very regions where tubercular consumption, bronchial and inflammatory diseases generally commence, or are most prone to attack—to the vicissitudes of season, weather, temperature, humidity, and external injury. These noxious and unnecessary articles of clothing-these mischievous appli­ances to the female form, useful only to conceal defects and make up deficiencies in appearance—are rendered still more injurious by the number of unyielding, or only partially yielding, supports with which they are constructed on every side. These are the whalebones in the back and sides, and steel in front, extending from nearly the top of the sternum almost to the pubes. The motions of the trunk and spine are thereby restrained, and the nutrition of the compressed parts impaired; but, irrespective of the displacement of vital and assimilative viscera that follows the amount of pressure, the metal support in front has an injurious effect which has been universally overlooked. However well it may be protected from contact with the surface, it acts as a conductor of animal warmth and of the electro-motive agency passing through the frame, it carries off by its polarization into the surrounding air, espe­cially during humid states of the atmosphere, the electricity of the body, this agent being necessary to the due discharge of the nervous functions either in its electro-galvanic or magneto-electric state of manifestation. The injurious influence of stays on the female economy, as respects not only diseases of the spinal column but also the disorders of the uterine organs, is manifest to all who consider the subject."— ­DR. COPELAND'S Medical Dictionary, p. 855.

We have selected the above extract from Dr. Copeland, because he is one of the most talented, learned, and judicious medical writers of this day, and one, too, whose work will be read for a long time to come, as his "Dictionary of Practical Medicine" is an elaborate digest of the whole circle of medical literature. But let everyone adhere to their own profession; for it is evident to us that the Doctor knows no more about stay-making than we do of Sanscrit.

We are quite agreed upon the point, that "the use of stays and their present mode of construction require some consideration;" but our con­sideration should be how to improve them. Improve them, the Doctor seems to say; why do away with them altogether. Pray do not hasten to your conclusion too rapidly, Sir. Supposing we adopted the same reasoning in reference to physic? We could say, and say truly, that it is nauseous to the palate, and upon the highest medical authority we might affirm that it is uncertain in its operation; but, more than this, whatever Dr. A. prescribes Dr. B. will condemn, and Drs. C. and D. will differ from both of them. Shall we then "throw physic to the dogs," knowing well, at the same time, that they will not take it? Nay, we know the profession too well; know that their skill, science, and experience will ever be invaluable to mankind; and know also that their only hope of maintaining their present honourable position before the public is by adapting their system to the wants of humanity. We cheerfully give all this to the faculty, and only ask in return to be measured by the same standard.

It never seems to have occurred to the Doctor that ladies must and will wear stays, in spite of all the medical men of Europe. The strong and perfect feel the benefit of using them, and to the weak and delicate or imperfect, they are absolutely indispensable; but when we say this, we mean corsets properly constructed; for if the construction be imper­fect, the mistake will be equally as bad as the administration of a cathartic instead of a diaphoretic. Yes, says the practitioner, but then none but a quack would do such a thing. Precisely so; and no one who knew how to adapt a pair of corsets to the human figure would ever injure the body by trying to improve it. Only suppose that corset making has fallen into the hands of quacks—that is, of people who] do not understand their profession—and the whole question is an­swered.

But, says the Doctor again, they are "useful only to conceal defects and make up deficiencies in appearance." Well, that is something, at all events, considering how many defective people there are in the world. But, pardon us Doctor, that is not the only use they are of. Corsets, properly constructed, not only hide the deficiencies of Nature, but, by giving proper support where it is needed, enable her to correct them, and hence call back the figure to its normal position. This, we take it, is no little thing when so many people are imperfect.

What is said about the unyielding substance, and the whalebone and steel busk, can have no reference to us. We make no such corsets. Our busks are all electro-magnetic, or else protected by a non-conducting substance, and can therefore in no way injure the body—indeed, we never use a substance that is prejudicial to health.

Whilst upon this matter of objections, it may not be amiss to notice one more, originating however from another quarter. The staymakers say, "Oh, she was never brought up to the trade, and what should Madame Caplin know about it?" Now, it is perfectly true that we never served an apprenticeship to the trade; and if we had, the probability is that we should have done as the trade does—make corsets for the body to be fitted to, and not fitted the corset to the body. What we have brought to the trade is simply intelligence; the stitching was quite as good before we begun as it is now.

It may appear strange, that after so long a period since the ordinary corset had been condemned, that no substantial improvement had been made in its construction. But the reason of this evidently is, that the whole affair had been left entirely in the hands of working people—generally females of little or no education—who knew no more of the structure and functions of the body than an unlettered philoso­phical instrument maker knows of the structure of the starry heavens. Hence the requirements of the internal organs were unknown, and the line of beauty on the external figure unperceived. The old assemblage of straight lines and angular shapes, which were brought together to make up one pair of stays, was no more adapted to the preservation of the health and the display of the beauty of the body, than they were to cover a round ball without creases. And hence the just condemnation which has been bestowed on them by the medical faculty.

One reason why we succeeded where all others had failed was, per­haps, because we not only took a scientific view of the body, but a geometrical measurement of it. It would be of no interest to the general reader to give the method by which we proceeded; it is enough for us to say, that by an elaborate calculation we succeeded in meeting all the requirements of the case, and hence the perfection of our inventions. Corset making with us becomes an art which requires a scientific educa­tion to pursue it.

The result of all this care and study was the formation of a figure, in some measure ideal, but still true to life, on which our corsets might be tried, and to which they might be adapted. The figure which we give in another part of this work is one of our first designs. It is a copy from nature, but such a copy as enables one to form a conception of the beauty of the human race when the end of nature has been attained, in giving the proper development to the body. This was our first triumph: we had succeeded in inventing a muscular envelope; which, whilst it gave freedom to the motions, afforded ample support to the yielding parts. All the rest of our adaptations are only modifi­cations of this, rendered necessary by the various physical conformations presented to us.