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October 15, 2020 October 2020 No Comments

It’s a personal question I know, but what size is your waist?  It’s odds on that it will be more than 54cm, the size of this corset in our collection.   

It was gifted to the museum by the late Norma Chapman, one of the people who set up the museum back in the late 1970s (and also taught at Martinborough School).     We had no information about this wasp-waisted creation so Winifred Bull volunteered to find out more.  The only clue she had was “WB” written on the back.

After venturing deep into the history of women’s underwear she found the letters stood for Warner Brothers, the surname of physician brothers Lucien and Ira.   The brothers had a particular interest in women’s health. They saw the injuries that women suffered from wearing corsets of whalebone and steel – crushed lungs, broken ribs and organs squeezed to failure. In 1873, they designed a new type of corset, using ixtle*, which gave women the shape they desired and the flexibility to allow some movement and reduce injuries.   No surprise that it was extremely popular. 

Lucien and Ira gave up medicine to become Warner Brothers’ Corset Manufacturers, an enterprise that made them wealthy men.

The tiny waist on this corset was not unique.  The museum has several dresses from that period with similarly nipped-in waists.  Why not pop in and have a look.

* Ixtle.  What a wonderful scrabble word.  It is  the name of a plant fibre used in Mexico and Central America for nets, cordage and carpet.

A big thank you to Malcolm from Keys”N”Locks, Martinborough’s mobile locksmith,  for doing a job for us gratis.

Museum Opening Hours

Saturdays 11.30-3.30

Sundays 11.30-1.30 

Contact: Chris Cassels 306 8282, ccassels@gmail.com

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