Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Titanic and Corsets

Imagine it's a starry, starry night with a calm sea, the water below freezing.

A bitter chill is in the air as you climb into a lifeboat.

In your nightdress.

Brrr…

You'd also be wearing a corset along with drawers, chemise and a corset cover.

Many ladies on the Titanic found themselves in a quandary when the stewards summoned them to the lifeboats after the ship struck an iceberg at 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912.

Take the time to dress or throw a warm coat over your nightdress and get into a lifeboat?

According to eyewitness accounts, several female survivors had nothing on but nightgowns and suffered from exposure and shock.

If a lady was wearing her corset, what was it like?

When I was writing my Titanic heroine, Katie O'Reilly, I wanted to find out what underwear Edwardian ladies put on everyday.

So here's a roundup of interesting corset tidbits that were part of Katie's world circa 1912:

How much did a corset cost?

According to a major ad announcing the marketing of a new corset at a "good bargain," the retail price was $2.00. Taking into account the standard figure for inflation, that would be about fifty dollars today.

A corset company in Chicago advertised they would fit, alter and repair your corset for one year free of charge.

Another corset company advertised their corset as being "The cause of it all…" By the ad, I assume they meant the corset gave the illustrated model her slim silhouette. Since I write romance, I like to believe the elegant corset was the cause of bedtime frolicking…

Speaking of bedtime--

Women often wore a night corset with a larger waistline to keep their figures trim.

Or a lady on the Titanic may have opted for a ribbon corset which hit the store shelves around 1904. This lightweight, narrow corset consisted of horizontal strips of elastic sewn into a side seam to support your tummy.

And if you were a young girl, you probably wore a liberty bodice, a boneless "training corset" girls wore around 1908.

My favorite is the tango corset, a short, lightweight corset designed especially for dancing.

Perfect for the sexy scene when Katie and Jack dance the tango aboard the Titanic:
Heat shot through her when he pulled her closer to him as the melancholy strains of the music evoked a raw need in her to follow him through the graceful yet difficult twists and turns of the dance. A dance deeply moving, mysterious.

The tango.

No gentleman would dance the tango, he said, and no lady would deny it curled her toes. Exciting, thrilling to watch--

But more so to dance.

A rising desire in his eyes promised her that he wanted to dance the tango not with any woman, but only with her.

6 comments:

Michelle Polaris said...

I own a corset and I admit it's enjoyable. Although I wouldn't want to be wearing one on a sinking ship.

Jina Bacarr said...

Michelle, is your corset silk or velvet? Something you wear as outerwear?

Re: sinking ship--you'd also be wearing a lifebelt made with cork squares.

Wynter Daniels said...

You are a fount of knowledge, Jina. Very interesting!

Jina Bacarr said...

Thanks, Wynter. Writing about the Titanic requires knowledge of the times as well as the ship. I didn't want to leave any stone unturned or corset unlaced...

Callie Croix said...

Love learning tidbits like this! I tried on my first corset while in New Orleans last fall. It was so pretty, but my God, it was uncomfortable! I felt like my kidneys were going to rupture or something. Plus I'd never be able to get into it without someone lacing me in and out of the thing. So...it stayed on the rack at the store.

Jina Bacarr said...

Callie, you're right about corsets causing health problems: women often “swooned” from the tight lacing and some turned green-–this was thought to be from iron deficiency caused by malnutrition and lack of exercise–often diagnosed as chlorosis.