Posted by: Jina Bacarr | August 30, 2011

Titanic and Corsets

Katie in her corset...what happens when Captain Lord Blackthorn asks her to take off her clothes? Find out in TITANIC RHASODY.

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.

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Responses

  1. An interesting post. It seems to me that corsets must have meant torture to many women. Could a too-tight one do actual harm? And when did they fall out of favor?

  2. You’re right, Bob, about the corsets and torture part: women often “swooned” from the tight lacing and some turned green–this was thought be from iron deficiency caused by malnutrition and lack of exercise–often diagnosed as chlorosis.

    Funny thing is the corset has never fallen out of favor, in a matter of speaking. Sexy, satin corsets are still sold today but are not worn as everyday clothing.

    The corset gradually became the rubber girdle in the twenties and thirties–and beyond–then turned into pantyhose. Women today often wear spandex undergarments.

    The good thing is we know more about nutrition and exercise!

  3. Glad we don’t have to wear those anymore!

    • I totally agree! Imagine rowing in a corset…at least it may have helped keep a lady warm.


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