La Myra’s underpinnings

art by Daryl Banks

During the 1850s, fashion turned its attention to the skirt.

“They grew ever wider and wider, and the flounces and light materials they were made of meant that they needed more and more support. Layers of petticoats were no longer sufficient and were very heavy and uncomfortable. Something more structured was required.

A patent was taken out in May 1856 for a garment inflated by means of bellows and deflated to enable the wearer to sit down. The satirical magazine Punch reported:

Some idea may be formed of the labour which the present mode has rendered necessary, when we state that to fill the air-tubes of a single dress it takes the most expert lady’s maid upwards of three hours and a quarter, even with the help of a good-sized pair of bellows.

The artificial cage crinoline appeared in 1857 as a welcome and more practical alternative. It was made of spring steel hoops, increasing in diameter towards the bottom, suspended on cotton tapes. The number of hoops ranged from nine to eighteen according to the formality of the dress.

There were also many tales of accidents that could befall hapless wearers of crinolines, such as being caught in her hoops as she descended from a carriage. The most frequent accidents were caused by sparks from open fires, a situation not helped by the wearing of highly flammable fabrics such as muslin and silks. Punch advised husbands to insure their wives at Fire Insurance offices.

However, the spring steel structures were also very light so rather than imprisoning women in cages (as some of the reports and images suggest) they had a liberating effect. A lady could ascend a steep stair, lean against a table, throw herself into an armchair, pass to her stall at the opera, and occupy a further seat in a carriage, without inconveniencing others.

From 1866 the crinoline craze subsided and the bustle became a separate undergarment in its own right. The new form of bustle was known as a ‘dress-improver’ or by its French name ‘tournure’ as the word bustle was considered vulgar in polite society.

La Myra tournure found here

The New Phantom’ bustle, dating from about 1884, had a special feature. The steel wires are attached to a pivot so that they folded in on themselves on sitting down and sprang back when the wearer rose. A novelty bustle made to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations contained a less useful device. It was fitted with a musical box that played ‘God Save the Queen’ each time the wearer sat down.

Various methods were tried and tested to achieve a full and swelling bosom such as the ingenious ‘lemon cup’ bust improver of the 1890s. Each cup was packed with bleached horsehair supported by a whalebone lining. The light coiled spring helped to give the desired shapely effect.

Women’s journals of the time were replete with advertisements for pills and potions to correct flaws in the female appearance. If pills and potions failed there was always the ‘Princess Bust Developer’ which exercised the muscles of the bust by suction, restoring the capillary action and getting rid of flabby tissue.

I don’t have a Princess Bust Developer but queenwilly and the king gave nursemyra the Fabulous Mark Eden version last year. Can you tell that I’ve been diligently using it twice a day?

Published in: on January 10, 2010 at 6:23 am  Comments (33)  
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33 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am so glad I can just sling on my jeans and get on with my day.
    Fascinating, Nursey.

    • Happy birthday kitty xx

  2. I learn something new every day. BTW, I claim to be the best bust supporter, bar none.

    • or is that “bar all?”

  3. The crinoline cage can be used as a parrot cage as well – this was demonstrated on British TV over the Christmas period ……. coincidence? …… I doubt it

    • oh I would LOVE to put my Rosella in a crinoline cage

  4. If I had to hear ‘God save the Queen’ every time my wife or girlfriend stood up, I think I’d have to take out ‘suicide insurance’ on myself. I wouldn’t last long.

  5. I am a great admirer of women in skirts. There is something very feminine and sensual about the way a woman conducts herself when wearing such an open-ended bolt of material.

    I will admit to being a leg man… there is something stirring as I speak.

  6. There was an art installation at Carriageworks called The Hosts: headless, crinoline robots. It was sensation and breath-takingly great – fun! It was during August/September 09.
    At this link you can see the crinoline robots pictured:

    http://www.carriageworks.com.au/enews/2009.09.02-September___E_Newsletter.html

    • The exhibition looks great! But the Carriageworks is another place I can’t go to again yet. Stephen had a studio there for a few years…. too many memories

  7. Again another fascinating tale of how crazy fashions were way back when. These were not clothes but strange and sometimes torturous contraptions.

    Your bust development has always been splendid in my opinion. No need for gadgets!

  8. Glad to see our little toy is being put to good use, not that you need it of course!

    I understand the french had several bust enhancing techniques, perhaps some research is called for…

    The King

    • Do they involve a sceptre?

      • No more talk about sceptres! Besides, The King’s crown is much more interesting.

      • Yours is even better m’lady

  9. I throw myself into armchairs on a daily basis, but I wear jeans. 🙂

  10. we must, we must, we must increase our bust!
    the bigger the better the tighter the sweater,
    the boys will look at us!

  11. That looks like the Suzanne Somers Thigh Master.

  12. Daisyfae gets the point. Even though I too am a leg man.

  13. Vaccinations: a personal story
    http://bennymay.wordpress.com/

  14. Great story. I am reminded of scenes from Gone With The Wind
    I enjoy skirts but would have found the dress of olden days rather difficult

  15. :laughs:
    I remember my mom and my sister using the Mark Eden Bust Developer back in the 70s. IIRC, it didn’t work, either.

  16. I’m all about working the muscles of the bust with suction… and other means as well.

  17. Actually I’d rather get to grips with Nurse La Myra’s underpinnings.

    Ding Dong! Woof! etc..

  18. I thought ‘lemon cup’ was a dessert…wait, I guess it is.

  19. Love the crinoline art! I would so hang that on a wall. I have only ever worn petticoats once – for my wedding. We got married in Vegas and did a 50s style thing. I had a pouffy pink net petticoat under my skirt. 🙂 It was fun.

  20. Mmmm, petticoats.

  21. Thank the sweet gods of the universe I can get ready for work in half an hour. I would not have the patience to survive the daily prep work back then. I would have been a recluse to beat Emily Dickinson’s worst day.

  22. You would have a chest like a young Swarzenegger

  23. There is no substitute for a few sets of forced-rep bench presses.

  24. LOVE the crinolines.

  25. […] Do you remember when queenwilly and The King gave me a Mark Eden Bust Developer? […]


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