Made of sateen and whalebone, this somewhat unique maternity corset would have been worn to slim the torso and push up the breasts. During the second half of the 19th century, corsets were specifically designed to wear while cycling, playing tennis, and horseback riding, as well as for maternity wear. Driven by fashion to wear a tightly laced corset, some women went so far that they could only breathe with the top part of their lungs. This caused the bottom part to fill with mucus.
This particular corset features two hefty whalebone ‘busks’ sewn into the centre back, and laces down the front. Such a design enabled the corset to be altered easily as the abdomen expanded. Also visible are tape supports which seem to have passed over the shoulders, through the loops, and finally crossing to fasten over the stomach. The bust and hip gussets, meanwhile, are extra large to accommodate a full term pregnancy. Corsets throughout the 19th century were similar in construction, using double layers of strong fabric, whale or metal ‘bones’, and lace eyelets to adjust the tight waist.