M930. | Advertisement for corset

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Advertisement for corset
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1850-1885, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
23.8 x 10.7 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  advertisement (407) , Print (10661) , Sign and symbol (2669)
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Keys to History

There were many newspaper advertisements for corsets at the end of the 19th century. Manufacturers needed strong arguments to defend themselves against those who opposed the wearing of corsets.

These advertisements spoke to the supposed concerns and desires of women, including beauty, love and motherhood. They often portrayed little cherubs that evoked images of pink, healthy babies, or even Cupids, pining for love. What message was hiding behind these characters? Did they inspire modest notions of erotism or perhaps a lover's gaze upon a nicely-shaped figure? Were they contradicting the opinions of many physicians of the day by suggesting that corsets worn during pregnancy represented no risk?

In these advertisements, one argument, made again and again, would claim that "the corset helps nature." Indeed, a corset would thin the body and support the bosom of a large woman, or in the event of a small bosom, add volume. It was everything that a woman who had experienced several pregnancies might want to hear.

  • What

    Advertisements for the corset illustrated the virtues that this undergarment held for some.

  • Where

    Commercial illustrator John Henry Walker's print was undoubtedly done in Montréal where his studio was located at the time.

  • When

    Judging by the hairstyles of the women, this print was likely made between 1870 and 1880.

  • Who

    In the 19th century, women started to wear corsets at a very young age. That is why some might have been less sensitive to physicians' warnings that corsets were harmful to their health.