Health, Strength, Grace and Symmetry, Vol 1: Muscular Symmetry and Fine Condition..., 2007
Antique doll corset, digitally printed pages on cotten sateen fabric, Dimensions Variable
Health, Strength, Grace and Symmetry, Vol 1: Muscular Symmetry and Fine Condition...for the more athletic more balanced woman.
This is the first part of a two part series (see the website for Vol. 2) of small corset books dealing with the history of women, exercise and corsets. This book uses text and images from corset advertisements, women's magazines, etiquette books and exercise manuals directed towards girls and women from the mid-to-late 19th century.
Over a hundred years ago, women were being asked "Why should she not reduce herself to a weight which shall make her a Symmetrical Woman, and inasmuch as the only obstacle to her being a beautiful woman is her superfluous flesh." The answer they were given "Women must persistently, faithfully, systematically, begin a physical reformation."
Of course, as the primary housekeepers, women were told, "Nothing gives such elasticity to the limbs, and roundness to the form, ease and grace to the motion, as the bending, reaching, lifting, quick walking and swift motions involved in domestic exercise; and nothing gives such a healthful glow to the cheek, luster to the eyes, cheerfulness to the spirits, full and healthful play to the lungs and heart, invigorating the whole frame, preparing the system to develop in full and fair proportions, and to unfold in beauty like the fresh, blooming, and perfected flower."
Women being described as flora was nothing new to that generation; but now these flowers were expected to be perfecting their forms using physical exercise while being supported in a vast new array of exercise corsets specially designed for that purpose. Of course, with any new exertion in a woman's life came with warnings, in this case that over-exercising may "...use up force to such an extent that your growing womanly functions become weakened and sometimes dried up!"
As woman explored this new reformation of physical culture, they discovered freedoms that were being created - such as partaking in new sport craze of bicycling, allowing them to physically step outside their home and become a participant in the world around them.
Height: 17 1/2"
Width closed: 6 1/2"
13 machine and hand-stitched pages connected with cotton twill tape.
Corset Width open: 14 1/2"
Page Height: 5 1/2"
Page Width: 6 1/2"