SURGICAL corset fitting is highly specialized work for which particular training is absolutely necessary. It is work perhaps not to every woman's taste, but to those who take their duties as a corsetiere seriously, have an eager interest in human lives, and get satisfaction from performing a service to their fellow women, surgical fitting must be infinitely the most interesting and satisfying in the corsetry field.
The corsetiere can, in fact, hardly feel that she has a complete mastery of her craft unless she has qualified in surgical fitting. It may indeed be said that the corset department is hardly complete unless it includes a surgical section, for a large proportion of women in middle and later years have need of special support for therapeutic reasons–after child-bearing or illness or operations, or because of the overstrain and weakening of muscles or tissue–and they expect their corsetiere to be competent to advise and help them. They do not all want to go to special "surgical" places. They prefer to talk to the corsetiere to whom they are already known, in the cosy little fitting room where they feel at home. Women, and not only the elderly, "oldfashioned" ones, are often exceedingly shy of speaking of their physical ailments or of having their bodies seen. To go to a strange place and talk of intimate matters with somebody they have never seen before may distress them. But the environment helps them psychologically. The corsetiere in the store is therefore frequently confronted by the need to give a helpful answer to a customer seeking advice on corsetry for some specific condition.
It is not-within the scope of this book to instruct students in surgical fitting, which as already pointed out is highly specialized work. Instructional courses for this work are repeatedly being run in London and at provincial centres, and fitters with the interest and enterprise to seek this fuller kind of tuition will have little difficulty in obtaining adequate training.
It is a proper purpose of this book, however, to point out to young saleswomen that without special training they must on no account attempt to tackle surgical fitting on their own. Still less–and this applies to all corset fitters of whatever age and experience–must they usurp the function of the doctor and attempt to diagnose customers' complaints.
It is sometimes a great temptation to do so, especially to a fitter of wide experience who can often make a very shrewd guess at what her customer's condition may be. But it is a temptation to be resisted at all times and at all costs. No diagnosing! Not even the faintest hint. If there is reason to suspect something is seriously wrong, and the customer seems unaware of it, then indeed the corsetiere should suggest to the customer that she should consult her doctor about the advisability of wearing this or that type of support.
In the main, however, the customer seeking a surgical type of support knows why she wants it, and may produce a doctor's prescription, which the trained fitter is competent to see correctly interpreted.
Every corsetiere, whether trained in surgical fitting or not, will in the course of her work come across a proportion of abnormal cases. If, in conversation with her customer and as she studies her figure, she learns that there is some particular deformity or condition, or some strain which ordinary corsetry is not designed to correct, she must then suggest to the customer that a surgical type of support is advisable.
Maternity corsetry, which in any case should not be thought of as "abnormal," is dealt with fully in Chapter XV and need not be further discussed here.
Other conditions the corsetiere is likely to meet from time to time include visceroptosis, or fallen organs (for instance, gastroptosis, or falling of the stomach; nephroptosis, descent of the kidney; enteroptosis, descent of the intestines; coloptosis, dropping of the colon); also hernia (the thrusting or protrusion of an organ or structure through the wall of the cavity normally designed to enclose it); diseases and injuries of the spine, deformities of spine (a common one being lordosis, an abnormal curve in the lumber region) ; strains in various sections of the spine, affecting posture; post-operative conditions of many sorts; and severe cases of pendulous breast and pendulous abdomen.
The post-operative cases may only be matter for temporary or short-term support, but correct support over that term may make all the difference towards a return to better health. Scars left after surgical incisions may heal up nicely, but there may still be considerable lack of tone because, while major nerves have been well looked after by the surgeon, smaller ones have been left to unite themselves.
It is in the period immediately after the operation that care and support are most needed, and if a correct support is worn then for a few weeks or months, the chances of recovery may be far greater.
In many of the conditions mentioned above, a customer may feel that an ordinary corset of a stout kind will serve her purpose and save trouble and expense. Such a corset may, indeed, give very useful help, but the surgical support, properly designed under medical supervision, will not only hold her comfortably and firmly but will at the same time assist in rectifying the abnormal condition. The responsibility of persuading the customer to take the better course is one the corsetiere must not shirk.