IF this book had been written before the first world war, there would have been no chapter on elasticized corsetry. To-day, however, elastic is one of the main ingredients in corsetry, and a whole new range of corset types is made possible by its use.
Elastic, of course, is made from rubber. And what is rubber? The Indians in Mexico, who first discovered it, call it "Caoutchouc," meaning "weeping wood," and it is the liquid that oozes from a wound in the rubber tree. This milky substance we now call "latex."
Corset manufacturers use two kinds of rubber threads, cut rubber, and "Lastex." The first kind is cut from thin sheets of rubber made by mixing the latex with powdered sulphur and other necessary compounding ingredients and putting it through various kneading, pressing, and vulcanizing processes. These cut threads are woven or knitted into the fabrics generally used in hookside corsets, for the side panels of corselettes, in suspenders, and so forth.
"Lastex" is the branded name given to a different kind of rubber thread, made by pumping the pure latex, with a little sulphur added, through a succession of pipes until it is finally extruded through very fine glass nozzles into acetic acid, which solidifies it. The solid thread is then drawn from the acid, washed, and passed through the hot vulcanizing chamber.
This round thread (the cut form of thread is square) wears much longer and will resist the effects of oil, perspiration, and air very much better than cut rubber thread. It is therefore very suitable for weaving into elastic webs for corsetry and, when wound or "covered" with cotton or rayon or silk, is generally used in woven two-way-stretch, one-way matching, and knitted fabrics. In the opinion of many corset manufacturers, there is not another kind of material that lends itself so well to the manufacture of girdles and corselettes of mid-twentieth-century fashion.
Lastex fabrics can be made to stretch one way or two, or all ways, depending on whether the elastic thread is used only in the warp, or in both warp and weft, or in a net. In designing elasticized corsets–and it is a point the fitter also must learn to take note of–the important matter to consider is the weight of the Lastex yarn fabric necessary for the control of the figure concerned. Cloths of various weight are chosen according to the model that is to be created, light weight for the small figure and heavier weight for the figure needing firmer control. A light weight material with a too easy stretch would not be suitable for a heavy figure, and particularly not for a figure needing abdominal support.
There are many different Lastex cloths–for example, batiste lastex, satin lastex, lace lastex, and a leno lastex which, though extremely strong, is very light in weight, and so is much in use for garments designed for tropical wear.
The Lastex cloth is generally, though not always, used in combination with some more rigid cloth–for instance, front panels of garments are commonly in a rigid cloth, while sides and back are in elastic, and sometimes side panels have two-way stretch while the back panel stretches only downwards. The particular virtue of elastic corsetry is that "riding up," the commonest complaint of the all-rigid corset, is largely eliminated, even after strenuous exercise or much sitting. Also, the figure can be well corseted without looking stiff or unyielding, because the material "gives" to the body.
No manufacturer of elasticized corsetry claims that corsets made from Lastex cloths are suitable for every type of figure, but it is probably fair to say that seventy-five per cent of women could satisfactorily wear garments of this class.
In an earlier chapter the basic figure types are described–average, heavy hip, and top heavy, each with its short, medium, and long variations of trunk length. In elasticized garments, designs for the average figure provide for a hip expansion of eight to ten inches, in the top heavy or small hip type for an expansion of less than eight inches, and in the heavy hip for an expansion of over ten inches.
There are two distinctive types of the average apart from the variations in length–small average and full average.
Small average has little or no superfluous flesh. She has a neat waist line and smooth contour, and although her waist may be 28 inches and her hips 38 inches, it is by the amount of flesh she is judged. With these smooth unbulging lines she can be fitted with any of the light weight Lastex yarn fabrics. They can be in two-way stretch, or two-way with one-way at the back.
Full average is more often than not the older woman, and although her proportions are average, she has often developed bulges at the top of the hip bone, her abdominal muscles are not so firm and her flesh is soft and yielding. Never, unless in exceptional cases (such as post-operative), should an all round two-way stretch be fitted. This type should have a rigid front, elastic sides and a downward-stretching back. This will give her all the support of a rigid garment with the added comfort of the downward stretch back for sitting, bending, and easy movement.
At this point, let us consider this "added comfort." Why should a garment stretch downwards at the back and sometimes at the sides as well? It is because when sitting and bending the muscles stretch like elastic and the body measurement increases by as much as three or five inches. This elongation applies to the hips as well as from the shoulders down over the gluteus muscle. Therefore, if the garment does not stretch with the muscles, nothing can prevent it from riding up on the body.
Small hip or top heavy figures need a wide waist fitting to allow for expansion over the diaphragm. It is not unusual for this type to be fleshy on the upper abdomen, so they should be fitted with a garment in a firm medium to heavy weight Lastex fabric, and for preference one with a rigid material front.
In fitting Heavy hip figures, it is necessary first to decide why the customer has a big hip. Is it flesh, wide bone construction, or heavy muscle?
If there is wide bone structure and a flattish abdomen, the garment may be of all two-way stretch in a light weight fabric.
If there is heavy strong muscle, an all two-way stretch garment may be chosen, but it must be in a firm and heavier woven fabric.
The fleshy type of figure should be fitted with a garment having a one-way back, rigid material front, and a heavier weight woven fabric throughout.
In all these varieties of full hip figures, longer garments are needed than for small hip and average types, and there should be wide Lastex side panels, as there is a wider expansion of muscle when sitting than in the average or small hip figure. Without the additional length and the wide Lastex side panels, even an elastic garment will ride on this figure.
Fitting an elasticized garment on the customer is in general easier than fitting a more rigid type of garment, because the fitter can use the stretch of the elastic to help her when doing up the fastening.
In doing up a hookside fastening, you will probably find there is an elastic panel immediately behind the eye side of the fastening, which will be in your right hand. You should therefore pull this side over towards the left hand, stretching this elastic while you slip in the hooks.
Before fitting a step-in garment of any kind, ask the customer to remove her shoes.
Never pull a girdle on by holding the top edge. Get a firm grip about a third of the way down, gathering the top part in your hand with the fingers outside and your thumb inside the garment. Hold between the flat finger tips and the thick part of the thumb muscle. This requires a little practice but it will prevent putting finger-nails through the fabric.
Stand at the side of the customer, with your back towards her, holding the garment low enough for her to step into it easily. As she steps into the garment, invite her to rest her hand on your shoulder for support. Move to the back and pull up smoothly and evenly, holding the garment at the sides as previously described. Never pull a garment on in a series of jerks; it is irritating to the customer and tiring to you.
FIG. 35. PULL THE GARMENT WELL UP OVER THE HIPS AND STRAIGHTEN IT IF NECESSARY BEFORE PULLING DOWN INTO POSITION
FIG. 36. GETTING INTO A BONELESS GARMENT BY TURNING IT UPSIDE DOWN AND INSIDE OUT AND THEN ROLLING IT OVER ITSELF
Pull the garment high on the body so that it can be straightened if necessary without a lot of tugging (Fig. 35), pull down at the back and sides only, and again with one steady pull. Do not allow the customer to pull it down in front or help in any way at this stage, or you will lose the effect of the first rule of fitting–"Up in the front and down at the back." The front adjusts itself in the back and side pulling.
When the garment is about three-quarters of the way down, fasten the hooks and eyes or zipp fastener, and then a final pull at the back will place the garment in its correct position–2 in. below the curve of the gluteus muscle.
In fitting a customer with a full or fleshy abdomen, fasten the first hooks and eyes while the garment is high on the body, pull down a little way, complete the fastening, and finally adjust. Always fasten a semi-step-in from the bottom hook upwards. Fasten the back suspenders first, then the sides and front. If the suspenders are stitched to the garment at an angle, follow this angle when fixing on the stocking.
If the customer is full hipped, try turning the garment inside out and upside down before she steps into it. When halfway up on the body, turn the lower half upwards over the half already pulled up on the body. This process acts like a shoe horn (Fig. 36). Finally adjust as before.
It helps if the customer crosses her legs whilst the garment is pulled on. This diminishes the size of the thigh area and makes it much easier when the subject is the fleshy type. Again finish adjusting as before.
Just as careful a check should be made of the fit of an elasticized corset as of any other sort.
(1) See that there is room for the waist, which expands when sitting.
(2) Has the diaphragm room for expansion?
(3) Make sure the skirt of the garment is not so tight as to restrict the thighs.
(4) Ask the customer to sit down: Is the garment long enough for her to "sit into"? Remember that, as with other fittings, it should come not less than two inches below the gluteus muscle on to the flat part of the leg for comfort.
(5) Is there a finger width between the bottom of the bones and the customer's groin when she is sitting?