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Picturing a World

Japonisme corset ads

As a follow-up to my previous post on a Corset sculptor, how about a Japonisme corset ad? In an e-mail, scholar Christine Guth immediately recognized these "Three Little Maids from School" from the Gilbert and Sullivan opera, The Mikado, first performed in 1885. The Digital Commonwealth site where I found it has three other corset ads of the same period with Japonisme motifs. Which leads me to think the commercial artist I proposed as a fictional heroine might be a serious fine artist who has been influenced by Japanese art. As she struggles to find a footing in the world of galleries, she supports herself by supplying pictures to a printer who turns out calendars and advertising cards. If I decide to go with that idea, there's lots to explore!

And even corsets themselves might be exploring further. A recent article in the Guardian comments on their re-emergence in the present-day fashion scene. For historical fiction, however, neither prurience nor feminist protest would be the main interest. The question would be, why did women of different classes wear them for so long? Notice the slogan on this card: "Affords Great Relief and Comfort." There certainly wouldn't be any point in tight-lacing under the kind of kimono shown here!

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