The crotchless panty's ascent from propriety into risqué

Originally published at: The crotchless panty's ascent from propriety into risqué | Boing Boing


We need you to support the war effort — please stop wearing metal corsets, stop using metal on your corsets. And by the end of the war, there was enough metal saved to construct two battleships, so that gives us a sense of just how ubiquitous metal was in corsetry, just how much metal was used in corsets.

I was curious about a source for the claim that women not using metal bones in their corsets saved enough metal to make two battleships.

I see the claim here, which puts a number on it:

In effort to conserve metal, manufacturing companies such as the Warner Brothers Corset Company halted the production of corsets, conserving roughly 28,000 tons of metal—about enough to build two battleships.

The math is right for the ships. The USS Alabama (BB-8) displaced around 12k imperial tons. So, two of those would be 24,000 imperial tons, or 53,760,000 pounds. But did women really use 53 million pounds of corset steel? per year? For the duration of the war?

This website claims that the steel bones in a corset weight “1.5 to 3 pounds.”

So, 17,666,666 to 35,333,333 corsets for two battleships? If the claim is “saved” that means that over the course of the war, in the United States alone, women forswore 17 to 35 million corsets.

The 1920 US census says there were 24+million women over the age of 15 in the US. Essentially this is one corset for every woman (all races, all income levels) from 1917 to 1919.

I have my suspicions about the accuracy of the claim, but it’ll be a fun problem for students to work out.

ETA: According to the census data, there were 17,564 people employed making corsets in 1910. Maddeningly, the data gets subsumed into “women’s clothing manufacturers” for other kinds of calculations. So, there were around 4500 factories (with around 22,000 horsepower, mostly steam) for women’s clothing, but there’s no sense how many of those were specific to corsets. [By comparison, around 86 million pairs of “ladies shoes” were manufactured in 1909]


That figure might include the waste metal, but then, I have no idea how the boning is made.



leading to metal becoming the dominate corset reinforcement material,

A Freudian slip? (But ‘dominant’ - the correct term - would have been equally so, I guess.)


Good call! I stand corrected. ^_____^


Ok - so it took me quite a few seconds to realise (only after double-checking that I had in fact quoted from Andrew Yi’s blog post and not from a reply from shichae) this means shichae = Andrew Yi.

I wonder if I’m the only one not to have made this link until the logic of it was drawn to my personal attention?

If you are going to be a regular blogger here it might help if your ‘below the line’ ID was the same as your blog-posting name. Just a thought.

ETA some time later… but kudos to you for coming down here @shichae . Some of the guest bloggers never do (and some of them are entirely unknown - nobody here has any idea who they are (looking at you Popkin))




I remember my grandmother (born 1915) telling me that in her youth those were the least fashionable old lady garment ever.

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