April 13, 2009

What is a Corset Winch

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Vintage corset from the collection of Period Corsets with winch

Client’s Question:
“This might be an odd question, but I’ve noticed that a lot of old vintage corsets have this hook type metal fitting in the front near front busk opening . What is that for?”

Period Corsets Answers:
“The metal hook you are referring to is called a winch. It possibly came into fashion when modern factories made corsets for the working woman. It was an innovation that allowed a woman to tighten up her corset more easily by herself without a dresser. As she pulled the laces tight she would cross them in the back and bring them around to the front. She could wrap the lace loops around the winch to hold them taut so that they would not give while she wiggled the corset tighter. (Something like a cleat for sailors pulling in a line or being on belay for a rock climber.) She could wrap it around the winch and let the laces hang down without creating a big knot at the waist. The winch was located somewhere just slightly below the waist line and usually off to the left, for the right handed majority of the population.  During the course of the day, as the body expanded and contracted the laces could be loosed or tightened with ease. Without hiking up her skirts, undressing or visiting the ladies, the winch  allowed her to adjust the tension of the laces with discreet alacrity throughout the work day."

Detail of winch placement on vintage corset


One Wilde Knight said...

My maternal grandmother was born in 1890 and, like many ladies of her generation, continued to wear her corsets all her life. She described the corsets she had worn as a teenager as having the "winch," the hook just below the waist. That feature, she explained, made it easier for a busy working woman to discreetly adjust her laces during the work day.

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