Disclosure : the development of a classification system describing the historical design elements of women's corsets (1870-1911) in the absence of an exhibition : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Masters of Design (Fashion), Massey University
The Victorian and Edwardian corset is a significant historical design object. It is unique for its sophistication of the cut, the design, the combination of materials, complex construction techniques, elaborate and purposeful decoration and the integrated used of typography. This research develops a model for detailing comprehensive design knowledge of corsets that focus on intensifying the understanding of corset design through written and visual composition by the development of a classification system to describe and record the historical design elements. Six New Zealand museum collections were selected for the material culture-based investigation using corsets made between 1870 -1911. The evolving number of corset styles, vast range of materials, construction techniques, array of embellishment details, and specific terminology, have been correlated together to form a highly descriptive historical record. The research data, presented in an illustrative and detailed narrative catalogue model, has been presented to allow public access to the largely unseen historical artefacts in the absence of an exhibition. This work increases the knowledge of the design elements of historical corsets and supports the conducted into the under documented area of the dress history of Pakeha women in Victorian and Edwardian New Zealand. The research model and system of identifying, classifying and cataloguing is not exclusive to corset research, it could be modified and applied to other design-based research involving historic dress, in and outside of New Zealand.