The Dowager Corset, 1900

Ladies Home Journal, January 1900. Click to enlarge

If you had a product intended for older women, what would you call it?  These days it might include the words “ageless” or “forever young,” but in 1900 “dowager” was apparently considered a good idea.  What is a dowager anyway? In British novels, it is an appellation title that seems to come with a lot of money and a nice house–think of Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey.  More broadly, the word applies to a widow with an inheritance or an elderly woman of stature.  Perhaps in 1900 it was more important for the older set to aspire to wealth and fame than to youth.

How do we know that this was a product intended for older women?  Well the name is certainly a clue.  There is also the fact that this was a product designed for larger sizes.  The testimonial letter included here states that the Dowager Corset “stands ALONE in the market today as the only corset for stout figures. I have given it a most severe test, and find after testing almost every corset in the market the Dowager is the only corset.”

Maybe it’s not too bad being old if you get to wear a tiara.

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One Response to The Dowager Corset, 1900

  1. When a man with an hereditary title (e.g., a duke) dies, his eldest son inherits the title and usually the great house and real estate; his wife then becomes “the duchess” and his mother becomes “the dowager duchess.” Often there is a house (“the dower house”) on the estate, reserved for the use of the widow, who has had to leave “the big house” when her son and his wife take up residence there. In my much more humble American neighborhood, realtors sometimes refer to a tiny self-contained apartment as a “mother-in-law” unit…. Less classy, but then American brides don’t arrive with a “dowry.”:)

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