Woven Corsets! Visiting the Corset Museum in Heubach, Germany
One of the highlights of 2018 was my trip to the Structuring Fashion conference in Munich, Germany. An optional side trip to the Miedermuseum in Heubach was offered, and since I'd vowed to do All The Things offered as part of this trip, I took it. And I'm so glad I did!
The tour started with a long bus ride--2 or 3 hrs--I don't remember exactly. But we were on a very nice double decker bus with good visibility. Since this was my first trip to Germany, it was a pleasant way to see a bit more of the country. Plus, lots of good conversation to be had with old and new friends on the way!
We had learned in an earlier lecture from our presenter Kerstin Hopfensitz that the city of Heubach had been a center of woven corset manufacture in the mid-19th century. The lingerie brand Triumph is still based there, so the tradition continues today.
The Miedermuseum highlights some of the corsets from the city's past, including several of the woven corsets. The displays were lovely because they allowed a 360 degree viewing. Photos were a bit tricky due to glare on the glass, but I took the best I could. There were some new techniques and details that I have not seen before, such as the bones over the elastic hip bands on this mesh summer corset.
Something I did not know prior to this trip is that woven corsets were actually the most economical option for ready to wear right up until the sewing machine was industrialized. In fact, they outpaced "traditionally" constructed corset sales for a brief period in the 1850's and 60's. This makes sense when you consider the time required to hand sew a garment, and the fact that weaving was such a highly developed technology in the 19th century.
They utilized a jacquard-style card system for various standard sizes, with the shaping, bone casings, and bones woven right in at the loom. This makes for a very lightweight corset. It is my understanding that this technology is now lost. Men worked the looms, and women did the fine finishing work and embroidery on the edges--usually in their homes around the city. As soon as the sewing machine was industrialized, this method of making corsets fell by the wayside.
The museum is housed in the old town Schloss, which dates all the way back to 1580. We were treated to a bonus tour of the Schloss by a costumed interpreter who presented herself as the original first lady of the Schloss, with lots of detail and funny anecdotes. The house itself is amazing, with original painted timbers, walls, and other details, some of the oldest in Germany. Old houses and corsets...um, yes please.
(16th century pupper!)
The Schloss is also now the town's library, and they pulled out some more of their corsets onto a table in one of the rooms for us to examine. This was also a pleasant surprise!
The city is in a hilly, forested part of Germany, which made for quite picturesque views. We also visited the historical home of one of the original corsetmakers.
The one frustrating aspect of the tour is that all of the placards and literature at the museum are in German only, and our guides spoke limited English. I could tell there was a lot more information to be had if I only spoke German. However, that's on me. I appreciate that there was English spoken at all, and am so impressed with the bilingual abilities of our German guides. Thankfully Kerstin's lecture the previous day at the symposium was very informative and gave us much of the backstory of the corset industry in the town.
Now, I just want to find one of those looms...
You can find my full set of photos from the trip on flickr.