Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Belts ~ It's What's for Your Waist - Part 4 Swiss Waist

I can't remember when I first heard about the Swiss Waist, Fashionable Reader.

From my personal collection
Popular in the 1860s this was a boned belt, with at least one peak (either up or down). It usually laced like a corset, only up the front, sometimes is was exactly corset-like with a busk up the front and laces up the back. The Swiss Waist was worn in addition to the foundation corset. It is, so far as I can determine historically, the only corset-like garment that was worn on the outside of a dress.

Daguerreotype from my personal collection
 1860s  The Victoria & Albert Museum Swiss Waist; my own version from Dark Garden

Here is a retrospective on the idea of the Swiss Waist. They aren't necessarily exactly this article of clothing, but they all suggest the peaks that I associate with this garment.

1829  Kerry Taylor Auctions
1872 Godeys Sept 1872 Dicky
Described as: "Overwaist of blue silk, trimmed with black lace; it is to be worn over a black silk dress, and is very dressy and pretty."

Tea Gown  1875-1880  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
[stage costume] Leonora of Mantua (1873), Valentine Cameron Prinsep via British Paintings tumblr

1880 Striped Princess Bodice

1889 Evening Dress The Metropolitan Museum of Art
 1890-1895  The Goldstein Museum of Design; Liberty & Co. dress, 1893-94  From the Victoria & Albert Museum

1895 Golf Ensemble   The Kyoto Costume Institute

 1896-1899; 1900 Ball Gown  Driscoll both The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1900 Dress  Jean-Philippe Worth,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1900s Gustave Beer, Antique Dress

1901 Ball Gown  Jeanne Paquin,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 1900s  theoryphotoart tumblr; on our merry way tumblr vintage-impressions- Portrait, ca. 1906

1906-1908 Evening Dress  Jean-Philippe Worth, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1940s Dress I. Magnin, Kerry Taylor Auctions

v-isfor-vintage tumblr 1950s style sass

1950s  Timeless Vixen Vintage blue

1950s  Timeless Vixen Vintage

1950s Carrier airconditioning advertisement. via theniftyfifties tumblr
And now for the modern age...

 2013 Aigner Fall 2013 collection via nymag.com; 2013 Ralph LaurenSpring-2103

2013 Nidhi Sunil in Jimmy Choo Over The Knee Boots. Vogue India, 10.2013 via Booted Up

2013 Willow cutout waist belt at theOutnet.com

(A quick note, I had a whole piece prepped for today on wide belts and why they do and don't work on us curvy ladies, but blogspot ate it. I was particularly proud of it, but one keystroke and it's gone, no recovery. Note to self, do not use keyboard shortcuts in blogger! Argh. Anyway, I am hugely overworked theses days and have neither the time nor inclination to rewrite it. So we skip wide belts entirely, sorry....)

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.


  1. The blue dress up there isn't actually a swiss waist, (1893 V&A museum picture). If you check the close up all the shaping for that one is done with smocking. It's on my "bucket list" of sewing projects... whenever I develop free time. The work is extraordinary, and it looks like it's an imitation of the late 18th century chemise dresses, although updated since it looks like it's a raglan style sleeve. Er... I kinda nerd out on this stuff.

    1. As I say in the blog post "Here is a retrospective on the idea of the Swiss Waist. They aren't necessarily exactly this article of clothing, but they all suggest the peaks that I associate with this garment."

  2. I had one of those "cinch belts" in the 50's...I didn't need to cinch then, my waist was about 20"...


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