Date of Defense




First Advisor

Wilson J. Warren, History

Second Advisor

Frederick J. Dobney, History


costume, apparel


It is often said that fashion is cyclical. One of the most enduring items in fashion history is the corset. Dating from the Renaissance, the corset has enjoyed stability and popularity throughout the centuries even though the meaning to its wearers and its critics has evolved over time. The nineteenth century marked a pivotal moment in the history of the corset as these various opinions and meanings began to clash. Popular fashion demanded use of the corset and women were only too eager to comply. From the mid-nineteenth century on, however, the corset's seemingly guaranteed prosperity appeared at risk. Broad sweeping changes defined this period of American history. Unprecedented innovations wrought enormous demographic change. Many women experienced a change in roles from producers to consumers. One of the products they vigorously consumed was the corset. As the corset entered this radical new age, its merits were thoroughly analyzed. The Kalamazoo Corset Company flourished, employing hundreds of people. How did it respond to the dress reform debates and how did they compare to their domestic competitors? To what degree did their marketing strategies reflect the social upheaval that consequently led to the gradual erosion of the corset? This paper explores these questions.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only