Friday, June 21, 2013

Mlle. Nostier in Swan-Bill Corset by Leopold Reutlinger, circa 1905

This lovely postcard, with a message in the ubiquitous violet ink of the period, and presumably posted to Moscow in 1907 (stamp missing), offers an image of a Mlle. Nostier (the only image of her we have ever seen), that was taken by Leopold Reutlinger and published by Monsieur G. Piprot of Paris. This image was also reproduced at about the same time on a Melia cigarette card.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE French Actress Mlle. Nostier, in Swan-Bill Corset and Mutton Chop Sleeves, circa 1905

At the turn of 20th century, it was a common practice to use ink of that most romantic of colors, violet, when writing letters or postcard messages, especially when writing to a lover. This postcard has such a message, written in a particularly lovely hand. The message appears to have been inscribed by a Russian, Dimitri, in French, a language used commonly by the Russian aristocracy, but less commonly by Russian postal carriers, to his sweetheart back in Moscow.

Reverse of Mlle. Nostier in Swan-Bill Corset, circa 1905 postcard by Leopole Reutlinger

In the image on the front of the postcard, Mlle. Nostier is presenting a rather fine example of a "Gibson Girl," with her lovely upswept hair, mutton chop sleeves and the narrow waist and S-curve posture created by the "swan-bill" corset which was often worn to achieve the classic "Gibson" look.

The Gibson Girl image was so called after the extremely popular, and influential, illustrations produced during the late 19th/early 20th century by American artist Charles Dana Gibson, and used with great effect by other popular illustrators such as Howard Chandler Christy, and Harrison Fisher. The look remained popular into the WWI era, when it was gradually displaced by the new styles popularized by the "flapper." Quite a radical shift, we think, but of course ours is an over simplification of that transition.

Following, is a quote from Wikipedia's article History of Corsets, describing the swan bill or straight-front corset. Thanks Wikipedia!
The straight-front corset, also known as the swan-bill corset, the S-bend corset or the health corset, was worn from circa 1900 to the early 1910s. Its name is derived from the very rigid, straight busk inserted in the center front of the corset. This corset forced the torso forward and made the hips jut out in back.
The straight-front corset was popularized by Inez Gaches-Sarraute, a corsetiere with a degree in medicine. It was intended to be less injurious to wearers' health than other corsets in that it exerted less pressure on the stomach area. However, any benefits to the stomach were more than counterbalanced by injury caused to the back due to the unnatural posture that it forced upon its wearer. At this time, the bust lowered and corsets provided much less support for the breasts.

So, given that this card was posted in 1907, and the swan-bill corset went out of fashion only a few years later, we thought that we might "stretch" things just a bit and say that this was its...

Swan Song! :)