CHAPTER III
SERVICE IN THE MODERN STORE

SELLING service along with merchandise–Public demanding higher standards–Changed attitude towards fitting–Design of fitting rooms–The various kinds of corsets–Basis of one or two sound brands–Fashion corsets.

 
THE Corset Department of to-day sells service quite as much as merchandise. No sensible woman expects to buy a perfectly fitting shoe without trying it on. Likewise, she does not nowadays expect to find day-long comfort and support in her foundation unless she fits it personally with the aid of a trained fitter.

The shortage of corsets during the 1939-45 war taught women a great deal about corsets that they had never known before. They bought "Utility" corsets made by the best corset-designing firms and came to appreciate the subtleties of design and the advantages of good fit–for such firms, though limited like every other firm in materials, did their utmost to preserve the excellence of cut on which their reputations had been built. The result is that women who once were content to buy any sort of corset over the counter, paying as little for it as possible and throwing it out when it crumpled up or split, have an altogether different idea of corset service now.

Customers will Pay for Quality

Retailers of all kinds find they have a demand for better corsets, preferably with trustworthy names. Customers even of limited means, they find, prefer to pay a good price for a corset and get one that will wash and wear and continue to give good service for at least six months. They now regard a good corset as essential.

The change in the attitude towards fitting has progressed just as much. Women are less shy than they were. Perhaps living and undressing in air raid shelters during the war had some effect.   Also, the younger generation is franker in such matters, and mothers are influenced by their daughters. Then women's magazines have done a great deal to explain the purposes and possibilities of good corsetry to their readers. The result is that most women now regard fitting as a matter of course when buying a corset.

Corselette
FIG. 13 ONE-PIECE FOUNDATION, OR CORSELETTE

Progressive stores have not been slow to meet the new demand for personal service. More and better equipped fitting rooms have been provided, and many corset departments keep a card index of customers, noting down each woman's particular purchases, her fitting, and any adjustments that need to be made to give her a perfect fit. The saleswoman who can say to a customer, from memory or from her card index, "I remember I had to take darts in under the arms last time," has won the customer for good!

The Proper Setting

Because of the service required of it, the corset department in the store is best situated off the main traffic lane, above the ground floor and where the right atmosphere for intimate consultation may be fostered. Fittings, lighting, furnishing, display material, and general arrangement are, of course, powerful factors in promoting this atmosphere, but most necessary of all are well trained fitters and warm fitting rooms of ample size.

Corset customers are often large women. A fitting room that is too small tends to make such women feel self-conscious about their size. The fitter who has to sit to work in it needs room to move freely herself and if the inevitable friend is in attendance, space is needed in which she can be tucked away. As against gown and mantle fitting rooms, corset fitting rooms should have a solid door which the customer may secure against unexpected intrusion. Warmth, too, is important in corset fitting rooms, for when fitting corsets the customer has to undress almost completely.

The Various Kinds of Corsets

In the chapters that follow, instruction is given in the fitting of modern corsets. There is a right way and a wrong way to fit a corset on a customer and the fitter must make a point of acquiring a good technique. But the would-be corsetiere will first need to recognize the various garments quoted in the text–

Girdle
FIG. 13. A SIDE-HOOKING GIRDLE
A Busk-front Corset
FIG. 14. A BUSK-FRONT CORSET
A SEMI-STEP-IN
FIG. 15 A SEMI-STEP-IN

One Piece Foundations or "Corselettes." Brassiere and belt all-inone (Fig. 12). These may be made to hook down the left side from top to bottom, or to step into and then to fasten from the hip upwards either with a hook and eye fastening or a zip fastener. There is also the pull-on corselette without fastening. Many of these one-piece garments in large sizes contain inner belts, i. e. a separately fastened abdomen support designed inside the corselette.

Girdles, Belts, or Wrap-ons. These terms are used to cover a supporting garment which is worn from the waist down and over the hips. Usually the terms mean a garment that unfastens wholly from top to bottom at the side. "A side-hooking girdle" therefore explains itself (Fig. 13).

A Busk Front. This is a simple wrap-round garment containing elastic panels at the side and sometimes elastic gores. Its only form of fastening is the front busk, which is combined with a short hook and eye fastening below the busk at the front (Fig. 14).

Step-ins. This term, as it implies, means any garment that the wearer dons by stepping into it and pulling it up and over the hips. A semistep-in is usually closed at the hips but has a fastening over about half its depth from the waist (Fig. 15).

Pantees. Elastic roll-on in the form of knickers for wear without stockings when, in the absence of the "anchor" provided by suspenders, an ordinary girdle would ride up on the figure (Fig. 16).

Roll-on. A light knitted all-elastic girdle, generally seamless, suitable for light and light-medium figures. It is manufactured in one-way and two-way stretch types from covered rubber, cotton and rayon yarn, and fitted with four suspenders. The name originates from the method of putting on the garment (Fig. 17).

The Pantie-girdle
FIG. 16
THE PANTIE-GIRDLE
 
The roll-on
FIG. 17
THE ROLL-ON
 
Front-lacing corset
FIG. 18. A FRONT-LACING CORSET WITH BUSY FASTENING

Front-lacing Corset. A front-lacing corset is a garment, worn from the waist over the hips, which contains adjustable lacing at the front and is fastened either with a busk or with hooks and eyes at the side of the lacing. It may have gussets or bands of elastic at the waist or insets at the thigh line but never has a full-length elastic panel (Fig. 18).

Back-lacing Corset. A back-lacing corset is also a garment worn from the waist downwards but this time it has adjustable lacing at the back and has usually a busk front fastening. This garment, like the front-lacing corset, may have elastic gussets at waist and thigh lines, but not full-length elastic panels. This is the type of corset into which an inner belt is frequently designed for extra abdominal support (Fig. 19).

Brassiere. A bust supporting garment designed to relieve the breast tissues of strain and to restore and retain a firm, youthful line of the breast. Brassieres are available in inch variations of size and also in varying bust cup sizes and depths (Fig, 20).

Maternity and Surgical Garments. A section dealing briefly with these will follow, but the term is self-explanatory.

Range does not Change Much

A Back-lacing Corset
FIG. 19 A BACK-LACING CORSET
The Brassiere
FIG. 20 THE BRASSIERE
Brassiere
FIG. 21 STRAPLESS BRASSIERE FOR AN OFF-THE-SHOULDER LINE IN DRESS
This fashion makes it neces sary to banish shoulder straps from lingerie and brassieres. Garments remain in position by clever cutting and boning.

A normally good corset stock contains not only the above variety of types of garments, but also a variety of qualities, prices, styles,fittings (for different problems of figure), and designs (for different occasions–evenings, sports, for instance, and to meet the demands of prevailing fashion (Fig. 21) ); but once the saleswoman has mastered these variations there are comparatively few changes to expect.

A good corset department is usually founded on a selected number of thoroughly sound brands, and the range of merchandise may not change very much fundamentally over a period of years. The principal general changes would be in the introduction of new materials, and a possible move from time to time to a new basic colour–such as the change from grey and buff to pink in the early years of the current century; and the change to tea-rose some time later.

"Fashion Corsets"

The most noticeable short-term changes occur at the instance of fashion. Each season the department receives from its suppliers what are known as "fashion corsets," designed to conform with any marked change in the fashionable silhouette.

Corsetry
FIG. 22. THE GUÊPIÈRE OF THE LATE NINETEEN-FORTIES
The corset adapts itself to seasonal fashion.
Corsetry
FIG. 23. ANOTHER PIECE OF FASHION CORSETRY PROM THE LATE NINETEEN-FORTIES
Adapted to the mode for neat, slender waist and rounded hipline.

If waists become fashionably smaller, there are fashion corsets built up high over the waist to accentuate slenderness there; or little guêpières to reduce waist measurements (Fig. 22). If fashion suddenly calls for an accentuation of the hips, then there are garments designed to give a rounded line over the buttocks (Fig, 23).

The influence of temporary fashion in silhouettes is perhaps most marked in the region of the bust. The season's requirements may vary here from very round, well separated breasts one year, to accentuated points the next, or to something of a bolster effect such as was associated with the Empire styles of the early nineteenth century. There was even one dismal time at the end of the first world war when fashion demanded the complete flattening of the bust–a style never known before and never, it must be hoped, to be known again.

Scope for Enterprise

Such is the type of marked change to which the corset trade is required to adapt its merchandise from time to time. The good corset-making houses send their designers to Paris and London for the dress collections each season solely that the newest silhouette may be correctly interpreted in the foundation garments they make for this class of "fashion" business. Such garments are a necessary top layer in the up-to-date corset department, though not the bread and butter of the corsetière's trade.

There is plenty of scope, in view of all this variety, for originality and enterprise in the modern corset department. Depending on the vision and enthusiasm of its leader and the skill of its trained corset fitters, the department may become a very important place indeed in the store. American statistics have established that it is the biggest revenue earner!

CHAPTER IV