AB: Doyle – Waisted Efforts

(This is an entry in the Annotated Bibliography.)

Doyle, Robert. Waisted Efforts: An Illustrated Guide to Corset Making. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Sartorial Press Publications, 1997.

This book’s stated intent is to take up where Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines leaves off, with a particular emphasis on historical accuracy and functionality for living history use, whereas Waugh’s book was intended for theatrical use. Doyle’s book is intriguing, but overall I am underwhelmed. In his Introduction, he offers a history of corsetry that draws very heavily on sensationalistic and unreliable sources that have been systematically refuted by other scholars (for example, the myth of renaissance steel corsets, as discussed by Valerie Steele in The Corset: A Cultural History). Details such as this make me skeptical of Doyle’s research overall. Additionally, I find the organization somewhat confusing, and am not persuaded that the body block pattern drafting method is really entirely appropriate for corset-making. I also find it off-putting that Doyle continually refers to the “modern” body shape, and likewise offers little actual documentation for his corset designs. It can be remarkably difficult to determine which illustrations and photographs are originals, which are reproductions, and when specific designs are thought to date from. These are but some of the ways in which the book is confusing. All this being said, however, I am not dismissing the book as entirely useless, but I consider it to have severe limitations. This is an instructional book, with its own elaborate methodology as well as a variety of diagrams. The images are monochrome, with many contemporary photographs, period artwork and advertisements, photographs of extant examples, and photographs of drafting/construction techniques and of reproductions. It contains a Bibliography and a Glossary.

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