This is really interesting, thank you! I'm working on drafting a pattern which is described as a corset with "soutien gouge" and that has a bra built in. It's really interesting to see a real life example as I wasn't able to find any when I searched online!
Thank you so much for this investigation of a unusual article. Your descriptions and photos are interesting and helpful. It makes me wonder what ways I could incorporate the detachable cup in my own work!?
I do have one question: I wonder why you have determined that the stays that are thicker and narrower can not be baleen? My understanding is that baleen was cut by the maker to suit the application. I have seen baleen stays on extent garments that were of varying widths and thickness in the same garment.
I lived on the North Slope of Alaska in a village that annually hunted and took their allotted bowhead whale. I've seen piles baleen thrown behind houses and I used to own one large piece of it.
Bowhead baleen is about to 3/4" - 1" thick tapering to a thin edge with long hairs. It can be up to about 12" wide and 15' long. So basically the dress maker, corset maker, would not have been limited to a particular width or thickness in the stays they used.
Thanks for the compliments, I'm glad I can provide an interesting read :)
With regards the Cane / Baleen question, well its all conjecture on my part i'm afraid based on simple observation.
Normal Baleen struts in corsets are usually quite thin and flat since this is the shape that provides the best flexibility and strength and I personally have never come across a corset strut made of a much thicker and rounder Baleen. That isn't to say they don't exist, you never can tell!
This particular corset is difficult in that it is in such good condition generally I can gather no concrete evidence either way. The only reason I (and Sarah at Symingtons) came down on the side of cane is the shape and cross section of the bones. TBH this entire corset is made with such a strange methodology that nothing would surprise me!The only thing I can say with any certainty is that they are not magnetic and so unlikely to be metal.