Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past


This CdV from the 1860s is identified as Catherine Shull. I picked this one up because I found her dress bodice to be really unusual. It almost looks as though she is wearing a black corset on the outside of her dress. Since I know that would never happen, my next guess is that she has on what is called a corselet/corslet, Swiss body or Swiss waist. For young women, a popular fashion was this large belt-corset hybrid.

The corselet was boned in the center front and and back, laced in front, and they were worn on the outside of a garment, quite often over a Garibaldi style blouse. They first were shown in fashion magazines as early as 1860 (Peterson’s), but were called girdles or belts. Later magazines called them a corselet or corslet depending on the editor’s preference, and others referred to the blouse fabric as being Swiss and another referred to it as “a body in the Swiss style”. To further confuse matters, a “waist” was what we now know as a blouse. This is a difficult item to research, and I have discovered that many people in the historical reenactment and costume reproduction community prefer to call this a Swiss waist for some reason. 19th century corselet’s were made of all manner of fabrics, with velvet, silk satin, silk taffeta and silk brocade being popular choices. Some had little sleeve caps that went on the upper arm while others simply cinched the waist. I imagine that this garment was a particularly titilating item, as it caused the waist to appear small and the bust to appear large.

Miss Shull posed for the Collins gallery at Number 8 South Salina Street, Syracuse NY. The gallery was located over Everson’s Hardware store. There are a number of Catherine Shulls living in New York with a birth year in the 1840s. I am guessing she is between 15-20 years of age in this photo. Unfortunately, there are so many Catherine Shulls, it is unlikely we can truly identify which one this one is.

5 thoughts on “Catherine Shull

  1. mousleyka says:

    Any chance she might be wearing a “mourning” dress?

    https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MZDC-8DX Shows a widowed Cathrine Shull from a far northeastern Syracuse suburb.

    In find-a-grave, she is here:

    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid= 80360173 with an obituary.


  2. mousleyka says:

    Any chance she is a widow in mourning?

    1880 US census – showing her to be a widow.

    Find-a-grave (with an obituary)
    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid= 80360173


  3. Mrs Marvel says:

    I doubt she is in mourning as the corselet is rather un-conservative. She may be wearing a dark color though. I do not know if women in mourning would be photographed. I don’t know if it was proper.


    1. Mrs Marvel says:

      Well I asked a friend of mine who is well educated in Victorian mourning and she said that a photograph would not be improper. I do think the corselet would be though.


  4. Interesting..and quite a fashion statement! :)


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