Historical information

This corset cover is one of several linen and clothing items that were made and belonged to Mrs. Eliza Towns and donated to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village.
Eliza was born Eliza Gould in 1857 in South Melbourne (Emerald Hill) and in 1879 married Charles Towns. In the early 1880's they moved to Nhill in western Victoria and remained there for the rest of their married life. Charles was a jeweller and later became an accountant and for many years was involved with the Shire Council, the local show committee (A & P Society), the Hospital Committee and the Board of the local newspaper (the Nhill Free Press). They had three children and lived a life that would be regarded as comfortably "middle class". Eliza probably had a treadle sewing machine and would have made many of her own clothes as well as clothes for her children - adding her own handmade embroidered or crocheted decorative trim.
This corset cover is an excellent example of an everyday clothing item with the decorative trim favoured by women in the late Victorian era. Eliza Towns has added pintucks, embroidered feather stitch and a highly decorative hand crocheted lace trim to the neckline, sleeves and front of the bodice.

Corset covers (sometimes called camisoles) began to appear in women's fashion around 1840 and continued through the late Victorian decades into the Edwardian era. The long chemise was considered too bulky to cover the corset and so the corset cover was developed to be short and light and was worn over the corset and under the bodice of the outer garment. A woman would dress into her chemise and drawers first, followed by her corset and finally her corset cover as a final layer under her dress. Corset covers served several purposes. They provided protection against sweat (and the need to regularly wash the corset), helped smooth the lines of the corset and increased a woman's modesty.


This item is an example of the needlework skills of women in the late 19th century - combining machine stitching with hand embroidery and crochet to embellish an item of personal underclothing. It is also significant as an example of a practical solution to the difficulty of hand washing a corset in the Victorian era.

Physical description

A short (waist length) corset cover of fine cotton. Short sleeves fall from a square neckline and are gathered into a wide crocheted lace trim with a band of embroidered feather stitch. The same crocheted lace design and feather stitching are also on the square neckline which is finished with a drawstring ribbon. The bodice has a front opening with five buttons and is bordered on each side with four pintucks. It has a drawstring ribbon at the waist and an extra layer of fine cotton lining has been added to strengthen the corset cover under the arms. The back has two bands of three pintucks running vertically from the neckline to the waist.