Berlei Corsets: Beautiful Lines of Woman Triumphant

Berlei Corsets: Beautiful Lines of Woman Triumphant
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Two women dressed in dark underwear, silk stockings and shoes model two styles of Berlei corsetry. They stand on raised platforms in front of a plain backdrop, the larger space of the studio visible beyond it. They turn, step down from their platforms, link hands and walk back towards to the camera. The woman on the left comes forward, does a full turn, poses, turns again and walks back. The woman on the right mirrors the first woman, and similarly models her corset. This is followed by the women modelling their undergarments in single shot. Summary by Poppy de Souza.

This advertisement shows the fuller figures of the models as compared with models of today. In the 1920s Berlei conducted a survey of Australian women and their figure measurements. These were recorded and analysed to construct the ‘Berlei Figure Type’ classification system which, according to Berlei’s website, ‘revolutionised corset fitting’. The acknowledgement that women come in all shapes and sizes was an important one for Berlei to make, and the product line continues to manufacture a range of lingerie and undergarments to cater to women of all sizes.

The manner of modelling seen here – where each model gracefully turns to show off her costume without a hint of self-importance – has been refined and redefined as the fashion industry has grown throughout the twentieth century. Today modelling is much more of a performance (and no less so if modelling underwear or swimwear). Models carry an attitude and a layer of artifice absent in this advertisement for Berlei.

This advertisement also captures the hairstyle fashions of the 1920s, where women wore their hair cropped short and styled close to their face.

Berlei Corsets: Beautiful Lines of Woman Triumphant synopsis

This silent black-and-white cinema advertisement shows women modelling Berlei ladies foundation garments.

Berlei Corsets: Beautiful Lines of Woman Triumphant curator's notes

Berlei’s cinema, and later television, advertisements for its products over the course of the last century provide a record of the development of women’s undergarments and corsetry. Victorian Fred Burley founded Unique Corsets Limited with his brother Arthur in 1912 and went on to form Berlei Limited in 1919. Through the years, Berlei expanded to the UK and New Zealand and today remains a successful and widely recognised brand for lingerie and underwear throughout Australia.

The print of this advertisement for Berlei foundation garments was deposited with the National Film and Sound Archive from Berlei’s own archives.

The 1984 feature film, Undercover, set in 1920s Sydney, charted the rise of the House of Berlei and its founder Fred Burley.

Notes by Poppy de Souza.

Produced by:
Stanley Hawkins