Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Berlei Type Indicator

In 1926, Berlei Ltd. of Australia embarked on the ambitious project of measuring 6000 women. 23 individual measurements were recorded for each subject. The purpose of this historic anthropometric study? None other than to achieve proper fit for the corsets they manufactured. It seems that in the years between lace-up corsets and advances in stretch textiles, foundation garments contained only small strips of elastic for give. With little room for error, construction for proper fit was a tricky business. The study resulted in a classification system of five basic body types and a patented nomogram—a calculating device, with which to identify the body type of any woman’s figure.

The Powerhouse Museum archive explains: “The chart featured a moveable disc for indicating bust measurement and a moveable pointer for indicating waist measurement. Hip measurement sizes were printed on the border surrounding the moveable disc. An instruction sheet with illustrations was pasted onto the back of the chart…”

The exact body types and the colors of the device varied slightly over the years, but the Berlei fitting system set a standard for the industry and remained in use for some 30 years.

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