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Berlei Figure Type Indicatorca. 1950

In 1926 Berlei, a leading designer of undergarments, in conjunction with the University of Sydney, measured the body shapes of more than 6000 women. The results were distilled into five typical body shapes: Sway Back; Average; Big Hips; Big Abdomen; and Short Below Waist. This information was translated onto a Berlei Figure Type Indicator board, and all a trained Berlei corsetiere had to do was dial in three measurements—the bust, the waist and the hip—to quickly establish the appropriate product for a customer. Boards were first produced in the late 1920s and were still in use in the 1960s.

The company’s Executive Designer, Desolie Richardson (later Lady Hurley), described her work in 1955:
‘It is like building a bridge … there are strains … and stresses. And you’ve got to know just where they come, otherwise your bridge—or your foundation garment—soon collapses’.