busk

A flat length of wood, ivory, bone, whalebone, or steel used to stiffen the front of a bodice. Generally the busk was inserted into a busk sheath, or busk point, down the front of a corset. It was intended to keep the corset straight and upright, but also made it almost impossible to bend from the waist. Sometimes a busk was carved with emblems or romantic symbols and presented as a love token. Sailors, for example, often carved whale bone busks to give their sweethearts back home.

The busk shown has pricked decoration and inset colored paintings -- flowers, initials with hearts, and the date "July ye 20th 1796". Victoria and Albert Museum.

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