Whale Products in Fashion

Preview In the 19th century, many women wore tight corsets that were stiffened with stays made from baleen.
(Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian)

In the 19th century, "whalebone" was an important fashion tool—however, it wasn't made out of bone, but whale baleen. Dried baleen was flexible yet strong, and used to create structure in clothing, such as tight corsets, used by high-fashion women to present a curvy waistline, collars and hooped frames for skirts. Other products that used baleen included umbrella ribs, riding crops, buggy whips, and hat brims. More about whales can be found in our Tale of a whale featured story.