With mechanized sewing becoming ubiquitous, as well as the Victorian penchant for machine-made trimmings such as braid, lace, and ribbons, women's dress became the foundation on which elaborate surface decoration was applied. This example was seen in its day as à la sirène, or mermaidlike, in outline. Its extended bodice, called the "cuirasse" since it encased a woman's torso like body armor, was the clearest nineteenth-century expression of the hourglass shape.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Dress Rehearsal," August 1, 2001–October 28, 2001.