Creative Design: Professional

Cutwork Ginseng: Translating the Novels of Gene Stratton-Porter into a Period Corset

  • Charity Calvin Armstead (Iowa State University)


Gene Stratton-Porter (1863-1924) was a naturalist and novelist who combined nature-writing with popular fiction, becoming one of the bestselling authors of the early 20th Century. This design interprets Stratton-Porter’s work through ecocriticism and feminism. Stratton-Porter engaged public interest in nature through her novels and advocated the use of local plants and insects in design work.  She had a complex relationship with feminism, expressing unconventionality that operated (mostly) within acceptable boundaries of femininity in her period.  This corset uses silk taffeta woven with a trite rose design (a fabric that Stratton-Porter would have found unoriginal) overlaid with an unconventional interpretation of a ginseng plant inspired by the cover of Stratton-Porter’s 1911 book The Harvester. The upper border of the corset contains over 230 inches of hand-stitched cutwork, composed of approximately 8200 buttonhole stitches.  This corset represents the streak of rebellion and unconventionality, expressed through her nature work, intertwined with Stratton-Porter’s attempts to fit societal expectations.

Keywords: Cutwork, Historic inspiration, ecocriticism, Corsetry, 1910s

How to Cite:

Armstead, C. C., (2019) “Cutwork Ginseng: Translating the Novels of Gene Stratton-Porter into a Period Corset”, International Textile and Apparel Association Annual Conference Proceedings 76(1). doi:

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Published on
15 Dec 2019