Prior to the 1880’s, whalebone was used almost exclusively for

boning in corsets.  Whalebone is actually whale baleen, the cartiledge from a whale’s mouth.  It was basically stiff, but had enough flexibility or elasticity to work well with curves.  Unlike modern plastics which have been used to replace it today, whalebone would not re-shape with body heat or vary with air temperature.

(Whalebone is actually whale baleen, cartilege from a whale’s mouth as shown in this diagram and in real life)