Story Of The Corset
THE TRUE STORY OF THE CORSET
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When we think of a corset, we usually think of either a sexy bedroom costume or we think of a female torture device of the 19th century. But let’s think of the corset in another way. Where has the corset travelled throughout history to get to where it is today?
The first indication of a corset in history was a depiction of a Cretan woman from about 2000 BC. The corset was worn as outerwear and undoubtedly had a different purpose than the tightlacing equivalent since then. There is not a lot of information about it, but it does go to show that the corset is a not a new invention.
Evil Italian Lady
Ok well that may not be entirely fair, but Catherine de Medici isn’t exactly remembered for her sweetness and good nature. De Medici was the Queen of France in the 1500s and, among all of the other terrible things she was known for, she made the corset fashionable. It became known as essential to being perceived as a beautiful woman. This style of corset also had a farthingale so the skirts were forced outward to make the waist seem even smaller. A small waist was not the goal of this kind of corset, however. This one forced the breasts further upward and ensured a good posture in conjunction to the curvy hips and boosted breasts.
So naturally what is popular in France will eventually leak over into Britain and the same was true of the corset. By the 1600s, the corset had become the fashion trend in Britain as well. This kind of corset had something called a “stomacher” which was a structure put in the tummy area as part of the decoration. This was during the Elizabethan period when dress wear was pretty silly to look at as well. They had whalebone inside of them as well to ensure that they stayed nice and stiff. This kind of corset was the predecessor to the laced ones that came next. Though it was pretty popular, there were some noble women who would still not wear them. Most notable was Mary, Queen of Scots, but while the corset was becoming the rage in Britain, it was going out of style in France. As Louis XV took over, clothing became more comfortable and relaxed in France.
In Britain the corset was still going strong and now evolving. Into the 18th century, they began to wear an inverted corset, which had a conical shape. It was meant to contrast the heavy and full skirts that were below it. The breasts were also shaped in this kind of corset, ensuring that all of the fashionable women had the most desirable feminine shape. This corset also forced a good posture, kept the midsection tight, and pushed up the breasts. It was this corset that introduced the forced waistline. Despite common rumor, this corset was not so tight that you couldn’t breathe. The ones that were well-made and not ridiculously tighlaced, were actually designed to be comfortable and worn all day. They did make it nearly impossible to bend over, so it was a challenge if you dropped something.
After some minor body warping, the corset eventually went out of fashion. As the corset made way for more comfortable clothing, women’s undergarments instead shifted to brassieres and underwear instead of the constrictive corset. Outside of a few exceptions, the corset is now used more for novelty in the bedroom or in movies and theater depicting a style of dress that is no longer around.
I started writing this blog about corsets kind of due to a morbid fascination. I had seen the propaganda from the 19th century that had demonstrated warped rib cages and declared all of the horrible side effects that had come from wearing the corset. Read More…
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