A Short History of the Corset

A Short History of the Corset

For many hundreds of years the corset has been a vital part, primarily, of the female closet. However, it was not unheard of for men to use the under garment as part of their everyday attire during the Victorian era, when the corset reached the height of its fashionable popularity. First debuting in Europe in the sixteenth century the corset is said to have originated around 2000 B.C. when an image of a similar styled garment was seem on the image of a Cretan woman.

The corset was thus named, allegedly, after the French adopted it as a ‘lace bodice’ which is designed to keep the female torso looking trim and slender. The early bodices were made from lace and other soft materials, but were lined with bone and ivory to keep the back straight and the posture perfect. This was the main reason why some men would also choose to wear a male version of the garment, to assist in their posture.

Through the Ages

It was Catherine de Medici who first introduced her ‘sexy corsets’ to Italy but the trend carried across to France during the fifteen hundreds. The women in the French Court of Versailles totally embraced the idea because it enhanced their figure and during that period women were desperate to be courtesans. Styles of that era had shoulder straps, and they flattened, rather than enhanced the bust, but in doing so, they pushed them up instead. They were also worn alongside a farthingale—a form of day wear that shaped the bottom of a dress into a cone.

Over the centuries the style and shape of the corset has changed in accordance with fashion as well as the purpose behind wearing them. When the corset had a specific place in fashion to serve a specific purpose it was shaped a certain way, such as with the farthingale for skirt shape and a flat bosom. However, during the Middle Ages it was altered to include bone for posture, and during the Victorian era it was altered yet again to pull the waste in tight and form a very feminine torso shape. Many women found them restrictive as well as causing long term internal damage, but others found them liberating and comfortable.

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