A girl should be two things: sexy and fabulous. –Coco Chanel
[one_half padding=”4px 10px 0 4px”]Society seems to have always been obsessed with the shape of women’s bodies and women have always been looking for ways to alter their body shape to meet whatever the current fashions might dictate. Pretty much every body type imaginable has been “in” at one point in history or another. Never mind what might be natural or healthy, manipulating body proportions has been a consistent issue for women forever, presumably even dating back to the earliest cave dwellers. The ability to find a mate once depended on how a woman’s shape for her child-producing potential. If the woman didn’t meet that current standard, she could well be left out of the clan and would have to forage for herself. Women’s body issues go all the way back.
No one is exactly sure when women started undergarments designed to alter their shape, but there certainly have been many over the years. Petticoats and hoop skirts both created the illusion of broader hips while, presumably, protecting a woman’s purity. Precursors to the bra actually pushed down a woman’s breast to keep them from appearing too large. Most have, thankfully, gone so far out of style that they are now nothing more than museum pieces. Yet, at least since the 16th century, one piece has adapted and endured to become a cherished piece of a woman’s lingerie collection: the corset.
While there’s no documentation as to when corsets were first used, we do know that some of the earliest versions bordered on cruelty. The ribs were made of iron and pulled impossibly tight. Some speculation exists that they might have originally been meant as an orthopedic device, which makes a little sense despite the fact they were probably not very effective. By the mid-16th century, corsets, which were then known as stays, were more decorative and worn as external pieces over the bodice of a dress, but by a century later they were demoted strictly to underwear, beneath the bodice or other clothing.[/one_half]
[one_half_last padding=”4px 4px 0 10px”]Corsets softened considerably and became much more kind during the 18th century, though pulling one tight could be both comical to watch and deadly to experience. By the early 20th century, they were all but forgotten until photographer Horst P. Horst took the iconic photo of a woman in a corset that is the inspiration for today’s photo. That photograph brought new attention to the corset as a fashion piece with a number of variations being developed that were less restrictive to the abdomen and more supportive of the breasts.
Popularity waxed and waned over the mid-century decades, but then designer Jean-Paul Gaultier brought the corset back as an external garment in the 80s and they’ve not gone away since. Every season someone tries a slightly different variation, working them into styles from evening wear to casual streetwear. Look around and one can find a corset, or corset-type garment, for just about any occasion. They have almost become a standard part of a woman’s wardrobe and look sexy and alluring on many different body types, which give them a universal popularity.
We see a lot being said today about body shaming and its detrimental effects. While there is unquestionable validity to the movement, what ultimately matters is how a woman feels about herself. Corsets are attractive and for some women help them to feel more sexy and confident. While no one should ever feel forced to wear anything or feel obligated to look a certain way, one needs to feel good about themselves and corsets help do that. Whether over, under, or as the only garment, corsets produce a shape that is as unforgettable as the person wearing it.[/one_half_last]