Trends are cyclic. Oversized jeans from the ‘90s, plaid skirts from the ‘60s and cat-eye glasses from the ‘50s have all seen a recent revival. The corset trend is no different, but it has a more complex history.
Corsets have been worn by women dating back to 1500s Europe, according to fashionintime.org. The corset’s color, shape and style varied with region. In many fashion circles, the corset represents femininity because of its ability to accentuate the body. The style itself was originally used to slim the waist and emphasize the breasts. Beauty standards during the 16th century valued flattened waists, and the corset helped women achieve this image. The corset has gotten a bad reputation because it looked uncomfortable to wear and it could deform the skeleton, as noted by Forbes. Yet, when a corset is properly fitted and laced, it is supposed to be comfortable. Women mostly wore the corset underneath their dresses and then topped it with other garments.
So how did the corset evolve to the modern form often seen on runways?
The original corset declined in use near the end of the 17th century when feminine dress embraced a more boyish look, according to elizabethancostume.net. The contemporary corset first reemerged in lingerie with the help of burlesque dancers. Then artists and celebrities alike started embracing the look. In 1989, Madonna rocked her Jean Paul Gaultier satin corset. The Kardashians have also included the waist trainer, the corset’s modern day cousin, in their daily fashion.
The modern corset seems to find inspiration from the Victorian-style corset. Giambattista Valli’s Fall 2017 runway featured such corsets. Variations on corset styles also include bodice, basic and longline, which are terms that indicate different lengths.
The corset’s comeback comments on contemporary beauty standards. Modern ideals like the Instagram baddie and celebrities glorify the curvy look with a thin waist that the corset creates.
Yet styling the corset can be difficult. Since it is a statement piece, the corset looks best with basic items. Styled on top of a white t-shirt with a jean jacket or paired with light denim and black strappy heels add a twist to this old-school style. Since the corset has taken its place in the street style aesthetic, it can also be worn over a sweatshirt and contrasted with a light-colored corset over a black sweatshirt and high boots.
The reemergence of the corset has provided another way for fashion to create dynamic new styles from old ideas.
Email Brina Jeffries at [email protected]