The corset: a timeless piece of fashion? Since the 16th century the ideal female form has been a curvacious one. Tiny waists and ample busts have been shaped and formed through all types of shapewear, most famously the corset. Lauren Candon takes a look at a controversial fashion item. As Sophie Loren said, “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti” yet she still looked so fabulous in her infamous corsets that I think it’s one hell of a diet we could all get used to while feeling like a ‘millionairess’ ourselves. So here’s a look back through time to see who owned that hour glass figure and how we too can look like Marilyn Monroe instead of Bridget Jones. The word corset derives from the French saying “corps for the body” and was believed to have begun from garments made from animal hides. The earliest corsets were called “payre of bodies” and were most fashionably worn with a farthingale that held out skirts in a bizarre stiff cone. They were not only designed to create an artificially clinched-in midriff, but also perfect womens’ posture and the way they exerted themselves. Thankfully nowadays modern women do not have to worry about wooden busks such as those used in the swan bill corset during the Edwardian ages, which were breaking ribs or causing fatal injuries involving extra tight lacing. And frankly past fashion fads such as crinolines and bustles, which made the width of your hips look even bigger, make me think us girls had a lucky escape. For the first half of the last century however it seemed that women had waved goodbye to these discomforts as in 1909 designer Paul Poiret shunned the corset after centuries of tyrannical reign over women’s fashion. Instead he put women into hobble-skirts to suit his newest designs with the focus removed from the waist to the shoulders. Instead of corsets girdles and under-wiring in bras were introduced. However, by the late Forties, with the emergence of Dior’s New Look and the iconic ‘bar suit’, the corset came back into fashion to shape women into the desired hourglass. Since the mid-Seventies corsets have become much less constricting, much more comfortable and much easier to sit down in. Vivienne Westwood became the first designer of the twentieth century to use the corset in its original form since Poiret had rejected it. Her approach was both artistic and theatrical and set a new and definite trend in contemporary fashion for us all. The corset is now no longer a symbol of women’s oppression but instead has become a great symbol of sexual empowerment. The great thing about the corset is that its silhouettes are forever changing, from the cylinder shape to the inverted conical ‘stay’ in the late 18th century and finally the much sort after hour glass figure which has benn iconicised from Marilyn Monroe as Kay Western in the movie River Of No Returnto the Madonna’s fetish look in Jean Paul Gaultier in the Eighties. 2 Responses Mambolica January 18th, 2011 Sophia Loren is not wearing a corset in that photograph. There is a big difference between a bustier and a corset. Again, JP Gaultier created bustiers for Madonna. A corset is a restrictive garment and she would never have been able to dance or sing the way she did if she were wearing one. Lolita March 12th, 2012 Actually there were corsets usedin Crete for men and women and even in the victorian era those “dandy” men also had corsets.