Corsets have renewed their lease in the fashion world for yet another season. Versace’s fall/winter 2022 collection was a technicolour showcase of precise tailoring that leans heavily on corsetry. Social media was buzzing with excitement when the looks sashayed down the runway, especially Bella Hadid’s monochromatic red corset dress with matching latex tights and the corset puffer jacket.
Versace wasn’t the only Italian fashion house to present corsets – Gucci stunned the world with an unorthodox collaboration with Adidas where sportswear meets high fashion. Alessandro Michele’s subversive take on wedding dresses saw the introduction of an external corset in Adidas classic red technical fabric over a black gown — a trendy goth’s dream come true.
Related article: Review Of Versace’s Fall/Winter 2022 Collection
Just like many of the current clothing obsessions, the corset has a rich and deep history that started as early as the 1600s. This form-fitting bodice began as shapewear that used whalebone to compress one’s waist and rib cage to create the “perfect” hourglass silhouette.
Back laced corsets were predominantly used during the Regency era but by the mid-1800s of the Victorian era, the front-facing corset became the number one choice. The convenient variant was created by Joseph Cooper and yes, men wore corsets regularly.
During this time, multiple iterations of the corsets were made, the Marlboro, the hunting belt, the sleeping belt and more. Each rendition came in different lengths, waist sizes and different bonings to suit different events that called for a particular style of dressing.
Sports corsets were also invented to make movement easier for Victorian women who liked to exercise such as cycling and archery. These corsets were usually made of a more breathable material and wood boning for flexibility.
However, the corset meant for daily use was slowly phased out for its more comfortable cousin – the modern bra, which gained traction during the late 1890s and early 1900s. Corsets were also given a bad reputation by doctors as they believed that the garment was the cause of respiratory issues.
While corsets were still sought after in the early 1900s, they were mainly used for fitness and entertainment at cabaret clubs. Burlesque dancers donned steel-boned corsets made with lace fabric while performing striptease numbers.
Hollywood proceeded to fetishise the garment even further by making their lead actresses wear them on-screen to seduce their male counterparts. Musical-comedy The Rocky Horror Show was revolutionary for theatre in terms of its risque plot and the raunchy costumes that feature many sequinned corsets.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that corsets became popular again due to the punk movement in the United Kingdom. Designer Vivienne Westwood began incorporating corsetry into her collections after being inspired by the sexual politics of that time. The youth began parading her bondage dresses and tops in an act of rebellion against societal expectations of class, gender and sexuality.
Westwood continued to use corsets in her collections for years to come as a garment to be worn on the outside – loud and proud. Her most famous pieces are renaissance-printed corset bustiers, which are nods to the Regency and Victorian eras as well.
In the 1980s, two legendary designers, Thierry Mugler and Jean-Paul Gaultier, followed in Westwood’s footsteps. The latter made pop culture history for designing one of Madonna’s most iconic concert looks from the 1991 Blonde Ambition Tour – the cone bra corset.
Related article: Megan Fox Is the Anti-Bride In A Black Netted Corset Dress
In 2019, Kim Kardashian was flamed online for selling the waist trainers that the sisters use to accentuate their figures. Doctors had concerns that prolonged use of these waist trainers would cause serious physical and psychological health problems. Did that stop the family and their fans from using them? Not at all.
Since then, many designers have included corsets into their work every other year but the hype had died down significantly until the Kardashian-Jenner clan entered the scene.
Fast forward to December 2020, the release of Netflix’s most successful series Bridgerton reignited the love for corsets as viewers were enthralled by the amazing and detailed costumes, which involved hundreds of corsets. Fashion shopping platform, Lyst, noted a 123-percent increase in searches following the show’s popularity in January 2021.
Gen Z TikTokers became big fans as well – countless sewing tutorials were uploaded to the social media platform because the demand for corsets far outweighed the supply.
Although the corset is rooted in its fair share of controversy, it continues to remain in the realm of fashion as a symbol of female empowerment and sexuality. It’s also safe to say that it will never truly fade from the realm of fashion and now is the perfect time to invest in a couple of pieces.
Here are some of our favourite picks in various forms.