A look into 19th and 20th
Century Women’s fashion
AML 2020 |
February 13, 2012
e piece of
the 19th and
that it was
worn daily by
woman of the
wore 37 lbs
19 lbs of
from the 16th
and 17th century
– not common
bodice of a
dress made the
from the back.
to force their
the mid to late
mandatory to wear.
figure became the
Laced eyelets and
Brief HistoryEdwardian Era:
of corsets in the
late 1800’s, a new
shape called “S-
Line” or “Straight-
invented. Had a
straight front that
was meant to take
from the stomach.
Early to Mid
The corset was
into a girdle and
bra which was
meant to control
the belly and
hips with elastic
Fashion IdealsLate 1800’s: In repudiation of the high waisted
Empire silhouette, the waist became the central
focus of women’s fashion, thus the “hourglass”
figure was seen as most desirable.
The purpose of corseting was to shrink a
women’s waist by generally 4 to 6 inches or
Meant to force the breasts up and the waist
back.Women could buy corsets by sizes: 20 = 20
inch waist corset, 21 = 21 inch, etc. (meaning
they bought the size according to what they
wanted their waistline to be).In addition to the corset, puffy shoulder sleeves
and crinolines (skirts) made the waist appear
smaller.Often seen as male dominance over women
due to forcing women to adopt unnatural shape
that was popular in society. Women wanted to
please men at whatever cost.Sadomasochistic and auto-erotic connotations;
corseting was a way to discipline the body by
compressing the genital organs which made the
wearer continuously aware of their own body.
Although doctors advised women to abandon corsets in favor of
their health, most women continued wearing them while taking
prescriptions and concoctions to cure their ailments.
The ideal size was 16-17 inches so women would attain this
measurement through tight-lacing to the point where their rib cage
Lung capacity was reduced (only the top of the lungs could be filled
with air) which was the primary reason for fainting (shallow salts
Reduced lung capacity: led to persistent coughing because shallow
breathing allowed the bottom of the lungs to fill up with mucus.
Doctors believed this was the cause of tuberculosis.
Organ deformation: severely compressed several organs such as
the liver, stomach, bladder, and intestines caused indigestion,
heartburn, and constipation.
Women who wore corsets as children developed atrophy in their
back muscles. Consequently, they couldn’t pick up heavy objects
Demise of the
Corset There have been stories of little girls laying on the floor while their
mothers tightened their corset so tightly causing the lacing to
break under pressure. Other stories include women having ribs
surgically removed so that they fasten their corsets tighter.
The demise occurred for medical reasons, changing fashions,
changing attitudes, and changing roles.
Many movements began to protest corsets such as the Dress
Reform Movement, the Rational Dress Society and the Artistic
Along with doctors advising against corset-wearing, the biggest
change that led to the fashion reformation of the early 20th
century was the new role of women and the feminist movement.
As women started to work in factories and took on men’s roles,
they were forced to adopt more comfortable, practical clothing
that allowed mobility.
Waist Ethel Granger
(1905 – 1982)
had the smallest
waist in the
inches with a
It was her
transform her 24
inch waist to 13
inches. He was
tired of her
and went on to
Corsets still exist but are not generally worn
They are seen as a sex symbol; usually only
appearing in Victoria’s Secret catalogs, in
lingerie stores, fashion shows, and pop music
They are not as uncomfortable or constricting
as the Victorian corsets were.
Many women still wish to have the hourglass
figure and some go to extreme lengths to get