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History of the Corset


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History of the Corset

  1. 1. Victorian Corset Craze A look into 19th and 20th Century Women’s fashion AML 2020 | February 13, 2012
  2. 2. Introduction Corset: an uncomfortabl e piece of clothing that has been stiffened by various means in order to shape a woman's torso. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, it’s suggested that it was worn daily by women and young ladies (even fashionable men and children). A well- dressed woman of the 19th century wore 37 lbs of clothing, 19 lbs of which hung from the corseted waist. Many health- related issues associated with wearing tight-laced corsets, such as fainting, pressure on internal organs.
  3. 3. Brief History Origin: Dates back to Greek and Roman times when women used scarfs under the breasts and around the waist.
  4. 4. Brief History Renaissance / Baroque Period: Very few remnants from the 16th and 17th century – not common because the bodice of a dress made the corset unnecessary.
  5. 5. Brief History 18th Century: Became more popular as underwear, laced from the back. Began making children’s corsets to force their skeleton into fashionable shape.
  6. 6. Brief History Victorian Era: Hit maximum popularity during the mid to late 1800’s, almost mandatory to wear. The hourglass figure became the most desirable feminine shape. Laced eyelets and planchets are invented.
  7. 7. Brief HistoryEdwardian Era: After doctors warned against the unhealthiness of corsets in the late 1800’s, a new shape called “S- Line” or “Straight- Line” was invented. Had a straight front that was meant to take pressure away from the stomach. Produced an unnatural posture causing damage to musculoskeletal
  8. 8. Brief History Early to Mid 1900’s: The corset was transformed into a girdle and bra which was meant to control the belly and hips with elastic material.
  9. 9. Purposes and 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 more. 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.
  10. 10. Health Concerns  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 became deformed.  Lung capacity was reduced (only the top of the lungs could be filled with air) which was the primary reason for fainting (shallow salts were invented).  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
  11. 11. 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 Dress movement.  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.
  12. 12. World’s smallest Waist Ethel Granger (1905 – 1982) had the smallest waist in the world, measuring 13 inches with a corset on.  It was her husband’s choice to transform her 24 inch waist to 13 inches. He was tired of her “shapelessness” and went on to
  13. 13. Today Corsets still exist but are not generally worn underneath garments. They are seen as a sex symbol; usually only appearing in Victoria’s Secret catalogs, in lingerie stores, fashion shows, and pop music videos. 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
  14. 14. The End
  15. 15. Works Cited "Corset Controversy." Wikipedia, 8 Feb. 2010. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. <>. Hartman, Dorothy W. "Lives of Women." ConnerPrairie.Org. Conner Prairie Interactive History Park. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. < 1860-1900/Lives-Of-Women.aspx>. Arroyo, Samia A. "The History of Corsets" Helium Content Source, 8 Feb. 2011. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. <>. Bender, A. "A Short History of the Corset." La Couturière Parisienne. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. "History of Corsets." Wikipedia.Org. Wikipedia, 27 Jan. 2012. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. <>. Douglas, Joanna. "Ethel Granger, Woman with World’s Smallest Waist, Inspires Vogue Italia."Shine.Yahoo.Com. Yahoo!, 6 Sept. 2011. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. <