Corsets have been in style for centuries and are arguably the first type of lingerie ever made. While corsets have gone through changes in style, their underlying purpose has never changed. To this day, corsets continue to enhance the feminine form and provide support for all women wearing them.
The first corset-type garment dates all the way back to Crete, Greece in 2000 B.C. Women wore boned bodice corsets to accentuate their feminine figure and to tease their men. These corsets were made to push the chest up and out on display for all to see, glorifying this feminine attribute.
The first true corset, however, did not come about until the mid-1500s — and the Greeks’ admiration for a woman’s chest had certainly vanished. Society thought the feminine figure needed to be restrained, so women started wearing corsets as a way to flatten their chest and torso. Women started going to great extremes to achieve this look, usually by using a method known as tight-lacing (when someone else ties the corsets’ strings tight from behind). Sometimes women’s corsets were tied so tight that their body’s organs and ribs were squeezed out of shape. This led to the swooning and fainting of many women because they literally couldn’t breathe.
By the 1800s, women began wearing corsets that enhanced the female figure again by pushing the chest up and out at the top (instead of flattening it like before). These corsets were more decorative, with embroidery, ribbons and laces. During this time, the Victorians expanded the design of the corset too, allowing it to provide more practical functions. In 1829, they invented a corset with a front-bust fastening that allowed women to put on and take off their corset by themselves. Soon after, the elastic corset was invented, offering even more comfort and flexibility. Although Victorian corsets served essentially the same purpose as styles worn earlier, women had more mobility and were able to work while still remaining comfortable.
The Victorian corset is still the most popular image of the corset today and is often recreated for current styles by companies like Axfords, Vollers and Maya Hansen. These corsets remain a fun and functional staple for any woman’s wardrobe. They can be worn as lingerie with a significant other, used under elegant formal gowns to smooth the torso, or simply sported as a top with a pair of jeans.
Whatever the occasion, it is important to note that corsets should never cause any major discomfort, pain, or shortness of breath. If this occurs, the corset should be removed immediately and exchanged for a bigger size. To find your correct corset size, make sure to read Lingerie Diva’s Corset Sizing.
History of the Elizabethan Corset
Originals by Kay