Let’s face it, breasts are ponderous things at times, and woefully inadequate in others, yet women have always had to find away around them to do what they wanted to and accentuate what they wanted seen. How? Stays, laces, bands, corsets, bras and a variety of interesting adaptations in between. From ancient times to modern, they’ve been part of our fashion. Today we’re going to take a brief tour of this staple of women’s steampunk finery.
In their earliest forms corset-like garments were worn by the Greeks and a type of underbreast corset used by the Minoans. More common use for the corset as a lacing, boning and fabric construction to flatten the breasts and shape the silhouette came into vogue during the 1500’s when they were used by the Tudor courts to create a cone-shape to the body (and continued into the 1700s).
Often called a pair of bodies or stays, they sometimes featured small tab-shaped edges around the pointed base to keep them shapely under voluminous skirts. Some featured soft rolls at the base to pad out the hips (making those wide farthingale skirts flare out even further). Some tied at the sides, some tied over the shoulder.
The cone-shaping of the corset stayed the norm up until the Regency era, when it became a shorter form of stays that could be laced up (looking like a lace-up bra) to be worn with empire waist style gowns. This fashion was replaced in the 1830s when exaggerated sleeves and skirts made the tapered waist more fashionable once again.
As the Victorian era progressed, a gradual slimming of the sleeves and pulling back of the skirts meant that tighter lacing was required to get the same visual hourglass shape to their silhouettes.
They remained in use until through the 1920’s to flatten and give a slimmer shape, but were replaced as a mainstay in women’s undergarments when rubberized materials came out that were capable of sucking it all in.
In the 1980’s Madonna brought wearing the unmentionables on the outside into vogue and Steampunk fashions have kept the trend going strong. Today the corset is as much a fashion item as a supporting one, finding new expressions for this long-time favored garment.
I know it’s been a whirl-wind tour of corsets. But you’ll understand if I’m a bit tied up at the moment. <g>
What’s your favorite corset look like?