The history and origin of corsets go way back to the 1600s when it was considered an essential and functional part of every women’s wardrobe. The necessity of this controversial garment was thrown into question during the times of upheaval in Europe where women spoke about it being used as a tool of oppression. Despite its questionable history, the 19th century saw corsets being amalgamated with modern silhouettes and becoming a mainstay.
Avant-garde fashion designer Vivienne Westwood adopted the garment in the 1970s and it found its way on the runways. From voluminous gowns cinched at the waist with corsets to more contemporary forms as seen at the Spring-Summer 2020 presentation, Westwood gave birth to the resurgence of corsetry, only more modern and glamorised.
L-R: Maud of Wales, The Queen of Norway: Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer 2020
The designer became a name for helming the wave of corsets in fashion. Her lens towards the garment ushered in a new contemporary take in fashion and cinema, which picked up corsetry in all forms. From Versace, Moschino, Mugler to Simone Rocha, all championed corset on runways in one form or another.
Now the garment runs astutely parallel with the realms of cottage-core romanticism. Once emblematic of oppression and the lens from which people perceived women, corsetry has now been reclaimed by women to feel empowered and proud of their sexuality. The resurgence of corsets popping up in pop culture is now more than ever. Think Queen Charlotte in Bridgerton, Kiera Knightley in Pirates Of The Caribbean, Gal Gadot giving the corset an edgy, metallic upgrade in Wonder Woman, Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde and Camilla Cabello in the upcoming movie, Cinderella.
On the other hand, from it-girls to Bollywood stars, the contemporary iteration given to the corset runs in multiple. From Bella Hadid, Hailey Bieber, Alia Bhatt to Priyanka Chopra Jonas, all have incorporated the silhouette in one form or another making it a symbol of power and self-confidence.
The evolution of corsetry may have gone through ups and downs, but here’s a fact: it’s done with oppression for good. The modern take on corsets no longer serves as something to constrict and beautify women. It’s symbolic of women finding confidence in clothing and more crucially, how times change the way we perceive fashion.
Photographs: Instagram, Pinterest