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Woman's corset c. 1730–1740. Silk plain weave with supplementary weft-float patterning, stiffened with baleen. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.63.24.5. Main article: Corset
A corset is a garment that girds the torso and shapes it according to the fashionable silhouette of the day. Most often it has been used for cinching the waist and supporting the breasts. Some women tended to wear corsets tighter than necessary and buy corsets with smaller waists, but most women, although they purchased an 18 or 20 inch waisted corset left a gap at the back closure to accommodate a more realistic 22-26 inch waist measurements. On average that would mean a corset reduced the figure by only an inch or two at most. In fact, like today, in order to achieve the hourglass figure, many women took to adding volume to their bustlines to increase the ratio of bust to waist. Also, the full skirts, crinolines and bustles of the 19th century added to the width of the hips to make the waist appear slimmer.
16th to late 17th centuries
The earliest corsets were called "payre of bodies" and were usually worn with a farthingale that held out the skirts in a stiff cone. The payre of bodies, later called stays, turned the upper torso into a
tighten the midriff. 'jumps' of quilted linen were also worn instead of stays for informal situations. Jumps were only partially boned. creating a 'V' shaped upper torso over which the outer garment would be worn. support the back. the corset survived until about 1860. but did add some support. The primary purpose of 18th century stays was to raise and shape the breasts. They flattened the bust.matching cone or cylinder. and in so doing. and would be seen only under very limited circumstances. In this form. did little for one's posture. Both garments were considered undergarments. Well-fitting 18th Century stays are quite comfortable. pushed the breasts up. and allow women to work. improve posture to help a woman stand straight. and only slightly narrow the waist. However. They had shoulder straps and ended in flaps at the waist. These were made of stiffened multiple layers of linen with wooden busks or shafts that were inserted in a pocket at the front in order to keep the corset and figure straight. with the shoulders down and back. corsets were appearing as a commonly worn garment for women. . The emphasis of the stays was less on the smallness of the waist than on the contrast between the rigid flatness of the bodice front and the curving tops of the breasts peeking over the top of the corset. • Henry III of France and the Princess Margaret of Lorraine • Stays circa 1720 18th century The predominant forms of stays in the 18th-century was an inverted conical shape. although they do restrict bending at the waist (forcing one to protect one's back by lifting with the legs). By the middle of the 16th century. do not restrict breathing. often worn to create a contrast between a rigid quasi-cylindrical torso above the waist and heavy full skirts below.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art.• Stays. and stiffened with boning. • Regency short stays circa 1810 • Short stays circa 1803 . Corsets still slimmed the torso but this was not their primary purpose. Late 18th to early 19th centuries Stays became much less constricting with the advent of the high-waisted empire style (around 1796) which de-emphasized the natural waist. M. c. corsets intended to exert serious body-shaping force (as in the Victorian era) were "long" (extending down to and beyond the natural waist). 1780. By 1800 the corset had become primarily a method of supporting the breasts.211.133.e.2007. By contrast. Some form of stays was still worn by most women but these were often "short stays" (i. as the waist was raised to just under the bust line. which did not extend very far below the breasts). laced in back. Linen twill weave fabric stiffened with baleen.
even with the corset laced only moderately. The corset differed from the earlier stays in numerous ways. The corset no longer ended at the hips. In the 1830s. the artificially inflated shoulders and skirts made the intervening waist look narrow.Transition to the Victorian When the waistline returned to its natural position during the 1830s. However. While many corsets were still sewn by hand to the wearer's measurements.  The Victorian corset When the exaggerated shoulders disappeared. The corset was exaggeratedly curvaceous rather than funnel-shaped. Spiral steel stays curved with the figure. but flared out and ended several inches below the waist. the term corset was first used for this garment in English. The focus of the fashionable silhouette of the mid and late 19th century was an hourglass figure. the waist itself had to be cinched tighter in order to achieve the same effect. there was also a thriving market in cheaper mass-produced corsets. At the same time. • 1859 corset with built-in partial crinoline • 1869 corset • 1878 corset . achieved by reducing the thickness of the waist through corsetry. it had changed its shape to the hourglass silhouette that is even now considered typical both for corsets and for Victorian fashion. It is in the 1840s and 1850s that tightlacing first became popular. the corset reappeared and served dual purpose of supporting the breasts and narrowing the waist.
• 1890 corset • "Perfect Health" Corset c 1890. Late 19th century In the late 19th century concern about reports of tight lacing caused a movement for rational dress. In reality. Some doctors were found to support the theory that corsetry was injurious to health (particularly during pregnancy) and women who did tight lacing were condemned for vanity and excoriated from the pulpit as slaves to fashion. . tight corsetting was most likely the cause of indigestion and constipation but rarely the cause for a plethora of ailments associated with tight corsetting at the time ranging from hysteria to liver failure.
This was thought to alleviate some of the pressure on the abdomen. straight busk inserted in the center front of the corset. Its name is derived from the very rigid. However. also known as the swan-bill corset. any benefits to the stomach were more than counterbalanced by the unnatural posture that it forced upon its wearer. was worn from circa 1900 to the early 1910s.The Edwardian corset 1900 illustration contrasting the old Victorian corseted silhouette with the new Edwardian "S-bend" corseted silhouette The straight-front corset. However. The straight fronted corset was introduced to create the illusion of a slimmer waist by forcing the hips back and bust forward. by 1908 corsets began to fall from favour as the silhouette changed to a higher waistline and more naturalistic form. This corset forced the torso forward and made the hips protrude. The straight-front corset was popularised by Inez Gaches-Sarraute. the S-bend corset or the health corset. It was intended to be less injurious to wearers' health than other corsets in that it exerted less pressure on the stomach area. a corsetiere with a degree in medicine. Early forms of brassieres were introduced and the girdle soon took the place of the corset which was more concerned with reducing the hips rather than the waist. • .
A photo from Robert Wilson Shufeldt's 1908 book Studies of the human form for artists. A new type of fashionable corset covered the thighs and changed the position of the hip. . which had been made using steel stays since the 1860s.S. enough to build two battleships. necessitating the lengthening of the corset at its lower edge. Post-Edwardian long line corset Fashionable silhouette in 1906. The new fashion was considered uncomfortable. and scientists illustrates the narrowing of the waist achieved with a corset. Corsets fell from popularity during the late 1910s but forms of body shaping undergarments often called corsets continued to be worn well into the 1920s. The development of rubberized elastic materials in 1911 helped the girdle replace the corset. This step liberated some 28. sculptors. the U. further declined in popularity as women took to brassieres and girdles which also used less steel in their construction. After World War I Shortly after the United States' entry into World War I in 1917. War Industries Board asked women to stop buying corsets to free up metal for war production. and furthermore required the use of strips of elastic fabric. The corset. cumbersome. From 1908 to 1914 the length of the skirt slowly sank from waist to ankles. making the waist become both higher and wider.000 tons of metal.
Only overweight or pregnant women might choose to wear a corset. In the early 20th century. often worn as top garments rather than undergarments. typically an underbust corset. . 1970s and 1980s corsets remained a new revival. these garments were better known as girdles with the express purpose of reducing the hips in size. and live at home until she married around age 18. In the 1990s. more young women sought an education. a young lady would typically have started wearing a corset around age 15.org/wiki/History_of_corsets . A return to waist nipping corsets in 1939 caused a stir in fashion circles but World War II ended their return. By 2010. However.wikipedia. the corset had recovered a new popularity in fashion. http://en. fetish fashion became popular and corsets made something of a recovery.The change in the economy after World War I also changed women's role in society. In the 1960s. and in the Western world marriage was delayed into the middle to late 20s. In the late 1940s they were revived and were popularly known as 'Merry Widows'. After the war.
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