16th Century- The Birth
In these days iron was in the leading mans fashion. The upper class man preferred a highly polished decorated breastplate to demonstrate and show off his high status in society.
This style was taken over by the ladies, not in the form of a iron breastplate, but they shaped there silhouette by uses of a garment made of fabric or leather with sewn in pieced of wood or metal for stiffness. This design was not meant to create a small waist or raised breasts. This century asked for “no bust” the bust had to be pressed flat to hide any ounce of sexuality.
Fabrics: Brocades, velvets, silks, satins, taffetas
Colours: Black and warm colours, such as yellow, honey, gold, red and brown
17th century- Things Tighten up
Things started to change around the middle of the century. Lighter material was used, preferably whale bone and a little more space was given for the bust. Corsets were used for tight lacing now, especially in France.
A straight rod made of wood or metal was often inserted into a vertical pocket of the corset, just in front of the breastbone. If it became too uncomfortable at dinner for example, the rod could be removed.
In early 17th century a change took place. Women were allowed to carry out the craft of tailoring. They were certainly more familiar with their own bodies.
18th Century- Things Tighten up Further
Sometimes up to 100 thin pieces of whale bone where used to create a corset. Valuable fabrics were used and corsets sometimes became the outer garment. The design called for shoulder straps. The tight lacing began to get smaller as woman wanted a more hourglass shaped figure. A woman believed that your waist size should not exceed your age and you had to be married by the age of 21. Front busk hooks weren’t available so a lady was laced up by her maid everyday.
The skill of the stay-maker had reached a very high standard and was now totally separate from dress-makers.
Fabrics: Satin, silk, chintz, muslin
Colours: Pretty pink blue grey yellow
19th Century- Mass Production
Corsets in this time were laced down to the waist only because below the waist petticoats and hoop skirts were worn.
The wale bone was replaced with steel busks, springs and wires. Corsets got more and more technical, the front fastening replaced having to lace up everyday. And mechanically inserted metal eyelets replaced manually sewn ones.
Since 1846 the corset became a mass product. Almost all women brought one. The woman used the corset mainly to support the breasts and other maternal round ups. It gave a housewife with six children the chance to keep a respectable posture.
Since the tummy was so rigidly squeezed in and forced down, a spoon busk, or a pear-shaped front busk, was commonly used.
In 1878 garters were attached to the bottom of the corset and clippings onto the stockings
Fabrics: Wool, taffetas, cotton, silk, poplin, velvet, satin, brocade
Colours: Soft subdued black, apricot, peacock blue
20th Century- The End of a Huge Era
World war one finished the big time of the corset. The development of the bra and girdle took over the main objectives of the corset.
In the 1960’s corsets were seen as a symbol of oppression for woman, as some thing that men wanted woman to wear to shape women in the ideal feminine shape and not the natural one.
From then on corsets could only be seen with the movie stars, in theatres or as sexy lingerie for fetishists.
Today there is a greater variety of corsets than ever before with new fabrics, old and new designs. Times are over when it was a ladies duty to wear a corset. In the 21st Century it is a symbol of individualism and beauty in the eyes of men and women.