Crimes of Fashion Past: Corsets
Oct 08, 2008 - by Amanda Gabriele
I love how corsets look on the body. They tighten the waist, accentuate the bust and give a nice curve to the top of the hips. The modern-day corset is sexy, playful and elegant. But the fashion side of this garment wasn't always so pleasant. Since I am a huge history of costume nerd, I thought I'd share what corsets really used to mean for stylish women.
In the early 1800s, corsets were seen as undergarments of support for women and girls as young as four. Women were considered extremely fragile and corsets were thought to keep them standing upright. Organs became so deformed by the time girls hit their teens that they could not sit or stand properly without the aid of a boned corset. This is where Hollywood got the idea that women fainted often; but it wasn't because of frailty but rather the inability to draw deep breaths of air. The higher a woman was in society, the tighter her garments were. Servants and working women didn't wear them every day because their constraint made it hard to do even the mildest labor. And a loose corset was usually the sign of a promiscuous woman.
So ladies, enjoy the modern-day corset with much reverence for women of fashion past. At least when you hear the phrase "pain is beauty" today, it doesn't mean a torso full of smashed organs.
PS: Although, we did recently write about the McQueen model (above) who fainted on the runway due to her tight corset.