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History Of Corsets

July 27 2020

History Of Corsets

History Of Corsets

A Brief Introduction

If you are watching English movie based in the colonial timeline, chances are you will come across women sporting corsets along with their gowns and hats. This is only to prove the fact that corsets were in fashion back in the 1800s as well. This, in turn, means that corsets go long back in the history of female essentials. 

Women primarily wore corsets in the 16th to 20th centuries. It was considered fashionable, mostly in the Western world. However, if you look closely, garments that looks similar to corsets date back to 1600 BC. In the ancient days, these garments were made of steel structures or whale bones, which went around the ribcage of a man and a woman to compress it a few sizes down.

In the Colonial Era, corsets were more of a requirement for every woman. This is so because back then, it was a need for every woman to look feminine through their appearance and behavior. One of the significant ways to do this was to add a touch of lofty goals to their body. This paved the way for corsets into their daily wear, thereby making them look like they have waists smaller than usual and busts that are full. Ever since then, corsets have undergone a lot of change. Corsets are a part of the fashion industry even to this day.

Corsets In The Ancient World

The history of the fashion world states that one of the first garments that resembled a corset was discovered from Greece. Back in those days, both men and women were seen to sport garter like belts with straps that made the waist appear smaller. Minoans were the first ones to use a corset-like garment extensively. They also made the children wear girdles around the waists so that their waists would be shaped smaller than the usual as they grow.

The women and men from Greece were seen to wear a belt named Zona on top of their garments. The exclusive purpose of a Zona was to make the waist smaller, and the breasts seem more significant, thereby aiding them to gain a more feminine look.  

In the Middle Ages, fashion history talks about corset-like structures being used for comfort more than the utility. However, with the 1300s, historians believe that other structures such as bandages were used underneath the clothing to make the waist appear slimmer than usual. Finally, with the 1400s, women wore bodices that were laced and made out of durable fabric with brass wires inside to make them structured and intense.

Corsets; 15th To 19th Century

In the 15th century, women of France wore the 'Cotte.' This was primarily an undergarment made of linen. It used laces at the front-end and the back-end to keep them in its place. Eventually, women in France started to open up the top part of their Cotte to expose their breasts. This was due to the trend that Agnes Sorel set after she wore a gown to a French court where her breasts were exposed.

The 16th century saw the ban of broad waists at court by Catherine de Medici. As a result, women started resorting to bodices as a part of their daily essentials that they wore underneath their clothes. In Spain, women wore corsets that were made out of fabric and bones or wooden rods. This was called the busk. Queen Elizabeth made the Elizabethan corset fashionable for women while the 'Tudor corset' in England was free to use for both men and women.

In the 17th century, women wore corsets made of fabric and bones. However, whale bones saw a return in the making of corsets. People started experimenting with the exterior aesthetic of the corset. They played around with lace, buttons, sleeves, and ribbons. As the years passed, people tried to tighten corsets, thereby making them with a firmer material. The 18th century saw slimmer waists and fuller busts due to this trend.  

However, the 19th century saw a bit of both soft, high-waisted corsets and firm, constricting corsets. Corsets made of soft materials like cotton, linen, and silk were in fashion in the first half of the century. Firm corsets made out of whale bones became popular in the latter half.  

Corsets; 20th Century To Now

The Edwardian Era and the rest of the 1900s saw a massive change in the corset making industry. This is primarily due to the booming fashion industry. The S-bend was a popular shape for every ideal female body. The corsets that were built ensured that it did not harm the woman's internal body like the corsets in the previous eras. The focus was still on a small waist but with the use of soft materials.

Eventually, corsets gave up the objective of making the waist small. They were built to accentuate the breasts and the hips. However, in today's age, one will find a woman wearing a corset only to play a character on stage. Women have given up the need to resort to socially constructed beauty standards and choose comfort over harm to their internal organs in the attempt to please others' senses.

The year of 2020 sees a return of corsets to fashion but only for women to intricate sports lace detailing and body-tight suits.


With the ages, women have learned to let go of societal pressure, which has been reflected in the present-day built of corsets. Nonetheless, corsets remain to be a hot favorite among women, thanks to its high functionality and flexible nature.