Sexy Corset GirlsThere was a time in history where women would do anything in order to be pleasing to men. Hot ladies in corsets.
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You heard it before: "pain is beauty." But how much pain? A lot actually...
The Corset Gilr: A Slave to Fashion
The term corset comes from the old French "corps," which means "body," and came into use in Europe during the 19th century. Corsets were a commonly worn garment for women of all ages, predominantly from 16th to the 19th century, being designed to shape a woman's torso to conform to the fashion silhouette of the time.
The woman was therefore doomed to her position in society: a slave to fashion. In order to be pleasing to men, some women tended to wear corsets tighter than necessary or to buy corsets with smaller waists (4 inches smaller), making us believe that corsets must have been invented by a sadist. And for good reason, as Guy de Maupassant short story "Mother Monster" tells us. You can read this horrific tale here.
Short History of The Corset
The exact origins of corsets are unknown, but the ancient Greeks certainly wore them. Undergarments which pulled in and accentuated the waist were worn by royalty in France starting from the 1300s. The corset wear became widespread by the 1500s.
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The earliest corsets were called payre of bodies" and were usually worn with a farthingale that held out the skirts in a stiff cone. Later called stays, these period corsets turned the upper torso into a cone, flattening the stomach, tighten the waist, and pushing out the breasts so the gentlemen could notice them. Really notice them!
The corsets of that period had shoulder straps and ended in flaps at the waist. Made of stiffened multiple layers of linen with wooden busks or shafts that were inserted at the front in order to keep the corset straight, this corset wear survived until 1800. One of the reasons why a woman of that period would wear a tight corset was to protect herself from lustful men, giving the fact that getting undressed from a corset was a long and difficult task. Well, this I can understand! (*laughing*)
18th century CorsetsSince the Middle Ages, tightly laced corsets were seen as undergarments of support for women, starting from outrageous young ages. In that period, women were considered extremely fragile and corsets were thought to keep them standing upright, by supporting their backs. Yes, you read it right! By the time the young girls became women, their internal organs were so deformed that the girls couldn't sit or stand properly without the aid of a corset. This is why the women of that time were always fainting. And now you know...
The strange thing is, the higher a woman's role in society, the tighter her garments were. The working women of 1700s however didn't wear them very often because their constraints made it hard for them to do even the mildest labors. Doh!
Another strange misconception of the period was that a loose corset was the sign of a loose woman. So, like it or not, you had to tighten your belt, so to speak.
The predominant form of stays in the 18th century was an inverted conical shape ending in a heavy full skirt. The shape of corsets is not much different from that of the 17th period. The tabs over the hips were formed by cuts from the lower edge up to the waistline that spread when the stays are worn, preventing it from digging into the flesh. The corsets of the 18th century were considered undergarments or underwear if you like.
The Victorian CorsetsThe corsets of that period were nothing but sexy. Corsets had the shape of an hourglass, which was also the typical shape of Victorian clothing. It was a time of new attitudes and technology advancements! The artificially inflated shoulders and skirts made the waist look narrow; which was the purpose of course.
The Victorian women went to some lengths to achieve this exaggerated figure! The Victorian corsets no longer ended at the hips, but flared out and ended several inches below the waist. The Victorian corsets were also exaggeratedly curvaceous and almost all women of every class wore them.
19th Century CorsetsIn the 19th century finally some doctors raised concerns about how a tight corset can be dangerous to health, particularly during pregnancy, but mostly causing digestive problems because the corset tightly squeezed the inner organs together. Women experienced many health problems associated to the corset not so much because of the design, but because of their desire to be thinner than they really were.
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By the middle of 19th century, corsets were still called stays. Corsets of that period were usually white or beige, made from cotton or linen, most of them home made and embroidered in elaborate decorative patterns. All corsets were over bust and most opened in the center back only. The development of the sewing machine in 1850s led to the mass production of corsets and increased the variety of their design.
World War I and II CorsetsDuring the World War I (1914-1918) there had been a shortage of steel for the "bones", steel which was redirected to the war production while women were asked to stop buying corsets. Therefore, the corset fashion slowly declined in popularity and once with the development of rubberized elastic materials, women were more likely to wear a girdle or a brassiere to shape their bodies.
After World War I, only overweight or pregnant women would wear a corset, typically an underbust corset. However, these garments were better known as girdles with the express purpose of reducing the hips in size. Corsets were shortly revived in 1939, but World War II (1941-1945) ended their return. In the 50s they were again revived and were popularly known as "Merry Widows". Like a widow can be merry, but whatever.
Gothic CorsetsGothic corsets find their roots in the Victorian period and became immensely popular in the 80s among punk and gothic rock adherents, such as Nightwish fans. The gothic style is often embraced by female rockers and it's popularized through music videos on MTV for example. The Goth combines macabre with morbid, the gothic corsets being primarily black, with some deep red or violet colors.
While corsets worn during the Victorian period were considered undergarments, today's gothic corsets are worn as tops, and are often paired with dark skirts or pants. The gothic corsets are worn by women as sheer fun or to make a bold statement when clubbing. For this reason, the gothic style has been embraced even by those who have no interest in Goth and by women who want to let a little playful fun into their wardrobe.
Corsets TodayIn the 90s, fetish fashion became increasingly popular and corsets made something of a recovery.
By 2011, the corset had recovered a new popularity in fashion being worn only for special events, such as weddings, and for the sensual aspect.
Apart from Gothic corsets and Dominatrixes, corsets are now thankfully out of fashion today, having been replaced by bustiers.
Women of the past clearly did suffer for the sake of fashion, just as many do today with high heels and plastic surgery.
Nowadays, any woman who wishes to please not only men by also herself can wear a corset anywhere she wants. The impact is guaranteed!
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