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The Clothing We Wear-Part 3

The Clothing We Wear-Part 3

The Value of Making a Good First-Impression

Do you realize the value of making a good first impression?  As human thinking has shown, “It’s in our nature to form hasty opinions and make quick generalizations”. [1] People notice what we wear, and they form opinions of us based on that first instantaneous glimpse.  th

This is the third part of my four-part blog on The Clothing We Wear. Stay with me as we further explore the type clothing people wear and the reasoning behind it.

Next, read through the story I am about to tell and contemplate your own daily fashion statement.

Pajamas in the Park

Sitting in the park in the early morning with the warm breeze blowing through my hair, I close my eyes, roll my head back, and lift my face to the sun. The warmth of the sun is comforting as I lean back on my arms and swing my legs which dangle from the picnic table top that I chose to sit on. Somehow dangling my legs makes me feel free and child-like, without responsibilities. It feels good to be alive at this moment in time. I inhale a deep breath and lower my face to look out over the park, observing the people that are passing through.

Something catches my attention at the corner of my vision. Is that man walking a dog actually wearing his pajamas? My eyes cannot look away and my mind is stunned. The reality hits home that indeed he is. To amuse the onlooker, even more, his comical reddish-brown hair is sticking out in every direction. Apparently, his appearance is not a major concern of his daily presentation. The faraway look in his eyes depicts a man lost in thought. The dog is oblivious to the man’s exhibition however and happily trots along in front leading him on a routine daily walk, unimpressed by the leash to which he is tethered.

The pajamas are loose and baggy, navy blue in color with small defined designs on them. As he comes closer into my field of vision the designs appear to be mini Scottish Terriers, a fitting replica of his own little pooch. The tortoiseshell framed glasses perched on his nose and the dark-colored jogging shoes complete his attire.

I would think he simply rolled out of bed and hooked up the dog before heading absentmindedly out the door except for the jogging shoes and glasses. I wonder if he is even aware that he is out in public, traipsing through a city park.

Dressing the Way You Feel

Have you witnessed this scene before? Are you someone that can be seen walking your dog or going out to the mailbox in your pajamas or bathrobe? Or even more entertaining, do you run to the grocery store dressed in clothes that would be better off worn at a burlesque costume party?

Maybe you are not feeling well or perhaps you’ve had an argument with your best friend. Need the comfort of Mom and home cooked food? Out come the sweatpants and chicken soup.

If you’re like most people, your emotions can be identified by your facial expressions. But your clothing can be extremely revealing as well.

As human beings, we are subject to daily mood changes according to our body chemistry. On some days we are concerned with how we appear to others. Other times, we experience indifference worthy of a sloth. dv1554007_XS

Your personal style is a form of nonverbal communication, just like your facial expressions and your body language. If someone were to smile while giving you some really bad news, you would feel especially uncomfortable. If an acquaintance invited you to her house for a friendly lunch and then sat with her arms folded and legs crossed, you would think something was amiss. Similarly, when your clothes do not match who you are as a person, you and others around you experience a lack of harmony, a dissonance.”

“It’s hard to convince others — but more importantly yourself — that you are a vibrant human being when you look like you can barely convince yourself to roll out of bed in the morning.” (Chivers, 2010-18)

Is it really that important to be concerned about what we wear at all times? Maybe not while you’re in the comfort of your own home. Don’t discount the encouragement you can feel with your clothing choice, however. A better clothing choice can make you feel like a happier person.  “Often we can change the entire day simply by changing our perspective, and choosing to have a good day.”[4]

“The clothes you wear and the way you groom yourself will change the way other people hear what you say. It will subconsciously tell them if you’re like them or if you’re different. It will determine whether they listen or ignore. Trust or distrust. How you dress yourself changes who you are. It changes the value of what you have to say. At least to the people who are looking and listening.”[5]

The Clothing We Wear to Work

Now that we have briefly touched on what you wear at home let’s look at the clothes you wear to work.

Dressing for the Job Interview

You’re concerned about the effect you will have on a potential new boss at a job interview, so you dress in a new suit you have recently purchased for this occasion. You want to exhibit your best side so your hair is gelled to perfection and your shoes are polished. You hold your head high with your shoulders back displaying good posture. This makes you feel good about yourself. Why, because you are dressed to impressed. You know that you are looking your best and you feel proud of yourself. Take note here that you have taken the time to project a good image.

The Business Suit

Think of a debonair man in a business suit and tie jumping out of airplanes and taking on the evil masterminds of the foreign world. Yes, the infamous James Bond comes to mind. He is suave and sophisticated. Women drool over his vision and men want to emulate him. sean-connery-james-bond-three-piece-suit

The modern-day suit is the image of a polished, well put together man, of the business world. It demonstrates someone in charge of the situation that people look up to with respect.

But where does the suit have its beginnings? And why has it retained the appeal and status for so long?

In fact, the suit’s prehistory begins in the evolution of court dress in Britain. After a nasty outbreak of plague in 1665, the lacy and elaborate court outfits suddenly seemed like a political liability to Charles II, who ordered his nobles to begin dressing — for a while — in modest tunics and breeches in your usual office-drab colors (navy, grays, shudder-inducing taupes).” [12]

“ We do not know exactly who had the idea for the first lounge suit (as our modern suit is properly called), or what he designed it for. But the first one did appear in the mid-19th century, and quickly became both a casual garment for the elite and a dress-up item for the working class.” [12]

“Eventually, we Americans figured out how to dress ourselves. This newfangled vestment was so darn easy to wear! It appeared on everyone from cab drivers to business executives and made all appear polished and professional. Hollywood picked the look up and ran with it.” [12]

An interesting bit of trivia about the suit is also revealed. “And, though you may find it hard to believe, at one point Americans associated the suit with rebellion in the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943.” [12] The riots were called such because “zoot suits” with broad, padded shoulders, double-breasted coats, plus ultra-baggy-legged trousers that tapered at the ankle were worn to intimidate. It must have worked as roving bands of teenagers crowded the street corners looking for a fight.

The business suit has since become the chosen attire of every well-dressed man in the business world who wants to be taken seriously. Even women have taken up the look in the boardroom, with the freedom to pair it with pants or a skirt. It commands respect.

Uniforms in the Workplace

There are certain professions that have an established uniform for their work attire. Have you ever wondered why that is? Let’s take a look at the various professions and the uniforms that they wear to set themselves apart from everyday people.

Uniforms of Police, Military, Fire, EMS, Security, and Tactical

When any type of clothing can be worn with the same results of covering the naked body, then why is a uniform necessary?

“If the dress of the members of an organization remains the same then there is a sense on commonality which develops amongst them. Uniforms also depict solidarity, and this has been this way throughout, right from the days of the Roman Empire to the modern day manufacturing houses.”[7]

When everyone has a uniform appearance they feel like they belong to a group.”[9] “Research has also suggested that even slight alterations to the style of the uniform will change how citizens will perceive the officer.” [7]

“These days wearing a uniform is common with the paramilitary organizations like police etc and the armed forces. These help them, stand out of the crowd so that they can be easily recognizable and also distinguish them for the service they do. (sic) These uniforms not only make them feel proud but also have an imposing effect on others and with the presence of a person in uniform, can change the mood of people around.”[8]

Police and Security

Police officers need to be easily identified for a variety of reasons. “The crisp uniform of the police officer conveys power and authority. When a police officer puts on his or her uniform the officer is perceived in a very different way by the public. He or she is viewed as embodying each person’s stereotypes about all police officers.”[7]

c3e1aaf30bb7c585e88595a6a3aa2bcb “Research has suggested that clothing has a powerful impact on how people are perceived, and this goes for the police officer as well. The uniform of a police officer has been found to have a profound psychological impact on those who view it.” [7]

When uniforms are worn by the police force it makes them appear to be more united and approachable, making the role of the uniform more important. But why the color blue? According to “The Psychological Influence of the Police Uniform“, the colour blue has several functions in relation to a police uniform, one of the main ones being that it is much easier to clean and maintain than a lighter/brighter colour and that it shows stains and marks less easily”. [6]

Another reason listed by the boys in blue today is that the dark shade of navy blue makes an officer harder to see at night, making it easier for them to sneak up on bad guys. “The officers feel safer with the dark shirts on at night. It’s the perception, and the perception is as important as reality.” [6] The dark colors are also worn by security officers for the same reason.

Military

the-armys-new-camouflage-uniform-looks-nearly-identical-to-the-previous-oneMilitary uniforms have gone through significant changes over time. The solid colors of the military in the past have been changed to camouflage for protection and identification. Camouflage is used to blend into the surrounding area to disguise a person from the terrain and hide from the opposing enemy.

Firefighter and EMS

Firefighters wear a uniform not only for identification but also for protection. While “fighting actual fires, firefighters must contend with smoke, water, hot embers, falling objects, and collapsing floors.” [20] Their uniforms are made of two-layer heat resistant material that wicks away moisture that gets trapped inside. The reflective stripes make them easy to identify through a haze of smoke.image006

EMS or Emergency Medical Services is a specialized team of people responding to medical emergency situations. Their uniforms are designed to distinguish them from the surrounding situation and easily identify them at a moment’s notice. While they are primarily associated with ambulances they can also be found in helicopters and other various types of th (1)transport vehicles.

 The Medical Field: Doctors and Nurses

The main reason nurses wear uniforms is to display a unified, professional look to patients so that patients or other interested parties can easily recognize a nurse when they need one.  Most hospitals and other health care facilities require their nurses to wear uniforms of some kind while on duty, as part of an effort to maintain a professional image. Ideally, uniforms always stand for consistency and uniformity.

A nurse is seen as a representative of a very noble profession and therefore the clothes she wears at work are expected to represent the seriousness of her call. When people think of nurses, they envision well-mannered, compassionate people in white respectable in appearance, caring for patients tenderly. This image has survived for centuries and even today, this is the standard image for a nurse. As such, the strong public opinion is that nurses have an ethical obligation to wear proper attire that befits their vocation. If not white uniforms, then they should follow a strict dress code that stands for the utmost professionalism and cleanliness.” [11]

Doctors and pharmacists are well known for the white lab coats they wear. This is not only for identification but for protection of their clothing. It also promotes a respectable appearance that people look to as an authority figure.

Uniforms in Other Fields

While uniforms are certainly understandable in the medical, police and military fields, there are other establishments that take advantage of uniforms as well.

Construction workers can be identified with neon orange or yellow vests with reflective tape and hard hats. This serves to make them easily identifiable and visible on the dangerous highways and construction sites.

Uniforms for sports activities are for identification as well. However, the colored uniforms in this instance are known to establish unity and team spirit. It would be difficult to tell one team from the other if they were to wear street clothes.1200px-Ben_hands_off_to_Willie

Private schools have also used uniforms for the purpose of unification and recognition for many years. This not only creates an environment where competition is kept to a minimum, but students will clearly stand out from the faculty. A dignified reputation is of utmost importance here. The Citadel, a 175-year-old public military college in South Carolina provided a statement from the college president, Lt. Gen. John Rosa. He explained that “the uniform is central to the leadership training at the college, as cadets give up their individuality to learn teamwork and allegiance to the corps.”

There are also many other industries that use uniforms to designate authority or association with a particular field. Airline pilots, delivery and postal workers, auto mechanics and service technicians, are just to name a few.

Religious Leaders and Their Followers

In reference to religious leaders and the type of clothing or uniforms that they wear, a variety of reasons are to be found. “A simple robe can make a Buddhist monk feel closer to Buddha, while a modest sweater can help a Mormon missionary project a professional image as she proselytizes.” [13]

“Some religious communities may require that religious personages (e.g., priests, monks, nuns, shamans, priestesses, and others) garb themselves with appropriate types of religious dress at all times, whereas other religious communities may only request that religious dress be worn during rituals.”[15]

Buddhist

SONY DSCThe garments or robes, of a Buddhist Monk “create a “uniformity of intention” visible at first glance”.[13] The robes themselves represent the simple life that the monks have vowed to live. The colors of the robes can vary by region. The yellow color of robes is probably obtained through dyes made with saffron and turmeric.

Catholics

According to the Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests, the “clergy must dress in a way that distinguishes them from the laity. “It is particularly important that the community be able to recognize the priest, man of God and dispenser of his mysteries, by his attire,” the document states.”[13] anglicanarchbishop-catholicpope

In relation to the order of the nuns or sisters, on the other hand, each order displays different habits. Their garments often use different colors with their own symbolic meanings. These serve to highlight the characteristics of each order. “At its core, the habit is a visible sign of the nun’s complete consecration to God and unity with other nuns in a religious community.” [14]

Orthodox Jews

The Orthodox Jews have their own standard of dress for daily living. “Orthodox men typically wear long black garments to indicate a “lack of concern for color and other dictates of fashion and thus helps keep priorities straight,” according to Chabad guidelines. Orthodox Jewish women on the other hand “are encouraged to cover their hair and wear skirts below their knees as a sign of modesty.” [13]56489244baa9ef3f356907a5f2a78500--professional-swimming-les-magiciens

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or Mormons

Those of the faith of the Mormon religion are required to “wear modest clothing and plain hairstyles. Women must wear either blouse with skirts or dresses that cover to the knee. Men must wear business suits. The clothing guidelines are meant to ensure that missionaries look “professional” and “attractive,” according to the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” [13]

Muslim

To some people, many forms of the Muslim dress may seem odd or excessive. “The shari’ah, however, assigns it moral, social, and legal dimensions.”[17] ”The dress should not be such that it attracts men’s attention to the woman’s beauty.”[17]

The manner of dress of Muslims has drawn great attention in recent years, with some groups suggesting that restrictions on the dress are demeaning or controlling, especially to women.” [18] “In reality, the way in which Muslims dress is really driven out of simple modesty and a desire to not draw individual attention in any way. Although Islam has no fixed standard as to the style of dress or type of clothing that Muslims must wear, there are some minimum requirements that must be met.” [18] Thickness, looseness, & overall appearance are always considered.YEMEN-CONFLICT-DEMONSTRATION

Quran Laws for Men and Women

For Women: “The Quran has no requirement that women cover their faces with a veil, or cover their bodies with the full-body burqua or chador, as in Iran and Afghanistan. But the Quran does address the matter of veiling in such a way that it has been interpreted historically, if not necessarily correctly, by Muslim clerics as applying to women.” [19] The veiling of women was not an Islamic innovation but a Persian and Byzantine-Christian custom that Islam adopted.

For Men: “The minimum amount to be covered on the body is between the navel and the knee. It should be noted, though, that a bare chest would be frowned upon in situations where it draws attention.” [18] “Neither excessively fancy nor ragged. One should not dress in a manner intended to gain the admiration or sympathy of others.” [18]

Summary

While this blog by no means covers the entirety of the subject of making a good first impression, it has at least scratched the surface. Hopefully, it has piqued your interest and you will investigate further with the references listed below.

Uniforms are a part of our life, whether a business suit or a sacred religious robe. Conformity and unification are a part of the human desire to bond together. Nurturing the social connection is paramount to the survival of our civilization.

Just remember, “Whatever message you’re trying to send to the world, never forget the clothes you put that message in will determine the way it’s received. So, dress it carefully.”(sic) [5]

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REFERENCES

[1] https://www.slidegenius.com/blog/presentation-what-to-wear/

[2] https://myyearwithoutclothesshopping.com/fashion-style-shopping/i-dont-care-what-you-wear/

[3] https://www.reference.com/business-finance/nurses-wear-uniforms-ad9603defb55153d    Why do Nurses Wear Uniforms?

[4] https://myhometableau.com/dress-the-way-you-want-to-feel/    Dress the way you want to feel December 3, 2012 · by Johanna

[5] https://www.riskology.co/dress-well/  The Psychology of Dressing Well (And Why You Must To Get Anywhere In Life) by tyler tervooren | 4 minute read

[6] http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/09/police-wear-blue-2/  Why Do The Police Wear Blue? September 5, 2014 Karl Smallwood

[7] https://www.policeone.com/police-products/apparel/undergear/articles/99417-The-psychological-influence-of-the-police-uniform/  The psychological influence of the police uniform, Article updated on August 11, 2017. By Richard R. Johnson, MS

[8] http://www.impact.ms/5-reasons-why-wearing-a-proper-uniform-is-important/  Impact Marketing and Design By Dione|September 18th, 2015

[9] https://www.quora.com/Why-do-the-military-wear-uniforms Justin Boyle Answered Jun 8, 2018 ·

[10] https://work.chron.com/kind-gear-firefighters-wear-9547.html  What Kind of Gear Do Firefighters Wear? by Clayton Browne; Updated March 30, 2018

[11] http://www.nursinguniforms.net/blog/importance-of-dress-code-for-nurses-in-hospitals  A Nurse’s World – Blog By NursingUniforms.Net

[12] https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/07/where-did-business-suits-come-from/260182/  Where Did Business Suits Come From? EMILY CHERTOFF JUL 23, 2012

[13] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-these-six-religious-groups-wear-what-they-wear_us_55ce7bcae4b055a6dab07ad0  Why These 6 Religious Groups Wear What They Wear By Antonia Blumberg

[14] https://www.reference.com/world-view/nuns-wear-religious-habits-62b3a8c393f3b71f  Why Do Nuns Wear Religious Habits?

[15] https://www.britannica.com/topic/religious-dress  Religious dress written by: E. Michael Pye and James Dickie

[16] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/05/10/the-citadel-will-not-allow-an-exception-to-the-uniform-to-let-a-muslim-student-wear-her-hijab/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2fd911a8e4ba  The Citadel will not allow an exception to the uniform to let a Muslim student wear her hijab By Susan Svrluga May 10, 2016

[17] https://www.islamawareness.net/Dressing/dressing_article0001.html  Muslim Clothing Requirements According to the Qur’an & Sunnah, From a paper compiled by Jamal A. Badawi

[18] https://www.thoughtco.com/islamic-clothing-requirements-2004252  Thoughtco. Islamic Clothing Requirements

[19] https://www.thoughtco.com/quran-require-women-to-wear-veil-2353510   Thoughtco. Does the Quran Require Women to Wear the Veil?

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“What Shall I Wear”?

clubbing tonight

“What shall I wear”? , you ask as you look through your closet full of clothes. Have you ever wondered why we humans are so concerned about our appearance? Why do we have different kinds of clothes for different kinds of places? We wore makeup today but not yesterday? Do we need to make an impression or statement with our fashion? Why do we stress over how we look when we’re meeting up with Bob and Cindy, but just leave the house looking like ‘whatever’ when it’s Katie and John?

Caveman DNA?

Seriously, although fashion rules are often mocked today as being superficial and silly, the fact that we care about how we look is very deeply rooted in our ancient ancestry. Fitting-in was a life-or-death proposition back in the day. Our DNA is our driving force, no matter how modern and sophisticated we think we are.

I have one more question for you: Did you know you can have a test done to find out how much Neanderthal DNA you have?

I always find it fascinating to see my inner cavewoman bleeding through into my 21st-century life.  So come with me on this brief sojourn into the past and perhaps you will see your own gazing back at you from the mirror. Give her a wink and a smile; she is serving you well!

Caveman Dynamics

If you could be transported back to the early days of humanity, you would find yourself living in a small family group or small tribe. Because everyone in the group is related to you, they have your back. They share their food with you, they teach you how to get along in the world. The whole tribe is there to get mean and stabby when you’re attacked by a cave bear.

On the other hand, if you displease your group, the consequences are horrible. They shun you, exile you, then drive you away. Wandering alone is no way to live – literally. You can’t make it on your own. Even if you do encounter another group of people they will probably kill you instead of saving you. All this because you wore a red feather in your hair when only the tribe leader’s daughter is allowed to wear red feathers. Do you see where I am going with this? Following the rules of how to dress, how to speak and how to behave keep you in the tribe and keep you alive.

Social Dynamics Today

Now flash back to the present. Whew! That was getting intense. Your life no longer depends on fitting in with a group or making a statement. But you also have not lost the need to feel that you belong. You have not lost the fear of being shunned socially and cast out of the group. Fortunately, today we have access to so many groups from which to choose that even the quirkiest among us can find her “tribe.”

You are most comfortable when you are with your peeps. You all dress in a similar way, talk the same way and enjoy doing the same things. However, when you are going into a situation where you will encounter different people or even the same people in a different environment, you start to wonder about how you should present yourself.

Making A Statement

How do I make that statement? Most of us want to be accepted, so we style our clothing, hair, and makeup in a way that we hope this new group will approve of. Some of us are more contrary and prefer to make no adjustments. This sends the message: “This is who I am, take it or leave it.” Either way, consciously or subconsciously, we are we are arranging our appearance to have an effect. We will have to face the consequences of our choice.

Why Do We Care?

So, to go back to the original questions: Why do we care what other people think about our appearance, and why do we stress over how we look? “What shall I wear?” you repeatedly ask yourself. The answer: Because fear of being exiled from the group is buried in our DNA. Even in the modern world, there can be negative consequences for looking the wrong way in the wrong place at the wrong time. You may lose a job or negatively affect a date that you really liked. You may turn a jury against you or be shrieked at by a sobbing bride that you ruined her wedding. Yikes!

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Is there a positive side to all this? Of course, there is! Ralph Waldo Emerson once quoted one of his friends as saying, “Being perfectly well-dressed gives a feeling of tranquility that religion is powerless to bestow.”

There is nothing like walking into a room and knowing that you nailed it. Knowing that not only have you been accepted by the tribe, but that you are their queen!

The next time you reach the peak of this particular mountain, remember to listen for that quiet whisper from your ancient cousin in the cave saying, “Glad I could help.”

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Corsets and Bustiers in History

From the beginning of time, Corsets and Bustiers in History and today have been a form of outward expression. As with other clothing, it is an outward display of an individual’s personality. By the same token fashion reflects the society of which it is a part.

Fashion has always had a great influence on society. Corsets and Bustiers in History is no exception.

Corsets have long been a symbol of feminine power and beauty, dating as far back as 2000 BC.

corset-17

Although corsets have gone through many transformations over the centuries, their general appearance has remained constant. Their main purpose and appeal were to shape and flatter the female form in accordance with current fashion trends.

Corsets Throughout the Ages

Perhaps no other garment in history has caused as much controversy. Certainly, none have spawned so many fetishes or stood the test of time as corsets have.

Tight lacing was blamed on health issues. In reality, tight-lacing likely only caused constipation and indigestion.

Traditionally, the corset was actually a part of a dress. The corset as an undergarment has its origins in Italy. Catherine de Medici brought it to France in the 1500’s. Women of the French court not only embraced the corset but considered it an indispensable beauty tool commonly worn by women throughout Europe.

 

The Skilled Seamstress:

This brought about the highly skilled seamstresses that could fit the human body with a ‘second skin of sorts. They became known as the first corsetieres. From this came the literal translation of the French word ‘corset’ which came from the expression, “pair of bodies”.

From the men there came the “bespoke” tailoring. This comes from the French term, the literal translation being: “men’s clothing made to a high degree of customization”.

Leaders and Their Impact on Dress:

Napoleon hated them. His intense dislike of them influenced the Regency style, or Empire dress, at that time. This started just below the breasts and flowed loosely to the floor, eliminating the need for a corset.

Fashion then shifted from loose, flowing dresses to a more slender silhouette. This was achieved using lacing to create a tighter fitting bodice. The corset as an undergarment was not seen in Europe until the 1500’s.

 

And the Queens:

It is believed that Catherine de Medici first introduced Italian style corsets to France. However, the ancient civilizations of Rome, Greece, Egypt, Assyria, and Crete depicted women wearing Corsets and Bustiers in History for hundreds of years already before her time.

The proclamation of 1597 by Queen Elizabeth went into minute detail about the type of dress allowed for a person per position and social rank. There was strict control of everyday dress. It was essential that the Queen’s subjects know their place. This included the type of fabric, garment embellishments, the color worn, hosiery and even furs.

Corset TimelineREV.indd

 

Corset Materials Used:

The first corsets of the 16th century did not aim to accentuate the waist but rather had a more cylindrical shape. They flattened everything from waist to bust, forcing the breasts up into an alluring curve which just peeked out at the top.

Corset styles and the materials used to make them would change many times over the next centuries. Wood, whalebone and eventually steel replaced the iron cages to make them much more comfortable. Lacing moved from the front to the back.

 

The Busk:

And busks, which provided the stiffening with knife-shaped pieces of whalebone or wood, moved from the back to the front and eventually the sides. This whalebone was the predecessor to today’s boning.

Fabrics changed too, from linen to cotton, wool, leather, silk, and lace. However, this was largely a matter of personal preference and rank.

Virtually all women wore corsets, but not all could afford to commission a tailor to make them. Many corsets made at home used cheaper and more readily available materials. Sackcloth stiffened with readily available reeds was common. Whereas the nobility who could afford the services of a tailor and proper fit had elaborate corsets made of leather, damask, silk, and velvet.

Elizabethan Wardrobe:

“European aristocrats [13] were inclined to regard the body as a work of art. Their prominent reason being their display at court and physical self-control. Court society imposed its aesthetic erectness which was also a way of mastering the passions.”

“The Elizabethan wardrobe was quite complex. Sleeves, bodice, underskirt, corset, and ruff (neck collar), all came as separate pieces, held in place by pins. The Queen loved to receive gifts of valuable garments. A pair of sleeves embroidered with pearls were among these gifts.”

 

Elizabethan Corset:

“In the Elizabethan era, whalebone (baleen) was frequently used in corsets so bodices could maintain their stiff appearance. A front stiffener, called a busk, was typically made of wood, horn, ivory, metal, or whalebone. This busk was carved into a thin knife shape and then inserted into the front bodice”.

n England stays were a part of a basic wardrobe of even working women. ‘The wives of journeymen tradesmen and shopkeepers, either wore leather stays or ‘full-boned’ stays. Worn every day for years and never washed; half laced and black as the post.”[14]

Corsets and the French Empire:

Skipping forward a bit to the 1500’s, after Catherine de Medici introduced corsets to France, the women of the French court wore them as undergarments.

Unlike bustiers, corsets come in two different styles: The under-bust corset ends beneath the breasts and requires a separate bra, while the over-bust corset covers at least part of the breasts. The word in French remained as ‘body’, but in the 17th century the term in England was “stays”.

Corsets-went-out-fashion-during-popularity-high-waisted

The French Empire in the 1700’s:

“By the 1770’s, fashionable French women began to wear a corset made of quilted linen and without bones. They were fastened in front with strings or ribbons.”[15] 

The French, ‘Ladies Magazine’ wrote an article in 1785. In this, it informed the English women that “the French ladies never wear more than a quilted waistcoat”. “The custom of imprisoning children in heavily boned stays was also disappearing”.

The Enlightenment Campaigns of Napoleonic France proclaimed “liberty and equality”. This played a role in loosening the stays. Thus high-waist neoclassical gowns came into fashion. Obviously, women still had waistlines but they no longer emphasized that part of the body. They focused on the bosom instead!

 

Victorian Corsets:

Yet, after a brief period of freedom at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, fashion for high-waist empire gowns was declining. The boned corset reappeared around 1800 and spread throughout society. The French term “corset” was first used in England about 1820. Until then, English speakers called a corset a “pair of bodies” or a “pair of French bodies”; somewhat like a ‘second skin’.

Long, heavily boned corsets continued to be worn by English women. Modesty and corsets were closely associated with sexual morality by the English.

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Corsets were also considered a medical necessity in the early 19th century. It was thought that women were too fragile to stand without support. Little girls as young as 3 or 4 years old were laced into tiny corsets. After years of being continuously laced up, however, their backs were weakened. By the time they reached their teens, they were unable to sit or stand without the support of a corset.

 

 

 

Victorian Corsets and Tight-lacing:

It really wasn’t until the 1830’s that the hourglass shape came into fashion. This gave Victorian corsets the dual purpose of cinching the waist and supporting the bust. In the mid-1800’s, the fashionable shape was an exaggeratedly curvaceous hourglass with a tiny waist.

This is when real tight-lacing became popular. These tightly laced corsets deformed the internal organs and forced shallow breathing. The results were a lot of fainting; thus the need for smelling salts to revive the fainting ladies in repose.

Tightly laced corsets and the problems that came with them were an affliction unique to the rich. Only the ladies who were higher in class and did not have to work could wear such restrictive clothing. Working class women wore looser corsets and lighter clothing that allowed for more movement.

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Edwardian Corsets:

The early 20th century brought a change in corset shape in response to concerns about pressure on the stomach area. The new straight-front corset, also known as the S-bend corset, the swan-bill corset, or the health corset.

It featured a rigid busk that ran the entire length of the front of the corset. This gave the effect of a very flat front, forcing the hips to jut out in back.

However, the unnatural posture it forced upon the wearer resulted in many back problems. It actually caused more injury than its waist-cinching predecessor. Thus the style only lasted about ten years, from 1900 to 1910.

Around 1908 fashion changed to favor a more natural waistline and narrower hips. This, along with the advent of rubber and elastic fabrics, made way for girdles and brassieres.

 

Corsets in the 21st Century:

At one point the United States government asked women to refrain from buying corsets.

It’s true… it was just after entering World War I, and this single move freed up 28,000 tons of steel for use in war production. It also gave rise to the popularity of brassieres and girdles. Women’s roles in society changed as well in this time period. More women delayed marriage to seek an education, leaving corsets to overweight and pregnant women.

Garconne fashion and the prized boyish body shape of the 1920’s saw little call for corsets, as women used girdles to minimize the hips, and bras to minimize the breasts.

Soon came the fifties and a new appreciation of all things feminine. Dior’s “New Style” celebrated womanly curves, favoring a tiny waist and wide hips. This sparked a return in popularity of the corset which lasted until the rise of flower power and hippie bra-burning sentiments of the 1960’s and 70’s.

 

Corsets and Bustiers:

What is the difference between corsets and bustiers? It’s a question we often get at Sultry Lady Corsets, where we specialize in custom made, beautifully embellished, one of a kind corsets and bustiers. The answer to the question is that while corsets and bustiers look similar, in construction and function they differ.

Corsets have more structured than the bustier. The bustier lifts your breasts to accentuate cleavage, but don’t do much, if anything, to hold in your stomach. The corset doesn’t just enhance cleavage, it also cinches you in so that your waist and torso look slimmer.

The contemporary corset is closer in style to the corsets and bustiers that were popular in the Victorian era. This is when the hourglass figure became a measure of feminine desirability. These shape-shifting corsets used back-lacing to pull the waist into some improbably small sizes. They included boning to keep the garments stiff and supportive.

 

Celebrities and Corsets:

The current popularity of corsets and bustiers in history began in 1983 after Madonna appeared in concert wearing a silk corset. The demand for corsets and bustiers took off like wildfire. The underwear-as-outerwear trend has not stopped since. Her famous corset designed by Jean Paul Gaultier for her Blond Ambition tour, later sold at auction in London for more than £30,000–about $52,000– in 2012.

Modern corsets are mostly, though not completely, a fashion statement. The shape is complementing and showcasing the natural feminine form rather than trying to manipulate or transform it. To all corset-wearing women, it is a symbol of beauty and femininity.

Corsets are a favorite way to do this. Some celebrities spotted donning corsets include Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, BeonceKeira Knightley, Kylie Minogue, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Victoria Beckham, to name just a few.

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sweetheart corset-Beyonce

 

Corsets as a Fashion Statement Today:

Contemporary corsets and bustiers have come a long way from the extremely constrictive Victorian style. The garments are now seductive and comfortable. The desire is to showcase the assets, not change them.

Bustiers worn as lingerie are a much more recent design than corsets.  Made of flexible fabric with stretch panels, they are much less restrictive.

Bustiers often have bras built into them – with or without underwires. They are usually shorter than corsets, ending at the waist or just above it. You will often see the term long-line bra used interchangeably with a bustier.

With so many choices and so much freedom in fashion today, the corset remains a fashion mainstay. It is a fail-proof way to make a statement and honor the feminine form.

 

Informational Resources:

The Corset, A Cultural History:  by Valerie Steele

Clothing in Elizabethan England:   Liza Picard