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Why Corsets Are So Expensive

We are a society that thrives on merchandise. Every day we are confronted with new things to buy. If you have the extravagant taste of a connoisseur you may ask yourself why some corsets are so expensive? In contrast, if there is a comparable item, what makes one cost more?

Some of the items we buy in life are produced to make our life easier, while some of them are just for show. There are things to make you feel good and others to make you look better, younger, and feel happier.

Ferrari

While most of these things may start out as a new idea that someone has come up with, be it a design for a new purse or a tailgate on a new truck, they all have a beginning. From there the item gets refined, improved upon, copied and enhanced. The price may start out as minimal or exorbitant, depending on how much it initially cost to produce it.

But how do we get to the decision making step in the first place?

It Finally Happened

It finally happened, your favorite shoes have taken their last breath. No more coaxing can revive them. The heels are worn and the leather is tired, therefore no amount of sprucing will improve them. You’ve been dreading this time for decision making. Your old shoes are now considered vintage. You had a bond with them like an old pair of slippers. They have carried you through many good times and you will mourn their passing.

The company no longer produces the style or color you have. Now you will have to choose another pair that you are not familiar with. And most importantly, because you may have the new ones for a long time, you are careful about your decision-making process. You do thorough research and weigh your options.

Christian Louboutin shoes

The models you have been looking at are unsimilar. They are a different style with a different look, a higher heel and peculiar material. Decisions galore overwhelm you.

The new shoes can make or break an outfit! It becomes overwhelming you begin to wonder if you should just look for something else entirely. You really just want a good looking pair of shoes. A pair of shoes that are comfortable and don’t leave you wondering if it will match this outfit or that one. You want shoes that you don’t have to think about first thing in the morning with a foggy head.

Daily Decisions

In conclusion, while I am hopefully amusing you with my story of the search for a new pair of shoes, I have made you aware of some of the choices we make on a daily basis.

While not all of these choices are of utmost importance, some are. Some of them are simple choices that won’t alter your lifestyle. Some of them may send a significant jolt to your bank account.

Cost Relevance to Quality

Let’s take the example of the new shoes. While researching information about shoes online we can see that there are literally thousands to choose from. They range from very simple to the exclusive. Furthermore, the price range is adjusted accordingly.

Some people believe that the cost of an item is relevant to the quality. Whereas this may not always be the case, the final decision is based on their opinion.

Why Quality is Expensive

Some people just want to pay more. Some want the unique and rare that is seldom seen. They also may want to have something that others cannot afford. Or perhaps something that no one else has. Because of this, there is always the market for the expensive.

Opus One Wine

The exclusive comes at a high price, however. Be it perfume, shoes, a fine wine, jewelry, or cars, everything has a value attached to it. The value of the exclusive is usually based more on desire than need, because it makes you feel good about yourself.

The Reason for the Decision

How do we come to the final decision? First, you must decide the reason for wanting the item in the first place.

Sometimes you want to spend the extra money to have something entirely exclusive, and other times you want to just fill out your wardrobe.

Some days you dress to impress, and other times you stay in and wear sweatpants.

What About Corsets

Ditta Von Teese

Now let’s relate this to corsets as this is my specialty. Corsets are an exclusive and unique fashion item. Because they are a fashion item that is not worn every day. They can, however, be an awe-inspiring fashion statement. Perhaps you want an addition to your wardrobe that will make others stand up and notice. Corsets can show off curves that you didn’t think you had, with an instant waist reduction.

A striking corset can instantly stop conversations and have everyone reaching for their cell phones. Speechless, stunning, and impressive, are the words on the lips of the onlookers. Cameras are recording and the envy is significant.

Let’s Make a Comparison

In short, I have been asked why corsets are so expensive. “Why should I pay upwards of a thousand dollars for something that I can get for two-hundred dollars somewhere else?” you ask.

Well first you must do your homework. Most importantly, are the two items that are so far apart in price really comparable in quality?

Do you get the same customer service, amenities, and quality when you purchase Honda as you do a Mercedes? I should say not. That is not to say that one is completely inferior to the other. They are simply different purchases for different reasons.

If you are purchasing a pecocky corset to wear to a costume party, then you may not want to fork over a lot of money. However, if you desire a corset that you will wear many times, you will want one that fits correctly and is well made.

Custom Corsets

First, let’s understand the word ‘custom’. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, custom, is defined as “something made or performed according to personal order”.

So what does a ‘custom-made corset’ actually mean?

A custom corset is a corset made to your measurements and design specifications. This involves a process that will require you to have some involvement. The design can be as outlandish and inspiring as your imagination.

Many hours are required to produce a custom corset before the final model is finished. But as with any custom item, the cost is equal to the amount of customization you desire.

Basic Steps of a Custom Corset

To begin a custom corset there are four basic steps:

1 .   You provide your measurements to the corset maker using the outline and charts they provide. This is usually a simple and straightforward process but takes a little time, and requires the assistance of a friend.

2.   Together with the designer, you will come to a conclusion about what design you would like. The type of fit you want to have is usually based on the reason for your purchase. Is it for a special occasion, for whittling down your waistline, or just to have a one-of-a-kind outfit? The helps to determine a cost estimate for you. This process can be done by email or by phone.

3.   A mockup is constructed for your fitting once the measurements have been determined. This is not as complicated as it sounds. The mockup can then can be mailed out, with photos sent back to the designer. Or you may be able to have an in-person fitting. Some corsetieres charge for this while some do not. 

4. The actual construction of the corset begins when the correct fit has been achieved.
Most corset makers pay particular attention to the branding of their company name and incorporate labeling into the construction of their corsets. This is their reputation at stake after all.

Initial Mockup

The Corset Construction

Now that you have started the process of the corset with the measurements and fit required, the construction process begins.

First of all, a corset is unlike most garments as the fully lined corset is like putting together a down jacket but with a precise fit. Each garment has two layers identical to each other that are sewn together back to back. That is where the similarities between the corset and the down jacket ends however. With the down jacket, each section is then stuffed with the soft down material and the finishing touches are completed. With a corset however, there are many steps to be completed before the final project is done.

Before the Start

Because a corset is a garment that requires a considerable amount of time to construct a good corset maker takes his or her time. To rush the process could mean skipping a necessary step completely. To do so could mean wasting the entire project to start over again.

The fabric needs to be prepared by finishing the edges or pressing the material in advance. All materials are usually gathered in advance to make sure the proper items are on hand.

The items used in the construction of a corset are not common items that can be found in a local sewing store. The correct size of busk needs to be purchased, as well as specific grommets and often special lacing. These specialty items can only be purchased through a place that supplies corset items. Stiffener and interfacing are specific items that make a well made corset stand out from the others.

The Busk Insertion

There is a variety of terminology used when referring to a corset today. Many people mistakenly refer to a corset-top as a corset when the two are worlds apart. For a garment to be correctly known as a corset it must encompass a busk in the front and also have lacing at the back.

The busk consists of the metal pieces in the front that close the finished corset. It has hooks shaped like loops on one side and small buttons or pins on the other.

It takes time and precise measuring to get the busk installed correctly as it is sewn inside the center front sections. Once it is installed it cannot be moved or changed without damaging the garment.

The Inner Layers

The interfacing and inner layers are added to the corset next. Sometimes multiple layers of stiffening and structure are added to make a fully bespoke item.

Depending on the corset being constructed, the interfacing may be attached or sewn onto the lining or outside layers of fabric at this point as well.

As with everything else in a corset, many different types of interfacing can be used. Heavy interfacing made with goat hair, which is used in men’s suits, can be found inside the quality made corsets.

Fusible interfacing may be used on outside fabrics that may need extra structure. Another time extensive item is the hand stitching that may be needed to hold the various layers in place correctly.

Inside of southwestern corset-Sedona
Sultry Lady Corsets

Finishing the Waist

Before the boning is added many seamstresses add a cloth tape or ribbon at the waistline. This is sewn onto the inside at the waistline for additional support. This is done to keep the corset from pulling apart when the tight lacing is done for waist restriction. Because of this, your corset will last longer.

Sometimes the waistline tape is added later, depending on the preference of the seamstress or designer.

The Boning

The boning channels are stitched in next or boning tape is added. Every piece of boning requires its own space to sit correctly. Each seam needs to be precise to have a beautiful finish. It will be quite obvious the more precise and exacting the seamstress is. 

With corsets that have a bra cup design at the bust there may be a special underwire for the bust section. This requires not only a separate boning channel for the underwire but often there is additional padding under the bust section as well.

Setting the Boning

Once the outside and inside sections are sewn together and the boning channels are sewn in, the boning needs to be inserted. Each and every individual piece of boning needs to be cut to the exact size for the corset to be exceptional.

The ends of the boning need to be finished or protected so that they do not cut the corset fabric during wear. This is done with a variety of methods, dependent on the type of boning used. Sometimes this is done with special stitching that is sewn on the outside by hand to hold the boning in place.

Many modern corset makers use a variety of boning types in one individual corset. This requires different techniques in finishing each piece of boning.

The Back

Now that the front busk is in, the interfacing added, sections are sewn together, and the boning is inserted, it is time to complete the back.

The back will typically have many grommets attached to each side for the lacing to go through. As with the front, precise measuring must be done to ensure correct placement of the grommets.

A machine is used to attach the grommets securely in place. If they are not attached correctly, the grommets will come out during wear or the lacing or unlacing of the corset.

After the grommets have been placed, lacing is added to the back for proper closure. A variety of lacing types can be used from satin ribbon to nylon cord. Some corsetieres use various ways that they lace the corset together at the back. This is done for uniqueness and design.

The Finished Edges

At this point the top and bottom edges are finished with an edging fabric. If there is fabric that goes up to or wraps around the neck, this needs to be added before the finishing edges now.

Finishing Touches

Now we are close to the final completion.

If there is a modesty panel in back this will be added at this point or sooner if the designer deems it necessary.

Any additional embellishments are added at this point for the final look.

Any necessary hand stitching may be done for support or design. Hand beadwork is applied as desired. The most noteworthy labels can be sewn on by hand or by sewing machine during the process.

 Many labor intensive hours and attention to detail have gone into the corset. It is an exclusive garment that cannot be changed, and the size cannot be altered.

So Why So Expensive?

Below is an outline of the cost of a simple overbust corset with no embellishments as provided on the website of
Electradesigns: https://corsetmakers.livejournal.com/288314.html?replyto=2812730

  • How Much it Costs to Make Your Corset
  • (based on over-bust corset with no embellishment)
  • Price of over-bust corset with no embellishment $275
  • Corset Materials
  • 1 yd fashion fabric $15
  • 1.5 yd twill $11
  • .5 yd binding fabric $4
  • Grommets $5
  • 10 yd Boning $15
  • Boning tips $2
  • Busk (regular) $15
  • 8 yd Ribbon laces $10
  • 12 yd Twill tape $5
  • 3 yd fusible webbing $6
  • 1 roll fusible webbing $2
  • 2 spool heavy duty thread $5
  • Drafting paper $1
  • ___________________
  • Basic materials $96
  • Mockup materials:
  • 1 yd cotton duck $7
  • Thread $1
  • Boning $1
  • laces $3______________________
  • Basic materials $12
  • Total materials Costs: Approx $108
  • Labor for each corset:
  • pattern draft 5 hours
  • sourcing materials 5 hours
  • making mockup 5 hours
  • altering pattern 2 hours
  • make corset 40 hours+
  • email correspondence 5 hours+
  • Post office 1 hour
  • _______________________________
  • hours on each corset 63 hours
  • $275 Corset price
  • -$108 Materials Costs
  • _____
  • $167 for labor
  • Divide $167 by 63 hours of labor = $2.65 hour for skilled labor
  • Now let’s say you didn’t count the time spent responding to client email, sourcing materials, trips to the post office, etc. That’s about 50 hours spent on each corset., which comes to $3.34 an hour. That’s half the minimum wage in America.
  • Equipment:
  • sewing machine
  • sewing machine attachments
  • pattern drafting tools
  • sewing tools
  • steel bone cutting tools
  • industrial grommet setter
  • iron/ ironing board
  • electricity
  • workspace
  • storage space
  • file cabinet
  • washing machine/ dryer
  • drafting table
  • books
  • Education/ Experience
  • Two years of FIDM fashion design major ($60,000)
  • 15 years corset making
  • 18 years sewing
  • pattern drafting
  • fashion illustration
  • technical flats
  • custom tailoring
  • artist
  • Additional Expenses:
  • PayPal fees
  • Ebay fees
  • Web site fees
  • Internet 
  • Model/ Photographer
  • Web hosting fees
  • Computer software
  • Shipping for materials
  • Advertising
  • Sample corsets

Custom Corsets Made by Corsetieres


Whereas some of the items that were used in the making of their corsets are a different quality from other corset makers, the basic cost is comparable. Because each corset is somewhat or sometimes completely different, the cost of time and materials vary considerably.

Most corset makers use certain items in each and every corset they make. As a result, they have reliable quality in their products. Outer materials vary considerably, while interfacing, lining materials, boning, and finishing touches are consistent.

Some corsetieres send their designs off to a manufacturer to be produced on an assembly line. Other custom corset makers do each and every item by hand themselves.

The Cost of a Well Made Corset

Hopefully this has given you a peek into the process of a well made corset. The next time you ask “why is this corset so much more expensive than the other ones”, perhaps you will have a better understanding.

As with that pair of shoes that you are hoping to buy, you get what you pay for. Quality does not come cheap. Much more goes into the production of a well made item.

Finally, it is up to you to decide if you want the item that is better made, more exclusive, yet more costly. Only you can decide if that Yeti cooler is worth the money or the Rolex watch is within your budget.

actor Billy Porter at the Oscars

The Realized Dream

The news reporter Robin Abcarian writes in her article on actor Billy Porter and ‘His fashion statement’, “Just like the fashion runways of the world, the Oscars red carpet is a fashion fantasy land. For the fantasy to work, everyone must buy in”.

Billy Porter is best known for his performance as Lola in the musical production of “Kinky Boots”. His attention grabbing works from television to the theater have taken him to the red carpet many times.

For Billy Porter it was a realized dream of wearing a voluminous ball gown on the red carpet at the Oscars. “I’ve always wanted to wear a ball gown” he says, “I just didn’t know when“.

Share the Elation

In the article written by Robin Abcarian he continues, expressing his elation at having the gown custom made for him by designer Christian Siriano. The first time he tried it on he says “I felt alive. I felt free. And open, and radiant. And Beautiful! Which has not always been the case for me. I haven’t always felt so good about myself. It really is astonishing how much of an effect clothes can have on your spirit.” He finished with the emotions he felt on Oscar night by relating, “I felt like I can float on air. I can conquer the world.”

We all have that opportunity. So what’s in your closet?

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Breasts Revealed: The History of Breasts in Fashion

Female breasts are often seen as highly taboo. Even innocuous activities such as public breastfeeding can garner controversy and public disapproval. Society hasn’t always had such a prudish take on this natural, necessary body part. In fact, delving into history, they were used as a sexy fashion accessory or political statement.

The Cultural Significance of Cupid’s Kettledrums

Breasts have been turning heads just about as long as women have had them. The practical function of breasts, feeding babies, is often ignored due to the weighty cultural significance they hold.

Mary breastfeeding Jesus

Breasts signify the onset of sexual maturity, symbolize motherhood and embody the beauty of the female form. In religious art, they play a prominent role. There are numerous paintings of Madonna nursing the Christ child. And more of nude statues of ancient goddesses concealing their genitals but displaying their breasts proudly. Even legends offered a nod towards the incredible natural power of a woman’s breasts. Such as the legend of Pero keeping her own father alive when he was sentenced to starvation.


Thanks for the Mammaries!

Breasts have often been associated with motherhood and religion. But they have also been a flirty fashion statement for centuries. Ancient Egyptian women, for example, wore elaborate jeweled dresses designed specifically to show off their breasts. As time passed, social and cultural norms changed, especially in the Western world.

By the 15th century, fashionistas were increasingly showing off “nature’s fonts”. In fact, some of those most stylish ladies, especially at court, became quite well known for their fashion derring-dos.

Madonna


While Western women didn’t necessarily have a “let it all hang out” attitude, breasts were definitely on display more.

Early modern Europeans and Americans had a bit of a Madonna-Whore complex when it came to breasts. Mothers and queens could bare their bosoms without fear of social judgment. For them, breasts signified purity and the nurturing relationships between mothers with their babies and queens with their countries. Mistresses and prostitutes were also known to share their “three-penny bits”. These women however, had somewhat fewer notions of purity and a lot more implications of fun.


Courtly Cleavage


Whether a woman was a queen, mistress or courtier, court fashions tended to expose a considerable amount of cleavage. Possibly far more than we’re used to seeing even today. Agnes Sorel, the darling of King Charles VII’s court and the first officially titled mistress, made many bold statements. She made cleavage a hot commodity in the rarified style world of the 15th-century court.

Agnes Sorel

Royal mistresses weren’t just “the other woman” in those days. The mistresses often played important political and personal roles at court and were considered trendsetters. As the maitresse-en-titre, Sorel was no exception. She’d deliberately wear her bodice open with glittering jewels to better frame her shapely breasts. Her daring couture coups set tongues wagging and shocked the more buttoned-up courtiers. It also ignited a trend however. One that continues today with models on the runway and celebs at awards shows.

Renaissance fashion

By the 16th century, women were wearing low-cut dresses as a rule rather than a flirty exception. An extra dose of titillation was added with specially made cosmetics that would deepen the color of their areolae. This could heighten their sex appeal. Stays, later known as corsets, were used to flatten and support the torso during this time period. Later on they had the added benefit of creating an alluring swell of breasts above the stays.

While French and Venetian courts were more open-minded regarding partial nudity, English courtiers were a little more reticent. Women who wanted to get in on the risque look could soften the dramatic effect. A peek a boo of their exposed bosoms could be displayed by adding a gauzy scarf. Over time, even these modest adjustments were left by the wayside as women embraced the trend.

Busts and Bustiers 

A simple “nip slip” or flashing carried with it a certain daring but was still considered socially acceptable. This was particularly seen in the elite and aristocratic classes. The right garments made breast exposure not just possible but highly desirable. Although generally considered an undergarment, corsets were often just as decorative as the dresses worn over them. Many displayed luxe brocade, decorative embroidery and other beautiful details. Corsets can create curves which not only emphasize the breasts, but also nip in the waist and create robust hips.


Earlier corsets tended to be long with shoulder straps. This ensured a straight posture and high breasts. These corsets were prized for the contrast they created, with a flat torso and rounded breasts. The style was equally effective whether women had large or small breasts. Eventually,
near the end of the 18th century, corsets began to shrink into something resembling bustiers. This created the alluring shape so many women still crave today.

Victorian era

By the Victorian era, breasts had become a little more outré. Even the slightest hint of decolletage being considered risque in the extreme. Women covered up more with their dresses often reaching their necks. Still, that didn’t mean women were moving away from their natural shape. If anything, they had found new ways to emphasize their curves, using sleek styling, cinched waists, and voluminous bustles. 

From Bubbies to Boobs

Women’s bodies have come a long way over the years. Today’s women are just as stylish in sleek yoga pants or workout wear as they are in business suits and formal wear. Shapewear has taken the place of busks and girdles for many women. But corsets will continue to enjoy a certain amount of popularity and sex appeal.

Emma Watson

A corset can create out-of-this-world curves and offer strong support for good posture and day-to-day activities. A stunningly sexy corset can be worn on the top of your clothing or undercover. An intimate environment calls for a corset in place of your clothing.

Charliz Theron

 

Maybe it’s time to start channeling your inner Agnes Sorel with your own daring, vintage-inspired, breast-emphasizing corset!

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The Progress of Fashion-Part 4

The Progress of Fashion-Part 4

A Hot Date for Saturday Night

You have a hot date lined up for Saturday night. It’s opening night for the Broadway production of Kinky Boots. You’re full of excitement with the anticipation of the upcoming evening. Subsequently, what is one of the first things that you will think of in preparation for this date?

Micah Gianelli

“What will I wear?”

What we will be wearing is always first and foremost in the front of our mind. Whether we are trying to make an impression or we are dressing for the weather, what we have on our body is of importance.

Thus we follow the progress of fashion.

Fashion and Style of Dress

Has it always been like this for people? How did all this worry and concern about the progess of fashion and our style of dress come about anyway?

While this is a vast and complicated subject that could take hours to discuss, I am going to briefly go through the timeline of the ever changing world of fashion.

This is the last of a four-part series discussing styles throughout history and the progress of fashion.   

Part 1: Earliest Known Evidence of Clothing

In the first of my four-part blog, I raised a few questions about the progress of fashion. Why have people always been so concerned about the type of clothes they wear? I portrayed the earliest known evidence of clothing. 

In the beginning, we know that the first coverings were made from primitive elements that could be found in the environment where a person lived. As a result, this meant that plants and animals were used extensively.

Created out of necessity, the garments functioned purely to cover the body for modesty, protection and warmth.

Animal furs and the various plants at hand were put to good use. Later, fabrics made of shorn animal fur or plant fibers were woven into yards of materials. These were usually draped loosely over the body and fastened with crude but functional elements.

The Changing of the Wardrobe

So why did they continue to change their wardrobe when it was perfectly functional as it was? Maybe it was the desire to spice things up, or maybe they just had time on their hands, we’ll never really know.

What we do know is that various fibers from both plants and animals were further enhanced to create beautiful fabrics. From this fabric clothing could then be designed and constructed into delightful and often elaborate outfits.

Fibers and the Fabrics Made From Them

Wool made from the furs of sheep, alpaca, goats, rabbits and camels has always been a good stand by for fabrics and the garments made from them. Wool accepts colored dyes well and has proven to be an excellent insulator. It’s proven to be durable and stand the test of time.

Cotton fabric is made from fibers pulled from the cotton plant. “Cotton fabric is soft, breathable and absorbs and releases moisture quickly”. [1]  Therefore cotton is a user-friendly fabric that is used extensively.

silk worm

“Silk fabric is made by collecting filaments from a mulberry silk moth’s cocoon, combining the output from four to eight cocoons into a single strand of raw silk”.  “Fabrics made from silk was first produced in China around 3000 B.C. Silk textiles have been found in ancient Chinese and Egyptian tombs”. [2]

“Linen textiles appear to be some of the oldest in the world: their history goes back many thousands of years”. Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant. Consequently, linen is a very durable fabric which has many uses.

linen harvest

Linen fabric is laborious to manufacture, but is very strong, absorbent and dries faster than cotton. Garments made of linen are valued for their exceptional coolness and freshness in hot and humid weather”. [3] 

Fabrics in Color

Once it was discovered that these fabrics could be dyed using plants, roots and berries, a whole new world opened up to the budding fashionistas.

dyed yard

After learning the types of fabrics that people are using we are left with a question. Does the clothing a person wears display intelligence or moral character?

Part 2: Clothing Worn Around the World

In Part Two of this blog I went over the different types of clothing worn around the world. This often varied greatly with the climate, the objects that they had on hand to embellish their garments, and religious differences.

Doris Imalenowa in traditional African dress.

Some of the clothing designs displayed brightly colored and heavily embellished garments. Perhaps it can be said that the people of this type of clothing were happy and upbeat in personality.

Happy Victorian girls
somber Victorian ladies

Meanwhile, others had very plain and simple frocks showing a more somber, and serious disposition. Consequently, from this, we could get a peek into their possible personality types. 

Part 3: Uniforms and Clothing Worn to Work

Part Three discussed the value of making a lasting impression while following the progress of fashion. While the clothing you wear in your own home may not be that important, don’t discount the encouragement you can feel with your clothing choice. Above all, a better clothing choice can make you feel like a happier person.  

I made note that uniforms in many businesses have been created for work environments. This is to set individuals apart from everyday people.

We often have a different opinion of a person in uniform than we do of someone in casual clothing.

Most noteworthy however, I have shown that 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.

 Part 4: The Progress of Fashion

In conclusion, as we wrap things up with our modern day perspective, have we changed our opinions along with our fashions?

The love-and-adornment-of-self did not begin with our modern day social media. We have had thousands of generations to fine tune the art of narcissism.

Thus began the origin of fashion design. Not to be outdone, the competition commenced. Not only did the types of fabrics used play a big role, but the colors and various embellishments were of utmost importance.

Does this make us vain and self centered? Well, yes and no. It is certainly not self centered to want to dress comfortably for the weather. Nor is it out of line to dress appropriately for the occasion or dress to be noticed once in awhile. Dressing sharp makes a person feel good about themselves and self confidence is important to well being.

Being consumed about dressing to be noticed each and every time you go out in public may become a problem however. The problem with your bank account could be number one. And then there is the deflated ego when you are not noticed in the way you anticipated.

With research in published studies by Forbes Magazine, it was found that “What we wear speaks volumes in just a few seconds. Dressing to impress really is worthwhile and could even be the key to success.”

So how did simple dressing become so complicated? 

Let’s start with Fashion as far back as the 14th century when things really started to get interesting.

The Renaissance: 14th -17th Centuries

The Renaissance began in FlorenceItaly, in the 14th century.[4]  This Renaissance — or rebirth — also hailed the beginning of a new era in clothing, when one’s station in life was often determined almost exclusively by apparel. Sumptuary laws prohibited who could wear what, making it easy to judge people simply by what they wore.

However, “Sumptuary laws were rarely enforced. The poverty endured by the lower classes was enough to prevent them from attempting to imitate their betters. Finer fabrics and embellishments increased with the wealth of the wearer.” [8] 

In this we notice that clothing makes a large distinction between the haves and the have-nots. Most noteworthy is that a distinction was always made between the rich and the poor.

 “Italy, Germany, England and France each had their own distinctive looks during the Renaissance” writes Scott Robinson of Central Washington University.

So while the class distinction continued, it varied from one country to the next.

Corsets Worn During Medieval 14th to 15th Centuries

Iron Corset

Catherine de’ Medici certainly had an incredible influence over the clothing worn at the time. Considered to be the originator of the steel cage corset, “On top of it all this formidable woman influenced fashion for the next 350 years by banning thick waists at court” “Since then waists were diminished by whale bones and steel cages”. [6]

Elizabethan Era 1558-1603

During the Elizabethan Era, between 1558-1603, sumptuary laws restricted commoners to garments of only one color and of mostly rough unrefined linen. The wealthy upper class could wear multiple colors, fabrics and jewels however, putting their wealth on display.   

On an interesting note, yellow was a popular color in 1510. That is until prostitutes began to wear the color hence it soon fell out of desire with the wealthy.

Enter the 1700’s

Hoop skirt and corsets remained the mainstay for women to display the female form. “The French aristocracy clung to the lavish displays of court fashion just as they held on to their luxurious lifestyles, despite changes in the economy. They ended up racking up debt as high as their hairdos”. [7]

Court etiquette demanded rigid, formal attire. Women wore corsets that accentuated an extremely stiff posture. Called stays, corsets were made of stiffened fabric with boning in front and back. They laced in back, in front, or at the sides. Court costume was made of high quality, expensive materials including silks, satins, and taffeta”. [7]

French fashion in 1700

As we have learned, America leaned heavily on the styles of European fashion as a representation of haute couture.

“By the mid-1760s, women’s magazines (in America) offered even rural women glimpses of current styles”. Because of this, it “gave women the ability to become fashion consumers” while remaining countrified.

1800’s -1900’s Fashion  

“1880  was the decade of severely tight and restrictive corsetry that was worn under dressed (sic) with long bodices, tight sleeves and high necks”.[9] Pleating was evident in most dresses and skirts and a dress could easily weigh from 15 to 20 pounds.

 “During the 19th-century men retained the white waistcoat and black tail-coat and trousers of the early 19th century for evening wear”. [9]

So as we can see from this, there was a standard of dress for both men and women that was adhered to on a daily basis. What was worn in the home also differed from what was worn in public. There was also  a change in clothing from day to evening.

Our Fashion Standard for Today

From here on out we will talk of the American ideals and our form of dress in the progress of fashion.

By far the majority of our fashion ideas and icons here in America have stemmed from European beginnings. Therefore, we have followed the hierarchy of European court dress throughout our history to a degree.

Standard of Dress

Up until after World War Two there was a certain form or style that was typically followed by most people as a standard of dress. Women wore skirts and dresses, men wore pants and jackets or suits.

garment factory circa 1950

This changed with varying degrees as the age of industrialization came into play. Clothing began to be mass produced in factories. As a result, this made it possible for more variety in the wardrobe.

World War Distinction 1914-1946

The war times produced a military look to clothing with an emphasis on suits for both men and women. Pride in our nation was paramount hence this was displayed in both clothing and patriotic attitude.

1940’s fashion

Corsets were set aside to assist in war efforts. Elastic garments called girdles then came into play to enhance the female figure. “Shortly after the United States’ entry into World War I in 1917, the U.S. War Industries Board asked women to stop buying corsets to free up metal for war production. This step liberated some 28,000 tons of metal, enough to build two battleships”. [11]

In the 1940’s “Men were still pretty dressed up. Suits, ties and hats were commonplace in public. Women wore dresses and skirts — they still didn’t wear slacks yet”.[12]

circa 940

“Another thing women ALWAYS wore: gloves. Preferably a pair that matches your outfit. Fur was very popular, as were animal skins. Crocodile purses, wombat collars, lambskin lining, and leather sleeves — no animal was off limits.”[12]

In short, after the end of World War 2, fashion trends took a distinct change.

The Years of 1950’s-1970’s

The website fondly named Retrowaste.com informs us of the vintage years of 1950’s-1970’s stating, “The important thing is that people were beginning to feel a little more freedom when it came to their fashion choices. No longer did people feel like they had to conform to a certain look for certain situations.” [13]

1950- After WW2-The First Decade

Marilyn Monroe

It was after the great economic depression and the first decade after World War 2. America was once again feeling prosperous and rejuvenated.

1950’s fashion

Clothing was still conservative for the most part, although a lot of satin and silk could be found on women along with polka dots, plaids, and floral prints. The daytime dresses were hemmed to the knees, but by evening they were usually long and flowing to the floor. Trim waistlines were shown off due to full circle skirts.

1960-The Decade of a Nation in Turmoil

The early sixties were more reminiscent of the 1950s — conservative and restrained; certainly more classic in style and design.” [14] The pressure and turmoil of a nation under stress had its effect however, and by the end of the decade a distinct change had taken place.

 “It’s almost like the 1950s bottled everyone up so much that the late 1960s exploded like an old pressure cooker. Women were showing more skin than ever before.” [14]

Fashion in 1960

First of all the assassinations of JFK and MLK shocked the nation. While civil rights movements were in full swing, we merged into the Vietnam War.

Experimentation with psychedelic drugs was rampant among the protesting youth, and the effects were heard in music as well as fashion styles.

Music Impact on Fashion

Music from the Beatles transformed our country. Because of this, any fashion styles that looked ‘straight out of London’ were in vogue. We were still in love with European fashion and “Groovy” became the word of the day.

By the mid to late 60’s “Bright, swirling colors, psychedelic, tie-dye shirts, long hair and beards were commonplace. Woman wore unbelievably short skirts and men wore tunics and capes.” [14] It seems our country had become bi-polar!

Also, men’s pants became flared at the bottom almost like women’s pants. It’s quite clear that at that time, women’s clothes were becoming more masculine while men’s clothes were becoming more effeminate.”[14]

1970- Over Population of Polyester

As 1970 entered the scene bright colors and polyester could be found everywhere. “Men and women alike were wearing very tight fitting pants and platform shoes. By 1973, most women were wearing high cut boots and low cut pants.” [15]

Donny & Marie Osmond

Almost every mans closet had a leisure suit and a few velour ones could be found as well. “And it is probably the first full decade in which women could be seen wearing pants in every walk of life.” [15]

1980-The Decade of Fashion Meltdown

By 1980 our country was exhibiting signs of a fashion meltdown. Designers lost all convention. Because of this, the outcome was interesting if not gaudy. Above all, it was a decade of ‘anything goes’.

Velour was hot and velvet was even hotter. For both men and women, the waistline was a little high.”[16] “It was an exceptionally flexible time when a woman could wear skin-tight cotton stirrup pants with leggings and a giant turtleneck sweater one day — and parachute pants with a small v-neck top and a high-waist belt the next.” [16]

1980’s era

Neon colors, as well as a lot of brown and tan, were worn on a daily basis. Block-shaped clothing, parachute pants, velour, and dressing like a tennis player, were all standard forms of dress. Thankfully denim continued to be a teenage mainstay. 

1990-The Time of Intensity

As we waved good bye to our troops heading off to the war in Iraq (AKA: Desert Storm) beginning in 1991, the military clothing styles slowly crept back into fashion. Hence camouflage material became the ‘in-look’ for civilians as well as the military.

Kim Kardashian leaves her home in SoHo, New York on February 9, 2015.

Clothing of this decade was loose and oversized on top with pant legs tapered in at the bottom. Women were thrilled that the old bell bottom pants from the last decade could be re-fashioned quite easily.

Teenagers pulled from Mom & Dad’s closet re-inventing the 1970’s look which was really hot again.

Rap music burst onto the scene with a younger turnout of musicians appearing. Generation X, hip hop and grunge attire made their first appearance. Flannel shirts and torn jeans re-emerged from hiding to the dismay of many parents. But the teenagers held fast to the look which still can be seen today.   

Dipset Boys

As the decade progressed, name brand designers re-emerged to the scene bringing sexy and glamorous styles back for the more discriminating fashion follower.

Fashion Today

So where does that leave us with fashion in our present day?

Well, after hundreds of years of fashion consciousness it seems we have finally reached a time period in history where “anything- goes”.

Chanel Fashion Line

Today, more than any other time in history we are witnessing a fashion acceptance of every style ever created. Gone are the standards that a person is expected to recognize in order to be considered in-fashion.  

Alstair Tombs of the University of Queensland, writes in his conference paper for a Global Fashion Management Conference, ‘Fashion is “me too”, style is “only me” Consumer preferences toward fast fashion and luxury fashion’: “The fashion industry has been dramatically transformed in the last 20 years with the introduction of fast fashion: a style of instant cutting edge fashion at affordable prices. Collectively the findings present strong supporting evidence that the differences in consumers’ need for uniqueness are likely to affect some fashion style preferences and not others”. “Fashion consumers are uniqueness seekers and have their own ways of portraying their individuality to society. (Workman & Caldwell, 2007) “.

“With the invention of cell phones along with social media, we have the evolution of a society that spans generations, in expressing their individuality.  They endeavor to interpret fashion trends and adopt the clothing style that suits their value and traits” writes Nithyapraksh Venkatasamy of the Bannari Amman Institute of Technology. [17]

Firstly, for the people in this era, it’s not just about throwing on some clothing to protect and cover themselves up. It is about self-expression and individuality. It’s about making a statement, sometimes even a political one.

We have certain fashion designers making bold political statements with their designs, and others boasting sustainability by using recycled and renewable materials.

And we have sports athletes that make protests using their work attire.

The tennis pro, Serena Williams, wore a green leotard on the court after having her previous ‘black catsuit’ banned from the game.

She then wore a black tutu to further her resistance to authority.  President Bernard Giudicelli said in the 500th issue of Tennis Magazine that stricter rules will be in place as ‘sometimes we go too far.’ 

PARIS, FRANCE – MAY 29: Serena Williams of USA during Day Three of the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros on May 29, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Serena Williams green leotard
Serena Williams in a Tutu on the court

People are using clothing as a means of expression more than ever before. But it’s not just about expressing your beliefs and emotions; it’s a cultural movement that is in full swing.

It’s a movement that says “look at me!” Are people feeling left out, or are they just wanting to be noticed more?

While viewing the everyday current headlines and social media strings we will see a little of both. It seems like everyone wants to make a statement one way or another.

But in all honesty, there are worse things than having our visual senses jolted by a person’s fashion statement.

I believe the fashion designer Ralph Lauren said it best. “Fashion is not necessarily about labels. It’s not about brands. It’s about something that comes from within you”.

Victoria Beckham attends her Flagship London Store in Mayfair.


References

[1] https://www.reference.com/beauty-fashion/cotton-made-fabric-36d339098e037173 How Is Cotton Made Into Fabric?

[2] https://www.reference.com/hobbies-games/silk-fabric-made-fb7b95352e47bc83 How Is Silk Fabric Made?

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linen Linen from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4]  Burke, P., The European Renaissance: Centre and Peripheries1998

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Medici Wikipedia, House of Medici

[6] https://corsethistory.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/its-all-catherine-de-medicis-fault/   History of Corsets

[7] https://bellatory.com/fashion-industry/Womens-Fashions-of-the-1700s by Dolores Monet

[8] https://bellatory.com/fashion-industry/Fashion-History-Clothinig-of-the-Early-Middle-Ages-Dark-Ages-400-900-CE by Dolores Monet

[9] https://prezi.com/px9toowamfqr/fashion-from-the-late-1800s-to-the-early-1900s  by Savannah Pesch

[10] https://bellatory.com/fashion-industry/Renaissance-Fashion-Womens-Clothing-in-Elizabethan-England by Dolores Monet

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_corsets Wikipedia

[12] https://www.retrowaste.com/1940s-fashion     1940s Fashion: Clothing Styles & Trends

[13] https://www.retrowaste.com/1950s/fashion-in-the-1950s  

[14] https://www.retrowaste.com/1960s/fashion-in-the-1960s

[15] https://www.retrowaste.com/1970s/fashion-in-the-1970s

[16] https://www.retrowaste.com/1980s/fashion-in-the-1980s

[17] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282571020_Fashion_trends_and_their_impact_on_the_society

[18] https://www.popsugar.com/fashion/Serena-Williams-Green-Bodysuit-Australian-Open-2019-45678912 Serena Williams’s Outfit Isn’t a Leotard — It’s a Badass “Serena-tard,” Thank You Very Much , 1-19-2019 by Victoria Messina

 

retro corset-Brandi-05-Sultry Lady Corsets

The Clothing We Wear-Part 1

The Clothing We Wear-Part 1

Are we emotionally affected by the clothing we wear? Does it reflect the inner workings of our mind, or is that taking things a little too far? Why does it matter what we wear? We know that people have been fashion conscious for thousands of years, so what has led us to the all-out obsession we have with fashion today?

I have always loved fashion myself. My motto is “fashion is my passion”. No matter what I work at in life I always seem to go back to fashion as my first love. It’s the inspiration that gets me excited. It is my way to feel and display my moods and emotions on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis. In my lifetime I have been in awe of the intricacies of clothing, astounded by various styles, and repelled by some trends. Why do people wear what they do? My mind is full of questions! My goal in this 4 part blog is to not only pique your interest but to educate as together we take a journey through time.

Tarkhan Dress- 5,100 to 5,500 years old

Let’s start with the Earliest Known Evidence of actual clothing.

As far back as man can date the presence and existence of our species on this earth we assume that clothing was worn. “There is very little archaeological evidence (however,) to determine the date that clothing (actually) started being worn”. [1] The findings that are based on theories, calculate it to be between 40,000 to 170,000 years ago. That’s a pretty wide-spread of time.

Proof of clothing

Eyed needles and various tools have been found which lead us to believe that clothing may have been fashioned from animal hides to cover and protect the body. Why do they think these tools were used for clothing instead of shelter? Scientists observed lice! “Scientists observed that clothing lice are, well, extremely well-adapted to clothing. They hypothesized that body lice must have evolved to live in clothing, which meant that they weren’t around before humans started wearing clothes. The findings of the study are significant because they show that clothes appeared some 70,000 years before humans started to migrate north from Africa into cooler climates.”[1]. The timing here would put a man in the era of the Ice Age. Ian Gilligan, a lecturer at the Australian National University, said: “Modern humans probably started wearing clothes on a regular basis to keep warm when they were first exposed to Ice Age conditions.”[1]

Clothing as protection

Okay, so we have determined that people have worn clothing for a very long time. Artifacts were found and the type of clothing or coverings, such as they were, were simple and basic in the beginning. They were initially made from the skins of animals and held together in a primitive fashion. These animal skin coverings served as protection against cold heat and rain.

But let’s delve a little further as things are bound to get interesting.

Beauty in the garments

The scientists dug a little more and extended their search. They determined that about 25,000 years ago, give or take a millennium, the clues and artifacts they found pointed to a weaving technology. Dyed fabrics made from various plant fibers and the wool from sheep has been discovered as well. “The earliest dyed flax fibres have been found in a prehistoric cave in the Georgia and date back to 36,000”. [5]

This meant that people were concerned with what they wore and how they looked. For that reason, they wanted variety and beauty in their garments. Their coverings may have been draped over the shoulder and secured with a belt at the waist, while they made a statement with their style. We have always been concerned about the clothing we wear.

Advances in Fashion

Then around the mid-1300’s big advances in fashion were made. Fashion began to get interesting. “For instance, clothing started to be made to form fit the human body, with curved seams, laces, and buttons. Contrasting colours and fabrics also became popular in England. From this time, fashion in the West began to change at an alarming rate, largely based on aesthetics, whereas in other cultures fashion typically changed only with great political upheaval, meaning changes came more slowly in most other cultures.” [1]

Fashion is now coming to the forefront. It’s not just a cover-up anymore. Different parts of the world are beginning to make a statement about who they are. “Look at me. I am different from you”, they say as they present themselves.

So Do the Clothes We Wear Reflect What’s Inside Us?

Kat Rectenwald, an anonymous writer in Germany states her opinion on a writers’ forum named Quora. “No, Your clothes reflect how you want to see yourself and be seen by the world around you. It reflects parts of your self-image, your social identity, your class and often your education, too. But don’t confuse any of this with what may be “inside” of people. Apart from your aesthetics and the above mentioned it doesn’t say a thing about who you are. You can’t draw any conclusion on a person’s intelligence, morals or character from this.” [2]

Good point Kat! But just because we can’t actually determine a persons’ “intelligence or moral character” from the clothes they wear, does that mean that we won’t form an opinion? Absolutely not. Many studies on fashion and clothing style have shown that it is human nature to form an instantaneous opinion of someone based on the way they dress.

 

Does Our Clothing Define Us

In an article by Phil Coomes, Picture Editor September 28, 2016, titled ‘Do the clothes we wear define us?’ we are presented with various people in different clothes which “Explores the way in which our clothes shape us, that outer shell we use to accentuate or sometimes hide who we are. The aim is to see how a viewer responds to the uniform and how it shapes their perception of that person – how we prejudge based on a uniform or a certain look and style.” A few of the photos which were shown at the No Walls Gallery as part of the Brighton Photo Fringe Festival are shown here:

FirefighterSarah, Midwife

Dani - Opera SingerBarrington - Entertainer

Our Observations

We observe a firefighter, nurse, entertainer and an opera singer in uniform and casual dress. All photographs courtesy Strand Collective.

So do you have a different opinion of the people in uniform as opposed to their casual dress? I think it is safe to say we all would draw our own conclusion based on the clothing style.

THE UNIFORM

At the blog site International Branding, the whole world knows your name, we observe the comment; “The uniform, although broadly defined, is not just confined to the military. It signifies what apparel is appropriate, practical, or preferable for different occupations and social groups. For that reason, our clothes define the role we are taking at any particular time. This certainly applies to both business and pleasure.  For instance, always dressing for work, would be regarded as eccentric, to say the least. In fact, our clothes say so much about who we are. Even refusing to follow trends gives a signal indicative of a way of thinking, which wants to be free and not conventional.” [3] We can see a very important consideration here. The mere refusal to follow the current trends can also be a way to define ourselves.

Opinions and Assumptions

In an article in Psychology Today magazine by Ben C. Fletcher D. Phil Posted Apr 20, 2013 entitled: What Your Clothes Might Be Saying About You, he writes; “our clothes say a great deal about who we are and can signal a great deal of socially important things to others, even if the impression is actually unfounded.” “It is important to choose our dress style carefully because people will make all sorts of assumptions and decisions about us without proper evidence. We are unlikely to know what these assessments are too, so it is quite possible that our clothes reveal more than we thought.”

The research found in published studies clearly shows that “What we wear speaks volumes in just a few seconds. Dressing to impress really is worthwhile and could even be the key to success.” [6]

our clothing and our thinking

So we’ve determined that our knowledge of the clothing and coverings that people have been wearing since the beginning has advanced considerably. We’ve gone from the wrap-and-stick-it animal skins to form-fitting clothing produced en masse by the factories of today.

But the questions remain unanswered. Do the clothes we wear emotionally affect us? Does it reflect the inner workings of our mind and why does it matter what we wear? We have proven that a simple animal skin would cover our bodies just as well as an haute couture designer dress. It would be warm and soft although certainly a bit smelly in the rain.

Continuing Our Quest

I ask that you stay with me as I continue the quest of why people wear what they do and how it affects us. In the next blog, we will venture more into the types of clothing worn during different time periods. Finally, we will follow the journey into the varied dress of different cultures from around the world.

When was the corset introduced and why did people seek out such a restrictive garment? And most noteworthy, why has the existence of the corset continued across the span of time.

Life is an amazing journey. The more you know the more interesting it gets.

Elie Saab Designer Dress

References with links:

[1] When People Started Wearing Clothes by Emily Upton September 12, 2013,

[2] Quora Forum

[3] International Branding, the whole world knows your name

[4] Fashion History – Clothing of the Early Middle Ages – Dark Ages 400 – 900 CE by Dolores Monet, Bellatory-Fashion and History

[5] History of clothing and textiles-by Wikipedia

[6] Psychology Today magazine, What Your Clothes Might Be Saying About You, Ben C. Fletcher D.Phil Posted Apr 20, 2013

[7] Letzuploadit displayed on YouTube: Do your clothes make a difference?! (RICH vs POOR) SOCIAL EXPERIMENT 2018

retro corset-Brandi-05-Sultry Lady Corsets

The Time of the Medieval Corset

Medieval Corsets

Many things were happening during the time of the medieval corset. “Centuries of Roman rule in Western Europe came crashing to an end in 476. The emperor was driven from his throne by barbarian invaders from the north. Soon after, hundreds of tiny kingdoms began to form in once Roman lands. Subsequent invasions by Vikings, Goths, Moors, and infighting between neighboring kingdoms began to change the nature of European life”.   From Medieval-Life.net

Clothing Worn During The Medieval Period

The medieval time period is known as the Middle Ages, and the Dark Ages. This time period lasted from approximately 500 AD to 1500 AD. By all accounts, this was a thousand years of war, famine, rigid class systems and rampant superstition mixed with religion. These were serious times, and accordingly, women of stature wore serious clothes. The fashion attire had many layers which included, a smock, hose, kirtle, petticoats, gown and surcoat, girdle, cape with hood and bonnet.

Mary Queen of Scots lived and died in the 16th century, but her wardrobe style was still medieval. (Did the Renaissance skip Scotland?). Mary was a threat to the throne and a staunch Catholic besides. Mary was beheaded on the order of  Queen Elizabeth in 1587. She was reportedly wearing only her undergarments. These were said to have been a velvet petticoat, a pair of sleeves in crimson-brown, and a black satin bodice with black trimmings.

Question: Notice anything missing from these lists?
Answer: Underpants! That’s right, medieval women actually went commando.

Considering the sheer number of layers worn at the time, going bare from the waist down beneath the medieval corset and petticoats was a practical idea. There was nothing to get in the way of a quick in and out, with the cuckolded spouse none the wiser. After all, secret trysts by their very nature have to be brief.  Just think about how long it would have taken for the eager lover to peel off all those layers!

The Medieval Corset

Medieval women sometimes wore “cotes,”. This was made of two stiffened layers of fabric and worn as an outer garment. Sometime around 1300, women’s styles began to be more revealing; the medieval corset was still in use but changing. Clothing was beginning to fit closer to the body. Fashion changed, necklines were lowered and the desired silhouette now had more curves.

In the desire to show off the waistline, steel, wood, whalebone or cane, were slipped into the seams. This part of the medieval corset was the ‘busk’. A busk is a piece of hardware placed into the center front of the corset that could be made of steel, wood, whalebone.

These busks fulfilled another function, as well: they served as love letters. The wooden or bone busks were often inscribed or carved with messages of heartfelt love. These busks were then given as gifts from the men to their lady loves. The ladies returned the favor by giving the laces from their medieval corset to their lovers. So far, we’ve got no underpants, wood stays inscribed with sexy messages and long laces to work with – hmm. . .

Factoid: a 12th-century illustration shows a demon wearing a medieval corset.

The outerwear medieval corset would end under the breasts, whether the corset was a straight, bust-to-waist design or an outerwear one that had shoulder straps and looked like a tight little vest that laced beneath the bust. Fabric choices for the medieval corset grew so that women of stature could choose ermine, taffeta or brocade and colors such as crimson and purple which denoted aristocratic lineage.

Petticoats in Medieval Times

Petticoats – the more the better – came into popularity sometime in the earlier 1500’s. These petticoats, worn under massive skirts to expand them outward,  were often attached to the medieval corset by laces. 

Around this time, too, the farthingale became a popular shaper. The farthingale was a hoop skirt made of metal banding. This metal skirt served to expand the outer skirt being worn.

“The French farthingale was introduced in England in the late 1570’s. Modern costumers conjecture that it probably consisted of one or more large hoops with horizontal stiffeners which radiated from around the waist in order to produce a flat platter-like shape when supported underneath by the “bumroll” or “French farthingale”.  these rolls were made of: they were stuffed with cotton and rags and stiffened with hoops of whalebone, wire or ropes made of bent reeds. Buckram (stiff canvas) is the most commonly mentioned material. Other references describe the rolls as being starched with a form of stiffener.” (Wikipedia Farthingale, post-2018)

Eventually, this style led right into the increasingly, impossibly tightened waist. 

Edmund-Leighton-God-Speed-medieval fashion

The Dark Ages

“Medieval times often evoke images of knights battling on muddy fields, dank and dreary castles, hunger, plagues-in general, a lot of rather depressing scenes. But these Dark Ages also witnessed the birth of a romantic movement. 13th Century conventions of chivalry directed that men should honor, serve, and do nothing to displease ladies and maidens. 

Secret rituals of Romance developed where women-long the loser in a double standard of adultery condoned among men-found champions who would fight in their honor. Courtly love became the subject of some of the most famous medieval poems, and where we get today’s word, “Courtesy.” Through these centuries, Europe was slowly waking from a harsh slumber, and begin to sow the seeds of a Renaissance”. Medieval–Life.net

Scotland Medieval Castle

retro corset-Brandi-05-Sultry Lady Corsets

The Impact of Industrialization on Fashion

garment factory workers

 

What has been The Impact of Industrialization on Fashion today? There is no historical record of the name of the first woman to drape herself alluringly in the skin of an ancient beast, but she seems to have started something. Humans have been adorning themselves with clothing, paint, jewelry, and fabric ever since. She wanted to make a statement.

It is self-evident that until modern times all clothing was made from natural products. The skins of animals, their hair and wool were used.  Plant elements like linen, cotton, and silk have also been available to humans for millennia.

The prehistoric artists pulled their materials into a corner and went to work with their pots of pigment, dye, and paint, printing early art forms. A few quills, a few feathers, and a few shells later, fashion was born. Early garments were typically made from rectangles that were draped and tied, held together with pins, or roughly sewn with needle and sinew.

The Skills needed for making and embellishing materials were several steps ahead of construction techniques. The early technicians learned to spin fiber, then weave or knit it into a fabric. It wasn’t until the 14th century that the use of curved seams finally gave clothing a more fitted look. Buttons and laces which came later provided more sophisticated closures.

Early Fashion:

Clothing and fabric cloth continued to be almost exclusively handmade by individuals for their own use until the Industrial Revolution. In the 1700’s, the lower classes made durable fabric clothing out of homespun fibers. They had neither time nor money to waste. Garments were patched, resized, remade and handed down until there was nothing left to use.

The upper classes had access to luxurious imported fabric, intricate adornments and the labor of skilled artisans. Fashions became ostentatious, with hoops, wires and stays for the women and matching three-piece suits for the men.

The fabric corset was part of a woman’s wardrobe during the 1700’s, but it was rather practical. It provided back support and gave the breasts a cheeky lift. It didn’t interfere with breathing or comfort of the fabric at that time.

The Industrial Revolution:

The Industrial Revolution changed everything. It ushered in the factory production of textiles and clothing. Machines could produce knitted and woven cloth that was a finer gauge than most women could produce with home methods. The invention of the sewing machine enabled the rapid, high volume manufacturing of fabric clothing.

Improved transportation meant that this clothing could be shipped cheaply and easily. Improved communication allowed women and men to see what the fashionable set was wearing in their own country and abroad. All of these factors made manufactured fabric clothing desirable and widely available at an attractive price.

A number of interesting developments occurred in the world of fashion in the late 1800s. Corsets took on their familiar tightly laced hourglass shape, and mass-produced versions began to arrive in the stores.

At the same time, though, women began to be sporty. Their newfound interest in sports did not mesh well with tight fabric undergarments. A second style was needed. Those clothes were made of lighter more flexible fabric.

The Arrival of Haute Couture:

Haute couture made the biggest splash in the fashion pool of the 1800’s. Introduced by Charles F. Worth, haute couture was born in Paris. Worth was the first to show a collection on live models, allowing private clients to choose a style and have it custom made to suit their bodies and their tastes.

This sort of handmade, bespoke clothing with unique adornments, custom fabric, and impeccable quality is still the standard of luxury today.

Fashion Today:

As fashion has continued to evolve into the 21st century, discussions of quality and craftsmanship have come to the fore. There was a time when almost every woman owned a sewing machine and knew how to use it. They often created beautiful, one-of-a-kind, fabric garments that could last for decades.  The pendulum has now swung to a time when women embrace manufacturing. The general population now prefers to buy inexpensive, disposable clothing that allows them to follow the latest trend.

Recently, we have also seen a return of a timeless style. Women are again beginning to value quality over quantity. Some search for vintage couture in resale shops, some are learning to sew, and some are seeking out skilled tailors and seamstresses for bespoke apparel.

A few pieces, such as an embellished evening wrap, a tailored wool jacket or a perfectly fitted corset, will always have a place in any woman’s wardrobe. These classic garments are worth the investment in fine fabric and skilled construction that come with custom tailoring.

The sophisticated woman knows that the secret pleasure of wearing beautiful clothing that was made just for her. Inexpensively manufactured clothing has its place.  But the firm fabric, soft linings, finished seams and exquisite fit of bespoke garments have undeniable superiority.

 

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The Victorian Corset

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The Female Form And Corsets:

Women’s figures have always been subject to the whims of fashion from the voluptuous statues of Venus to the sylph-like figures of flappers. For centuries the desired silhouette has been the focus of attention. Uninteresting clothing can be transformed into something spectacular by a corset that can mold the body and give shape. The shape of the corset has also changed many times over the centuries. Some early corsets or stays simply flattened the breasts and created a long, lean, triangular torso. Conical corsets and steel cages were designed for wear during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Sometimes the breasts were even displayed wantonly over the tops of the stiffened bodice. The Victorian corset, however, created the hourglass shape that women and men alike have secretly envied for the feminine form.

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The Victorian Era:

Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 and this began the Victorian era. The world transformed during the Victorian age, as science, technology, and medical knowledge exploded. In the world of feminine fashions, Europeans were confident and optimistic in their dress.

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The natural waist reappeared in the 1820’s with the Victorian corset. These corsets featured a classic hourglass shape. The metal grommets and lacing eyelets used made the donning of undergarments easier. Most of them ended shortly below the natural waist. Then in the mid- to late 1800’s, petticoats, also known as crinolines, dropped from favor and dresses became tighter-fitting. Women began to demand more ample coverage from their corsets. Although earlier corsets typically had straps to better support the bust, these eventually disappeared to the sidelines. Support for the corset was provided by stiff boning. The corsets also became longer to cover the stomach and hips.

The Tight Laced Victorian Corset:

The tight-lacing corset used during the Victorian era compressed not only fat but also organs and bones. The female internal organs were pushed out of their natural positions to obtain the hourglass shape they desired. When this happened, the ribs developed S-shaped deformities, and the vertebral spine would often be misaligned. Medical doctors began to express concerns about the long-term health risks of tight-laced corsets.

The clothing of the Victorian era tended to be lacy, frilly and ornate. The torsos were slim and close-fitting while skirts flared away from the body. Most muslin undergarments were topped with petticoats and flounce to achieve this effect. It was a common practice for women to cinch their waists tightly using corsets. This was to create the desired silhouette. By the mid-1840’s, crinolines, and later bustles, appeared. These bustles created more eye-popping curves. These waist-whittling creations remained a fashion necessity for many years.

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The Invention Of The Sewing Machine:

In 1846 came the invention of the sewing machine. Corsets soon became mass-produced in a greater variety of designs. In fact, one of the first mass-produced garments in the apparel industry was the corset. As sewing machines became more refined, the quality of the corsets was better as well. The expense was less as they became more readily available.

Still, these health concerns alone might not have been enough to dissuade women from this popular trend. During the latter part of the 19th century, women began to take more of an interest in sports. Unfortunately, the corsets were very restrictive. The ladies needed more flexible, lighter weight garments.

By the turn of the century, another big change was also on the horizon: haute couture. Private clients could have live models display a selection of clothing. The garments would then be custom-made to their specifications.

Whereas many women simply could not afford the luxury of custom-made garments, they now had new affordable options available to them. Thus came the introduction of new designs. Many styles had front-fastening busks that made it easy to dress and modeled the curves of the natural lines of the body for greater comfort.

 

The Fashions of Today:

Using garments to create a breathtaking hourglass figure seems well within reason compared to some of the historical trends.  Today corsets and waist cinchers are made with beauty as well as an eye-catching and breathtaking appeal.  Many are elaborately decorated and are worn on the outside as the primary garment.

Fashions come and go, but the corset has had surprising durability in the style world. Women’s clothing has come a long way from the stiff and highly structured styles of the mid-19th century. But many women still gravitate towards that seductive hourglass shape.

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Bras and shapers can only do so much when it comes to lifting and supporting, and are often sadly inadequate for creating a specific look. A very curvaceous silhouette can be achieved with waist-cinchers or classic corsets.

Beauty has historically not been for the faint of heart. In ancient Egypt, both men and women ground up lead to creating kohl to line their eyes. In ancient Rome, women would dab cinnabar, or ore of mercury, on their cheeks to create a rosier appearance. Both of these beauty routines could have disastrous results.

The custom corsets of today are designed for function, comfort, and beauty, as much as for their unique eye-popping appeal. Furthermore, they still create that delightfully curvaceous shape that has been so highly prized for decades. Although the basic design has not changed much, the custom corset still offers plenty of support and style.

 

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Dressing For Status

What is dressing for status?

When you get dressed for a special occasion meant to impress, do you feel an anxiety of dressing for status? Whether applying for a job, going out with the girls or attending a special event, wearing the appropriate “uniform” has always been a signal to gain acceptance in a particular social circle.

The way we dress is more complex than just wearing the latest outfit featured in a trendy magazine. There’s a whole psychology that revolves around our clothing choices.

The First Impression

So how does clothing impact a person’s first visual impact? We only get about seven seconds to make a first impression. What you wear gives you an added boost in making the right first effect.

Clothing is a non-verbal form of communication that gives clues about a person’s background, financial status and personality. It can also be a statement reflecting your mood, culture, interests, age, level of confidence and authority.

 

The Impact of Status

Status is different than class or caste. It’s based on the cultural position, the prestige of holding certain occupations or the family background and carries with it a particular anxiety of dressing for status. Throughout history, poets and painters could be considered high in status but might be as poor as church mice.

In the industrial revolution era, wealth did not ensure moving up in status. A successful businessman could dress his wife in the latest fashion. He could entertain high society with extravagant parties, but his social status remained the same; he was a tradesman.

In Victorian times, widows could only wear black for one year and one month.

An early example of a dress code is ancient Rome. Only senators could wear garments dyed purple.

In the early Roman and Greek culture body shape and weight were also a sign of status and social standing. As early as 2900 B.C. both men and women were concerned with a slim silhouette. Artifacts suggest young men wore constricting belts that confined their waistline. And there have been periods throughout history when it was perfectly reasonable for a man to wear a corset.

In China, the centuries-old tradition of foot binding included breaking the foot and reshaping it to resemble a lotus bud. This gruesome-shaped appendage raised the likelihood of marriage among the women and increased their social status.

Society and Status

Throughout history, the clothing we wear has been capable of displaying and epitomizing a person’s culture, financial status, and social power. Perceived status gives a person power and along with that, there is an anxiety of dressing for status. Your needs and opinions along with what you say and do hold more weight than others around you and gives you more influence.

 

This carries through into a person’s career, the ability to earn and achieve wealth. These advantages may be derived simply by our gender, the way we dress, our race, age or religious affiliations. Society teaches us to conform and be part of the crowd.

Notoriety and Status

Celebrities, with their sometimes-inflated conception of self-worth, often flaunt their lofty status by ignoring social constraints and conformity. In an attempt to keep the celebrity wagon rolling, these people continually draw attention to themselves by various means. Whether it’s outlandish fashion, acting bodacious or being diva-like and ungracious. Public figures use every tool available to maintain their status.

It’s sort of an ongoing battle; if you free yourself from social constraints and conformity, you’re more likely to achieve a level of notoriety and status. If you don’t continue to push the envelope, that celebrity status will quickly wilt. A celebrity is constantly making sure their public presentation garners attention and reinforces their status.

It’s all well and good to follow fashion trends, but sometimes bucking the trend goes a lot further. If you radiate the confidence that you’re someone who already has high status, you’re more likely to be perceived as a person with high status.

Fashion can be a form of art. It encourages creativity and expression. The freedom to wear whatever you want is also a liberating experience that’s available to anyone, regardless of class or social status.

What Class Do You Fall In? 

Quietly, or yelling at the top of your lungs, everyone has at least a little concern about making an impression and rising in social stature.

Some folks do this by wearing the latest in fashion and spend far above their budget. Other people are into anti-fashion and make their point by wearing outrageous getups. Another group just goes with the flow and hope to fit in.

Maya Angelou wrote, “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

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For The Love Of Custom Corsets

For the love of custom corsets, women keep wearing them! First Impressions: A woman walks into a room and every head turns. The glances of the crowd may flicker away in an instant or they may linger and admire.

The way a woman presents herself gives her the power to choose whether to deflect attention or to draw it. When she chooses to walk into a room and say, “Here I am,” her clothing is part of the equation.

The well-dressed woman knows that clothing conveys status. Fabric with a sumptuous hand and design with a fashionable cut, speaks volumes. And above all, a garment with an impeccable fit sends a message: high quality.

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High Concept Fashion:

High concept fashion is the product of the foremost couture houses throughout the world. The annual collections are brought out each new fashion season by talented designers with bold ideas.

The goal of an haute couture fashion show is to make the theme of the collection stand out. They strive to capture attention and turn the head with a gasp from the lips. It’s usually more of an appeal to “look at me!” rather than actual functionality. Very few designers expect to sell a look “hot off the model.” The love of custom corsets with dramatic flair has kept it on the runway.

The overall control the tailor/seamstress has over the final outcome of the corset garment is extensive. From the fitting to the refined and detailed finish, it speaks volumes to the client and overall audience. It is the highest degree of bespoke tailoring. Experienced seamstresses and tailors can produce exquisite garments that reflect a designer’s concept. They can beautifully execute any design that a woman conceives independently. The translation of the runway looks into wearable high fashion is the result of bespoke tailoring.

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How Corsets Fit In:

Over the centuries the flow of fashion is often charted by the look of the dresses, coats, skirts, and slacks. As these pieces have evolved, however, so too have the undergarments. Working alongside the tailor and seamstress was the corsetier. Corsets have been shaping, slimming and flirting from ancient times to the present day.

The function of a corset has changed through history. It has been used to support an upright posture and to hold a woman’s body in the desired shape. Often it is simply used as a fashion statement. The woman of today is neither compelled nor forbidden to wear a corset. She can choose for herself the purpose for which she will wear it.

Many women like the support a corset gives them in situations where they desire a straight posture. They feel it gives them a more elegant line that suggests high status. Some women want a corset that will nip in their waist and give them the classic hourglass figure. Still, others are not interested in the function of a corset but just enjoy the fun of wearing it.

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Why Custom Corsets:

So does a custom fit maintain a certain superiority? A woman who decides to explore the option of wearing a corset will find many ready-made options on the market. Unfortunately, they are made to fit the average woman with industry-standard proportions, which the average female body rarely follows.

She may also find that the seams begin to pull apart and the stiffening begins to stab before she has even begun to lace the corset tightly. This will not do. In no time at all her desire will be to remove the corset as soon as possible.

For a garment as close-fitting as a corset, the only way to get a piece that is both functional and comfortable is to have it custom made by a bespoke seamstress.

Every woman’s body is unique. The bust may be higher or lower than average, her rib cage may be longer or shorter, and her back may be wider or narrower. Only by having a custom-fit corset can all of these individual measurements be taken into account.

A bespoke corset is a gorgeous creation that will last for years. It is an item that will never go out of style. The love of custom corsets is acquired when worn to an important engagement.

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“What Shall I Wear”?

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“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 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.”