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The Victorian Corset

The Female Form And Corsets:

southern plantations 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.

victorian corsets

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.