The history of corsets

Small waists have been an object of desire for a long while, and women all over the world used to dream – and many still dream – of having a tight, thin waist. The corset – a garment that makes compression in order to reduce waist measurements – has a long and controversial history. It has been created many centuries ago and new versions are still available nowadays to keep modeling and shaping women’s bodies.

However, a lot has changed since the first corsets were created – and that is what we are going to show you: this article tells the complete history of corsets!

The beginning of everything

It is believed that the first corsets were created by the Minoan people around 1,000 B.C. This civilization used to live on the Greek island of Crete, and small waists were a beauty standard among Minoan people. The first image of a corset comes from the image of a Minoan goddess. 

Corsets gain popularity

During the Middle Ages, corsets were not popular at all: the body was seen as sinful, so clothes used to hide the feminine curves instead of enhancing it.  However, during the 1500s and 1600s women from French court started to idealize small waists – and then corsets started to get worn and got really popular. 

Besides reducing measurements around the stomach, corsets also enhanced the volume of the chest and the skirts. Corsets were worn both under and outside the clothes and the materials that shaped them were really strong – many of them were  made with whale bones.

Corsets beyond aesthetic

In the 1700’s, the intention of wearing corsets was not only aesthetic anymore – besides reducing the waist, corsets also aimed to improve the posture. Corsets had shoulder straps that forced the shoulders backward in order to maintain an erect posture. The decorations used to be very luxurious, with details in silk and gold trims.

Romantic style

Corsets kept being extremely popular, but in a completely different version from the previous. They were more natural, emphasizing an hourglass figure, easier to wear and with the implantation of hooks.

Early 1900’s

Small waists are still an essential feature as part of the beauty standard. But the shape of the feminine figure has changed completely: instead of the hourglass shape, the desire was for an “S” body shape. Corsets were designed to force the chest forward and the hips backward.

World war I makes corsets go out of style

During and after World War I, clothing materials got scarce; as a result, the production of elaborated garments, such as corsets, got harder. Clothes were simpler and had a looser shape. Consequently, corsets went out of fashion.

The revolution of corsets

During the 1920’s, modern cosets gained an unessential detail: elastics. That made them flexible, and more comfortable to be worn in an active lifestyle. Even after suffering a decline during World War I, corsets were still popular and attached to a feminine and sexy image. 

However, along the years, especially the 1960’s and 1970’s, people quit wearing corsets daily – but still aimed for smaller waists. Nevertheless, instead of trying to make the waist smaller through garments, women were investing in solutions like exercises, diets, and even plastic surgery.

Corsets in modern times

Corset (1889–91). American. Accession number: 2009.300.3015a–c

Corsets started to be related each time more as something fetishistic and worn by enthusiasts of the burlesque style. However, they never really disappeared from fashion: they come back every time, in innovative and bold styles and compositions. 

In the 1970’s, Vivienne Westwood’s corsets became famous along with its punk aesthetic. In the 1980’s, Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier made super famous designs including corsets – by the way, Gaultier’s pink satin corset became iconic after being worn by Madonna on her Blonde Ambition tour.

Stella McCartney, Tom Ford, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga are also high fashion brands that used corsets in their designs – and just like this, corsets got consolidated as a style icon for good.


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And if you are looking for the best Brazilian corsets, visit Metro Brazil’s website!


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