When we say corsets, what do you think of? For most, it’s a Victorian lady, in her flowing skirts and elaborate headwear, with a cinched-in waist that borders on torture. But while they may have looked a little tight, the corset was the signature of Victorian fashion, and you would rarely see a woman without one. As women became more liberated and fashions changed, the restrictive corset started to fade from view, replaced by more comfortable undergarments.
But thanks to fashion icons like the Kardashian’s, the humble corset is seeing a massive comeback in the fashion industry.
The Victorian Must-Have
As it’s heart, a corset is a garment designed to change the shape of the wearer’s body. Over the centuries, both men and women have worn them to slim down fuller figures, create curves or tailor a perfectly cinched-in waist – depending on what the fashion at the time was. It first started gaining mainstream appeal in the sixteenth century, but didn’t really explode into popularity until the Victorian era. Here, it was used to support the breasts (since bras didn’t exist yet) and narrow the waist. This is also the first time it was called a ‘corset’ (going by colloquial names until then).
Queen Victoria was a fan of the corset, and as the trend-setter of the time, all women quickly followed. This variety of corset started at the breastbone, narrowed at the waist and flared out at the hips, and is what most of us think of when we hear the word ‘corset’. They were traditionally tight-laced and made with either whalebone or spiral steel stays to maintain their shape. But as time progressed, steel was needed more and more, and coupled with the medical implications of such a tight, confining garment (including the damage to internal organs, reduced fertility and weakening of the bones), the image of the corset changed and eventually it fell out of style completely.
The Modern Twist
Now, the corset is back, and it’s here to stay. Like anything in fashion, corset popularity seems to be on a cycle, and it’s now more popular than ever. This is in no small part thanks to the power of social media, and the popularity of the hourglass figure. In fact, the revival of the corset can be attributed to the fame and influence of one family only – the Kardashians – and Kim K in particular.
But there’s a difference. The new corset revival isn’t the same as the whalebone, satin and cambric corsets of old. Instead, the new Kardashian era corset has had a makeover, and is known as the ‘waist trainer’. Instead of a full body corset that requires 2 people to lace up, the modern corset is more supple and tends to be the ‘under bust’ variety, focussing on slimming down the waist and creating this ’hourglass’ figure. You can have it visible, as a fashion statement, or you can wear a firm shapewear version under your clothing to ‘train your waist’ and help you slim down over time.
Both of these styles have their advantages, and it all depends on your preference really. But what is consistent is that people are finding corsets make them feel more confident, feminine and powerful. Modern corsets and waist trainers have been designed to offer support and shape the waist, but still be wearable and comfortable for the modern women on the go. So no more whalebones and immovable steel. Instead, more pliable metal struts or even no boning at all are what sets these modern corsets apart.
More than anything, the modern corset is less about creating that ideal hourglass no matter what the cost, and instead focusses on blending shapewear with fashion to create something truly iconic. Over the last 2-3 years we’ve seen corsets on catwalks around the world, and now they’re appearing in shops and on celebrity influencers too. So it’s not a question of if the corset has come back into fashion, but more which style would you go for? At Elle Courbee we love a good corset. You can find our range of modern waist trainers and corsets here – we stock both underwear and outer corsets, so you can feel curvaceous, confident and fashionable. For more info, just get in touch with us.