What is a corset


What is a corset?

As corset (from French corset, originally a diminutive of old French. cors "Body") refers to a stiff piece of clothing belonging to the undergarment, which fits tightly to the upper body and is intended to shape it according to the applicable fashion line. Therefore the corset changed shape and cut several times over the centuries; the stiffening methods changed with the advancement of technology.

The first forerunners of the corset developed from stiffened bodices in the first half of the 16th century. Their existence before 1562 is only proven to the extent that the dresses depicted in paintings from around 1530 in the form shown (flattened chest and conical upper body) would not be possible without a corset. The oldest surviving specimen comes from the grave of Eleonora di Toledo (died 1562) and is stiffened with reed.

The Spanish court dress, which was prevalent around 1600, required a corset that shaped the upper body into a cone and flattened the chest.
At the Spanish court, this piece of clothing was provided with those iron and whalebone rods, with the help of which it was possible to stylize the upper body of the woman according to the respective fashion. The bodice, armored with iron and whalebone rods, and even with lead plates, made the bulges of the breasts disappear completely - worn from youth onwards, if it were to prevent the breast from developing at all.
The corset for men appeared on a larger scale in Spanish fashion for the first time. The waist of the doublet became so tight that even men could not have done without a corset. Around 1640, a conical corset shape developed from this, which did not flatten the breast, but lifted it up. With minor changes, this form remained in effect until the French Revolution. The term "corset" did not exist back then; Called a lace chest or lace body.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, whalebone remained the most important stiffening material, although corset rods made of spring steel tape, steel spirals and horn were invented in the late 19th century.

During the Directoire, Empire and early Biedermeier periods, corsets were not absolutely necessary; it was not until around 1840 that they became indispensable again. Instead, under the influence of dandyism, men often wore corsets around 1820-50. It was around this time that the term took hold corset in the German-speaking area of ​​foot. Metal lace-up eyelets were invented in 1828, and in 1829 the first front closure with hooks and eyes (Planchet).

Between 1840 and 1870, the hourglass shape developed, which is still considered the classic corset shape today: Relatively large upper and hip widths with the smallest possible waist width. Until around 1870-85, the corsets became longer towards the bottom, i.e. they also shaped the hips and the belly, which bulged out in the earlier corsets. In the 1890s, fashion required small waist sizes in particular.

Around 1900 a new type of corset was developed: the S corset, which pushes the chest out and the stomach in, thus forcing an unnatural posture. Around 1910 this S-corset was replaced by underbust corsets; Around 1913-15, corsets went completely out of fashion in the wake of the growing women's movement and the rapidly increasing professional activity of women (because of the First World War). Instead, girdles were worn well into the 1960s.

Today it is being worn again and by many more women than is generally assumed. Because in the last few years the corset has experienced a particular boom.
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Date of the last change: Jena, October 9th, 2014