A Brief History of the Corset

Updated: Jan 8



Many of us have stuffed our faces beyond the point of fullness this past week. So much so, that even to consider anything related to a waist/ belly constricting garment of any kind, seems off the table (pun intended). Still, the corset has been one of those fashion staples that has transcended through time. They change, they develop along with and around society.

First becoming popular in sixteenth century Europe and reaching the height of its popularity in the victorian era. It was most often (especially during that time) worn as an undergarment. Occasionally it was seen as an outer garment, more so in most recent times.


*Cited directly from wikipedia

"The word corset is a diminutive of the Old French word cors (meaning "body", and itself derived from the Latin corpus): the word therefore means "little body". The craft of corset construction is known as corsetry, as is the general wearing of them. (The word corsetry is sometimes also used as a collective plural form of corset). Someone who makes corsets is a corsetier or corsetière (French terms for a man and for a woman maker, respectively), or sometimes simply a corsetmaker".


In 1828, the word corset came into general use in the English language. The word was used in The Ladies Magazine[1] to describe a "quilted waistcoat" that the French called un corset. It was used to differentiate the lighter corset from the heavier stays of the period.


The corsets evolution through time has been steady. What this timeline illustration does not show you, is that the corset has also infiltrated its self in more subtle ways, those "waist trainers & spanx" type under garments, are just another form of corsetry or the concept of "cinching" in your waist. If anything they are just being constructed with more modern fabrics with built in stretch.



Types of corsets

This 1891 French Corset courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art



English or German corset made between 1895-1900, This piece courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum London


What Is In The Anatomy Of The Corset?

Corsets are usually broken down into a series of sculpted panels, below is simplified pattern. Other parts that go into creating a corset are;

  • Coutil- A type of fabric, commonly herringbone weave especially created for corsetry back in the 1800's

  • Boning- The types vary but spiral steel is the most common

  • Ties- Ribbon or a strong shoe string type of trim


Lacing

Lacing was used in many types of clothing, until the zipper was invented in 1851. ​The additional beauty of corset aside from the fabric and/or design is the way the corset is laced. If you can believe it, there is more than just one way to lace up a corset.


​​​The image above show the various ways a corset can be laced;

A- Single Helix front view/right side view

B- Single Helix wrong side view

C- Over and Under

D- Criss Cross


Corsets In The Modern World

If you are familiar with the burlesque performer Dita Von Teese then, perhaps you may or may not be familiar with the designer often responsible for her looks. Mr. Pearl is a well known Haute Couture Corsetier.

Mr. Pearl


Here is one of his creations exclusively designed for the performer


The corset in its self has also spawned a technique called, the "lace up" back. I myself have designed in many dresses as well as many alterations.

If you are still looking for a little more on corsets, I encourage you to watch this funny yet still informative video created by a talented historical dressmaker;

What Did Corsets Actually Look Like



Join me on Youtube for fun instructional fashion design, sewing and dressmaking videos






Or if you are ready to create your very own lace up back, and learn a few other

techniques, Check out "Refining Techniques" at LAIDIECLOTH U

Fashion design courses for fashion lovers

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I'm now offering enrollment with masterclass & single class options. Take a look around LAIDIECLOTH U. If its right for you, it's no cost to enroll.


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Jasmine Terry-Ankobil owner and operator of LAIDIECLOTH fashion house, where I create custom designs and perform alterations for formal occasions. As well as my ready to wear shop. & Online Couture Sewing School LAIDIECLOTH U. Please feel free to share this article and/or visit my site www.laidiecloth.com

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