Thankfully we don’t have to wear corsets in everyday life any more, if we do decide to wear one it is normally for a romantic occasion or for a hen party. Corsets today tend to fit our bodies and are made of comfortable and kind material using modern support methods. Women rarely pass out wearing corsets today and generally they are worn for pleasure rather than for punishment.
In medieval times it was extremely important that a woman looked fit and healthy and had the correct figure for child bearing. Therefore the desired figure in the middle Ages was of pert breasts, fashionably curved belly and generous hips. Ladies also developed their own form of corsets made of thick fabric and stiffened with paste; these fastened with lace at the sides and probably didn’t contain a significant amount of whalebone. These proto type corsets probably acted as an early form of figure control rather than figure shaping.
The Renaissance Period
The need for figure shaping lingeri seemed to explode during the Renaissance period in the 15th century, when many European cultures collided with an explosion of extravagant and in some cases bizarre clothing designs. Beautiful gold embroidered fabric was used in great quantities by the ladies and gentlemen of the court and required a particular body shape to carry off the heavy material. Ladies’ waists were made as tiny as can be using whale boned corsets while the rest of their clothes seemed to expand in comparison. Not only were their skirts broad and padded, the accessories they wore around their necks and waits increased their presence dramatically.
Child Bearing Hips
Poor King Henry VIII, who was determined to produce a male heir but was largely unsuccessful, was obsessed with the concept of fertility and the need to extenuate childbearing hips was paramount. This was achieved through padded skirts and the wearing of a Farthingale that increased the width of the wearer’s hips. During his daughter’s reign, in Elizabethan times, the farthingale got even wider as she pursued the desire to produce an heir – which never came into fruition. The vast outfits probably hid a multitude of culinary sins and the effort that was involved in removing these items encouraged people to try bizarre methods of personal hygiene.
The Decline of the Corset
For a short time period, after the French Revolution, ladies abandoned the need to restrict their waists and Elizabethan fashion gave way for more comfortable attire. Eventually the need to control one’s body came back with gusto and vast dresses and small waists were back in fashion. Lingeri stopped being so vast when fashions changed and the need for softer less obvious underwear was required such as in the 1920’s with the flapper girls. The World wars also reduced women’s lingeri because they had to donate their steel reinforced corsets for the war effort. Also it was more practical to wear less underwear.
Today we view corsets as risqué items that we wear on special occasions. There are some people who wear corsets specifically to see how small they can make their waists, but that is more of a fetish than a fashion. Fortunately for women today our organs will not be squashed up in a corset and we can actually enjoy wearing them.
The corset featured in this article is available from www.houseoflingerie.com where you can find a wide range of corsets for you to choose from.