Does anyone else feel like they’re suddenly seeing corsets everywhere right now? On their Instagram feeds, in designers’ newest collections, all over ASOS?
You’re not imagining things. Corsets are having a major moment right now, which seems a little odd, given that neither petticoats nor full-length ballgowns have come back in along with them. But it seems the corset has undergone a modern update, with the historically controversial clothing item being incorporated into trends like ‘royalty/regency-core’, the ‘lingerie as everyday clothing’ look even a few cottage-core inspired looks, paired with billowing sleeves and milkmaid necklines.
Some figure the resurgence is thanks to Bridgerton, inspiring us with its ruffles, delicate gloves and jewel-encrusted materials, practically begging to have a cinching and stunning corset to accompany the flowing fabrics. But this trend was occurring even last summer, for the small amount for time that we were able to be out and about. After months of staying home and wearing our comfiest loungewear, many of us took the opportunity to dress up over summer like we never had before.
The after effects of lockdown #1 – the growing popularity ofTikTok and the aesthetics that Gen Z were loving – were all seen in our summer fashion choices. The corset emerged from escapist trends that took over online discussion during lockdown. With the TikTok community obsessed with unusual, 90s and often fantasy-based style, corsetry became merged with modern looks, bringing everything from the waist-clincher and the Elizabethan style to the hourglass and conical style back in some form or another.
The history of corsets is actually a long and complicated one. Worn over and under clothes as early as possibly 1600BC, the garment has fluctuated and changed with time, defining body’s shapes and beauty standards for centuries. Many of us are familiar with the stories of the bone rods made of whalebone and later on even iron to cinch the waist and create whatever shape was fashionable at the time. In the early 1500s, the idea was not so much to have a small waist as it was to push up the breasts. Corset Story shares that;
‘Agnes sorel, mistress to Charles VII of France changed the history of the corset when she wore a gown in French court which exposed her breasts. A trend began, and French women started to open their corsets to reveal their breasts. A little later, another trend started – showing the lower back, and so women wore short corsets and would cut open their dresses to display this.’
Later on the next century, Catherine de Medici would decree ‘thick waists’ were banned at court – not very body positive – leading to wealthy ladies all investing in corsets, this time more decorative and with more lacing or ‘stays’ up the front and back. Over the centuries, lace and ribbons and puffy sleeves were all added and taken away. Breasts were pushed up, the waist became more and more constricted and corsets lengthened and shortened, depending on what part of the body was supposed to be emphasised or concealed. The ‘S’ shape of the 1900s was in and then out, big hips were in and then out and the corset shape shifted to suit all these trends.
It was in the 20th century however, that it saw the biggest change. Corsets stopped pushing the bust up and instead focused on narrowing the stomach and hips. The arrival of the 1920s saw a rise in popularity of more natural shapes and straight lines, even slightly boyish shapes – think flappers – and corsets became strictly undergarments, incorporating brassieres in the 30s and 40s. By the fifties and sixties it was dying a slow death even as an undergarment, with the 1960s seeing a push towards a healthier lifestyle and sport to attain the ‘cinched’ look. The 70s abandoned it all together, with it’s flowing shapes and plastic surgery becoming the more popular solution.
Some view the garment as restrictive throughout history, a tool of oppression against women, reducing their lung capacity, the tight lacings leaving marks on their skin, altering their bodies into impossibly small shapes. However some historians argue that many women enjoyed wearing them, that they were a vehicle of self-expression and was practical, as well as fashionable.
Modern day elements of corsetry have made their way into various fashion collections over the years, but never in quite as wearable a way as they are now. No longer a massive statement piece or unwearably painful, corset-inspired pieces are becoming more and more common, with lots of custom designers making modern waist-clinchers and Elizabethan style pieces suitable for everyday use.
While corsetry-inspired pieces can level up any outfit, it's important to remember that it should be shaped to fit you, and not the other way around. Corsets shouldn't function as waist trainers, as too much pressure on your abdominal areas can cause side effects like heartburn and abdominal pain or colon discomfort and discomfort in the lower abdomen. Wearing a waist trainer may feel fine for a while, but remember that your body returns to its normal shape after using one and doctors in general seem to advise against using them. Your clothing shouldn't hurt you.
Check out some of the stunning ones we’ve found online, that range from utterly statement to completely wearable as an everyday garment.
90s grunge but make it now? NiiHai is a female-owned, London-based start-up is all about inspiring confidence and empowering women through its fashion-forward clothing line. If you’re into pushing your aesthetic, the brand’s out-of-the-box designs, interesting fabrics and playful details will fit in with your vibe.
This corset style crop top's scoop necks gives us classic Bridgerton vibes while the suede fabric gives it a nineties twist, The teal blue pops and the boning detail makes it look vintage, without the restrictive nature of actual historically accurate stays.
For a statement and feminine look, this corset is your go-to. The off-the-shoulder style adds a sexy twist to the corset style and the balloon sleeves recall some of the corsets earliest incarnations. A dipped front, zipped back and slim, close-cut fit gives you the support you need while keeping the look's sultry vibes.
Another super sexy off-the-shoulder look, this corset is the definition of glam. The draped sleeve details adds a whimsical element that is in keeping the the cottage-core aesthetic that came in last summer and is still going strong. The bandeau neck and boned front give you the structure you want from a corset without being restrictive.
Made for women by women (we love to see it),this clothing label is here to make your athleisure dreams a reality. Its limited-edition pieces are designed in-house in London and are the ultimate hybrid of sportswear meets all-out glam. Comfy and cool in this lattice strap frontal design, reminiscent of more modern corset looks.
This is the kind of look that we saw a lot of last summer, when the milkmaid neckline came in and the balloon cuffed sleeves started to emerge as a trend as well. Feminine and cinched at the waist, this look is totally girly and sweet, very much in line with the cottage core trend, but down the more wearable end of the scale. The cup detailing really emphasises the corset style.
If you're looking for a dramatic silhouette with major volume then you've got your look right here. Merging classic vintage styles and fresh silhouettes, this style preps you for the party eye-catching design and sleek shapes.
Want something a little more everyday kind of wear? This design is all about giving women the confidence to express themselves through fashion. The bold floral print is bright and beautiful, while still being a wardrobe staple. The sweetheart neck adds a feminity that is repeated throughout the puff sleeves and frilled shoulders.