Corsets and Suporting Garments for Women

 I was reading Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible: The Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet this past weekend. He has a lot to say about underwear! He is rather amusing about it for the most part. I don't think it was terribly amusing for the women who had to wear it, though. Throughout history, depending on which part of woman's body was considered sexy at the time, fashion has changed. If necks and shoulders were considered the erogenous zone, then clothing was low cut. If a woman's arms were considered alluring, short sleeves were the order of the day. Ankles? Skirts got shorter. Waists? Well, that's where the corset comes into play. How does one make internal organs, tissue and bones appear smaller and a different shape than nature made them? Mostly with hard, stiff, uncomfortable materials. Whalebone. Steel. Stout fabrics or multiple layers of lesser fabrics. Lacings pulled tight by a maid or mother. And with a measuring tape of some sort. One must be small enough to fit into one's clothes; and one must be fashionable.

The middle and lower classes had corsets of basic, cheap materials; but they still wore corsets for the most part. The richer women wore corsets made of fine fabrics, indeed. Satins and brocades were often bejeweled and as beautiful as the gowns that covered them. Hand embroidery and lace covered many a corset. Even a middle class girl could afford to put some pretty embroidery on her corset. She just didn't lace it as tightly as the grand lady of the manor.

In 1906, the French designer Paul Poiret introduced a high-waisted dress that didn't require a corset. However, corseting continued into the mid-1940s, when girdles began to become popular. And yet, in 1946, Macy's sold an undergarment called "the Wisp". This was a boned belt to wear under the wasp-wasted New Look, an aggressively hourglass style that came into vogue after WWII. Even today, we have Spanx and other such body shapewear. The on-going effort to look good in the style of the day!

Next Tuesday, The Father of Couture: Charles Frederick Worth
See you then! Judi

Reference: Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible: The Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet, 2012