The controversial corset has recently been making a huge comeback. We see the modern interpretations all over TikTok, Pinterest, and Instagram with viewers marveling over the vintage, romantic aura. The corset has gotten a bad rap in the media over the past few decades as celebrities like Emma Watson have admonished their sexist and restrictive nature. 21st-century movies and shows have demonized the corset as a torture cage for women that sets us back centuries in the feminist movement. However, the corset can historically be interpreted as a symbol of female empowerment.
The modern interpretation of the corset implies that its main purpose has always been to cinch the waist to an uncomfortable and even unsafe degree. Originally, corsets were actually created to provide support to the spine in order to improve posture, as well as to form a silhouette to layer dresses upon. In the 18th century, working-class women would wear a corset in order to prevent back injuries. In modern-day opera, women wear traditional corsets not just for authenticity but also to open up the airway with the good posture that the corset provides. Corsets were even prescribed by doctors to people with chronic back pain.
These beneficial effects of the corset are rooted in safe and correct usage. Unfortunately, the societal pressures to achieve a thin waist have skewed the more empowering aspects of the corset. Women were pressured to cinch in the waist more than they were meant to, causing dangerous and restrictive side effects like altering the bone structure of the skeleton. These consequences arise through the misuse of the corset by lacing too tightly or incorrectly.
Due to the many evolutions to the corset, the history of the corset has become a very controversial and convoluted part of women’s fashion. However, we see modern-day women reclaiming the corset to reincorporate the style into today’s fashion scene through both waist training and style choices. Though the topic of waist training is controversial, I believe that the choice of the corset as a fashion statement is a fun way to add a vintage twist to outfits. Taking back the corset and framing it in a new light gives women the power to choose how they view this controversial piece of fashion.
Here are some corset fashion inspirations: