Rebirth of the corset

Russian stylist Natasha Goldenberg during Paris Fashion Week. Source: Refinery29.com

Corsets are often and correctly associated with Victorian dressing, a time when corset-wearing was common across Europe and across different socioeconomic classes. During the 18th and 19th centuries, women wore corsets to shape their bodies away from nature and toward a more ‘civilized’ ideal form and a woman would wear her corset for almost her entire life.

It was only in early 20th century that fashion started changing, thanks to designers like Paul Poiret, and later Chanel, who started imagining dresses made of flowing lines, that followed the body’s curves, without constraining it to change its shape. Over the years however, corsets have refused to be a fad that succumbed to time’s defeat. The tightly fitting undergarment stayed in the lingerie department for the longest time, triumphing in the closets of all the women who wanted to express their femininity more audaciously.


Moschino Fall/Winter ’16 Collection. Source: Theblondesalad.com

That was the case until the past few years, when corsets moved out of the undergarment section and made their debut on the catwalk, reinterpreted in a completely different perspective, and most recently on the instagram models and their obsession with bodycon and waist trainers. For avid ‘instagrammers’ with a keen eye on the #OOTDs of social media’s leading style stars, it is impossible not to notice quite a number of looks styled with wide waist belts or laced bodices signaling the rebirth of the iconic fashion accessory.

This rise in popularity especially with the latter, of course, meant it was only a matter of time until the trend seeped into the mainstream. And sure enough, a selection of corset belts begun showing up in the “New Arrivals” section at ASOS, shortly thereafter, it emerged as one of the most spotted pieces from the most recent Fashion Month, a not so surprising turn of events since the accessory featured quite prominently on the catwalks.

Jonathan Anderson’s spring ’17 Loewe collection. Source: Refinery29.com

Basically the corset has withstood the test of time and has landed in the closets of the modern day fashionista. However unlike the Victorian corset, the 21st century corsets are being worn over clothing, to mark the waist, just like during the Belle Epoque, albeit in a much more relaxed manner. The key to making corsets contemporary is layering: choosing the right model, from the ones that cover the whole upper body, or those that just cover the waist and wear it on top of shirts, sweaters, even overcoat.

Prada, Victoria Beckham and Balmain are a few of the key labels championing corsets with Prada’s corsets being minimal, rather than sexy, and worn as an accessory, layered over coats and suits, with the laces left loose and half-tied. At Balmain they are powerful and body conscious, aimed to mimic the Kardashian’s love of shapewear, while at Victoria Beckham they are sleek, classic and minimal. Rihanna who is always the first to leap to a new trend, has been spotted wearing corsets in the style of Prada, layering a lavender corset belt over a loose shirt dress while Gigi Hadid and Amy Schumer have worn sculpted corsets with black suit trousers. Instead of shapewear meant to create an ideal body form, this new wave of corsetry is designed to be worn by women on their own terms.

Written by: Faith Katunga