The art of Haute Couture – Corsets

My third year begins with a bang and we are introduced into Haute Couture, starting off with the magnificent art of Corsetry.

So firstly what are corsets? More importantly what is the purpose of a corset?


Corset has been a very crucial part of clothing in the early European culture. Often worn as an undergarment, to give shape to the body. It was worn by both men and women.  Introduced by Catherine de Medici into France in the 1500s, where the women of the French court embraced it. This type of corset was a tight, elongated bodice that was worn underneath the clothing. The women of the French court saw this corset as “indispensable” to the beauty of the female figure. These had shoulder straps, flaps at the bottom, they gave a cylindrical appearance to the torso of the female. They flattened the bust, and in so doing, pushed the breasts up. They emphasized more on the flatness of bodice rather than slimming the waist.

During the Elizabethan era, whalebone (busk) was added to the corsets so they could maintain their stiffness. Since the mid-Victorian period, the busk has been made of steel and consists of two parts, one for each side. One side has studs and the other eyes so that the corset can be easily fastened and unfastened from the front. During the late 1500s, when whalebone was used at the sides and back of the corset, the corset was laced up at the front. Eventually, the lacing came to be done at the back of the corset.

The most common type of corset in the 1700s was an inverted conical shape, often worn to create a contrast between a rigid quasi-cylindrical torso above the waist and heavy full skirts below. The primary purpose of 18th-century stays was to raise and shape the breasts, tighten the midriff, support the back, improve posture to help a woman stand straight, with the shoulders down and back, and only slightly narrow the waist, creating a “V” shaped upper torso over which the outer garment would be worn.

By 1800, the corset had become primarily a method of supporting the breasts, as the waist was raised to just under the bust line. Corsets still slimmed the torso but this was not their primary purpose.

Now transitioning to the Victorian era, when exaggerated shoulders were gone, naturally the waist had to be slimmed to maintain the figure. Here the Victorian Corsets had two purposes – Slimming the waist and maintaining the hourglass figure.

These corsets are still famous, plus with the popularity of fetish fashion, corsets have become more as an over garment rather than under.

So what makes a corset so different from other close fitted garments? Well corset, quite literally, follows your body curves. It is as unique for every person, as their fingerprint. There are many horrific myths about corsets, which may or may not be true. Well, I’m a guy, I have never worn one, so can’t tell.

While it may or may not be difficult to wear one but yea it is definitely difficult to make one. My first project involves Corset making for D12 UK, and let’s just say I’m barely managing the fit and fall. I hope I get it right otherwise this semesters evening wear is flushed down the drain already. (Here’s my toile!)

How about you? Have you ever worn/owned a corset? Please share your experience.

4 thoughts on “The art of Haute Couture – Corsets

  1. Wow! I had no idea Catherine de Medici introduced corsets to France! A very interesting post – I hope you get it done in time!


  2. Corsets sound like they would be very uncomfortable to wear, sort of like girdles. I can see where they would be fashionable, though. I keep thinking about Madonna and her infamous corset costumes. Let us know how it all turns out!


    1. Well it’s more of a myth that corsets are uncomfortable. Intact a lot of women voluntarily wore them because it kept them slim, in shape, and also tall, by keeping their posture upright.

      Liked by 1 person

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