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The History of the Corset

Whether you wear them to tantalize your partner, as part of a sexy Halloween costume, or to the club—we are all familiar with corsets.

Painting by American artist/painter Gil Elvgren

These rigid pieces of lingerie have a rich history that dates back centuries, but it wasn’t until the end of the 17th century that corsets became relegated to a piece of underwear.

One hundred years later and women were still strapping in. That tiny, 22-inch waist we’re so used to seeing in period pieces on the BBC? It came into fashion in the 1840s and ‘50s, when “tightlacing” first became popular—which is the same period that corsets began to be mass-produced, as opposed to being tailored for a woman’s specific measurements.

The purpose of the corset hasn’t changed much over the centuries, although they have fallen in and out of fashion. By the early 20th century, the development of elastic led to the invention of more-flexible girdles, allowing women to take their first deep breaths in three centuries.

But all that changed with Kim Kardashian. Recently, you might have seen some of your favourite insta-celebrities, MUAs, and reality stars sporting the newest version of the corset—the Waist Trainer. It’s the hottest fad in weight loss products, but unlike the ThighMaster or Tae Bo, this one can be dangerous.

Vintage X-Ray of the effects of long-term wear of the corset.
Source: https://www.cnet.com/news/vintage-x-rays-reveal-the-hidden-effects-of-corsets

You don’t have to be a doctor to realize that the whole thing sounds a little… too good to be true. “Training” your waist to be permanently smaller? How simple! But experts agree there’s no way it can really work. “Once you take the garment off, your body will return to its usual shape,” says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of ob-gyn at Yale School of Medicine. “It’s also uncomfortable, restricts your movements, and if you wear it really tight, it can even make it difficult to breathe and theoretically could cause rib damage.” So, you won’t always go back to your usual shape, but you probably won’t get the shape you’re after. 

Keep in mind, because of extended wear, Victorian women suffered “deformed ribs pushed into an 'S' shape and had their vertebral spines misaligned from vertical.” Not so hot.

But from fetish fashion and Bettie Paige, to Dr. Frank-N-Furter, to Madonna’s blond ambition, people use corsets to express themselves and their sexuality—and that is everything. But Lola & August wants to encourage women to feel beautiful and comfortable, so we make pieces that drape your body and enhance your natural curves, like our pretty Pétal de Rose set (below).

Whatever you decide to wear, keep it healthy, ladies. Do what feels good, but always treat that body like the temple it is.


Xoxo
~ Lola & August

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