Corset Modern History
The following is a short history of the corset from the 20th century. The corset is a unique garment in a way that it has symbolism and power over and above the normal aspect of changing the bodies contour.
Looking at it from one way, the corset can be viewed as being a symbol of male dominance over a female. In the past, as a male dictate, women were often required to wear constricting and not so comfortable garments such as corsets, as this is what was dictated at the time by society. The corset and lingerie at this time was very premature.
The corset cannot be said to have strictly been a symbol of male dominance over women, however to also serve other purposes such as fitting into what society, at the time deemed acceptable as far as lingerie fashion went. Along with molding the shape of the female body, the corset could also have been said to have been a discipline to the body, thus having a sadomasochistic connotation attached to it. Wearing a corset can also be auto-erotic.
It is safe to say that the corset was worn for a number of reasons. As a dictate of fashion, a mechanism of satisfying sad0masochistic tendencies, and also for auto - erotic. Historically, wearing a corset has also symbolized morality within society. “Straight laced” would be a perfect example of this attitude, and the corset has been looked at as a restraining force that stands for social order and would be accepted morality.
Corsets have existed for centuries and can be traced back to Greek and Minoan times. However, when the subject of corsetry or corsets is mentioned many people instantly think of the tight lacing that is associated with the Victorian era. Combine with this, the horror stories of practices that took place at that time in order for women's shapes to be molded to the accepted norm. Along with this were the corset stories of daughters being forced into tight laced corsets, so they would have a slim waist. There were also stories of girls having to lie on the floor while their mothers tightened their corsets. Further more were the stories of corset lacing breaking under such pressure. Stories of figure training have been reported, with girls being laced into tighter and tighter corsets in order to achieve the figure that was demanded by society. Some stories have mentioned that some women were so tightly laced in their corset that they fainted, and in addition there are stories of women having ribs removed surgically so that their corsets could be fastened even tighter. Some museums have corsets with waists of less than 20 inches.
The corset was viewed as an essential garment for women to wear, and teenage (and even younger girls) were also forced to wear corsets as a matter of propriety. In some cases women were expected to wear a corset at all times, and the concept of figure training discussed earlier, could mean that a girl would sleep in her corsets, to have them tightened the following day and into the desired figure was obtained.
With corset tight lacing out of the pictures, corset wearing was probably very uncomfortable. More than likely, it is easy to say that many women's corsets were ill fitting unless they had been made to measure, and it may well have been good advice to suggest to women that they obtain a corset garment that fitted them at the waist and then used padding to ensure the hips and breasts also then fitted.