Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker, Beyonce and a score of other celebrities in current pop culture have repeatedly brought the corset “out from under” and into the limelight over the past couple of decades. Whether a leather corset for an erotic spectacle on stage, a beaded one for the Red Carpet or lacy and casual for lunch with friends, the image harkens back, ever so subtly, to one of the first powerful ladies to don a corset, Queen Elizabeth I of England. That’s not to imply of course that Queen Elizabeth’s corsets were such blatant fashion statements as these women’s, but underneath it all, was there more being said than meets the eye?. And it may not have been any of these celebrities’ intention to associate herself with powerful women of eras past necessarily, but it’s not a far stretch to say that this fashion statement speaks volumes and brings with it to its wearers a powerful history of female expression that spans centuries.
For a simple item of clothing, corsets have stirred many opinions as to their function and the role they play in the female wardrobe. In eras past, as a required fashion staple, corsets were sometimes considered to be the epitome of conservative male oppression of women with their restrictive binding. In current times however, fashion designers are less likely to consider corsets as a figment of male domination and instead covet them as a timeless fascination with shaping the female body and today’s wearers can surely be considered to be clearly exhibiting the ultimate form of confidence and feminine expression. Still, others who couldn’t care less about a corset’s cultural implications or their ability to shape a body consider them to be ideal under-garments supporting the back in a comfortable way—a very practical fashion in this sense. Of course, no fashion would be worth its weight without a little controversy and on this point, corsets have delivered.
Corsets basically evolved into the modern bra. But there clearly remains a fashionable allure for the earlier predecessor. Described today as gorgeous, ultra-glamorous, and sexy, corsets are available in a variety of styles and colors, fabricated from all types of materials. They’re often boned as were early patterns. But now, three things make modern corsets distinctly different from 16th and 17th century patterns. Today they range in size from small to 3X and above. Corsets are worn as outerwear, with jeans in casual settings and glamorized for evening wear. They are often used as lingerie, and unlike their predecessors, they’re designed to be comfortable and easy to get in and out of quickly.
In recent corset news, confirming the fascination with these garments, celebrities have custom designed embellished leather corsets and those made from other unusual and creative materials that have been auctioned for upwards of $1000 and beyond, to benefit charity. Not only are corsets sexy fashion, but they have become a very profitable endeavor!.
On the lingerie front, leather corsets or those made from classic lace or racier PVC are popular today and available in a variety of styles and sizes as well. Just like their outerwear counterparts, a myriad of designs are created to accentuate the curves of the female physique and they are consciously designed to flatter the wearer. Many lingerie corsets now have optional G-strings and detachable garters. Other options include front zippers, lace up backs, hook and eye front closure, and adjustable shoulder straps. Sometimes lycra is added for more comfort and many patterns are lined in silk or satin.
It’s unlikely that the “powerful women of eras past” would have considered one of these garments as a staple in their wardrobe. But as for the women of today, current day corsets, from the simplest to the most elaborate, are one way of exuding powerful feminine expression on the outside and underneath.