Overview edit

The oldest find of corset is a pair of stays form in Spanish mediaeval painting from c. 1460.

It is not easy to make a list of corset periods because many types were in use at the same time. All corset makers had their own style, but from about 1860, the corset industry of Paris was at the forefront of corset fashion. Below is a list of periods in the history of the corset.

Before 1500 edit

It is unclear whether corsets existed before 1500, as information on them is unreliable.

Many books say that Cretan women used the corset c. 2000 BC because they made idols in the shape of a corset. These idols were originally two round pots bottom to bottom, the handle on the top pot being the nose on the idols and the edge line of bottom to bottom being the waist of the idols. The shape of the idols was traditional for idols, not the shape of Cretan women. The detail of the idols tell us that the old Cretan idols wore big loincloths, and the later idols have a tunic of open lace and a loincloth. The corset-shaped figure of the idols was a primitive Cretan style.

Virgins from 15th century sometimes wore a long tight lace outfit, but it was only a dress, not a corset.

1500-1970 edit

In this period many different corsets were in fashion.

Corsets type definitions
name start age characteristic breathing comment
iron corset cover 1500 no compress -  
stays (narrow conical) about 1550 low waist fine?  
stays (conical) about 1575 lowered chest? poor?  
stays (narrow conical) about 1700
again 1750
compressed lowered chest, low waist poor  
unstayed stays about 1775   fine?  
romanticism ball-ball, hourglass 1815 low horizontal waist medium very rare
"pipestem" corset 1830 pipestem waist fine very rare
ice cone, ball-conical 1830 raised chest, low waist fine ballet, opera
conical-conical, hourglass 1855 raised chest, high wasp waist fine edge in liver
"oval chest" 1880 raised compressed chest, long concave waist medium flattened liver, not healthy
s-curve, 'Gibson girl' 1900 raised expanded chest, high sloping waist fine floozie, edge in liver
s-curve, 'Dagmar Hansen' 1910 low sloping wasp waist, raised expanded chest fine singer
straight front 1902 very big loin curve, expanded chest. wasp waist medium edge in kidney, bad back
straight front 1909 very high small loin, very high sloping waist poor? edge in kidney, bad back
pipe-shape 1910 expanded chest, no loin curve fine  
pipe-shape 1910 press buttock, no loin curve fine ugly, inconvenient
ice cone, ball-conical 1947 raised chest, low waist fine high shoulder
hybrid-corset 1970? short pipestem waist medium  

Iron corset covers, about 1500 edit

Henry III, of France and the princess Margart of Lorraine
photo of an iron corset cover
Marie de' Medici, in an iron corset cover. Note the broad padding at the neck.

Iron corsets are Victorian Era corsetcovers made of metal. There are several in museum collections.

It is sometimes claimed that these were the everyday wear of women and girls throughout Europe in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. But they are more likely to be orthopedic instruments used by a very few women whose posture was not considered acceptable by the health and beauty standards of the time.

  • It is likely that the Iron Corset was originally a type of armour worn only by men.
  • The fact is as the "iron corset" was used both of men and women, but only on dress occasions. The iron was heavy, but the dress was also heavy, and the iron was padded underneath like armour. The silk of that time was very expensive but of poor quality and stretched poorly. It looked beautiful on the shining metal. The iron corset also worked as a bulletproof waistcoat, because assassination by knife in heart was a common risk.
  • The padded "iron corset" and armour was known as a corset on women, and a waistcoat (vest) on men.

In these images, you can see a man and woman in corset with iron cover, covered by silk.

Stays, 1550? to about 1890 edit

Stays are an old type of corset. It is worn over the dress or skirt and is laced to the waist, as opposed to a more conventional corset which extends below the hips. Typically stays were made by hand in 1860 or earlier in some countries. Over time, stays became shorter and shorter, eventually evolving into an early form of brassiere.

A set of stays has a shoulder strap opposed to a waist cincher.

File:Corset 1550 Goa.jpg
Corsets, about 1550
File:Ca 1720.gif
Stays c.1720
File:Ballet 1855.jpg
Stays 1855
A common style of stays, 1863

Victorian Corsets, 1831 - 1901 edit

An advertisement from the 1890s

Most people have an idea of a "Victorian corset"; however, the British Victorian era comprised a long period of changes in culture and fashion from 1837 to 1901.  During that time many styles of corsets were in use.  The most ubiquitous feature was the "horizontal waist" which was common from about 1850 to 1899.  The "Victorian corsets" for sale today are most likely New Look corsets.

in 1900. The corset was only base of base the fashionable dress. Outside of hip was a Girdle and on the chest was a corset cover.

The S-curve corset (1900 - ?) and the Straight-fronted corset 1903 - 1912? edit

File:Corset straightfront 1911 Louis XV style.jpg
Straight-front corset from 1911

The straight-front corset (also known as the swan-bill corset and the s-curve corset) was a type of corset worn from the start of the nineteenth century until around 1907.  Its name is derived from the very rigid, straight busk that was used down the center of the front.

It was the most complex shape of corset ever made, with high-quality corsets consisting of up to 48 intricately curved and shaped pieces.  The straight-front corset was intended to be less injurious to wearers' health than other corsets; but, when worn too tight, these corsets were the most uncomfortable and harmful style of corset to ever have been widely popular.  The silhouette given by the straight-front corset is familiar from the Gibson Girl of the period.

The straight-front corset was popularised by Inez Gaches-Sarraute, a corsetiere with a degree in medicine.  The style was probably the result of several like-minded corsetieres and medical professionals.  It was intended to create fewer health problems and to be less constricting than previous types of corsets.  The hourglass corset "suppress[ed] the bust," and the spoon busk, which often curved inwards for part of its length, "forced the organs downwards" claimed Gaches-Sarraute in her 1900 study Le Corset: Etude physiologique and pratique (The Corset: A Physiological and Practical Study).

Gaches-Sarraute suggested a corset that:

  • freed the bust by starting below the breasts;
  • supported, rather than constricted, the abdomen with a very rigid, straight busk and inflexible boning.

The first element was not problematic, although in order to create the 'monobosom' effect that was fashionable women started wearing bust supporters, the design of which eventually lead to the brassiere.

The second feature created more problems, though.  When the straight-front corset was worn laced moderately tight, very little pressure was placed on the abdomen and some of the compression was transferred to the sides of the waist, where boning was lighter and more flexible.  However, because of the extreme rigidity at the front of the corset, it was possible to achieve greater reductions on waist size than with the hourglass corset.  When tightlaced, the straight-front corset put a great deal of pressure on the lower abdomen.  This caused the S-curve silhouette: the wearer's hips were thrust back, giving a deep curve to her lower back, and her chest was thrust forward.  In most cases, tightlacing in a straight-front corset caused lower back pain, breathing difficulties, and knee problems (through hyperextension).  It has also been claimed that the pressure placed on the lower abdomen caused a prolapsed uterus, although this has not been proved.

  • External link:-

Wasp Creations' page on corset shapes has a very good section on the straight-front corset, including good diagrams.

The Pipe-shape corsets, 1912 - 1928? edit

File:Usratent1214467 1913.gif
Pipe-shape corset, 1913.
File:Corset spring1916.gif
Danish, 1916.

Pipe-shape was a name sometimes given to a type of corset in fashion from 1908 to 1920. It helped to give the slender, straight silhouette that was a reaction to the exaggerated curves of the S-shape corset.

The pipe-shape corset should not be confused with the pipe-stem waist, which is sometimes found on other corsets, particularly the hourglass corset.

Corset from 1993 to today edit

See Corset and Tightlacing

Nursing corsets edit

File:Nursing corset uspatent169159.png
nursing corset from 1875.
nursing corset from 1878, U.S. Patent 206,906

In the age before formulas and pre-made baby food, most Victorian mothers breastfed their babies, or the rich had wet nurses. Nowadays, nursing bras are available. But then, overbust corsets were in fashion, so nursing corsets were needed.

Maternity corsets edit

File:155Le Peri-Corset pour femmes enceintes.png
Maternity corset 1904

At that time women used corsets. They had a problem during pregnancy because they needed a corset to support the back and the sides, and because pressure from the tight lacing thinned the abdominal wall. The solution was a Maternity corset.
a corset patent