A corset is an undergarment, usually worn by women to define their waistline and support the bust, and sometimes won by men too. People also wear corsets to support the spinal cord for medical reasons or to form shape for aesthetic purposes. Corsets have been a crucial piece of clothing that has gone thousands of revolutions just like fashion. Women and women have used the corsets for centuries, as a way of shaping their bodies into, what they believe was the perfect shape at the time. The earliest picture of corset traces back in 2000BC, with the image of a Crete woman. However, at that time, people used it as an outer garment rather than an inner one (Jeffris 77).
A cultural glance at the corset reveals a controversial history. Since its origin in the 1500s, the garment has gone through a radical metamorphosis, blossoming into a revolutionary element of the current day fashion. Whether an outerwear or underwear, the corset is a tool of transformation, which many designers cannot resist. The corset initially known as payre of bodies and later on stays was worn with farthingales, which spread the skirts out as a cone. They had shoulder straps and had little flips at the waist, which were tight at the blossom and pushed up at the bust. It focused on contrasting the curving of the busts and the verticals of the bodice. In the 16th C, the corset became a common undergarment for most women. Stiff, wooden shafts or bones with layers of linen were slotted into a pouch at the front of the garment to control and constrict the woman’s shape sometimes crushing her organs and ribs in the process (Jefferis et al 49). Nonetheless, the garment remained an essential element of dress over the next 400years.
Culturally, Women were expected to wear, and it was, therefore, no surprise when expectant women wore a modified version of the corset. Essentially, women were to get married and bear children. An expectant body was a taboo and was never to be shown. The work of the corset made for such women was to reduce the appearance of pregnancy to the apparent damage of the future child. In some situations, the corsets caused miscarriages, though some of them were intentional (Linda and Turner 66). Women would not walk in public without the corset despite the doctors concern over the impact of the corset on physical and mental development of the child.
The steps involved in putting on a corset are straightforward and starts with loosening the laces of corset to ensure that there is enough slack around the waist. Under-bust corset, ensure that the label is at the top, but the label should be at the bottom for an over-bust corset. The second step hooking the eyes in the front, starting with the second one and working your way downwards until the last eye. The third step is removing the slack in the lacing by pulling the loops at the center of the corset, at the point where the laces do not crisps-cross. Step four is to tighten the laces starting from the second eye from top towards the bottom. Then pull the centre laces to tighten it and remove any remaining slack. Adjust the laces until the desired fit is achieved. The last step is to tie the middle laces into a bow.
The use of corsets, though useful in portraying the ideal body shape, has some disadvantages. Women go through a lot in an attempt to appear beautiful and perfect (Henig 34). Research shows that there are significant health risks that are detrimental to a woman’s overall health. In most cases, the corsets are extremely tight to reveal that shape; however, this causes breathing difficulties (Jefferis et al 49). These difficulties cut off oxygen from the brain causing the damsel fainting. This has been evident in the Hollywood movies, where the corset, only for other actors to come and release them from the corsets enabling them to take a deep breath, tightly binds stars like Vivien Leigh and Kiera Knightly.
In addition, doctors agreed that corsets had worse effects on the health of women since the laces pressed hard on the liver, small intestines, large intestines and the stomach. One of the worst affects of the corset the chicken breast, which occurred when the laces of the corset pressed too tightly on the ribs causing them to fracture. The fractured ribs then punctured the victims’ lungs, which would eventually lead to death.
Apart from the physical oppression, there is a different facet of garment’s lasting controversy. There have been arguments that it has some elementary stereotypes, stigmas and general perceptions embodied in the structure of the corset. As a symbol, the corset symbolizes messages of freedom and constriction, dominance and submission, and weakness and power. However, people as denoting the females as being the inferior gender. In the 20th century, designers started using the corset as an outer garment, which formed party to the re-conceptualization of the garment as a symbol of female sexual empowerment and rebellion. Shortly after, the corset was a symbol of high fashion, which today encompasses wedding gowns, lingerie, evening dresses and even office wear.
Corsets are useful to women who put them on because they help in reshaping and feminizing the figures of transgendered women, or women with undesirable figures or deformities. This is crucial in boosting their self-confidence and esteem. They are also useful in reducing menstrual cramps in women. Most women relieve their dysmenorrheal through lying in the fetal position, exerting pressure on the peritoneal organs, which in turn reduces the painful uterine contractions. Corsets can play this role by exerting pressure on the organs, which reduces uterine contractions, and thus cramps while remaining in an erect position (Jeffris 77). Corsets can also prevent hiatus hernias, or prevent it from worsening by exerting pressure on the abdomen. In addition, they are helpful in healing diastalsis recti, by holding the stomach muscles together and preventing them from separating further. Moreover, the corsets assist in weight loss since they limit the expansion of the stomach, which helps in controlling appetite and reducing food portions. Lastly, corsets give women hourglass shape that would, otherwise, would not be achieved through dieting and exercising.
Use of corsets has associated mental and emotional benefits. Corsets act as a coat of armor for women who have gone through some form of physical or sexual abuse in the past. People who have gone through such abuses tend to feel safe when wearing a corset. Corset is a rigid garment with many layers of fabric and steel making it difficult to feel any contact from another person. Corsets also tend to ward of anxiety or depression by offering some constant, secure hug, which comforts the wearer. In addition, exerting pressure on the stomach works negates the nausea symptoms and butterfly in the stomach associated with anxiety. Moreover, corsets help women to manage eating disorders enabling them to embrace and celebrate their figures.
Socially, the corsets enable one to command respect from other people because it improves one’s carriage and gives a person a certain poise that reveals high esteem, assertiveness, and confidence. In addition, wearers of corsets exhibit some form of elegance as the body shape is well displayed. This confidence and elegance silently commands respect from the people surrounding the wearer. In addition, such people depict high fashion awareness, and respect for such follows automatically.