Let loose: how the corset is being reclaimed by the fashion industry

From the Victorian era to Vivienne Westwood, Prada’s bastard – bodice has a long and tortuous history. But now, this underwear is being re-created as a street-style coat.

Letting loose … Madonna in a Jean-Paul Gaultier corset and street style stars.
 Letting loose … Madonna in Jean-Paul Gaultier and street style stars wearing corsets on top of shirts and coats. Composite: Condi Nast/Getty, Eugene Adebari/Rex, Claudio Lavenia

They are the main clothing of the upper class of the Victorian era and are seen by some as a symbol of the oppressive desire to control and stifle the female image to fit the male gaze. But more than a century later, the corset is making a comeback, suitable for different ages.

High fashion feminist designer Miuccia Prada is the most famous return, as part of the AW16 series last year, the corset has become the biggest appearance of this season’s street style universe. Of course, punk first came here in the 1970s, its openness and anti-establishment, because Vivienne Westwood brought the corset to the runway. When Madonna wore Jean-Paul Gaultier’s tapered bodice in her 1990 golden ambition tour, she was symbolizing women’s performance empowerment.

For some current corset variants, new and potential feminists feel that they lack the traditional ideal of feminine form, “sexy”, or any so-called male gaze can usually choose to stay behind.

Kim Kardashian was an early adopter: she was recently found wearing a corset with sports suit pants and a jacket. Now they have reached the high street – from Asos to Mango, Zara, Finery and Topshop. They are big business. Aso’s design director Sian Ryan said that since the end of last year, sales have been “stunning” and the corsets are particularly popular.

A street style star in a Zara corset top during Paris fashion week, January 2017.
 A street style star in a Zara corset top during Paris fashion week, January 2017. Photograph: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

This seems to be an unlikely trend, especially considering the current feminist focus, both inside and outside the fashion show, the final bastion of fashion is undergoing a very modern retelling. The designer didn’t do the whole whale bones, but the corset belt, the tight-fitting T-shirt, the corset-laden shirt, or the terrible 1890s corset that we thought had disappeared. Much. Clothing such as Kiti’s lace, even if it is not tight pants, will wear a shirt. Today, Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma collection is launched with pink trousers, lace-up closures on the sides, and recognition of the aesthetics of the tights.

But can this dress completely get rid of its patriarchal trap? It seems unlikely. However, just as modern feminism recalls pink, is it possible that the symbolism of corsets can be subverted and given more feminist-friendly narratives?

The Mainbocher Corset photograph, taken by Horst P Horst in 1939.
 The Mainbocher Corset photograph, taken by Horst P Horst in 1939. Photograph: Horst P. Horst/Conde Nast via Getty Images

Valerie Stil, the fashion historian, author of “The Corset: Cultural History,” said: “The meaning of any piece of clothing is not embedded in the clothes itself; this is something we create and continually renegotiate. ”
However, a strong brand reshaping will be taken for the Victorian people who stand in a corset to represent a coma. Kardashian-style waist training, 18th and 19th century rigid ribbed underwear has given way to soft fabrics and loose styles. Natasha Goldenberg is an inspirational street style star who likes to wear a sweater, a fitted jacket or a dress.

The other is Sofie Valkiers, dressed in black leather or plaid dress, or paired with “a simple turtleneck sweater and cropped trousers”. Valkiers said that it was a very modern imperative to initially attract her to the corset. “This trend is perfect for adding a sense of exquisiteness to oversized clothes.”

The bodice loosely matches the shape of the T-stage that dominated this season – a soft hourglass that can be worn at the waist, but certainly won’t tighten. At the Prada AW16 show, fashion trends have caught the attention of the fabric, the corset waistband is worn on a thick coat, or wearing a loose shirt and a loose shirt.

Worn wonky over an overcoat … a corset at the Prada AW16 show, Milan Fashion Week.
 Worn wonky over an overcoat … a corset at the Prada AW16 show, Milan Fashion Week. Photograph: SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

Steele said that the version of Madonna is a distant cousin of the costume, designed to “respect or look up”. “It’s seen as a provocation to wear taboo clothes… a little bit fucking you, I am a sex life.”
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Of course, one person’s two fingers until patriarchy is another “meeting male sexual fantasies.” But underwear as a coat attracts and grows into what can happen in local shopping malls and on the stage.

Some of the street style stars of this season are keenly aware of the “sexy” side of the corset. Goldenberg said, “Nothing is more sexy than this.” However, Prada’s almost anti-sexy version inspired her to wear it. “When Miuccia Prada showed us how to wear socks, thick sweaters, coats and big boots to wear the sexiest thing in all fashion history – just when I fell in love with it.”

For Steele, it comes down to choice. From Madonna’s carnival to Prada’s more pressing approach.

“The point is that others don’t make decisions for us anymore. You don’t have social pressure, or your mom, or grandma says you have to wear a corset, or people will be shocked. Like, I do it myself – if If you like, say this is a mistake, but this is my choice.”

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