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The Corset: Tales of History and Pop Culture


The corset has been both hailed and criticised for centuries. It has been conceived to take on many roles of the human condition. From the whalebone and iron shackles of patriarchal oppression to the infamous Kardashian endorsed waist trainers. Traditionally, the function of the controversial corset was to maintain a specifically defined outline of feminine beauty by strenuous waistline compression. They were used to attain the outrageously coveted “hourglass figure” often seen in popular culture.


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A photo posted by Mark Mckee06 (@mark_mckee86) on

  The earliest image showing some semblance to the modern day corset can be traced back to 2000 BC when Cretan woman wore similar garments which cinched at the waist. It wasn’t until The Middle Ages that corsets became popular with European women.   Antiquarian corsets and their modern day waist training counterparts have been associated with numerous health problems including decreased breathing capacity, compression of internal organs and light headedness. Never before has the term “beauty is pain” been more apt, am I right?   From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, corsets were initially constructed from iron and whalebone, softening to cotton and lace in the 1930s and 40s while finally being  abandoned after the Second World War.   It wasn’t until the 1990s, when Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour globally resurrected the corset while simultaneously introducing the world to the iconic Jean Paul Gaultier Cone Bra. This trend provided a modern twist on the historical corset introducing underwear worn as outerwear. It began to reemerge in the late noughties with its prevalence still visible in fashion and fitness today.   In recent times, celebrities such as Gigi Hadid, Victoria Beckham, Lady Gaga and Rihanna have been associated with this trend. Last month,  Gigi Hadid stepped out in a black and white ensemble featuring a striped corset with a cut-out design..      In the fitness industry, the corset has manifested itself in the form of the Waist Gang Society Waist Trainer. These heavily Kardashian plugged items are intended to be worn while working out, buying groceries or at anytime you feel like being uncomfortable. While receiving an abundance of negative reviews partnered with a slew of lawsuits, this craze has still managed to be significantly successful.

So the take home message here is: gals, just be you. Nothing can top a good exercise routine and diet, variety is the spice of life and all that jazz. You can’t shimmy to Queen Bey in the club if you’re corseted up to your eyes, so why bother? You just do you, ditch the corset and celebrate your individuality.

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