Everything You Need to Know About Corsets

In the latest installment of Everything You Need to Know, host Hamish Bowles follows the arc of the corset’s history from painful to playful. Curves and comfort might be compatible today (thanks Spanx and Skims), but that wasn’t the case in the 17th century when Catherine de Medici brought the corset from Italy to France.  Made using materials like whalebone and metal, corsets contained and constrained women’s bodies, keeping them in place (literally and figuratively). They also subdued nature in favor of artifice as some women—and men—worked toward 18-inch waists.

Women have been lacing and unlacing through the centuries, but corsets can do more than create curves. The flapper’s smooth, cylindrical shape, for example, was sometimes achieved with the help of a stretchy foundation garment. Still, it’s the hourglass that leaves the deepest impression. In 1947 Christian Dior reintroduced it, through  heavily structured garments, with his New Look. The cinched waist remained in place through the 1960s, and was revived in the 1980s and 1990s by designers like Azzedine Alaïa and Jean Paul Gaultier, the latter of whom famously created the nostalgic cone-bra look for Madonna. At the same time Christian Lacroix was romancing the historical corset, and Thierry Mugler was imagining it for techno chicks. More recently, steampunks embraced the look.

It’s been a long time since corsets came out from under. Today, as Bowles notes, they are symbols of empowerment rather than of restraint and they’re as likely to be seen over a T-shirt or with jeans as dressed up on the red carpet.

Director: Andrew Myers

Host: Hamish Bowles
Set Decorator: Mike Feswick
Hand Model: Brielle Jenkins
Supervising Producer: Jordin Rocchi
Writers: Stef Dag, Lane Williamson

Associate Producers: Cecilia Sallusti, Qieara Lesnesne
Manager, Creative Development, Vogue: Alexandra Gurvitch
Director, Creative Development, Vogue: Anna Page Nadin
Production Manager: Edith Pauccar
Production Coordinator: Kit Fogarty
Post Production Manager: Marco Glinbizzi
Senior Director, Production Management: Jessica Schier

VP, Digital Video Programming and Development,Vogue (English Language): Joe Pickard

Digital Director, Video: Tara Homeri
Director of Content, Vogue: Rahel Gebreyes

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