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MEHER CASTELINO tells you why corsets have become a style statement today
Designers in the 21st century may feel that they have discovered the beauty of the corset, but it is unbelievable yet true that the corset’s history dates back to as far back as 2000 BC when it was just a piece of cloth that was wrapped tightly around the female torso to give it shape. Since then the history of the corset has been so colourful that there are about 42,500 websites devoted for the same.
Many countries around the world have tried their skills to create corsets, which were initially used as innerwear. In history, there is a mention of corsets made of stiff fabrics during the 13th and 14th centuries. Corsets were even made of iron in the 16th century when it was a light steel framework that women wore to match the men’s armours.
One of the most memorable moments in the history of corsets must have been when Scarlet O’Hara, the leading lady of the film, Gone with the Wind, ordered her nanny to tighten her corset to clinch her waist.
In the 20th century, corsets, which were till then a garment that clinched the waist, turned into a girdle with a bra as a separate item. With the advent of lycra in the 70s’, the girdle was a more comfortable piece of innerwear. But the girdle, from the 50s’ to 70s’, was used only by elderly women. It was when the girdle and bra were combined that younger women also started taking a liking for it. But freedom and casual dressing pushed the corset at the bottom of the fashion ladder in the 80s’.
Thanks to designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood, who started promoting innerwear as outer wear, the corset got a new lease of life. Soon it was pop divas like Madonna who resurrected the corset.
Our designers also are not lagging behind as far as corset couture is concerned. Suneet Varma created his fashion breastplates in the early eighties and still has corsets teamed with saris and skirts, but they are now showered with embroidery at his Courtyard outlet. Ravi Bajaj has corsets at The Designer Studio. Lakme India Fashion Week 2003 had several designers like J J Valaya and Tarun Tahiliani showcasing corsets for formal wear. Almost every designer has worked with corsets in India and given them an ethnic or western touch. Designer Lascelles Symons even made corset designing his specialty.
If the corsets in the past were made of fabrics and steel, in the 21st century, even leather has stepped in to give it a more contemporary look. “Corsets have become a very popular item of clothing for all age groups. The fabrics selected are varied. There are corsets in Chinese brocade with abla work, some with gold tissue, others in raw silk embellished with florets. With lycra, it is very easy to create a corset because it gives the required fit and shape. Today there are strappy and blouse-inspired corsets - some with lacing and others with fastenings,” explains Naina Shah of Naina’s.
“In many cases, the corset has even replaced the traditional choli with the sari,” she continues.
This season, the corset has become one of the biggest fashion statements for the young and old. For those who are shy to bare their arms and shoulders, there are corsets that can be worn over body hugging T-shirts.
So you too could go for the corset as they come in all shapes and sizes and they are wonderful to knock off inches without going on a diet!