“Only men who are not interested in women are interested in women’s clothes. Men who like women never notice what they wear.”~Anatole France
A corset is a garment worn to hold and shape the torso into a
desired shape for aesthetic or medical purposes (either for the duration
of wearing it, or with a more lasting effect). Both men and women are
known to wear corsets, though women are more common wearers.
In recent years, the term “corset” has also been borrowed by the fashion
industry to refer to tops which, to varying degrees, mimic the look of
traditional corsets without actually acting as one. While these modern
corsets and corset tops often feature lacing and/or boning and generally
mimic a historical style of corsets, they have very little if any effect
on the shape of the wearer’s body. Genuine corsets are usually made by
a corsetmaker and should be fitted to the individual wearer.
The word corset is derived from the Old French word corps, the diminutive of
body, which itself derives from corpus – Latin for body. The craft of corset construction
is known as corsetry, as is the general wearing of them. (The word corsetry is
sometimes also used as a collective plural form of corset.) Someone who makes
corsets is a corsetier or corsetière (French terms for a man and for a woman,
respectively), or sometimes simply a corsetmaker. The word corset came into general
use in the English language in 1785. The word was used in The Ladies Magazine
to describe a “quilted waistcoat” called un corset by the French. The word was used
to differentiate the lighter corset from the heavier stays of the period.
The most common and well-known use of corsets is to slim the
body and make it conform to a fashionable silhouette. For women
this most frequently emphasizes a curvy figure, by reducing
the waist, and thereby exaggerating the bust and hips. However,
in some periods, corsets have been worn to achieve a tubular
straight-up-and-down shape, which involves minimizing the bust and hips.
For men, corsets are more customarily used to slim the figure. However,
there was a period from around 1820 to 1835 when a wasp-waisted figure
(a small, nipped-in look to the waist) was also desirable for men; this
was sometimes achieved by wearing a corset.
An overbust corset encloses the torso, extending from just under the arms
to the hips. An underbust corset begins just under the breasts and extends down
to the hips. Some corsets extend over the hips and, in very rare instances, reach the knees.
A shorter kind of corset, which covers the waist area (from low on the ribs to just
above the hips), is called a waist cincher. A corset may also include garters to hold up
stockings (alternatively a separate garter belt may be worn for that).
Normally a corset supports the visible dress, and
spreads the pressure from large dresses, such as the
crinoline and bustle. Sometimes a corset cover is used to
protect outer clothes from the corset and to smooth the lines
of the corset. The original corset cover was worn under the
corset to provide a layer between it and the body. Corsets
were not worn next to the skin, possibly due to difficulties
with laundering these items during the 19th century, as they
had steel boning and metal eyelets which would rust. The
corset cover would be in the form of a light chemise,
made from cotton lawn or silk.
People with spinal problems such as scoliosis or with internal injuries may be fitted
with a form of corset in order to immobilize and protect the torso. Andy Warhol was shot
in 1968 and never fully recovered, and wore a corset for the rest of his life.
Aside from fashion and medical uses, corsets are also used
in sexual fetishism, most notably in BDSM activities. In BDSM, a
submissive can be forced to wear a corset which would be laced
very tight and give some degree of restriction to the wearer. A dominant
can also wear a corset, often black, but for entirely different reasons,
such as aesthetics, and to achieve a severe, armored, “unbending”,
commanding appearance. A very common fetish costume for
women is the dominatrix costume. Usually it consists of mostly
dark or even black clothing. The woman usually wears a corset or
bustier and stockings with high-heeled footwear. High boots
are quite common as they enhance the woman’s domination.
Women in dominatrix costumes usually carry an accessory such
as a whip or a riding crop. A specially designed corset, in which
the breasts and vulva are left exposed can be worn during.
vanilla sex or BDSM activities.
Corsets are typically constructed of a flexible material (like cloth,
particularly coutil, or leather) stiffened with boning (also called ribs or stays) inserted
into channels in the cloth or leather. In the 19th century, bones of elephant, moose,
and whale were favored for the boning. Plastic is now the most commonly
used material for lightweight corsets and the majority of poor quality corsets,
whereas spring or spiral steel is preferred for stronger corsets and generally the
better quality corset too. Other materials used for boning include ivory, wood,
and cane. (By contrast, a girdle is usually made of elasticized fabric,
Corsets are held together by lacing, usually (though
not always) at the back. Tightening or loosening the lacing
produces corresponding changes in the firmness of the corset.
Depending on the desired effect and time period, corsets can be
laced from the top down, from the bottom up, or both up from the
bottom and down from the top, using two laces that meet in the
middle. It is difficult—although not impossible—for a back-laced
corset-wearer to do his or her own lacing. In the Victorian
heyday of corsets, a well-to-do woman’s corset laces would
be tightened by her maid, and a gentleman’s by his valet.
However, Victorian corsets also had a buttoned or
hooked front opening called a busk. If the corset was
worn loosely, it was possible to leave the lacing as
adjusted and take the corset on and off using the front
opening (if the corset is worn snugly, this method will
damage the busk if the lacing is not significantly
loosened beforehand). Self-lacing is also almost impossible
with tightlacing, which strives for the utmost possible reduction
of the waist. Modern tightlacers, lacking servants,
are usually laced by spouses and partners.
By wearing a tightly-laced corset for extended periods, known
as tightlacing, men and women can learn to tolerate extreme waist constriction
and eventually reduce their natural waist size. Tightlacers dream of 16 inches (41 cm)
and 17 inches (43 cm) waists, but most are satisfied with anything under
20 inches (51 cm). Some went so far that they could only breathe with the top part of their
lungs. This caused the bottom part of their lungs to fill with mucus, symtoms of this
include a slight but persistant cough and heavy breathing causing a heaving
appearance of the bosom. Until 1998, the Guinness Book of World Records
listed Ethel Granger as having the smallest waist on record at 13 inches (33 cm).
After 1998, the category changed to “smallest waist on a living person”
and Cathie Jung took the title with a 15 inches (38 cm) waist. Other women,
such as Polaire, also have achieved such reductions
(14 inches (36 cm) in her case).
However, these are extreme cases. Corsets were and are still usually
designed for support, with freedom of body movement, an important
consideration in their design. Present day corset-wearers usually tighten
the corset just enough to reduce their waists by 2 inches (5.1 cm) to
4 inches (10 cm); it is very difficult for a slender woman to achieve
as much as 6 inches (15 cm), although larger women can do so more easily.
In the past, a woman’s corset was usually worn over a chemise, a sleeveless
low-necked gown made of washable material (usually cotton or linen). It absorbed
perspiration and kept the corset and the gown clean. In modern times, an
undershirt or corset liner may be worn.
Moderate lacing is not incompatible with vigorous activity.
Indeed, during the second half of the 19th century, when corset
wearing was common, there were sport corsets specifically designed
to wear while bicycling, playing tennis, or horseback riding,
as well as for maternity wear.
The corset has been erroneously attributed to Catherine de’ Medici, wife
of King Henry II of France. She enforced a ban on thick waists at court attendance
during the 1550s. For nearly 350 years, women’s primary means of support was
the corset, with laces and stays made of whalebone or metal. Other
researchers have found evidence of the
use of corsets in early Crete.
The corset has undergone many changes. The corset was
originally known as stays in the early 16th century. It was a
simple bodice with tabs at the waist, stiffened by horn, buckram,
and whalebone. The center front was further reinforced by a busk
made of ivory, wood, or metal. It was most often laced from
the back, and was, at first, a garment reserved for the aristocracy.
Stays took a different form in the 18th century, whalebone began to be
used more, and there was more boning used in the garment. The shape of the
stays changed as well. The stays were low and wide in the front, while in the
back they could reach as high as the upper shoulder. Stays could be strapless
or use shoulder straps. The straps of the stays were attached in
the back and tied at the front sides.
The purpose of 18th century stays was to support the bust, confer
the fashionable conical shape while drawing the shoulders back. At this
time, the eyelets were reinforced with stitches, and were not placed
across from one another, but staggered. This allowed the stays to be
spiral laced. One end of the stay lace is inserted and knotted in the
bottom eyelet, the other end is wound through the stays’ eyelets
and tightened on the top. Tight-lacing was not common in this
time period, and indulged in only by the very fashionable.
Stays were worn by women in all societal levels, from
ladies of the court to street vendors. At this time, there
were two other variants of stays, jumps, which were
looser stays with attached sleeves, like
a jacket, and corsets.
Corsets were originally quilted waistcoats, worn by French women
as an alternative to stiff corsets. They were only quilted linen, laced in the
front, and un-boned. This garment was meant to be worn on informal occasions,
while stays were worn for court dress. In the 1790s, stays fell out of fashion. This
development coincided with the French Revolution, and the adoption of neoclassical
styles of dress. Interestingly, it was the men, Dandies, who began to wear corsets.
The fashion persisted thorough the 1840s, though after 1850 men who wore corsets
claimed they needed them for “back pain”.
Stays went away in the late 18th century, but the corset remained.
Corsets in the early 19th century lengthened to the hip, the lower
tabs replaced by gussets at the hip. Room was made for the bust in
front with more gussets, and the back lowered. The shoulder straps
disappeared in the 1840s for normal wear.
In the 1820s, fashion changed again, with the waistline lowered back to
almost the natural position. Corsets began to be made with some
padding and boning. Corsets began to be worn by all classes of society.
Some women made their own, while others bought their corsets. Corsets
were one of the first mass produced garments for women. Corsets began to
be more heavily boned in the 1840s. By 1850, steel
boning became popular.
With the advent of metal eyelets, tight lacing became possible.
The position of the eyelets changed, they were now situated across
from one another at the back. The front was now fastened with a metal
busk in front. Corsets were mostly white. The corsets of the 1850s-1860s
were shorter than the corsets of the 19th century through 1840s. This
was because of a change in the silhouette of women’s fashion.
The 1850s and 60s emphasized the hoopskirt. After the 1860s,
when the hoop fell out of style, the corset became longer to
mold the abdomen, exposed by the new lines of the
princess or cuirass style.
During the Edwardian period, the straight front corset (also known as
the S-Curve corset) was introduced. This corset was straight in front, with a
pronounced curve at the back that forced the upper body forward, and
the derrière out. This style was worn from 1900-1908.
The corset reached its longest length in the early 20th century.
The longline corset at first reached from the bust down to the
upper thigh. There was also a style of longline corset that started
under the bust, and necessitated the wearing of a brassiere.
This style was meant to complement the new silhouette.
It was a boneless style, much closer to a modern
girdle than the traditional corset. The longline
style was abandoned during World War I.
The corset fell from fashion in the 1920s in Europe and North America,
replaced by girdles and elastic brassieres, but survived as an article of costume.
Originally an item of lingerie, the corset has become a popular item of outerwear in
the fetish, BDSM and goth subcultures. In the fetish and BDSM literature, there is often
much emphasis on tightlacing, and many corset
makers cater to the fetish market.
Outside the fetish community, living history re-enactors
and historic costume enthusiasts still wear corsets
according to their original purpose, to give the proper
shape to the figure when wearing historic fashions.
In this case, the corset is underwear rather than
outerwear. Skilled corset makers are available to
make reproductions of historic corset shapes,
or to design new styles.
There was a brief revival of the corset in the late 1940s and early
1950s, in the form of the waist cincher sometimes called a “waspie”. This
was used to give the hourglass figure dictated by Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’.
However, use of the waist cincher was restricted to haute couture, and mos
t women continued to use girdles. This revival was brief, as the New Look
gave way to a less dramatically-shaped silhouette.
Since the late 1980s, the corset has experienced periodic
revivals, which have usually originated in haute couture and
which have occasionally trickled through to mainstream fashion.
These revivals focus on the corset as an item of outerwear
rather than underwear. The strongest of these revivals
was seen in the Autumn 2001 fashion collections and
coincided with the release of the film Moulin Rouge!, the costumes
for which featured many corsets as characteristic of the era. Another
fashion movement which has renewed interest in the corset is the
“Steampunk” culture, which utilizes late-Victorian fashion
shapes in new ways. The look was popularized by the
costumes in the film “The Golden Compass.”
In 2000 Fabrican patented an instant, sprayable, non-woven fabric.
Developed through a collaboration between Imperial College London and the
Royal College of Art, Fabrican technology has captured the imagination of designers,
industry and the public around the world. The technology has been developed for use
in household, industrial, personal and healthcare, decorative and fashion applications
using aerosol cans or spray-guns, and will soon be found in
products available everywhere.
The original idea of spray-on fabric came from Manel Torres’
work in the fashion industry. These photos capture the essence
of science and fashion in collaboration. Fabrican spray-on fabric
will liberate designers to create new and unique garments, offer a
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in infinite combinations. New textures and material characteristics are
a matter of adjusting chemistry. In addition to fashion, the technology is
opening new vistas, offering sprayable material for any application requiring a
fabric coating. The technology opens new vistas for personalised fashion,
allowing individual touches to be added to manufactured garments, or even impromptu
alterations. Garments could incorporate fragrances, active substances,
or conductive materials to interface with information technolgy.
After a decade of research, this futuristic
vision is taking shape.
Fabrican is a rare achievement in transforming a dream to practical realisation.
Through combination of clever exploitation of people’s immediate fascination with
the spray-on fabric, and Manel’s extraordinary ability to motivate multi-disciplinary
collaboration, Fabrican has brought interest and worldwide
- 1995 – 1997 Manel Torres conceives the idea for Spray-on Fabric whilst studying for his MA in Fashion Women’s Wear, Royal College of Art, London.
- 1998 – 2001 Manel Torres obtains his PhD for Spray-on Fabric at the Royal College of Art and has a patent filed for this technology. During his PhD research, his work was supervised by Dr Susannah Handley (Royal College of Art) and Professor Paul Luckham (Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London).
- 2003 Manel Torres establishes Fabrican Ltd. with Professor Paul Luckham.
Aware of the slow process of constructing garments, Manel investigated novel ways to speed up this process. Manel’s foresight and vision led him to think of developing a material that would almost magically fit the body like a second skin and at the same time have the appearance of clothing.
The original concept was to utilise Spray-on Fabric in the fashion industry. However, the technology has the potential to revolutionise and enhance numerous market areas.
Fabrican is focused on the research and development of Spray-on Fabric which can then be used across a number of market sectors. Fabrican’s mission is to develop prototype products, in collaboration with leading industrial partners, leading to commercial exploitation by the partner.
Our technology can be used across many industries, positively impacting the lives of millions of people as well as the environment.
Fabrican Ltd. is a company exploiting inter-disciplinary research which links the subjects of science and design.
Our team is dedicated to meeting the needs of consumers with creative ideas and innovative products, through the development of new applications for Spray-on Fabric technology.
Our novel concepts are enlightening major worldwide manufacturers as to the huge potential which exists, through the successful branding of a product range.
Our underlying ethos is to produce concept products which are market leaders, through scientific research and development for future markets.
Fabrican in Action
In the science lab
On the Runway
Couture in a Can
I still can’t tell yet if it would be a good investment as a designer or a huge waste of money, time, & effort. LoL Who wears that out? Gaga? That’s it?!?
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Fashion photography is a genre of photography devoted
to displaying clothing and other fashion items. Fashion photography
is most often conducted for advertisements or fashionmagazines such
as Vogue, Vanity Fair, or Allure. Over time, fashion photography has
developed its own aesthetic in which the clothes and fashions are
enhanced by the presence of exotic locations or accessories.
Photography was developed in the 1830s, but the earliest popular technique, the
daguerreotype, was unsuitable for mass printing. In 1856, Adolphe Braun
published a book containing 288 photographs of Virginia Oldoini, Countess di Castiglione,
a Tuscan noblewoman at the court of Napoleon III. The photos depict her in her
official court garb, making her the first fashion model.
In the first decade of the 20th century, advances in
halftone printing allowed fashion photographs to be featured
in magazines. Fashion photography made its first appearance in
French magazines such as La mode practique. In 1909, Condé Nast took
over Vogue magazine and also contributed to the beginnings of fashion
photography. In 1911, photographer Edward Steichen was “dared” by
Lucien Vogel, the publisher of Jardin des Modes and La Gazette du Bon Ton,
to promote fashion as a fine art by the use of photography. Steichen
then took photos of gowns designed by couturier Paul Poiret.
These photographs were published in the April 1911 issue of
the magazine Art et Décoration. According to Jesse Alexander,
This is “…now considered to be the first ever modern fashion
photography shoot. That is, photographing the garments in such
a way as to convey a sense of their physical quality as well as
their formal appearance, as opposed to simply illustrating the object.”
At this time, special emphasis was placed on staging the shots, a process
first developed by Baron Adolf de Meyer, who shot his models in natural
environments and poses. Vogue was followed by its rival, Harper’s Bazaar, and
the two companies were leaders in the field of fashion photography throughout
the 1920s and 1930s. House photographers such as Edward Steichen,
George Hoyningen-Huene, Horst P. Horst and Cecil Beaton transformed
the genre into an outstanding art form. Europe, and especially
Germany, was for a short time the leader
in fashion photography.
But now with that change in time every country has taken
considerable measures to promote the field of photography.
In the mid 1940s as World War II approached, the focus
shifted to the United States, where Vogue and Harper’s continued
their old rivalry. House photographers such as Irving Penn,
Martin Munkacsi, Richard Avedon, and Louise Dahl-Wolfe would
shape the look of fashion photography for the following decades.
Richard Avedon revolutionized fashion photography — and redefined
the role of the fashion photographer — in the post-World War II era
with his imaginative images of the modern woman. Today, his work is being
exhibited in the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach, FL. This exhibition features
more than 200 works and spans Avedon’s entire career, including vintage
prints, contact sheets, and original magazines from Harper’s Bazaar,
Vogue and The New Yorker.
The artists abandoned their rigid forms for a much freer style. In 1936,
Martin Munkacsi made the first photographs of models in sporty poses at the beach.
Under the artistic direction of Alexey Brodovitch, the Harper’s
Bazaar quickly introduced this new style into its magazine.
In postwar London, John French pioneered a new form
of fashion photography suited to reproduction in
newsprint, involving where possible reflected
natural light and low contrast.
After the deaths of Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton and Herb Ritts,
some of today’s most famous fashion photographers are Patrick Demarchelier, Steven Meisel,
Mario Testino, Peter Lindbergh and Annie Leibovitz.
Fashion Week History
In 1943, the first New York Fashion Week was held,
with one main purpose: to distract attention from French
fashion during WWII, when workers in the fashion industry
were unable to travel to Paris. This was an opportune
moment – as for centuries designers in America were thought
to be reliant on the French for inspiration. The fashion
publicist Eleanor Lambert organized an event she called
‘Press Week’ to showcase American designers for fashion journalists,
who had previously ignored their works. The Press Week was a success,
and, as a result, magazines like Vogue (which were normally filled with
French designs) began to feature more and more American innovations.
Until 1994, shows were held in different locations, such as hotels, or lofts.
Eventually, after a structural accident at a Michael Kors show, the event
moved to Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library, where it remained
until 2010, when the shows relocated to Lincoln Center. However, long before
Lambert, there were fashion shows throughout America. In 1903, an NYC shop, called
Ehrich Brothers, put on what is thought to have been the country’s first fashion show,
to lure middle-class females into the store. By 1910, many big department stores
were holding shows of their own.
It is likely that American retailers saw that they were called
‘fashion parades’ in Paris couture salons and decided to use the idea.
These parades were an effective way to promote stores, and improved
their status. By the 1920s, the fashion show had been used by retailers
up and down the country. They were staged, and often held in the shop’s
restaurant during lunch or teatime. These shows were usually more theatrical
than those of today, heavily based upon a single theme, and accompanied
with a narrative commentary. The shows were hugely popular, enticing
crowds in their thousands – crowds so large, that stores in New York in the
fifties had to obtain a license to have live models. Nowadays, access to
New York Fashion Week is by invitation only, and only fashion magazine
editors, fashion magazine journalists, models (and ex-models)
and celebrities are invited.
Other buyers are restricted to the showrooms and stores, and the
articles in the magazines. The dominance of the big four has been
criticised for benefiting industry participants. For example, buyers,
journalists, models and celebrities can limit their travel and simply move
from one city to the other over the four week period. This arrangement
has been criticized for stifling manufacturing employment in the UK
and design talent in emerging fashion hubs such as Los Angeles.
Fashion Week Schedule
New York, London, Milan and Paris each host a fashion week twice a year with
New York kicking off each season and the other cities following in the
There are two major seasons per year – Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer.
For Womenswear, the Autumn/Winter shows always start in
New York in February. Spring/Summer shows start in September
in London. Menswear Autumn/Winter shows start in January in Milan
for typically less than a week followed by another short week in Paris.
Menswear Spring/Summer shows are done in June. Womenswear Haute
Couture shows typically happen in Paris a week after
the Menswear Paris shows.
Over the past few years, more and more designers have shown
inter-seasonal collections between the traditional Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer seasons.
These collections are usually more commercial than the main season collections and
help shorten the customer’s wait for new season clothes. The inter-seasonal
collections are Resort/Cruise (before Spring/Summer) and Pre-Fall (before Autumn/Winter).
There is no fixed schedule for these shows in any of the major fashion capitals but
they typically happen three months after the main season shows. Some designers show
their inter-seasonal collections outside their home city. For example, Karl Lagerfeld
has shown his Resort and Pre-Fall collections for Chanel in cities such
as Moscow, Los Angeles and Monte Carlo instead of Paris. Many designers
also put on presentations as opposed to traditional shows during Resort and
Pre-Fall either to cut down costs or because they feel the clothes
can be better understood in this medium.
Some fashion weeks can be genre-specific, such as a
Miami Fashion Week (swimwear), Rio Summer (swimwear),
Prêt-a-Porter (ready-to-wear) Fashion Week, Couture
(one-of-a-kind designer original) Fashion Week and Bridal
Fashion Week, while Portland (Oregon, USA) Fashion Week
shows some eco-friendly designers.
Are also known as side hoops are women’s undergarments
worn in the 18th century to extend the width of the skirts at
the side while leaving the front and back flat. This provided a
flat panel where boldly scaled woven patterns or rich embroidery
could be fully appreciated.The style originated in Spanish
court dress of the 17th century,familiar in portraits by Velázquez.
The fashion spread to France and from there to the rest of
Europe after c. 1718-1719, after some Spanish dresses had been
displayed in Paris. By mid-18th century it had been developed into the
robe à la française, which ensured that a woman took up three times
as much space as a man and always presented an imposing spectacle.
At their most extreme, in the French court of Marie Antoinette,
could extend the skirt several feet at each side. By the 1780s, panniers
were normally worn only to very formal gowns and within court fashion. The name
comes from panniers, a French term for wicker baskets (paniers in current
French) slung on either side of a pack animal. It is also
the name of a GWR 0-6-0 Tank engine with an iconic
“Fashion condemns us to many follies; the greatest is to make ourselves its slave.”~Napoleon Bonaparte