Concept

History of corsets

Summary
The corset is a supportive undergarment for women, dating, in Europe, back several centuries, evolving as fashion trends have changed and being known, depending on era and geography, as a pair of bodies, stays and corsets. The appearance of the garment represented a change from people wearing clothes to fit their bodies to changing the shape of their bodies to support and fit their fashionable clothing. A "pair of bodies" or stays, the supportive garments that predated corsets, first became popular in sixteenth-century Europe, with corsets reaching the zenith of its popularity in the Victorian era. While the corset has typically been worn as an undergarment, it has occasionally been used as an outer-garment; stays as outer-garments can be seen in the national dress of many European countries. The English word corset is derived from the Old French word corps and the diminutive of body, which itself derives from corpus—Latin for body. The term "corset” was in use in the late 14th century, from the French "corset" which meant "a kind of laced bodice." The meaning of it as a "stiff supporting so constricting undergarment for the waist, worn chiefly by women to shape the figure," dates from 1795. The term "stays" was frequently used in English circa 1600 until the early twentieth century, and was used interchangeably with corset in the Renaissance. The earliest known representation of a possible corset appears on a figurine from Minoan art made circa 1600 BCE. The article of clothing depicted might be perceived as a corset, but is worn as an outer garment, and leaves the breasts exposed. Corsets have been used for centuries among certain tribes of the Caucasus: Circassians and Abkhaz. They were used to "beautify" women and also to ensure modesty. Corsets were laced tightly with as many as fifty laces, and had to be worn from childhood until the wedding night. When the marriage was consummated, a groom had to slowly and carefully undo each lace to demonstrate self-control.
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