Women have always gone to great lengths to conform to what is socially celebrated as beautiful (I have a different theory on this but I’ll save that for another day). Corsets are a perfect example.
Did you know that a woman was responsible for encouraging women to wear corsets in the 16th century?
Find out this and other fun historical facts about corsets below!
1. Corsets date back to the 16th century when aristocratic women started to wear bodices reinforced with whale bones and tusks.
2. Queen Catherine de’ Medici, wife of French King Henry II is said to have been the reason corsets became popular in the 16th century because she banned women with thick waists from attending court.
3. Victorian corsets were meant to create 18” – 32” waists when completely laced.
4. Corsets remained common during the Renaissance and up until the 20th century, but many blame this restrictive garment for contributing to female oppression because women often suffered from health issues while trying to achieve a smaller waist.
5. Some medical professionals of that time believed corsets would cause infertility.
6. Corsets often caused fainting spells and made breathing painful. Women who wore them were also especially susceptible to tuberculosis and pneumonia.
7. Napoleon Bonaparte, who rose to prominence during the French Revolution, was a military leader who had our back! He campaigned to eradicate corsets and referred to the restrictive undergarment as “the implement of detestable coquetry which not only betrays a frivolous bent but forecasts the decline of humanity.”
8. Men also wore corsets! Towards the end of the 18th century, men wore form-fitting jackets and trousers. Corsets helped them achieve a leaner silhouette. However, by the mid-19th century, French and Englishmen got tired of wearing them and those who continued to wear corsets were teased.
9. Flexible and elastic “Health Corsets” became popular in the late 19th century. They were created as a healthy alternative to regular corsets.
10. By the 1920s, the hourglass figure was no longer the trend, so no one wanted to wear corsets anymore. Flapper dresses were the new style and marked an era when young and single women began trading in long skirts and corsets for short skirts, bobbed hairstyles and flowing garments.
11. Bones from baleen whales were used in boning in corsets and umbrellas. At one point, these whales were almost becoming extinct. Fortunately, technology has advanced since then and corsets are now made from fabric, plastic, and metals.