An Introduction to Corsets Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

An Introduction to Corsets

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Introduction to Corsets | Period Costumes - Corset History | Corsets, The Fashionable Foundation - Style, Wealth and Status
Types of Corsets, How to Make Them and Where to Get Them | Corsets, Gracious Instruments of Torture - Health, Punishment and Oppression
The Subversive Stays - Corsets and Sex, Erotica and Fetishism | The Corset - Conclusion

This University Project covers an expansive subject, covering not just the corset's many uses (more than you can conceive of, or - with some of them - would want to) but the ideas it has inspired. It's been an enormous influence over costume and fashion history, and many other fields. In the words of this project's Researcher:

This is something I'm personally very attached to as you have probably gathered. I've studied the subject independently, but can also include the first hand experiences of myself and plenty of others. It is an important subject due to its influence on fashion and beauty ideals for centuries (both women's and men's) and is still relevant today.

Corsets were, almost universally, the basis for women's clothing, and this has continued; its development into other types of underwear and its complex design and construction are present in, for example, modern bra design. Any number of other garments can be based around it, using the same methods of shaping and cutting. It has also influenced seemingly unrelated issues; ie, the importance of the whalebone industry in the economies of several countries, and how its decline affected them. It has also gathered a huge following within fashion culture, in particular with alternative groups (it's one of the most popular fetish items, as well as being seen as the epitome of luxury underwear). This is due to its versatility and its ability to flatter most wearers. It's also a skilled craft and therefore separate from general dressmaking. The physical and aesthetic effects produced by the corset are part of its appeal - if it were uncomfortable, even painful (as seems to be the general view), we would no longer wear them. Taken to extremes, they form an important part of the body-modification movement; used everyday, they are a simple way of improving your appearance.

Besides covering all these, this project will investigate as many examples of its use (and abuse) as possible, and estimate the effects of these. Also, to chronicle the changing meanings and relevance of the garment over time, as well as its basic form and structure. It hopes to dispel many of the unpleasant myths that have arisen, ie, corsets were an acceptable way of keeping women subdued, they were often fatal to (supposedly) 18" waisted Victorian girls. Mainly, the entries will concentrate on the importance of the corset in clothing history and fashion, and how its many uses contribute to this. Its versatility, and to some degree omnipresence, are what have made it such a meaningful and symbolic garment.

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