|Traditional undergarment corsetry|
But! Corsets are the only undergarment I can think of that are now thought of only as outerwear by the masses. They were originally worn exclusively underneath dresses, of course. While they may be an antiquated garment, there is a huge number of modern women--seamstresses and otherwise--fascinated by the corset. After making my first corset and spending much time on the various corsetry message boards and sites, I discovered something that surprised me: almost all these women are making or buying corsets to be worn almost exclusively as outerwear. (The exceptions to this are corsets worn in boudoir situations, fetish, and reenactments.)
In fact, the notion of a corset being underwear is now on the fringes. Corsetry as lingerie is usually mentioned only for those most extreme corset wearers: tightlacers--or people who wear their corsets for long periods of time (sometimes 23 hours a day) and lace very tightly, in an effort to modify their bodies. Accurately or not, this type of corset wear is associated with fetishism and BDSM lifestyles.
What a fascinating shift! If a Victorian woman showed her corset, it would be shocking, and I'm sure she would be thought of as a very loose woman (read: hooker). But now a woman showing her corset is in the mainstream, and a woman wearing her corset as underwear is the perverse one.
I'm interested in corsets pretty much only as foundation garments, in a historical sense. My further research (which I can share if you're interested!) has shown that traditional corsets were alive and well in the late 40s and early 50s. The silhouette of a Dior gown or a Jacques Fath suit would be impossible to achieve otherwise. And so, I find myself a bit in the fringes in the world of corsetry.
However, corsets were also making their way to outerwear status in the 50s, to the shock of some. This vintage pattern shows a corset-styled belt. (Though it's worth noting that, unless fully steel boned, this belt would be decorative rather than functional.)
|Pattern from Mrs. Depew|
Jacques Fath, one of my favorite designers of the New Look period, shocked the fashion world with his use of corset lacing on outerwear, as seen in this pink gown.
But all this is still quite a shift from what we're seeing today: functional, steel-boned corsets worn with jeans as clubwear. This look can range from (sort of) elegant . . .
. . . to downright gaudy.
Anyway, enough of my rambling. What do you think of this whole thing? Do you see corsets as underwear or outerwear?