Historical Corsets

5th August 2022

All of us have seen historical drawings depicting women wearing corsets and sporting impossibly small waists and bizarre profiles. The popular story was that corsets were little better than torture machines, worn by women mainly because they were vain or slaves to fashion.

Sarah Bendall, a Research Fellow at the Gender and Women’s History Research Centre, Australian Catholic University, wanted to test these myths. So rather than hitting the books, she hit her sewing machine and started remaking 400-year old corsets to see just how true the stories were.

Surprisingly, her research showed that like media today, many of the stories were filled with hype and moralising hysteria.

In fact, some of the corsets provided back support and could be worn tight or loose, depending on how the wearer preferred it.

We’re sure that most women are not unhappy that corsets are no longer a staple item of clothing, but it is interesting to learn that the actual lived experience of corset-wearing women from the past was likely to have been quite different to what the (usually male) recorders of history may have suggested.

If you would like to read more about Sarah’s research, you can do so HERE.

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