Those Dreaded Corsets

By | January 28, 2019

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Photograph of an American woman wearing a corset, 1899. (Photo by GraphicaArtis/Getty Images)

For several hundred years, fashion dictated that women wear a corset beneath their clothing. The stiff, constricting, and confining garment served to keep a woman’s breasts in place while also creating a flattering hourglass figure. Although the true origin of women’s corsets is not known, the undergarment went through a number of alterations and improvements over the years. The corset remained a constricting burden to women until it eventually fell out of fashion and was replaced by the brassiere. 

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The flat-chested look of Eleanora de Toledo could indicate that she wore a tight corset. Source: (

Renaissance Corsets

We may not know the exact date when corsets were first invented, but we do know that women of style wore corsets as early as the 1530s. Paintings and portraits, such as the several images of Eleanora di Toledo, from this time period, show women wearing high necklines, flat chests, and tiny waists. The only way these gowns could fit the way they did was with the use of stays, such as those found in a corset.