Nothing in the world of fashion is ever obsolete, owing to the 20-year fashion theory that states trends repeat themselves after every 20 years. If you were to take a close look at fashion reports over the past decades, many trends have reappeared but with modern iterations.
Be it ’80s-inspired fashion, mini-skirts, platform shoes, cat-eye sunglasses, corsets, 90s neons or the 2000s low-slung waists; each trend has had a glorious peak a couple of decades ago. But their current versions are adapted and tweaked to suit the modern world. Giving a nod to the cyclical theory of fashion trends, Dolly J agreed that fashion from the past is emerging again. “Trends that were followed in the past, are making their way to the 2020s. However, these trends do see some modifications and fresh elements, making them more relevant to resonate with today’s audience.”
Runways in 2022 have been filled with ensembles that champion the idea of sexy and seductive clothing choices. Think less fashion, more flesh – daring cut-out details, micro mini skirt to show off those legs and lots of corsets! Corsets are back, in all shapes and avatars, from the corset belt to the corset choli. Proof enough is their presence at the recently held, Met Gala, where corsets were the hottest trend and a celeb-favourite. So, let’s just agree that they aren’t going anywhere. “Corsets are far from being new to anyone’s wardrobe, they have a way of constantly returning in modern iterations, or perhaps I feel it never completely left the fashion scene in my opinion. The garment evolves like the industry we thrive in,” exclaimed couturier Manish Malhotra.
“Though corsets were never completely out of vogue, couture designers like Weinsanto, Acne Studios and Mugler all presented a reinvented version of the corset on the ramp during Spring/Summer 2022,” recalls fashion designer, Dolly J. Adding further, Monica Shah of JADE also agrees that corsets never really went away, “They’ve always existed on the scene in some way or another. And so, whether they flourish within the realm of Indian wear, especially bridal wear, is entirely up to the wearer’s personal preference.”
Although corsets never ceased to exist, there was a brief period when corsets were considered a fashion faux pau given their infamous reputation of being detrimental to women’s health. But with period TV shows like Bridgeton and fashion events like the Met Gala giving corsets a nod, the trend is here to stay. ” We’re seeing the re-emergence of “royal core” in mainstream pop culture with shows like Bridgerton. The popularity of that kind of aesthetic along with a seemingly timeless love for vintage has definitely contributed to the presence of corsets in streetwear and on the runway,” added Shah.
The modern corset
2022’s corsets aren’t made to be restrictive or achieve an ‘ideal’ body type. Yes, they’re not organ-crushing, faint-inducing or a version of waist-training, rather, the modern interpretation is all about feeling empowered, sexy, confident, and rocking your underwear as outerwear. With a change in construction and modern interpretations of the age-old trend, corsets have made it reach the right side of the trend list. When looking through the lens of Malhotra, he points out that “Runways are full of revamped corsetry after going through several modifications, with modern silhouettes and unusual fabrics moulding the shapewear in its style.”
A brief history of corsets
Corsets made an appearance in the 16th century in the Western world. Corsets were essentially a part of clothing used to accentuate a women’s waistline and champion the idea of a flattering tiny waist. During the early eras of corsetry, corsets moulded a woman’s upper body into a V-shape that flattened and pushed up the breasts, and young children were also often fitted with corsets to ensure an upright spine and pleasing body shapes later in life. Later, as fashions changed, corsets became more hourglass-shaped to emphasize the female figure. Throwing light on the history of the garment Malhotra shared his expertise, “When we dig into fashion archives, the corsets were constrictive and meant to show a desired slim waist or an hourglass figure, but now due the same garment is democratized and reinterpreted in a fashion-forward manner with a fresh perspective which is undoubtedly more casual and exceedingly comfortable.”
The corset was first associated with the aristocracy but was adopted by bourgeois women in the 18th century. Speaking about the history of the corsets, Dolly J recalls, “When you look at the history of corsets, they were initially worn by the aristocracy under bulky gowns or coats as a means to constrict the waist and support the bosom. Later they were adopted by the working class as well and were worn by both men and women.”
Being associated with aristocracy, and 18th fashion, corsets have made a re-appearance making them a must-have item for 2022. ” I think there’s been a newfound fascination with royalty-inspired fashion and all things vintage. This has led to the re-emergence of the corset as a fashion staple,” said Shah. Adding further to this Malhotra also feels that, “From classic to futuristic, in a more OTT language, from “Bridgerton” to “Euphoria,” corsets seamlessly mark their presence in the most symbolic way possible. The vintage garment has become a sartorial mainstay that’ll surely stick around.”
Corsets in the Modern World
In the modern world, Manish believes that the corset trend has appeared in myriad ways; from strapless versions, lace inserts, long sleeves, or tank sleeves layered over shirts/t-shirts, making them all popular editions of the trend. “I personally love the transition, from hiding under a layer in the Regency era to being sported over a layer in the present one, corsets have come a long way. The versatile staple has become an everyday item that everyone can embrace and accessorize to fit their personal style.”
Futuristic metallic bustiers and motocross-inspired corsetry are among the top styles that transformed this heritage classic into a must-have item for fall 2022. The art of corsetry has led to the creation of the modern version of one of the most historically famous garments, with a more than 500-year fashion legacy.
The much-loved legendary silhouette made a big comeback in 2022 as a key trend. As seductive as ever, the corset was updated with protective and futuristic elements for a modern appeal. ” It’s safe to say that though the corset has made a return, its impact on women’s bodies hasn’t. Corsets now embody the aesthetic but also offer ample comfort and functionality – core values of post-pandemic style,” says Shah. The runways have brought in the revival of these throwback trends, as well as new joyful iterations.
“Designers have given a fresh twist to this centuries-old ensemble. Now you don’t have to think of corsets as something that is dated, oppressive, binding and something that is absolute torture to wear. Designers are now portraying corsets as an ensemble to assert and emancipate yourself. I believe corsets are here to stay as people are adapting to them and are pairing corsets with T-shirts, shirts and blouses. Fashion shouldn’t have any boundaries, it should be defined by how you create/recreate looks that would define you,” said Dolly J.
Corsets and Gender-neutrality
Released just over a year ago – the period drama Bridgerton also had a distinct role to play in putting the corset back in the spotlight, along with the Met Gala where corsets seemed like the next theme in line after gilded Glamour. From Lenny Kravitz to the Hadid Sisters, and Evan Mock to Ben Platt who wore the corset as outerwear; corsets were seen in different forms. Some as a part of ballgowns, others as innerwear. Malhotra shares his opinion on corsets and their gender-neutral nature, “I think if an individual feels like wearing a corset and it makes one feel a certain way or showcases their personality the way they want and provides the confidence and comfort that satisfies them then how does it matter on who wears it. Fashion is for all. ” As the fashion world moves towards inclusivity and gender-neutral clothing, corsets too seamless fit in the arena. Owing to a belief in androgynous silhouettes Monica is of the opinion that fashion is gender-neutral. “Fashion is not so much about demarcating genders, but more about celebrating one’s own unique individuality and authenticity.”
As the world becomes more inclusive, fashion trends are becoming gender fluid. The present version of corsets is androgynous in style and with a change in the construction of corsets, corsets aren’t limited to the concept of wanting a tiny or a slender body and nor are they gender-limiting. As was seen on the global platform of the Met Gala, corsets are gender neutral and can be worn with a high-style quotient irrespective. “Designers are making corsets that are more flexible and wearable and less costume-y. The corset is flattering on all body and gender types. When you look at the history of corsets, they were always gender neutral. It was only around 1800s that the corset came to be identified as a feminine garment. The men who wore corsets started getting ridiculed, and thus slowly corsets came to be thought of as a garment meant only for women,” said Dolly J.
But question is what are the main characteristics that make a corset so versatile? “ The sculpting, contouring, compression, and support make the corset versatile, whether you wear it as an under or over layer,” tells Manish. He further says “If you look at yourself in the mirror and witness how a silhouette makes you feel strong and stylish at the same time, then nothing like it. Anyone who embraces corsets as a powerful tool can rock the look like no one.”
The only difference Dolly points out is that today the world has started realizing that gender is not binary. “The fashion industry has also recognized the fact and designers are now creating ensembles that portray gender inclusivity at their core. Today, corsets are made more malleable to adapt to all body types, thus making it inclusive, ” says Dolly J
Much like the western designer, the Indian fashion industry has taken a keen interest in corsets with corset sarees being one major trend. “ We’ve time and again incorporated corset blouses in our collections whether paired with Indian silhouettes like Lehengas, Sarees or Palazzos, etc., the timeless piece when embellished with our signature elements accentuates the beauty of our wearers beautifully and brilliantly,” shared Manish Malhotra. Designers like Tarun Tahiliani and Gaurav Gupta are experts at creating haute couture that features corsets. Giving a scoop on what we can expect in the realm of Indian fashion Dolly J shares. “My upcoming couture collection will see beautiful and elaborate corset evening gowns and Chikankari sarees with a corset blouse.”
“A corset can be styled with jeans, it can be worn over a crisp white shirt, Corset blouses look beautiful and make a statement when teamed with a saree. A simple corset can elevate any regular ensemble, giving it an edgy look.”
“ In regards to styling, corsets can be styled with a gown for a glamorous look, or a short skirt for a bold look, its rising streetwear visibility in paired looks with utility trousers, denim, or cargo pants blur the lines between red carpet and off-duty look.”