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Taking back power with corsets

How wearing corsets can help dismantle outdated ideas on femininity and body image.

By DamilolaPublished 3 years ago 6 min read
My favourite corset

One day Catherine de’Medici the queen of France, was having a bad day and decided she didn’t want to see women with “thick” waists at court. She then made an order banishing women from coming to court if they didn’t find a slimming solution. That marked the start of the use of corsets by women in the 19th century. It became wildly popular and became some sort of a uniform and an essential undergarment.

I think we can all agree that the idea of women being of different shapes and sizes as something that’s unacceptable and non-celebratory is toxic. And so it makes perfect sense that the trail of toxicity surrounding corsets started from there. This went on for a while, even until the Marilyn Monroe era when she wore corsets underneath her costumes.

Once the world started to realise how outdated Catherine’s initial ideas were, corsets gradually became more and more extinct, and for very good reasons. Up until the 2000s there were still very unattainable standards placed on how a woman should look, her weight and her sexuality. Although these standards still exist today, thankfully it isn’t as bad as those placed on women in Catherine’s era.

I’ve been wearing corsets since I was about 16. And to be quite honest with you, the reason I got into it is a bit cliche. When I was in sixth form, I was suffering with serious body dysmorphia. Everyone around me saw me as slim and somewhat petite, but I didn’t see myself in the same way and would hide in baggy oversized clothes. When I stumbled upon corsets, just like everyone else I initially assumed it to be something I could wear to help me lose weight and reduce my waist, and I never saw it as something fashionable. It was always something I hid underneath my clothes and in fact I was quite ashamed of myself for wearing them.

Corsets then were very controversial. The judgement women are subjected to for altering their bodies, that in addition to the fact that waist trainers were being made in the likeness of corsets gave them a bad reputation. So even though I’ve always had an obsession with all things vintage and believe there’s something sensual and fantastical about corsets and undergarments, it wasn’t something I wanted to announce whenever I walked into a room for the fear of being judged. I also didn’t want anything that would bring attention to my body at all, and that included bright colours. I also really hated the word “sexy.”

When I was about 20, I gained a bit of confidence in my body and wanted to explore different types of shapes that are flattering to my figure. I stumbled upon burlesque dancers, and that’s when I started to see corsets as more of a fashion statement than a shape wear. The first time I was brave enough to wear a corset over my clothes, there were many stares. And I wouldn’t necessarily say they were good. I had a couple of people come up to me asking about it and majority of people found it spectacular. But I remember feeling very out of place for wearing it in public and became self-conscious. I quickly realised that whilst corsets might be fun to wear in burlesque settings or as an halloween costume, they aren’t much of a fashion statement anymore. I have seen corsets being sown into dresses but the original vintage form of it is not as widely worn as it used to be.

From my experience, there are many reasons why vintage corsets should come back in style. Here are some of them;

1- It helps celebrate and accept sexuality.

Corsets are sexy. When you put it on there’s the illusion that comes from wearing something that gives you the desired hour glass figure. Whilst many people see that as a bad thing, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating your body in whatever form you choose. There’s nothing wrong with being sexy, neither is there anything wrong with having an hour glass figure. As long as your idea of femininity is not fetishised or toxic, it’s a perfectly valid form of expression. So if you are feeling up to wearing something that gives the illusion of curves and makes you feel especially sexy on that day, you should wear whatever makes you feel authentic and confident. Sometimes garments can be an extension of your personality or creativity but they can also help with making you feel good and improving your mood. The more women take back outfits that are connected to slut-shaming or outdated ideas on what the female body should look like, we are controlling the narrative by taking back the power.

Another one of my favourite corsets

2 - It helps with posture

Whenever I wear a corset, there’s an instant improvement in the way I sit and even walk. There are testimonials from women who have praised corsets for helping with their back pain. Whilst I haven’t experienced this personally, I can vouch for corsets as a way to improve your posture. I tend to slouch when I walk, but when I wear a corset it helps me walk straight and improves my confidence. So if you’re looking for something you can wear underneath or over your clothes that will improve your posture immediately, corsets are good solutions for this.

It helps with my posture

3 - It can help with dieting and weight control

You can control how tight you want your corsets, whether you want it just snug on your figure or to create an illusion of a much smaller waist, it’s all up to you. Whenever I wear my corset, regardless of how tight it is, I’ve noticed it helps me with sticking to my diet if I have one. This is because you feel very full when you have it on and so it could be a good weight loss solution for those who want to lose weight. I wouldn’t recommend going too tight as it can become slightly uncomfortable, but the right balance can help you with controlling your dietary intake and help with your weight loss journey.

4 - Post-partum waist training

It’s no secret that women use corsets as a way to reduce the size of their waists. And I can say that I’ve definitely seen a difference in my waist having worn corsets on and off for almost 8 years now. But I’ve also seen women who have used corsets to help with losing the weight around the waist that have come on after going through childbirth. Corsets can help with getting back to previous waist sizes and can help with confidence for those who might be insecure about the inevitable changes in their body after childbirth. If you want to lose a few inches off your waist, I’d recommend trying it out, over time you’ll start to see a difference.

My favourite waist training corset

5 - They are a fun addition to your wardrobe

Over the years I’ve stocked up on corsets, some of which I haven’t worn in public. But I do find them to be beautiful additions to my collection that I would like to wear for special occasions. They come in different shapes, colours and prints and they can really help spice up your outfit. Whether you’re wearing them as a shape wear underneath or on top as an accessory, corsets are beautiful and can take a casual or dull outfit to one you can wear on a night out or to special events. Ideas include; wearing it over a dress as a form of a belt, wearing it as a bridge between your crop top and your skirt/trousers, or wearing it underneath your bodycon dress as a shape wear. You can also wear it as a top on its own.

You can wear it underneath your crop top

So if you’ve been thinking about wearing a corset but have hesitated because you’re scared of the outdated ideas attached to it or that people will judge you for trying to be “sexy,” you should always do whatever makes you feel confident about your body. This is definitely one fashion item I would like to see come back in style, without all the toxic and discriminatory ideas surrounding its use.

Thanks for reading!


About the Creator


poet, wanderer, writer.

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