The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear

When I was growing up my mother used to horrify me with tales of the evil girdle and longline bras.  Yes, a woman wearing these would have a lovely shape, but she’d also be extremely uncomfortable after a few hours.  Especially the longline bras with their corset-like boning.  

photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear


A few times she actually tried to get me to wear something girdle-like, and I protested and ran away.  No way would she ever get me in any type of shapewear!

Fast forward to today when I am the proud owner of more than one pair of SPANX.  I love my SPANX – dresses look so much better on me with my SPANX.  Sexy.  Sleek. Ok, so maybe all shapewear isn’t evil.
 

photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear

Now, we all know I am a huge fan of “Mad Men” style.  Every time I see Joan Holloway Harris on my television I find myself coveting her dresses.  To streamline and authenticate her look, costume designer Janie Bryant outfits her in the girdles and longline bras of the decade.  Christina described these bras to Esquire magazine
“It’s like what’s in a corset — it has these long strips of plastic or metal that keep everything [pauses], you know. Oh, yeah — it’s super comfortable. And then the authentic stockings, with the garters, and then a slip and then our dress. From my girdle and my garters last night, I have two bruises on the top of my legs. From being in it for seventeen hours. Women did that.”

No thank you!  I’d rather wear my SPANX – or one of today’s corsets.

Corsets date back to the middle ages (and likely even ancient times) but gained popularity in the 1800s and during the Victorian Age.  During the Victorian Age they were worn because of the belief that females were so fragile and frail they needed some sort of stay to hold them up.  This resulted in women of all ages, even girls as young as 3 or 4, being tightlaced. The corsets were often laced so tightly that they damaged and/or rearranged internal organs, so that by the time these girls reached their teens they couldn’t sit or stand without the aid of a reinforced corset.  

photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear

At the same time, the tight-lacing also resulted in difficulty breathing, which led to frequent fainting spells.  Some historians even believe that the “fainting couch” was manufactured as a direct result of this phenomena.

photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear
I bet Betty Draper doesn’t know the history behind her fainting couch.

In addition to providing a 20-inch waist, a tightly-laced corset also meant a women was virtuous.  The tighter a corset, the longer it would take to get her out of her clothes.  Moving out of the Victorian Age, the focus moved to shape: the corset was able to provide the highly coveted hourglass figure.  Different incarnations of the corset have remained popular through the years for this reason.

photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear

According to Wikipedia, “shortly after the start of World War I in 1917, the U.S. War Industries Board  asked women to stop buying corsets to free up metal for war production. This step liberated some 28,000 tons of metal, enough to build two battleships.[1] The corset, which had been made using steel stays since the 1860s, further declined in popularity as women took to brassieres and girdles which also used less steel in their construction.”

However, some form of the corset has remained popular since then. 

photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear   photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear

Photographers adore their sensuality (beware, some nudity ahead).

photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear
Mainbocher Corset. Photograph by Horst P. Horst, 1939. 
photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear
Black Corset. Photograph by Horst P. Horst, date unknown
photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear
Photograph from Ellen Von Unwerth’s ‘Revenge’ Series
photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear
Photograph from Ellen Von Unwerth’s ‘Revenge’ Series
photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear
Photograph from Ellen Von Unwerth’s ‘Revenge’ Series
photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear
Photograph by Jeanloup Sieff



And some people – like Christina Hendricks – are just born to wear one.

photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear
Christina Hendricks for GQ UK
photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear
Hendricks for GQ UK

photography christina hendricks  The Corset: The Sexiest of Sexy Shapewear
Hendricks for NY Magazine



All images from Google Images unless otherwise noted.

{ 19 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

  • Johnluis Aiden September 15, 2010, 9:55 PM

    photos are nice and sexy…

    Reply
  • ilexica September 6, 2010, 5:14 AM

    Just to be anal – from what I've seen Hendricks mostly wears corselettes, rather than corsets (those above are from What Katie Did). They're quite different, actually – they tend to be made of very sturdy stretchy mesh without boning and they're a lot more comfortable for under-clothes wear. There were still corsets in the 1950s – Dior used little waist nippers to create the new look shape – but as you recall from your mom, it was mostly long line bras, girdles, corselettes etc.

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible September 1, 2010, 5:44 PM

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible September 1, 2010, 5:42 PM

    I know what you mean – I have a couple that I wear as regular tops that I love, but those fasten differently (not the tightlacing kind). That's interesting about the tights – I would think those would be huge on you! I have to buy the right size or they just don't sit on me correctly.

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible September 1, 2010, 5:40 PM

    Agreed… the role of corsets has definitely become all about defining curves.

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible September 1, 2010, 5:39 PM

    Have you ever tried one? They can actually be quite comfortable. It depends on the type you'd get.

    As for Christina – from what I understand, they ALL wear the undergarments of the era. Men and women alike. Janie Bryant is a stickler for authenticity!

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible September 1, 2010, 5:36 PM

    Much more user friendly nowadays. I can't imagine they could rearrange organs anymore. I suppose if someone wore one that was tightlaced for extended periods of time they still could…

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible September 1, 2010, 5:35 PM

    They are great for all sizes :)

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible September 1, 2010, 5:35 PM

    I am jealous you are in Milan, and honored you chose to check out my blog while on that limited internet connection! LOL Hope you are having a blast!

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible September 1, 2010, 5:34 PM

    The old ones especially look scary. The ones nowadays aren't that bad, and a lot of them don't even have the ties. I have a couple I like to wear as regular clothing (not foundation). Love them.

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible September 1, 2010, 5:33 PM

    That is a great way to look at it. Sexy time? Corset. No sexy time? SPANX. I have to admit – I have been known to run to the bathroom and change OUT of SPANX before sexy time. LOL

    Reply
  • The Well-Appointed Catwalk September 1, 2010, 2:11 PM

    Great post! I love seeing the corset's origins compared to how it's worn now.

    xo Marissa
    (The Well-Appointed Catwalk)

    Reply
  • Grit and Glamour September 1, 2010, 11:42 AM

    Great post! Very information, and of course the photos…gah.

    I LOVE corsets. But I don't really wear them much as foundation garments. For that fact, I can't do shapewear or even control-top tights or pantyhose. I feel like I'm being squeezed to death! I actually buy tights in queen size or the largest size available!

    ♥ V

    http://www.gritandglamour.com

    Reply
  • stylishthought September 1, 2010, 9:39 AM

    This is a very informative post! While corsets were once used to restrict women, now I think they're more about celebrate the natural curves of a woman's body! I've always wanted to be properly fitted for a corset!

    Reply
  • Casee Marie September 1, 2010, 1:39 AM

    Ewww, that diagram of how they can rearrange organs is so disturbing and fascinating at the same time. This whole post is really interesting, I loved reading through it. I'm a big fan of shapewear, but I've never worn a real corset. I didn't even realized they still made them with the ties and all until I saw them in a department store recently. I think they're fascinating to look at, but a little too unrelenting for me to actually try to wear it.

    I didn't know Christina wears all the, er, hardware of the era. I wondered what she wore, because you can definitely see it in this picture: http://i53.tinypic.com/122kxo9.jpg Talk about dedication!

    Reply
  • Tanvi August 31, 2010, 7:41 PM

    Love corsets! I really do! When I was BIG they gave my a waist not they just give me definition :) Lovely post!

    Reply
  • Leia August 31, 2010, 5:58 PM

    I really enjoyed this lesson! (Can you believe I'm in Milan, with a limited internet connection, and reading/commenting on your blog?! That's how much I love it!) Learned so much – thank you :)

    Reply
  • Thelayeredpancake August 31, 2010, 5:49 PM

    oh god, corsets! they do look sexy but are just a scary contraption. christina hendricks makes me happy. she's like a perfect hourglass.

    Reply
  • Themishdish August 31, 2010, 5:32 PM

    Two weeks ago this question came up at a wedding…to corset or to spanx? I myself find the corset to be beyond sexy. But to wear one for an extended period of time…not so sexy. If there is NOchance for sexy time go with the spanx. Great post, I'm glad I found you. xo Mish

    Reply