Since last year, the fashion industry has seen the return of corsets in contemporary clothing in a big way.
Popular shows like Netflix’s “Bridgerton” have boosted consumer interest in Regency-era fashion, according to industry experts.
Shloka Sudhakar, a Bengaluru-based fashion designer, says customers today are heavily influenced by trends on TV and social media.
Designs from the “Regencycore” niche fashion trend encompass ruffles, empire lines, elbow-length satin gloves and ornately embellished headwear. The connection of these elements is the corset, a structured garment with a complex design.
Today’s fashion industry has bid farewell to traditional corsets, which were primarily used as underwear, says Shloka. “Today, the corset comes in a variety of forms, and there are many corset-inspired outfits and garments. From corset sarees to corset belts, designers around the world have put their own spin on the item,” adds she.
In India, the hourglass corset has become a growing trend in both traditional and Western clothing, fashion designers say. “Traditional corsets used to give a lot of attention to the bust area. This is no longer the case now as the main focus is on the waistline,” says Shiny Alexander, a designer based in Bengaluru. hourglass, sweetheart and scoop necklines are gaining popularity in the Indian market.
She thinks that even though corsets are in and out of fashion, they will never become a “must-have” in a woman’s everyday wardrobe. “People who want to stand out with their outfit are drawn to this trend. Even with all the modern improvements, it’s not the most comfortable piece of clothing,” she adds.
Making a corset
A handful of elements form the structure of a corset. “The boning forms the skeletal system of the corset. Other than that, there are paddings, yokes, and drawstrings/zippers, which give the corsets their structural integrity,” says Shiny.
While the elements must be placed intricately to form the shape of the corset, many features are hidden by the fabric and outer shell. Traditionally, corsets were made with strong fabrics like cotton twill and leather. “Now the most modern adaptations are made with raw silk and denim,” says Shloka. The use of lace and brocade is also becoming increasingly popular in the making of corsets.
Apart from lighter fabrics, other elements of a corset have also become lighter, Mumbai-based designer Shruti Sancheti points out. “We now have better technology that allows us to create corsets with light boning and wires, while ensuring that the structural integrity of the corset is intact, resulting in the quintessential hourglass figure,” adds she.
When creating a corset, measurements are crucial. Designer Shloka explains, “To get the illusion of an hourglass figure, corsets need to be custom made. It is then that it will adapt to the body like a glove. Although off-the-shelf versions can be mass-produced, they do not fit perfectly.
People often don’t understand the structural constraints of a corset, observes Shiny. “Every time a customer orders a corset, I tell them they won’t be entirely comfortable in it. Corsets are designed to tuck in your stomach and hold you up,” she says. ‘we plan to move around a lot and enjoy a hearty meal, it’s not the right outfit, she explains.
A slice of history
Corsets were worn by women – and sometimes even men – in the Western world, primarily between the 16th and early 20th centuries. “Corsets started as underwear. They were widely used by women to enhance their bust and hips while giving the illusion of a slimmer waist,” says Shloka.
Body modification was widespread in the Victorian and Regency era, says Shruti. “Initially, corsets were made with hard materials,” she says.
Corsets helped shape the body into distinctive silhouettes, from the hourglass shape popular in the 1800s to the “S” silhouette of the 1900s. “They were used to cinch the female body into unlikely shapes. It was mainly worn to reach the 18-inch waistline, which was then considered the ideal size for women,” adds Shruti.
We didn’t place much emphasis on comfort back then, says Shiny. “Corsets would contort the female body. In some cases, it turned out to be harmful to the body,” she adds. Discussions that the corset was detrimental to women’s health began to surface in the 19th century, when the popularity of the corset was at its peak.
“Today’s corsets aren’t as restrictive as they used to be. Today people want to feel comfortable in what they’re wearing,” Shloka adds.
A corset top can cost between Rs 3,500 and Rs 7,000, while a corset dress or a corset-inspired outfit can cost between Rs 20,000 and Rs 45,000.
“Not popular in lingerie”
Initially, corsets were worn as underwear, but over the years they have lost popularity in the lingerie world, especially in the Indian market. “In India, there are not many lingerie corset takers now. Women today want to feel comfortable in their lingerie,” says a representative of a famous Indian lingerie brand.
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