|Jean Simmons in Désirée (1954)|
Of course, the dictum fell on deaf ears. Fashion conscious French women, including his two wives, continued to wear corsets.
|Jacqueline Bissett in Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story (1987)|
Corsets gave pain a new meaning in the nineteenth century as women laced up whalebone garments to achieve an ideal eighteen-inch waist. Anna Pavlova wore a pink corset to dance her "dying swan".
|Costume designed for Anna Pavlova for Dying Swan.|
|Sarah Bernhardt |
The word comes from the French corps, or "body". Some sort of corset or lacing to make the body appear slimmer was worn as far back as the Golden Age, when Greek lovelies strapped leather bands around their breasts and hips under their chitons.
|Lucy Lawless in Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001)|
The modern corset, which shaped the bosom and hips while accentuating the waist, evolved during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. While this was far from the time of equality between the sexes, they did share some vanities: the corset was worn by men as well as women.
The shape of corsets changed continually with the changing ideal of what the body silhouette should look like. Sometimes women wore corsets which accentuated or raised their bosoms. Sometimes corsets diminished or emphasized the hips.
|Abbie Cornish in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)|
|The Effigy Corset of Queen Elizabeth I|
In the sixteenth century the corset, stiffened with stays of metal, wood, or whalebone, formed a sort of armor around a woman's body. Her hips were enlarged and supported with the farthingale and her décolletage emphasized.
|French Iron Corset 1580-1600 collection|
Kyoto Costume Institute
|17th Century Wooden Corset|
Short-waisted in the seventeenth century, corsets became longer, more pointed, and cone-shaped in the eighteenth century.
|Tight corset, circa 1770|
|Marie Antoinette's corset|
|Gone With the Wind (1939)|
In fact, corsets were so tightly laced by the mid-1800's that they restricted breathing, causing ribs to overlap, and were a general pain in whatever they happened to be constricting.
|Half-boned Stays, 1770-80's, French.|
|Rachel McAdams and Robert Downey Jr in Sherlock Holmes (2009)|
-- Courtesy of Let There Be Clothes by Lynn Schnurnberger --