Corsets are returning to popularity

What makes corsets so captivating?


Alyssa Guglielmo

Alyssa Guglielmo styles a black corset upon a dark emerald green dress.

Jane Edison, Columnist

Created in the early 1500s, corsets have been in the world of fashion longer than toilets have been in use. However, the use of corsets in fashion has been inconsistent. From undergarments, to dress layers, to statement pieces, the corset’s purpose has evolved numerous times.

In the fashion world, a common theme is that trends go in circles. Some article of clothing or style that used to be popular decades ago, will inevitably become popular again. Depending on the trend, its popularity cycle can differ drastically from others. With a resurgence in popularity in today’s world, corsets are again becoming a fan favorite.

Corsets have made several reappearances in fashion since their creation in the late 1700s. They were worn underneath dresses and hoop skirts, framing women’s’ waists, and sculpting what was deemed a desirable silhouette for that era.

However, in the late 1700s to the early 1800s, the French revolution influenced the short remission of the corset, as the aristocratic style was looked down upon. After its break, the corset returned to fashion again as an undergarment almost as fast as it left. It remained an important piece in trends consistently into the early 1900s. 

During World War I, women’s top priority was working their jobs in factories rather than fashion. Thus, the corset went out of style again. By this point, it had gone through two cycles of popularity: on, off, on, and now off again. 

Now, corsets have risen into popularity once again, and I am actually a huge fan of the trend. I personally love the way corsets have evolved into being styled on top of clothing rather than being layered upon. I do not own one myself, so I asked the opinion of someone who does.

I noticed a few weeks ago that WA Junior Alyssa Guglielmo wore a corset to school, and I adored the way she sported it so beautifully. So, I asked her a few questions relating to corsets and their return to popularity. 

“Personally I am very excited that corsets are coming back. They’re able to make any outfit more luxurious and unique as well as give people a sense of confidence,” Guglielmo stated. 

Within its cycles of popularity, the corset’s purpose also changes and evolves.

“Corsets are more of a luxury high-fashion piece rather than [one for] practical commercial use. Its structure, tight bodice, and elegance are known more for being more showy than comfortable,” Guglielmo said.

In past times, corsets were common undergarments for women to wear. They were commercially made, advertised, and sold. Now, they are more like accessories or fun pieces to elevate an outfit. They are also not mass-produced like they once were, but are produced in smaller, more high quality batches. In this day and age, sustainability is increasingly important to the welfare of our environment and containment of pollution.

“I [Alyssa] prefer making my own corsets and other clothing for sustainability reasons but it is still cool to see it become more popular,” Guglielmo said. 

Now, with more creativity and individualistic ways of styling corsets, how one wears a corset is very subjective. Whether it is worn as a tight undergarment or a statement layer is completely up to the person wearing the corset.

“My typical way of styling them is with jeans so it is more casual. I also put them on top of dresses and other clothes that don’t necessarily fit well so I don’t have to sew them. One major way of styling corsets is in the high-fashion world with glamorous gowns and structured designs,” Guglielmo said.

I think that the return of the corset came about because of its “vintage” identity. The corset has dated roots, and “vintage” is something sought after nowadays. The novelty of the 2021 era of corsets is that it is something to show off. A statement piece to stand out from the rest of the outfit. Rather than being worn as an undergarment, it has evolved into an outerwear piece of loud fashion. The idea that something that used to be so taboo from older days, worn under dresses as a secret among women, could become something anyone can wear and flaunt makes the corset a timeless piece, evolving with every popularity cycle. 

Corsets can now be found readily available in stores like Victoria’s Secret, Shein, Urban Outfitters, Amazon, and even sold second-hand on re-selling sites like Depop, ThredUp and Poshmark. 

Urban Outfitters: Out From Under Modern Love Corset

Shein: Garment Eyelet Lace Up Corset Without Dress

What’s your take on the corset?