Object Analysis - Corsets

Topics: Corset, 19th century, Yale University Pages: 7 (2747 words) Published: December 6, 2010
Q.2 using the model of object analysis, analyse one fashion article. (Choose a garment, which can be used to discuss fashion from the point of view of the consumer. This garment must be able to demonstrate how the consumer individually constructs their identity and conveys that identity through the style and styling of clothing. You should treat this garment as an object as a form of evidence, which can help you to explain theories of fashion discussed in the sessions. The intention of your analysis is to examine the ways in which we can ‘read’ objects and images, understand their meanings and explain them in the context of broader theoretical and social concerns. You should aim to be as analytical as possible. You may want to use further objects or garments or examples within your presentation to help to explain your ideas though only 1 object should be your main focus. You can either use the actual object or use images and films to analyse and discuss your findings. Therefore your essay should be supported by ideas from readings and books as well as the objects and images themselves.)

I have chosen to analyse the corset. No other garment in Western history has assumed such political, social, and sexual significance. In this essay I will look at the history of the corset and how it transformed each century. I will also explore other sides of the corset; the fetishism that is associated with it, the medical implications, and its place in contemporary fashion. The first corsets were called ‘payre of bodies’ corsets from the were originally derived from the ‘basquine’ which derived from the medieval cottes, and surcots’ they were similar in use to the corset, and consisted of a tight-fitting bodice that was worn over the top of other garments, and much like the corset were laced up at the back. A stiffer version of the corset was crafted from cast iron, and was designed for women with severe physical deformities. The famous army surgeon Ambroise Pare described the ‘metal cages’ being used “to amend the crookednesse of the bodie” Although Pare was not a fan of the fashionable corset, which he thought ‘carried the risk of deformity by incorrect or excessive binding’ he believe that the orthopaedic corset was highly beneficial. The rigid nature of the corset meant that the wearer was banned from even the slightest useful exertion, reinforcing the ‘prestige of the ruling class’ During the 16th, 17th and 18th and early 19th centuries corsets were associated with the aristocracy and fashionable elite; this was partially due to the fact that the corsets were so hard to put on, that one required the assistance of a maid servant As women’s fashion grew more and more rigid at the start of the 16th century. As opposed to the simply close fitting garments of the previous centuries, the corset grew more important in the dressing of the aristocracy. Luxury fabrics like heavy silk brocade and velvet came to supplant woollen cloth among the elite, tailors began to construct garments that were layered, or constructed of a separate bodice and skirt. Greater importance was put onto the fit of garments, and a firm foundation was far more important. In order to be fashionable women of the nobility had to be more virtuous, favouring a flat stomach, narrow waist, and bust in the shape of a cone. To aid this appearance a ‘busk’ (a strip of rigid material, usually reflected by the wearers wealth eg.whalebone, mother of pearl, and even turkey cartilage) was inserted into the corset to provide even more stiffness to the body. These earlier corsets were designed to push in the waist, and also push in the breast, as dressing was far more austere, and women were deprived of their low-cut necklines. During the 18th century, the dress became far looser as the women cast off their ‘shackles’ and corsets became far more flexible, and instead of busks to stiffen the body, whalebone stays were used, which were far more form fitting, and allowed the...
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