Under Investigation: Are Corset Belts Cute?


Get your fainting couches ready! Corsets are making a comeback as part of the underwear-as-outerwear trend. Layered on top of oversized t-shirts, sweaters and dress shirts, this new way of styling corsets desexualizes the otherwise promiscuous garment.Corsets were huge during the fall 2016 runway season. As usual, Prada lead the way in styling the trend with blazers, patterned blouses, and brocade dresses. Other designers continued the look in their collections: Loewe’s gold take on it; Louis Vuitton’s monochromatic black look and full bustier; and Alexander McQueen’s layered black corset over a frilly, pink dress. No matter what way the corset was styled, one thing was clear – it has to be worn overtop another item. The thing that wasn’t clear…is it even a cute trend?

The corset is a symbol of femininity.

The corset is a symbol of femininity. For that reason, it has been debated about whether the return of the corset is a political or feminist statement – maybe it is just clothing.

As women moved away from corsets in the early 20th century, it was viewed as a cause for celebration. The corset had been oppressive. They were worn so tight that it could cut down the lung capacity of the wearer to 30 per cent. This was due to the fact that they were generally sized 3” inches smaller than the natural waistline. On the other hand, corsets have also found a home for decades as a tool of seduction in the bedroom.

Valerie Steele said that the corset is “possibly the most controversial garment in the history of fashion.” She is a fashion historian and the director of the Museum at FIT. Her opinions about corsets are so extensive that she authored a book called The Corset: A Cultural History.

Around 400 years ago, the corset was made of metal and used as a medical device to correct the spine. As it moved towards an everyday clothing item, wood, and even whalebone were used to construct the skeleton.

The new purpose of the corset is to show off a woman’s figure under boxy clothing, rather than to compress it into a new shape.


As seen in Prada’s fall 2016 show, many of the modern corsets are not only lace up in the front – but are constructed out of cotton, denim, and knits. Other corsets are leather in the front and have elastic-like fabric in the back. This makes them a lot more practical for everyday wear. Fashion moved away from the restrictive bodice of the corset early in the 20th century, thanks to the flowing lines of designers like Paul Poiret and Chanel.  In the early 2000s, there was a brief resurgence of the corset, worn by the likes of Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. Often paired with just low-rise jeans, the corset was still a statement that said, “Look at me! Look how hot I am!”

Not everyone is excited about the return of the corset. Although I am actually a fan of the look, I took a poll and only 25 per cent of you actually liked it. So the question remains…will this trend catch on? Don’t hold your breath.

By Heather Stewart
Photos by Taylor Patterson 


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