The history of the corset is a controversial one and following the First World War they were widely rejected by women. They had found new roles for themselves in the workforce while men were away fighting.
However, in the last year, the item linked so closely with women’s oppression has undergone a major rediscovery. Corsets have cropped up on catwalks and high street stores alike. Vintage corsets, like those designed by Vivienne Westwood and Jean-Paul Gaultier, have achieved a cult status, sported by the likes of Alexa Demie, Sza, and Kim Kardashian across Instagram. It is a trend that does not want to go away.
Vivienne Westwood, who calls herself a ‘plunderer’ of the past, is famed for reimagining the corset in the 1980s. By parodying it, taking it out of its oppressive past, she gave it a punk edge. When Madonna wore a Gaultier corset in her 1990 Blonde Ambition World Tour, fashion critic Suzy Menkes dubbed it a ‘rebel-with-a-corset moment’.The following corsets imbibe the article with the same commendable subversive energy. Their purpose is not to constrict women and their bodies, but to be enjoyed as the theatrical and provocative pieces that we love. As Madonna crooned in 1990, with words that remain pertinent today, ‘express yourself’.