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The Use of the Corset

The construction of the corset dictated that it would be first and chiefly in use by the upper classes. In order to achieve the proper silhouette effect, the corset had to be laced and tightened from behind, and one must assume from the fact that the wearer could not accomplish the tightening that assistance (presumably from a servant) would be required. Design was another important factor. As Wilcox says, lingerie of people of fashion "was embroidered, lace-trimmed and beribboned. Fine handkerchief linen, and sheer, soft batiste, all white, was employed in chemise, drawer and underpetticoat. The chimise was worn under the corset ad over the corst went a full-skirted pair of underdrawers and a corset over." Corsets were a feature of fashion, perennially the purview of the upper classes. In this regard, Richmond cites the fad among people of fashion in the middle of the nineteenth century of what amounts to (male) fashion police, who appointed themselves "hoop inspectors" of the quality and variety of women's hoopskirts, corsets, and hairstyles.

Another view of the connection between the corset and socioeconomic class is covered by Thorstein Veblen in his 1899 study of leisure. The importance of his view surfaces in his contention that social structure reflects the economic power, and by implication, access to the enjoyment of leisure, of the highest class. In such a society, says Veblen, anyone who is not "of" that class is fated to struggle for something akin to equality. Accordingly, he differentiates the leisure class from the "inferior class," which "includes slaves and other dependence, and ordinarily also all the women." Women of high class are not involved in "industrial occupations" because their status as leisure dependents precludes them from the labor force. The lower classes are barred from working in areas of industry termed either "honourable employments" or work for gain. This is different again from the women's wo...

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The Use of the Corset. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 18:04, August 18, 2017, from
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