Corsetry, a timeline: 1899-1949

In my moodboard I decided to capture a small window in the life of the corset and explore the first half of the 20th century.

I began just before the Edwardian period with an image of a lady modelling an early example of ‘the new figure’ which was achieved with the straight front corset. This silhouette was believed at the time to be a healthier alternative to the old figure, allegedly having health benefits as well as being the fashion. Fashion historian Valerie Steele describes the Edwardian period as ‘The beginning of the end for traditional corsetry’.

Into the latter half of the 1910s and throughout the 1920s, ‘The beauty ideal was to have slim hips and thighs and a healthy boyish figure’, according to Vintage Fashion Guild. Women achieved this using garters to add tension to the fabric of the undergarments to attain the desired silhouette.

The 1930s saw a similar slim silhouette in terms of the hips and bust, however, more angular shapes began to gain popularity, and gradually emphasis on the waist emerged. Corsets and girdles evolved to include built-in brassieres but continued to be very long, ending at the mid-thigh.

Wartime austerity meant that corsets in the 1940s saw an increase in lace fastenings as metal and rubber were in high demand during the war effort. A defined waist became popular throughout the decade, with Christian Dior’s ‘The New Look’ of 1947 accelerating this even further than before.








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