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What is the history of girdles and corsets?

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Quick Answer

While corsets gained popularity in the 16th century, the exact origin is unknown, as of 2015. Corsets and girdles started out as stiffened bodices with high necklines that flattened the chest. However, the term "corset" didn't come into use until the 19th century, before which they were referred to as a stiff bodices or stays.

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Full Answer

Until the late 17th century, stays were rarely preserved because dress bodices were stiffened so severely that an extra corset was not needed. During the end of the 17th century, stays became independent from the dress bodice. In the 18th century, stays were considered underwear and the shape was similar to that of bodices from the 17th century. Stays were typically laced in the back and sometimes in the front.

While stays in the 18th century were not meant to be seen, the exteriors were still decorated with fine stitching, silk brocade and gold trim. However, the inside of the stay was sloppy in comparison. During the end of the 18th century, the waist of the stay began to move upwards. Cups to lift and separate the breasts were implemented in corsets during this time as well. This type of corset was more simple than earlier designs.

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