Fashion, by definition, is in a constant flux of change. From the styles to the bodies, themselves, fashion ideals change and, as often is the case, what was once old is new again.
For example, in the 1860s, the voluptuous woman (e.g., stage actress Lillian Russell) challenged the fragile, thin ideal of the antebellum era (e.g., southern belle Scarlett O’Hara).
This new woman, with her curvaceous figure, became the model of beauty, a reflection of health and vigor. By the 1870s, the voluptuous woman was prevalent in popular art, theatres, and across the various class sectors of society. Stage actresses were known for their voluptuousness, wearing costumes with corsets that emphasized their round shape.
Then, a physical fitness movement emerged in the turn of the twentieth century, as well as a new model of beauty for women—the moderately slender figure with an air of athleticism. Thin was in, again. Meanwhile, feminists attacked the constraining corset and heralded an age of corsetless fashions.
Today, we continue to see this connection between health, bodies, and beauty with waist trainers.
Yes, the corset is back.
From the Kardashian sisters, actress Jessica Alba, and “real housewife” Kim Zolciak-Biermann, waist trainers appear to be the Spanx of 2015. The purpose of these corsets is two-fold—train the waist to retain its shape after use and train the wearer to eat less. Here we go disciplining ourselves again to achieve a culturally constructed image of beauty. As Denis Bruna, curator at Paris’s Museum of Decorative Arts, told NPR, “There’s only a cultural body, shaped by our era and our obsessions.”
Apparently, our current obsession is all about that bass (as long as you have an itty bitty waist).