Suck in your stomach: Corsets are making a comeback - on top of clothes
Believe it or not, corsets are back.
Fashion corsets are now popping up at your local mall, in big-box stores like Zara and at popular online hubs like ASOS.com. Shopstyle.com reports corset searches are up a whopping 97.2 per cent year-over-year (corset belts are the most popular).
But those adopting the look aren't wearing the Victorian-era waist-cinchers like they used to. Trend-setters like Gigi Hadid, Kim Kardashian are strapping corsets over their clothes, putting all that boning on display.
The look didn't come out of a vacuum: Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana, Balmain, Louis Vuitton and Preen have all sent the rib-crunching trend down their runways.
But a sharp renaissance involving the look came from Prada's Fall 2016 collection, which showcased loosely tied corsets over Miuccia Prada's designs. "It just looked so cool," says Eric Wilson, fashion news director at InStyle. "It was more of a nod to that history in a very knowing way by taking ownership of this garment that was once so restrictive."
Within days, he adds, "people were making their own corset belts."
So while on the big screen Emma Watson ditched the corset in Beauty and the Beast, on the red carpet it's all about boning - just look to the premiere of Personal Shopper, when Kristen Stewart hopped onto the trend, wearing Sally LaPointe's corset pants.
So what's the M.O. here? Is this a 2017 twist on bra-burning - or a return to ghastly expectations of the female form?
Centuries ago, the corset rose in popularity as a suffocating, cinching device among aristocrats, with linen-wrapped boning leaving women gasping, and sometimes fainting, as their organs were rearranged so mid-sections could be pulled taut.
The look died out in the early 20th century as war supplies took priority or fashion. By the 1920s, the corseted look had waned in favour of looser styles, coinciding with a decade that finally gave women the right to vote in the US.
More recently, corsets have been mostly relegated to costuming. Madonna reclaimed the trend in 1989, donning Jean Paul Gaultier's pink satin corset with conical bra cups, a stage look later mimicked by Beyonce and Lady Gaga. More recently, Kim Kardashian endorsed waist-trainers as a figure-shaping miracle, to the chagrin of the medical community.
"For the most part they are used to gain a more hourglass figure," says Ruben Soto of Hourglass Angel, which sells a variety of shapewear and undergarments. Though he hasn't seen an specific uptick in corset sales since stars flipped the approach on how to wear them, "maybe long term it will change the impression of what corsets are and make them a little more approachable," he says.
Corsetry pops up cyclically in the fashion world "every decade," says Wilson, who doesn't think the latest incarnation is simply a celebrity fad among 'It' girls, like Nicola Peltz or Hailey Baldwin, who often layer the rib-crunching undergarment over t-shirts and thermals.
This time, as the women's movement grows during the Trump era, insiders say the intention is far more politicised.
"I don't think this is a trend that people are adopting just because Kim Kardashian wore it," says Wilson. "It's such a powerful look that even putting it on, even if you're not aware of what the discussion is around it, you have to realise you're basically putting a bra or a corset over your clothes. That significance can't be lost on people."
But not everyone is sucking in their stomachs and lacing up.
"Being a lady today means being a fighter. It means being a survivor. It means letting yourself be vulnerable and acknowledging your shame or that you're sad or you're angry. It takes great strength to do that," wrote Lady Gaga in an essay for Harper's Bazaar last November.
Lady Gaga's had enough of the corset. Photo: Reuters
Gaga credited her mother and grandmothers' strength. "That's the kind of lady I want to be. You know, I never thought I'd say this, but isn't it time to take off the corsets? As someone who loves them, I think it's time to take them off."