There are certain fashion trends we wish we’d never seen. You probably wish you could find and destroy images of your fashion fumbles, including the ones of you sporting a tiny hat, Hammer pants, Uggs with a mini skirt, or safety pin jewelry. Or if you’re a child of the ’80s like me, that list could include hypercolor t-shirts, side ponytails with sweatbands, and tapered-leg, acid-washed jeans featuring neon splatter-paint. Oh, honey. That all happened in one ill-fated outfit, I’m sorry to say, but luckily it was before Facebook.
You certainly don’t want to know who invented these poorly-conceived and laughably short-lived fashion trends. However, there are also trends that withstand the test of time, or go through periodic revivals. The corset is one such support garment that has been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. Who invented the corset? Here’s a little history on the garment that keeps on giving.
The woman’s corset has been around since at least the 16th century, when it first became a popular undergarment across Europe. In fact, there is some evidence that corset-like garments were in use even earlier. A figurine of a Minoan snake goddess found at the palace of Knossos and dating to 1600 BC appears to be wearing an underbust corset as part of her costume. Work it, snake lady!
While it may be pure speculation to assume that this is representative of the corsets that rose to popularity in Europe hundreds of years later, it certainly appears to be similar. It wasn’t until the 1500s, however, that women of the French court began wearing long-line corsets under their bodices for shaping purposes, which is perhaps why the French term “corset” stuck. The fashion quickly spread to Britain and eventually, other parts of the globe.
Corsets would come and go throughout the years, but the onset of the Victorian era yielded a rebirth for the corset, with new goals of supporting the breasts and slimming the waistline simultaneously. This is where the “inventor” of the corset entered the picture.
Roxey Ann Caplin
Roxey Ann Caplin was a British writer and inventor who wrote books about health, beauty, and what women want. Some might say she was something of a feminist. She is also credited with being the designer of the corset because of unique corsetry designs she exhibited at the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London in 1851.
Caplin, who had been working as a corsetmaker for several years at that point, introduced her designs for what would become the Victorian style of corset. It lacked the shoulder straps of previous iterations and relied on tight lacing to slim the waist and support the bust.
For her efforts, she received a prize medal in recognition of her status as Manufacturer, Designer, and Inventor. In essence, she became known as the inventor of the corset. Other designs would come and go in the following years, and Caplin certainly wasn’t the first to design and manufacture a corset. However, she gained the distinction of inventor due to her innovative designs of the time, and her shapewear lives on today in a variety of modern iterations.
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