The corset was one of the sexiest items of clothing in the history of fashion — and one of the most controversial. Like the high-heeled shoe, it is viewed as both an icon of erotic femininity and an instrument of women’s oppression. The Museum at FIT examined the social and cultural significance of the corset throughout fashion history in the exhibition The Corset: Fashioning the Body.
Curated by Valerie Steele, chief curator at The Museum at FIT, the exhibition included approximately 100 corsets and corset-inspired fashions, as well as archival photographs, posters, books, caricatures, and advertisements that document the evolution of corsetry. More than the typical display of “historic costume,” this exhibition explored the social-psychology of clothing. By showing how corsets have fashioned the ideal body and by presenting a wide variety of different kinds of corsets, the exhibition brilliantly demonstrated how the meaning of clothing is constantly being redefined.
The Corset: A Cultural History by Valerie Steele, Yale University Press, 2003.