Corsets and steampunk fashion go together as if one and the same. We have all heard about corsets in one form or another, be it in lingerie, designer outfits or for waist training. The corset in itself is an incredibly elegant, versatile and sexy piece of clothing. Steampunk corsets are no different. In fact, steampunk draws most of its aesthetics from the Victorian era, and it was the Victorians who truly first popularised the corset as a fashion design choice. So the corset and steampunk fashion very much go hand in hand.
What is a corset?
A corset is a tightly fitted undergarment, usually made from a strong yet flexible material such as cotton, leather, or satin, designed to cinch and reduce the size of the waist. A corset is often boned to keep its shape, made rigid with thin strips of steel or plastic. It is ideal for accentuating the hips and bust, while minimising the waist, to give a beautiful hourglass figure.
The History of the Corset
The history of the corset is a complicated one. For many centuries in Europe, the corset was intrinsic to women’s daily clothing, in one form or another. Reaching the height of its popularity during the Victorian era, the corset became incorporated into the outer design of ladies’ dresses and were the ultimate “must-have” in ladies’ attire. This explains its quite obvious ties to steampunk, and why steampunk corsets quintessentially capture this particular era of corset design.
The steampunk look, for those who are unfamiliar, is a real-world reproduction of the aesthetic captured in the steampunk sub-genre of science-fiction literature. This style specifically draws upon the late 19th century, with a focus on adding elements from the antiquated steam-powered technologies from these sci-fi imaginings. However, back in the latter part of the 19th century, due to archaic corset designs which proved harmful to the spine and organs, the corset widely became seen as a symbol of female oppression.
Evolution of Corsets
Victorian women, the very women who at first seemed so eager to embrace this style of fashion, cast off their corsets and the concepts of female beauty they fed. They made the wearing of the corset a choice rather than a beauty requirement. This inevitably led to a redesigning of the corset to be safer and healthier to wear. Today, the corset has been fully reclaimed by women wishing to safely train their waists, enhance their curves, feel sexier, or just because corsets have a wonderfully stylish aesthetic quality. Many men also wear corsets to reshape their torso.
Many steampunk corsets include lace detailing, ruffles, buckles and clasps, chains and links, laced bodices, and many other fun features, which all wonderfully capture the fun of the late Victorian era. Steampunk corsets were also embraced by those wishing to exude a Gothic, or goth, look, and they do so incredibly well. In red and black satin, or even moulded, rigid corsets, made from synthetic leather and resin, there are many corsets in the steampunk category which can add a Gothic edge to any outfit.
Victorian and steampunk corsets are designed to cover the bust or sit under the bust, with the underbust corset being completed with a tight or loose-fitting blouse underneath. Some styles of steampunk corsets are strapless, some have thin adjustable straps, and others have high backs, with collars and shoulder-length sleeves. The variety of styles of steampunk corsets are as diverse as the people who wear them. A good quality steampunk corset should fit all body types and sizes.
Corsets Today and Beyond
The corset, and especially outfits with a steampunk corseted twist, have become a staple of modern fashion design. We have moved far beyond the days of being shocked by the sight of Madonna in a gold-clad pointy outfit. All you have to do is check out Kim Kardashian’s Instagram page to see how popular the corset-framed hourglass figure has become again. With feminist fashion designers such as Miuccia Prada basing entire collections around the corset as recently as 2017, now is the time to consider the beautiful benchmark in the realm of corsets that is the steampunk corset.