Gendered Clothing Across Cultures – The Corset

The primary purpose of a corset is to create an hourglass figure in order to enhance a woman’s curves to make her appear more feminine. The corset as we know it today, is worn as an erotic piece of lingerie, which is worn to sexually attract men. It is seen as a luxury item due to being more expensive than other forms of lingerie.


However, centuries ago when the corset was first produced, it’s main function was not to be worn as a piece of lingerie; it was worn to create an exaggerated version of the female figure, making women appear more attractive to men[2]. In Europe, the corset first became popular in the 16th Century and its’ popularity increased during the Victorian Era, although during these times it was known as a ‘stay’ and not a corset.[3]


They were primarily designed for women who wanted to alter their body shape in some way and so have always been seen as a garment which is only suitable for women. However, as time went on it became for common for men to wear corsets. In the 19th Century it became very popular for cavalry in England, France and Germany to wear corsets under their uniform in order to promote proper posture whilst on horseback, and to prevent bruising of the kidneys as they were galloping along on the horses.[5]

In today’s society, corsets are not as popular as they used to be due to the modern developments and advancements in shapewear, which are more practical and comfortable than wearing a corset. Modern corsets are also often worn as outerwear[6], compared to in earlier centuries when they were worn solely as underwear with a clear purpose of enhancing the female silhouette.

Nowadays, it is also very common for male cross-dressers to wear corsets nowadays so that they can exaggerate the female waist to make them appear more feminine.

This is all suggesting that over time, the corset has become more of an accessory for women in particular, suggesting they have become more gender specific as times have changed.


[1] – Agent Provocateur (2015) Corsets & Basques by Agent Provocateur – Stevie Corset. Available at: (Accessed: 11 December 2015).

[2] – The Lingerie Addict (2014) Why do people wear Corsets?. Available at: (Accessed: 11 December 2015).

[3] – Marquise (no date) A Short History of The Corset. Available at: (Accessed: 11 December 2015).

[4] – Pintrest (2013) The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Corset. Available at: (Accessed: 11 December 2015).

[5] – C, S. (2014) A Brief History Of Men Wearing Corsets. Available at: (Accessed: 15 December 2015).

[6] – Wikipedia (2015) ‘History of Corsets’, in Wikipedia. Available at: (Accessed: 11 December 2015).

Gendered Clothing Across Cultures – The Corset

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