Corsets have been around since antiquity. To the left we have the Minoan Serpent Goddess where her dress includes a corset. Her corset is certainly not representing constraint of her powers No! Her clothing reflects her feminine power and beauty. Her breasts are bared, showing her fecundity and nurturing, feeding her children who are all people. Her holding two snakes represents fearlessness and power. She is calm and strong and clearly in control.

Corsets became widespread in the later Middle Ages. Nobles in France would wear expensive corsets to be fashionable but gradually they became mainstream. By the Renaissance era almost everyone wore corsets. The desired silhouette at that time became a straight, conical torso with the bust pressed flat, rather than pushed up. (Think of paintings of Queen Elizabeth and all the fatefully beheaded wives of Henry VIII.) It wasn’t until the 17th century that corsets began to be worn under clothes, as underwear.

Napoleon considered corsets an abomination, probably influencing the Regency style of dresses (most commonly seen now in Jane Austen movies) with a high waistline right below the bust and a loose, flowing skirt to the floor. Because the natural waist was undefined there was no reason for a corset.