Europe, supposedly c. 1580-1600 (but probably late 19th or early 20th century forgery).

The earliest corsets date from the 16th century, when aristocratic women in Spain and Italy began wearing “whalebone bodies.” These undergarments were made of cloth with whalebone or metal inserts to provide shaping. They derive from medieval garments, which were stiffened with layers of fabric and laced closed.

At first glance, metal corsets, like this one, which measures less than 14 inches around the waist, seem like instruments of torture. This corset, however, is almost certainly a modern forgery, based on rare Renaissance metal corsets, which were actually orthopedic devices designed to correct spinal deformities. Even ordinary corsets horrified the Renaissance philosopher Montaigne, who wrote: “What hell our women have to go through, so tightly tied and bound...”


  • Title: Corset
  • Date Created: 1875/1925
  • Location Created: Europe
  • Type: Corset
  • Rights: Copyright The Museum at FIT
  • Medium: Iron
  • Credit: Gift of Janet & David Desmon

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