All throughout history, a person’s economical and social rank could be shown through what clothes they wore. In ancient Egypt, a person of upper class was permitted by law to wear sandals on the harsh, desert floor. Because of these laws, female-confining ideals arose. For example, the Greeks and Romans controlled the type, color, and number of undergarments worn by women and the kind of fabric décor used on them. The torso became the sculpting block of feminine beauty. This was the beginning of the corset, a restraining, essential item in the women’s attire through the 19th century.
During the Renaissance period, the corset resembled a cone, as it was small at the waist and uplifting at the bosom. It extended from the underarm to just below the waist. The typical female’s corset was made stiff with metal or wood. Again, a woman of higher economical or social standing would have one made special with whalebone. During this time and through the Romantic period, a woman was put to shame if she was found absent of a corset or her waist size was not small enough. At that period in time, a 15 to 18 inch waist was acceptable. Anything exceeding those measurements was thought to be absurd. Thusly, restricting corsets were the norm and often resulted in physical deformities. For example, rib cages were often cracked or grew warped due to constricting corsets.
The corset was found rigid and compressing in the 1700s. Early 1800s brought some enlightening change: Mantua dresses were made. A Mantua dress was looser and a more casual type of dress that did not call for the strict cut and shaping, although women felt it necessary to maintain a 20 inch waist. A small waist was still considered “proper” and feminine, and women were still judged by their waist size.
The Romantic period introduced a corset that was more severe than the others. Women were expected to...