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Gilded Glamour Met Gala Corsets and the Gilded Age

At the Gilded Glamour-themed Met Gala, we of course saw multiple corset-inspired looks on the red carpet. And the discourse around corsetry is fascinating from that period of the late 1870s to the turn of the century. Although we often see an exaggerated hourglass figure with stiff boning in these corsets, it’s also the time that dress reform and the concept of health corsets gains traction. Medical doctors published plenty of materials discussing the health consequences of tight corsets, especially for developing bodies, although some of these concerns today appear to be ways of scapegoating women’s health issues, such as even cancer or dying from anesthesia, on their perceived vanity. On that note, it is interesting to hear reasons why many women during the Gilded Age did not want to abandon wearing corsets, including feeling that they wouldn’t be able to sit up straight or would just fall to pieces. In 1893 one writer for Ladies Home Journal wrote quote “personally, I believe that a well-fitting pair of stays are healthy and tend to make a woman look well, and this being my firm conviction, all the talk against them would not shake it.”