The catwalk is always an area for recreating the ideas of femininity and beauty. This year the most fashion-forward houses dressed their modern women in an icon from the straight-laced past – the corset. Deconstructed, juxtaposed and reinvigorated, this year’s corset shows that some rules are made to be broken. We asked MARIOTESTINO+’s in-house Fashion and Trends Creative Verity Pemberton, to show how the industry has continued to reinvent the wheel, with her ten favourite corset shots from Mario’s archive.
VP: One of Mario’s earlier images depicting a monochromatic look by Jean Paul Gaultier. Spearheading overt sexuality on the catwalks, Gaultier’s conical bras first appeared on his 1984 runway show. At a time when other designers were focused on shoulder pads and power dressing, Gaultier re-invented this idea with his exaggerated take on the female form.
VP: Carine Roitfeld’s styling aesthetic re-addresses clothing and the way pieces should be worn. Jacquetta Wheeler wears pared-down jeans and a classic high-collared blouse, given the Roitfeld twist with a corseted-style clip belt. This image is a perfect example of fashion's obsession with denim in the 90s, and the juxtaposition of high-low dressing.
VP: Gucci’s architectural cutaway corset layered over a classic white T, epitomizes the glamorous minimalism, and mix of high and low fashion, that this decade gave rise to. This shot also tells of things to come – the early signs of experimental structure, fabrics and non-traditional layering, that we still see recurring today.
VP: The early Noughties; the time for tomboys, short hair and lanky limbs. Mario Testino gives a punk edge to the corset, shooting this leather Givenchy creation on a tattooed model with a modish haircut. Under Alexander McQueen’s tenure, Givenchy developed this signature style of tough beauty. He combined beautiful embroidery techniques and embellishments with fierce silhouettes and fabrications.
VP: Alexander McQueen’s corseted dress features an embellished cowl neck drape, as if the front of the dress has fallen down and exposed what’s underneath. The 2000s was a time for experimentation, and McQueen was the king of deconstructed glamour. He was a master at reworking traditional clothing, which gave his garments a contemporary, otherworldly feel.
VP: The corset fetishized with S&M undertones through its black lacquer colour and molded shape. During the late 2000s we saw a rise in women whose unabashed sexuality translated into the fashion of the day. Tom Ford’s reign at Gucci ended in 2004, but he undoubtedly transformed the brand into one for bold sexual women – forever highlighting the infamous statement that ‘sex sells’.
VP: The seductive undertones of the corset were given a playful, feminine feel in earthy tones and delicate materials by Dolce and Gabbana in 2008. Enhanced by the nonchalant attitude of the wearers, who have every right to be nonchalant in a corset – they are ‘The Supers' after all.
VP: Lara Stone highlights her best features in this beautiful Dior Haute Couture dress worn for British Vogue in 2009. The late 2000s saw a celebration of women’s curves in contrast to the previously slimmer figures gracing the catwalks. Models such as Lara were being booked just as much for their figures as for their faces, with a corset being the best way to showcase their assets.
VP: Dolce and Gabbana’s corset from 2013 was showcasing the original craft and tradition of corsetry with a cane bustier. In 2013 we saw, more than ever before, a move towards experimentation with structure and craftsmanship. Differing styles and fabrics from worldwide traditions of craft were brought together in a new and dynamic way.
VP: In my favourite shot, Lucinda Chambers’ styling provides a perfect example of the corset's evolution from underwear to outerwear – proof that femininity has reclaimed this restrictive item for its own purposes. Worn with combat-style trousers and heavy boots, the corset here has evolved into a symbol of female strength. Photographs © Mario Testino