Shapewear has a long and interesting history, so it’s not surprising that women tend to have so many questions about it now! Learn more in this blog post about the history behind shapewear, then check out CYSM’s shapewear online for some of your very own!
The first shapewear that we really know about appeared sometime between 1600 and 1100 B.C. in Mycenaean Greece. These people favored the female form at its simplest, which is why their undergarments were used to accentuate breasts, hips, and waists. However, the Cretan corset was used solely to push up the breasts - with them fully exposed!
The women in society before Alexander the Great learned how to work metal to create metal girdles that became a staple in their fashion. These girdles are referenced in several pieces of Greek literature, including The Iliad and The Odyssey. However, not all of the shapewear was made with metal. The women used linens and leather as well to create the hourglass shape that was becoming so coveted.
The ancient Romans were actually the first to provide the world with breast binders. The beauty standard had shifted towards women with small busts and wide hips. In order to achieve this look, women used breast bands to bind their breasts down and make themselves seem less full figured than they truly were.
The Middle Ages
Once we reach the middles ages, shapewear began to be used in order to smooth women’s natural figures. The standard once again became the hourglass shape, but the emphasis is truly on the word “shape.” The people of the time did not seem to care how large a woman was; they simply wanted busts and hips to be larger than the waists. These shapewear pieces were extremely uncomfortable, however, and were bound much tighter than was healthy.
The Elizabethan people tended to favor the appearance of large hips over all else. The corset of the 16th century was not made to create an hourglass figure; rather, it was used to keep the chest, ribs, and stomach looking about the same size with only the hips moving outwards. The goal of shapewear was to create a flat, shapeless cylinder. The emphasis on the hips conveyed that the woman was fit for childbearing, while the flattening effect was used to suppress the sexual appearance of the breasts.
Victorian corsets are perhaps some of the most intense, as they were created to make it look as though a large bosom was balanced over a tiny waist. These corsets were often made from whale bone and heavy canvas material. Women would lace these corsets so tightly that they needed help from others to get in and out of them. However, since these corset frames were made from metal, the women in 1917 were asked to stop purchasing them since the metal could be used for ammunition and military supplies for World War I. Shortly thereafter, the modern-day bra grew in popularity.
The women in the 1920s embraced the flapper look, meaning that they tried to appear as thin and non-curvy as possible. They began to use camisoles, panties, teddies, and bras to keep their curves under control and suppressed. Their shapewear became lighter and cheaper, so the shapewear standard lowered - perhaps to match the economy.
World War II
During World War II, women moved back towards total shapewear, but with a much lighter fabric. These were usually attached to pantyhose, and since they didn’t control as much of the body’s appearance, they were usually cheaper to make and purchase. This shapewear was the first to really match what women wear today: tight yet light fabric to shape the body effortlessly.
During this era, the appearance of breasts was welcome again. Bras began to accentuate the bust instead of just holding it into place. The fabrics were no longer used to pull in the body, but to push up the bosom, which naturally created the look of a flatter stomach.
In today’s world, you can choose exactly what shapewear you need - and you can buy it online! At CYSM, we have high-control shapewear to support you during a night on the town, but we also have lighter shapewear that will keep you comfortable for daily wear. If you are interested in boosting your confidence, be sure to shop CYSM today!