The corset as an undergarment had its origin in Italy, and was introduced by Catherine de Medici into France in the 1500s, where the women of the French court embraced it. This type of corset was a tight, elongated bodice that was worn underneath the clothing. The women of the French court saw this corset as “indispensable to the beauty of the female figure.” Corsets of this time were often worn with a farthingale that held out the skirts in a stiff cone. The corsets turned the upper torso into a matching but inverted cone shape. These corsets had shoulder straps and ended in flaps at the waist. They flattened the bust, and in so doing, pushed the breasts up. The emphasis of the stays was less on the smallness of the waist than on the contrast between the rigid flatness of the bodice front and the curving tops of the breasts peeking over the top of the corset. These corsets were typically made out of layered fabric, stiffened with glue, and were tightly laced. While a few surviving corsets exist that are structured with steel or iron, these are generally considered to have been either orthopedic or novelty constructions and were not worn as part of mainstream fashion.
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