Deep Breath – The Corset Is Making A Comeback, All Thanks To Jodie Turner-Smith, Adele And Lizzo

And shoppers are taking note.

Jodie Turner-Smith wearing Christopher John Rogers

by Laura Antonia Jordan |
Updated on

Surprise! The corset is back. But before you press the panic button, consider this: isn't it the perfect wardrobe retribution for all those elasticated waists you’ve been enjoying for the past year?

Jodie Turner-Smith wearing Christopher John Rogers
Jodie Turner-Smith ©Getty

Jodie Turner-Smith wore one over the weekend to appear on Jimmy Fallon (a fabulous, rainbow-stitched style from Christoper John Rogers). And then there's Adele. When the singer was revealed as the cover star of not one but two editions of Vogue, UK and US, people picked up on one particular garment she was wearing: a custom-made corset in brilliant yellow from Vivienne Westwood. According to global search platform Lyst, searches jumped 73% week-on-week (as well as the corset on the cover of British Vogue, Adele wore another one, this time a sexy black corset dress, from Dolce & Gabbana). And she's not the only fan.

Irina Shayk has been out and about in a burnt orange corset from LaQuan Smith. Lizzo's recent single, Rumors Feat. Cardi B, was a golden opportunity for both women to wear the most major corsets from Schiaparelli, along with surrealist gold earrings shaped like ears, in the promo material.

Lizzo wearing a corset in Rumors
Lizzo ©Jora Frantsiz

If it wasn't already obvious, this is not about going the full Merchant Ivory. Rather, the new-gen corsets are better suited to a social media moment than a period drama. You’re more likely to spy them with distressed denim and mini skirts than a bustle and a bonnet. Think sassy, think sexy (yes, that's back too).

Rihanna wearing a vintage corset from D&G
Rihanna ©Getty

Rihanna wore one to film her music video in the Bronx, New York, along with boyfriend A$AP Rocky. The python-print bustier was from Dolce & Gabbana's spring 2005 collection, and she paired its in-and-out curves with baggy brown trousers and a floor-sweeping coat lined with shearling.

Dua Lipa has been repping them all year, sporting three iterations from the queen of corsetry, Dame Vivienne Westwood, at the BRIT Awards. Billie Piper has opted for a heaving-bosom metallic dress from Magda Butrym.

dua lipa brit awards vivienne westwood
Dua Lipa at the BRIT Awards ©Getty

Another Billie - Eilish - was even wooed out of her baggy uniform and into some wow-worthy lingerie, again, for British Vogue (searches soared this time too). And given the furore around the pics of Lily James in a criss-crossed laced top as Pamela Anderson (newly minted as an unexpected style icon) in the forthcoming Hulu series Pam & Tommy, you can be sure of one thing: the corset is having a moment, like it or not.

But would you, could you, should you wear a corset? Their history is divisive. Although the earliest versions dates back to 1600BC, they rose to prominence in the 16th century, remaining popular until the early 20th century. Designed to nip in the waist and shape the torso, to naysayers they are a symbol of female repression, a sartorial torture device that makes ‘killer heels’ look like slippers.

Certainly by the 19th century, there was increasing concern about their potential health implications, including deformity to the ribs and respiratory problems (when Kim Kardashian wore a how-did-she-get-into-that? Thierry Mugler dress to the 2019 Met Gala, she revealed she had to take corset breathing lessons from legendary corset designer Mr. Pearl).

And, yet, despite their restrictions, the corset has never disappeared from fashion. Indeed, to many, it has actually been a defiant symbol of female emancipation. Could you really say that Madonna – who made Jean Paul Gaultier’s corsets iconic on her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour – is a victim of patriarchal society? Quite. Ditto Westwood, who has made the piece a signature of her historical punk narrative.

Kim Kardashian in Thierry Mugler at the 2019 Met Gala
Kim Kardashian in Thierry Mugler at the 2019 Met Gala ©Getty

If you’re still unsure about the corset, remember, the new-gen versions don’t necessarily require specialist breathing-lessons to get into them. Rather you can simply nod to the trend; a panel here, a padded bust there. The easiest way to wear is over a T-shirt. We’ve learnt to lean into comfort in the past year and there’s no need to forego all that now. But perhaps, perhaps, after all this time in sweatpants, breathing in might, ironically, bring a little relief.


SEE: Corsets: A History In Pictures

Marylin Monroe1 of 13
CREDIT: Getty Images

Marylin Monroe

Diamonds might have been her best friend, but Marilyn Monroe - here in 1958 - was also closely acquainted with the corset.

Victoria Beckham2 of 13
CREDIT: Getty Images

Victoria Beckham

She prefers a more undone glamour today, but back in 2005 Victoria Beckham was a nip-it, tuck-it corset devotee.

Sophia Loren3 of 13
CREDIT: Getty Images

Sophia Loren

Now this is how you wear a corset. In 1960's The Millionairess, Sophia Loren serves up a masterclass in bombshell appeal. We bow down.

Dita Von Teese4 of 13
CREDIT: Getty Images

Dita Von Teese

Come to think of it, have you ever seen Dita Von Teese in anything other than a corset? The burlesque superstar always knows how to wow.

Glenn Close5 of 13
CREDIT: Getty Images

Glenn Close

In the 1988 adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons, Glenn Close shows its full swoon-appeal.

Lady Gaga6 of 13
CREDIT: Getty Images

Lady Gaga

At the 2016 Met Gala - theme: Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology - Lady Gaga opted proved the corset didn't have to be a thing of the past in futuristic Versace.

John Galliano Corset7 of 13
CREDIT: Getty Images

John Galliano Corset

You might think this look is all about the hair, but you'd be wrong. Helena Christensen wears a corset in John Galliano's SS93 show.

Madonna8 of 13
CREDIT: Getty Images


Madonna made Jean Paul Gaultier's conical bra corset iconic on her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour.

Lizzo9 of 13
CREDIT: Getty Images


Mic drop moment. At a post-Brit Awards party in February 2019, Lizzo was looking Good As Hell in a patent red corset.

Vivienne Westwood Corset10 of 13
CREDIT: Getty Images

Vivienne Westwood Corset

Vivienne Westwood is the corset's catwalk queen. Here a look from her AW98/99 collection proves exactly why.

Bella Hadid11 of 13
CREDIT: Getty Images

Bella Hadid

In Paris in 2019, Bella Hadid proves that a corset can be (whisper it) understated.

Kim Kardashian12 of 13
CREDIT: Getty Images

Kim Kardashian

If you already think double-denim is scary, look away now. Kim Kardashian is dedicated to the corset cause. Here she wears a puff-sleeved denim design, custom-made for her by Burberry's Riccardo Tisci, with leather chaps.

Maria Grazia Chiuri Corset13 of 13
CREDIT: Getty Images

Maria Grazia Chiuri Corset

The corset is here to stay, at least according to Dior's Maria Grazia Chiuri, who showed them in her Resort 2021 collection.

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