Thursday, January 2, 2014

Corsets by Jean Paul Gaultier

A cage-style peplumed corset of gold-colored leather, stays and lacing, F/W, 2012-2013.

One of the more amazing aspects of The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, now on view at the Brooklyn Museum, are the corsets on display, gorgeous creations that are so intricate and beautifully-crafted. Gaultier is, of course, most famous for the cone-shaped bra corset that he created for Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour—the original is on display, straight from Madge’s own closet!—but the other corsets are just as wonderful to see. He designed another for Madonna for her MDNA World Tour last year, a black leather cage corset, which was a great update on the original.

The original corset Gaultier made for Madonna for her Blond Ambition tour.

Madonna, 1990, in a gold Gaultier corset in a famous photo by Jean-Baptiste Mondino.

Black leather cage corset worn by Madonna during her 2012 MDNA World Tour.

Gaultier’s sketch of the costume.

A row of Gaultier corsets.

It is clear that for Gaultier, the corset has a few meanings for him—it is the height of old-world femininity. It is also a way to play with ideas about gender. It is also quite personal—the gallery text suggests that his maternal grandmother’s corsets were his first window into this structured, restrictive and rigorous garment.

Gaultier with his maternal grandmother, 1958.

In Gaultier’s own words:

“When I was little, I thought my grandmother was supremely elegant. She was undoubtedly very old-fashioned, but I considered her style absolutely wonderful. She was different from other people. At her home she had black crepe hats, feather aigrettes, and corsets from the early 1900s. She told me that women would drink vinegar to bring on stomach contractions and then pull the corset laces at precisely that moment to get a smaller waist. That was all food for my imagination. A single thing would start me making up a story.”

Gaultier as a child, 1957. He looks adorably devilish!


I can’t help thinking of Coco Chanel’s efforts to rid this garment from a woman’s wardrobe. She is probably rolling in her grave to think anyone could find a corset charming, but I can’t help it, I do.

I realize this is contradictory of me and I know I would hate wearing one (I think), but I can’t help admiring the work that went into sewing these corsets and of course I can see the appeal of the bombshell who can wear one of these—they are very sexy!

So I offer these pictures of Gaultier corsets more like works of art than realistic garments to wear. If you have any thoughts on corsets, or even shapewear (which I do not own), I’d love to hear them!

A fan corset for a man.

A wheat and braided straw corset from 2006 that took 84 hours to make!

There was an interesting article recently at The New York Times on people who are fans of corsets called “The Return of the Tight Squeeze”. Have a look if you get a chance. It says a lady whittled her waist down to 22 inches (from its original 32) by wearing a corset constantly, even in her sleep. Wow!

I wonder what Coco would make of that.

I love the detail on this corset.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is on view at Brooklyn Museum through February 25, 2014.

11 comments:

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

These are hysterical! I will stop complaining about Spanx! I also would love my grandson to speak of me this way! Thanks for the always enjoyable tour, Jill!

Aya in Couturgatory said...

So *that's* why vintage garments often fit oddly! I always learn something new from your blog posts.

I too love the look of a corset, but the thought of pushing my organs up into my thoracic cavity for hours gives me the squeegies.

I love that today we have the option of stretch fabrics and soft reinforcement to give the look of corsetry without any of the squeezing.

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

Hi Jill - I love JPG as well as you know. I especially loved the corsets he did in leather for hermes - they were amazing and I wish I got one not to wear but as a piece of art. Funny because before spanx became huge in Japan and Korea - they wore girdles - like spanx but much tighter. Obstetricians in that part of the world also recommend women wear them after childbirth. My mother always tried me to wear one and i would more for posture as it was hard to slouch with a girdly spanx...My mother was a fashion fascist! I did wear spanx under my wedding dress I will admit but as much as i love them in theory IRL i am with Coco!! xx

PinkCheetahVintage said...

I have conflicting views!! The feminist in me is like, "NO!" But, the fashionista in me is like, "I love them!" I've often thought about getting a waist training one to squeeze down a few inches... Say a 32 to a 28! That's not too bad--- and then I would't have to diet anymore lolzzzz

Rebekah said...

My mother has fond memories of her grandmother taking off her corset after church on Sundays and saying a mild expletive.

As much as I love and rely on spanx for my thighs (are there thigh corsets? where would all the fat go?), I just can't see suffocating myself slowly to look even more like an hourglass. It's a good thing I come from solid peasant stock so I never had to find out!

Cloud of Secrets said...

Corsets - I'm so glad I don't live in a culture where they're required or expected garments for a lady. And I suppose it's because of this "not expected" culture that I can enjoy the sexy stylish pleasure of them: the pleasure of exaggerating the hourglass and boosting the bosom; the sensuality of certain fabrics and trimmings; enjoying the workmanship; etc.

Some women wear 4-inch heels for their sexy stylish pleasure, or short skirts, or piercings, or long nails. I personally would not be comfortable in any of these. And I can certainly understand why a corset wouldn't be someone else's idea of a style pleasure. But it is, for me. More often in the past, of course. Not so much as a thirty-something mom. ;-)

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

What a wonderful collection and exhibit, one that I would love to see. You would have enjoyed the Azedine Alaïa exhibit at Palais Galliera but no photos allowed. He is attuned to every curve of the body. I just wanted to touch but of course it was a "non non"

Bises,
Genie

Jeanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeanne said...

Hi Jill..this exhibit reminded me of Underwear Uncovered at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. What fun it was to read about the history of underwear from the 14th century to present and see the displays of corsets, push up bra's and man girdles…they even had a room to try some on. So glad I do not have to wear them but got some funny photos of others trying to.

Dawn Lucy said...

Beautiful post! These corsets are like works of art!

sophiahudson967 said...

Amazing art you have shown here. I wish I could wear them, but since I have never tried such dresses before , so little uncomfortable with them. They are somewhere similar to Steampunk overbust to cover up the extra fat, but not exactly the same. More designs of corsets are here http://www.alt-noir.com/steel-boned-corsets.html