Nowadays, spotting a corset during your central line commute wouldn’t come as a surprise. You’d probably give a nod of approval, envious of the styling prowess that comes with incorporating what used to be a restrictive garment but now is a fashion icon subverted to a person’s personality, rather than waist.

In the late eighties, when Vivienne Westwood caused a storm after unveiling her collection, ‘Harris Tweed’ AW87, which featured corsets for the first time – little did she know that it would become a garment still synonymous with her brand nearly four decades later.

Before then, corsets had always been hidden from view as an undergarment, but Westwood, a self-proclaimed Anglomaniac known for taking inspiration from the grit and grandeur of the 18th century, was the first to turn it into an overgarment. Single-handedly revolutionising and modernising the then-controversial piece into a statement of punk sensibility.

Head down to the Vivienne Westwood flagship store in Mayfair (before the 21st!) to see 'Vivienne Westwood Corsets – 1987 to Present Day’, a retrospective exhibition of the late designers’ most celebrated garment. From Westwood’s earliest corset creations to her husband Andreas Kronthaler’s recent interpretations, check out how this iconic piece has been reimagined by the brand over the years.

Adding panels of lycra (for flexibility) and removing the stiff and uncomfortable boning, Westwood transformed the constricting corset into a liberating garment. From men's to bridal corsets, the display traces the evolution of the piece and features a limited edition jewellery collection reimagining the renowned ‘Portrait’ corset as a necklace pendant.

Exhibition I 'Vivienne Westwood Corsets – 1987 to Present Day’ is open until May 21st.

By Héloïse Shadbolt


Shop our edit of the best corsets and corsetry inspired pieces!