Text by Lucrezia Sgualdino

Vivienne Westwood revolutionized the idea of the corset, transforming it from a constraining garment to a symbol of female emancipation. A vision aimed at the future but inspired by the past, this is the investigation presented through the exhibition Corsets. 

Vivienne Westwood’s corsets have always been the symbol of a forward-looking, unique and profound vision that investigates the concept of femininity and emancipation. In fact, for centuries this garment was considered a patriarchal tool, of constraint on women’s bodies but also on their freedom. Vivienne was one of the first designers to propose underwear as an outer garment. The maison’s subversive approach to the world of corsetry is truly incredible and fascinating, starting in 1987 and continuing to the present day, recounting intrinsic and profound links between the corset, historical dress, culture, society and art. All these worlds have always been a source of great inspiration for Westwood’s work.

The retrospective retraces the brand’s corset archive in an accurate and maniacal manner, presenting some catwalk looks and other individual pieces selected ad hoc to narrate the genius of corset design. The historic garment of the maison encapsulates its values and remains the basis of every creation to this day. Also presented for the occasion is a limited edition jewelry line, the emblematic element of which is a three-dimensional pendant depicting the Portrait corset. Exactly as it was presented in the Time Machine collection of Autumn Winter 1988/89, it is now again presented in a golden hue. The charm is available mounted on strands of pearls or gold-plated chains, in necklace and bracelet versions, with matching earrings. 

Selected pieces showcasing Westwood’s inventiveness in corsetry design underpin Andreas Kronthaler’s most recent interpretations of this historic garment and the fashion house’s current collection.

The corset has become a distinctive element of the Vivienne Westwood fashion label, which showcases its ingenuity in every collection. Vivienne’s reinterpretation of the garment has meant that every woman who decides to wear one, herself becomes a symbol of emancipation, sexual freedom and full control. She’s who holds the laces, she’s who constructs her own person and her own femininity. By combining the historical elements, of fundamental importance for the development of every stylistic creation, with her unique perception of the modern era, her corsets became true works of art. They were able to give the garment a new meaning, at once cultural, social, philosophical and poetic.



The traveling exhibition will be open at the Paris Boutique, 175 Rue Saint-Honoré, until April 30th, at the London store, 44 Conduit Street, from May 8th to 21st, and will continue its journey in other cities.

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