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Fashion

Vivienne Westwood Corsets – 1987 To Present Day

LUISAVIAROMA presents a curated retrospective of the brand's iconic corset archive in Florence.

Step into a world of subverted elegance: Vivienne Westwood Corsets (1987-Present) at LuisaViaRoma’s Flagship Store in Florence, from the 19th to the 26th of October.

Journey through the house of Westwood’s Corset revolution as we delve into the legacy of corsetry from 1987 to the present day. This remarkable exhibition explores Vivienne Westwood’s audacious approach to transforming underwear into outerwear, offering a glimpse into the interwoven threads of corsets with historical attire, culture, and fine art – all of which continue to be an enduring muse for the Vivienne Westwood collections we see today.

This exclusive showcase takes you on a curated retrospective of the brand’s iconic corset archive, spotlighting pivotal runway show ensembles. Each piece on display bears witness to Westwood’s brilliance in corset design and Andreas Kronthaler’s contemporary reinterpretations of this historic garment, which have left an indelible mark on the current collections of the house of Westwood. Explore Vivienne Westwood’s corsets’ timeless allure and innovation in this must-see exhibition at the LuisaViaRoma Flagship Store, in the heart of Florence.

Vivienne Westwood Corsets
#VWCORSETSITALY #LUISAVIAROMA

Westwood Heritage: Corsets

As ever synonymous with the notion of Renaissance – a French term, originally evoking rebirth – Vivienne was always one to look to the past for inspiration. ‘When you explore the past, you enter the future,’ she once expressed. Her 18th century-inspired corsets were symbolic of this vision and her keen interest in history. Though long regarded as a patriarchal instrument that would deform the female body, the garment would be reimagined by Vivienne – who was among the first to introduce underwear as outerwear. A radical choice that would empower women, as opposed to binding them.

Adorned with opulent satin, brocade, or lace – the corset was traditionally crafted with rods made of whalebone and intricately embroidered detailing; all overt displays of wealth. In accentuating the sexually dimorphic curves of the body, it functioned as a silent way of asserting one’s place in society. First appearing in the Autumn-Winter 1987/88 Harris Tweed collection, the Portrait Corset established Vivienne as the first designer of the 20th century to subvert the historical flat corset structure – which was originally worn by the fashion-forward high society women of 18th century salon culture. This first incarnation referenced a 19th century copy of an original bodice, showing the multiple panels stiffened with whalebone, which forced the breasts up and out. This design was modernised using stretch panels on the side and zip fastening instead of lacing; A feature that would evolve throughout the seminal Gold Label collections of the 1990’s, soon establishing itself as a signature of the house.

Vivienne Westwood Corsets

Accordingly, our exclusive Vivienne Westwood Corsets exhibition illustrates the intrinsic links of the corset to historical dress, culture and fine art – which continue to serve as a constant source of inspiration for our collections. Each piece shown reveals Westwood’s ingenuity in corsetry design, and Andreas Kronthaler’s most recent iterations of this historical garment, which have gone on to influence the current collections of the house. A limited-edition jewellery collection has also been created for the occasion. Featured, is a 3D charm of the original Westwood Portrait corset, which has been reimagined in gold metal. The small range includes a Westwood gold–plated charm on a necklace and bracelet, on either a pearl or gold-plated chain with matching clip earrings.

Vivienne’s approach to corsetry always touched on the theatrical – playing up to our societal fascination with ‘what’s underneath?’ As articulated by Alexander Fury, Vivienne’s revisiting of the garment meant that, ‘A woman wearing a corset today is a symbol of empowerment, of sexual freedom, of control. She’s the one holding the laces, the one constructing her own femininity.’ In uniting historical elements with her singular perception of the zeitgeist, Vivienne’s corsets have become oeuvres in their own rights. They offered a new meaning – at once social and poetic.

Portrait CORSET

Vivienne Westwood Gold Label Autumn-Winter 2022/23 ‘Wild Beauty’ Collection

Exploring the house’s subversion of corsetry from 1987 to the present day, Vivienne Westwood Corsets examines Westwood’s approach to underwear as outerwear. The exhibition illustrates the intrinsic links of the corset to historical dress, culture and fine art – which continue to serve as a constant source of inspiration for Vivienne Westwood collections today.

This special exhibition presents a curated retrospective through the brand’s iconic corset archive and features pivotal runway show looks. Each piece demonstrates Westwood’s ingenuity in corsetry design and Andreas Kronthaler’s most recent iterations of this historical garment, which have gone on to influence the current collections of the house

Vivienne Westwood PORTRAIT CORSET
Sunday Corset

Sunday CORSET

Vivienne Westwood Gold Label Autumn-Winter 2022/23 ‘Wild Beauty’ Collection

Exploring the house’s subversion of corsetry from 1987 to the present day, Vivienne Westwood Corsets examines Westwood’s approach to underwear as outerwear. The exhibition illustrates the intrinsic links of the corset to historical dress, culture and fine art – which continue to serve as a constant source of inspiration for Vivienne Westwood collections today.

This special exhibition presents a curated retrospective through the brand’s iconic corset archive and features pivotal runway show looks. Each piece demonstrates Westwood’s ingenuity in corsetry design and Andreas Kronthaler’s most recent iterations of this historical garment, which have gone on to influence the current collections of the house

The drapery softens the shape, but still allows control and confidence. Structure with the unstructured, rigour against freedom-the inherent contradiction of drapery structured by this corset is quintessentially Westwood, combining two unexpected ideas to a dynamic and unique result — Alexander Fury

Doris Day CORSET

Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer 2020 ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ Collection

This corset debuted in the ‘Rock Me Amadeus’collection for Spring-Summer 2020, in an orange, black and red cotton, complete with a floral jacquard print. Andreas explained in the collection notes how the corsetry provided structure for the collection -‘Underpinning supplied by the hard shell of the coquille corset -a foundation for the flowing cloth bands of Botticelli’s Venus’.

This style carries echoes of vintage underwear, in their juxtapositions of jacquard and elastic, recalling the foundation garments of the mid-20th century.

Vivienne and Andreas both love Parisian haute couture from this period, often referencing it in their designs from the early 1990s onwards. These styles refer to those originals, although they are once again exposed as outerwear
— Alexander Fury

Doris Day Corset
Vivienne Westwood Men's Corset

Men’s CORSET

Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer 2020 ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ Collection

This Men’s corset debuted in the ‘Rock Me Amadeus’collection of Spring-Summer 2020, in an orange and white cotton, with a floral jacquard print. The collection proposed a symphony of cultural references, emulating the house’s intense curiosity for art, history and politics.

Andreas Kronthaler wrote in the collection notes -‘Everything’s connected, things that have no connection, suddenly connect, this is inspiration, intuition, the human condition.’ Note the fact that the corsets from this collection are constructed differently, both from earlier examples and to each other.

Rather than a female corset worn by a man, a different chest construction considers the differences in the male anatomy  — Alexander Fury

Short-Sleeved Court CORSET

Vivienne Westwood Gold Label Spring-Summer 2012 ‘War & Peace’ Collection

For the Spring-Summer 2012 collection, Vivienneproceeded to refine her vision of extreme silhouettes. In her collection notes, she stated,‘For some time I wanted to do oversized historical corsets. I thought I could give them a feeling of armour; worn as a jacket they would look tough –like a soldier or biker.

The corsets we chose to oversize are from the England of Charles II.’Westwood’s interpretation allied these corsets to armour -something shefirst drew inspiration from in the1988‘Time Machine’ collection, where theHarris tweed jackets drew their distinct shapes from the plated armour in London’s Wallace Collection.

Here, loosened, it frames the body rather than constrains it, and enables a woman to do battle. Andreas Kronthaler said that corsets equip the modern woman with “a feeling of armour –worn by Queens — Alexander Fury

Short-Sleeved Court Corset
Vivienne Westwood Court Corset Dress

Court CORSET DRESS

Vivienne Westwood Gold Label Spring-Summer 2012 ‘War & Peace’ Collection

This corset dress features hand-embroidery on lace, with a layer of beige tulle beneath. Appearing in the Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer 2012 collection, the piece adheres to Westwood’s vision that all fashion comes from the past -and from a translation from the past to the present, which is also a projection into a future-possible world.

Vivienne mentions in her collection notes, ‘The corsets we chose to oversize are from the England of Charles II; those beauties who, in their portraits, dressed themselves in the sheets and satin covers pulled from the bed’. Here the corset no longer defines the body but is rather worn oversized as a jacket or dress, the line of the corset framing the shoulders.

It mirrors the freedom expressed in the original ‘Portrait’ corset. The corset Westwood and Kronthaler referenced here was worn well into the 18th century at the Court of Versailles as high formal court clothing -and was considered cumbersome, painful and restrictive — Alexander Fury

Historical CORSET

Vivienne Westwood Gold Label Autumn-Winter 2012/13 ‘London’ Collection

This one-shoulder corset demonstrates the continued subversion of historical cuts to inspire and sculpt the shape of the Gold Label collection. In the show notes,Vivienne commented,‘By engaging with human genius, I have tried to capture the past in my fashion. But we can never repeat, we are swept along by the changing times and our own experience. When we try to imitate, we find ourselves doing something new. I see fashion as a proposal, a way for people to look more wonderful’.

The asymmetry in this piece is an element that is recurrent throughout Vivienne Westwood designs. In most cases, this is a reference to the movement of drapery against the body within paintings, the idea of ‘spontaneous gestures, then captured and frozen in cloth — Alexander Fury

Vivienne Westwood Historical Corset
Vivienne Westwood Aphrodite Corseted Dress

Aphrodite CORSETED DRESS

Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer 2023 Bespoke Collection

This draped corseted dress in silk chocolate brown satin chiffon, accompanied with gold crystal net, is a contemporary interpretation of the original silver crystal ‘Cocotte’ bridal dress from the Spring-Summer 1998 ‘Tied to The Mast’ collection.

The skirt is created from just one seamless panel of crystal net, which creates a flattering line. It was first presented in the 2022 Bridal collection and worn by Lupita Nyongo, at the Black Panther Premiere in Africa, Lagos, Nigeria.

New Bellini CORSET

Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer 2023 Bespoke Collection

This bridal piece features a gold thread and crystal embroidered corset, on a silk satin base with a silhouette inspired by the house’s signature deep neckline, tracing the décolletage.

The embroidery is a variation of the archive ‘Lovelace’ design, which is a classic Vivienne Westwood pattern, first presented in the Spring-Summer 2007 ‘I Am Expensive’ collection. The corset is styled with the Zora tulle skirt with gros-grain ribbon detail, from the Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer 2024 collection.

Vivienne Westwood New Bellini Corset
Vivienne Westwood Audrey Corseted Dress

Audrey CORSETED DRESS

Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer 2022 Bespoke Collection

The ‘Audrey’ is an ivory silk satin column design, with a sculpted corset top. The iconic Vivienne Westwood broken pearls cascade from the neckline, lending the classic style an asymmetrical twist. It was first shown in the couture bridal collection of 2022, evoking the golden age of the silver screen.

The Vernissage

Photos by Ginevra Cecchi & Lorenzo Dei

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Special Thanks to Vivienne Westwood
IP-0A004CD0 - 2024-03-03T12:40:36.9144922+01:00