Gendered clothing across cultures – The corset


Gender Plays a big part in fashion, This is because a garment provides many people with a visual, For example, if a women wore men’s clothing they would be seen as masculine and if a man wore a dress for example, he would be seen as feminine. I have chosen to research into the corset because it relates to contour fashion and I think that it is seen as a feminine garment for women.


The corset first evolved and became popular in the 16th century in Europe, but its peak popularity was in the Victorian era. It was designed to give women an hourglass shape figure to make them appear more feminine and shaped even though it impacted women’s health by causing them to faint because of how tight their corsets were. In the early 16th century they were constructed out of stiff materials but later on the stiffness was sewn into the lining and seams of the corsets to change the shape and style of the garments.

Men have however been known to wear corsets to accentuate the V-shape from their shoulders to waist, other than to create the hourglass figure. Also cross dressers would wear corsets to make them look more feminine, however they were originally designed for women who wanted to change their body shape. Nowadays, if you see a man wearing a corset it would mainly be cross dressers and homosexuals wearing a corset because it is looked at as a more feminine garment.


Adiyah Corset Nude – Agent Provocateur £1295

Modern corsets are seen as a sexual garment, they empower women and are known to give them a sexual confidence, they tend to be pricier as they are a luxury item of lingerie, they also cross with outerwear as garments often feature corset elements. Corsets in this time are also used as waist trainers to help women achieve a smaller waist. In comparison to the Victorian Era they were mainly wore as underwear and as a foundation garment to have the purpose to exaggerate their body shape to make them more attractive to men.

From my research I have learned that corsets were designed and are known specifically for women, but men have been known to wear them to look feminine which shows that corsets are seen as a feminine garment towards women.

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The global journey of my wardrobe


Image from -

Every piece of clothing has a journey, you know where you brought the garment from, but you don’t know where it all began. I have chosen an item in my wardrobe that I wear many times a week, My Topshop Black Joni Jeans. Not knowing much about my clothing I am interested into researching the journey of my jeans.

Both these images of the labels inside my jeans were taken by myself.


To help me start my research I looked inside the jeans at the label and found out that they were made in Egypt, and are 67% cotton, 30% polyester and 3% elastane. Cotton is the main material used so I’m going to explore where it is made.


Cotton grows in warmer climates and is mainly grown in the U.S, China, Uzbekistan and India. Other country’s that grow cotton are Brazil, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Argentina and Greece. These countries produce a significant amount but less than the main cotton growing countries. Straight away from this research I have learnt that the material could have been grown in Egypt, or imported from another country that produces a larger amount so that the garment could be made in Egypt, to save time and money it is most likely that the cotton was grown in Egypt. Cotton is the most used fiber in lots of things including clothes and ingredients in the food that we eat.

The arcadia group owns Topshop and Topshop stated “We do not own or operate factories ourselves and Arcadia Group is rarely dominant in an individual factory. We have strong working relationships with our network of international suppliers, 60% of which have been with us for three years or more. Arcadia goods are manufactured in approximately 985 factories through 766 suppliers. Our top 20 suppliers provide 44% of our goods.”

“This year Arcadia products were made in 49 countries worldwide, although our top ten sourcing countries accounted for 91% and the top five for 71% of the goods we sold. These top five countries were China, Turkey, Romania, India and Bangladesh.” – Arcadia Group – Ethical Trading

This shows that my jeans were made in Egypt but the materials and sources to make the garments were more than likely imported from one of the top 5 countries that produce the materials. My garment then was imported to the UK and then to the Topshop store in the bullring, Birmingham, where I brought them. Doing this research has given me a further understanding on the journey my jeans have gone through before making it into a store and then into my ownership.





Ethnical issues inside your wardrobe

For this blog post I have chosen a kimono from H&M out of my wardrobe that is one of my favourite clothing items. It was made in India so i am going to look into the working conditions in India.


This is an image I have taken of the Kimono.

Making of clothes in India:

In 2012 there was an article of accusations of abuse and low pay against clothing companies that supply many high street stores. H&M was one of them along with Gap and Next. Many workers in Indian factories earn very little that a months wage wouldn’t buy them an item of clothing that they produce. Physical and verbal abuse is said to be common, whilst workers who fail to meet their targets are called “dogs and donkeys” and are told to “go and die”. Their target is 150 pieces of clothing an hour, and when the targets aren’t met, the abuse starts. Sakamma who is a 42 year old mother of two who works for a Gap supplier in Bengaluru told reporters that she earned as little as 22p an hour, and that they couldn’t take breaks, drink water or go to the toilet.

H&M sent representatives to the factories and made it very clear that they were committed to make a change to the working conditions. “The social and environmental responsibility that we take puts H&M’s sustainability work ahead of the field in the fashion industry worldwide,” said a spokeswoman.


“We clearly see these issues as industry problems that need to be addressed at industry level by government, suppliers, trade unions, workers, buyers, etc.” – The Guardian – India’s clothing workers


My opinion on this is that it is disgusting and would make me double think about buying a garment knowing that this is going on behind the making of it.


H&M is trying to become a more sustainable company and from looking into they’re conscious actions sustainability report it states that they are helping to improve working conditions and also introduce recycling into the process. H&M offer a £5 voucher for every bag of clothes that you donate; they then donate the bags to charities where they are either reused or recycled. In 2014 H&M introduced the first pieces with 20% recycled cotton from collected garments. To increase this share without loosing quality, they are working hard to have a more technological innovation.

H&M have 7 commitments that are stated on the 2014 sustainability report

  • Provide fashion for conscious customers
  • Choose and reward responsible partners
  • Be ethical
  • Be climate smart
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle
  • Use natural resources responsibly
  • Strengthen communities


In conclusion I can see that H&M are trying to start being more supportable towards their workers and are making an effort to change working environments with their commitment. They are trying to improve working conditions which is a significant problem for a lot of factories, this makes H&M a nicer place to shop knowing that the staff behind the making of there garments get treated well. A lot of other mass companies make no effort at all so H&M should be acknowledged for this. As for the working conditions in India I think they are very poor and I am glad H&M have started the conscious campaign to help prevent this.

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Investigating Origins of a trend


This is the garment that I have chosen to investigate. This image was out of the La Perla A/W 15 catalogue and this is called the La Perla silk essence pajama top and it is described as ‘Elegant silk satin cassock top characterized by georgette frills’. This garment is 95% Silk and 5% Elastane. I have chosen this garment because I love silk and I wanted to research into orientalism and the use of silk for this trend back around in the 18-1900s.

Orientalism, Especially in France brought sensuality to European lifestyle in the 1910s and 1920s. Cosmetics, perfumes, clothing, decor and films were draped in woven silks. The 19th century brought an era of universal expositions such as silks from China, shawls and Kimonos from Japan.

An example of Garments in the Orientalism period in the 1900’s


Silks in the 1800’s were made by using a loom, Technical innovations to the loom happened throughout the 18th century because weavers needed to speed up the process of loom preparation and weaving to create more silks. It was only until the early 18th century that the identity of individual silk designers became known.

A Fortuny pleated gown worn by Lilian Gish.


Mario Fortuny (1871-1949) was a Spanish painter and inventor. The pleated silk that he created was a process he used and he created amazing colours all using vegetable dyes, which was a refreshing change from the dull aniline dyes that were used around this time. His garments had batwing sleeves and were silk and silk velvet.

Back then they would have used different silks to what La Perla use now, the silks may have been more costly and not practical for every day use. Silk can’t be tumble dried so it is known as a luxury fabric now but back then they would of hand washed it and left it out to dry. Now silk is known as a practical fabric for everyday use, where as back in the 1800’s and 1900’s it may have been a luxury fabric only worn for special occasions. La Perla uses a lot of silk and satin silk for their garments but back in the 1800 and 1900s a variety of silks were used such as duppioni, regency silks, and satin. Other silks were used but these were the most popular.

From this research I have learned that it was in the early 18th century that silk designers first became popular and therefore silk has been around for a very long time. I still think that silk is seen as a luxurious material as it is used in more pricey garments however I don’t know for certain if silk was known as a luxurious material in the 1800-1900’s.


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Contexts Surrounding my chosen object

IMG_3620 d-2Aromatic-Oils IMG_3621

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About me


My name is Lucy Ward, this is my blog for critical and contextual studies and I am currently studying Contour Fashion at De Montfort University. I chose this course because I have a strong passion for lingerie and swimwear. Before this course I studied art and design at college and focused on fashion, textiles and printmaking. I am at De Montfort University now because I would like to further my skills and eventually have my own shop selling my designs.

I have always had an arty background as my mom is a lecturer in textiles and my dad makes pottery, so from a young age I have always been creative.

In my spare time I enjoy to go shopping, sing and go to the gym. Fitness is very important to me because I like to feel good and if I’m ever stressed my relief is exercise.