A Second Body
Her World Malaysia|July 2018

The idea of the ‘perfect’ body shape has changed over the decades. Here’s a look at the different foundation garments that have helped women contort their torsos into the fashionable shape of the day; the garments that have been a source of fascination, contention and debate.

Azza Arif

Corsets, spanx and bodysuits — for centuries, women were expected to wear a variety of peculiar, somewhat restrictive but utterly wonderful undergarments to achieve a desirable silhouette. Worn from childhood to adulthood in order to support their bodies and create the ideal accentuated silhouette, these special undergarments were an essential part of every woman's wardrobe and daily life for hundreds of years. They evolved from the laced bodices of the medieval period, through to the constrictive boned corsets of the late Victorian era and the elasticated girdle of the 1920s which we still wear today.

THE GIBSON GIRL, 1900-1910S 

A creation of illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, the ‘Gibson girl’ was the woman all the ladies aspired to be, and the one men wanted to be with. She was tall with a heavy chest and wide hips but a narrow waist. In 1910, he told a reporter for the Sunday Times Magazine: “I’ll tell you how I got what you have called the ‘Gibson Girl.’ I saw her on the streets, I saw her at the theatres, I saw her in the churches. I saw her everywhere and doing everything. I saw her idling on Fifth Avenue and at work behind the counters of the stores.”

After years of wearing open drawers under layers of petticoats, lacier versions of the ‘long johns’ (which were known as the camisole and drawers) were introduced into every woman’s wardrobes to symbolise women's increasing freedom thanks to the suffrage movement and World War One. And because women started participating more in the work fields, outdoor activities and dancing, they began trading in their corsets for a more comfortable option: the brassiere.

In 1913, Mary Phelps Jacob, a young New York socialite, made the first brassiere by tying two handkerchiefs together with ribbon and cord. Originally, she did it just to prevent the support rods from poking out from underneath the fabric of her evening gown. This resulted in her creating a new undergarment that conformed to the wearer’s anatomy far more naturally than the traditional corsets. She soon began taking orders and requests from family, friends and even strangers. By 1914, Mary patented her design as the ‘Backless Brassiere’ and began selling the units under the name Caresse Crosby. However, after Mary sold her patent to the Warner Brothers Corset Company, she never received accolades for her invention of the immensely popular undergarment that made life more comfortable and convenient for millions of women.

THE FRIVOLOUS FLAPPER, 1920s

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM HER WORLD MALAYSIAView All

YOU'VE GOT A FRIEND IN ME

“More than half of my time is spent with animals, but I enjoy it,” enthuses animal rescuer, Aileen Lee. The story of this selfless lady’s dedication and love for the fur kids she has saved will warm your heart.

8 mins read
Her World Malaysia
May - June 2020

MISSION: Catification

We discover why pet proofing your home ensures harmony and safety for both the owner and the cat.

2 mins read
Her World Malaysia
May - June 2020

THE ONE WHO'S TAKING ACTION

Best known for her extensively waitlisted Nina bag, Gabriela Hearst walks the talk when it comes to sustainable luxury. The New York-based designer shares her inspirations, dreams and resolutions for herself and her eponymous label.

3 mins read
Her World Malaysia
May - June 2020

BORN TO ENTERTAIN

YOU MIGHT RECOGNISE HER AS THE GENTLE AND LOVING MOTHER IN LEE CHONG WEI, THE BIOPIC OF THE BADMINTON LEGEND, OR THE VULNERABLE YET RESILIENT TEACHER IN WET SEASON, WHICH HIT THE CINEMAS IN MARCH. SOME OF US MAY HAVE SEEN YEO YANN YANN ON THE BIG SCREEN PLAYING VARIOUS CHARACTERS FOR MORE THAN A DECADE. STILL, SHE NEVER FAILS LEAVE HER AUDIENCE IN AWE OF HER ACTING PROWESS.

10+ mins read
Her World Malaysia
May - June 2020

THE TRUTH BEHIND FAUX FUR

Is imitation fur still a feasible alternative in this modern, fashion-forward world? Nadhirah Othman uncovers how the fur industry – both real and fake – brings a detrimental impact to the well-being of our planet.

4 mins read
Her World Malaysia
May - June 2020

Surprising reasons WHY YOUR KID is under performing in school

You’re understandably frustrated that your child isn’t living up to her potential. But before you blame her attitude, check if these conditions are hindering her academically.

9 mins read
Her World Malaysia
May - June 2020

A PAWSITIVE' Life

Like in many parts of the world, pet culture has seen exponential growth in Malaysia. In this issue, Lorraine Chai discusses pet therapy, a method of treatment that is gaining traction, and also some of the pet trends you don’t want to miss out on.

10 mins read
Her World Malaysia
May - June 2020

The Healing Power Of Unconditional Love

There’s a saying that goes, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” For one woman, these words resonated deeply. An unlikely companion came into her life at her lowest point and changed everything.

7 mins read
Her World Malaysia
May - June 2020

Even Pets Need Tummy Care?

For many, keeping a pet is more than just caring for an animal; pets are family members, too. We speak to veterinary surgeon, Dr Wafaa Abdul Washefffrom Pets Corner Sdn Bhd, to find out how your pets can stay healthy with a suitable diet

3 mins read
Her World Malaysia
May - June 2020

Beauty The Natural Way

With climate change rapidly threatening the future of Mother Earth, we urgently need to curb further acts of destruction. We speak to Law Hong Mei, founder of The Olive Tree, about building a beauty brand that is sustainable from the core.

5 mins read
Her World Malaysia
May - June 2020