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Bodice dresses, blouses and undergarments evoke images of racy romantic novels and their feminine yet feisty heroines. This form-fitting style originated during the Renaissance era, and reappeared at different periods in fashion history. Contemporary bodice fashion combines the mystique of its history with the practicality of 21st century, functional clothing.
Bodice fashion celebrates a woman's curves. The women who favor it often take pride in their curvaceous figures, and reject the notion of starving themselves for beauty's sake. Victorians appreciated the hourglass figure, as indicated by their reverence for 18-inch waistlines paired with more than ample bosoms, but like many contemporary fashionistas, they took things to unhealthy extremes. Fainting heroines are a key feature in Victorian bodice ripper novels. The heroes in these novels typically attribute these unfortunate events to extreme femininity, but medical science tells a different story. Tightly laced corsets that create a tiny waist and uplifted bosom appearance can restrict breathing.
The modern corset maintains the sexy Victorian look, but without unhealthy restrictions. This type of bodice undergarment does not require a mammy or a dressing assistant. Seriously. That concept is so wrong on many levels, and so 19th century! The 21st century woman has another important tool at her disposal; it´s called the gym. Aerobic exercise on most days of the week reduces overall body fat and contributes to a smaller waistline. Oblique and abdominal exercises define the waist, and upper body weight training gives the appearance of a thriving bust-line. Fashion just accents what a good workout program creates.
Renaissance Bodice Fashion
The dresses of the Renaissance also emphasized the bodice, but the styles differed from those worn during the Victorian period. The sleeves of the dress defined the difference. Servants wore skirts with chemise blouses, which had puffy dagger sleeves that kept the arms warm without interfering with cooking, cleaning and garden work. A lace-up bodice vest accompanied the chemise. Long, flowing diaphanous silk sleeves characterized the Gothic dress. These garments had tight-fitting bodices and flowing skirts.
The Modern Renaissance Woman
The 21st century gal is a Renaissance woman in the broader since of the term. She often boasts a diverse knowledge of many subjects, has a multitude of interests and a multifaceted personality. Her clothing might reflect her diversity. Transforming Renaissance and Victorian bodice fashion into modern attire is relatively easy, but ¨"Style Magazine" suggests sampling the look in small, elegant doses -- lest you look like you are going to a costume ball. Experiment with blending a chemise and bodice with a pair of jeans or dress pants, or wearing a short, as opposed to a long, Gothic-style dress.
Vintage Inspired Designers
An article on the Eras of Elegance website highlights modern designers who take their inspiration from vintage bodice fashion. Jessica McClintock´s Gunne Sax line embodies the Victorian spirit, with its floral patterns, tight bodices and lace trims. Designer Jill Stuart dedicates the basement of her Soho store to vintage fashion, including lace and ribbon-trimmed fitted tops, which could have come out of your great, great grandma´s boudoir.
Betsy Johnson Bodice Fashion
Your mother might be able to help you with the bodice fashion look. Designer Betsy Johnson went through a bodice dress phase during the 1980s. Johnson specialized in Victorian and Renaissance-inspired dresses and tops made from spandex or velvet. There´s a good chance that your mom was wearing one of these dresses when she met your dad, so there´s a possibility that you owe your existence to Betsy Johnson. Talk to your mom. She might still have some of these seductive dresses hiding in the trunk in the attic. Just don´t tell dad!