Corsetry at Play

Ever since Catherine de Medici introduced the corset to the French court five hundred years ago, corsetry can be found in the fashionable wardrobes of Madonna, Lady Gaga, and maybe even you. Popular for centuries and always worn by aristocrats like Queen Elizabeth I, the corset reshaped the woman’s torso into a straight-side, inverted cone to flatten and raise the bust line. After the French Revolution in the early 1800’s, fashionable women took off the corset and wore loose-fitting clothing to reflect the new freedom of political change. Years later, fashion changed and the corset returned, more popular than ever, reshaping the women’s look to the hourglass figure with tight lacing to compress the waist and create the “ideal” female shape from shoulder to thigh. This Victorian corset created the fashionable silhouettes of the mid- and late 1800’s.

During World War I, the U.S. government asked women to stop buying corsets with steel stays in order to help with wartime production to free up enough steel to build warships. After the war, corsets, also known as girdles, were designed to reduce hip size instead of waistline size. With ever changing fashion trends, the “merry widow” corset become popular after World War II, and provided separation of the breasts instead of holding them together.

Today, the popularity of corsets is flourishing. Why is everyone shopping Ebay and vintage boutiques for a corset? With the resurgence of burlesque, thanks to Dita Von Teese and on-stage performers like Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and Beyoncé, the corset, worn as an outer garment, together with the corset dress is red carpet fashion making its way to Main Street.

Designer Cheri Wilson Chagollan of Wonderland Corsets has noticed a steady growth in her business in recent years. From her studio in Anaheim, she creates amazing corsetry and costumes for theatrical productions, musicals, and gala balls. Occasionally, a client will commission a themed corset such as one looking like a piece of candy from head to toe or a cartoon character brought to life. All the designs are one-of-a-kind. When asked how she created such artistic corsetry, Cheri stopped her work for a moment and said, “I don’t sketch, so my designs are all trapped in my head just waiting to be created. I do a lot of draping and get my inspiration from everywhere…music, nature, movies… sometimes it’s the fabric itself that gives the inspiration for a design. I am inspired by Alexander McQueen; his designs just blow my mind.”

As we walked through her wardrobe room filled with hundreds of different types of corsets, Cheri selected a few of her favorite corsets, from Victorian to conceptual designs, for our photo shoot.

To see more exclusive photos from Terry Check’s shoot “Corsetry At Play,” check out Cliché Magazine‘s June/July 2014 issue!


Photography: Terry Check @; Fashion Designs: Cheri Wilson Chagolian; Modeling: Kelsey Akemi Hogan, Ashley Pate, Halszka Kuza; Styling: Sunshine Harding and Cheri Wilson Chagolian; Hair and Makeup: Chelsea Yusuf; Retouching: Alyssa June Retouch

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