The cover of Vogue’s November issue featured a corset dress worn by the singer. It drew new interest in one fashion’s most controversial garments.

For those who prefer their clothes looser and more languid, bad news: winter is coming. As the corset gains popularity, we could see a winter with tight waistlines and uncomfortable hook-and-eye fastenings.

Adele is to be blame for those who are praising this comeback. The multiplatinum-selling superstar has incited a spike in searches – and sales – of corsets since the November issue of British Vogue when the singer appeared on the cover sporting Vivienne Westwood.

British Vogue Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief, dressed Adele for the cover shoot. This was her first major piece in public relations for six years. The corset she wears is custom-made by Kings Road, the rebellious designer who made corsetry daywear in her early years of her career. This follows an appearance in September of Adele wearing a corseted gown by Schiaparelli.

Lyst, a fashion platform, reports that corset searches for Vivienne Westwood have increased 73% in the seven days since the cover was revealed. Matchesfashion.com and other retailers have reported a rise in sales.

Adele is a modern ambassador of the corset, an archaic fashion item doubled as a longstanding feminist symbolism. She follows Lizzo and Billie Eilish. A vintage Westwood corset has become a status symbol for Gen Zers. Currently, Pechuga Vintage in Los Angeles sells the portrait corset (from Westwood’s 1990 autumn/winter collection) for $24,000 (PS17.458).

Adele’s ringing endorsement also follows the news that Bridgerton – Netflix’s steamy take on London society circa the regency period – will return. Fans of US producer Shonda Rimes’s fun alternative to Downton Abbey watched with interest as teasers from the second series were uploaded online.

Cleavage has been a key part of the success of the corset. Last month, a scooped-in silhouette was the dominant look on Milan’s catwalk. This was most evident in the collaboration between Milanese house Versace and Fendi. It served as the perfect WFH-wardrobe solution with rib-hugging bandage dress and leather corsets. Track pants sales are declining after 18 months of elasticated waists. This is evident in the closing of US direct-to consumer brand Entireworld. Entireworld is known for its “stay at home” sweatpants, as well as a New York Times magazine cover featuring their designs and the headline “Sweatpants Forever”.

woman standing while holding her waist

This boom-and-bust movement is also supported by a feminist narrative. Fashion historians have struggled for years with the idea that the corset is an emblem or patriarchal control, versus the idea that it is an emblem of rebellion, and ownership.

In the case Adele, whose body has been a topic of debate for years (more than 12,000,000 liked an Instagram photo last May showing her losing weight while 25% of a million people commented), the latter argument may be the most relevant. The corset is for her a symbol of agency. Adele says, “It’s mine,” in the accompanying interview. “I did it myself. “No one else did it.”

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