From waist-whittling corsets to fullsome circle skirts, 2023 is ushering in the return of the waist and here’s why.
When Christian Dior showed his Bar Suit on a cold day in Paris in 1947, its seductive hourglass silhouette spoke to a hopeful new post-war era and an end to austerity. That mood could not feel further from 2023, a year that has started under the shadow of the cost of living crisis. But despite this bleak forecast, the spring/summer catwalks were awash with swishing, waist-whittling silhouettes—a clear departure from the ultra-baggy, minimalist fits that have proliferated over the last decade, thanks to the likes of The Row and (old) Céline. Are we finally seeing a return to accentuating the waist? And why now?
“In line with the ‘no gimmicks’ trend which has emerged from the autumn/winter 2022 catwalks, we’ve seen designers focus on reviving classics by playing with volumes and shapes – but not to the detriment of their wearability,” explains Liane Wiggins, head of womenswear at Matchesfashion.com. “Promoted from a simple sartorial focal point, the cinched-in waist reclaimed the limelight, as seen at brands such as Ashlyn, a brand we have just launched as part of our fall/winter 2022 Innovators Program.”
Far from any historic associations of excess, 2023’s answer to the hourglass silhouette is, perhaps, less about decadence and more about drama. At Loewe’s spring/summer 2023 show, the brand subverted the traditional Bar Suit silhouette with midi-dresses in vibrant shades, which hugged in the waist and jutted out severely at the hip, inspired by the sculptural proportions of the anthurium flower.
“These were not femme fleurs in the way fashion used to conceive of the term—for one thing the anthurium’s nubbly spadix looks like nothing so much as an erect phallus; for another the flower is poisonous,” Nicole Phelps said in her review of the collection. “The women who will wear these dresses fancy themselves more dangerous than dainty.”
On a practical level, we also can’t ignore the impact that post-pandemic life has had on our wardrobes. We have seen a gradual move away from the slouchy loungewear of lockdown and a return to more tailored styles, as evidenced by the storming return of the Noughties corset, which has been embraced by A-listers and fashion editors alike. It speaks to our communal craving for structure (both in our wardrobes and in life), and the playfulness of body-sculpting silhouettes.
“On the back of a long bout of comfort dressing, people are embracing structure once more, with strong shoulders and cinched-in waists being key in particular,” explains fashion designer, Rejina Pyo. “For my most recent collection, I introduced tailoring jackets that sculpt the waist in a soft, relaxed way that isn’t too intimidating to the wearer. Our dresses with asymmetrical seams, ruched on one side are another flattering way to try out the ‘cinched-in’ silhouette in a friendly, wearable way. The cinched-in shape doesn’t necessarily have to be skin-tight or reserved for the evening; there are graduations to this style that can suit every shape and body.”
There is no single way to wear the waist-cinching silhouette in 2023, and the sheer variety of interpretations show that “hourglass” is no longer just a byword for traditional femininity. Just look at the work of the late, great Vivienne Westwood, a punk fashion icon who used the structure of corsets to create subversive designs that women of all body shapes could feel confident in. It allowed women to reclaim something that was originally created to constrict them.
The corset is certainly one way to introduce a little structure into your 2023 wardrobe. For Friday night drinks, make like Hailey Bieber and style a black corset with pale jeans and strappy heels, or, for a more unexpected pairing, try layering a bustier over a crisp white shirt. The circle skirt is another key piece to consider, as seen on the runways of Prada and Alexander McQueen. For the daytime, wear an ankle-grazing wool iteration with a crew-neck knit and knee-high boots, then transition into night with a metallic midi and asymmetric cami top. Of course, the easiest way to dip your toe into the trend is to buy a cinching belt and simply knot it over everything from shirt dresses to bomber jackets. Monsieur Dior would be proud.
This article was originally published on British Vogue.