Breast bands and other kinds of support were used. The history of the corset as we know it, however, begins in the 1600's, according to Wikipedia. I find this hard to believe. Perhaps this is because whalebone was used in medieval and baroque corsets, so, the way we see it today, anything that does not have whalebone in it is not really a corset? The Romans did hunt whales, but maybe not enough to make whalebone sufficiently affordable for corset making. I'm kind of stumped here.

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    You're referencing (but not citing) conventional history, but dismissing it without reason.. Please revise the question to show the source and to advance reasons why the source is wrong. I'm not an expert on womens' fashion history, but I know that the corset shape is not universally popular either throughout time or throughout geography. What makes anyone believe that it held in Rome?
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 9:34
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    What is causing you to think this? What are your sources? Define corset. What is your question? This should be rephrased in a more professional and straight forward manner. Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 15:16

1 Answer 1


I suspect the short answer to this is that we do not know for sure. The reason for this is that the evidence we have for what the romans wore is not their actual physical clothes as over the period of time i doubt if any roman clothing intact has survived as throughout human history until industrialisation clothing was handmade and so expensive (relatively) and usually worn until it literally fell to pieces. We do have scraps and fragments (see here). So the evidence for clothes is usually statues, mosaics and any wall paintings that survive such as those at Pompei of Herculaneum as well as any writing on the subject that survives. The case against was that Roman clothing was quite simple and sophisticated tailoring was not employed so the construction of a corset as such is unlikely. It is possible that individuals may have "bound" themselves with bandages as rudimentary device, but they would then hardly have this made into a statue to put in a public place. The only possible source of material could be Roman erotic art, of which there is a lot although some of it still partially suppressed where you are seeing the Romans at leisure but this does not appear to yield corsetry.

Edit:- Someone has commented that i did not really answer the question but pointed to sources which is correct. At a distance of 2,000 years it would be hard to produce a definitive answer as evidence may yet be uncovered that would extend knowledge and reverse opinions.

However if i had to give an answer then i would say no, Roman women did not wear corsets. From all the evidence that we currently have in statues, writings, drawings, paintings, mosaics, graffiti etc. there is nothing to indicate a garment that was like a modern or victorian corset. It is also the case that Roman attitudes towards clothes and clothing, the state of tailoring and engineering would not lend themselves to the manufacture of such a garment. And before someone tells me the Romans were brilliant engineers then yes they but a corset is not an aqueduct, or a ballistae or poured concrete

  • Thank you. I really appreciate it. Great answer, informative and to the point.
    – Ricky
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 7:17
  • I wouldn't be shocked if the poems of Catullus didn't have some references to typical female garments of the area in question. He certainly didn't shy away from describing the parts underneath...
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 20:29
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    Upvote merely for comparing corsets to poured concrete and ballistae; the image wrought havoc with my afternoon.
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 20:54
  • Rather than edit i would just add this comment that i realise there is some Roman clothing around that has been preserved in archeological remains where the conditions were anaerobic. So swamps, wells etc. However i think they are restricted mainly to leather items that tend to keep their structure and fragments of cloth which do not. So we can live in hope that an early Roman designer fashioned a leather bra, i would not put that past the Romans and that one has been preserved in a bog and one day it will come to light. Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 14:38

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