Open today 12-16
Open today 12-16

The Corset War

Fighting to shape femininity at the turn of the last century.

In the late 1800s, the corset became the focus of intense debate in Sweden. A small garment turned into a major political issue. The corset became an ideological battlefield, triggering debates about power, gender, identity, and class. About the shapes and limits of femininity. About the past, present and future.

In the exhibition The Corset War – fighting to shape femininity at the turn of the last century, you will encounter an unequal Sweden, where who you were dictated the life you lived. Above all, men and women led very different lives. And it really showed.

Women and men were considered to be complete opposites of each other, and this affected nearly every aspect of society: people’s roles at home, the jobs they could have, how women and men could dress and act and who could influence politics by voting.

At the same time, the way people lived and worked underwent major changes. Instead of living in the country and working with agriculture, many people moved to the city to work in factories and shops. This dramatic upheaval changed the world forever. New social groups appeared in the city: the wealthy bourgeoisie and the poor working class.

In the middle of all this we find the corset. It was a way of enhancing the female form, to clearly show that the wearer was a woman and nothing else. When women started demanding emancipation, the right to vote and access to education, a debate about women’s clothing arose.

The critics said that the using the corset was vain, dangerous to women’s health and had no place in a modern society. But women turned out to have a complicated relationship with the corset. Some defended it, saying it was decent, healthy, and modern rather than provocative, harmful and outdated. The war against the corset, became a war about the corset.

The Corset War has been produced by the Women's History Museum in Umeå External link, opens in new window.. It has been developed in close collaboration with Henric Bagerius, who works as a historian at Örebro University.

This exhibition is shown in the Small Exhibition Hall on the second floor.
See the full map External link.

Visit Textilmuseet

Skaraborgsvägen 3A, Borås

Opening hours


Entrance fees