Most of us became familiar with this image — or rather, the replica of this image — from Madonna’s “Vogue” video where she recreated an iconic Vogue moment from earlier in the century. Few are as iconic as Mainbocher’s famous corset, photographed by Horst P. Horst back in 1939.
Mainbocher (pronounced “Maine-Bocker”) was the only American couturier at the time (still a rare achievement) and popular amongst style setters from the period, like Wallis Simpson, for whom he designed much of her wardrobe, including her famous “Wallis Blue” wedding dress and trousseau. Following the undefined, relaxed Jazz Age silhouette of the 1920s and early ’30s, Mainbocher reintroduced the nipped-in waist and intricate boning back into womenswear, causing an abrupt shift in fashion.
The corset (which is actually soft pink) and its Victorian dreaminess made a perfect march for Horst, who, like many photographers in his day, was heavily influenced by Surrealism. The model, staged almost like a marble statue with heroic strength, is juxtaposed with the softness of the corset’s delicate lacing, thus highlighting the sense of touch.