Corset

It has been suggested that Waist cincher be merged into this article or section. (Discuss) Hourglass corset from around 1880. It features a busk fastening at the front and lacing at the back.

A corset is a garment worn to mold and shape the torso into a desired shape for aesthetic or orthopaedic purposes (either for the duration of wearing it, or with a more lasting effect).

Both men and women have worn – and still wear – corsets.

Corsetry

The skill of making corsets is known as corsetry, as is the general wearing of them. Someone who makes corsets is a corsetier (for a man) or corsetière (for a woman), or sometimes simply a corsetmaker. The word corsetry is sometimes also used as a collective plural form of corset.

Uses

The most common use of corsets is to slim the body and make it conform to a fashionable silhouette. For women this most frequently emphasises a curvy figure, by reducing the waist, and thereby exaggerating the bust and hips. However, in some periods, corsets have been worn to achieve a tubular straight-up-and-down shape, which involves minimising the bust and hips.

For men, corsets are more customarily used to slim the figure. However, there was a period from around 1820 to 1835 when an hourglass figure (a small, nipped-in look to the waist) was also desirable for men; this was sometimes achieved by wearing a corset.

Woman having her corset laced tight, from an 1899 stereoscope card. Original caption: Reducing the Surplus. "Now, Pull Hard!" A small waist between a full bust and ample hips, such is the shibboleth of fashion, and the poor girl that relies on her figure to make a good impression, is sorely put to it, if nature has denied her the shape of a wasp or if she has not learned to rely on physical exercise to model her frame. A vigorous walk of ten miles a day, supplemented by ten minutes of lung gymnastics, would do wonders for her.

An overbust corset encloses the torso, extending from just under the arms to the hips. An underbust corset begins just under the breasts and extends down to the hips. Some corsets extend over the hips and, in very rare instances, reach the knees. A shorter kind of corset, which covers the waist area (from low on the ribs to just above the hips), is called a 'waist cincher'. A corset may also include garters to hold up stockings (alternatively a separate garter belt may be worn for that).

Normally a corset supports the visible dress, and spreads the pressure from large dresses, such as the crinoline and bustle. Sometimes the corset has been supported by a corset cover.

Construction

Corsets are typically constructed of a flexible material (like cloth or leather) stiffened with boning (also called ribs or stays) inserted into channels in the cloth or leather. In the Victorian period, steel and whalebone were favored. Plastic is now the most commonly used material; spring or spiral steel is preferred for high-quality corsets. Other materials used for boning include ivory, wood, and cane. (By contrast, a girdle is usually made of elasticized fabric, without boning.)

Corsets are held together by lacing, usually at the back. Tightening or loosening the lacing produces corresponding changes in the firmness of the corset. It is difficult — although not impossible — for a back-laced corset-wearer to do his or her own lacing. In the Victorian heyday of corsets, a well-to-do woman would be laced by her maid, a gentleman by his valet. However, many corsets also had a buttoned or hooked front opening called a busk. Once the lacing was adjusted comfortably, it was possible to leave the lacing as adjusted and take the corset on and off using the front opening (This removal method does not work if the corset is not sufficiently loose, and can potentially damage the busk). Self-lacing is also incompatible with tightlacing, which strives for the utmost possible reduction of the waist. Current tightlacers, lacking servants, are usually laced by spouses and partners..

Waist reduction

By wearing a tightly-laced corset for extended periods, known as tightlacing, men and women can learn to tolerate extreme waist constriction and reduce their natural waist size. Tightlacers usually aim for 40 to 43 centimeter (16 to 17 inch) waists. Until 1998, the Guinness Book of World Records listed Ethel Granger as having the smallest waist on record at 13". After 1998, the category changed to "smallest waist on a living person" and Cathie Jung took the title with a 15" waist. Other women, such as Polaire and Spook, also have achieved such reductions.

These are extreme cases. Corsets were and are usually designed for support, with freedom of body movement an important consideration in their design. Present day corset-wearers usually tighten the corset just enough to reduce their waists by 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches); it is very difficult for a slender woman to achieve as much as 15 centimeters (6 inches), although larger women can do so more easily.

Corset comfort

A woman putting a corset on. She is wearing a chemise underneath, and the corset has bosom pads.

In the past, a woman's corset was usually worn over a garment called a chemise or shift, a sleeveless low-necked gown made of washable material (usually cotton or linen). It absorbed perspiration and kept the corset and the gown clean. In modern times, an undershirt or corset liner may be worn.

Moderate lacing is not incompatible with vigorous activity. Indeed, during the second half of the nineteenth century, when corset wearing was common, there were sport corsets specifically designed to wear while bicycling, playing tennis, or horseback riding, as well as for maternity wear.

Many people now believe that all corsets are uncomfortable and that wearing them restricted women's lives, citing Victorian literature devoted to sensible or hygienic dress. However, these writings were most apt to protest against the misuse of corsets for tightlacing; they were less vehement against corsets per se. Many reformers recommended "Emancipation bodices", which were essentially tightly-fitted vests, like full-torso corsets without boning. See Victorian dress reform.

Some modern day corset-wearers will testify that corsets can be comfortable, once one is accustomed to wearing them. A properly fitted corset should be comfortable. Women active in the Society for Creative Anachronism and historical reenactment groups commonly wear corsets as part of period costume, without complaint.

Modern history

Book cover for Fetish Fashion: Undressing the Corset Woman in a corset

The corset fell from fashion in the 1920s in Europe and America, replaced by girdles and elastic brassieres, but survived as an article of costume. Originally an item of lingerie, the corset has become a popular item of outerwear in the fetish, BDSM and goth subcultures.

In the fetish and BDSM literature, there is often much emphasis on tightlacing. In this case, the corset may still be underwear rather than outerwear. Another angle is the wearing of a corset while having an enema; the theory is that the corset prevents the belly distending, enhancing the effects of the enema. (Putting on the corset after giving the enema will almost certainly cause the enema to be expelled.)

There was a brief revival of the corset in the late 1940s and early 1950s, in the form of the waist cincher. This was used to give the hourglass figure dictated by Christian Dior's 'New Look'. However, use of the waist cincher was restricted to haute couture, and most women continued to use girdles. This revival was brief, as the New Look gave way to a less dramatically-shaped silhouette.

Since the late 1980s, the corset has experienced periodic revivals, which have usually originated in haute couture and which have occasionally trickled through to mainstream fashion. These revivals focus on the corset as an item of outerwear rather than underwear. The strongest of these revivals was seen in the Autumn 2001 fashion collections and coincided with the release of the film Moulin Rouge!, the costumes for which featured many corsets.

The majority of garments sold as corsets during these recent revivals cannot really be counted as corsets at all. While they often feature lacing and boning, and generally mimic a historical style of corset, they have very little effect on the shape of the wearer's body.

Advantages and disadvantages of corsets

  • Corsets can reduce pain and improve function for people with back problems or other muscular/skeletal disorders.
  • Some large-breasted women find corsets more comfortable than brassieres, because the weight of the breasts is carried by the whole corset rather than the brassiere's shoulder straps. (Straps can chafe or cut the skin.)
  • Corsets can instantly improve the figure without dieting, slimming drugs, or cosmetic surgery.
  • Due to their tightness and close proximity to the body, corsets can make the wearer feel very warm. They have been most often worn in cool climates.
  • The best corsets are custom made and personally-fitted. The more closely clothing or lingerie clings to the body, the more carefully it must be fitted to look and feel right. In modern times, when labour costs much more than materials, custom clothing can be extremely expensive. Even finding a competent corsetiere can be difficult.
  • A badly-fitting corset can chafe, impede digestion, damage ribs and pinch nerves.

Types and styles

The various types of corsets include:

  • Bondage corset or discipline corset
  • Hourglass corset
  • Redresseur corset
  • Training corset
  • Waist cincher

Styles include:

  • Wasp waist

Media


References and further reading


This page about Corset includes information from a Wikipedia article.
Additional articles about Corset
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. Depression glass is inexpensive (to produce) glassware and may include:. Styles include:. Pressed glass. The various types of corsets include:. Satin glass, and. While they often feature lacing and boning, and generally mimic a historical style of corset, they have very little effect on the shape of the wearer's body. Uranium glass,.

The majority of garments sold as corsets during these recent revivals cannot really be counted as corsets at all. Milk glass,. The strongest of these revivals was seen in the Autumn 2001 fashion collections and coincided with the release of the film Moulin Rouge!, the costumes for which featured many corsets. Carnival glass,. These revivals focus on the corset as an item of outerwear rather than underwear. Since the late 1980s, the corset has experienced periodic revivals, which have usually originated in haute couture and which have occasionally trickled through to mainstream fashion.

This revival was brief, as the New Look gave way to a less dramatically-shaped silhouette. However, use of the waist cincher was restricted to haute couture, and most women continued to use girdles. This was used to give the hourglass figure dictated by Christian Dior's 'New Look'. There was a brief revival of the corset in the late 1940s and early 1950s, in the form of the waist cincher.

(Putting on the corset after giving the enema will almost certainly cause the enema to be expelled.). Another angle is the wearing of a corset while having an enema; the theory is that the corset prevents the belly distending, enhancing the effects of the enema. In this case, the corset may still be underwear rather than outerwear. In the fetish and BDSM literature, there is often much emphasis on tightlacing.

Originally an item of lingerie, the corset has become a popular item of outerwear in the fetish, BDSM and goth subcultures. The corset fell from fashion in the 1920s in Europe and America, replaced by girdles and elastic brassieres, but survived as an article of costume. Women active in the Society for Creative Anachronism and historical reenactment groups commonly wear corsets as part of period costume, without complaint. A properly fitted corset should be comfortable.

Some modern day corset-wearers will testify that corsets can be comfortable, once one is accustomed to wearing them. See Victorian dress reform. Many reformers recommended "Emancipation bodices", which were essentially tightly-fitted vests, like full-torso corsets without boning. However, these writings were most apt to protest against the misuse of corsets for tightlacing; they were less vehement against corsets per se.

Many people now believe that all corsets are uncomfortable and that wearing them restricted women's lives, citing Victorian literature devoted to sensible or hygienic dress. Indeed, during the second half of the nineteenth century, when corset wearing was common, there were sport corsets specifically designed to wear while bicycling, playing tennis, or horseback riding, as well as for maternity wear. Moderate lacing is not incompatible with vigorous activity. In modern times, an undershirt or corset liner may be worn.

It absorbed perspiration and kept the corset and the gown clean. In the past, a woman's corset was usually worn over a garment called a chemise or shift, a sleeveless low-necked gown made of washable material (usually cotton or linen). Present day corset-wearers usually tighten the corset just enough to reduce their waists by 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches); it is very difficult for a slender woman to achieve as much as 15 centimeters (6 inches), although larger women can do so more easily. Corsets were and are usually designed for support, with freedom of body movement an important consideration in their design.

These are extreme cases. Other women, such as Polaire and Spook, also have achieved such reductions. After 1998, the category changed to "smallest waist on a living person" and Cathie Jung took the title with a 15" waist. Until 1998, the Guinness Book of World Records listed Ethel Granger as having the smallest waist on record at 13".

Tightlacers usually aim for 40 to 43 centimeter (16 to 17 inch) waists. By wearing a tightly-laced corset for extended periods, known as tightlacing, men and women can learn to tolerate extreme waist constriction and reduce their natural waist size. Current tightlacers, lacking servants, are usually laced by spouses and partners.. Self-lacing is also incompatible with tightlacing, which strives for the utmost possible reduction of the waist.

Once the lacing was adjusted comfortably, it was possible to leave the lacing as adjusted and take the corset on and off using the front opening (This removal method does not work if the corset is not sufficiently loose, and can potentially damage the busk). However, many corsets also had a buttoned or hooked front opening called a busk. In the Victorian heyday of corsets, a well-to-do woman would be laced by her maid, a gentleman by his valet. It is difficult — although not impossible — for a back-laced corset-wearer to do his or her own lacing.

Tightening or loosening the lacing produces corresponding changes in the firmness of the corset. Corsets are held together by lacing, usually at the back. (By contrast, a girdle is usually made of elasticized fabric, without boning.). Other materials used for boning include ivory, wood, and cane.

Plastic is now the most commonly used material; spring or spiral steel is preferred for high-quality corsets. In the Victorian period, steel and whalebone were favored. Corsets are typically constructed of a flexible material (like cloth or leather) stiffened with boning (also called ribs or stays) inserted into channels in the cloth or leather. Sometimes the corset has been supported by a corset cover.

Normally a corset supports the visible dress, and spreads the pressure from large dresses, such as the crinoline and bustle. A corset may also include garters to hold up stockings (alternatively a separate garter belt may be worn for that). A shorter kind of corset, which covers the waist area (from low on the ribs to just above the hips), is called a 'waist cincher'. Some corsets extend over the hips and, in very rare instances, reach the knees.

An underbust corset begins just under the breasts and extends down to the hips. An overbust corset encloses the torso, extending from just under the arms to the hips. However, there was a period from around 1820 to 1835 when an hourglass figure (a small, nipped-in look to the waist) was also desirable for men; this was sometimes achieved by wearing a corset. For men, corsets are more customarily used to slim the figure.

However, in some periods, corsets have been worn to achieve a tubular straight-up-and-down shape, which involves minimising the bust and hips. For women this most frequently emphasises a curvy figure, by reducing the waist, and thereby exaggerating the bust and hips. The most common use of corsets is to slim the body and make it conform to a fashionable silhouette. The word corsetry is sometimes also used as a collective plural form of corset.

Someone who makes corsets is a corsetier (for a man) or corsetière (for a woman), or sometimes simply a corsetmaker. The skill of making corsets is known as corsetry, as is the general wearing of them. . Both men and women have worn – and still wear – corsets.

A corset is a garment worn to mold and shape the torso into a desired shape for aesthetic or orthopaedic purposes (either for the duration of wearing it, or with a more lasting effect). Website containing information and photographs about corsets & corseting through the ages, including celebrity photographs. Ann Beaumont has published the series "Corseting the Human Body". At the same site, Dr.

Two doctors' opinions and advice on corset wearing can be found at the website of the Long Island Staylace Association. Routledge (December 1, 1990), ISBN 0878305262. Norah Waugh, Corsets and Crinolines. ISBN 1931160066.

Larry Utley, Autumn Carey-Adamme, Fetish Fashion: Undressing the Corset Green Candy Press, 2002. Yale University Press, 2001, ISBN 0300099533. Valerie Steele, The Corset: A Cultural History. Wasp waist.

Waist cincher. Training corset. Redresseur corset. Hourglass corset.

Bondage corset or discipline corset. A badly-fitting corset can chafe, impede digestion, damage ribs and pinch nerves. Even finding a competent corsetiere can be difficult. In modern times, when labour costs much more than materials, custom clothing can be extremely expensive.

The more closely clothing or lingerie clings to the body, the more carefully it must be fitted to look and feel right. The best corsets are custom made and personally-fitted. They have been most often worn in cool climates. Due to their tightness and close proximity to the body, corsets can make the wearer feel very warm.

Corsets can instantly improve the figure without dieting, slimming drugs, or cosmetic surgery. (Straps can chafe or cut the skin.). Some large-breasted women find corsets more comfortable than brassieres, because the weight of the breasts is carried by the whole corset rather than the brassiere's shoulder straps. Corsets can reduce pain and improve function for people with back problems or other muscular/skeletal disorders.

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