What is a Corset?

Corsets have a long and fascinating history.
So, what exactly is a real corset?

Today, numerous undergarments stores both in-store and online are selling corsets — but not all corsets are the genuine, original item.

Genuine corsets are highly particular garments specially designed to recede the size — and create a more narrow shape — of a woman’s waist, hip, and bust.

Authentic corsets are produced by people who have the properly taught skills to tailor and construct corsets the right way. The highly specialized elements of a genuine corset are comprised of incredibly unique lacing in the back of the corset in order to effectively close the garment.

What is a Corset?

A corset is an undergarment that is designed to reduce the size of the wearers waist and to help train the waist over a longer period. They are also used to help support the breasts.

Real, bona fide corsets are made of fabrics that can stretch, along with plastic boning for figure support and figure enhancement. It’s true that best-quality corsets can be quite an investment. However, an authentic corset bought from a prominent lingerie establishment or a top fashion designers store will last you a lifetime, Especially if well cared for!

History of Corsets

Attired by women for many hundreds of years, and most possibly for thousands of years, the corset has a deep-rooted and persistent history within fashion. Corsets have not only been worn for functional reasons, but also as unique and important fashion statements.

How are we aware and knowledgeable regarding the beginning of this fascinating fashion trend? Through ancient images painted by artists on pottery pieces dating back to Crete, Greece.

The painted images show men and women alike sporting tight, form-fitting belts around their waists, as well as form-fitting vests. These fashion statement belts and vests were formed with leather straps and rings in order to make them tighter, and were decorated with gold paint to make them even more catching to the eye.

Fashionistas know that corsets were most probably sported as early as 1600 BC! However, today we have more precise knowledge and better, on-target classification about the types of corsets that were in fashion from the 15th century … and the centuries that followed.    

A corset-like garment referred to as a ‘cotte’ was in vogue in France during the 15th century. The cotte had a highly similar look and shape to the corsets that we are familiar with today, however the cotte did not provide enough bust “improvement,” and was designed with a square shaped neckline and wide straps.

Changes were made to corsets, or cottes, in France’s 15th century. A mistress of the country’s Charles VII improved corsets and their history by wearing a gown in the French court which exposed more of her breasts. This began a popular trend among French women at the time.

Sometime later, the corset continued to evolve in the country of France. Women began wearing shorter corsets to reveal their lower backs. Dresses were actually cut open in the lower back region to reveal the newest corset fashion!

At the time there were no established fashion brands producing corsets en masse, instead buying a corset would be done via an appointment at a specialist.

Next up in corset fashion: the 16th century. During this period of time, the fashion for a more slender waist further advanced. Catherine de Medici actually prohibited what she called ‘thick waists’ at court.

What did this come to mean for the fashion of the times? Affluent women who went out in public were required to wear corsets when out and about. 16th century corsets were tightly laced in the front and the back, and included a resplendently decorated panel that was named the ‘stomacher’ to hide the laces.

In 16th century Spain, corset makers began using rods made of wood or bone in the front of the garments. These rods were called “busks” and were intended to create an even flatter, more diminish women’s stomach and waist shape. In 16th century England, the Tudor Corset, as it was so called, used corset covers and rods made of — now infamously — genuine, solid iron.

Corsets of the 16th century, in whichever country they wore worn in, were fashioned to diminish waist size and push up breasts.  Many corsets were also designed to hold a ‘farthingale,’ which held the skirts of gowns out in a showy and stiff shape.

Corsets were never hidden. The garments were shown off and worn with pride of fashion. They were quite elaborate, designed from sumptuous fabrics featuring beautiful patterns and trimming. 

Now we approach the 17th century, where corsets were mainly constructed of linen fabrics and required stiff reeds or whalebone in order to keep the necessary unbending structure of the garment.

It was popular and fashionable to have a prominent bust during that age, therefore corsets helped accentuate this fashion by putting further focus on a woman’s décolletage. As true high fashion in the 17th century, corsets soon became heavily adorned with fashionable ribbons and lace to increase the garments style and attention.

In the 18th century, the slim waist fashion grew further and the look for a more constructed and extremely slim body shape increased more and more. Due to this fashion demand, corsets became made of even more stiff materials, and always included whalebone or various types of canes for the furthest of support and the slimmest body looks.

And finally, the 19th century corset evolution. During the 19th century, both longline and shorter corsets were all the fashion rage. Very often given as gifts to their wives by their husbands – or as presents from lovers – the garments were made of silk or cotton or sateen materials, and would include up to 60 whalebones for the better creation of very tiny waists.

How to Wear a Corset

To begin with, spread out your corset so that the laces face upwards. Next, gently pull the laces apart by loosening the garment beginning from the corset’s center. When putting the garment on your body, you should be aware that the correct side is upwards whenever the front clasp hooks are on your right side.

The corset should be loose when you clasp it up. Don’t pull on or tug at the hooks when fastening the garment’s front.

The next steps? Pull the laces at the top and bottom first, and then work your way towards pulling the laces in the corset’s middle, pulling the garment’s loops as you do this. The pull loops should sit at your waist. Then, tie up the loops to reach your ideal tightness.

It is vital to get used to, and break in, your corset before you start to actually wear it. Try it out for a while every day until you feel it begin to properly mold to your figure.

When your corset is finally broken in, go ahead and pull the laces as tight as possible. Your corset will most probably feel tight during the first initial wearings, however your body should become used to the feeling quickly. Stop wearing your corset immediately if you begin to feel any pain, shortness of breath or extreme discomfort.

How Does a Corset Work?

Corsets very often serve as the height of femininity, despite their reputation of … extreme discomfort. However, corsets have been in existence for thousands of years, dating all the way back to ancient Greece. But what quite are corsets, and who wears them? And why??

The word “corset” originally comes from an Old French word: cors (“body”). A body-shaping garment, the most early versions of corsets were called stays.

Corsets work to create and “train” the smallest possible waist, and involve tight lacing through progressively pulling the garment on a regular basis until the wearer becomes accustomed to the tight feeling.

Corsets close around the body by way of the front busk (corset parts made from steel pieces) and are tightened in the back for body support through very tight lacing in the back of the garment. This creates a flattened stomach and a cinched waist.

Wooden, metal or plastic busks were the height of the absolute best created corsets back in the day, and required great strength to support the lace tightening in the back of the garment.

Designed to specifically fit around a woman’s midsection, corsets can be worn over the bust (covering the bust) or under the bust (which rises below the bra line for a “lifted” look).

Do Corsets Work?

A fashion accessory for centuries, corsets were first produced to provide extremely specific structure and support to a woman’s back and torso.

When regularly worn, the changes to the body can become dramatic and long lasting. These changes are not permanent, but with more frequent wear the shape of the body will indeed change temporarily.

Corset Styles

Take the time to understand the different corsets out there. It’s very well worth the fashion effort! Take a gander at the most popular styles available, and which ones are best for you.

Underbust Corset

An underbust corset sits just below the bust, and is not meant to give breast support. Underbusts are mainly fashioned as a supportive undergarment that also helps to minimize waist size. The Underbust Corset may be worn on top of your clothing as a special fashion statement.

This corset type provides an effective waist reduction, achieving an attractive hourglass shape. This particular corset style also helps improve your posture and provide support for your back.

Overbust Corset

The Overbust Corset happens to be the most popular and classic corset style. This is the corset fashion that is typically pictured in your mind when asked what you think about what a corset looks like. The Overbust covers the bust, and typically ends right above the wearer’s hips. This type of corset lifts up the bust and also minimizes the waistline.

Overbust Corsets are worn either alone, under clothing or over clothing. This corset type is considered the most versatile corset fashion.

The Waspie

The Waspie is a shorter style underbust corset. Utilizing a very wide belt, the Waspie goes around the torso to pull in the waist. Waspies are basically waist trainers, and are utilized to create more permanent results in waist size reduction.

Corset Sizing

For the perfect corset fit, you need to consider a combination of slightly complicated (things). You will need to take into consideration your corset size, your preferred corset style, as well as your natural body shape.

Ready to take your body measurements?

  • Measure directly at your bra line. Ensure you measure completely parallel to the floor
  • Measure where you tend to from bend side to side. That measurement is usually 1 inch above your navel
  • Be sure to measure just at, or right below, your hip bones
  • Take a comfortable seat in a chair, place the measuring tape directly centered under your breasts, and pull the measuring tape right to the top of your thigh. Be sure to sit up straight for this particular measurement

And remember you can always hire a corset sizing professional for a perfectly sizing recommendation!

What Size Corset Should I Get?

Are you new to corset wear? Then we’re sure you’re “iffy” about sizing.

No worries! We are here to help.

Start out by measuring yourself.

1.       Put on a well-fitting and supportive bra – no push up or padding on the bra. Do NOT measure over your clothing.

2.       Next, stand nice and straight, relax, and keep your feet slightly apart. Don’t twist or slouch, as these will adversely affect your correct measurements.

3.       Make sure you utilize a tailoring measure tape.

4.       Looking for the most accurate measurements? Ask a friend for help or be sure to use a full-length mirror.

What to Wear Under a Corset?

Always wear something beneath your corset.

Nothing degrades your corset fabric like sweat from your body heat due to wearing a corset for hours.

Wear an under-corset liner, which is basically a tight, stretchy tube of cotton. Just as well to wear under your corset are a cotton vest or tight t-shirt, which both work great for keeping a comfortable barrier between your corset and your skin

Always Wear Something Under Corsets You Corset

Nothing degrades your corset fabric like sweat from your body heat due to wearing a corset for hours.

Wear an under-corset liner, which is basically a very tight, stretchy tube of soft cotton. Just as well to wear under your corset are a cotton vest or tight t-shirt, which both work great for keeping a comfortable barrier between your corset and your delicate skin

You can easily purchase specially made corset liners online; these liners are normally made with just the one or two seams to keep the surface against your skin as smooth as can be. They are also extremely stretchy and fit very close to your body. Corset liners are also completely hidden under the corset. It is advised that you also purchase the liners about 2 sizes smaller so that they fit very tight against you.

The Parts of a Corset

Let’s begin with the boning.  In most corsets, there is a single steel bone along each seam, including four steel bones in the back with the grommets.  Most corset wearers believe that the most superior corsets have spiral steel bones over the bust as well as all around the sides.  Sometimes you see the garments with flat steel – which some people prefer flat steel because they believe it provides more support. The spiral-style steel bones are very flexible — and still as strong as the ordinarily used steel — and they mold to your body form without uncomfortably digging into your skin.

In the front of most corsets there is a a busk, which have hooks all the way down. Instead, some corsets have what are called swing latches, or box clasps).

The back of the garment, between the two flat steel bones, sit the grommets. Grommets are the metal pieces that protect the lacing holes from wearing out as the years pass. If you have ever purchased a corset from a more recent corset designer, you may find eyelets rather than traditional grommets.  

The back of the garment, beneath the lacing, the corset should have what is called a modesty panel.The modesty panel protects your back when you lace the garment up, as well as covering  the crease you will have in your back after the corset is tightly laced up.  

So, there you have the majority, if not most, of the parts of a corset. Truly a bit complex, but truly fascinating!