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When we think about corsets, what might come to is are visions of period drama costumes, or Victorian
women with big, flowing gowns and tiny waists. Or, we might even conjure images of the sexy, larger-than-life
costumes worn by burlesque dancers.
What we may not think about, however, is how the humble corset is actually a truly functional (not to
mention superbly stylish) piece of clothing. A recent resurgence in popularity has led to the corset becoming a
mainstay of modern fashion no longer relegated to simple lingerie or 'costume' wardrobe.
Modern corseting is fun and trendy, with a multitude of different options, styles and materials to choose
from. The corset is a legitimate fashion item, with a rich and vibrant history.
That's why we've created this eBook, dedicated solely to the subject of corsets and corseting! So if you're
looking to buy a corset, are interested in waist training, or if you simply want to learn more about this wonderful item
of clothing, then read on. This guide will help you understand the many variations of corsets, how to wear them, how
to care for them and will help you decide if corsets are right for you.
1.1 Background of Corsets
Corsets can be worn as shape-enhancing underwear, sexy lingerie, as a gorgeous standalone item or
even over the top of clothing. Suffice to say, the corset is an awesome item of clothing, and a musthave addition to any girls wardrobe.
But if you look up the term 'corset' in the Oxford English dictionary, you'll see it defined in the
1. A woman's tightly fitting undergarment
extending from below the chest to the hips,
worn to shape the figure
1.1 A tightly fitting undergarment worn by men or women
to support a weak or injured back.
Notice how the word
'undergarment' is used? This is
because, traditionally, corsets
were created as a piece of
supportive shapewear, to be worn
under the clothes as a means of
cinching in the waist, lifting the
bosom or otherwise altering the
silhouette. In other words, it was
more about what the corset could
do for your body shape, rather
than the corset itself.
We'll be talking a little about the
interesting history of corsets
shortly, but for now it's important
to make the distinction between
the dictionary definition of
corsets, and what corsets are
Corsets are not just supportive
shapewear, nor are they always an
'undergarment'. They are a
mainstay in gothic fashion, a
beautiful part of Steampunk style
and are also a popular item in
mainstream fashion too. You only
need to look at some of the
beautiful corsets on the market
today to understand that they are
by no means a garment that
needs to be hidden under your
While there is a clear conflict
between what corsets originated
as and what they are in modern
fashion, one thing that can be said
with relative certainty is that they
are a garment that has a devoted
following of both wearers and
1.1.1 Helpful Corset Terminology
Before we dive right in to look at the different styles of corset available, it's important to
learn a little bit of terminology. Corsets are by no means a simple garment, and high
quality corsets are a luxury item built with functionality as well as beauty in mind.
Below is a helpful list of common corset terms used to describe the anatomy of a corset:
Stays (or Bones): Metal structures within the
corset responsible for maintaining the
vertical tension and rigidity of the garment
Busk: Basically the 'front' of the corset. It is
a special closure, comprised of metal hooks
and studs, mounted to a pair of steel
Modesty Panel: An extra piece of fabric
that sits behind the laces, hiding the skin
crease created by tightening a corset.
Laces: The laces of the corset, which are
pulled tight to draw the corset inwards and
create a smaller waist, or an 'hourglass'
Panel: Each piece of fabric that the corset is
comprised of, cut to a specific shape to
Grommets/Eyelets: Metal rings that
strengthen the holes through which the
corsets laces are threaded.
1.1.2 Corset Materials & Types of Corsets
As we've already stated, corsets are a diverse piece of clothing, and as such there are a whole host of
different styles on the market. There are a multitude of different types, lengths, shapes and trends
available so it can all seem a little daunting to even the most seasoned corset fanatic!
But it doesn't need to be! If you take the time to familiarize yourself with the most common styles of
corset and corset materials, you can begin to grow a basic understanding of corsets and corsetry.
Popular Corset Materials
Satin: usually worn under
the clothes, if you only want
the hourglass figure without
the corset showing.
Mesh: breathable and light,
great for the summer months,
gives the body a great
silhouette and can be worn
under or over the clothes.
Leather: comfortable over the
clothing and stylish, but is not
recommended for waist
training as it stretches out.
Cotton: casual and comfortable,
durable and breathable, but not
advisable to wear as underwear, as
it's a bit thicker.
Brocade: thick durable polyester
blend, worn as a stylish accessory.
Steel: used in either panels or as
'stays' (or both) to help provide
support and rigidity to the corset.
The previous list is just a very brief selection of the different materials commonly found in
corsets on the market today. There are, of course, other materials that can be used to create and
decorate corsets resulting in seemingly limitless different styles! They can feature many modern
details such as beads, rhinestones, studs, chains and spikes, and can even contain plastic stays (rather
than steel) known as 'synthetic whalebone'.
Now that you have an idea about the most common materials that can be found in modern
corsets, it's worth taking a look at some of the different types available. Not all corsets are the same
shape, style or size; so do your research, as this is all part of figuring out which style of corset may be
right for you.
Underbust corsets are exactly that
- corsets that go under the bust.
Due to the fact that they sit under
the bust line, rather than over it,
this means that they are a pretty
versatile style of corset, since you
are free to wear them with any
type of bra or clothing.
Again, an overbust corset is exactly
what it sounds like - a corset that
goes all the way up and covers the
bust. An overbust corset encloses
the torso and the breasts (but not
always the cleavage) extending
from just under the arms down
toward the hip.
Flat-front style corsets are a
modern version of a Victorian
corset with a neckline that
goes straight across, and are
great for women with smaller
sized breasts. This is because
they can help to create the
illusion of a fuller bust.
A sweetheart neckline
corset is pretty much
the modern standard of
corset, usually worn for
formal events or
weddings. This style is
popular for glamorous
events, and is great for
those who want to give
the appearance of a
larger bust and
cleavage, because the
breasts are accentuated
due to the 'heart' shape
of the neckline.
While corsets can be
undergarments or as
a piece of outer
clothing, bustiers are
under the clothes, to
push up the bust and
gently shape the
waist. Think of them
as a 'bra and
without the tight
lacing that a corset
1.1.3 A Brief History of The Corset
Now that you're familiar with the different styles, materials and terminology used with reference
to modern corsets as fashion items, it's time to take a quick look back through history to understand how
corsets have changed and evolved over the years.
When we think of corsets, we usually refer to the designs that conform to the stereotypical
aesthetic of a close-fitting garment with steel bones. These were created in the 15th or 16th century, but
this period was by no means the birth of the corset. You only have to look at art throughout history to
see that the corset predates this era, and it is likely that the practice of binding the waist goes back as
early as 2000 B.C.E.
Fast forward to the Middle Ages, and you can see a variant of corsets making an appearance
although they did not fit in with conservative culture and fashion of the time. During this period, corsets
were worn as undergarments and never
as something worn as a standalone
piece or over the top of clothes like you
might find nowadays.
While corsets can be regarded as
a garment that has its roots in ancient
history, it is argued that the corsets we
see today are based more off of the
designs that were made popular in the
1400s, and thus began the stylish
evolution of the corset for centuries to
188.8.131.52 Early Corsets
The corsets of the 15th century
are thought to have been popularised
by Agnes Sorel, who was the mistress of
Charles the 6th of France. She came to
court wearing a corset beneath her
gown, and after her successful day in
court, other ladies were encouraged to
wear corsets while revealing their bare
In the 16th century, the
functionality of the corset began to
change. While they had previously been
used to accentuate a woman's curves
and draw attention to the bosom, the
16th century garments were designed to mould the torso into a cylindrical shape and to flatten and raise
the bust line.
This all changed again as the corset entered the early half of the 17th century, as corsets once
again were used as a 'tool' to accentuate the breasts. As such, prominent figures like Queen Mary II and
Henrietta Maria of France were often depicted with their bare busts.
But in the later part of the 17th century, Madame de Maintenon (the wife of King Louis XIV)
changed the aesthetic and function of the corset once more. She preferred corsets to accentuate the
shape of the bust and décolletage, rather than the bust itself, and thus gave birth to a corset with an
inverted conical shape that was structured with steel.
184.108.40.206 “Modern Day” Corsets
When we reach the 19th century, we reach what is arguably the 'golden era' of corsets and
corsetry. While these specialist garments had previously been hand-made, the industrial revolution
allowed for mass production of corsets, giving even more women the chance to wear such items, as
they became more widely available. Women in the 19th century wore corsets to flatten the stomach
and push out the bust accentuating womanly curves and giving an 'hourglass' appearance that is still
popular in fashion today.
When we reach the 20th century, we can see an evolution
in the way that corsets are worn yet again. Unlike in previous eras,
the corsets of the 1900s were made with rustproof boning and
rubber coated spring. Much like the Victorian corset, the bra and
corset combination was widely popular.
However, this didn't last very long, as women began the
'rational dress movement', whose aim was to get rid of the classic
corsets as women opted for more practical styles of clothing. Also,
the demand for steel during World War 2 naturally decreased the
supplies available to make steel boned corsets.
After the war, however, the corset made a comeback.
Christian Dior launched the new look collection featuring the 'new
shape' of a modern woman, which was obtained to the use of
wearing a corset to slim the waste and accentuate the bust. It is
during the latter half of the 1900s that the evolution of the corset
picked up speed. Traditionally, corsets were worn as an
undergarment but in the 1970s punks began to wear corsets as
Naturally, the trend took on and pretty soon fashion
designers like Vivienne Westwood and Jean-Paul Gauthier began
to showcase corsets as outerwear on the runways. Now that
we've reached the 21st century, the corset is still going strong.
This doesn't necessarily mean the types of corsets used to attain
a tiny waist, but rather with an emphasis on fashion rather than
body modification. But that's not to say that waist training with a
corset isn't still popular. It just means that, since there are so
many different types of corsets on the market, we now have a
One thing that remains clear is that corsets have long
been, and long will be, a stylish garment that can be used to alter
the silhouette. These days, corsets are frequently seen on the red
carpet, in popular culture, as sexy lingerie and even as formal
dress and wedding wear. Whichever way you look at it, the corset
is here to stay!
1.2 Why You Should Wear a Corset
It's been established that corsets can be used to alter the figure, and who doesn't want a
striking silhouette, right? But you might be surprised to know that there are other purported benefits
to wearing a corset than just for aesthetic purposes.
Corsets can actually be worn for medical purposes
because they provide support and rigidity. Due to this fact,
corsets are actually thought to help with posture. Since they
force you to sit and stand straight, they can help with your
lumbar and are also thought to provide relief from symptoms
of plantar fasciitis.
Corsets can also help with hyper mobility issues
(where connective tissues in the body are too 'flexible') by
providing rigidity and support, bracing the torso and helping
to safeguard against injury.
But aside from anecdotal evidence suggesting corsets
can help with certain medical conditions if you're interested
in mere aesthetics then the corset can be a wonderful asset
to your wardrobe. This is because you can actually use
corsets to alter your physical appearance with semipermanent effects, visibly slimming your waist through a
process known as 'waist training'. We'll talk more about this
later, but for now let's move on and talk more about the
practical considerations of corsetry.
2 Corset Sizing
If you've taken heed of the wonderful benefits that corsets can provide, or if you just want to
achieve a sexy, hourglass figure, then you might be looking to purchase your first corset. Hooray!
But with corsets being such a specialized item of clothing it's important to make sure you get the
correct size. You might be wondering how to select the perfect sized corset for you, as these
beautiful garments often don't conform to regular sizing. This is because corsets are often used as a
functional item of clothing, which can be tightened to alter the shape of your silhouette.
So if you want to create a slinky, hourglass figure using a corset, we mean it when we say that
size really does matter!
2.1 What Size Corset Should You Get?
When it comes to ordering the correct size of corset, there are a few things you should keep in
mind. It is actually somewhat different to ordering other types of clothing and undergarments, because
instead of using your regular sizing (such as your top, dress or bra size), the way you select the correct
sized corset is usually by waist measurement.
But what you may not know is that you actually might be best off ordering your corset in a size
that is smaller than your regular waste measurement, because the size of the corset is taken when the
garment is completely laced up and closed. Also, if you are planning on doing waist training with your
corset then it is always better to select a slightly smaller size, but not too small.
This whole 'corset sizing' thing may seem complicated at first, but once you have your
measurements down, ordering the correct sized corset for yourself is actually relatively simple.