Women have worn corsets for thousands of years. In fact the oldest corset dates back to ancient Minoans from around 2000 BC. When most people think of corsets they think of the heavy bulky garments from the middle ages of Europe. Traditional corsets were heavy, restrictive and very uncomfortable to wear. As fabric technology has improved corsets are now not only more comfortable but are being worn as outwear.
By wearing a tightly laced corset for extended periods – a practice known as tight-lacing – men and women can learn to tolerate extreme waist constriction and reduce their natural waist size. Tight-lacers usually aim for 40 to 43 centimetres (16 to 17 inch) waists. The Guinness Book of World Records records two instances of women reducing to 15 inch waists: Ethel Granger and Cathie Jung. Other women, such as Polaire, also claim to 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 waists to dimensions that range from 18 to 24 inches.
As a result of the above many people still believe all corsets are uncomfortable and wearing them restricts womenâs lives, citing Victorian literature devoted to sensible or hygienic dress. However, these writings were most apt to protest against the misuse of corsets for tight-lacing; they were less vehement against corsets per se. Many reformers recommended âEmancipation bodicesâ, which were essentially tightly fitted vests, like full-torso corsets without boning.
Most women donât own or have never worn a corset. However if youâre looking for a fashion garment that accentuates your curves and bust line, a corset can be your best friend. A corset is a garment that covers your lower torso from bust line to waist. The sides have curved shaped ribbing that gives your body the classic hourglass shape. These ribs are usually made a thin lightweight metal or hard plastic. While these ribs do push your body into certain shapes, they arenât âtrainerâ corsets that pose health hazards to your internal organs. To wear a corset, first loosen the strings that are located on the back of the garment. There is usually a zipper in the front of the corset, unzip it and wrap the garment around your torso. Align it so the strings are in the back and close the zipper. Now grab the strings and gently but firmly pull to tighten. Pull the strings until the corset is snug and firm. Do not pull the strings so tight that you canât move or breathe comfortably. The first thing that youâll notice is your bust line is now enhanced and you will probably be showing more cleavage than you are used to. While this is normal it does take some getting used to. Many women with a large bust find a corset is more comfortable to wear, as it gives them more support than a standard bra.
Most corsets fall into the category of intimate apparel. They come in a wide variety of fabrics such as satin, silk, or lace and an array of colours. You can find something that allows you to be as modest or daring as you desire. If your corset comes with a garter belt and stockings be sure to put on the stockings before the corset, itâs just easier. Corsets are also moving out of the bedroom and being worn as outwear. There, corsets are very similar to traditional corsets but available in decorative and luxurious fabrics. They may not be appropriate for a Monday morning office staff meeting but are great for an informal party or night at a club. If youâve never worn a corset and would like to try one start with an outwear corset first, they are generally easier and more comfortable to wear.
However, moderate corset lacing is not incompatible with vigorous activity. In fact, during the late nineteenth century, when corset wearing was common, there were sport corsets specifically designed to wear while cycling, playing tennis, or horseback riding, as well as for maternity wear.
Most modern day corset-wearers will testify that corsets can be comfortable, once one is accustomed to wearing them. A well fitted corset should be very comfortable. Women active in the Society for Creative Anachronism and historical re-enactment groups commonly wear corsets as part of period costume, without complaint.