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Brief History and Functionality of the Corset

To say that corsets have been around for a while would be a massive understatement. The truth is that corsets have been in existence for thousands of years since the days of ancient Crete. Women had the urge to buy cheap waist trainers like corsets since these garments have long been seen as the ultimate symbol of femininity and an excellent way to get waist in shape. The earliest releases of these garments were known as stays but the term “corset” was later coined and adopted in mass in the late 18th century. The word corset is derived from a French term “cors” which means “body”, which is quite telling since the corset as earlier stated, is a body shaping tool.

Despite the corset’s reputation of being rather uncomfortable, women kept it in high regard and still do so today. Modern times seemed to have led to the archiving of the corset, but recent developments spearheaded by big Hollywood and music industry celebrities have led to the reemergence of the classic garment.

To properly understand corsetry you will need to grasp the following terminologies;

Tight Lacing Corsetry

This is where corset laces are gradually pulled tighter around the waist in order to progressively constrict it to achieve the desired small size over time.

The Coutil

This is the fabric that is tightly woven and used in making corsets. This fabric is still in use today due to its high threading which restricts stretching. Apart from the Coutil, leather is also another material that is being used today to make corsets. The fabric decision depends on the functionality of the corset and the desired style. It is important for the front closure of a quality corset to be strong enough to support the tightening of the back laces to prevent the outfit from falling apart.

The corset has been no stranger to myths with some people believing that the corset lacing was so tight that it prevented women from breathing freely. Another myth is that Victorian women intentionally got rid of some of their ribs in order to fit into the corsets. It is natural for an outfit with such a long history to attract such folklore since this historical garment traces its roots back to ancient Cretan women about 3000 years ago.

It was later adopted by royal women in the Middle Ages as bust covering outerwear while also acting as a waist shaping garment. The 18th century saw the emergence of lighter and less restrictive corsets. The industrial revolution coupled with World War 1 led to a female agitation in the way society viewed their dressing. Women discarded their willingness to follow social norms and opted to rebel against them by adopting elastic bodysuits, bras, and girdles in place of the traditional corsets.


In light of this history, why would a modern woman want to wear a corset?

  • Re-enacting Ancient Times
    Historical re-enactments demand the wearing of corsets by actresses, especially in Shakespearean plays.

  • Health
    We have medical corsets today that treat scoliosis and solve posture problems. Besides, corsets can work wonders to your waist.

  • Fetish
    They are used by people who have an inclination to enjoy bondage or pain

  • Fashion
    A lot of fashionable garments come and go, but corsets seem to have passed the test of time with modern women feeding their urge to buy cheap waist trainers.

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