What Is a Corset?

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In the Victorian era, corsets were primarily a fashion statement. Not much was thought of women wearing them apart from their desire to appear pretty and petite. In today’s time, this piece of attire has made its place among women across the board and not just as a fashion statement, but serving different ideas like sensual lingerie or an extra layer of support.

Victorian Era Painting of Woman

However, probably the most accurate definition of what is a corset in the modern day is that it’s an equipment, a tool that lends the body a perfect shape, pulling in your waist and stomach and shaping your figure. It’s very much like a bra that shapes your bust and also supports it in the face of its heaviness. While earlier they were a fashion statement, they are primarily used in the modern world by women to achieve a flawless figure with appealing curves.

A corset is, technically, a garment made from a strong but stretchable fabric like cotton or satin that’s worn to hold the torso and give shape to it. Corsets serve both purposes, achieving a smaller, more petite waist or making your bottom appear larger and heavier than what it is. They are constructed in the manner to accentuate the existing curves of the hips and bust and are built in a way that provides them with the strength to pull in the waist.

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Traditionally, corsets are inbuilt with flexible steel rods that help in fastening the front of the corset. The front is buckled up while the corset is designed to lace up the back.  Architectured in a way that they fit around the midsection, corsets can either be overbust or underbust. Both these types of corsets will be explained further in the article. Corsets are available in a lot of different styles and with variable fitting to suit every body type. They also come with the option to be worn either over the clothes or beneath the clothes, depending on the person and the objective of wearing them. 

Modern-day corsets come in varying shapes and sizes and functionalities. The wearer has the option to buy corsets that have laces, zips or even hooks and eye closures. Depending on the purpose of wearing them, one can also buy corsets that come with frills and beads and other stylish accessories to emphasize on certain parts of the body or to lower focus from other parts of the body.

How Do Corsets Function?

While it takes a decent amount of effort to wear them, when they are properly fit, corsets give the body an instant accentuation in terms of a sharp, hourglass shape. Since they are extremely tight and absolutely hug the body, wearing them regularly over time can result in actual shifting of organs by moving the ribs. Wearing them often also leads to weight loss at times since their fits discourage the body to eat in larger quantities. Therefore, they can act as external LAP band.

Choosing the Fabric

Understanding what a corset is made of is as important as understanding what is a corset. One of the most common questions about corsets is the confusion around which fabric is the best to go for. Corsets come in a diverse variety of fabrics, including satin, cotton, mesh, and others.

While all of them look pretty and allow the corset to have sufficient strength, each has its own advantage and disadvantage. Choosing the right fabric largely depends on individual preferences as well and a fabric that suits one may not suit others. Thus, the decision to opt for a particular fabric is highly subjective. 

Let’s go through some of the most common types of fabrics and find out the pros and cons of them.

Fabrics and Materials
  • Satin: You should go for this fabric if you are looking to wear the corset beneath your clothes. Satin is well known for being ultra-smooth and a satin corset is a perfect option to wear a dress over since it will smoothly fit. It is indeed one of the most comfortable fabrics when it comes to corsets.
  • Mesh: Mesh is known as a lightweight and airy fabric, one has the most breathing space. This makes it considerably easier to wear, especially on the hotter days when the temperature is too high to wear anything too tight. Mesh corsets allow for air to freely pass and avoid you getting too hot. They also offer a good shape on the outside since the material is too thin and light to have any shadow of its own.
  • Cotton: Cotton is definitely the most comfortable of all. Cotton has always been known as the comfort fabric. The only con probably is that it takes some time to get comfortable and adapt to. Plus, cotton corsets are a little thicker as compared to mesh and satin and hence can feel a little bulkier underneath the clothes. However, once you get used to them, they are the most comfortable thing.
  • Leather: This is a tricky fabric. While it appears fantastically sensual, it’s the bulkiest of all and more stiff than the other lighter fabrics. Wearing it under the clothes is fine since it doesn’t cling to the clothes. However, it does weigh more and might feel uncomfortable. Having said that, there are different kinds of leathers now and some like lambskin is indeed comfortable.

How to Wear a Corset?

Knowing what is a corset is not enough. Now that you have chosen your fabric, it’s important to know how to wear a corset, i.e, whether you want to wear them over your clothes or under your clothes. The choice is highly subjective and depends on each individual.

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There are women who only desire to attain that curvy shape and hence, prefer wearing the corset under the clothes. A corset isn’t a fashion statement for them.

On the other hand, there are also women who like wearing corsets as a fashion statement and it forms a part of their attire. Therefore, they wear it over their clothes. The fabric differs in both cases. Under the clothes preferences allow women to have more comfortable choices since they don’t have to worry about the external look. 

Either way, it’s recommended to have another layer of clothing between the corset and the skin to avoid any cramping and keeping it cleaner and fresh. 

Types of Corsets

The general definition of what is a corset also comes with defining different variations of it. There are two main types of corsets.

Underbust Corsets

As the name suggests, underbust corsets are the ones that start right below the breasts and end at the start of your torso. While these don’t provide much support to the bust, they do give a fantastic look and can be worn standalone with skirts or dresses, over the clothes. They come in different styles and fabric and can be worn with almost everything.

Overbust Corsets

Overbust corsets, as the name suggests, are meant to support the breasts as well. They begin just below the arms, covering the bust, and then go all the way to the hipline. They offer good support for the back as well, helping in gaining the right posture. Overbust corsets, again, can be worn either over or under the clothes and provide an amazing hourglass body shape.

Tips for Wearing Corsets

Corsets might seem like a complicated piece of garment. However, knowing how to wear them is no rocket science if you know a few simple tips and what suits your body. Some tips to make your life with corsets easier.

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  • Always wear another layer between the corset and your body. A thin layer like a camisole goes a long way in not letting the perspiration absorb into the corset and keep it smelling fresh and clean.
  • Think about all factors before deciding which corset to wear. External factors like style and occasion aren’t the only important variables. Your body shape, skin, physical strength are all equally significant.
  • Take good care of corsets to make them last longer. For instance, most fabrics cannot be machine washed and are too delicate to be harshly handled.
  • Lacing them the right way can make a lot of difference in their capacity to provide your body with good support. Wearing a wrong corset for your body can actually harm the posture and shape of your back.