There has been a lot of talk in the media lately about corsets with both Kourtney and Kim Kardashian posting photos in their waist-training “corsets”. Kim caused a stir on Instagram by posing whilst wearing a “corset” at the gym and Kourtney has now followed suit vowing to slim her waist down to pre-baby size.
There has also been a lot of controversy around actress Lily James appearing in the latest adaptation of Cinderella with an amazing teeny tiny waist. With many people speculating that it was CGI, eventually Lily James came clean and revealed it was down to a corset. But it’s also helped by the accentuated billowing skirt and wide bust line detail which both help to create an illusion of making the waist appear even smaller.
I even went to a talk just recently about fashion during WWII where the speaker spent quite a lot of time talking about the corsets the women would wear in a time of clothing coupons and rationing. Can you believe that when supplies of steel boning ran short they used cardboard within the construction of corsets to stiffen them?
What you may have noticed from the photos above is that they all look very different, yet they are all referred to as corsets. In recent years, thanks to the rise in burlesque, vintage and the so-called corset diets, the understanding of what a corset actually is has become somewhat blurred.
So, what is a corset? (And more importantly what isn’t a corset?)
The Harmony Baby Blue Corset by Vollers pictured above is what is traditionally known as a corset. It is constructed of several layers of non-stretch fabric that is, more often than not, of natural fibres like silk and cotton to help the skin breathe.
It has at least 10 steel bones to help create the shape and nip in the waist, as well as a steel busk closure at the centre front. At the back there is a modesty panel which sits underneath the criss-cross lacing which allows the corset to be tightened as required and create those to die-for curves.
The so-called corsets that the Kardashian girls are wearing are in fact latex waist cinchers or girdles, which are also known as fajas. These are designed to be worn during a workout to help you sweat more and, in theory, help you to loose more weight. You should never wear a traditional corset as an alternative during a workout.
The latex cinchers have no boning in them, and if they do these are plastic. There is no steel busk at the front and they have no lacing closure, usually just a row of hook and eye tape. This makes them a lot more flexible than a traditional corset.
To see out full range of traditional overbust and underbust corsets please go to foxandrose.com.
This Brigitte Fan Lace Corsolette by Playful Promises is a modern day version of the 1942 corselette pictured above. It looks very much like a slip dress with a bra attached to it at the top. A corselette will cover you from the bust right down to the upper thigh and will generally have suspender clips attached on the bottom edge.
Most traditional corselettes were made with bra straps for added support but strapless ones were also available. The cups would feature vertical boning to support the bust and stop any embarrassing situations. It also would’ve had a hook and eye closure all the way down the back or, for easier dressing, down the centre front or on one side.
A traditional corselette would’ve contained steel boning to help create the smooth silhouette every 1940s lady would’ve wanted to achieve. The fabrics were heavy-weight and worn tight against the skin and all of this would come together to help cinch in the waist and shape the torso very much like a corset would.
The modern day version benefits from modern fabrics such as powermesh and elastic detailing around the waist to create a similar shape. There is no need for hook and eyes to run the full length of the garment and are either just across the back like a bra or don’t feature at all.
Both garments above are basques. However, the one on the left is the Lana Merry Widow by What Katie Did. The name Merry Widow was given to a piece of lingerie created by Warner’s in 1955 which was named after an operetta of the same name. It was similar to a corset, covering the bust and torso but generally stopped at the top hip.
It also had steal boning but was of a simpler construction, often made of just one or two light-weight layers. The bust line was constructed of defined, bra-like underwire cups. The closure was either a zip fastener or a row of hook and eyes down one side or the centre front and at least four suspender clips were attached to the bottom edge.
Over the years this has gradually turned into what we know of today as the basque. The Caramel La Precieuse Basque by Rosy on the right has very much the same shape as a merry widow but has less of the construction detailing.
Many basques have no boning in the torso section and if they do it just a few plastic ones to help keep the garment in shape. The bra-like cups remain, as well as the four suspender clips and hook and eye closure. The more modern basque is not a piece of shapewear and will not cinch you in at the waist.
Do you wear a traditional corset or are you a corselette girl? Have you tried the Kardashian latex cincher?