Corsets

Compiled by Miss Margot, margo@northshore.shore.net. Copyright

The corset is a very old garment. If we use the term to loosely describe a garment meant to constrict the waist of the wearer, then there are examples of corsets depicted on statuettes from Minoan Crete dating to approximately 1600 B.C. The corset came into general vogue in the mid-1700's and reached it's height of popularity at the turn of the century and began to decline in the 1920's with the invention of cami-knickers, the forerunner of the modern teddy, and brassieres. The corset that we recognize today, with its stays, front opening busk, eyelets, and laces appeared about 1830.

At the height of its popularity the corset was available in many specialized forms. There were tennis corsets, swimming corsets, hip corsets, inflatable bust corsets, electrical corsets, abdominal strengthening corsets, men's corsets, children's corsets, training corsets complete with crossing shoulder straps and attachable thigh-high boots to prevent the young trainee from removing her corset, and amazingly, maternity corsets. There were several magazines exclusively devoted to corset culture. Most notably among them was "The Wasp", published in London. It was felt that corsets not only moulded a Lady's body, but also her character. It compressed her waist, raised her bosom, flattened her stomach, rounded her hips, straightened her back, lifted her head, shortened her steps to an appropriate 12" gait, kept her from being wild and tomboyish in her behaviour, and "instilled a properly submissive attitude."


Questions and Answers About Corsets

Where or whom would you recommend for custom work?
There are four companies that I would recommend for custom work. They are B. R. Creations, Dark Garden, Axfords, and Voller's. For leather corsets, I would recommend Paul C. Leather.

B.R. Creations is run by Ruth Johnson. She is very dedicated to corsetry and makes what I feel are some of the best corsets on American soil. Actually, for a long time she produced some of the only ones. Her corsets are meant for daily wear and are very durable. Materials are satin, heavy cotton, and leather. Her workshop produces the "curvaceous corset" which was designed by Fakir Musafar. She also produces a corsetry newsletter that comes out four times yearly. The Corset Newsletter
(6 issues/year) is $18.00 for the U.S. and Canada, $24.00 for overseas.
B.R. Creations, Post Office Box 4201, Mountain View, California  94040, U.S.A.
Phone: (415)961-5354 FAX:  (415)961-5354
Catalogue: $5.00 US, 8 pages, colour

Dark Garden is a fairly new company producing corsets based on original designs. They tend to be much showier than the B.R. corsets and are often favoured by those who wear their corsets only a few times a year, or are interested in historical re-creation. Recently they have begun to produce leather corsets as well.
Dark Garden, 2215-R Market Street, Suite 242, San Francisco, California  94114, U.S.A.
Phone: (415)626-6264
Catalogue: $10.00 US, 12 pages, black and white.

Axfords and Voller's are old British corset companies which produce a variety of corset designs. Mostly they are satin, but they also produce corsets in PVC and leather. They also produce men's corsets, which are patterned on the male figure.

Axfords, 82 Centurion Road, Brighton, Sussex BN1 3NL, U.K.
Phone: 01273-327944 FAX:  01273-220680 Catalogue: $15.00/£7, 64 pages, colour and black and white

Vollers, 112 Kingston Road, North End, Portsmouth  P02 7PB, U.K.
Phone: 0705-799030 Catalogue: £5

Paul C. Leather makes some of the finest crafted leather corsets. He works exclusively in leather and PVC and has a real eye for the cut of a "fetish" style corset.
Paul C. Leather, 2421 West Pratt, Suite 95, Chicago, Illinois  60645
Phone: (800)338-4740 FAX:  (312)508-0811 Catalogue: $5.00 US  12 pages, black and white.

If you are inclined to make your own corset, corset patterns and kits are available from the Amazon Vinegar & Pickling Works Drygoods Company.  They also carry corset fabrics, stays, busks, and laces, as well as a good selection of books on corsets and corsetry.
Amazon Vinegar & Pickling Works Drygoods Company, 2218 East 11th Street, Davenport, Iowa  52803
Phone: (319)322-6800 FAX:  (319)322-4003 Catalogue: $2.00, 96 pages, newsprint.

Also, if you are interested in making your own corset, you might be interested in this Web site that deals with making your own Elizabethan corset.

Several months ago, my fiancée and I purchased a Voller's corset (Deep Waist Nipper). At the time, it was 4 inches smaller than her waist. She has, however, recently lost weight to the extent that when fully laced, the corset fits her normally. Rather, there is no body modification at all.
You are correct about the 4" of reduction from the normal waist measurement for a first corset. But given that she has now lost enough weight that the corset no longer causes any body modification, I would recommend a new corset with a 2" decrease from her current laced waist.

Where would I go for a custom-job, and would we have to appear in person?
While it's wonderful to be able to be hand fitted for a corset, a perfectly fitting corset can be made from measurements. Corset catalogues supply an order form that specifies the measurements necessary for the properly fitting corset. If you have a tape measure, you can get a well fitting corset.

What are the customs for having a made-to-measure corset done?
Choose the style that you like from the several that they offer in the catalogue. Choose a fabric that suits your tastes and projected uses for the corset. On request corsetieres will supply samples of the satins, brocades, cottons, PVC, leathers, and metallic leathers that they use for their corsets. Choose any trim options that you wish, such as satin or velvet edging, lace or ribbon overlay, rhinestone trim, satin lining, or extra garters. Depending on the style and fabrics you select, a custom made corset costs $150.00-$350.00 U.S. Measure carefully, and order your corset. It will take about 6-8 weeks to be made by hand and will be sent to you by post. If you have any questions, contact the company by mail or phone. They are all very knowledgeable and willing to help you.

What should the reduction measurements on the corsets be? I know from talking to makers that 4" for a first try is pretty standard  but how does one get into advanced work and how far can one go?
Yes, a 4" reduction from the natural waist is recommended for your first corset. Before you start serious corsetry training, it is recommended to lose excess weight. When one trains down to the point that the corset no longer fits snugly, a new corset should be ordered with a reduction of 2" from the current laced waist. The first 6" will go fairly quickly, but as a rule, further reductions go much more slowly.

As you go further into waist training, you find that adjustments have to be made in the lifestyle, especially in eating habits. Meals will have to be much smaller and more frequent. Since the corset compresses the intestines rather severely, a large heavy meal will cause discomfort at best and serious pain at worst. It is recommended to have 5-6 light meals, rather that the three large meals most people eat, and to let out the laces a few inches before eating - retightening an hour or so later. Since the success of the training depends on the amount of time that a corset is worn, rather than how tightly it is laced, sleeping will be altered to include sleeping in the corset. Eventually only a few hours a day for washing will be spent without the corset. Rapidly lacing to a very small waist will appear to have the quickest results, but it is the easiest way to actually harm your body. It is much better to lace the corset snugly, but not uncomfortably so, and wear it for a longer period of time.

How far can you trim a waist over time?
There are three schools of thought on how small a waist can be achieved with tight lacing. One school says to target a waist that is 10" smaller than the starting waist. So a woman with a 28" waist could aim for an ultimate goal of 18". The other school says that the waist should a fraction of the bust. The starting reduction should be 3/4 of the bust measurement, a moderate reduction should be 5/8 of the bust measurement, and the minimum reduction for a decent Lady should be no less than 1/2 of the bust measurement. So our woman with the 28" starting waist who has a 36" bust (approximately a 34B bra size) would start by aiming for a waist of 27", train down to a waist of 22 1/2", and go no smaller than a waist of 18". This method has the advantage of working for a visually balanced figure. The final school says to target a waist that is at the same size, or slightly smaller than the measurement of the upper thigh. This method has the advantage of being sensitive to the person's body weight and percentage of body fat. If weight is gained or lost then the waist can be targeted relative to the thigh measure.

The world's smallest waist belonged to Mrs. Ethel Granger (deceased). At her ultimate her waist measured just 13". This took a lifetime of work to achieve and she lived to the ripe old age of 77. However, her figure was so modified, with her lower ribs collapsed, that few would find it attractive. Her husband, Will, wrote a biography of Mrs. Granger titled "An Exclusive Production". It is available from Insight Books.

I've heard about serious back problems that are associated with corsets, are there ways that these can be prevented, that allow the fun of corsets to be enjoyed?
If you have a properly fitting hourglass corset, then the amount of pressure that is put on the lower back is reduced. A wasp-waist or S-Curve corset will put more pressure on the spine and bend it at severe angles. An hourglass or pipe-stem corset is designed as a small hemisphere above a larger hemisphere, connected by a short stem. A wasp-waist corset is designed as a small cone over a large cone. An S-Curve, Gibson Girl, straight front, or "ice cream cone" corset is designed like an ice cream cone with the ice cream stuck on the wrong end, with a small cone over a larger hemisphere. These types of corsets have had various periods of popularity. To properly wear a wasp-waist corset one must begin training in adolescence, to prevent the rib cage from growing normally. However, some tight lacers do wear them. A properly fitting corset should not be painful to wear.

To keep the pressure on the lower back to a minimum have a well fitting corset; this will help to support the body rather than crimp it. Do not overlace it; pull the laces snug and tight, but not uncomfortably so. If the compression is painful, unlace the corset and start again. Do not lace it too rapidly; lace it snugly and if necessary tighten the laces after the corset has been worn for a few hours. Do not try to lace the corset tight in one pass; tighten the laces in stages to allow your internal organs time to adjust to the compression. Lace from both ends to the middle pullers rather than from top to bottom; this will help to keep the laces from sliding and also help to keep from overlacing the bottom of the corset relative to the top. Do not try to force positions that the corset will not allow. Especially harmful to the back is bending forward from the waist. Instead, bend the knees and reach down.  Keeping your body in good shape will also help to strengthen your back.  You might want to start a regime of "crunches" (not straight leg sit- ups) or other exercises that strengthen the muscles of the abdomen and lower back. Eventually, you'll feel more comfortable in your corset than out of it.

You also need to take special care of the skin under the corset. Since the corset compresses and rubs against the skin it can cause skin damage. It is recommended that you powder the skin all around your torso before you put on your corset. You should also not wear your corset over bare skin. It should be worn over a leotard or chemise to help prevent chafing and pinching when the corset is laced. Some people use a tube top pulled down around the waist, so that nothing shows over or under the corset. After wearing, wash the skin well and apply lotion to any areas that feel rough or are red.

Even though I've been reading SKIN TWO for awhile and hanging out on the local perverts and weirdoes board, I can't find very much information on corsets. All help and any knowledge you wish to give to me are appreciated!
I would recommend "Body Play" magazine to you. It is put out by Fakir Musafar and almost every issue contains something about corsetry or body modification. There is a nice series on corsets that begins with issue #3.
The Fakir is sometimes too much into the Shamanism of body modification for my taste, but he is very knowledgeable and writes well.  There is also a nice article on corsets in an S&M context in Sandmutopia Guardian", issues #11 and #12. Amazon Drygoods offers several books on corsets and corsetry, as well as reprints of some turn of the century magazine articles on corsetry.

Body Play, c/o Insight Books, Post Office Box 2575, Menlo Park, California  94026, U.S.A.
Subscriptions: $45.00 U.S. and Canada, $55.00 overseas. (4 issues/year) Back issues:  $12.00 U.S. and Canada, $14.00 overseas.

Sandmutopia Guardian, The Utopian Network, Post Office Box 1146, New York, New York  10156
Phone: (516)842-1711 FAX:  (516)842-7518
Subscriptions: $29.00 U.S., $39.00 elsewhere. (5 issues/year) Back issues: $7.00 US each. However, QSM Books offers the back issues at $5.95 US each.
QSM Book, Post Office Box 880154, San Francisco, California  94188
Phone: (800)537-5815FAX:  (415)550-7117

Ms. Margo


Corset Terms Dictionary

-B-

Baleine (baleen) Whalebone of the type used for corsets.
Basque Section of bodice below waist, shaped to hips; late c20th name for corset.
Basquine (vasquine) (16th century) Close-fitting bodice with tabs, or a basque, but in England the word has been used for a petticoat.
Belle Époque The period of beautiful clothing (pre-1914)
Bents (16th century Stiffening for stays made from bunches of hollow-stemmed reeds.
Bodies, bodys, bodyes, boddice (a pair of) (16th, 17th century) Rigid covering for the upper body made in two halves laced together, the most primitive form of corset. The outerwear of the whalebone-stiffened 17th century bodice becomes underwear in the 18th century when this garment is termed a "pair of stays".
General term (still in use today) for the top part of a dress, covering a woman's body; originally "bodies", from the plural of Body. (In earlier times, sometimes used to mean "corset": the great English lexicographer Dr Johnson (18th century) defines this as "A kind of waistcoat quilted with whalebone, worn by women."
Boning The word bone is used to describe the stiffening stays and supports of the corset. The word originates from the fact that until around 1900, whale bone was the primary material for these pieces of the corset.
The bones used come from the long horny plates or blades, that in the "Right Whales" take the place of teeth.
Whale bone was early recognized as an ideal material for stiffening boned bodices and petticoats, but because it was at times a very expensive material, there were through out the nineteenth century constant efforts to find substitutes.
Steel was not very suitable, since flexible steel could not be manufactured until the twentieth century. A substitute called feather bone was very popular in the late nineteenth century due to its cheapness. Modern corsets are boned with spring steel or plastic.
The boning plays a very important part in the corset: It helps to keep the fabric stretched out, so that the constriction is even from top to bottom. It also aids in stiffening, although the fabric can also be stiffened by itself, as it was in the 1870s and '80s. Last, but not least, the boning (especially those in the front busk) keeps the body of the wearer erect.
In the eighteenth century, corsets were often boned to complete rigidity, i.e. each bone was placed just adjacent to the other. Throughout the Victorian period, where the feminine curves were fashionable and corset technology evolved, the bones were placed very strategically. This is especially the case with corsets from around 1900 to 1910, where the bust was pushed forward to form the famous S-curve silhouette. The placement of the bones in these corsets is very important to give the forced sway that was fashionable then.
Busk (busc, buske) Piece of wood, whalebone, ivory, horn or steel slotted into front of stays to hold the torso erect. The integral front section of 19th century corset shaped to control the abdomen, and also its steel stud and eye fastening. The removable types were often given as gifts of endearment by men to their women, many times adorned with words of poetry.
The busk is the front stay of the corset, usually where the front opening is. Its purpose is to keep the body erect, and therefore it plays a central part in the corset. The busk is wider than the other pieces of boning, and it's usually made of steel, whereas whale bone or today: plastic, is commonly used elsewhere. Early busks were made of wood, but during the nineteenth century the well known metal busk with studs on one side and eyes on the other became common.
Busk Point The lace which tied the busk in position.

Bustle, tornure The bustle was an important part of a lady's dresses in the 1870's and 1880's. It is an extension to the lady's behind adding fullness to the skirt in the back only, unlike the crinolines worn in the decades before which added fullness all the way round. Tornure is the French word for bustle.
The bustle was sometimes part of the crinoline and petticoats. At other times it was a separate item. At first the bustle was used mostly to give the skirt extra fullness, but in the late 1880's, the skirt protruded horizontally out from the back.
In the 1880's where the skirts became narrower, the crinoline ceased to be worn, but the bustle was still used. At the front and sides the skirt was drawn tight, shaped only by the corsets that were worn in that period. Some cotton bustles from 1884 had an additional "cage" (top), whose size could be adjusted by the lacings. The bustle disappeared in the 1890's when skirts became tight all way round.
Bust Bodice (c1890) Covering for bust, usually with straps and sometimes lightly light boned at side and/or front for "mono-bosom" effect.
Bustier (c1947) A long-line brassière, often strapless.

-C-

Cache Corset Camisole (earlier: petticoat bodice) - see "corset-cover."
Cane Hollow stem of giant reeds, or solid stem of slender palms, used as a substitute for whalebone in corsets. Extremely fine round or flat strips of cane are found in corsets until the end of the 19th century.
Case (casing) Strip of material stitched to another along both edges to make a slot to contain bones.
Combinations were an undergarment contemporary with the sheath-like dresses of the late 1870s. They were chemise and drawers in one garment designed to reduce the volume of underwear beneath these dresses.
It was often made of knitted woollen fabric, but elaborate combinations in silk and muslin with full wide legs trimmed with lace were worn in the 1890s.
Cord (cording) Strands of twisted or woven threads stitched between two layers of material for stiffening (used in corsets and petticoats and the such).
Corps (16th, 17th, 18th century) Body, whaleboned body, stays.
Corselette (c1921) Occasionally a term for a diminutive waist-encircling corset (corselette 1893), but generally the term for a garment combining the functions of a brassière and girdle.
Corset (1789 Lady's Monthly Museum) the new term for the c18th stays or c16th pair of bodies. The stiffened garment which supported and shaped the torso. Principally a female fashion garment but occasionally worn for male fashion. Generally back-lacing and front-fastening.
Corset-Cover (c1840) the cotton underbodies which provided the easily laundered buffering layer between dress and corset, less prosaically termed a "camisole."
Corset Dress A fetish costume comprised of a dress laced as a corset. In practice, it is a corset designed for outwear and reaching the lengths of a standard dress, in many cases hobbling the wearer. If not worn as outwear, it could be termed a "hobble-corset."
The Corset Question A term used to describe the controversy revolving about question of whether the wearing of corsets had a deleterious effect on women's health and the fashionable practice of tight lacing. While the term became generic in use, its roots are a books of correspondence edited by the Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine.
The letters were written and printed until long after the practice of tight lacing subsided.
Corset Waist American term for early brassière, and also for a type of snug-fitting "liberty bodice" worn by children. Other term: Liberty Bodice
Corselette Diminutive of corset, used from the 1920's onwards. A corselette is a controlling garment usually containing bust, waist and hips, but generally stretchy rather than rigid.
Crinoline General term for any large stiff underskirt used to hold out the skirt of a dress in early and mid 19th-century fashion. Correctly crinoline refers only to petticoats stiffened with horsehair thread, but it is generally used to mean all supporting underskirts of this period, including those held out by hoops or wire cages.
Cuirass(e) (c1870) Form of bodice that was boned and lined to fit closely to the upper body and hips, therefore resembling an external corset.

-D-

Divorce corset A corset design of the early nineteenth century: it had a metal triangle fixed point upward into the front of the corset to separate the breasts. This idea didn't last long.

-E-

Eyelet Eyelets were invented in the early nineteenth century. In the eighteenth century the limit on how tightly a corset could be laced was the strength of the material: the laces under tension would tear through the holes made for them, and eventually the corset would burst open. When eyelets were fitted into the lace-holes they spread the load through the material, and it became possible to lace corsets tighter; the limit was now imposed by the strength of the lace.

-F-

Farthingale The usual term for the hooped underskirts used in the 16th and early 17th century to hold out the skirts of formal gowns.
Featherbone Substitute for whalebone made from goose quills.
Fetishism The practice of using an inanimate object as the focus of sexual pleasure.
Figure regulator A feature of some corsets around 1900. By that time fashionable dresses had skirts which were very tight around the hips, and so it was important for ladies not only to have wasp-waists but also to be slim below the waist even when tightly corseted.
To make this possible some corsets were made with figure regulators. As well as the ordinary laces down the back they had slits cut in the fabric from the bottom up to a few inches short of the waist, and these were also laced across. When the corset had been laced until the waist was as tight as the wearer wanted, the regulators could then be tightened further to reduce her hips to the desired size.
Figure Training Although largely anecdotal, the term refers to the practice, in the late c19th, of sending a young girl to finishing school, where part of the curriculum was the reduction of waist size by the use of, in many cases, forced corsetry. Many fetishists fantasise this concept, hence published stories relating to such are thought by historians to be exaggerated.

-G-

Garter Suspender Device on the bottom of the corsets for the attachment of stockings. A relatively modern development.
Gestation Stays (c19th) A maternity corset with adjustable hip gores, side lacing, and breast openings, to be worn during pregnancy and in order to restore the figure after childbirth.
Gibson Girl Corset See S Curve Corset
Girdle A girdle is a piece of underwear designed to shape and smooth a woman's figure from the waist to the thighs. A girdle is similar to a corset because both garments are designed to control and reduce. It is unlike a corset because (1) it is generally lighter (2) modern girdles are often made of elastic material, whereas a corset is always made of non stretching fabrics, (3) a girdle shapes waist, hips, derriere and thighs, whereas the corset shapes only waist and sometimes hips and (4) the corset extends to and sometimes over the bust, whereas a girdle extends from waist down.
According to Tiepolo, the girdle was originally invented around 1910, around the time when the S-curve corset went out of fashion. Like corsets were in an earlier era, girdles were worn by most women throughout the period 1920-1970.
Godeys Ladys Book (1830-1898) Ladies practical fashion magazine.
Gore (gusset) Triangular piece of material inserted in a corset garment to give extra width.
Guepiere A type of corset which appeared in the 1940s.

-H-

Hip Spring Hip measurement minus waist measurement usually calculated at 9" - 13".

-J-

Jump (c18th) Underbodice similar in shape to stays but looser and without bones.

-L-

Lacet Corset lacing, twisted or woven cord of silk, etc. Earlier called "point" (med. 17th century)
Lacing Bar Horizontal bar positioned high enough above a corsetee's head that she might grab and hang from it whilst being laced in. The technique lengthens the body and narrows the waist so that extreme tight lacing is possible.

-M-

Merry Widow (1951) A usually non-lacing corset introduced by Warners in 1951 and named after Lehars operetta or the film "The Merry Widow", which came out that year and features a woman in a corset of this description. It had a half-cup bust support and long stocking suspenders. The term has come to be used to denote most any corset-like strapless long-lined brassière.
Metal Mannequin Mould Dress stand of metal. Corsets when finished were starched and fitted on to these moulds and heated from the inside to dry out, moulded to the mannequins shape.
Modesty (modesty-piece) An extra strip of material attached to the top of a corset.

-N-

New Look Nostalgic fashion introduced by Christian Dior in 1947 as a reaction to the dull and military-looking clothes of wartime. The New Look's principal features were very long full skirts, often with multiple petticoats, and very small waists. Models for his first show were laced to eighteen inches or even less in special short corsets known as waspies.
Night Corset Since tight lace training requires consistent wear, devotees will wear a corset at night. It is usually a larger-waisted version than the day-time corset; alternatively, a wide belt is used to keep the organs in place until the next morning. Some will use a tight lacing ribbon corset for this, and for exercising as well.
Experts state that it is best to wear a corset 24 hours a day to train effectively, but ladies who are already ardent tight lacers, will often not be able to do without the corset, even at night.
There is no agreement as to whether the night corset should be light or severe. Some seem to prefer the light one for sleep wear, for example a ribbon corset, whereas some chose to wear a heavily boned garment, perhaps even with shoulder straps to help improve posture.
Whether the night corset has a smaller or greater waist measurement than the ordinary day corsets, seems to be a matter of dispute too. From a medical point of view, it should be possible to lace the night corset tighter than the day corset since during the day the wearer is more active, in an upright position, and digesting (at least at times). Therefore there may be discomfort connected with lacing the corset too tight, whereas at night when the body is at rest, it should be possible to lace the corset somewhat tighter without unwanted side effects.

-P-

Paste Sticky substance, usually made from flour and water, used to stiffen material for corsets and petticoats.

-Q-

Quilt, quilting Two layers of material, sometimes with padding in between, firmly held together by stitching, used to stiffen corsets and petticoats.

-R-

Ribbon Corset (c1904) A lightweight corset worn for sport or relaxation. Formed of horizontal elastic strips mounted on a shaped side seam, it encircles the waist and top of the hips and gives abdominal support. . It was invented around 1900 for sport and negligée wear.
Ribbon corsets are practical for every day wear, as they are light and easy to wear. They are generally not made for tight lacing, but there are corset makers that make them for just that. They are also popular for wearing over a dress, to show off an already corseted waist.

-S-

S Curve Corset This is the general term for the type of corset fashionable from about 1900 to 1910.
During the nineteenth century corsets were made with an inward-curving busk at the front, and some people were concerned that this was bad for the health; so they promoted corsets with a straight busk.
Fashionable ladies were not concerned with health over attractiveness. If they could breathe more easily in their "health corsets", that was just an excuse to lace them even tighter. The heavy straight busk tended to push the hips back, but fashionable straight-fronted corsets had to be low in the front if they were to be bearable, so the bust was pushed forward over the busk. This produced a bending-forward stance with great swellings of bust before and hips behind, the famous S-curve.
Shaping-Bones (c18th) Extra strips of whalebone, etc., placed inside stays to give shape.

Spoon Busk (See also "busk") Busk which is "spoon shaped" at the bottom to provide additional compression and rigidity. Such a busk moulds the body in such a way as to present a much thinner side-view when wearing a corset.
From about 1870 on, fashionable dresses were increasingly flat in the front, and sometimes (for instance, in the 1870's and 80's, and again in the 1900's) had very tight skirts which showed off every curve or bulge of the figure underneath. A tightly-laced corset tended to push flesh up and down, and at the bottom it created a lump. The spoon busk was invented to control this. The busk was widened at the bottom into a steel plate which forced the stomach back into position.
Corsets from that time were often very stiff, and the spoon busk added extra severity to them. In the 1890s the spoon busk again disappeared as the silhouette changed into the longer shape and the concave dip into the waist in the front disappeared.
Around 1900 the busk was entirely straight and quite stiff to form the beginning of the s-curve shape.
The busk serves a dual purpose, to function as the front stay and the opening of the corset.
Stays (a pair of) 17th and 18th century term for the boned underbodice previously known as a "pair of bodies." The term persisted into the 19th century but was more usually replaced by its French equivalent, the "corset." The term was also applied to the stiff inserts of whalebone or steel which shaped this garment.
Straight Front Corset See S Curve Corset

-T-

Tabs Tongue-shaped pieces of material obtained by slitting round the edge of a corset to give extra width; or separate pieces of similar shape attached to form a basque.
Tango Corset (c1914) Short, lightweight corset for dancing in, forerunner of the girdle.
Tight lacing The practice of applying corsetry to its extreme. Safe when done properly, but caution must be practiced. Tight lacing was the subject of the Corset Controversy in the late 19th century, as physicians and others debated the health ramifications of the propensity of many ladies to attempt to corset their way to very small waists, much in vogue then.
Truss To tighten upwards, e.g. shoulder-straps to corset.

-V-

Vasquine (basquine) (16th century) Close-fitting bodice with tabs, or a basque, but in England the word has been used for a petticoat.
Victorian corset The term "Victorian corset" refers to the kinds of corsets that were fashionable during the rule of Queen Victoria, 1837-1901. The term is often just used to refer to real lace up corsets placing the garment in the context of the 19th century England and the attitudes and values that people had then. From fashion historians point of view, the period of Queen Victoria's rule is very long, and actually the corset did undergo a very great development in that period. It seems easiest to describe what's not a Victorian corset: The rigid corsets of the 18th century and before. the straight fronted corsets of the early 20th century, the softer garments of the later periods, including today.

-W-

Waspie A special type of corset especially associated with the New Look of Christian Dior in 1947. Most of the early New Look clothes had hugely full skirts, so there was no need to control the hips, but they also had very small waists and a lot of control was needed there. The waspie was a very short corset, stretching only between the top of the hips and the bottom of the ribs, boned and rigid, possibly with elastic panels and often back-laced.
Wasp Waist Small waist created by tight lacing. Term used by Mrs. Delaney in 1775, reappearing in the late 1820s and the 1890s, as well as the 1950s.


Corset Web Sites

There are a number of sites dealing with corsets. Set your search engine to "corsets" and check the results. Click here for a small selection.


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Last Modified 18 Jan 2002