Evolution and origins of the corset
The first ancestors of the contemporary corset date back to the Minoan civilization, living in Crete around 1700 B.C. These ancient models were designed to flatten the hips, refine the waist and enhance the chest.
Many variants were born and reappropriated by the peoples who adopted it: this is the case of the Egyptians, the Hebrews, and later the Greeks and Romans, very fond of beautiful clothes. If it was used by a large part of the female population during the Antiquity, it is much later that the corset knows its golden age.
During the Renaissance, it was mainly used to refine the waist, which had then an erotic connotation much more important than the chest today. This one was rather flattened and discreet.
The waistband became very popular at the Spanish court in the sixteenth century, before spreading throughout the courts of Europe as a symbol of nobility. It was at the time synonymous with uprightness and firmness, two fundamental values in the high ranks of the nobility.
In the 17th century, the corset loses its rigidity to allow more freedom to women who wear it. The chest is then compressed in order to emerge clearly and form a plunging neckline.
A century later, it is preferred again the rigidity of the beginnings even if it means completely hindering the movements. It was not uncommon for ladies of the Court to faint while wearing it! This can be explained in part by the straight, austere and very compressed silhouette of the back.
If it was then worn by the most noble classes as a mark of uprightness, firmness of soul and morals, it also served to distinguish those who wore it from the rest of society. However, the fashion is quickly imitated in bourgeois circles and we find the corset in a simplistic version among the most popular classes.
Queen Marie-Antoinette had the waist cincher revised, which she wanted to be more relaxed and less restrictive. It was shortly after her reign that the dangers of the corset, which crushed the organs and compressed the body too much, became known. Gradually loosened, it remained a very popular garment and under the Second Empire, about a million corsets were sold each year in Paris.
The corset today
Before the 20th century, the corset was synonymous with discipline, restriction and submission to men. It was the basis of the female figure and was worn in all circumstances, even for swimming or gymnastics.
It is the woman doctor and corset maker Ines Gaches Sarraute who proposed in the early 1900s the "Belle Epoque" corset, which she wished to be more respectful of the woman's anatomy than the "hourglass" models common at the time. These were too tight around the waist and could cause serious health problems after several years of wearing.
The models of waistbands of the early twentieth century were thus lengthened downwards, in line with the "tubular" fashion of the 1920s. Several designers chose this period to liberate the body of the woman, shortening the skirts or freeing the waist to privilege the comfort.
It was in 1932, with the development of latex, that corsetry experienced a real turning point. The waistbands, which were now stretchable, offered a freedom of movement that had never been seen before.
But when the war came, forcing women to replace their husbands by working in the factory, they gradually adopted the bra for the freedom of movement it offered. This marked the beginning of the extinction of the waistband.
The corset is now a piece full of history, always appreciated for its glamorous and sexy side, sometimes burlesque, and regularly updated by lingerie brands.
Its sensual spirit has remained intact, and we now find models carefully worked, embroidered and rich in details. The waistband remains a sure value of women's lingerie, with great potential of seduction.
Far from its original vocation, the corset has completely evolved since the oppressive mores, the moral rigor and the permanent maintenance imposed on women. Majestically put back on the front of the stage by the designer Jean-Paul Gaultier and worn by Madonna since 1990, the corset rhymes now with glamour and seduction.
It is also a very inspiring piece for fashion designers: sometimes soft and satin, sometimes made of leather or vinyl, it is not uncommon to see on the catwalks of high fashion shows.
Corset and BDSM
In addition to these fashion issues and the maintenance of the bust for medical purposes, the corset is also used by lovers of fetish and BDSM practices, as a simple aesthetic piece or as an accessory of domination in its own right.
It is for example possible to find the corset in the games of punishment. In this case, the dominant may force his submissive to wear a tightly laced leather waistband to restrict his movements.
If the corset has gradually disappeared in the face of the success of belts and bras, it is still found today in many costumes of various inspirations.
The time when the waist cincher was restricted to lingerie elements is long gone: it is now an emblematic outerwear of fetish, BDSM and gothic subcultures.
In fact, most of the models found in the market are intended for costumes and the fetish market.
Which corset to choose?
You will find in specialized stores several styles of waistbands, drawing their inspiration from various sources.
The different styles of corset
Latex or vinyl pieces evoke an unmistakably dominating style, perfect for taking control of the situation and subduing your partner unabashedly.
This type of garment can be adorned with accessories such as small metal spikes or metal buckles to match the shiny look, the signature of these materials that are inseparable from the BDSM world.
Be careful to maintain your clothes and accessories in latex, because this material must be treated with care to last over time.
In the same idea, the leather corsets answer perfectly to the desires of domination and confer to their wearers a harder and more refined attitude. It is equally important to treat the leather regularly to keep it in the best condition.
If you want a more elegant and sophisticated style, materials such as satin or nylon are quite suitable. Depending on the piece, you will find steampunk or gothic inspirations, adorned with antique patterns reminiscent of brocade or set with lace or chains.
How to choose your corset?
Much less constraining to wear nowadays, the waist cincher is more flexible but also more naughty than in the 18th century, when it was an everyday garment. It has now several assets of seduction since it girdles the waist, emphasizes the chest and sublimates the outfit thanks to its worked aesthetic.
The materials are now chosen with comfort in mind, and materials such as nylon, satin or leather contribute to soften the aesthetics of this accessory long synonymous with contrition.
Generally speaking, if you want to recapture the hourglass figure of the golden age of this accessory, choose a model that is 10 to 12 cm smaller than your own waist measurement.
For example, for a waist measurement of 60 cm, choose a 50 cm corset. The waist measurement is taken at the point where your waist is deepest, using a tape measure.
However, some women prefer a slim silhouette that is very tight around the waist, or even laced up by a third party to be as close to the body as possible. Others choose more flexible models, without whales, which are more likely to fit the figure.
Steel whalebone corsets, while not among the least expensive, offer perfect support and are reliable and durable: you can easily keep them for several years. They are mostly used to slim the figure and reduce the waistline, but feel free to wear them looser by loosening the back lacing.
The steel ribs will never come in direct contact with your skin, thanks to the cotton lining. These models are particularly suitable for women with large breasts, who often find them very comfortable.
Whichever model you choose, make sure you never attach or remove your corset without undoing the back lacing. This will allow you to enjoy your waist cincher for many years and keep it in good condition!