By now you may have heard about Kim Kardashian’s attempt to “Break the Internet” by baring all in provocative nude photos. How does she get such an extreme figure? Apparently she has been using a corset as a diet/training device. (It could not be Photoshop, right?) Apparently other celebrities have also jumped on the corset bandwagon, including Jessica Alba and Gwyneth Paltrow. There is even an official website for “The Corset Diet”!
The media has pounced on this fad, denouncing it as having unhealthy side effects, such as noted in this article from The Huffington Post, and this one from Radar Online. Although I doubt the “Corset Diet” or waist-training in general will seriously catch on, the corset itself has been in fashion for hundreds of years and remains a popular lingerie staple to this day.
Historians claim a form of the corset was used as early as 2000 B.C., however, most accounts place the corset’s popularity in the Western world in the 16th century. Originally used by both men and women, early corsets were made of metal to protect the wearer against knife or sword attacks. Evolving from there into a fashion item for women, the corset was designed to improve posture and achieve the ‘conical’ shape of the desired female form, and were embellished with silks, bows and other accessories. Bone, wood and horn replaced the metal, making the corsets lighter and (slightly) more comfortable.
The Victorian era was when corset fashion was at its most extreme. Lacing was used to achieve smaller and smaller waist sizes, and corsets became known as “Waspies”. This was when the health risks associated with corsets made the headlines, from fainting to liver problems. After World War 1, the corset declined in popularity, replaced by “foundation garments”, bras, girdles, etc. Besides being more comfortable, they were probably much easier to wash!
Today, corsets are used primarily as lingerie, although in the 1980’s and 1990’s, we saw corset style outerwear, bustiers, and other lace-up variations. Many bridal gowns (including mine) have corset lacing in the back, or some type of bodice. At conferences such as Dragon Con, and even some of the Writer’s cons I have attended, corsets are a mainstay of many costumes. And of course, the corset tent at the Renaissance Festival is always busy.
Dangers of extreme use aside, a corset makes you feel sexy, no matter your age or size. Corsets are featured heavily in Romance novels, especially Historicals, but also Erotic Romances. They may not be portrayed as much as in the “Bodice Rippers” of yesteryear, but they definitely have a place in women’s lives, and in their fantasies.
Do you own a corset? There are a few Facebook Pages that have lovely corsets available for purchase, such as Corset-Story and Corset Connection. If you don’t have one, why not? Do you enjoy reading about them in novels?