There are notable attributes that characterize Ladies of the Regency era. They include an upright posture, cinched waists, enhanced hips and heaving bosoms. The item responsible for these attributes is none other than, yeah you guessed it right — Corsets
So what is a Corset?
It is a garment with lacing at the back that is worn to support, hold and train the trunk into a desired or more structured shape and this is achieved by tightening the lacing. It is mainly used for either aesthetic or medical purposes.
A Brief History Of Corsets
Corsets became popular in Europe as far back as the 16th century when they were commonly worn by royalty. They evolved from quilted waistcoats and stays and were soon worn by every lady, even the poor, as underwear over a chemise. Its manufacturing process involved boning, that is, inserting a stiff material, most commonly whalebone into sewn channels in the cloth. They have continued to evolve and nowadays, either steel or plastic is used for boning. Women now wear corsets either as an underwear or as an accessory over clothes.
Interestingly, it was men who started to wear corsets. They did this to tuck in their bellies and have the more streamlined and attractive shape attributed to the era. However, corsets quickly became more famous among women and by the mid-19th century it was considered unmanly to wear corsets.
Early in the 20th century, it received criticism from women’s rights activists for being a restrictive garment that promoted the objectification of women. This reminds me of a scene early in the first episode of Queen Charlotte : A Bridgerton Story. In this scene, Charlotte is sitting stiffly in the carriage with her brother on their way to London and complains about her corset. I rather think that a hundred years from now, some women will make a similar complaint about bras. Male physicians during that time also criticized corsets, claiming that it was harmful to health by causing skeletal and organ deformities.
Corsets went out of fashion in the 1920s due to a need for more practical clothing brought on by women’s increased involvement in sports and exercise and also the onset of war. Nevertheless, fashion is a cycle so corsets are back in style and dare I say they are better than ever. Some feminists say that this time around it is a symbol of empowerment.
Corsets are more comfortable now because the boning is not as stiff, and wearers testify that it feels like a tight hug. It is mostly common among women but there are still a few modern men who wear corsets today. And I know what you must be thinking…
But no, they could either wear it for medical purposes like to support the back or for aesthetic purposes, like to accentuate the v-shape from the shoulders to the waist.
There is still a huge controversy about wearing corsets though. Many believe it to be a ridiculous fashion piece that doubles as a torture device. Why on earth any sane human being will willingly put on something so restrictive that they are unable to walk properly or sit, talk less eat or breathe is beyond them. Alas, most people who believe this have poor information about corsets and have probably formed their opinion based on scenes in movies, such as the one above, or seen tight lacing and waist training extremes as the norm when in fact, they aren’t.
Types of Corsets
1. Over burst corset
It extends from under the arm towards the hips, thus enclosing the torso. It might extend beyond the hip if it is a longline corset.
2. Under bust corset
It begins under the breast and extends towards the hips. It can also extend beyond the hip if it is a longline corset
Longline corsets are more suitable for people with longer torsos while corsets that end a little short of the hip suits those with shorter torsos
3. A waist cincher
Many call it a waist trainer and it is a short corset that covers the waist and extends from low on the ribs to just above the hip.
4. Medical Corset:
This is a corset brace for lumbar support. It prevents and treats lower back pain. Braces used to treat scoliosis patients are also a kind of medical corset.
Corsets have many pros which include:
- it confers good and improved posture
- it gives structure to the body and makes one look more sophisticated by conferring an hourglass figure
- it can be use to achieve a certain waist size
- it gives an upright appearance that makes you walk taller, thus building confidence
- it can help with weight loss because it makes you eat less
It is important to know that these advantages can only be possible when the corset is the correct fit. This is why it is better to have one specifically tailored for you by a corset maker. However, ready-made corsets are often cheaper and one can find the right size and type if fortunate.
Also, it is important to note that a corset-wearing beginner should only wear it for 2hrs in a day at the start and then wear it 30 minutes more each day as you progress. Never wear it for long hours when you first start and please do not pull the laces so tight that it is difficult to breathe. That is tight lacing. It was a crime back then and it is detrimental to your health.
Also never, I repeat, never wear a corset on bare skin. That’s pure insanity. Whenever you wear corsets, ensure it is over a cotton top or cloth of some sort.
The cons of corsets include restricted movement which doesn’t necessarily mean that one cannot go about normal activities. It just implies that you can’t bend as much and you cannot slouch comfortably. You can sit, stand, walk and do every other thing you’d normally do without a corset as long as you lace it right.
Another disadvantage of wearing corsets is that wearing them too often and for prolonged periods might weaken your back muscles and affect your trunk anatomy. This may lead to medical complications in the long run.
I know having an hourglass figure and looking snatched all the time feels good. And yes,that feeling can be quite addictive. However, I believe strongly in moderation and maybe it’s just me but squished and heaving bosoms are not a good or classy look. Therefore I recommend only using corsets occasionally, perhaps for special events or until you achieve a weight loss goal or a waist and hip goal.
These days corsets are so trendy that they are sewn directly into clothes. Therefore, there are readymade corset tops and gowns and even our aso ebis are not excluded from the corset trend.
I shall conclude with an excerpt from the movie, Enola Holmes
“The corset: a symbol of repression for those forced to wear it. But for me who chooses to wear it, the bust enhancer and the hip regulators will hide the fortune my mother has given me. And as they do so they will make me look like that truly unlikely thing —A lady!”
You are entitled to whatever opinions you have about corsets, However, I submit that corsets can only be torture if one is forced to wear them or if it is not worn properly. So do you boo!.
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