Let’s Learn More… about corsets!

Today, let’s take a look at the wonderful world… of Corsets!

Chapter I: An Introduction to Corsets
Chapter II: An Abbreviated History of Corsets
Chapter III: Types of Corsets
Chapter IV: Corsetry and Lolita
Chapter V: Buying a Corset
Chapter VI: User Beware!
Chapter VII: Related Articles and Resources

An Introduction to Corsets

Sugar and Spice The corset is a clothes item that has a long history indeed. Originally worn as a lingerie item not for public eyes, the corset has since evolved and is now a fashion item made with all sorts of fabric and embellishments. Even till now, some women use corsets for waist-training, the act of reshaping their bodies, but for the most part, true corsets are rarely worn, and are instead replaced by corset tops and bustiers for fashion purposes.

Corsets do have a part to play in lolita fashion, and are most often seen in Ero-loli or Gothic Lolita coordis. Also very popular in the fashion are what are known as “corset skirts”: high-waisted skirts that have some form of boning in them to shape the waist area when worn.

Picture of Feli and I in ero-loli. Picture by Steph.

An Abbreviated History of Corsets

1830bluecorset 1700s – pre Victorian
Corsets were first popularized in the mid-16th century, when they were used to enhance the bust rather than minimise the waist. Early corsets were handmade with linen and other heavy fabrics. At that point, boning was made of wood. This type of corset remained popular until the mid 1800s, when the sewing machine became popular.

Photo of blue corset circa 1830. From the Antique Corset Gallery

latevictoriancorset 1800s – The Victorian era
The modern corset has many features stemming from corsets of the Victorian era, including features such as the curved shape and the steel stays which allows corsets to reshape the body. Tight lacing was also common during this time, which reduced the waist and enhanced the bust and hips.

Photo of black corset circa 1895. From the Antique Corset Gallery

straightfrontcorset Edwardian Corsets
Towards the 20th century, it was believed that tight lacing could lead to a range of health problems, which led to a strong backlash against the tight lacing so popular in the 1800s.

This resulted in the introduction of the straight front corset in the early 1900s, which created less pressure on the abdomen, but forced the wearer into an unnatural hips-back, bust-out position.

Photo of olive corset circa 1908. From the Antique Corset Gallery.

teenscorset Teens and World War I
Due to the war, steel was rarely available for civilian use. Combined with the invention of the bra, this helped contribute to the decline of corsets. Nonetheless, some forms of corsets continued in popularity through the 1920s.

Photo of pink corset circa 1910. From the Antique Corset Gallery.

Modern Corset 1930s-1980s
Corsetry experienced brief periods of renewed interest throughout the next decades, but never made a solid recovery. It was the fetish fashion of the 1980s that brought about corsets’ latest renaissance.

Modern corsets can mostly be found in subcultures with a keen interest in historical fashions and/or fetish gear; such as steampunk, gothic, punk and more. Popular styles of corsetry include both the tight lacing popular during the Victorian times, as well as less constricting “corset tops”.

Photo of modern Victorian-style corset with Swarovski embellishments circa 2005. From Lara Corsets.

Chapter I: An Introduction to Corsets
Chapter II: An Abbreviated History of Corsets
Chapter III: Types of Corsets
Chapter IV: Corsetry and Lolita
Chapter V: Buying a Corset
Chapter VI: User Beware!
Chapter VII: Related Articles and Resources

Types of Corsets

Excentrique corset The overbust corset, as the name suggests, is long enough to cover most of the wearer’s torso. The top of the corset, which comes in several forms, will also play a part in the overall effect of how it looks. A demi bust, which stops around the nipple, provides good support underneath strapless tops or dresses. Straight bust corsets cut across the top creates what is known as the ‘shelf effect’, where your bust is pressed down, and overflows over the top. The sweetheart cup defines the bustline, and also provides support.

This Excentrique Ultimate Corset has a sweetheart cup cut.

Kikirara Shoten Royal Purple Underbust Corset The underbust corset begins around the ribcage, and then extends to the wearer’s hips.

This Kikirara Shoten underbust corset obviously starts just below the bust and extends down.

Atelier Pierrot waist cincher The waist cincher, also known as the waspie, is even shorter than the underbust corset, and begins only under the ribcage.

These waist cinchers are from Atelier Pierrot, and are made specifically for the lolita silhouette.

IMG_0629 Bustiers differ from corsets in that corsets are designed to accentuate a woman’s figure by holding in the waist, while bustiers have built-in cups to boost the bust and emphasize more cleavage.

Bustier from h.Naoto‘s honey.

Corsetry and Lolita

Within the community, there are many companies that specialise in corsets, including:

Excentrique Keyhole Excentrique
Excentrique is not a strictly lolita brand, but has been featured in GL magazines and GLB for as long as I can remember (from about 2001?). Famous for their “Ultimate Corsets” which are well-constructed enough to waist-train, the company has since branched out and produced clothes for “coordination”, such as vests, skirts and onepieces. Be prepared to pay in excess of 25k for a brand new corset, but if you’re lucky you can get good deals in second hand stores such as Closet Child.

Keyhole Razor Corset from Excentrique.

kikirara Dangerous Nude and Kikirara Shoten
Belonging to the same company, Dangerous Nude and Kikirara Shoten are like two sides of the same coin. Dangerous Nude produces corsets more suited for everyday, fashion-wear, while Kikirara Shoten specialises in fanciful, couture corsets. Kikirara Shoten corsets are also notoriously difficult to get; not only are they produced in limited runs, they can cost as much as 60k brand new. Thankfully, Dangerous Nude corsets are much more accessible, you’ll be able to get one brand new at about 15k.

Waist-cincher corset from Kikirara Shoten. Photo from Lolita Stock Photos.

atelierpierrot Atelier Pierrot
Atelier Pierrot, a predominantly gothic lolita brand, is well-known for their high-waisted, corset skirts. The skirts have a beautiful boning in them that provides a gorgeous shape. I think every gothic lolita needs to experience this lovely skirt for themselves! Atelier Pierrot does also have waist-cinchers and overbust corset dresses, but their corset skirts are the really coveted items. The average bustle corset skirt is about 21k brand new, but depending on design, you may find a brand new skirt at about 19k.

Corset skirt from Atelier Pierrot. Photo from Lolita Stock Photos.

Other examples of corsetry in lolita include:

Moi-meme-Moitie Jacquard Frill Corset Alice and the Pirates Corset Skirt (navy)
Corset from Moi-meme-Moitie. Corset skirt from Alice and the Pirates.
Both photos from Lolita Stock Photos.

Chapter I: An Introduction to Corsets
Chapter II: An Abbreviated History of Corsets
Chapter III: Types of Corsets
Chapter IV: Corsetry and Lolita
Chapter V: Buying a Corset
Chapter VI: User Beware!
Chapter VII: Related Articles and Resources

Buying a corset

Now that you know what sort of corsets there are, how do you choose what kind of corset to buy?

First consider what you’d like the corset for, and a budget. Obviously not all corsets are made equal and some quality, custom-made corsets can be very expensive indeed! However, there are some other corsets sold through various online shopping sites such as Etsy or eBay that will serve you very well for your purpose, as long as you know what exactly you are looking for.

My own recommendations: if you’re looking for a “corset-look”, you want a fashion corset, and these can be bought easily from eBay or off the “shelf” from Etsy. If you require something a bit more heavy-duty, do consider investing in a more expensive corset brand, such as those from Excentrique’s Ultimate Corset line, or even a custom-made one for your size.

User Beware!

Wearing corsetry can provide a lovely shape, but please be aware of the dangers of long-term tight lacing, or body modification via corset-wearing. These include the possibilities of the overlapping rib cage, the compression of internal organs, muscle atrophy and complications during pregnancy.

Related articles and resources

BBC guide to corsets
The History of Corsetry from the Victorian Era to Present Day
The Antique Corset Gallery
Corsets and Crinolines

Thu, March 31 2011 »

One comment on to “Let’s Learn More… about corsets!”

  1. Raayvhen says:

    I have been wearing corsets almost daily for 3 years and I adore them. My favorites come from Timeless-Trends. They are very well built for the price and come with a lifetime warranty. They have excellent customer service and fast shipping.

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