All about corset making and corsetry components

A blog with plenty of information on Corset Making and corset making supplies.

A new "From the Archives" series will be published every Wednesday and Saturday from 25 February 2023, until 26 March 2023, and these posts will contain 'old' information on corset making which will be updated for the revamped Learn Corset Making information portal whereever that may be.

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  1. The Royal Worcester Corset Company, which wasn't, as you may suppose in Worcester England, but in Worcester, Massachusets, USA was started by David Fanning around 1875 and flourished until his death in the late 1950's.  David Fanning was the  first  corset manufacturer to discover that women's bodies required different sizes to cope with tall, medium and small frames.  Thus, the factory produced corsets for the individual, at prices for the masses.

    The most interesting part of this story, is that David Fanning didn't know how to make a corset when he started out.  He merely saw a gap in the market, practiced and practiced, with the help of female assistants who modelled his fledgling designs, and before long, he erected his very own factory - The Royal Worcester Corset Company became one of the two leading corset manufacturers for the mass market in the world. 

    In 1898, the Company published a commemorative booklet which detailed it's method of manufacture from the moment the order was received in the factory.

    Many fabrics were used in the manufacture of corsets at RWCC, principally coutil, a firmly woven fabric, the finest of which was made in France.  Sateen and jean from America was also used, as well as silk, satin and batistes from Italy and  nettings for summer corsets.  In all cases whatever colour the outer fabric was, a white lining was required as women preferred the clean effect of this next to their body.

    The order began it's journey in the order office, where it was given a style number.  This number was attached to each piece of corset as it was processed and kept in place until the finished item was boxed.

    The pattern for the appropriate corset was selected from the many on the pattern rack, laid out on the correct grain of fabric and cut by the  most experienced of cutters to ensure economy and best fit.  The peices of the corset were then tied together in bundles and sent to the main stitching room where the seaming, basting, making up of fronts and backs and 'stripping' was done.  Stripping was the process of attaching bone casings.   From here, the corset was sent to the boning department where the bones were inserted by hand - bones were selected according to the type of corset, stout bird feathers being preferred by the wealthy ladies, steel bones for cheaper corsets - they were prone to rust in those days! Rattan or cane was used to bone the very cheapest corsets.  From the boning room, the corset went to the trimming room where it was put through a shaping machine, unevenness at the top and bottom was trimmed off and the top and bottom edges were bound. Eyelets were then added, along with some flossing which not only added to the beauty of the corset, but prevented the bones from working their way up or down their casings or wearing through to the front.  The final stage of factory corset manufacture was the finishing whereby the corset would be sprayed on the inside with  a solution of cold water starch and then tied to a 'copper maiden' through which live steam was passed, thereby pressing the final corset into shape and eliminating wrinkles.  The corset was then rolled and boxed ready for shipment.


  2. Vintage Lingerie

    Book Review:  Vintage Lingerie, Historical Patterns & Techniques by Jill Salen

    Beautiful, fine silk lingerie items are one of those things which we consider to be the sort of luxury we would rarely - if ever - buy for ourselves due to the sometimes eye wateringly expensive price.  As sewists, we can often look at garments in shops and say “i can make that” (for a fraction of the cost), and so we can too with lingerie - even the type you see in high end shops such as Agent Provocateur and Coco de Mer.  Finding commercial lingerie patterns in the styles and shapes of yesteryear however, is difficult if not impossible  but Jill Salen, a professional costumer of some renown and with a special interest in historical underwear,  has come to the rescue!  

    This book contains no less than 30 well chosen, historically accurate patterns taken from museum collections.  From the 1850’s to the 1970‘s some items could even be customised as outer wear for today, and some, though vintage, have as classic as shape yesterday as they do today.  All are thoroughly inspirational and beautiful.

    Each item in the book has 3 or 4 pages dedicated to it - at least one full page colour photograph alongside a description including relevant dates, fabrics used, measurements, embellishments, and historical notes.  The pattern then follows, scaled down on squared graph paper which is easy to scale up to the size of the original garment.  These scale drawings include the pattern pieces with balance marks and also fine embellishment details and diagrams for things which may be hard to follow from just the photograph - ie: different types of stitching, closures, edgings, facings and attachments.

    This book is not aimed at beginners.  It is assumed that people accessing these patterns, are used to sewing garments together, fairly confident at using scale patterns and comfortable with working intuitively from brief instructions to make something fit a modern body - though it is recommended by the author to first to make a garment to scale and find somebody to fit the garment so that they way it works can be observed as it would have been intended.  A basic knowledge of pattern cutting would be useful though not essential.

    That said, for the less confident, there are 2 full projects included in the book.  which give a list of materials required, plus detailed step by step instructions on how to make each item  - a black net brassier from 1930 which looks remarkably modern and risque, and a very cleverly patterned 1905 petticoat designed to give maximum ‘swish’ and embellished with pretty ribbon and layers of lace.

    There are notes in the back of the book which include brief instructions on how the scaled patterns are used followed by more detailed notes on various hand sewing techniques commonly used in vintage lingerie, such as making button loops, scallop edging, attaching hooks and eyes, fagotting and making broderie anglaise details, to name but a few.

    In summary,  this is another excellent and inspirational book by Jill Salen (her first was dedicated entirely to corsetry).  Along with the individual patterns and beautiful pictures, there is a wealth of information on how and where different fabrics and other materials were used in lingerie, and all of this knowledge can be applied to different projects whether for underwear, corsetry or dressmaking, and ofcourse there is also a list of suppliers, extensive further reading, list of useful website resources and a very handy glossary.


    copyright, Sew Curvy Corsetry, originally published at The Sewing Directory

  3. article2minoa

    This article was written for and originally appeared at The Sewing Directory
    Corsetry is all about fashion outlines and firm foundations - from the earliest waist enhancing leather belts worn by the Minoans as far back as 2500BC, to the latest in figure shaping technology using 'powernet' fabrics and nylon to shape, support and enhance the figure.  However, our traditional view of the 'corset' is the Victorian version which slims and gives the archetypal feminine 'hour glass' shape to any figure regardless of size, by reducing the waist and thereby exaggerating the bust and hips.  
    Modern Victorian style corsets are typically made from Coutil, a very tightly woven and strong fabric with no stretch, and 'bones' of  flexible steel wire which are made from flattened springs.  These 'springs' ensure that the corset is flexible yet strong; they will mould your body comfortably, rather than restrict you or mould to your body.  
    The front closure of a Victorian style corset is called a busk and is made from two wide metal 'bones' with a hook side and a stud side which clasp together.  Although now made from steel and in two parts, the busk started life in the 17th century as a flat piece of wood (like a giant lollipop stick) which would be slipped into a pocket running down the centre front of the lining of the corset (or 'stays' as they were then known), giving a straight appearance.  Sometimes, depending on the wearer's status, these busks would be carved intricately and sometimes they were given to ladies as tokens of love.
    The back of a corset is laced with a single lace which is tightened at the waist.  There should be no more than a two inch gap between the laces - this allows for 'fluctuation' of the figure and also can determine the 'firmness' of the corset.  Contrary to popular belief, corsets are not bad for you, they do not squeeze your intestines out of shape, nor do they cause any bodily damage.  They are essentially a fashion item with benefits and as with everything else, as long as one is sensible, there is no cause for concern.
    Corsets not only enhance shape, but also improve posture, they will make you stand straight and therefore tall.  If you have the sort of job which means you are on your feet for long periods of time, a corset will help you feel less tired by supporting your body - a bit like wearing an outer skeleton.  This is why corsets are sometimes used for medicinal purposes to help people who have bad backs. 
    There is nothing like an underbust corset to give a flawless hourglass shape underneath a dress.  Whereas more "elasticated" shapewear can give you unsightly muffintop bulges, or make you feel a bit like a sausage, a properly fitted corset will be totally smooth between corset and flesh and it is for this reason that 'traditional' corsets are preferred by the stars and by brides. 
    The best way to achieve a perfectly fitted corset without spending a fortune is to make one yourself!  You can draw on centuries of experience by using one of the many patterns available on the market,  so removing some of the guesswork!  From there, it's just a question of being able to sew a straight line!  A good quality hand made corset will cost hundreds of pounds, whereas your own handmade version will use exactly the same materials, and cost you no more than around £60!
    Making a corset is fun! You can let your imagination run wild! You can add feathers and bows, and beads and sparkly things.  You can make them as plain or as fabulous as you like and you can tailor them to a specific outfit or occasion.  You can wear them with jeans, or a dress, or with trousers.  You can wear them as underwear or keep them strictly in the bedroom!  Corsets are super sexy, creatively versatile, funky, fun and timeless!
  4. It is essential, if you want a perfect fit, to make a corset from ‘scrap’ fabric before you make the real thing.  The purpose of this is to check the fit and enable you to make tailor made adjustments accordingly.  Obviously with a corset, fit is very important as you will want the waist to be reduced enough for good definition whilst allowing for everything else to be pushed up or down.  This is the "squidge factor" and allowances may have to be made by simple adjustments to the bust and hip area.  This is where your toile or 'mock-up' comes in.  Look at it as a practice run.  You not only get to see the fit, but you can figure out construction methods along the way.

    These are just a few basic guidelines to making a corset mock up.  Some of these points are also extremely relevant for making up the real thing.

    You will need:

    • Plain 'scrap' fabric - a medium to heavy weight calico or plain cotton coutil is ideal.
    • A marker pen
    • A seam ripper
    • Sharp Scissors
    • Corset Boning
    • Tapered Awl 

    Cut your fabric pattern* pieces according to the instructions given in the pattern.  Look at  hints and tips on how to do this HERE

    toile2After cutting and before taking the pattern paper off the fabric, number each side of each piece, 1,2,3,4 etc., for one side, and for the other side 1a, 2a, 3a, 4a etc.  This way you wont get confused as to which side is which.  Keep the piles separate and work on one side at a time.  Organisation is KEY to corset making success.  Trust me on this.
    Mark up the balance points (notches etc.,) if your pattern has them and most importantly mark the waist line on all peices.  NOTE:  The waist is not always marked on the paper pattern - if this is the case, sew as per the instructions and mark the waist in later (see 'fitting' below).
    It is a good idea to keep the marks on the outside of the toile so that when you eventually try it on, you can see what should be where and what isn't!

    Sew the pieces of each side together according to the instructions aligning the waist markings - the finished article should show a nice straight line at the waist.
    When both sides are sewn together, attach them together at the front.  

    There is no need to insert a busk if you are in a hurry, just sew the two centre front pieces together using the prescribed seam allowance, however, you will get a better result if you do include the busk.  All components can be taken out of the toile and used for the proper corset.
    Press the centre front seems out and sew down the outside edge of each seam in order to form a channel.

    On each side, press the centre back edge in by the seam allowance and stitch 10mm from the edge creating a channel. Sew a re-inforcing line of stitches next to this.
    Mark eyelet holes at regular intervals 5mm away from the second edge seam on both sides - make sure they match horizontally on each side.

    Make holes where you have marked with a tailors awl
    There are several ways to secure bones in a toile.  Either, press out the seam allowances and sew down the raw edges on each side to form bone channels on either side of the seam, or sew the seam allowance together forming a pocket as shown, or, simply press the seams apart and stick the bones down on the inside with masking tape - it works a treat.  
    Add as you feel necessary but at least one on each seam
    When your bones are in the toile, it's ready to try on - you may need somebody to help lace you in.

    The waist line should have a crease running right through it.  If this is the case then the corset is in the correct position.  If the crease appears elsewhere on the corset, either pull it up or down until it feels comfortable - the marked waistline should have the crease running through it, if not, check that it was marked properly.  If the waistline was not marked on the pattern/toile it will be where the crease is.  Mark the toile accordingly.

    Note:  On Sew Curvy patterns, the waist is always marked and this is the matching point for all seams.  I always advise that a waist tape is used in the toile in order to avoid stretching if using calico.


    The gap at the back should be 2 inches wide all the way down.  ie: the back edges should be straight.  If they are curved inwards or outwards the corset is either tied incorrectly or it does not fit. 


    You can adjust minor fitting problems by letting out the seams or taking them in as appropriate and where there is strain or space in the corset .. either pin and tuck or slash and spread.

    If you want to reduce the waist, do so at the sides and/or back.  If you want to adjust the bust or hip, then these alterations should be done at those points.  In other words, do not do what some patterns advise which is to take the amount you want to reduce/increase by, divide it by the number of seams and then add incremental amounts per seam.  If you do that you will end up with a very very unsatisfactory shape.

    If your corset has a very small waist, and large hip/bust spring, then inserting gussets may help with shaping.  Cut a line where you wish the gore to be, insert a peice of calico behind the cut, and pin out a gusset shape in situ to make the extra space required.






    Mark all adjustments on the toile and either transfer these to your paper pattern or unpick the toile and use that as your pattern.

    it is good practice if using a multi-size pattern, to trace the pattern onto tracing paper thereby preserving a master copy for future use and reference.

    Further notes:

    • A toile made from plain herringbone coutil will give the best result
    • Use a waist tape for accuracy - you can see the waist line, it will feel more comfortable, and stretching while fitting will be minimised
    • Use a busk for increased accuracy - or two flat steel bones at the front, depending upon the final effect of the finsihed corset
    • Write notes on the toile and take lots of pictures.  It's surprising how much you can see from a picture
    • Bone your toile with steel bones for the best results.  These can be recycled in your finished corset.
    • No need to use metal eyelets in your toile
    • Lacing panels can be recycled for other toiles
    • The starting point for sizing your toile is the waist.  Get the waist size on the pattern right and alter the bust/hips around the waist.  it's much easier than trying to make the waist bigger or smaller
    • No two bodies are the same, only experience will allow you to eventually predict what might happen when you corset.

    On patterns:

    • Patterns from commercial companies do not work. This is because they are submitted through a process which adds ease to everything regardless of purpose.  The commercial companies include Vogue, Simplicity, Burda, McCalls.  If you want a proper fitting corset, do not start there.
    • DO source patterns from independant companies who specialise in historical costume and corsetry.  There are plenty  of those companies around now and they create proper corset patterns which are designed to modify the body.  These companies include Laughing Moon, Truly Victorian, Sew Curvy and a few others.  At Sew Curvy we do not sell patterns that will make you cry.
    • Do not attempt to alter the pattern before making an initial toile.  If you try to do that you will get hoplessly lost.  This is because all pattern makers have a different system.  Measurements will not tellyou the whole story, nor will they tell you how each body will compress in that pattern.  Always make an intial toile according to the pattern instructions, and make alterations afterwards.





    Tell us about yourself - have you always been interested in sewing and corsetry?

    I have always been interested in sewing and making things, and my interest in corsetry began out of necessity 6 or 7 years ago, when I needed one for a burlesque style outfit.  I looked at corsets I would like to buy, decided they were far to expensive at two or three hundred pounds a piece, and as I was a reasonably competent dressmaker, resolved to make one instead as I really didn’t like the alternative, cheapy, plastic boned corsets which were widely available in the goth section of Camden Market!  In conversation, a friend mentioned that kits were available on the internet.  I bought one, and my first corset was made.  It was rubbish - unwearable!  But I had gained enough enthusiasm and experience to try another, which worked fabulously well, and which I was able to wear - and feel amazing in!  Thus, an obsession was born!

     When and why did you set up the business?

    I set up Sew Curvy at the end of last year because I had an idea that, what with the vintage and burlesque revival, there may be other ladies out there like me, with basic sewing skills, who are creative and have their own design ideas or who cannot justify the expense of a bespoke corset, but may like to have one!  

    There are kits on the market, but they are not packaged like mine.  I wanted my kits to be an ‘experience’, a treat ... I was inspired by pictures of corset boxes from the victorian era, and I thought it would be lovely to receive a kit, beautifully packaged in tissue paper and ribbons, just like corsets would have been in their day.  A gift to yourself, or someone else, it doesn’t matter.

    More that that, I wanted the website to be a useful resource for beginners, so that unlike me, beginner corsetiers do not have disastrous first corsets!  Nowadays, there is plenty of information on corsetry on the web, but whilst they give plenty of inspiration, they don’t give basic, practical information - how to sew a bone channel in a straight line, how to mark your pattern, how to insert a busk, how to best fit your corset.  You have to dart about here and there and refer to many many books in search of information most of which is quite technical.  My site is intended to be a one stop shop which demystifies the art of making a corset - it’s a work in progress, I have lots to add still.



     Had you ever used many/any corset kits before you set up Sew Curvy Corsets?

    Yes, I bought a corset kit when I started out.  It came in a plastic bag.  There were no instructions outside of the pattern.  It was just a collection of metal rods, fabric, and notions which came from a website that had no handy tips or advice, or even links.  In those days, there was no such thing as a sewing blog, or a live journal community.  Corsetry was a notoriously secret thing!  There were webrings which you had to be professional to join, and not many people were interested in making either clothes or corsets.   I could follow the pattern, but I had no idea how to do simple things like sew a straight bone channel to best effect, or the best way to mark up a pattern etc.,  I learned from patterns, books, experience and error,  and it took a very very long time.  

    Why did you decide to sell kits rather than specialising in individual items?

    My website/shop is part of a whole ‘beginners’ concept.  I wanted to make it easy for people to discover corsetry.  Most people - even really experienced seamstresses that I know, think that corsetry is difficult, and ofcourse, it can be if you are designing from scratch.  However, to work from a commercial pattern is less challenging and the creativity and satisfaction to be found in sewing a corset is limitless!  Building a wearable corset - whether it be for underwear, outerwear, club wear or for the bedroom, is simple.  The underbust corset is particularly easy as there are no busty curves to navigate and you get the most fantastic shape from them.  

    Do you get much feedback from your customers on the kits - do they find the (often scary) process of making their first corset easier because they had everything there ready to make?

    My customers always comment on three things:  1) Wonderful idea for a kit - no consternating over which supplies to get from where, 2) great website resource with so much practical help, 3) Beautiful packaging.  I wanted my customers to have much more than the ‘plastic bag experience’ that I had.  I wanted the box to feel like a corset box would have in the old days, and the recipient to feel the same sense of excitement they must have felt then, when opening the box that they knew would contain some crispy new underwear adorned with pretty lace and ribbons - just like modern underwear today.  It’s exciting! The prospect of being able to sew yourself curvy! 

    What sorts of kits do you offer - have you got any new designs coming up?

    I offer a wide range of different corsets designs for ladies -  over bust, under bust, easy, moderate and more challenging.  All boxed kits contain everything you need to make a fully boned Victorian style corset.  

    I also offer kits without bits, for people who are perhaps making a second corset from a pattern they have already, or who have some fabric to use of their own.  

    I do Gentleman’s kits too - which are very popular - think Maralyn Manson!  Also “Mr & Mrs Kits” which I also added to the selection by popular request!  These contain the Laughing Moon Underbust pattern, and all materials needed for one gentleman’s corset and one ladies corset made from that pattern.

    Along with all components available separately, plus a growing range of trims and embellishments, I also offer an ‘Essential tool kit’ which contains tools and notions which I consider to be extremely helpful when building a corset.

    Future plans include offering a bespoke pattern drafting service, where I will draft a corset  pattern to the customer’s exact measurements, and pack it with the components required to make it.  This will result in different, more individual designs and shapes being available with less guess-work involved when it comes to the ‘fitting’ stage.

    I am also planning many more tutorials, some more basic ones (how to lace a corset properly) and also some tutorials on embellishing ideas - how to apply rhinestones, how to make a ruffled trim, how to floss (embroider) your corset etc.,  It’s a work in progress!

    Finally have you got any tips for any of our readers who may want to make their first corset (and so invest in one of your lovely kits?)

    Corsets were invented and developed long before great pattern cutting skills were discovered, before the age of couture.  They are really just a series of shaped panels sewn together.  The Royal Worcester Corset Co., in America was started by a man who knew nothing about sewing or clothes, or fashion, but who had spotted a gap in the market, and so with the help of a model,  set about making a ladies corset that he could manufacture for the masses.  By the late 19th century, his company became one of the biggest suppliers of corsets in the world.  It’s a true story of ‘practice makes perfect, and anyone can do it’!  

    If you can sew a straight line, you can sew a corset.  My kits make it easy because you have everything to hand and no guesswork!  All you need to provide is a little patience, some imagination, the result will be a handmade, bespoke corset, embellished and fitted to your exact specification, which will last a lifetime, give you super glamourous uber curves,  and which, if the equivalent was bought in a shop, would cost you hundreds of pounds.




  6. If you want to start making your own corset patterns, it is necessary to understand the mechanics of pattern design and cut.  Here is a quick run down of my own pattern cutting library.

    It was  my adventures in corsetry which led to my fascination with pattern cutting.  I needed to know HOW a corset works - the engineering aspect.  I am one of those types of people who needs to fully understand the reasons behind something in order to 'do it', and so I found this book in my Christmas Stocking one year.  It explains in full detail the concept of the French Block - how to draw one, make one, fit one, and then how to  design your corset or garment within it, for the French block (or sloper as it is also known), is the basis of all garment manufacture and design.This book explained very well the importance of measurements and how they relate to the paper diagram.  Most importantly, this is the ONLY book I have which explains the Bust Point well (or even at all!).  Let me just tell you ... the bust point is where your nipples are - it's different for everyone.  The distance between nipples is VITAL because when you have drawn your front block, you need to know where the dart apex should be - so you draw a line which measures half the distance between your nipples, parallel to the centre front line, and there is the line upon which your bust point should be.Being a book about corsetry, it obviously only deals with the block for the upper section of the body, but this is the hardest part to grasp when pattern making because there are so very many possibilities and one of my other obsessions is how to fit the bust properly - my own having been a constant conundrum.  This book includes instructions on how to make 2 styles of bra - not the type you may find on the high street, but a good basis to get started on your own designs and possibly to integrate into a corset.

    As corsetry ignited my interest in general dressmaking, I decided, along with finding a teacher, that I needed a more general book and this is the one I was recommended.  It's one of the industry standards for fashion students and is very very good.  There are some parts of it which are a little hard to decipher but on the whole, this book is a brilliant introduction with clear and concise diagrams, instructions and explanations.There are chapters on all aspects of flat pattern cutting for all types of garment in a  huge range of  styles.  The initial chapters focus on basic block building for bodice, arms, skirt and trousers, and then the rest has instructions on how to customise those blocks as required.

    There are also chapters in this book explaining how to cut patterns for stretch and jersey fabrics which don't need darts, and at the end, a look at the more commercial aspects of fashion design.
    This book is a new acquisition:It is all about construction of garments from the initial pattern making, to special finishes for special fabrics ...  It starts off with lots of different techniques which are not found in the previous two books - this book is much more "creative", with inspirational pictures from the catwalk and quotes from all the famous designers.
    Rather than be put off by these glamorous catwalk pictures, I find them very interesting.  At first glance these beautiful gowns look absolutely impossible!  But this book breaks them down and shows you that although they are stunning works of art, they are constructed using the same techniques as described in any pattern cutting book.  It is the mastery of these techniques by the designers, the cutters, and the people who sew them, that makes these clothes special.
    There is a whole section in this book on "support" but this doesn't just include corsetry as one might imagine.  It also includes tailoring techniques, information about interfacings and other support structures, along with descriptions and tips on how to generally sculpt, shape and manipulate your fabric.These are the books I have, but there are more on my Amazon wishlist!

    A book about draping - you drape muslin over your dress form, shape as required, and then make a pattern from it.  Fascinating! 
     This book has fantastic reviews and on looking inside as you can on Amazon, seems to be absolutely packed with information.
    Another fabulous resource which will help you to understand corset patterns, can be found in the free articles section at Foundations Revealed.  Click on the link at the bottom of this page to go there!
  7. From an article written in January 2011 over at my blog, The House of Marmalade entitled Corsetry - my journey

    Over the last few months, I've been doing some very deep research into corset making because as some of you may know, I am writing an e-book on the process for Rainbow Disks and I want to make sure that I document the best way to do things with information taken from a wide source.  Although I have been making and wearing corsets for years, I've developed my own methods of doing so - I am entirely self taught and up until now, I haven't really paid much attention to the ways other people do it.

    When I started in corsetry, it was for 'costume' purposes - think "Moulin Rouge"-  inspired by burlesque, theatre, sparkle and beauty, I set about making fancy corsets for myself to wear at parties and clubs.  I discovered that corsetry as an artistic medium was a very varied subject indeed, full of creative possibilities and I soon became totally hooked.  

    With each new corset I made, inspiration would flood into my mind for the next and then the next and so on.  It seems that for me - and for lots of other people - corsetry provides a very deep well of artistic inspiration and expression but it wasn't until I started getting much deeper into the subject, after first starting up my business and then joining other online communities specifically for corset addicts,  that I began to pay more attention to the history of corsetry and the historical methods of construction specifically in relation to the archetypal shape of the Victorian corset.

    This in turn lead me to frequently ponder the purpose of corsetry both in a historical and a modern context, from the most ancient manifestations which took the form of thick leather belts to suppress the waist, to the most modern lycra 'tubes' which claim to suck you in by as much as 2 sizes!  

    There has been alot of negative press about corsetry, especially since Victorian times and also there is alot of misconception and prejudice about the effects of corsetry on women both physically and mentally and one of the most frequent questions I am asked is "Is it painful to wear a corset?" .  Much has been written about this but my own view is that during the periods when heavily boned, waist reducing corsets were worn routinely,  women were much smaller than we are now, and therefore a 20" waist was nothing out of the ordinary for a young woman - girls wore corsets from a very young age and their skeletons reflected this. In Victorian times there were certain social implications attached to the wearing of corsetry - this is where both the terms "straight laced" and "loose woman" come from however, overall, the corset was a necessary underpinning, perhaps worn under sufferance at times and without the freedom of choice we have now. 

    As to whether corsets are dangerous or uncomfortable - yes, a corset can and will squash your insides, compress your ribcage and cause bruising - if you lace it too tightly!  If you tie a scarf too tightly around your neck you run the risk of suffocation!  As with everything, when a corset  is worn responsibly, in any century, it's purpose is to  shape and smooth the body into whichever fashion silhouette is desirable for that time or purpose,  and to make the wearer feel good.  A well made and properly fitted corset is very comfortable because it supports the torso whilst shaping it.

    Corsets these days are worn by many different people for many different reasons.  I do not generally subscribe to the view that corsets are (or ever were), 'anti-feminist' and 'opressive' to women nor to the opposite veiw that they are  empowering and totally feminine - unless that is what the wearer wants them to be.

    In my opinion, the purpose and effect of corsetry in any time and for any gender, boils down to two things

    1) A corset is and always has been a fashion item.

    2) Using a corset to enhance or shape one's 'assets' is no more dangerous or oppressive, or uncomfortable, than wearing a pair of high heeled shoes.