There are many garments a woman can wear to slim her waist from Spanx to a girdle, but none have the beauty of a corset. A corset is more than just a quick fix or an undergarment. It’s a beautiful piece of clothing that can be dressed up or down, worn under or over clothes and worn for fashion or for function. You can’t get that out of a pair of Spanx.
Traditional corsetry has been experiencing a resurgence over the last few years, but along with it comes a lot of misinformation about what a corset is. We have people who call the shop all the time asking if we carry waist training corsets (we do) and then they come in and what they actually want is a girdle. All those constricting undergarments with the rows of hooks- those are not corsets no matter what they call it on eBay.
So when I talk about a corset, I am referring to the Victorian styles of the 1800s and the Edwardian style introduced in the 1900s. Both of these styles moved toward a more hourglass shape and away from the earlier corsets, or stays, which produced a more funneled silhouette. Our modern corsets are based of these designs with some modifications. The basic idea is still there though- the solid boning all around, a front busk that opens and lacing in the back.
A corset should feel good when you wear it. It should feel secure and supportive, never over constrictive. If it hurts or pinches or pokes, then you need to readjust, loosen it or find yourself a better corset. One of my favorite parts of this job is putting someone in a corset for the first time and seeing them smile when they see their new shape. And when they mention how good it feels, I know it’s the right one.
There’s beauty in a well constructed corset. I love feeling the weight of a heavy steel boned piece when you pick it up. Both flat and spiral steel boning create a wonderful shape and then revert back when you take the corset off. On cheaply made corsets, plastic acrylic boning will keep the curved shape over time and eventually bend sharply so it starts to poke the wearer. I would only recommend plastic boning for short term wear, and never for tight cinching.
There’s also an art to the lacing, which takes time and practice. The right lacing can make the difference of whether a corset fits or hurts. Different lacing can create different effects because it exerts pressure on different areas. Corsets should be unlaced when putting it on and taking it off. If you aren’t unlacing, you aren’t getting the full cinching benefit and it will lead to damaging your corset with wear most likely showing up around the corners of the front busk. Your corset will tell on you if you aren’t treating it right.
At Three Muses Clothing, we are immersed in corsets of all kinds on a daily basis. It has become the cornerstone of the business with most of our handmade costumes using corsets as a foundation. We have done corset fittings on hundreds of women since we opened the shop in 2009 and look forward to doing hundreds more!