Corset Facts: A Beginners Guide To Corsets


Although corsets have been around for many years, they are certainly back in style at the moment. I have put together this beginners guide to corsets to ensure you have all the related corset facts at your fingertips.

Popular as both a fashionable lingerie garment worn for their aesthetic appearance and as a functional tool to create stunning curves, corsets have been hitting the headlines as the go-to lingerie item for numerous celebrities.

For centuries, corsets have served a function by changing a lady’s body shape and creating a tiny waist and high bosom in traditional period dresses. Today they are worn by all age groups to pull the body into a voluptuous hourglass or create a flat stomach.

Usually worn under clothing, corsets can also be an alluring form of lingerie when worn on their own and can even be worn on the outside as part of a fashion costume. It is one of the few items of underwear that have stood the test of time for hundreds of years and continue to be a much-loved part of a woman’s wardrobe.

Corset Facts: Beginners Guide

Throughout this beginners guide to corsets we will delve into a whole host of interesting corset facts, and answer a number of corset related questions that you may have. If you find we have missed any handy information then please leave get in touch.

What Is A Corset?

A corset is a tightly fitting item that is usually worn under clothes to alter body shape. Often made from a soft fabric like cotton or silk, it has reinforced bones running downwards that help contour your body shape and has a series of laces either at the back or front that can be pulled tightly to create an hourglass figure.

The material is strong enough to withstand this pressure and modern corsets can also include rigid panels that keep the stomach looking flat. As the corset is pulled tighter, the breasts are pushed up to look fuller and the waist is pulled in to make it as small as possible.

Corsets are usually worn to change a woman’s appearance although they can also be worn for medical reasons and have been used by both men and women.

A Little Corset History

The first evidence of corsets as we know them goes all the way back to the sixteenth century, mostly in Europe. They were worn by women of all social classes to push up the bosom and create a full cleavage. They became hugely popular in the Victorian era when a tiny waist and hourglass figure was considered the height of fashion.

They helped to make the torso look like an inverted triangle which was balanced by skirts that flowed out from the waist, also enhanced by petticoats and hoops such as a farthingale which made the skirts point outwards quite rigidly.

As techniques developed, the laces were able to become tighter and the bones were sometimes made of metal to keep the shape more defined. By the mid-nineteenth century, smaller waists became most appealing and strong laces became more durable to create stronger control.

Corsets were also thought to develop good posture and children, both male and female, were made to wear a form of corset from a young age in order to encourage an upright stance. These wouldn’t be tightened to pull in the waist but would be stiffened to encourage straightness and hold the shoulders back.

Should You Wear A Corset?

Champagne Longline Corset available at Corset Story

Anyone who wants to enhance their curves is able to wear a corset, although they can be very restrictive and can make it difficult to bend or even breathe if done up very tightly so they shouldn’t be worn if you are aiming to exercise or do some physical work.

Wearing a corset can make your stomach feel smaller and make you feel full after eating which is great if you are trying to lose weight as you won’t feel like overindulging. Corsets can also be worn for medical purposes like supporting the spine.

Some women wear them to add a touch of glamour, while others wear them to improve the appearance of a particular dress such as a wedding dress. Overall, anyone can wear a corset for many reasons.

How Much Waist Reduction Could I See?

The amount of waist reduction varies from corset to corset. The below summary gives you an idea of what is possible. I have included a link to each example product where Corset Story provide more detailed information.

1. Navy Underbust Corset

2. Classic Underbust Corset

3. Couture Overbust Corset

4. Black Overbust Corset

How Does a Corset Work?

Most corsets have rigid panels across the stomach and midriff that help to smooth out and flatten any loose muscle or skin. They also have stiff bones sewn in vertical lines from the chest to the bottom, often with narrow spaces between, that help to keep the body in an hourglass shape.

Laces, either at the back, front, or side can be adjusted and pulled in to make the effect stronger. In doing so, they create an even and curvy outline while shifting any excess and redistributing it where it may be more desirable such as at the breasts or bottom.

What Does it Feel Like to Wear a Corset?

If you’ve never worn one before, being laced in can feel strange and you will usually need help to pull it in tightly, especially if the laces are at the back. Once done up, a corset can feel like a supportive glove that envelops your body and keeps you feeling very upright and controlled. Some women feel more confident wearing a corset as it contours the body and makes them feel more alluring and womanly.

Do Corsets Help to Flatten Your Stomach?

In short, yes. Strong panels across the stomach are made of reinforced fabric can help control your stomach and pull everything in more neatly to create the impression of a flat stomach. This is one of the reasons they were so popular in the sixteenth-century court as wearers were looking to create a contrast between a flat stomach and the curves of the breasts and hips.

The results only last while you are wearing the corset, however, as to maintain a permanently flat stomach you need to exercise to tone the abdominal muscles.

How Tight Should A Corset Be?

No one should wear a corset so tightly that it makes them feel as though they may faint or struggle to move but how tightly you wear it is largely up to you and the effect you are looking to create. Depending on your outfit or costume, you might want to wear a corset so that it dramatically alters your silhouette or you could just be looking for a little extra support.

Some wear the corset for its appearance alone and won’t need to lace it very tightly at all. If you are aiming for a narrower outline through wearing a corset, it will need to be quite tight. A little like Goldilocks – your corset should neither be too tight nor too loose but just right to feel comfortable and look great.

Are Corset Results Permanent?

In most cases, the body returns to how it was as soon as you remove the corset, especially if you only wear your corset for special occasions or short periods of time.

If you regularly wear a corset, some of the changes can last a little longer. This is not to say that your body will retain the hourglass shape, but the ribs might not immediately return to their usual location.

Some women choose corsets deliberately to help alter the outline of their waists and by wearing them most of the time they can create an effect that lasts even after the corset is removed, although the effects are semi-permanent rather than everlasting. The longer you wear your corset, the longer the results will last.

What Is Waist Training?

Waist training corsets are very popular at the moment with numerous celebrities posting images of themselves in corsets and waistbands on social media as a solution to creating a smaller waist. It involves wearing a corset designed to create semi-permanent effects over frequent use.

You need to choose a specific corset for the job and wear it long enough for some of the effects to last. Corsets for this purpose are usually steel-boned and they hold your ribs and internal organs in place long enough for them to stay there for some time even after you remove the corset.

There is also a new idea involving wearing a kind of corset made of latex while exercising to help exaggerate the toning effects to the waist and maintain an hourglass figure. Even after achieving the results you are looking for, you will need to carry on wearing the corset or your body will return to its previous shape.

What Is Waist Taming?

Waist taming corsets (also known as cinchers) provide more of an instant shape adjustment, whereas waist training can actually alter your shape over time.

Waist taming corsets are more stretchy and flexible by comparison to the more rigid steel boned waist training corsets. They are designed to provide an instant smooth, contoured shape when worn under your clothes.

Waist taming corsets are more suitable for everyday wear, particularly when freedom of movement due to physical activity may be required by the wearer.

What Are Steel Boned Corsets?

Steel Boned Underbust Corset available at Corset Story

Steel Boned corsets are used for waist training. They have flexible and lightweight steel rods running horizontally that allows the corset to provide you with it’s amazing slimming effect, and hourglass figure.

Do Corsets Make Your Waist Smaller?

Your waist will certainly shrink when you are wearing your corset as everything is tucked in snugly but corset wearing won’t physically reduce your waistline on a permanent basis.

Waist-training corsets can help make the effect last longer and will make your waist smaller, but to achieve a permanent result you need to combine wearing a corset with targeted exercise and dieting.

Breaking In Your Corset

When you wear your corset for the first time it will need to mold to the shape of your figure. During this breaking-in period is advisable to wear your corset not too tightly for an hour a day for a week.

Correct Corset Sizing

In general you would choose a corset that is 3″ to 4″ less that your current waist size. For example, a 26″ Corset would be suitable for someone with a 29″-30″ natural waist size.

How Tight Should I Wear My Corset?

After your corset had been broken in, you can begin to tighten your corset to achieve your desired shape. It should be tight enough to give you an hourglass figure whilst still being comfortable to wear for extended periods.

Just take care not to over tighten, and if you experience discomfort then looses until you are comfortable wearing it for extended periods. If you experience any pain then stop wearing it immediately.

How Long Do You Have To Wear A Corset to See Results?

Retrolution Corset available at Figleaves

If you are wearing a corset as part of a waist-training program, you should see results in a relatively short time. You will need to wear your corset for about 10 hours a day and many people like to wear their corset when they are sleeping to help add some extra hours.

Doing this for about 8 weeks, combined with regular exercise and a healthy diet, should lead to a visible reduction in your waist. If you stop at any time, your body will quickly return to its normal shape so you need to continue with the corset wearing if you want the results to last.

What Does A Corset Do To Your Body?

When laced up properly, a corset shouldn’t affect your body in any negative way. It pulls in your waist and can make your stomach appear flatter, often redistributing any excess from the stomach or hips to the bottom or up to the breasts.

Some are designed to be worn beneath the breasts and are mostly aimed at streamlining and slimming the torso while others cover the breasts either partly or fully and can push the bosom upwards to create a curved cleavage or a balcony effect.

As it pulls everything in around your mid-section, it temporarily moves some organs into internal spaces and can shift your lower ribs, known as floating ribs but none of these changes are permanent. A corset won’t cause any harmful effects to your internal organs or muscles although you probably won’t want to wear a corset so tightly that you feel you can’t breathe!

Is Wearing A Corset Bad For You?

Many rumors have circulated for centuries about the potential harm of wearing a tightly fitting corset as it squeezes the organs and was thought to affect circulation but there is no compelling evidence to support this idea. If you have respiratory problems it might be advisable not to lace up the corset too tightly so that your lungs don’t feel too restricted.

Prolonged corset use can cause weakness to your back and abdominal muscles as you are able to keep a straight posture without having to use them, but this is easily overcome if you continue with normal exercise when not wearing your corset.

Is Wearing A Corset Healthy?

If worn correctly a corset is not dangerous. In fact the corset boning and rigid panels can be a helpful support to your spine and posture. People with back problems can find their pain is eased through wearing a corset and some dieters find wearing a corset helps them lose weight as they want to eat less.

Do Corsets Damage Your Organs Or Bones?

When worn properly, corsets don’t cause any lasting damage to your organs or bones. Some wearers report feeling indigestion as their stomach is constricted making it more difficult to eat larger meals comfortably but this is only temporary while wearing the corset.

Even the organs of your lower abdomen that can be shifted by the corset aren’t damaged as they simply move into available space inside your torso. Your bones aren’t affected at all. Your floating ribs will again move but this is not harmful although you could cause bruising if the corset is much too tight.

Is It Safe To Wear a Corset All Day?

It is usually safe to wear your corset all day although that will largely depend on what you are doing. In very hot weather, a tight corset will feel uncomfortable and you could begin to notice chafing or skin irritation if you need to move around.

If your day involves physical work such as bending and lifting, you might find wearing your corset impedes your ability to move properly. You need to listen to your body as it will tell you, usually through pain, when your corset is causing problems.

In some cases, wearing your corset all day can actually be helpful since improved posture relieves the pressure on your spine and back muscles.

What Are Corsets Made Of?

Corsets can be made of all manner of materials depending on whether they are part of a fashion costume or designed to be functional. As a fashion statement, they can be made of satin, leather, lace, or mesh.

Corsets designed for the purpose of creating shape are usually either satin, nylon, or cotton and can include latex which helps to add a little more support. The bones are usually made of steel or plastic and the laces can be ribbon or nylon.

Can I Wear A Corset When Sleeping?

It is perfectly safe to wear your corset to bed and some people aiming to train their waists find this a good way to clock up more corset-wearing hours leaving them free to remove their corsets for part of the day if they want to take part in physical exercise. It might take a little getting used to at first, but once it feels comfortable your corset shouldn’t affect the quality of your sleep.

Do You Need To Wear A Bra With A Corset?

Nuit Corset with Swarovski Crystals available at I.D. Sarrieri

Again, this will depend on the type of corset and the effects you are looking to achieve. Most overbust corsets support your breasts on their own and you won’t need to wear a bra as well.

Some corsets are designed to fit beneath your bust and you should wear a bra with these, although you will need to make sure you choose a standard length bra that doesn’t extend below the band or it could interfere with the top of your corset.

What Are The Side Effects Of Wearing A Corset?

There are no permanent side effects of wearing a corset although some women experience restricted breathing and indigestion if their corset is too tight. Worn sensibly, your corset shouldn’t affect you in any negative way.

You need to choose a corset that is comfortable and, since everyone’s body is different, you might find some types have bones in places that are particularly uncomfortable for you. A badly fitted corset can cause bruising and could find the bones dig in causing chafing and sore spots. You will also need to be careful that the material doesn’t irritate your skin or you could develop a rash.

What Are The Alternatives To Wearing A Corset?

There are many alternatives to a corset including a bustier which is worn beneath the chest and can extend down towards the hips. Bustiers aren’t designed to pull in your waist but will enhance your breasts in the way a corset does.

They don’t usually have the same lacing technique as a corset but are usually fastened with hook and eye instead. There is also a variety of different types of shapewear on offer today. This lightweight item is made from lycra or elasticated cotton and is designed to give you some support without the distorting power of the corset.

Shapewear can be a simple band, vest, or tank top that you can wear under your clothes to smooth out your silhouette without pulling your body into shape.

Can You Put On A Corset By Yourself?

You will probably find it most helpful to have an assistant to help you lace up the corset, especially if you are new to wearing them and if the laces are at the back. Some corsets have back laces but can also be fastened at the front or side with hook and eye fasteners and it is easy to attach these on your own while leaving the laces already done up.

Other types of corsets have the laces at the front or sides and these are much easier to access on your own, making them suitable to put on and take off without any help.

How Do You Lace Up A Corset?

If you have ever laced up a trainer or football boot, the approach is the same. Starting at the bottom, you need to fix the laces through each hole in a criss-cross pattern and hold them tight before you put the laces through the next hole.

You don’t need to take the laces out of the holes every time you wear it, but you will still need to start at the bottom and pull out any slack, working your way up and keeping the tension taught until you reach the top where you end with a standard knot and bow.

If you are helping someone, it is probably best to use a double knot to reduce the chances of it becoming loose. Most corsets have one set of laces from the bottom to the very top of the garment, but some of these can be split into several laces, each of which is done up in the same way.


It is clear to see that corsets have definitely made a come-back from their Victorian heyday, both as a fashion statement and as a tool to help you contour your body into the shape you want.

They are a firm favorite of many celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Jessica Alba who maintain corset use helps them keep their fantastic figures. Whether you are looking for a corset for occasional use, a special event, or long-term waist-training, there are plenty of great choices on the market to suit every taste.

I hope you enjoyed this beginners guide to corsets and now feel you have all the related corset facts to make an informed decision.

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