A bodice designed to shape the torso into the desired form, usually reducing the waist size and enhancing the bosom to give a more alluring, feminine figure.
Modern tight-lacing corsets are constructed from coutil, (pronounced "coo-teel") a tough, densely-woven canvas-like fabric, and reinforced with many steel bones. The front of a corset fastens with a steel busk. The back is laced up through eyelets, usually with two laces meeting at the waist. Sometimes the eyelets are closer together at the waist for a tighter and more controlled waist reduction.
Many corsets sold as "tight-lacing" or "waist reducing" are not in fact suitable for this purpose. Important features to check for are:
Must be made from at least 1, preferably 2 layers of coutil. No other fabric is stiff enough.
Must have a lot of steel boning, usually about 1 bone every 1 1/2 inches around the waist. Spiral steels are most commonly used, as they are the most comfortable and realistic replacement for whalebone, but the boning at the back must be more rigid.
Must have stiff boning either side of the eyelets, to even out the tension and keep the fabric taut.
A strong waist tape sewn inside the corset takes the strain and prevents the fabric stretching out of shape.
A steel busk at the front is essential (unless the corset does not open at the front at all, in which case a piece of rigid steel is used instead.)
Off-the-peg corsets are sold in waist sizes going up in two inch incraments. They will theoretically reduce the wearer's waist by up to 4 inches, but this depends on body shape. Some people are very squishy, some have very flexible lower ribs, while others do not. Also, if you already have a small waist, a standard size corset won't do much. Personally, I don't see the point in buying a corset off-the-peg. If you want a comfortable corset which actually fits and laces you in, you will need to get one made to measure.
Full bust corsets typically cost at least £100. This may seem extortionate, but bear in mind the materials are very expensive, and a lot of skilled work goes into making one. If you see "tight-lacing" or "waist-reducing" corsets for less than £100 or so, be suspicious!
Corsets are becoming more and more popular for fashion and evening wear, possibly due to larger women desiring a curvy figure, or possibly due to the influence of goth
fashion on mainstream trends.
Dita von Teese's love of feminine finery, particularly of classic seamed stockings and garters soon inspired her to acquire the ultimate lingerie piece... a Victorian corset!