From fashion to fetish, the corset has shaped both figures and history for women and men, alike. The corset began its life as the stay in the early 16th century. By the late 18th century the stay had fallen from grace, but the corset, which had evolved into its own style of garment… stayed.
By the early 19th century, the corset had changed in length, the back was lowered and room for the bust was created in front with gussets. By the 1840s shoulder straps had disappeared and corsets were more heavily boned with either steel or whalebone. Traditionally, the corset was used to enhance the figure of both women and men, however, it was generally favored by women as a way to create the hourglass shape that so many of us love.
Today, what we know as the traditional corset is still used to enhance the figure, but it does have other less orthodox uses. From a medical standpoint, a stiff corset can be used to help with spinal problems. In fact, after Andy Warhol was shot in 1968, he wore a corset for the rest of his life to help with the chronic pain he continued to suffer from the incident. Problems such as scoliosis or internal injuries can also be helped with the use of a medically fitted corset.
For the most part, though, corsets that are worn today are worn as a fashion accessory, a fetish accessory or as part of a historical costume. Regardless of which use the corset is put to, the end result is the same: beautification and/or shaping of the human body to a more desirable silhouette. The corset does both of these things amazingly well.
Material is an integral part of the beauty of corsets. Nearly any type of textile can be used, but more often than not a corset will be made with different types of leather, silk, satin or coutil that is stiffened with boning. Traditionally, whalebone was used, which was replaced by featherbone. Today the most common boning materials are plastics and steel. As a fetish item, corsets fit the bill perfectly. Paired with dark hosiery and high heels or boots, the corset enhances the look of any dominatrix.
Whether worn as a fashion accessory or as a fetish accoutrement, the corset is a part of couture history that will continue to enchant both those who wear them and those who behold their beauty.