What is a Corset?
A corset is a garment
worn to mold and shape the torso into a desired
shape for aesthetic or medical purposes (either for
the duration of wearing it, or with a more lasting
effect). Both men and women are known to wear
corsets, though women are more common wearers.
In recent years, the term "corset" has also been
borrowed by the fashion industry to refer to tops
which, to varying degrees mimic the look of
traditional corsets without actually acting as one.
While these modern corsets and corset tops often
feature lacing and/or boning and generally mimic a
historical style of corsets, they have very little
if any effect on the shape of the wearer's body.
Genuine corsets are usually made by a corsetmaker
and should be fitted to the individual wearer.
By wearing a tightly-laced corset for extended
periods, known as tight lacing, men and women can
learn to tolerate extreme waist constriction and
eventually reduce their natural waist size.
Tight lacers dream of 16 inches (41 cm) 17 inches (43
cm) waists, but most are satisfied with anything
under 20 inches (51 cm). Until 1998, the Guinness
Book of World Records listed Ethel Granger as having
the smallest waist on record at 13 inches (33 cm).
After 1998, the category changed to "smallest waist
on a living person" and Cathie Jung took the title
with a 15 inches (38 cm) waist. Other women, such as
Polaire, also have achieved such reductions (14
inches (36 cm) in her case).
However, these are extreme cases. Corsets were and
are still usually designed for support, with freedom
of body movement, an important consideration in
their design. Present day corset-wearers usually
tighten the corset just enough to reduce their
waists by 2 inches to 4 inches; it is very difficult
for a slender woman to achieve as much as 6 inches
(15 cm), although larger women can do so more