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Stays and BodiesEdit
16th, 17th, and 18th century corsets were worn completely closed in front and back. They were not intended to shrink the waist measurement but instead to alter the silhouette of the torso, and the illusion of a smaller waist was aided by the (betimes immense) width of the hoops or panniers supporting the skirt. Rigid, upright posture with shoulders thrown back was thought to be a sign of good breeding, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the stays aided in reinforcing that posture both directly, with wooden or ivory busks and armholes cut very far back, and indirectly, by helping to distribute the weight of the gown and other undergarments across the whole torso and thus alleviating some of the burden and associated muscle fatigue.
19th century corsetsEdit
The 19th century corset was designed to be worn closed in front and nearly always completely closed in back as well, although the popular conception of Scarlet O'Hara-style waist compression and hourglass shape was not common or even fashionable until the early 1840s.
Modern standard corsetsEdit
Custom-made back-lacing corsets and most high quality ready-to-wear corsets follow the same general guidelines for wearing:
- When laced in, the sides of the corset should be parallel, with neither the top, the bottom, nor the waist narrower than any other part.
- The back of the corset should lay flat. Buckling or bubbles are indications of uneven tension distribution in the lacing; this can sometimes be ameliorated with a different lacing style, or with a corset with slight changes in the distribution of the grommets.
- Try to avoid any creases or folds in the skin of the back. Occasionally known as "back cleavage", this indicates spinal compression and can, at best, lead to discomfort.
- For best waist compression as well as minimal internal compression and discomfort, do not try to lace to the smallest possible measurement initially. Instead, increase the tightness gradually about every twenty minutes.
- When tightlacing, the corset should not meet in the back. If it closes completely, try a corset with a smaller waist measurement.
With the exception of fetish corsets or lingerie corsets, front-lacing corsets should lace closed. This may require custom-fitting.
Other modern corsetsEdit
Many vendors who sell off-the-rack and mass-produced corsets tout such benefits as corsets being fully adjustable to any body shape or type. As these garments are not fitted to the individual wearer, and in the case of fashion corsets are not meant to affect the shape of the body, a V-shape, inverted V, or hourglass shape is acceptable and can be most practical, depending on the shape of the body, and may prevent weaker boning materials from bending in uncomfortable or unflattering ways.