Sexy CorsetsThere are few items that say sexy as unequivocally as a corset does. Even compared to other lingerie, corsets lead the pack. Bras and knickers can be sexy, but they're also often utilitarian. Stockings, even when worn with a garter belt, are likewise still functional as well as decorative. But the corset is just plan sexy, full stop.
Ironically, this hasn't always been the case. Historically, corsets did have a functional purpose, which was to reshape the curves of the female (and sometimes the male) body into a more pleasing configuration. In particular, corsets emphasise the breasts and hips while confining the waist, leading to the classic "hourglass" figure when worn. Corsets also had a medical use, one that is still seen today, in helping people with scoliosis or other spinal complaints by providing support to the backbone.
Corsets used whalebone for rigidity, generally in the form of vertical spines that would flex, but not very far. Pulling in the waist was usually achieved by lacing the corset very tightly at the rear. Modern corsets are still available that retain this function, particularly those used as fetish wear, but there are also corsets that are designed simply to look good, which do not feature a narrow waist.
In addition the range of materials used to make corsetry has expanded greatly. In addition to leather, silk and other old staples, corsets made of synthetic fabrics are also popular – there are vinyl corsets and pvc corsets, for example. Whalebone is no longer popular (due to plight of the whales), and modern corsets tend to use soft metals or semi-rigid plastics in places where whalebone was once used. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, there has been a movement towards including a front fastening using hook and eye fastenings affixed to the busk (the rigid element at the centre of the corset's front).
Corsets may be over-bust (covering the breasts) or under-bust (supporting and lifting the breasts). Some corsets feature built in garters for wearing with suspender stockings. Most corsets come with a lining, as they are not generally worn next to the skin (although improvements in the design and modern fabrics have made corsets easier to clean than in previous centuries). Corsets are sometimes worn over tight shirts of cotton, satin or lace. In some situations, corsets are even worn next to the skin, although most corset makers advise against, since corsets are difficult to clean.
Another major improvement in corsetry over the last few decades is that it is now possible to put on and take off a corset unassisted. Earlier corsets often required a second person to help with lacing or unlacing, but modern corsets are generally better in this respect. Although rear lacing remains popular, there are now also front-lacing corsets, corsets that have no laces at all that rely instead on the hook and eye fastenings of the busk and corsets that feature zips for fastening. There are even corset-like garments made from stretchy synthetics that give the look but are much lighter and less confining, although these are looked upon with scorn by the hardcore corset fetishists.
There are also corset tops, which are intended to visually resemble a corset from the front, but do not lace up very far, if at all – these are a great option if you want the sexy look of a corset without the discomfort that can come from wearing something that tight.