A corset is a garment worn to hold and shape the torso into a desired shape for aesthetic or medical purposes (either for the duration of wearing this item, 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 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.
The word corset is derived from the Old French word corps and the diminutive of body, which itself derives from corpus—Latin for body. The craft of corset construction is known as corsetry, as is the general wearing of them. (The word corsetry is sometimes also used as a collective plural form of corset.) Someone who makes corsets is a corsetier or corsetière (French terms for a man and for a woman, respectively), or sometimes simply a corsetmaker.
The word corset came into general use in the English language in 1828. The word was used in The Ladies Magazine to describe a “quilted waistcoat” called un corset by the French. The word was used to differentiate the lighter corset from the heavier stays of the period.
Stages of Tight Lacing: