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Thin or Thick Corset Profiles: Comparing Silhouettes and Cross Section

How many of you have stood in front of the mirror while wearing a corset, admiring the narrowness of your waist – and then you turn to the side and find that your profile leaves something to be desired?

“With and Without a Corset” by Liz (The Pragmatic Costumer). Click through to read her post!

Everyone knows that wearing a corset nips in the side of the waist (at the obliques), giving you the illusion of a more narrow waist. And the interesting thing is that a corset can also do this without really reducing the waist at all: where a cross section of your torso is usually oval or ellipse shaped (wider from side-to-side than it is front-to-back), a corset makes it more into a circle – simply by placing pressure on the body bilaterally (on either side of the body), and allowing that volume to distribute more front-to-back. Liz from the Pragmatic Costumer wrote about this in more detail a few years ago on her blog.

The downside that some corset wearer’s see, especially if they naturally have a more flat abdomen, is that a corset often makes you look wider in the profile than you did without the corset – this is due to the redistribution of your flesh, combined with the thickness of the corset as well (you’re a couple of inches smaller underneath your corset).

Your Corset Profile can have Two Shapes:

For simplicity’s sake, there are two main ways the front of the corset can look – it can be totally flat, or it can be “dished” or curved to create a more concave front. The Victorians were known for their dished-front corsets and sometimes exaggerated lower tummy pooch (likely more exaggerated in medical illustrations and fashion plates than in real life) but the lower pooch was actually considered attractive and womanly at the time.

But with the popularity of the straight-fronted S-bend corsets at the turn of the century, you can see that it resulted in the illusion of even more dramatically nipped waists, as the majority of the volume was coming off of the sides and little to none in the front. Arguably, if you were to take an Edwardian corset and a Victorian corset with the same waist size, the Edwardian might look more nipped in in the front view but thicker in the profile view.


Early 1900s illustration showing the difference between the Victorian “dished front” corset on the left, and the Edwardian “straight front” corset on the right (causing a forward-leaning posture).
Late 1800s artist’s guess as to what is happening inside of the body when wearing a Victorian style corset, likely as part of Edwardian propaganda to promote the S-bend “Health” corset.
We now know from modern imaging that this hypothesis was incorrect (the liver is not pushed down by the corset).

I should give a disclaimer here: whichever corset you personally find “prettier”, there is no universal right or wrong way that a corset should be (despite the Edwardian propaganda above). Some people like the concave dished front, while others like an extremely flat and rigid front. It often comes down to the corset maker’s aesthetic, combined with the natural body type you have, the effect you’re striving for in a corset (including how much waist reduction), and what you personally find comfortable.

So the “dished vs straight” debate is not only subjective, but it’s also conditional.

This isn’t my xray, but it looked very similar to this. Normally my neck is slightly lordotic (normal) but in this particular corset, my posture completely changed. Photo: e-Health Hall.

It also depends on the posture you want to achieve. The straight-fronted, S-bend corsets had a habit of thrusting the body into an overcorrected posture – they weren’t slumping, but they were also flexing their lower back in an unnatural way. When I had X-rays done of myself while wearing various corsets, my chiropractor found that rigid-fronted, Edwardian-inspired corsets encouraged a very unnatural, kyphotic neck curve in my body. The corset pushed my chest forward, and my shoulders and hips back, which forced my head to come forward as a counter-balance. In some people, this might eventually lead to neck strain, pain, cervicogenic headaches, etc.

Meanwhile, when I wore a more Victorian style corset, it allowed me to maintain a more neutral posture and my spine was in a more natural alignment. So, just because a corset gives you a flat front does not mean you have necessarily have a healthy posture.


A couple notes on terminology before we start comparing corsets – I’ll be using layman’s terms here as much as possible:
so when I say “cross section” that means the transverse plane,
when I say “profile” that means the sagittal plane,
and when I say “front view” that means the coronal plane.

My Uncorseted Waist

This is a screenshot of me from 2012, around a time where I was not consistently waist training. My natural waist is around 27 inches.

Natural uncorseted waist, 27 inches. I believe I was not consistently waist training around this time, but I was wearing several different corsets for a few hours per week.

It’s well and good to compare different corsets, but keep in mind that I am naturally very wide from the front, but when I turn to the side I practically disappear, so my cross section is very oblong. My oblique muscles might “resist” compression more compared other people, and my lower abdomen is not prone to “pooching” – if I and another woman were to wear the same corset in the same size and stand side-by-side, it might look very slightly different on each of us.

Contour Corset “Summer Mesh” Mid-Hip Underbust

My Contour corset is almost totally flat in the front. This one is 20.5 inches in the waist, laced closed.

Contour Corset, closed waist 20.5 inches (underneath the corset). The cross section of my waist is very close to a circle (and perhaps even a touch wider in the side than the front).
  • In the profile, it makes my body look slightly thicker than it is naturally (while not wearing a corset)
  • In the front view, it looks shockingly nipped in on the sides (this isn’t even my smallest corset!)
  • In the cross section, I might actually be a bit thicker from front to back than I am side to side.

Puimond PY09 “Curvy” Underbust Corset

My Puimond corset is actually half an inch smaller than my Contour corset (it’s 20 inches laced closed), but despite being smaller, it looks less dramatic.

Puimond underbust corset, closed at 20 inches. The cross section of my waist is a bit wider in the front view compared to the profile (very slight ellipse).
  • In the profile, you can see that the front is slightly dished, but in an attractive way, at least for me. It’s nipped in slightly at the front but it doesn’t create a dramatic ski slope at the pelvis. Also notice that I don’t look that thick in the profile.
  • In the front view, the sides are obviously nipped in, but it doesn’t look as dramatic as the first corset.
  • So in this corset, if you looked at the cross section, the distribution of my waist is still slightly ellipse shaped with more of that length being side-to-side rather than front-to-back.
  • This shape is nearly a circle though – probably the closest to a circle compared to any of the other corsets here.

C & S Constructions

Let’s look corset with a more dramatically dished front like the one below from C&S Constructions. This corset is also 20 inches, but I’m wearing it at 21 inches because it wasn’t custom made for my body (the ribs of the corset were a bit too narrow for my own ribcage).

C and S Constructions longline corset worn at 21 inches (under the corset). This has a very dished front – so it is wider in the front view than it is in the profile.
  • In the profile view, the waist is pulled inward, and actually I have a slight forward leaning posture which is interesting. It is a deliberately curved front to make sure that the profile looks slender. (But it also gives a forward leaning posture.)
  • In the front view, the waist is still nipped on the sides, but it’s still wider in this view than it is in the profile view.
  • So the cross section of my waist is still an ellipse, that is wider from side-to-side, just a smaller one.

Sparklewren Cranberry Butterfly Overbust

Let’s look at my Sparklewren overbust, which is closed at 23 inches (so we can see how less of a reduction / a bigger waist may affect the cross section and silhouette).

Sparklewren overbust with a very flat front (laced closed at 23 inches).
  • In the profile view, her corset gives me a very flat front here, in fact possibly slimmer than some of my smaller corsets that are patterned differently.
    I vaguely remember having a conversation with Jenni (Sparklewren) about this probably 5 years ago. She told me that she likes to preserve the flatness in the profile as much as possible, but once the waist is reduced by a certain amount (i.e. under 18 inches in circumference), some dishing in the front may become necessary to achieve further reduction.
  • In the side view, there’s nipping in at the waist but it appears to be very clearly wider than the profile, but it’s still a lovely silhouette.
  • So the cross section is more clearly an ellipse.

Versatile Corsets “Mimosa” Cupped Overbust

The “Mimosa” overbust by Versatile is another corset that gives me a slender profile and flat abdomen. This is a size 22″, but I’m probably wearing at 23.5 or 24 inches here. (It wasn’t a full custom, just the waist measurement and bra size were taken into account).

“Mimosa” cupped overbust made by Versatile Corsets – flat profile and gentle nip in the waistline on the sides (size 22″, with a 1-2 inch lacing gap).
  • The profile view is relatively flat, similar to how my abdomen looks naturally.
  • The front view is a bit more gentle and sweeping – not a super dramatic silhouette, not nipped in sharply at the sides.
  • Obviously the cross section of my waist is more of an ellipse.

All this being said, it’s worth reiterating that this might be subjective for my own body. I naturally have a pretty wide waist, but if I turn to the side my abdomen is very flat. It is more likely that a corset would make me a bit thicker in the profile compared to a different person who has more of a protruding abdomen.

Profile Silhouette in Someone with a Protruding / Hanging Tummy

My aunt, without her corset and with, front view (she wanted a relatively natural silhouette from the front).
My aunt, with her corset and without, profile view (she wanted back support and a flattened tummy).

(Thanks to my aunt for modeling this early custom corset I made for her back in 2012). You may remember my aunt from this tutorial on pulling a hanging tummy up into your corset. She’s had a few children and she’s a more mature woman and has developed a bit of hanging tummy. She asked for a corset to provide back support and to flatten her tummy under her work uniform, but not give a shockingly dramatic waist from the front, which is why it’s not that much of an hourglass. This corset is a size 34″ if I remember correctly; drafted to give her a 6 inch reduction which is about 15% reduction.

  • I specifically used a spoon busk for her, and you can see that this corset makes her slimmer in the profile. Arguably, most of the reduction came off the front instead of the sides of her body.
  • In the front view, it gives a relatively natural looking hourglass from the sides.

If you want to see whether your corset makes you thinner or thicker in the profile view or front view, you can measure this using calipers.

 

If you want a very rigid front (as rigid as possible), you might be interested in adding carbon fibre bones adjacent to the busk – they’re about 24x more stiff than a flat steel bone, and you’ll find these exclusively at Vena Cava Design.

Conversely, if you want your corset to have more of a dished shape, I will make a video next week on how to curve your corset busk to your preference. The process is very similar to curving the back steels.

I hope you found this helpful! Just a note that there is no right or wrong way, some people like the concave dished front, some people like an extremely flat and rigid front. it all depends on your body type, your subjective preferences, your natural posture, and the aesthetic of the corset maker and how they pattern your corset as well.

Leave a comment below telling me whether you prefer the flat front or the dished front better for your own corsets. If you have any question regarding the “flatness” or “dishiness” of any other corset in my collection, as well as the rigidity of the busk, the posture it gives, etc., feel free to ask.

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OOTD with Corset: Edwardian-Inspired High-Waisted Skirt

This past spring I went shopping at Value Village (and my mom found a few cute things at Ross during her last visit to the US) and I was able to throw together a cute work-appropriate outfit that allows you to show off your cinched waist without exposing your corset.

The best part is the outfit cost a total of $25 CAD (less than $19 USD), including the shoes (which were new, but still donated to Value Village).

Edwardian high waisted skirt and ruffled blouse, circa 1916.
Edwardian high waisted skirt and ruffled blouse, circa 1916.

The ruffled, key-hole neckline blouse ($12) will look familiar to many of you, because it’s HeartSoul brand which Ross always stocks. I love this blouse and have it in half a dozen colors! If the neckline is not appropriate for your workplace, you can switch it out with a shirt with a higher neckline.

The charcoal grey high waisted pencil skirt ($4 during VV’s 50% sale) extended from underbust to just below the knee, and has a kick-pleat in the back. If it were a little longer and fuller, it would be very reminiscent of the skirts that were so popular in the Edwardian period (c. 1916). A few corsetieres today even make corset dresses or corset skirts, where the corset is built into the garment itself.

But for my outfit today, the skirt itself is slightly elastic and fits nicely with or without a corset underneath. If I wanted to wear a corset with a more dramatic waist reduction, I could probably use a cinch clip in the back to make the skirt fit more closely over the corset, and then hide the clip in the back with my hair or a blazer.

The great thing about the high waisted skirt is that it’s high enough to completely cover my corset (the CS-411 mesh in this case) and I can use my blouse as my corset liner. This allows me to skip having an additional layer of clothing under my shirt – which was particularly fantastic the day I recorded this video, because we had an unusual heat wave that week!

Dat Booty. (American Duchess Edwardian Manhattan Boots)

I paired my outfit with a pair of black faux suede shoes with a genuine 4-inch stiletto heel ($9 during VV’s 50% sale), which brought my whole outfit to $25 CAD (not including the corset). Of course, if I wanted to go full Edwardian, I’d probably invest in some practical booties, probably from American Duchess.

Some critics say that this was a popular look in the 1980s, to which I respond that history repeats itself – the 80s took inspiration from the 1910s and the 1950s, so we’re just about due for the next cycle!

What do you think of the high-waisted look? Leave a comment below!

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Where to Buy Traditional S-bend (Edwardian) Corsets

Note that this post is a copy of the same one under the “Research Corset Brands –> Guided Galleries” menu. It is part of a collection of articles to help corset enthusiasts shop more wisely.

S-bend corsets, straight-front corsets or “health” corsets were invented in the early 1900’s during the Edwardian era and popularized by the Gibson Girls. At the time, the S-bend was thought to be healthier for the wearer as it placed less direct pressure on the front of the abdomen. It also promoted a “proud” posture where the pelvis tilted forward and the bum was pushed back while the shoulders and bust were thrust forward, and may have affected gait in such a way that caused a lady to swing her hips in a lovely manner (read: swagger). However, this corset style was later found to exacerbate lumbar lordosis (swayback) and thought to be worse for the spine, compared to a Victorian corset which maintains a more neutral posture.

Today, longline and straight-fronted corsets are quite popular, but are typically modernized to be merely ‘Edwardian-inspired’ and don’t cause/ support swayback the way that traditional S-bends had. I don’t condone regular use/ training in a traditional S-bend or Edwardian corset, but many women with natural lordosis and/or shelf-bums have expressed to me that they feel that traditional S-bend corsets would better suit their figures, and they’re beautiful for special occasions – so here is a non-exhaustive list of corsetieres who offer these Edwardian beauties.

Le Belle Fairy Edwardian overbust wedding corset ensemble, $599

La Belle Fairy is a corsetiere in BC, Canada, who specializes in traditional Victorian and Edwardian corsetry. She uses modern hardware in her corsets (including an extra wide German-steel busk to ensure the straight front), but she adapts vintage patterns to your measurements for a beautiful fit. Her Edwardian corsets start at $425.

Atelier Sylphe Corsets Edwardian reproduction

Atelier Sylphe Corsets is a name that every corset enthusiast should know. The owner, Joelle, is an antique corset collector in Lyon France, and she carefully studies and traces the pattern of each piece in her collection. Her patterns are tested by creating stunning replicas (like the one above), and she sells both the antique patterns (if you’d like to make your own corset) and often her sample/ replica corsets on Etsy. Send her a PM if you’re interested in commissioning a corset in your size.

Period Corsets 1905 Mae corset, starts at $280

Period Corsets is aptly named, as the business takes traditional patterns to make modern corsets in their studio in WA, USA. Their 1905 “Mae” corset nicely shows what the S-curve looked like on a human being without the bust pads or theatrical exaggerated posing by the Gibson models.

Skeletons in the Closet made-to-measure Edwardian corset in dupioni silk, $745

Skeletons in the Closet is the business name of a skilled corsetiere in the Netherlands. Sanni creates several different styles of Edwardian corsets (there was more than one corset during that era, after all!). You can find both made-to-measure pieces and heavily discounted samples in her Etsy store.

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Morua Designs Edwardian demibust, from £475

Morua Designs creates breathtaking combinations of traditional and contemporary corsetry, such as the S-curve demibust shown above, modelled on an Edwardian mannequin to show proper form. Created with a true S-curve pattern, Gerry then embellished this particular piece with tulle, lace and crystals for a soft and ethereal finish. Her Edwardian S-curve corsets start at £475, or about $775.

Bizarre Design ‘S-line’ overbust corset

Bizarre Design is the business owned by renowned corset maker Jeroen van der Klis, who has created works for Cathie Jung in the past. His business is also located in the Netherlands, and although Jeroen is better known for his unique engineering of extreme reduction corsets, he also occasionally makes sweet Edwardian pieces such as the one above. His custom overbust corsets start at €456, or about $615.

corsets_and_more_s-bend
Corsets and More S-line underbust corset, starts at €345

Corsets & More is a one-woman business ran by Doris Müller in Germany. She is proficient in both historical and contemporary corsetry and ensembles, and has a fantastic gallery of longline and S-line corsets. Her underbust S-line pieces start at €345 or about $485.

C&S Constructions historial recreation of an S-bend demibust corset

C&S Constructions has also made S-bend corsets in the past. Although it’s not what the business is usually known for, Stuart can certainly accommodate special requests for many types of historical corsetry.

Riwaa Nerona Art Nouveau historical corset
Riwaa Nerona Art Nouveau historical corset, 9500 CZK

Riwaa Nerona of the Czech Republic offers this beautiful corset called “Art Nouveau”. Made from an 18 panel pattern, this historical recreation demibust has a straight front, large hip gores and creates a dramatic curve in the lumbar area like a true S-curve. This style is 9500 CZK, or about $470 USD.

Melanie Talkington modelling her own historical recreation

Lace Embrace Atelier creates both historical reproductions and modern interpretations of Edwardian S-bend corsets. Lace Embrace was ‘born’ in 1997 and the owner Melanie Talkington has dressed the likes of Cathie Jung, Dita Von Teese and the cast of Sucker Punch. Most of the galleries have unfortunately been removed due to image theft, but you are still able to commission a custom S-bend corset through their custom form (distinct from their modernized RTW Edwardian underbust).

1907 reproduction corset made by Lovesick Corrective Apparel

Lovesick Corsets also accommodates commissions for historical reproduction corsets, like the 1907 S-bend corset seen above. They can be made to your measurements, keeping faithful to the pattern and posture while recreating them in any fashion fabric you desire.

*Please note that I have not personally tried every corset brand in this list, nor do I necessarily endorse every company on this list. This is for informational purposes only.

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Isabella Corsetry “Josephine” Underbust Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Isabella Corsetry Josephine Underbust Review”. If you would like more complete information and side notes about the corset, you can watch the video on YouTube here:

Fit, length Dramatic curves, extreme hourglass. This is a longline corset coming over my hips. The center front is 13” high; the shortest part of the corset is 10.5″ hiugh.
Material 3 main layers. The outer fashion fabric is black satin, then there’s a layer of twill as interlining and another layer of black twill as lining.
Construction Made from a 6-panel pattern (so the corset itself is 12 panels total). It looks as though the coutil panels were lock-stitched at the seams, the allowances were pressed open. The layers are joined together by stitching in the ditch between the panels and also by making boning channels. The stitching is perfect on the outside, but the seams are wiggly on the inside. The lining does not float. Bones are sandwiched between the two layers of twill (lining and interlining).
Binding The binding at top and bottom made out of black satin bias tape machine stitched on both sides; it’s small on the outside, then folded under and machine stitched in the ditch, in the seam between the corset and the binding itself, to catch the rest of the binding underneath.
Waist tape 1” wide twill tape between the lining and interlining, invisibly stitched.
Modesty panel There an unboned modesty panel in the back made from two layers of just satin. Slightly over 6” wide.  Easily removable if you want to remove it. No modesty placket on the front.
Busk A heavy duty busk, slightly under 1” wide on each side and 11” long, with 5 pins, it’s EXTREMELY stiff. Keeps the front very straight.
Boning 22 steel bones in this corset not including the busk. On each side there are 9 spirals about 3/8” wide, and they’re mostly double boned at the seams except for at the back between panels 5-6. By the grommets they also use about 3/8” wide flat steels; very sturdy.
Grommets There are 30 2-part size #00 grommets (15 on each side). Black finish to match the rest of the corset, they have a medium lip around and are spaced equidistantly. Functionally they’re very sturdy, no popping or pulling away, whatsoever. On the underside there are no splits – much nicer than the grommets used in Isabella’s Bat cincher.
Laces 1/2” wide black double satin ribbon. They’re very nice, strong, pretty, glide through the grommets nicely and also seem to hold the bow well with little slipping out over time.
Price Currently $175 USD for immediate line. For other fabrics (made-to-order) it’s $250, and for custom fit/fabric it’s $360.

Final Thoughts:
This corset continues to be one of my favourite off-the-rack underbust corsets. It’s comfortable and gives a crazy curvy silhouette – to this day, I think I have gotten more compliments when wearing this corset than with any other off-the-rack corset. It’s relatively affordable compared to other major brands out there. The only con I could say is that Isabella is quickly gaining more and more recognition and thus she’s becoming busier, so wait times have been increasing for her corsets! However, I’m happy that she’s overflowing with commissions; I think her work should be credited. I could definitely see myself commissioning another piece from Isabella in the future.