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Foundation garments have been the necessary evil in every woman's wardrobe from the corsets of days gone by to our modern Spanx. While modern foundation garments usually do the trick at smoothing and shaping your body toward an ideal silhouette, modern shapers don't always do the trick. Depending on the garment and the shape you're seeking, slipping into a girdle or lacing up a corset may be your best bet
What They Are
Both girdles and corsets are supportive undergarments used to control and shape the figure. These foundation garments use stiff boning or elastic to shape a woman's torso to conform to the fashionable silhouette of the time. Whether you are trying to achieve a wasp waist, traditional hourglass figure, or the slim, boyish silhouette of a 1920s flapper, a corset or girdle will be the most important item you put on before you dress.
From Stays To Corsets To Girdles
While most of us associate the corset with swooning Victorian and Edwardian ladies, corsets have been traced back to the early 16th century. These early corsets, or stays, were simply stiffened bodices that helped women achieve the straight, conical torso that was popular during the Renaissance. Fast forward a few hundred years when after a brief period of disuse the familiar hourglass shaped corsets that we are accustomed to become all the rage during the reign of Queen Victoria. From the mid 19th century until World War I, women wore tightly laced corsets that grew to extend from just below the bust to over the hips producing the famous Edwardian S-curve. After World War I changing times and roles for women dictated a change in undergarments causing the corset to eventually be replaced by the girdle.
Is It A Corset Or A Girdle
The most obvious difference between these related garments is that a corset generally extends from the bust to the hip while a girdle extends from the lower abdomen over the hips controlling the tummy, hips, thighs, and rear. Not only do these garments control different parts of the body, they also employ different means to compress it into it's ideal shape. Traditionally, corsets use stiff boning and tight lacing to constrict the ribcage and abdomen while pushing the chest up to give the appearance of a defined waist. While modern corsets usually feature hook and eye closures in favor of lacing, the effect is the same. Girdles on the other hand, compress your body's lower half simply by being tight. These highly elastic garments behave like a rubber band, stretching over your hips and rear end then snapping tight to keep everything in place. Both styles often feature attached suspenders for hosiery and come in a wide array of colors.
What To Wear When
If you are aiming for a Mae West-like hourglass figure, whether you are petite or plus-sized, a corset is what you need to define your waist. If you are trying to smooth your hips and derriere under a pencil skirt, a girdle will be your best friend. For those times that you need total body shaping look for a garment that combines the waist cinching effects of a corset and the hip smoothing powers of a girdle. Either way, find one that fits well and makes you look your best no matter what you wear over it.