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Now, a corset can do a lot for a lady
First you push it up here
—"A Corset Can Do a Lot For a Lady", The First Traveling Saleslady
Ah, the corset. Designed to provide a particular silhouette for the torso (and sometimes hips), the garment was once ubiquitous as women's underwear (and men's, although male use was rarer). Thanks to a set of overlapping circumstance, its use drastically decreased early in the 20th century and corsets became, outside renaissance fairs, mostly a niche item.
Now often worn as outerwear, the corset is something the costumers go for when they want to do something a bit unconventional in the Fan Service department; thanks to the garment's ability to accentuate the waist and provide an easy "oomph" to a woman's cleavage, a properly worn corset is sexy without having to show too much skin.
The corset is also stock underwear in period pieces, giving the gorgeous period dresses their particular silhouette. Occasionally, a work will include a scene of a woman having her corset laced by a second person (usually a maid), which will as often as not include complaints from the woman being laced.
In both fiction and in Real Life, the corset is derided in certain circles due to the perception that wearing one will always result in shortness of breath, discomfort, and even harm. While this is untrue--a properly fitted and worn corset should be no less comfortable than any other item of clothing, as modern-day users will attest--the belief and the trope it inspired have proven quite resilient, to the annoyance of aficionados.
See Waistcoat of Style for male equivalent.
Corsets as outer- and sexy-wear
Anime & Manga
- Ruby in Rosario to Vampire wear one of these as a default outfit, when she's not in a costume for the lulz. She's quite aware of the sexiness factor, and quite often uses this to her advantage as well.
- Though she changes her outfit regularly, Mai Valentine of Yu-Gi-Oh!! always keeps a basque/bustier as an accessory.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's Akiza/Aki Izayoi's standard costume includes a short, corset-like belt, which is drawn as a proper corset depending on the artist.
- Male example: Loran Cehack from Turn A Gundam is ordered to show up at the party arranged by the Moon Race as the Turn A Gundam's pilot, though the Moon Race were told he was a female pilot named Laura. Kihel thought Loran was feminine enough and filled out a dress well, but added a corset just to make it more convincing.
- Female Ranma from Ranma ½ was made to wear one by the matron of a very bizarre (and very wealthy) French family. Mind, it was a steel corset — and given that male Ranma is significantly larger than his female alter ego, the pain of having his torso crushed inside the unbreakable metal corset (which was locked close) effectively trapping "her" in female form throughout the ordeal. But even as a female, it's shown that the act of forcing Ranma into it (and subsequently fastening it) was horribly painful. In the manga it eventually just fell off because Ranma went a really long time without eating. Ranma must have been really fat to begin with, to be able to reduce her hips to a smaller size than what her waist was to begin with (corseted)...
- Asuna and Setsuna of Mahou Sensei Negima are forced into this, and despite the obviously awkward structure of the outfit itself (never mind the undergarment), they managed to fight at full strength.
- Far later in the series, Yuuna is shown fighting in this as well as it is included with her pactio.
- Einhart Stratos of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid wears an underbust corset as part of her standard outfit.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: There's the resident Dark Action Girl Adiane the Elegant who combined a corset with her tail whip and eyepatch for maximum sexiness.
- One Piece has Team Mom Robin, wearing one of these, I can only imagine it was a gift from her previous boss, Mr. O, since running around ruins in that and fishnets is hardly practical.
- In the first episode of Texhnolyze a bizarre, bionically augmented woman wears a red one as she has sex with Ichise.
- Slan, the only female member of the Godhand from Berserk pretty much wears one as her only article of clothing.
- And it's an underbust.
- To make it even kinkier, she wears a neck corset too.
- Misa puts one on once in Death Note to try to get Light's attention. It doesn't work.
- Austria wears a corset in Hetalia Bloodbath 2011 and he's male.
- Standard wear for the female members of the Hellfire Club in the X-Men, which was inspired by the The Avengers (TV-series) episode "A Touch of Brimstone".
- And by extension Emma Frost, frequently even when she's not in the Hellfire Club.
- Zatanna in the 2005 Seven Soldiers miniseries, in addition to her trademark fishnets.
- Screamqueen from Scare Tactics in The DCU. Of course, she's a vampire and doesn't need to breathe.
- In Knights of the Old Republic, the female members of the Crucible all wear dominatrix style outfits.
- Lady Mechanika
- Wild Wild West has Salma Hayek and several other gorgeous women in corsets as one of its better points.
- Fiona gets put into one in the beginning of Shrek The Third
- Anna Valerious in Van Helsing.
- Underworld. Selene wears a corset over her black leather (pleather? latex? vinyl?) catsuit. The sequel implies that the corset has an actual function: being bullet-resistant, which comes in handy when the character gets buckshot straight to the chest. The corset comes away with only minor damage, and Selene just gets pissed off.
- Moulin Rouge!, of course.
- Catwoman as of Batman Returns wears steel bands on the outside of her catsuit to approximate a corset-like appearance.
- Donna Quintano (Monica Bellucci) in Shoot Em Up. Causing breathing problems for the men in the audience, as opposed to the character in the film.
- Several of the characters from The Rocky Horror Picture Show appear in corsets and fishnets for the final act, albeit under mind control.
- In Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Amidala wears a corset-style dress in a scene. Natalie Portman stated that she wanted to finish shooting quickly as her breathing was impaired.
- Bellatrix Lestrange wears one in the Harry Potter movies.
- Related to the Bellatrix example above: Mrs. Lovett in the recent film version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
- Diary of the Dead. The Texan girl wears one because she was acting in a cheap horror thriller.
- Maggie Cheung spends much of her screen time in Irma Vep wearing a fetish bodysuit with built-in corset. At one point, her body double complains that the corset is too tight, but Maggie replies that she feels fine in hers.
- Angelina Jolie wears a corset as part of her dominatrix outfit (which she wears to get to a mark) in Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
- As if she needed any more help catching male viewers' attentions, Megan Fox wears a couple of shockingly tight corsets in her role as Lilah in Jonah Hex. According to Fox, the corsets (partly at her insistence) reduced her waist to eighteen inches for the film's non-action scenes.
- Pamela Anderson came under fire for wearing a corset in Barb Wire that brought her waist down to 17 inches. She was in the early stages of pregnancy at the time of filming.
- In Big Trouble police officer Janeane Garofalo is shown to be wearing a red bustier under her uniform after a struggle.
- Sophia Loren strips to a black corset and stockings for an examination by doctor Peter Sellers in The Millionairess.
- The main character of Easy A takes to wearing corsets after rumors spread and intensify until the entire school believes her to be at best a slut.
- There's apparently a series of Mills & Boon novels involving a corset-wearing FBI agent. In one, she goes undercover to catch a terrorist.
- In the first Erast Fandorin novel, the then-young and naive hero is taken in by a newspaper advertisement for male corsets and purchases one...only for it to later save his life by deflecting an enemy's knife.
- The protagonist of John Varley's Steel Beach adopts corsets when she moves into a Victorian-era historical reenactment community (even though period underwear is not required) on the theory that anything worth doing is worth doing right. She freely admits the titillation factor played a significant role in her decision.
- Abby on NCIS has a few; they go rather nicely with her tiny miniskirts and combat boots.
- A requirement for female vampires. Who don't have to breathe, as noticed by Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Tara also wore a shiny blue-green corset in "Once More With Feeling".
- This seems to extend to The Vampire Diaries, as sexy vampire Katherine wears one even when she's in bed. Sorta justified, as she lives in Civil War America. She seems to have ditched them in the present though.
- Mrs. Peel wore one in the episode "A Touch of Brimstone" of The Avengers, which was about a resurrected Hellfire Club.
- Frederick in Bramwell wears one of these, but not so much to enhance the bust as to pretend there IS one, as he's a Wholesome Crossdresser in a time where it really just wasn't OK. Doctor Bramwell kids herself that he's an actor. Sure, Liz. Sure.
- In Coronation Street, Rosie Webster tries to seduce someone while wearing a basque. This got the "ban this filth" brigade at the Daily Mail hot and bothered, and they promptly printed a picture to accompany said article.
- Considering her Mata Hari status, it is not too surprising that Sydney Bristow ended up in one on more than one occasion. One incident involved Sydney singing in a nightclub (it wasn't apparently that good), sidling her way over to The Dragon during it, with the objective being to get his biometric data for later use in cracking his security system.
- Star Trek: Voyager. Jeri Ryan (playing Ms. Fanservice Seven of Nine) wore one under her famous catsuit, especially the initial silver one where it's meant to given an impression of cyborg exoskeleton ribs.
- Most, if not all, of the Star Trek women were corseted, though not visibly. Marina Sirtis (Troi) has admitted as much.
- In one of the Babylon 5 TV Movies (River of Souls), a shady businessman runs a holo-brothel Down Below. One of his more popular models is Captain Elizabeth Lochley in a corset. It's especially popular with the female customers.
- Tessa wears one as outer wear as part of her secret identity in Queen of Swords.
- Blair appears to love these in Gossip Girl. Chuck lends one to a pole 'artist'.
- Apparently Kurt wore one to school one day in Glee. Fans are still waiting to see it (or not).
- Elvira, Mistress of the Dark wears one. Of course.
- In "Western Show", an episode of Wizards of Waverly Place, not only does Theresa say she likes the corset she's wearing, but then Jerry asks why he doesn't have one.
- The Velvet Underground: "Jack is in his corset, Jane is in her vest." Some demos have this the other way around, but this is the version people know. Except the ones who know that easy-listening version.
- Rasputina and their fans tend to favor the corset.
- Emilie Autumn is very, very big on corsets. And she doesn't skimp on how tightly they're laced, either, even during concerts.
- Sharon den Adel, lead singer of Within Temptation, who designs all her stage clothes herself (she studied fashion before becoming a professional singer) usually wears a corset on stage.
- Corsets are pretty much staples in the wardrobe of any lead female singer of most Gothic Metal, Industrial, Darkwave, or related music acts.
- Cherie Currie of the Runaways wore a white corset/basque as her trademark stage gear, as a quick google of her name immediately demonstrates.
- Madonna: The woman was infamous for her corsets back in the '80s.
- Former Versailles bassist Jasmine You wore these. This is notable mostly because he was a man...a man who could pull off a corset better than most women can.
- Magda in Tanz der Vampire, combined with Meido.
- Also, some of Herbert's waistcoats are a bit evocative of... corsetry. Depending on who's doing the costuming.
- Tabitha/Larissa, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin.
- Yashiro in The World Ends With You wears one, although curiously she wears it over her shirt.
- Yggdra and Monica from Yggdra Union are both drawn wearing corsets (and Yggdra starts out with an item called the Silk Corset equipped). Seeing as the game is in a vaguely medieval-renaissance-industrial-revolution-type era, it only makes sense that Yggdra (as a princess) might have to wear one. Seeing as Monica is a peasant, though, she shouldn't be able to afford hers...
- Batman: Arkham Asylum puts Harley Quinn in one as part of her Naughty Nurse Outfit.
- Batman: Arkham City also has Harley Quinn in a corset.
- The vampire Stella, from Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, wears one as part of her costume.
- The succubus from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night wears a corset, albeit one that only covers her waist and leaves her breasts exposed.
- Fable 2 has it as an option, if worn by a female hero, it raises the attractiveness stats by a considerable amount. when worn by a male hero on the other hand...
- Mabinogi has several NPCs and supernatural non-humans in corsets. Most notable are the Succubus, higher level versions of which drop a (non-wearable) corset; and NPC nightclub singer Rua, who wears a rather brief version.
- Among other stripperific costumes, most of the modded heavy armor in the Neverwinter Nights mod A Dance With Rogues turned into external corsets and panties. And nothing else.
- One of these is Casey Lynch's alternate costume in Guitar Hero III.
- Saika Magoichi from Sengoku Basara wears a backless corset that only seems to stay on through sheer force of will.
- Trish from Devil May Cry wears one with a giant slit down the front.
- Ashley Williams from Mass Effect mentions her sister wearing corsets (which do wonders for her figure, evidently) and also learning swordplay as part of her family tradition of martial artistry. It's really a shame that we never see her.
- Lulu from Final Fantasy X.
- Elizabeth from Bio Shock Infinite.
- The Steamdress in Alice: Madness Returns.
- Young Lescanzi Witches in Dungeon Siege III tend to favor this look, including playable character Katarina and her sister Leona. Also confirmed by a Where Are They Now segment if you turn control of Gunderic Manor over to Leona.
- Lita Halford from Brutal Legend wears a leather corset/vest.
- Natasha from Rusty Hearts wears a midriff-baring one.
- The female prostitutes at the Blooming Rose in Dragon Age II wear variously colored corsets and nothing else...as does, perhaps surprisingly, the wide-eyed innocent Merrill if you romance her.
- Jessica in Dragon Quest VIII wears one with her frock. Some of her other uniforms have these, too.
- Lucy, the Daiva of Lust, in Devil Bear wears a corset as part of her standard wardrobe.
- Girl Genius: "Phil can't help himself... thank God."
- Amber in Shortpacked wore this during her sexy phase (while Robin filled in for her as the Meganekko).
- Mary in Filthy Lies is encouraged by Damien to buy a corset when she's getting dolled up for a goth club "so you can join in mocking the sorority girls who complain about bikini waxing". The shop owner agrees with him: "It's true, dearie! Nothing says 'I endure discomfort for your viewing pleasure' like displaced organs!"
- Mavra Chan wears one in Terinu which looks like it's made out of composite armor plating.
- An early arc in Queen of Wands involved Kestrel and Shannon shopping for corsets for Shannon and Felix's anniversary. As occasional renaissance faire attendee, Kestrel would also wear them there as well.
- Marilyn of Strawberry Death Cake; it seems to be her default outfit.
- In Lady Sabre & The Ineffable Aether, an underbust corset forms part of the titular Sabre's default costume.
- Used, along with some extremely well-made fake breasts, to give "Valerie" a girlish figure in the early parts of The Saga of Tuck. Later reappears when, after a slip causes Mrs. Tucker's back to go out, Debbie loans it to Sarah in lieu of a back brace.
- Seen on Vixen of the Desu Des Brigade, likely a cause of her massive success... along with her massive... Never mind.
- A few characters from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe wear these as part of their costume:
- Internet babe Vinyl Meow (also known as Amy Villainous) is almost never seen without a corset. This might be one reason why she looks nowhere near the 200 pounds her modelling profile lists (the other being her enormous breasts).
- Rare male example: in Code Lyoko, William's XANA-posession Lyoko outfit. I don't know about you, but this definitely looks like a corset to me.
- Corsets appeared several times in classic Looney Tunes, see for example The Wacky Wabbit. The wearer was Elmer Fudd.
- That's a girdle, not a corset, and he was apparently using it to keep his gut in:
- Standard attire for Hexadecimal in Re Boot.
- Gwen from Total Drama wears one as part of her normal everyday goth outfit.
- More mature, "racier" Elegant Gothic Lolita girls may wear these, but not nearly as much as some Western imitators would like you to believe. (Or would prefer.)
- Common at Discworld conventions. Indeed, at the 2008 Con, Terry and Stephen Briggs were one evening surrounded by young women in corsets.
- Popular clothing item in the Goth scene, and amongst those who love Renaissance fashion. Look in the closet of anyone who falls in either, or both, categories. You will at least see something corset like, or with corset-style lacing, if not an actual corset. There's a reason why some Goth clothing stores online also sell Fetish Ware.
- Corset-fan website Staylace.com features, among other things, galleries featuring various modern-day corset wearers, as well as essays defending the garment's use by several (female, corset-wearing) doctors.
- Dita Von Teese
- They're also quite popular among the Steampunk subculture to imitate Victorian fashions.
- Go to any large-ish scale LARP event. A good portion of the women there will be wearing them. The gathering Lorien Trust event is particularly notable for this trope. This is due to a mix of aesthetic choice, posture improvement and a need for armour that fits women properly (LARP armour is grouped by target gender due to the need for shaping and the vast difference in average size.)
Corsets in period dramas
Anime & Manga
- Every woman in Victorian Romance Emma wears a corset. In one instance we are treated to a scene where Emma gets her corset tightened, complete with the standard foot placed in the back bit, to prepare for a ball that her mistress is allowing her to attend.
- In Black Butler, we're shown a scene where the house butler, Sebastian, apparently is having buttsex with his master Ciel. A few pants and "I can't take it anymore"s later, it's shown that Ciel was actually being put in a corset, and his moans turn into a "My organs are coming right out!" desperate scream. Sebastian replies, of course, that there has yet to be a woman whose organs came out because of a corset.
- In episode 5 of the second season we see that under her maid outfit Hannah doesn't wear underwear, just a see through slip and a corset.
- Beast of the circus wears one.
- Every female in the manga A Kiss To The Prince wears a corset.
- Adolescent orphan Sumi in Stepping on Roses (Hadashi de Bara wo Fume) is subjected to wearing one on her wedding day. Her only warning for what she was about to experience as it got tightened was her betrothed's butler asking her to "please take a deep breath."
- A scene in the French-Belgian book Sasmira shows female protagonist Bertille being laced into one of these after somehow arriving in 1907.
- Pride and Prejudice
- ... At least if the costume designers are hell-bend to put in corsets. Jane Austen lived in the short period when corsets were abandoned and dresses were high-waisted. (There's a story about some queen starting this fashion because she was fed up with everybody scrutinizing her for first signs of a pregnancy and this fashion makes every woman looks a bit pregnant.) It didn't last much more than one generation.
- Actually, while women didn't wear waist-whittling corsets in the Austen era, they did wear lightly to heavily boned corsets that acted like push-up bras and posture supporters, as well as maintaining a smooth line under the dresses. The length, shape and supportiveness varied with time and how much of a fashionista the lady was.
- It was the Neo Classical period and women's clothes were imitating the looser clothing of the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
- Corsets are a plot point in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Early on in the flick, Elizabeth Swann is laced into one to go with her new dress. Eventually, the tightness of her stays and the hot sunlight cause her to faint moving the plot along. Later on still, her pronounced dislike of the garment moved her to say the following:
"You like pain?" *smacks the guy with an oar* "Try wearing a corset."
- Titanic: Rose wears one, leading to the obligatory "tightening the corset lacings" scene, in which her mother lectures her on the restrictions that constrain a young lady in proper society as she laces the garment.
- Averted a bit in The Duchess. While Keira Knightley is no stranger to looking sexy in a corset, the scene where she takes it off becomes Fan Disservice when we see the (as noted above) awful-looking red welts it left on her bare back.
- If she was wearing the corset over her bare torso, no wonder it left welts. Standard (and better) practice is to wear a camisole or similar garment and lace the corset over that.
- The movie musical Meet Me in St. Louis has a scene where Esther Ballard (Judy Garland) is laced into a corset by her sister, though not without struggling and complaining:
Esther: Rose, don't you think I could be a sensation without the corset?
- In Corpse Bride, Victoria (not the titular bride) has a scene where she's having her corset drawn. After a short conversation, her mother remarks that it's not tight enough because "I can hear you speak without gasping!"
- Gone with the Wind features two lacing scenes, including one where Scarlett complains that her pregnancy had made her unable to tighten the corset as much as she wished. In the book, several comments are made to the effect of her having one of the smallest waists in Georgia.
Scarlett: Twenty inches? I've grown as big as Aunt Pitty. You've simply got to make it eighteen and a half again, Mammy.
- Male example: Jack Lemmon as Hapnick in The Great Race. He lets out a sigh of relief when his footman releases him.
- Natalie Wood's Maggie wears one in several scenes, as well.
- Another male example: in Topsy-Turvy, while the women in the cast of The Mikado complain that they can't wear corsets with their Japanese costumes, the loudest complainer is tenor lead Durward Lely (who says he won't be able to sing properly without one).
- Phantom of the Opera (2004 movie). Christine wears no less than three different corsets during the movie, plus Carlotta, Christine and Madam Giry get their very own Lacing Scene. The wedding dress Phantom has made for Christine also has a lacing at the back.
- One scene in the 1962 comedy It Happened In Athens features Eleni Costa (Jayne Mansfield) stripping down to her underwear, revealing an impressively tight corset. It is in that state of undress that she first meets and tries do seduce a young man, Spiridon Loues, whom she finds taking a shower in her bathroom.
- Gina Lollobrigida fights a sword duel while stripped down to her camisole and corset (with a pair of tight pants and cavalier-style boots) in one scene in La Donna Piu' Bella Del Mondo ("Beautiful But Dangerous"), and is clearly tightly corseted in several other scenes under her Gorgeous Period Dress.
- The intense desire of Jane Powell's character to be allowed to wear corsets as a mark of her transition to young womanhood is a key plot point in the early-1950's musical Two Weeks With Love. She wants to wear corsets so much, in fact, that she even has fantasies about them, set to the music of the aria from "The Chocolate Soldier"; she sashays around wearing only a snug corset, long white gloves, high heels and a picture hat, drawing the attention of every man around her like a lodestone!
- Ornella Muti wears corsets in several scenes in Swann in Love.
- Brotherhood of the Wolf, being set in France in the 1760s, features several. And features Monica Bellucci as a prostitute.
- Lesley Anne Down strips down to her corset (and then removes it, slipping under the sheets nude except for black silk drawers) during her first bedroom scene with Sean Connery in The Great Train Robbery.
- As usual for projects with Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd has its actresses wearing corsets.
- The Gemma Doyle trilogy.
- The Other Boleyn Girl
- Gone with the Wind
- There are two schools in Regency Romance Novel writing regarding the corset. Common is that the heroines go commando, or somehow are too sensible to fall prey to this — despite the fact that what the Regency really knew as corsets were more intended to "lift and separate" than to compress the waistline, what would be a futile effort with your average high-waisted dress already rendering the poor heroine vaguely pregnant-looking. The other just says "What the hell", and rolls with it. (It helps that the "short corset" was basically a bra.)
- In Little Town on the Prairie (of the Little House books) Laura comments that she hates wearing her corset — then says that her sister Mary and her mother (as most women did) wore their corsets while they sleep.
- This was partially why she actually liked the back-breaking labor of helping her father bring in the harvest — it meant she didn't have to wear it while she worked.
- Corsets were a never-ending source of complaint for the female participants in the 1900 House reality series. Genuine reproductions of actual Victorian corsets were shown to reduce the wearer's lung capacity by 20-40% according to tests done during filming.
- CSI: Las Vegas featured the body of a male period re-enactor initially mistaken for a woman's when he was noticed to wear a corset. Since the entire main cast seems to spend all their spare time gathering random trivia, that this was common of the time is pointed out.
- Aside from the 'corset-as-outer-wear' that the Queen wears as part of her costume, Queen of Swords (being set in 1817) also features the female cast wearing corsets as the more traditional undergarment. Naturally the writers never pass up an opportunity to show The Vamp Vera lounging around in her corset waiting for her lover.
- There's a nice bit in the Star Trek: The Next Generation two-parter "Time's Arrow", which involves Time Travel to nineteenth-century San Francisco and the crew having to go undercover in period clothing. The female characters (Crusher and Troi) are both shown to feel their sides uncomfortably, presumably due to the corsets, but this is never actually brought up in the episode - making it a background example of Shown Their Work.
- Guinevere from Merlin wears plenty of corsets.
Cornelius: May I put my arm around your waist?
- The The Simpsons picture above comes from the episode "Helter Shelter" where the family becomes the star of a 1900's House-style reality show. The scene in question shows Marge getting laced into a corset and initially being satisfied at its effects on her figure, before realizing that the stays had made her feet swell up to twice their normal size.