Following on with my writing for a series of features for our sexually educated friends at Ohh My, this month sees me getting tightly bound in the world of Corsetry…
Recap: Ohh My have tasked me with researching and writing (whilst adding in my own experiences and opinions) a series that will travel the Kink and Fetish spectrum. These articles will be educational, eye-opening and suggestive and will make for a great read on your tea break at work! Why not leave the article open on your computer for your lover to ‘accidentally’ read? I do hope these features open up your sexual exploration or at least your mind to the possibilities within the world of Kink! Enjoy.
There’s a certain feeling a woman gets when she’s all tied up in a corset. Her body tightly bound and held into an assertive upright position, the dramatic lines traversing the body that make you want to run your hands over the taught, curved landscape. Wearing a corset is more than popping on an item of clothing; it’s a transformation of body and mind the moment the laces are tied. In this feature, I explore the conception of corsetry and how it managed to make its way into the high-fashion fetish wear subset of BDSM culture, so sit tight.
What constitutes a corset?
The corset was originally designed to be used as underwear, worn around the waist and/or chest supporting and shaping the body for both men and women. Although this still remains in some cases, nowadays women are wearing corsets as an item of clothing to be shown off made from a host of materials, accents and fabrics.
The classic corset as we know it comprises of panels of flexible material (usually cloth, satin, PVC or leather) stiffened boning (also called ribs or stays) inserted into channels in the material used. Nowadays, plastic is most commonly material for lightweight and the majority of poor quality corsets, whereas spring or spiral steel is preferred for strength and better quality. Held together by lacing at the rear (not always the case, dependent on the design), tightening or loosening the lacing produces corresponding changes in the tightness and firmness of the corset. Depending on the desired effect, corsets can be laced in various ways.
Much like our sister fetish clothing item, the shoe, it is very important to make sure your corset fits properly. A badly fitted corset can result in discomfort, chafes and rubs, leaving you most unhappy (unless this is your desired effect?) and unlikely to wear a corset ever again! Depending on the overall look and feel you want from your corset, you will need to consider the following types:
Under-bust – Finishes anywhere under the bust leaving the breasts exposed. These can then be covered with a top, bra or nipple pasties
Over-bust – Runs from the hips, up and over the bust. Giving support and coverage for the breasts
Waist-cincher – Either an unboned wide belt or can be boned like a corset. Unlike corsets which narrow from hip to ribs, the waist cincher is 6-8 inches wide and sits on the waist area specifically
The shape of your body will strongly influence the style of corset you will find most comfortable. For instance; a lady with smaller breasts is better suited to a straight neckline whereas a more ample bosom will suit a plunge neckline.
Most corsets will have a front opening busk as this makes them far easier to get on and off without added help. Generally, when choosing a size to try on, four inches smaller than your natural waist measurement is adequate. Ladies with a waist larger than 34 inches should opt for a size 5 to 6 inches smaller.
What they thought then…
There’s evidence of the humble corset that goes back to the early days of Crete, however, the corset (also known as stays) in the 16th century was more of a stiffened bodice with the corset design as we know now coming in around the 18th century; the purpose being to support the bust, draw the shoulders back and keep the fashionable conical shape popular at the time. Corsets were originally quilted waistcoats, worn by French women as an alternative to stiff corsets. This then developed with the coincidence of the French Revolution when the adoption of neoclassical style of dressing came in. It was then that men started to wear corsets for “back pain”.
Stays disappeared in the late 18th century, while the corset remained, passing into the 19th century where they were to be lengthened, opened out more at the bust and with the straps removed, with the advent of metal eyelets when tight lacing first became possible.
Not just a woman’s world
Normally seen wrapped around the bodies of go-go dancers, pop singing celebs, saucy high street lingerie models, and period drama actresses in modern day culture, most men will be fooled into thinking that corsetry was solely a women’s game. In actuality, as previously mentioned, corsetry has been used by men for years both medically (to encourage a “straighter” figure) and fashionably (see many designers’ collections!).
You get what you pay for
Nowadays the humble corset can be purchased on near enough every high street in every colour of the rainbow. Places like Camden Lock in London are corset heaven for those seeking to add some bones to their closet. It is however good to know what to look for when corset shopping, with corsetry connoisseur’s among spotting the difference between a high quality made corset and a cheap-and-cheerful dud a mile off! It’s best to first decide what you will use the corset for; for instance, you might just want a corset solely for ‘play’, this can be less expensive and (depending on your uses and preferences) the materials need not be of quality. A cheap satin or PVC is the norm in the cheaper corsets whilst finding the plastic or wire boning used in these pieces buckling or bending, leaving the corset shapeless over time or through wearing. If you are in the market for a corset-for-keeps then it’s best to visit a boutique or tailor in person for a measure up or at least be able to try garments on. The best fitting corsets are bespoke, so spending more money and time will inevitably mean a much longer lifespan, quality materials used in the construction and a noticeably high calibre finish.
All tied up
Corsetry takes many guises when it comes to fetish wear and play, with fashion taking more of a back seat and sensory with psychological twists coming to the forefront. Worlds apart from the silken fabrics and busselled behinds of Victoriana style corsetry, the kink variants keep the same premise but use differing ways of providing pleasure.
Rope Corsetry – Straight from the realm of Shibari, rope corsetry focuses on just the torso area of the body and uses a series of knots and ties to restrict, restrain, suspend or hold captive a submissive. Almost as beautiful as the classic corset (or perhaps more so to some), the finished effect can be complex and intricate, sometimes used over the top of silks, dresses and kimono-style robes for juxtaposed textures and tactile qualities all adding to the sensations.
Breathplay, Erotic Asphyxiation, Breath Control Play, Tightlacing – Intentionally restricting the flow of Oxygen to the brain can sexually arouse the ‘Gasper’ (person engaging in the activity) and/or the dominant role player due to the control they have over a person’s body. Considered by some as highly dangerous, this fetish can be lethal if performed incorrectly. The use of corsets within this genre sees the corset tightened to the point of gasping for and restriction of air. The sudden loss of oxygen to the brain and the accumulation of carbon dioxide can increase feelings of giddiness, lightheadedness, and pleasure, all of which will heighten masturbatory sensations. (Maybe mention about women fainting and beaing brought round by smelling salts in the olden days?)
Tattoo Corset Designs – Not quite the same, as restriction is not prevalent like with the previous variants of kink corsetry but still keeping the ‘lace up’ theme, many people have taken to tattooing ribbons or lace corset-style pieces onto their bodies. This is usually for aesthetic reasons but can also come with the added benefit of pain for the act of pleasure with the sensation of the tattoo gun on the skin.
Pierced Corsets – Corset piercings are fast becoming popular in the world of body modification, using separate, closed-ring surface piercings laid out on a section of the body (back, thighs, arms) ready to be threaded with ribbons. This has a similar effect as the tattoo variant in that it effects the skin while being both visually good to look at and feeling good (for those inclined) too!
Domination – Restricting the body, creating contortion, tightening it, trapping a submissive are just some of the reasons for the use of corsets in the fetish lifestyle; all of which are dependent on what outcome gives you the most pleasure. Can be used by a dominant to remind their submissive of their position while at work or a party by making them wear a corset, many corsets are undetectable underneath clothing.
Being a fan of the female form with all its curves, suppleness and softness, there is much to be said for the corset by contrast. The feeling of the material encasing your torso, the stiffness of the bones making your posture more confident and the hourglass shape that it creates is all very sensual; combined with the structural form of the cross-hatched lacing and rigid panels makes this item of clothing an art form in itself. All considered, it’s of no surprise that the corset has a solid home in the world of both fashion and fetish. For me, to wear a corset makes me feel like the most powerful person in the world, and that’s kind of sexy…