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 and/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.
Fashion The most common and well-known use of corsets is to slim the body and make it conform to a fashionable silhouette. For women this most frequently emphasizes a curvy figure, by reducing the waist, and thereby exaggerating the bust and hips. However, in some periods, corsets have been worn to achieve a tubular straight-up-and-down shape, which involves minimizing the bust and hips. For men, corsets are more customarily used to slim the figure. However, there was a period from around 1820 to 1835 when a wasp-waisted figure (a small, nipped-in look to the waist) was also desirable for men; this was sometimes achieved by wearing a corset. An overbust corset encloses the torso, extending from just under the arms to the hips. An underbust corset begins just under the breasts and extends down to the hips. Some corsets extend over the hips and, in very rare instances, reach the knees. A shorter kind of corset, which covers the waist area (from low on the ribs to just above the hips), is called a waist cincher. A corset may also include garters to hold up stockings (alternatively a separate garter belt may be worn for that). Normally a corset supports the visible dress, and spreads the pressure from large dresses, such as the crinoline and bustle. Sometimes a corset cover is used to protect outer clothes from the corset and to smooth the lines of the corset. The original corset cover was worn under the corset to provide a layer between it and the body. Corsets were not worn next to the skin, possibly due to difficulties with laundering these items during the 19th century, as they had steel boning and metal eyelets which would rust. The corset cover would be in the form of a light chemise, made from cotton lawn or silk.
The history of brassieres is inextricably intertwined with the social history of the status of women, including the evolution of fashion and changing views of the body. Women have used a variety of garments and devices to cover, restrain, or modify the appearance of breasts. From the 16th century onwards, the undergarments of wealthier women were dominated by the corset, which pushed the breasts upwards. In the latter part of the 19th century, various alternatives were experimented with, splitting the corset into a girdle-like restraining device for the lower torso, and transferring the upper part to devices suspended from the shoulder. In the late 19th century, bras replaced the corset as the most widely used means of breast support. By the early 20th century, garments more closely resembling contemporary bras had emerged, although large-scale commercial production did not occur till the 1930s. Since then bras have replaced corsets (although some women prefer camisoles) and a minority go without. During the 20th century, greater emphasis has been given to the fashion aspects of brassieres. Brassiere manufacture is a multi-billion-dollar industry dominated by large multinational corporations.
Undergarments or underwear are clothes worn under other clothes, often next to the skin. They keep outer garments from being soiled by bodily secretions and discharges, shape the body, and provide support for parts of it. In cold weather, long underwear is sometimes worn to provide additional warmth. Some undergarments are intended for erotic effect. Special types of undergarments have religious significance. Some items of clothing are designed as underwear, while others, such as T-shirts and certain types of shorts, are appropriate both as undergarments and as outer clothing. If made of suitable material, some undergarments can serve as nightwear or swimsuits. Undergarments are generally of two types, those that are worn to cover the torso and those that are worn below the waist, though garments which cover both also are available. Different styles of undergarments are generally worn by women and men. Undergarments commonly worn by women today include brassieres and panties (known in the United Kingdom as knickers), while men often wear briefs, boxer briefs or boxer shorts. Items commonly worn by both sexes include T-shirts, sleeveless shirts (also called singlets or tank tops), bikini underwear, thongs, and G-strings.