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The inside of a Corselette

Historically a piece of plate armour covering the torso, in modern times a corselet, or corselette, is a type of female foundation garment, sharing elements of both bras and girdles. It extends from straps over the shoulders down the torso to stop around the top of the legs. It may incorporate lace in front or in back.


The missing-link between corset and corselette from 1914

The origin of the English word for the piece of armor comes from cors, an Old French word meaning "bodice". The modern term probably originated by the addition of the diminutive suffix "-ette" to the word corset, itself of similar origin to "corselet".

The corselet as an item of women's clothing began to gain traction in 1914, as a substitute for wearing two separate pieces (a bra with either a girdle or a corset). The bust uplift cups were first introduced in 1933, but did not become common until 1943. [1][2]

Merry widow[edit]

A corselet was released by Warner's in 1952,[3] named after The Merry Widow, a 1905 operetta which has been adapted several times into feature-length films.[4] "Merry widow" remains a common generic term for a corselet in the United States. This new design featured demi-cups and a shorter girdle than its predecessors. This type of lingerie is also known as a torsolette, and is used in bridal lingerie, much like the bustier.

The original merry widow was a corselet incorporating slim panels of black, elastic yarn netting. A heavy-duty zipper was inserted behind a velvet-backed hook-and-eye flange, and the entire garment was lined with nylon voile. Nine long, spiral wires were encased in black satin.

Lana Turner is reported to have said, "I am telling you, the merry widow was designed by a man. A woman would never do that to another woman."[citation needed]

Interval and rebirth[edit]

Around 1960, tights and trousers began to replace corselets. However, Maidenform and other mainstream lingerie and undergarment manufacturers have sold corselets as "control slips" since around 1975.[citation needed]

Variations and relatives[edit]

  • A short corselet without garters or shoulder straps, which ends above the waist, is a bustier (covering the bust)
  • A long corselet extending over the hips, with or without garters and/or shoulder straps, is a torsolette (covering the torso)
  • A corselet in two parts is a brassiere and a girdle.
  • A corselet with a stiff back and laces is a corsage or a corset.
  • A soft corselet is a slip.


  1. ^ Bust Uplifts
  2. ^ s:Spirella Catalogue (1933)
  3. ^ Store Operations: Cinch Bra Gets Glamour Treatment. (1952, March 18). Women’s Wear Daily, 84(54), 67.
  4. ^ Colmer, Michael (1979), Whalebone to see-through: a history of body packaging, London: Johnston & Bacon, ISBN 0-7179-4252-X 

External links[edit]