While the 2017 awards season saw plenty of mid-cleavage, side-cleavage and under-cleavage, another lingerie trend was settling into the hearts (and torsos) of women across the Capital Region.
It may sound like the throwback of a century or two, but corset-inspired looks and waist cinchers have come back, according to Rosa Belleville.
She has owned Madame Pirie Famise Corset Shoppe on Western Avenue in Albany for over 40 years and in the last few, more and more people are asking about the store’s namesake.
“The demand is very high,” Belleville said.
She blames celebrities like the Kardashians for bringing the cinched waist back into style.
According to Belleville, more and more young women are coming into the shop looking for either waist cinchers or a full corset.
Waist cinchers aren’t as expensive or as intimidating as a full corset. They’re usually made of silk and cost anywhere from $55 to $70 in her shop.
Belleville is finding that women across the Capital Region are turning to the corset or waist-cinched look more for their health than for their style.
An 18th Century-style corset, also called stays, displayed in a 2014 exhibit at Saratoga National Historical Park.
“They think it helps them lose weight . . . others wear it for the good posture,” Belleville said.
While Belleville said she has seen that happen with some customers, wearing a corset is not a guaranteed way to lose weight.
“You do lose inches though,” Belleville said.
She used to wear corsets years ago and remembers having to sit on the floor and ask for help from a friend to get them on.
But now the designs are more user-friendly.
“We just got in one style that has a zipper in the front even,” Belleville said.
Not that ease of wear is why most women want to try out a corset or a waist cincher.
“It’s sexy . . . and that’s important,” Belleville said.
Deborah Pens Curcio, owner of Torso Lingerie Studio in Ballston Spa, has found that while the corset style is growing in popularity again, clients have misconceptions about what constitutes a corset and how it fits with their needs.
A corset is usually custom made or custom fit, covers from the hips to the top of the breasts and can cost upwards of $300. A waist cincher covers only from the hips to the underside of the breasts and usually costs around $60 in her shop. Curcio said that the waist cinchers have been popular in the past few months.
“Last summer, everyone was looking for these,” Curcio said, pointing to a Squeem-brand waist cincher. Made of thin rubber and backed with cotton, it gives the shape of a corset without the bulk and with a bit of flexibility.
For special occasions, such as a wedding, customers might want a waist shaper instead of a classic corset, but waist they’ll ask for a corset because it’s a more familiar term.
“The two terms are used interchangeably by customers,” Curcio said. However, she encourages customers to try the cincher, rather than the corset.
For most Torso Lingerie customers who are looking for a more everyday way to bring the corset look into their wardrobes, Curcio finds that a cup-sized body suit is the best of both worlds.
It’s a hybrid bra and shapewear piece that allows the wearer to get the hourglass silhouette without the bulk or the rigidity of a traditional corset.
In 2016, fashion designers like Victoria Beckham sent modern deconstructed corsets down the runway. Celebrities, like Rihanna, tried out sportier waist cinchers that reminded one more of a sneaker than of an undergarment of the 1600 or 1800s.
Some fashion forecasters say that it’s due to the return of certain 1980s trends (anyone remember Madonna's corset looks?).
But on a local level, Belleville said people try the look just because they want to feel slimmer and sexier, a desire that’s as modern as it is traditional.
Sarah Chrisman, author of "Victorian Secrets: What A Corset Taught Me About the Past, the Present, and Myself," poses while on a bike ride. Photo provided.
For one corset convert, the garment is more than a fashion statement.
The Washington-based author and self-described anachronist has been living the corset life for the past 8 years.
Sarah Chrisman was wary of the garment when her husband first gave it to her. From she knew of corsets, they caused far more problems than they solved.
But after she got used to wearing it day after day -- even wearing it at night -- it changed her life.
Now she is a full-time corset wearer and dresses in the full Victorian era clothing.
She and her husband are both extensive researchers of the time period, so Chrisman’s reason for wearing the garment isn’t based on the latest trends.
While corsets may be coming back into our closets simply due to the cyclical nature of fashion trends, Chrisman said that the perspectives on the garment change with time and are completely individualistic.
“The symbolism of a corset is as unique as the woman wearing it. To many women (myself included), the corset is the ultimate symbol of feminine empowerment. Other fashions androgynize us: the corset accentuates all that is inherently beautiful about our sex. . . . To some the corset represents a set of values, ranging from the rebellious values represented by the leather corsets worn by punks, to the value of tradition seen in lacy bridal corsets,” Chrisman said.