A corset is a garment worn to mold the torso into a desired shape for aesthetic purposes (either for the duration of wearing it, or with a more lasting effect). Both men and women have worn corsets. At different times throughout history, the garment has been used to exaggerate the female bust and hips and shrink the waist or to minimize these features. Some corsets were made of cloth or leather, and many included steel or whalebone ribs.
A corset can extend from the shoulders to the knees or lower. The smaller variety, which only covers the waist, may also be called a waist cincher. A corset may also include garters to hold up stockings (alternatively a separate suspender belt (garter belt) may be worn for that).
There have been documented examples of women shrinking their waists as small as 16" through corset training. These were extreme cases, however, and corsets were also designed for women to wear while bicycling or playing tennis.
The corset fell from common wear in the 1930s in Europe and America, replaced by girdles, but survived as an article of costume. Originally an item of lingerie, the corset has become a popular item of outerwear in the fetish, BDSM and goth subcultures.
See also: body modification
The Corset also served as a nickname for the Supplementary Special Deposits Scheme operated as a means of monetary control by the Bank of England. The scheme was abolished in mid-1980 and the consequent surge in money supply measures without any underlying economic change vindicated the metaphor implicit in this terminology.