The Big Squeeze: Test Your Corset Knowledge



4 Min Quiz

Which of the following words does NOT come from the same root as the word "corset"?

A horse-dealer, also called a corser, has absolutely nothing to do with a corset, which stems from the Old French word for body, or "cors." We sometimes use the term "corporate body," or more delicately refer to a corpse as a "body." You can see why this doesn't come up in conversation very often.


What's considered the "ideal" body size for women in the Western world?

This is a bit of a trick question. Although measurements 36-24-36 are anecdotally claimed to be the ideal, there is no such thing as an ideal size for everyone. The trick is to be healthy no matter what size you are.


What's the healthiest waist-to-hip ratio?

Judging health by a single number, especially one like this, can be dangerous. While wait-to-hip ratio has some basis in overall attractiveness studies, it varies by culture and is certainly no marker of health.


What are the four primary reasons people wear corsets?

For some people, it's all about the fashion, but they have their medical and fetish sides too. The corset's job is never done.


What Greek island is considered to be the birthplace of body-shaping garments?

Thousands of years ago the females of Crete wore waist and hip cinching garments that are commonly recognized as the ancestors of later body-shapers.


What formerly panned foundation garment made a comeback in 2011?

Built with cutting-edge elastic textile technology, the "body" is being touted as the 21st-century corset for its body-shaping abilities. Before you run to the store, read reviews. The elastic apparently doesn't make them all that comfortable.


True or False: In the early part of the 19th century, it was commonly believed that women required corsets to support their naturally weak bodies.

Sadly, this one's true. While a well-fitted corset provides excellent back support, most women manage to stay upright without the aid of a boned foundation garment.


Which three garments are most alike?

The girdle, corset and stay are all foundation garments intended to shape your mid-section. The others are more specialized, and in some cases do little if anything to actually shape your body.


Which one of these is, historically, NOT an actual corset shape?

We're not even sure what a butterfly corset would look like, but the other two are fairly traditional. If you picked hour-glass you should probably go back to square one.


Someone who wears corsets for extreme body modification is called a what?

English can be quite literal sometimes, and people who tighten their laces to the point of permanently shaping their body are called tight-lacers. The other two options are strictly subjective, so sorry, they do not count.


Genard's Disease, caused by chronic tight-lacing to the point that the wearer's internal organs shift lower or higher than they should be, is also known by what more medically-sounding name?

Referring to the visceral displacement that takes place, visceroptosis is marked by the forced movement of internal organs away from their natural location. This disease is one of the major risks of what's sometimes referred to as extreme corsetry.


Which material was NOT historically used to make corset busks?

Non-rusting wooden busks were commonly used for centuries in stays and corsets. The advent of rustproof steel in the late 19th century spelled the end of the wooden busk, but cloth was never used for this. Plastic busks in the 20th century are fairly common in mass-produced corsets.


Which of these materials has been commonly used as corset boning?

Flexible and strong, the baleen structure (similar to teeth) of the baleen whale filters food out of the thousands of gallons of seawater it churns through its mouth. As these whales were over-hunted in the 19th century, baleen became prohibitively expensive, opening the market for rust-proof steel to be used in high-quality corsetry.


Which of these is a common reason for a man to wear a corset?

There are numerous reasons for men to wear corsets, and these are only two.


Corsets in the 1920s often tried to do what?

The boyish look was the signature style of the flapper generation, and women cut their hair short and flattened out their chests to achieve it. This did not last long, as Betty Boop was just around the corner.


What pre-20th-century period saw a brief decline in corset use?

The revolutionary fervor in American and France, plus the liberal exhortations of French philosopher Jean-Jacque Rousseau, encouraged many women to trade their corsets and stays for the freedom and practicality of going au naturel. Apparently it was too early for this level of undergarment liberation to catch on. It wasn't long before the corsetic extremes of the Victorian period struck hard.


Though they didn't use boned corsets to do so, approximately how many women bound their chest to disguise themselves as men so they could fight in the American Civil War?

This happened more than most people realize. Hundreds of women joined the ranks disguised as young men or boys so as to explain their hairless faces and high voices. They all had their own reasons, but a few of them probably just didn't want to wear a corset anymore.


What year was the word corset first used, according to the Oxford English Dictionary?

It didn't come into general use until the 18th century, when corsets replaced stays as the bodice of choice, but the word was around at least as early as 1299. There's a reason life was known as nasty, brutish and short back then.


Why was it so important for Victorian gentlewomen to wear stiff corsets?

Extra stiff corsets helped distribute the weight of the era's multi-layered gowns, but they also signalled the wearer's status to some degree. Proving to the world that you were so rich you didn't have to lift a finger (or bend over) established your place in society.


Sandy Powell, who designed corsets for Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman in "The Other Boleyn Girl," also designed them for performers in what other movie?

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jude Law, while no slouches in the acting world, benefited from the posture-building features of Powell's custom-built corsets in "The Aviator." Shh, nobody has to know if you try it, too.


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About This Quiz

Lace up! See what you know about history's most misunderstood undergarment.

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