From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The inside of a Corselette
A corselet or corselette is a
type of foundation garment, sharing elements
of both brassieres and girdles. It may incorporate
lace in front or in back. The term
originated by the addition of the diminutive suffix "-ette" to the word corset.
The term can also describe a piece of body armor for the torso, usually consisting of a breastplate and a back
The missing-link between corset and corselette from 1914
The corselet was originally a piece of armor, covering the
torso; the origin of the English word comes from cors, an
Old French word meaning "bodice". The Darby translation of the
first Book of Samuel mentions this style of armor
by name, while others simply refer to it as a "coat of mail". In the
16th century, the armour included a solid breastplate and backplate, and sometimes also included a
gorget, tassets, full arm coverage, or gauntlets.
The corselet as an item of women's clothing began to gain
traction in 1914, as a substitute for wearing two separate pieces
(a brassiere with either
a girdle or a corset). The
bust uplift cups were first introduced in 1933, but did not become
common until 1943. 
A corselet was released by Warner's in 1955, named
Merry Widow, a 1905 operetta that has been adapted several times
into feature-length films. 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
"Merry widow" is the generic term for a corselet bra in the United States.
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.
Variations and relatives
- A short corselet without garters or shoulder straps is a
torsolette or a bustier.
- A corselet in two parts is a brassiere and a girdle.
- A corselet with a stiff back and laces is a corsage or a
- A soft corselet is a slip.