late 14c. (mid-13c. in Anglo-Latin), "a kind of laced bodice, close-fitting body garment," from Old French corset (13c.) "bodice, tunic," diminutive of cors "body," from Latin corpus "body" (from PIE root *kwrep- "body, form, appearance").
Meaning "stiff supporting and constricting undergarment for the waist, worn chiefly by women to shape the figure," is from 1795. They fell from fashion in the changing fashions after World War I. Related: Corseted, corsetted (1829); corseting; corsetry.
With the short skirt went an extraordinary change in the weight and material and amount of women's clothing. The boyishly slender figure became the aim of every woman's ambition, and the corset was so far abandoned that even in so short a period as the three years from 1924 to 1927 the combined sales of corsets and brassières in the department stores of the Cleveland Federal Reserve District fell off 11 per cent. [Frederick Lewis Allen, "Only Yesterday," 1931]
updated on August 14, 2019