AskDefine | Define corselet

Dictionary Definition

corselet n : a piece of body armor for the trunk; usually consists of a breastplate and back piece [syn: corslet]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  1. Armor for the body, as, the body breastplate and backpiece taken together.
  2. Also used for the entire suit of the day, including breastplate and backpiece, tasset and headpiece.
    • 1786: Strictly speaking, the word corcelet meant only that part which covered the body, but was generally used to express the whole suit, under the terms of a corselet furnished, or complete. — Francis Grose, A Treatise on Ancient Armour and Weapons, page 21.
  3. The thorax of an insect.

Extensive Definition

A corselet or corselette is type of foundation garment which is a brassiere and girdle in one. It will sometimes have lace in front or in the back. The name is a taken from the word corset with the diminutive "-ette".
It is also the name of a piece of body armor for the torso, and it usually consists of a breastplate and back piece.


The corselette began to replace the corset in 1914 as a substitute for wearing two separate pieces, such as a corset and a brassiere or a girdle and a brassiere.
The bust uplift cups were first used in 1933, but came to common use in 1943.

Merry widow

In 1955 a corselette by Warner's was released and named after The Merry Widow, an operetta from 1905 that later became a Hollywood movie. This new merry widow featured demi-cups and a shorter girdle compared to its predecessors.
The original merry widow foundation garment was also a corselette that incorporated slim panels of black elastic yarn net. A heavy-duty zipper was inserted behind a velvet-backed hook-and-eye flange, and the whole garment was lined with nylon voile. Nine long spiral wires were cased in black satin.
Lana Turner is quoted as having said, "I am telling you, the merry widow was designed by a man. A woman would never do that to another woman."
To this day, "merry widow" is the generic term for a corselette bra in the United States. This type of lingerie is also known as a torsolette, and is used in bridal lingerie, similar to the bustier.

Interval and rebirth

About 1960, tights and trousers began to replace corselettes. But, from about 1975 to the present day, Maidenform and other mainstream lingerie and undergarment manufacturers have sold corselettes as "control slips".

Variations and relatives

corselet in Finnish: Korseletti
corselet in Swedish: Korselett
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