An escort’s guide to corsets

Your great-grandmother knew what she was about. Ladies undergarments of the Victorian and Edwardian era were not only beautiful, they were extravagant, ornate and highly crafted. The time of 1890-1910 was known as the “frills” era in lingerie, as it was beginning to be called, and featured lace, ribbons, ruffles, embroidery, appliqués and all manner of decoration and detailing. Gorgeous fabrics like silk and satin were used for items such as camisoles, crinolines, petticoats, chemises and, of course, the corset.

by Hannah Jay


Image credit:

Corsets fell out of fashion in the 1920’s. If you are a Downton Abbey fan, you can actually see in the episodes where Lady Mary is cinched in, and when she is “liberated”. The inherent beauty and posture which a corset can impart is a necessary part of the pre-WWI fashions, but is relaxed in the 1920’s.

But what is a corset anyway–and why should an escort know–or care?

Novelty and beyond

At a certain level, escorting is about a lot more then encounters of an adult nature. It is about creating and fulfilling fantasies. The only limit is the escort’s imagination. Her clients will remain her clients, when she can offer them diversions which they are not likely to get at home or, frankly, from other escorts. To be unique is one element of success.

Most girls will have discovered the delights of pretty lingerie and how much their clients enjoy the pleasures of lacy push-up bras and matched panties. Some girls will have moved on and deployed flattering garter belts and long, sheer stockings. And there is no doubt about the sexy effects of stockings and a nice set of heels. If you have been reading my essays (and you should), you will also have incorporated lacy, silky slips and chemises into your lingerie wardrobe and, I suspect, have delighted your clients in doing so.

But once those essentially modern intimates have been deployed, you are pretty much at the end of the Victoria’s Secret, or better still, La Perla, catalogue’s bag of lingerie tricks. So, now what?

Well, if you look carefully in either catalogue, you’ll find wonderfully lightly structured garments referred to as bustiers. As La Perla puts it, “The bustier is an iconic garment like no other, between the underwear drawer and that corner of the wardrobe for really special outfits.”

Indeed, well for their price of between $300 and $1,600 I would hope so.

The bustier is the modern cousin of the corset. Lightly boned – which refers to stripes of plastic or metal running vertically in the seams – the bustier supports the breasts from below and has a slight waist trimming effect. Bustiers come with either cups or simple shelves for your breasts. Brilliantly, they can easily make the transition from innerwear to outerwear and are really quite gorgeous. A bustier or two in your lingerie drawer is always an asset.

Your gentlemen callers will be intrigued by bustiers, but they will be blown away by a full on corset. The fact is that bustiers are well within the fashion mainstream. Victoria’s Secret has them on sale for $35 and they are a staple of suburban girls’ date nights and Valentine’s lingerie surprises. In mall land a cheap Chinese-made bustier is a long established mating call.

So, in terms of novelty value, even a well-made Italian bustier has become depreciated. But while the busier and her close cousins the merry widow and the corselette may have become old hat in the bedrooms of suburbia, their older, more sophisticated, more complex and much more structured ancestress, the corset, is redolent of another world and still reigns supreme .

For an escort, while a bustier may well be playful, a corset is a much more serious matter all together. It is a piece of lingerie which her client will almost certainly never have encountered in the flesh, so to speak. And it is a bit of lingerie with a rich fashion and social history.


When you put on a real corset and lace it in, your body dramatically changes shape. Your waist contracts, your boobs head skyward. A corset is the ultimate cleavage enhancer. But don’t kid yourself, there is a lot of complex engineering involved under all those lace and satin panels.

Corsets come in a wide variety of styles, each of which produces a different effect. They range from little, unlined, waist cinching ribbon corsets; to five pound Edwardians which take real training to wear and, ideally, a ladies maid to put on.

The most fundamental style consideration is over- or under- bust; which is, as the name suggests, an indication as to whether the corset goes over your breasts or comes to a discreet end on your torso beneath (under) your breasts.

For the beginner, the little waist cinching under-bust corset is often a great first step. A corset is constructed in two halves joined at the front by what is called a busk, and, usually, laced in back. In traditional corset, the busk has little metal posts, rather like buttons which fit into metal loops. These bits of metal are firmly fixed to pieces of steel which are then sewn into the corset fabric. Needless to say, these do not inadvertently come undone.

Every few inches there is a steel, plastic or, in antique corsets, whale bone piece which is sewn into the corset. To the rear there are wider bones which have grommets driven through them for the lacing.

On the outside, corsets have all manner of lovely lacy designs. The outside can be made of virtually any fabric and even soft leather is sometimes used. The work in a real corset is done by panels of heavier, usually cotton, fabric hidden from view by the facing fabric and the lining of the corset. A good corset, even a small under-bust one, weighs a bit.

While there are plenty of girls who like to “tightlace” – restrict their waist size by many inches – sensible girls can have all the fun of corseting with a 2 to 4 inch waist reduction. This means that when you buy a corset, you should look for one with a waist 4 inches smaller than your natural waist.

The obvious effect of this fashion engineering is to visually and actually, reduce a girl’s waist. Dior’s iconic “New Look” in the aftermath of World War II, was all about full skirts and tiny waists. The hourglass figure was the shape du jour. And those tiny waists were produced by beautifully, hand-made couture corsets. It is astonishing the change in a girl’s silhouette that even a two inch reduction in waist size produces.

A waist-cinching corset should rest on a girl’s hips, and come to just below her rib cage. Lacing it up creates a significant difference between her hip measurement and her waist. Which corsetieres refer to as “hip spring”.

(A brief excursion into evolutionary biology: it turns out that scientists have discovered that the ratio between a girl’s hips and her waist is catnip for men. The bigger the difference the more reproductively “fit” a girl appears to be. Thus, a girl with 34 inch hips and a 30 inch waist is, apparently, less attractive than a girl with 38 inch hips and a 26 inch waist. Which, somehow, sort of, explains the attraction of Kim Kardashian.)

Creating the illusion

Of course, the best corsets are custom made and we’ll discuss that below. If you really want to experience corseting for yourself and see what effect a corset may have on your escorting business without breaking the bank (Edwardian and Victorian corsets fetch sky high sums on eBay), a great place to start is an unlined ribbon corset. As the name implies, a ribbon corset is made of broad, inch and three quarters (on mine), strips of fabric attached to busk, bones and back. Good ones have steel busks and solidly seated grommets in the back. At the busk, they are six to eight inches high, and are roughly five inches at the side. Well made, with silk ribbon lacing, they are impossibly pretty.

While corsets can be worn next to the skin, it was not the way in the day, nor is it recommended as they tend to chafe slightly and, frankly, get a bit worn with use. (A corset is not the easiest thing in the world to wash.) Ideally, you will have a lacy long camisole or chemise to wear under your corset. Corsets also work brilliantly over body stockings.

Putting a corset on by yourself – maid’s day off – is actually quite easy. You loosen the laces and then put it on like you would a shirt. Make sure that you have the middle of the laces running down the middle of your back, as it is actually quite easy to put the corset on to one side. Lift the corset so that it is resting on your hips and then begin to do up the busk. I like to start at the top but other girls will begin at the bottom. At this stage the corset is quite loose and you should have no trouble doing up the busk. Now the fun begins.

Corsets are properly laced in from the middle. If the laces (or ribbons) have been properly placed, there will be two natural loops in the middle of the corset, halfway from the top. For a ribbon corset lacing is fairly easy, as there are only ten grommets a side, and thus, only two lace crosses to adjust. Got that? Don’t worry; you will.

Now, here is the thing most modern women don’t know and it is the secret to a successful corset: the term straight-laced is actually how a corset should be done. The two back pieces which are attached by the laces should be the same distance apart at their tops and bottoms because that is what produces the corset’s wonderful effects.

When you first start pulling on the laces, its two halves will likely be five or even six inches apart. Your job is to bring them within three and then one inch of each other. This is not a job which can be rushed–especially if you are on your own. Essentially, you pull the laces taut with your dominant hand, and take up the slack with your other hand which is holding the lacing loops.

Don’t try to lace all the way down in one go. And don’t try to get a full four-inch reduction the first time you take your corset out of the box. You’ll be uncomfortable, and the corset will not have a chance to mold itself to your shape. And, you will get discouraged and never wear it again. Instead, out of the box, wear your corset, loosely-laced, for several hours per day, for a week or so. You’ll find that you will become more comfortable with it on, and that the spring steel or plastic boning will begin to bend to your curves whilst containing them. Now, the corset is truly yours.

Once you’ve broken in your little waist cincher and learned the basic tricks of lacing it, you can start reducing your waist more seriously. Here again, the trick is to give yourself time. If you have a date in the evening, put your corset on, laced down no more than two inches, in the later afternoon. You take the last two inches in ten minutes before you put on your dress and, if you have been working up to it, you will barely notice the change. However, I assure you, your date will.

The real deal

Once you have enjoyed the effect of a waist-cinching corset, it is time to think about trying the pleasures of a full corset. There are a vast variety of beautiful styles to choose from, but a pleasing “over-bust” Victorian gives you all of the benefits, with very little movement restriction. Edwardian styles are lovely but, because they encase your hips, they are a bit less practical.

The term “over bust” can mean that the corset fully covers your breasts and has cups very similar to a bra, or it can mean a corset cut so that your nipples are partially or fully exposed. The critical thing is that regardless of coverage, a corset supports your breasts and give you the option of lifting your breasts from below.

Modern girls are familiar with shelf bras, or balconette or demi-bras, all of which can be lovely, but the fact is that they all depend on effectively suspending your breasts. The structure of an over-bust corset actually pushes up.

The effect is extraordinary. If you choose a style which covers your breasts the effect is to create astonishing cleavage for even the smallest breasts. But you can also leave your nipples deliciously exposed but have your breasts supported. Once you are converted to corsets, you will, of course, want several in both styles.

As you might imagine, the combination of a nipped waist and beautifully supported breasts, is to create a figure which most girls only dream of. Turn heads you will! A corseted escort’s clients are in for an absolute treat.

Dressed for success

The shaping capacity of a good corset, laced correctly, is marvelous. It is also more than a little challenging from a fashion perspective. Outfits which used to fit snuggly now drape rather than contour. You want to maximize the effect of your corseting. Fortunately this is easy to do.

With a waspie corset, a pair of high-waisted trousers or a pretty skirt with an elastic waistband combined with a wide belt will emphasize your new curves without being too obvious.

A full corset can work wonders under something as demure as a fine wool dress. Combine your corset with pretty garter straps and long black stockings and you’re well on your way to bombshell.

A well-made corset need not be terribly expensive. Avoid the “sex shop” versions which are made cheaply and sold for far too much money. Online shopping is the way to go for both your little ribbon waist cincher, and a lovely over-bust piece.

However, once you have these essentials, you’ll know whether you will want to go the next step: a custom-made corset. If you live in a reasonably large city you may be able to find a corset maker nearby. Definitely worth it to get a perfect fit. But another alternative which can produce wonderful, custom made, custom fitted corsets is Etsy. Just look up “corset” and be prepared to be astonished.

There has been a huge revival in the fine art of the corsetiere, as many seamstresses have realized that corsets offer them a showcase for their skills. Corsets of every style, with every sort of facing fabric and degree of stiffness are on Etsy at reasonable prices. Custom design is never cheap, but it is usually worth it.

Of course, once you start wearing corsets on some of your escorting dates, you will find more than a few of your clients who are deeply intrigued. These gentlemen can certainly be encouraged to purchase the corsets they would like to see you in. This is a win-win exchange for a very discriminating gentleman.

Out of the ordinary

Escorting is a very competitive business, and so adding a bit of spice by way of a few corsets in your lingerie chest, is a great way to become the IT girl everyone wants.

Playing up the idea that you are corseting is a clever theme for your advertising and your web presence. The memorable moment when you try on your first corset is an opportunity to take some great pictures, shoot a video, or combine one or both into a blog post for your web site. Corseting is so unusual these days, and in this business, that, well-done, is sure to attract web attention.

Of course, there are lots of opportunities to showcase your newly corseted assets as you break your corset in. Plus, the day you take out the “skate laces” and replace them with pretty ribbon – which is actually much easier to tighten – is a perfect excuse for a photo session. Remembering always that you are the star of your website and your ads, so there is nothing wrong with vamping for the camera, with your new, sveltely corseted self.

Escorts often find it difficult to come up with material to photograph and write about for their marketing. A little waist cinching corset followed by a more serious Victorian, will give you endless topics and a reason for you viewers to come back regularly. If you have a close friend to help, you can do shoots where she laces you in a little more than you are used to.

Add to that, the erotic mix of stockings and vintage skirts and dresses for your new shape, and you’ll have stellar marketing and photo op material for a long, long time.

Apart from the marketing potential, simply wearing a corset on your dates offers clients a degree of novelty and titillation regular lingerie just can’t match. With an over-bust corset you can undress to some extent yet be covered up in a way most of your clients will never have seen before.

A gentleman caller can be asked to loosen your lacing as a preliminary to more intimate acts. A much, much more erotic version of unzipping a girl’s dress. Alternatively, as a preliminary to intimacy, you can ask your client to actually tighten your laces. This may seem a bit counter intuitive, but there is no actual need to remove a corset for most encounters, and, on the plus side, a corset’s firmness gives a gentleman something to hold on to.

A final note: women speak of how corsets improve their posture. Even a little ribbon waspie will make you stand taller and move with greater elegance. Furthermore, one very common effect of corseting is a huge boost to the wearers self-confidence. A gorgeous, well-made, firmly structured corset not only shrinks your waist, it can give you the sense of being in complete control of your body. It is a difficult sensation to describe–you just have to experience it yourself– but, I suspect, the day you lace your first corset down you will understand precisely how ruling class women at the turn of the last century assumed their air of command. Think Lady Mary, coyly arching her eyebrows.