In the Middle Ages, a gown or basque of which the body was close fitting, worn by both men and women.
An article of dress inclosing the chest and waist worn (chiefly by women) to support the body or to modify its shape; stays.
The fashionable size for a waist in the 1800â€(tm)s was alleged to be eighteen inches. A corset was the device used to attain this width or something close to it. It consisted of two halves, reinforced with whalebone that got hooked together in front and then laced up in back. Compressing all that flesh into a small area was not always an easy job. The corset was one reason women needed a ladyâ€(tm)s maid - someone to stand behind them to pull the laces tight.