The black satin under-bust corsets that Erin Bray labors over in her sunlit midtown studio are brutally elegant. Steel-boned and rigid, each garment flattens flab with five front buttons. At its back, a thick ribbon weaves through a column of eyelets, ready to be pulled tighter and tighter into a contorted hourglass.
“A proper corset does not stretch,” Bray said. “The more you wear corsets, the more you manipulate your body.”
Bray, a professional corsetiere, has been hand-making the Victorian-era fashion item for more than a decade, usually for brides, cosplay enthusiasts and eclectic fashionistas. Lately, however, her business has been getting a boost from women who are “waist-training” – wearing a corset on a regular basis in the hopes of reducing waist size in the long run.
The trend has skyrocketed in recent months as celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Jessica Alba post corset-clad photos of themselves on social media, calling it a miracle weight loss solution and luring thousands into virtual waist reduction competitions on Pinterest and Instagram. Believers say the practice cuts inches from the waistline, but doctors warn against it, citing the potential for digestive problems and shortness of breath.