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We see them everywhere, the pretty corset laces on the back of wedding, prom, and bridesmaids dresses. Not only do they look great, but as an added bonus you can pull those suckers so tight your waistline will magically shrink 5", just like you see on the movies, right? WRONG!!! We hate to burst your bubble, but the fact is that corset laces on dresses are not made to withstand the same kind of pressure that a real corset would. I cringe every time I see someone pulling on a corset laced dress like they are re-enacting a scene from Gone with the Wind; while in my head I am screaming "YOU ARE GOING TO BREAK IT!!!!"
What folks fail to realize is that it wasn't until 1828 that corsets started being engineered with metal eyelets. After those little marvels started being used, the the corset could withstand just about any amount of force you could muster, without running the risk of tearing the fabric. Corsets also became known as hidden killers because of the damage they could inflict on the human body by over-lacing, or "tight-lacing". Fun Fact: Did you know that men wore corsets too; albeit rarely?
Today, dresses with "corsets" are for aesthetic appeal; even more importantly they act as the closure in place of a zipper. While they will give you a certain amount of shaping please take care not to lace too tightly. Fabric and thread, especially delicate fabric and thread, will only withstand so much before eyelets start popping.
Real corsets with metal eyelets.
Notice the corsets being laced go UNDER the dress. It's not the dress itself that is being laced.
So, if it is an hourglass shape you are after, we highly recommend getting an additional body shaping undergarment, and not relying on your dress alone to achieve the look you want.