Waist Cinchers & Girdles

Written by jeanette lee
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Waist Cinchers & Girdles
(Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

While girdles and waist cinchers were worn for practical reasons to streamline the figure and make a woman's silhouette more attractive, they also represent glamorous and alluring femininity. The elegance and sophistication associated with feminine items such as perfume, lipstick, girdles and waist cinchers persist in the present.


Waist cinchers, or corsets, became very fashionable in the 19th century. In the 1830s, it was common belief that women were so fragile that they needed to be supported by a corset. As such, even very young children were made to wear the garment. In the 1920s, waist cinchers gave way to girdles and bras.

The girdle was invented by French designer, Paul Poiret at around 1910. His initial design focused more on the woman's hips and buttocks than the waist, according to the Zona website. They were less constricting than waist cinchers and became quite fashionable between the 1920s and 70s.

Waist Cinchers

A waist cincher is a belt-like garment that tightly encloses a woman's waist, thus shaping the body to look slimmer. As the name might suggest, waist cinchers are targeted towards the waist; they are worn below the chest, and do not extend beyond the hips. Waist cinchers help women refine their figure underneath their clothing. Waist cinchers are usually made of nylon, lycra and spandex.


The main function of a waist cincher is to squeeze the woman's waist to make it look smaller, flatten the tummy and achieve a feminine hourglass shape. An additional function of waist cinchers is to provide back support, according to the Experience Festival website. As a result, waist cinchers are also ideal for people looking to improve their posture. Because waist cinchers do not target the lower body, they are sometimes worn in conjunction with girdles.


A girdle is a woman's close-fitting undergarment often boned and usually elasticated that extends from the waist to below the hips, according to the Merriam Webster online dictionary. Unlike waist cinchers, girdles focus on the lower half of the body, rather than just the middle. They are meant to provide a streamlined look through the torso and abdomen, hips and buttocks, thighs and legs. Present day girdles are also made of nylon, lycra and spandex, and come in a variety of styles and lengths.


The main purpose of wearing a girdle is to enhance the appearance of the lower body. However, some women wear girdles for lower back support, postpartum and maternity abdominal support, and to hold up pantyhose, according to the Zona website. Though girdles were worn on a regular basis in the past, today, most women wear girdles to refine the shape of their bodies underneath dresses at special events and functions.

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