A Bad Reputation: Corsets and Misrepresentation in the Media

A Bad Reputation: Corsets and Misrepresentation in the Media

Corsets and controversy? Who woulda thunk it! We get it, corsets receive a lot of stick and are probably one of the most debated fashion items out there, gaining a bad reputation thanks to the array of widespread myths about the garment and, most commonly, the misunderstanding surrounding tight-lacing. 

We are always trying to educate as wide of an audience as possible on the benefits and safety of 21st-century corsetry (if you haven’t checked out our top 5 corset myths blog, you can do so here), however this can prove to be difficult when the media are more often than not feeding into the popular misconceptions through their portrayal of corsets in film and television. 

So, we see it as our rightful duty to take a deeper look into some of the most famous corset representations out there at the moment, and dissect why these are potentially harmful to the general conversation concerning corsetry…

The Holidate 💩

One hour and 43 minutes of our lives we will never get back, The Holidate was one of Netflix’s showcase Christmas movies of 2020, featuring Emma Roberts as a shambolic singleton, and a corset scene that was about as cliché as the rest of the entire plot.


The scene involved Roberts being laced incredibly tightly into her pirate Halloween costume corset, then proceeding to mistakenly take a laxative under the belief it was an antacid. As the laxative begins to (unusually quickly) take effect, nature calls and she rushes to the bathroom in a panic. Meanwhile, she is chased down the corridor by her co-star Luke Bracey, who is desperately attempting to unlace her corset in order to… aid her in her relief? 


The desperation to remove the corset raises a lot of questions for us; why would anyone practice such intense tight-lacing for their first outing in an amateur Halloween costume, how had the laces been tied that made them so impossible to undo, and why was the corset hindering her ability to ‘drop off some timber’? There’s so much wrong with this scene it’s hard to know where to start, but the focus lands on promoting the idea of excessive tight-lacing in a non-seasoned corset, which is never going to end well. You can learn more on how to avoid these rookie errors and sensibly season your corset as a first-time wearer here

The Favourite 

Twentieth Century Fox

Emma Stone has been incredibly vocal about her total loathing of corsets. In a recent interview with Graham Norton, she stated that for the entire first month of wearing the garment for her role in The Favourite she not only couldn’t breathe, but described the ‘gross’ process of her organs shifting consequently. A super unpleasant image, we know. But, one thing we are sure of is that someone in the costume department either wasn’t a fan of Emma’s, or had perhaps never heard of seasoning a corset. 

Whatever the reason may have been, it is important to raise the point that wearing a corset should never be a painful process, and neither should it impact the wearer’s ability to carry out pretty important bodily functions like taking in oxygen, for example. If you are wearing your corset for waist training purposes (which Emma may have been doing to create a dramatically cinched waist for the role), we advise wearing your corset for no longer than 2 hours, and very gradually tighten the corset over the course of the first week. This method prevents both discomfort to the wearer, whilst prolonging the life of the corset. It’s a win-win! 



Walt Disney Pictures

Whilst corsets were not a focal point of the movie itself, there was huge media backlash after images were released of Lily James’ cinched waist in the Cinderella movie, with many on social media calling for the movie to be boycotted with claims that her waist was ‘disturbing’ to look at. 


James soon came out after the uproar to defend her waist stating she was naturally slim, and it was the illusion of the corset and incredibly full skirt that emphasised this. However, the star then added fuel to the fire during an interview with E!  when she claimed that she adopted a liquid diet during shooting, as she struggled to digest more solid foods whilst wearing the corset.


Whilst this can seem quite shocking, it is important to bear in mind that when eating in a corset that feels overly tight, the wearer has full control over loosening the laces to allow for more room as their stomach may expand (similar to popping open the top button of your jeans during dinner, we’d argue.) Most of our customers opt for a comfortable waist reduction of no more than 2” and, when worn correctly, your corset should not hinder your digestion or ability to chow down on a good hearty meal! 

Pirates of the Caribbean 

Walt Disney Pictures

Obviously, we couldn’t write a blog about corsets in films without including Keira Knightly, queen of the period film and rarely failing to sport a corset in the majority of her roles. In fact, she recently admitted to Variety that she now recognises her preference for corseted roles, stating “I suppose my escapism into another world has always been through period drama.” 

We were spoilt for choice when it came to Knightly flicks featuring a corset, but decided to settle for the classic scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. In the scene, Keira is laced into her corset by not one, but two brawny dressing maids to ensure optimum tightness and the least possible comfort. In fact, Keira’s corset is laced so tightly that she then begins to complain of her inability to breathe, and proceeds to faint off of a cliff and into the sea. We probably don’t need to spell out the glaring corsetry blunders here, but tight-lacing or not, we still think she looks quite *grits teeth*... pretty. 

The reality is, corsets can be an incredibly empowering garment, with many of our customers stating that they feel more supported, feminine and ultimately confident. Most importantly, we hope we have now raised the point that following all of the guidelines we have laid out, modern corsets should not pose any health risks or have any lasting effects on the body.

If you have any concerns, or just need a bit of corsetry advice, feel free to drop us an email at sales@corset-story.com