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The first thing that comes to mind when one mentions the word "corset" in the Indian context is perhaps a designer lehenga that has been paired with a corset-like blouse to give the outfit a contemporary look. But the corset is far from modern. Its origins can be traced to 16th century Europe, particularly France, where women and even men wore the garment with an aim to narrow and accentuate the waist. The word "uncomfortable" has also been used synonymously with the corset. However, contemporary corset designer Suman Bharti is quick to refute that. "It's a misconception that a corset is uncomfortable. It's the size and fit that matters," he explains.
An alumnus of Pearl Academy of Fashion, Delhi, Bharti is a specialist in corsetry and is the founder of CorsetDeal, an online store for high-end and authentic steel-boned corsets. Traditionally, corsets were made from whale bones and heavy fabrics that made it uncomfortable to wear for a long period of time. Working out of a design studio in Gurgaon, Bharti has sold his new-age designs in 32 countries. "Corsetry is part of all fashion design curriculum and I found myself particularly interested in the technical construction of this garment," says the designer. He manufactures a wide range of fashion corsets — from Victorian and Edwardian era styles to more modern and casual styles, including "waist training" corsets.
"Corset-making requires technical expertise and, apart from traditional designs that require lacing, I design those with with fasteners and hooks as well, which are easier to wear," says Bharti.
"Most women feel corsets are inner wear but internationally corsets are even worn over an outfit as one would wear a jacket, for a better fit," says Bharti, who travels extensively to research on fabrics and materials to create new collections every season. His sequined corsets are best-sellers. He also says that "waist-training corsets have found larger acceptance in India though."