Waist trainer: A compression garment that squeezes the wearer’s midsection to create an hourglass shape.
“Celebrity double wide waist trainer corset” via Groupon; 87 percent latex, 10 percent polyamide, 3 percent elastene. That “double wide” in the name is perhaps unfortunate.
It’s fashion week at Fritinancy – language of fashion, that is. Every day (more or less) I’ll post something of interest from the current world of fashion branding, naming, and word-inventing.
We lead off with waist trainer, a celebrity-driven new term for an article of apparel that’s as old as the corset, which itself first became popular in the 16th century.* (The corset, a diminutive of cors, or body, was introduced to France by Catherine de’ Medici.) More recently, such garments were known as “waist cinchers” or “waist shapers.” Instead of stays – flat strips of whalebone (originally) or metal – waist trainers rely on the compressive power of fabrics like elastene.
Waist trainer began appearing in 2014, in stories about K-List celebrities – notably the Kardashian sisters – who posted photos of themselves with “trained” waists. (“Khloe Kardashian’s Waist Is Freakishly Tiny in New Instagram Selfie” – Us Magazine, September 25, 2015. “Kim Zolciak Says She Lost ‘4 Inches’ From Wearing Her Waist Trainer – See the Pic!” – E Online, June 8, 2015.)
The shift from cincher to trainer and the use of the verb to waist train suggests that the garment isn’t merely a fashion accessory but is instead part of a healthy, active lifestyle (compare weight training, strength training). Some women even combine waist “training” with exercise: “Women who waist train will wear a corset for a few hours per day to start. Then, they’ll gradually tighten that corset, wearing it for up to 18 hours per day – including at the gym,” reports SupplementPolice.com.
This is, needless to say, fallacious, ineffective, and risky. “The corset itself doesn’t have any direct effect on your fat or anatomy,” plastic surgeon Andrew Miller told a Yahoo Health editor in June 2015. “If you stopped wearing a corset, eventually you’re just going to return to the way you were.”
The most visible entrepreneur behind the craze is an aspiring rap artist who calls herself Premadonna or PreMadonna** (she alternates between the two spellings); she started her company, the redundantly named Waist Gang Society, in 2013. (The URL is clever: WhatsAWaist.com. The photos on the site are, shall we say, bodacious.) PreMadonna told VH1+Celebrity in May 2015 that Kim and Khloe Kardashian were early customers, “and then you get other celebrities.” She claims her revenue now exceeds $1 million.
Another retailer, Squeem, sells similar products but with proprietary style names: Perfect Waist, Miracle Vest, Sexy Body, Sensual Curves. Founded in Brazil, the company is now based in Florida, and is desperately in need of a better name. I wrote about Squeem back in 2006.
* For a historical perspective on corsets, waist cinchers, and other middle-binding garments, see this post by The Dreamstress.
** For other examples of “pre-madonna” (prima donna), see the Eggcorn Database.