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Corset Talk: The Value of a Modesty Panel

© Joel Aron | Model: Khadijah | Corset: Dark Garden

Photo © Joel Aron | Model: Khadijah | Corset: Dark Garden

Modesty panels play a small, but important role in the world of corsets. These humble little rectangles of fabric accomplish several tasks in one go as they sit behind your corset laces. There are also reasons why some may choose to forgo wearing a modesty panel. Not all corsetieres include modesty panels as standard, so be sure to confirm this detail when placing an order.

Model: Winter Kelly Photo: Winter Wolf Studios Corset: Electra Designs Corsetry

A floating modesty panel, suspended by corset laces. | Photo © Winter Wolf Studios | Model: Winter Kelly | Corset: Electra Designs Corsetry

From a construction standpoint, modesty panels can be made in about as many different ways as the corsets themselves. Generally speaking, they have at least two layers of fabric and some amount of boning or other stiffening. They can be stitched in or left loose. A "floating" modesty panel refers to one that is suspended by being somehow threaded through the lacing.

Look closely for the "Venus Fold", less flatteringly known as "back cleavage."  | Photo © Mariah Carle | Model: Tressa FM | Corset: Pop Antique

Look closely for the "Venus Fold," less flatteringly known as "back cleavage." | Photo © Mariah Carle | Model: Tressa FM | Corset & Skirt: Pop Antique

I generally describe a modesty panel as having three different functions. One of the biggest reasons corset wearers like them is they hide the crease in their skin down their spine that is a natural result of tightening the laces, aka "back cleavage," or a "venus fold." (Isn't that a lovely romantic name for it?) Conversely, some corset enthusiasts, notably in the fetish community, may respond favorably to the sight of the venus fold, as a small, externally visible token of the forces and control of the corset itself. Corsets worn over clothing don't need a modesty panel (though they may still be worn with one), since the garment beneath covers the area of concern.

Corsets worn over clothing may not need to be worn with a modesty panel. | Photo © Jesse Alford | Model: Sara Cecil | Corset & Dress: Pop Antique

Corsets worn over clothing may not need to be worn with a modesty panel. | Photo © Jesse Alford | Model: Sara Cecil | Corset & Dress: Pop Antique

Tied in with the camouflage effect is the way the modesty panel unifies the look of the corset around the body. Made of a matching fabric and often even including design details such as lace overlays or trims, the modesty panel creates an unbroken circumference.


A modesty panel creates continuity around the circumference of the body, particularly when design details are continued across it. | Photo © Joel Aron | Model: Dallas Coulter | Ensemble: Dark Garden

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, a modesty panel shields your back from "lacing burn," the friction that arises as you tighten your corset. Though lacing burn doesn't (in my experience) leave any physical burn marks, it is definitely not a comfortable sensation!

© Karolina Marek | Model: Victoria Dagger | Corset: Pop Antique

Photo © Karolina Marek | Model: Victoria Dagger | Corset: Pop Antique

Speaking of comfort, the other reason not to wear a modesty panel is because some people just don't find them to be so. I am actually one of those people.  I find the additional bulk and boning creates more pressure along my back than is my preference. If you want a modesty panel for aesthetic purposes, talk to your corsetiere about minimalizing the boning and thickness of your modesty panel.

Do you wear a modesty panel with your corsets?  If not, why not?  What's your favorite aspect of modesty panels?

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Marianne Faulkner

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

4 Comments on this post

  1. Burke says:

    I have only owned corsets with a modesty panel. It looks and feels better,

  2. msexceptiontotherule says:

    I like to have a modesty panel simply because I think it looks weird to have a rectangle of shirt fabric that is pink/blue/whatever color breaking up the continuous lines on a black corset. I am 5’1″ with a short torso, so until I’ve got a bit more money and have found the right corsetiere to make an overbust, I do my waist training with both an underbust and cincher OTR that have modesty panels and also with a semi-custom cincher which does not have a modesty panel. The only negative with having a modesty panel is the never-ending battle to keep the stupid thing from going all wonky as the laces are being tightened – I’m already putting each loop over the bathroom doorknob (left is on the outside and right is on the inside) and walking forward away from anywhere near a mirror in order to get the laces cinched. Maybe if I were a lot more patient, I’d be calm and more willing to take baby steps with keeping the modesty panel smooth and straight while doing it totally blind mostly using my more flexible right side with the left providing some semblance of stability to keep everything from moving in the opposite direction. Sadly, I am not, so I have to figure out another way to manage the issue without getting all stabby.

  3. Khadijah Fan says:

    Sorry this is not a corset comment. I love the stockings in the first picture. Do you know where they are from?

    • Marianne says:

      The photo is from Dark Garden’s lookbook and the stockings are a third-party item carried by Dark Garden in San Francisco. I think the brand may be Leg Avenue, though. Hope that helps!

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