London - In these straitened financial times, we are all having to tighten our belts but millions of British women seem to be taking that metaphor literally.

As the economy is being squeezed, sales of corsets are soaring and unlikely as it may seem the two facts could be related.

One- pieces such as corsets, basques and baby-dolls are seen as better value for money than separate bras and panties and as going out becomes too expensive for cash-strapped couples, women want to look their best for intimate nights in.

Lingerie buying habits tend to change during a recession, says Lotte Debell, editor of Lingerie Buyer magazine. Women buy fewer pieces and want to get more wear out of them, but at the same time they may look for sexier products to spice up evenings at home.

The boutique What Katie Did has recorded a 35 percent rise in corset sales over the past year, eBay has reported a massive 826 percent rise in its trade in basques, while Marks & Spencer sells one item from its new corset-inspired Waist Sculpt lingerie line every three minutes. The boom is also linked to the success of the Mad Men TV series, set in the Fifties when the hourglass figure was the height of fashion, as well as to the raunchy stage outfits of today’s pop stars.

“We have seen an increase in the popularity of corsets,” says Nicky Clayton of Rigby & Peller, the Queen’s brassiere-maker.

“This is due to fashion trends such as underwear as outwear and celebrities such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Jessie J making them popular again.”

Rowan Pelling, former editor of Erotic Review, adds: “Mad Men has led to a stampede for corsets. It hasn’t been a fashionable look, but now the women with waists and busts are striking back.”

Burlesque dancer Immodesty Blaize agreed, saying: ‘We’re now seeing a celebration of the womanly shape. There’s a noticeable shift in the mindset from just aiming to be as thin as possible to dressing well for the natural shape we have.’

That said, corsets can reduce the waist by between 2in and 4in. Soozie Jenkinson, head of lingerie design at Marks & Spencer, said: “Mad Men was the big kick-off, but women are generally getting bigger and are losing their curves as they do. Corsets help women get that look back.”

Sixty years ago, women had an average 27in waist and 39in hips – now it is 34in and 40in, marking a shift from hourglass to pear-shaped figures. But the corset comeback is also partly fuelled by the increased comfort of modern lingerie.

Instead of the whalebone originals, held in place by laces pulled tightly from behind, modern designs tend to use less restrictive materials and can be fastened like bras. - Daily Mail