I need to clear something up that I see A LOT.
See that first corset? That’s an Elizabethan corset c. latter half of the 16th century. It’s purpose was as a foundation garment, warmth, and to provide a stiff, supported shape for clothing. It reduced the waist very little, if at all and had the tendency to push the breasts up and in. The idea was to make a straight, stiff, vaguely conical silhouette.
The second corset is a Victorian corset from the 1890s. It’s purpose was foundation and shaping.
See, up until the 1820s with the advent of metal grommets and the 1860s bringing busks (the metal clasps you see down the front), corset hardware was made primarily out of bone, whale baleen (whalebone), broom straw/reed/cane (the Elizabethan one would probably be stiffened with one of those), and wood. The lacing holes would have been reinforced with either stitching or bone frames called ‘french holes’ (giggity- particularly in the late 18th and early 19th centuries). Metal fittings allowed for more reshaping and resulted in the extreme hourglass shape.
On that note: It is NOT uncomfortable to wear a corset… IF it’s properly fitted. A well-fitting corset feels like a tight hug. Your body will feel in line and supported- NOT in agony (if there is any, it happens when you take it off). If you’re in pain wearing a corset, it probably isn’t fitting you right (which is a common problem if you buy one off the rack or are a new sewer- no two bodies are the same, after all!), you’ve tried to lace it too tight too quick, or something’s going on with your body (back ache, cramps, etc.).
AND SO: TL;DR:
THAT FIRST CORSET ISN’T THAT OTHER CORSET AND IF IT HURTS TO CORSET GET ONE THAT FITS OR GO SEE A CHIROPRACTOR.
*End note: Who the fuck am I? I’m a professional costumer, history and anthropology student, and I travel around the country giving panels on stuff like corsets, LGBTQ culture in the 19th century, and hatmaking. I also wear a shitton of corsets.