There are two main ways this is used:
- The humor comes from the character trying to cram themselves into something that is clearly far too small and constricting for them. Bonus points if they manage it, but the end result makes their figure look absurd.
- A character we previously thought was in shape suffers a mishap which reveals their humiliating secret. This is popular in cartoons, as it's easy to suddenly add extra weight to a character once their corset has been removed.
Always Played for Laughs, but if the corset wearer is attractive it can loop back around to Fanservice. Similarly, if the owner of the corset is not attractive or very overweight it can become Fan Disservice.
Unlike Of Corsets Sexy, this trope is fairly unisex, probably because the idea of a male wearing a girdle is funnier, and more indicative that the wearer is vain, pathetic and ridiculous. The exposure of a girdle is often used as part of a Humiliation Conga, especially if the character is unsympathetic. Most likely to happen to a Fat Bastard, a Narcissist, a Small Name, Big Ego, The Prima Donna, an Alpha Bitch, and a Nice Character, Mean Actor. If the character is sympathetic, it's often a device to show the character as insecure while picking up a cheap laugh along the way.
- Blue Beetle: Towards the end of his weight problem Character Arc, Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle, was asked by General Glory if he was wearing a girdle under his costume. He insisted he wasn't—he was wearing control-top tights. Glory assured him it was nothing to be ashamed of and claimed this was why Dr. Fate's costume had such a high waistband.
- Bridget Jones squeezes herself into a panty girdle to look slim in her slinky black dress — she only remembers she has it on when her office crush is undressing her. He has a chuckle at her expense. The joke is repeated several times in the sequel. Bridget's big support knickers are her Iconic Item.
- The Carry On films of the '50s and '60s LOVED this trope, and it's unusual to find a film in the series that doesn't include a few jokes about some of the more ample cast members struggling with their corsetry.
- The Cat in the Hat: One of the many unsettling scenes in the film version includes the well-groomed, suave Alec Baldwin locking himself in the privacy of his house, removing the girdle he wears under his shirt and unleashing a massive beer belly.
- In Father of the Bride, Stanley, the father, desperately tries to fit into his old tuxedo. He just barely manages it, although Ellie observes that the button will put someone's eye out if it comes loose. Then when he's trying to open a window his tuxedo coat splits down the middle.
- It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: Ethel Merman's character takes a few undignified pratfalls, exposing her foundation garments. This was a Justified Trope in 1963 when it was considered proper for women and girls in First World societies to wear foundation garments, no matter their weight or build.
- In Lethal Weapon 3, Riggs catches Murtaugh wearing a girdle under his bulletproof vest so that he can fit into his old uniform when they get busted to patrol. Naturally, Riggs gives him a bit of a hard time about it.
- The Malibu Bikini Shop: The Rich Bitch gets her just desserts after her dress gets ripped off in front of the bikini babes she's been plotting against, exposing her dark secret — a long leg panty girdle.
- In The Winter Queen, Fandorin encounters an ad for male corsets, with a lot of bizarre snake-oil claims about improving health. He buys one, and closer to the end of the novel it does save his health by working like an armor vest. Then his boss considers making these corsets standard issue.
- Dick from 3rd Rock from the Sun became self-conscious about some extra weight and bought himself a male corset called "The Shatner". He laces it tightly and goes to work, where Mary and Nina instantly notice when he drops a calculator and can barely pick it up. Then he sits down. The corset can't take the strain and bursts in a spectacular fashion.
- On 30 Rock it's often mentioned that Liz wears Spanx — when she set out to seduce someone she wore a double set. It's implied Lutz wears Spanx too.
- Bewitched: One episode has Samantha befriend a beleaguered magician who is being exploited by his scheming, vain assistant. On learning how she plans to use his tricks to become a star herself, Samantha magics her gown to rip off in front of the live audience and TV cameras, revealing that the assistant wears a girdle.
- The Carol Burnett Show: One skit has a woman who can't get through the metal detector without it beeping. She finally goes behind a screen, takes off a METAL corset, and goes through the metal detector another time, getting stuck.
- Come Back Mrs. Noah. The title character—a middle-aged British housewife stuck on a space station—has to remove her clothes before using the decontamination chamber.
Cunliffe : (examining corset) What's this—a radiation belt?
- CSI has an episode where a dead Civil War re-enactor wore one, as apparently well-born men wore them back then just like women, and although it wasn't meant solely for humor they did get a lot out of it. Grissom's Quip to Black was "What a waste" (waist).
- Dad's Army: In one episode, the various members of the Home Guard are desperately attempting to look younger to avoid being transferred to the ARP. Captain Mainwaring notices that Sergeant Wilson is standing straighter than usual and it is revealed that he is wearing a girdle (or, as he refers to it, a "gentleman's abdominal support").
- On Emergency!, Johnny and Roy got called to a woman's house. She put on a new girdle that was so tight she could barely breathe and spoke in little more than a whisper. John cut the girdle off her and it smacked him in the face.
- Extras: Andy wears one in the Christmas special, and of course it bursts during his audition.
- The Golden Girls: This is used for a slight throwaway gag after Blanche throws her back out and tells the other girls her diagnosis — no physical activity for a week, and she has to wear a corset and stay on her back with her legs elevated. Sophia quickly quips that "that's the same thing you did last Saturday!"
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The psychotically narcissistic Dennis has been known to wear one, as well as makeup. It backfires when a woman he's trying to seduce notices and assumes he's gay.
- In The Munsters episode "Low-Cal Munster", Herman resorts to wearing a corset to fit into his old Army uniform after failing on his diet.
- In The Muppets (2015) after Miss Piggy has Reece Witherspoon appear on her talk show (which she's had an apparent rivalry with for a couple of years), she goes back to her dressing room to get out of her Spanx, woven extra tight for Reece's appearance. Once they've been removed, Uncle Deadly proceeds to praise them, saying "You worked extra hard tonight."
- The Muppet Show:
- In an early episode, Gilda the hairdresser is trying to make herself look younger, and resorts to wearing "very tight foundation garments". In the middle of her conversation with Kermit, her girdle explodes.
- Another episode reveals that the vain spaceship captain Link Hogthrob wears a girdle.
- Lister on Red Dwarf transfers his body to Rimmer so he can exercise and get it into shape. He ends up going on a huge binge, having forgotten how good food tastes, and tries to hide the fact he made the body much fatter with a heavy duty girdle.
- Spin City: In one episode, Nikki proves Carter is vainer than she is by tearing his shirt open, exposing his "Mr. Tummy-Tucker".
- In Will & Grace, Jack once revealed to Will that he wears a man-girdle.
- The Critic: In an episode involving Jay's sister attending a debutante ball, a quick shot of a maid attempting to tie a corset is followed by the reveal that it was being put on Jay. Outside his tuxedo and binding his arms, as well!
- Family Guy: Peter wears a comedically tight corset in order to ride a rollercoaster which he otherwise wouldn't be let on because he's too fat. Of course, since he hasn't actually lost any weight, he's still way too heavy and ends up breaking the rollercoaster, causing a crash that kills at least one child.
- Futurama: The intensely vain Zapp Brannigan suffers a girdle failure when visiting an extremely high gravity planet.
Zapp: Let me ask you a serious question, Leela. Does the company that made your bra make a girdle as well? I ask because a friend of mine...
- Garfield and Friends: In one episode, Garfield attends a cat obedience class with a snooty teacher who secretly wears a girdle under his suit.
- Looney Tunes:
Elmer: Don't waugh. I bet pwenty of you men wear one of these.
- In the Bugs Bunny cartoon "The Wacky Wabbit", Bugs cuts open Elmer's shirt and suspenders, exposing a girdle.note Elmer turns to the audience, pre-emptively admonishing them for what Termite Terrace envisioned as possible Hypocritical Humor.
- The Mask once featured an ultra modern home that had hundreds of robotic arms to do chores. Of course, the thing went haywire and ripped the suit off Charlie, causing him to cry "It's not a girdle! It's a sports support!
- Mickey Mouse: The short "The Dognapper" shows Peg-Leg Pete receiving his comeuppance by being frog-marched through the streets with a feminine corset binding his arms to his sides.
- Rugrats: Grandpa once wore a corset to impress his visiting friend with how well he'd kept his figure over the years. At the end of the episode, when the ruse is exposed, the friend reveals that he was wearing one too.
- The Simpsons has a few examples:
- When a shop specializing in whalebone corsets opens in Springfield, the notoriously overweight Comic Book Guy buys himself a ridiculously tight one:
- Homer tries to wear a very tight girdle to fit into his Pie Man superhero costume. The poor girdle pops seconds after he puts it on.
- In an earlier episode, Krusty walks off an award show due to a terrible script filled with Incredibly Lame Puns. He accidentally leaves his mic on and broadcasts himself on live TV saying "At least I can take off this girdle." [sound of large gut spilling out]
- In another episode, Homer's gay roommates takes him to a trendy clothing store for a wardrobe update, but his gut keeps spilling out from underneath the shirts. Finally, he puts on a girdle to keep it in.
- This has become so associated with William Shatner he's become the Trope Codifier. Any parody of Star Trek worth its salt is bound to include a few shots at the infamous girdle, which he denies ever having worn to this day.
- Tabloids that love to point out the follies of celebrities often feature unfortunate actresses with their Spanx showing from under their dresses as they disembark cars.
- Jimmy Kimmel has admitted publicly to wearing Spanx for men during his heavier days.