Corsets have been a fashion staple for centuries, with different types and styles that have come and gone with the times. From Victorian undergarments to modern-day fashion pieces, corsets have been used to create shape and flatter the body. In this article, we'll explore five different types of corsets and how to wear them to create the perfect look.
Let's talk about popular types and shapes of corsets and how to wear them for various occasions and styles.
The modern corset is a tool for slimming the waist and exaggerating the hips and bust in order to achieve the desired hourglass figure.
While Victorian women originally hated them, modern women love the shape and confidence it gives them. Just like high heels, they may feel uncomfortable, but provide the right posture and do wonders for the body and the self-esteem.
Today's corset was born in 15th or 16th century, and we have Catherine De Medici to thank (who is also responsible for the popularization of high heels. Coincidence? I think not. She might have been the greatest lady in history). The popularity of the corset reached its peak in the Victorian era.
At the beginning of 20th century a more flexible alternative, girdle, was discovered. The corset came back into fashion in the ‘40s and ‘50s thanks to burlesque dancers and began to gain a more sexual connotation. In the ‘80s the goth scene embraced it, so today it’s mostly worn among the Victorian (the “classic goths”) Steampunk, vintage, rockabilly/pinup and burlesque fans.
The comeback of the corset is also attributed to the 2001 film Moulin Rouge, where the costumes featured many corsets characteristic of the era.
Today, corsets are not as shocking as they used to be. They are worn by celebrities, on red carpets, weddings, proms and other formal events.
They feature many modern details such as beads, rhinestones, studs, chains and spikes – the possibilities are endless!
Corsets vary in style, materials (lace, silk, PVC…), shapes, fit, colors, patterns. They can be overbust or underbust, with less and more extreme curves, with steel or plastic boning (many argue that these aren’t real corsets, but for a certain price you can get one with a pretty decent support), worn over or under the clothes, alone or as other clothing items (which have incorporated corset elements, such as lace - for example blouses or dresses). They can lace-up, zip-up, or have hook and eye closures. They can have details such as beads or frills to accentuate some parts and de-emphasize some other parts of the body.
Popular corset materials
1. Satin usually worn under the clothes, if you only want the hourglass figure without the corset showing.
2. Mesh breathable and light, great for the summer months, gives the body a great silhouette and can be worn under or over the clothes.
3. Cotton casual and comfortable, durable and breathable, but not advisable to wear as underwear, as it’s a bit thicker.
4. Leather comfortable over the clothing and stylish, but is not recommended for waist training as it stretches out.
5. Brocade thick durable polyester blend, worn as a stylish accessory.
Four Tips For Wearing Corsets
1. Layer They are usually worn with a chemise underneath (or today: camisole) –an undershirt to absorb perspiration and keep it clean.
2. Lacing Usually they are tightened by fastening the front busk, and then lacing up the back. Lace the corset in the middle for best shape and support.
3. Selection In choosing the right type of corset you may need to consider a number of factors such as your figure, personal style, the occasion.
4. Care Corsets can not just be thrown in the wash and hung in your closet. To make sure they last, you want to care for them properly. Learn more about cleaning and storing corsets here
The Main Types of Corsets
1. Underbust Corsets
Underbust corsets begin right under the breasts (self-explanatory) and usually end at the beginning of your lap.
Recommended for first time corset wearers is a black cotton underbust with detachable garters. Later you can always add more daring styles and materials such as PVC and leather or various patterns.
They provide hourglass shape, but don’t offer support for the breasts. Other than that, they are also great for posture as they provide back support just like overbusts.
Their main advantage is versatility – you can get a simple cotton underbust and use it for million different styles and outfits – traditionally with a black or white frilly shirt, but also with more casual tank-tops or printed Tees– all the while maintaining a great figure! A classic piece of clothing like this is a great investment and a must have!
The Most Popular Types of Underbust Corsets Include
a. Longline extends over the hips, for tall women with long torsos, offers the most coverage.
b. Cincher a shorter underbust), pointed silhouette (an underbust that’s longer at the center front and back, but shorter at the sides.
c. Corsets with wide straps - such as halter and cross-back style, can be both overbust and underbust, best for girls with wider shoulders
d. Bodice - ends around the natural waist, has straps and generally provides the most coverage and support for the whole back and the shoulders
Other Types of Underbust Corsets
The shortest underbust, a waspie is practically a wider belt and only goes around a woman’s stomach. This provides a somewhat smaller waist, but is less constricting. It is usually worn only for fashion purposes, layered over shirts and dresses. However, it can be also made with steel boning for waist training.
It is a safe bet for girls with shorter torsos and fuller bust, as you don’t want the boning to poke into your thighs or breasts while sitting down. The dress can also be the same color as the corset, to make the figure seem longer.
For a casual summer daytime look or a beach wedding, add a black waspie with glamorous beading to a flowy boho white maxi dress.
The mesh waspie can add shape and a modern twist to a classic vintage dress, worn with a pinup hair style and a flower. Since the waspie only plays a part as an accessory here, and the dresses aren't too revealing, this look is great for all formal events, weddings, or even the workplace.
b. Waist Trainers/Cinchers
The modern term is misused, because what most consider a waist trainer is actually a latex waist cincher.
A corset is usually made of cotton, mesh, leather or satin. It has steel boning and can be worn over the clothes as a fashion statement. A waist cincher (trainer) is elastic shapewear that you wear under the clothes, usually while working out (think of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Amber Rose) and can create a temporary hourglass figure, but can’t truly modify your waist.
On the other hand, proper waist training corsets can modify your figure semi-permanently. Wearing corsets is not dangerous for your health as long as it fits properly, and you certainly shouldn’t tolerate any pain, moderation is key.
What’s more, corsets can be beneficial for your health by improving your posture, supporting your back and strengthening your core muscles. Some women even wear them in the workplace to maintain good posture while sitting.
2. Overbust Corsets
Overbusts usually begin just under your arms and end above the hips. They lift up the breasts, while reducing the waistline, offer great support for the back and can be worn as casual everyday wear or elegant evening wear, over or under the clothes. Add a pair of high heels and you'll be turning heads wherever you go with your feminine posture!
The downside of an overbust is that it’s not as versatile as an underbust, so you can have one style, and one style only.
Popular Types of Overbust Corsets Include:
a. Cupped corsets have built-in pads, women with larger breasts prefer this kind of corset because it gives better support.
b. Lingerie corsets are more revealing, typically with details such as lace, silk and beads, usually come with a G-string, and with built-in or detachable garters to hold up the stockings.
Other Types of Corsets
A bustier is traditionally worn under the clothes, to push up the bust and shape the waist gently (basically a bra + shapewear combo). They are often confused for corsets, but there are important differences: a corset provides the hourglass “cinch” in the waist, while a bustier doesn’t, corsets are more expensive etc.
Image Courtesy : www.vendio.com
A bustier usually features details such as lace and bows and is worn with a G-string and halter stockings with garters.
For a casual look, you can wear a bustier top alone with jeans or a skirt, with added studs for a modern, edgy look.
2. Flat-front style
Modern version of a Victorian corset with a straight-across neckline. For women with smaller bust (B cups or smaller), it can actually create an illusion of multiple cup sizes. Just be careful that the bust isn’t too loose, as it will require alterations (for example inserting some bra pads)
Image Courtesy : www.virbcdn.com
A straighter neckline is also recommended for girls with asymmetrical breasts, but again you’re going to need a bra pad and place it at the right spot to create the illusion of symmetry.
3. Sweetheart neckline
Sweetheart is the modern standard, usually for formal events and weddings.
Image Courtesy : www.modernweddingblog.com/
It’s the most classic and feminine type of an overbust – the breasts are accentuated and supported with a defined waist. If you choose a strapless overbust – a sweetheart neckline is definitely more flattering than a boxy flat front. Unfortunately, if your breasts are uneaven, the sweetheart neckline will accentuate it even more.
Best for women with average build and curves, to accentuate the hourglass figure.
Corset Outfit Ideas
1. Great for a sexy casual outfit with a pair of skinny jeans, or, for a formal event, go all out with laces, brocades and ribbons, or embellishments such as rhinestones and beading, don’t be afraid to experiment!
2. A bodice underbust can look very elegant with a classic white shirt and a pencil skirt, or a flowy black skirt for formal events. It can also add interest to a basic jeans and a tank-top outfit for a daytime look or a casual party.
3. A brown longline corset looks very classy for a formal lunch or even the office! Wear it with a white shirt, gray knee-length skirt and low heel mary-janes, AND don’t forget to cover it up with a classic gray blazer.
4. For inspiration, take the four badass chicks from the Moulin Rouge and add rhinestone jewelry, headpieces, garters and waist chains to make the look as glamorous as it gets! For a modern Moulin Rouge look, take a black underbust and pair it with a purple lace top. Add some bows, lace gloves, a rhinestone necklace and a matching flower to your hair. Of course if you don’t want to go out in public looking like a burlesque dancer, you can add a simple or frilly black skirt, and you’ll be the star of any party!
5. For a steampunk look, a black overbust can be worn alone or over a frilly shirt. Add a brown studded belt and a high-low skirt, to show off thigh-high stockings. Add some bronze vintage looking jewelry, lace-up boots and a retro hat.
6. For a formal evening look, you can never go wrong with a classic sweetheart neckline overbust, paired with a frilly knee-length lace skirt.
7. This rockabilly gingham overbust with halterneck straps offers maximum coverage, and can be worn as a regular tank top with a pair of jeans during the summer days.
8. A deep red brocade overbust with a matching skirt is great for any formal event such as proms and weddings. Add a long necklace with black pearls and a flower for a true royal goth look.
Although many women avoid corsets because they worry about finding the right shape and size, we hope we showed you that there is a right style for every taste, figure and occasion!
What do you think? What are your favorite types of corsets and how do you wear them?
Let us know in the comments!
Cover photo courtesy of Bubble Honey Tea