Corsets & Bustier Style Guide

Best Corsets and Bustiers

Whether worn as a piece of sexy lingerie, fashionable outerwear or as part of a steampunk cosplay (that is to say, costume play) outfit, there’s no arguing that a corset top or bustier can help you get those killer curves you’re after. These two fixtures of classic undergarments are enjoying a renaissance these days as women of all ages are rediscovering their incredible body-shaping benefits and alluring features. This guide will walk you through the types and features of corsets and bustiers, as well as:

What is the Difference Between a Corset and a Bustier?

Corsets and bustiers are undergarments that featured heavily in Victorian and Edwardian couture. They’re often mistaken for each other because both garments fit close to the body and are usually boned. Both garments are also traditionally fastened at the front with hook-and-eyes or a busk and lace up the back. Although the garments are similar, they’re worn for very different reasons.

Originally, corsets were worn during Victorian times to provide the wearer with a smooth line from waist to bust. One-piece from top to bottom, the corset made no accommodations for the chest. The corset made the wearer appear thinner and more streamlined with a cinched hourglass waist.

Bustiers, on the other hand, were designed to accentuate a woman’s curves. A bustier often had cups built in that served to lift the breasts and create cleavage.

How to Pick a Corset or Bustier

When you’re shopping for a corset top or a bustier, getting the size right is important because there’s not a lot of room for error. The first thing you’ll want to do is to properly take your measurements (our guide on how to measure your bra size also helps explain this in depth). Always be sure to keep the measuring tape parallel to the ground.

  1. Start by measuring your underbust, right where a bra’s band would be.
  2. Next, measure your natural waist. This is where your body folds when you bend side to side, usually about 1” above the belly button.
  3. Measure the upper hip, at or just below the hipbone. The upper hip is the part of the body that bends when you sit.
  4. Lastly, measure your torso length. Sit very straight in a chair, place the measuring tape centered under one breast, and extend the tape to the top of your thigh.

If your natural waist is under 38", then you’ll want to choose a corset or bustier that’s 4-7" smaller than your natural waist. If your natural waist is over 38", choose a corset or bustier that’s 7-10" smaller than your natural waist.

Still not sure what size to get? Call a certified Bra Fit Expert for a complimentary, personalized over-the-phone fitting at 877-728-9272 (select option 4).

Styles of Corsets and Bustiers

Corsets and bustiers come in three different lengths: standard, long and waspie (short). The style you choose will ultimately depend on the length of your torso.

  • Standard length corsets and bustiers are long at the front and short at the sides. Standard length corsets are ideal for women with torso lengths of about 8" or more.
  • Long corsets and bustiers are designed for women with torso lengths of 11" or more.
  • Also called mini corsets, waspie-length corsets are best for those with torso lengths as short as 7.5", but they can also be worn by women of all torso lengths.

Corsets and bustiers also come in plus size. (Sizes 32 and under are considered “standard,” and sizes 34 to 46 are considered “plus.”)

Another consideration when choosing a corset or bustier is the shape and curve of the garment. Curves range from minimal to extreme, with the latter resulting in the tightest cinch at the waist.

How to Wear Corsets as Outerwear

While first intended to be worn underneath clothing, modern-day corsets and bustiers are intended to be worn as outerwear. Here are some tips to help you rock your new corset or bustier as outerwear:

  • A corset top looks stunning when worn over a shirt because the intricate design elements and quality fabric of the piece are really allowed to shine. Try wearing one over a long-sleeve button-down shirt or T-shirt dress. It’s a great way to increase the sexiness of an outfit without compromising modesty. You can even pair the top with jeans for a casual look, or dress it up by wearing with heels.
  • If you aren’t afraid of showing a bit of skin, then you can make the corset or bustier the primary piece in your day’s outfit. You can wear it alone without anything under it and pair it with jeans for a sexy look, or throw a cardigan or sweater over it on cooler days. If you're heading to a party or evening event, then your corset will look incredible when matched with a skirt and heels, or black pants and knee-high boots.

Corset and Bustier FAQs

Here are answers to the most common questions we get about corsets and bustiers.

Will Wearing a Corset Thin my Waist Over Time?

Corsets and bustiers are sometimes called “waist trainers” because wearing them over time is believed to help thin the waist. This is because they force the floating ribs and organs to temporarily shift. If a thinner waist is your goal, then wearing a corset with steel boning can help, but only temporarily. However, many women wear corsets as an external LAP band because doing so encourages them to eat less.

What is an Underbust and Overbust?

An underbust corset fits right underneath the breasts, so it can be worn underneath clothes with a bra. An overbust corset, on the other hand, can be worn under clothing where it can replace the bra and underbust corset, but it can also just as easily be worn as an outerwear top.

Steel Boning or Plastic Boning?

Corsets and bustiers come available with either steel or plastic boning, but many believe that a corset isn’t a real corset unless it has steel boning. The reason is because allegedly only steel boning has the strength and rigidity needed to successfully cinch the waist. Corsets that feature plastic boning tend to be worn more for looks or fashion, not for waist training because they tend to bend.

What Types of Results Should I Expect from a Bustier or Corset?

This is a question with no singular answer. The truth is, every single body is unique and there are a lot of factors that go into the results one gets when wearing a corset or bustier. A corset or bustier will help you achieve a more hourglass-like figure, but how much depends on your body and the garment you choose.

Bare Necessities: Bra Fit Experts

From the desk of: Our Bare Necessities Bra Fit Experts

We take fit personally! With over 20 years of experience, we know how the perfect bra should fit and feel. Our Bra Fit Experts stop at nothing to find you the perfect fit. Chat online or call 877-728-9272 (select option 4) for a complimentary bra fitting or personal shopping advice.


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