The best thing about fashion today is that it embraces so many trends from the history of clothing. Everyone has the ability to find the pieces that express their individuality, whether that is reflected in the clothing that the rest of the world sees, or in foundational undergarments. For many, corsets and bustiers are a little bit of both.
What is a Corset?
Corsets are traditionally undergarments that fit from the chest area to the hips, with stiff construction and lacing that allows them to be adjusted and tightened.
Many associate corsets with shaping a woman’s figure into a classic hourglass shape. This is a widely accepted use for corsets, but corsets have also historically been used to provide posture support for men and women.
What is a Bustier?
A bustier is an undergarment that is designed to support and enhance the bust area. To do this, there is also some stiffness to the garment, and a bustier may or may not have straps. In fact, having a fabric that covers the midriff gives a bustier structure and its snug fit makes it an ideal option for wearing under sleeveless tops or dresses.
A bustier is more likely to be fitted to an individual and does not have the same lacing options for minor size adjustments. Because of this, finding a bustier that works for you can be more difficult. Like corsets, bustiers have often used hooks and eyes for closure, but modern versions may use easier closures, like zippers.
A Wide Range of Looks
Both corsets and bustiers can be made from a diverse selection of textiles. Because they are typically undergarments, following a lingerie aesthetic is not surprising. Corsets are more often made from sturdier fabrics, like damask or heavier silks to help with their supportive properties.
Bustiers don’t need to use fabrics that will support a panel of eyelets for lacing, but since both have boning features, the fabric used must be sturdy enough to form channels that hold the boning or other support features.
Caring for both garments must be done carefully. Because they are often made of fine fabrics and have precise construction, corsets and bustiers need hand-washing with gentle detergents to last over the long run. Most of the time, cleaning these items requires simple soaping and rinsing to remove any sweat residues.
Drying them flat on top of an absorbent towel will help maintain the shape of your bustier or corset.
Custom-Made or Off-the-Rack?
The reason you want to wear a corset will help determine how much you spend on purchasing it. To address posture issues, look for comfortable, durable, and strong fabrics that help provide support. Boning, the term for structural pieces that give shape and support, is not made from bones as the name implies. Today’s corsets typically use plastic for boning.
Depending on your body’s measurements, you may need to work with a custom corset designer to achieve the posture or shaping goals you seek. The lacing structure on a corset gives wearers a little leeway in getting a snug fit, but this does not mean that corsets are a one-size-fits-all piece. Off-the-rack corsets can cost in the range of $50 to $80 for quality pieces in good fabrics.
A custom corset can range into the hundreds, depending on the fabric and other features you require.
Bustiers have a little less structure, so they may be slightly less expensive. But because they don’t have a lacing feature, finding the right fit is even more important. You should know your bust and under-bust measurements, as well as standard bra cup size to find the right fit for your bustier.
Chances are if you have a hard time finding bras that fit your figure, the same may be true for a bustier.
For off-the-rack bustiers, expect to pay from $35. Custom bustiers can run from $80 upwards depending on size, fabric, decorations, and structure. A really talented seamstress may even be able to add a bustier to the inside of an existing dress to eliminate the need for wearing a bra.
The Shape You’re In
To give your posture some support or define your figure with a certain shape, a corset is going to be your best bet. Lacing runs along with a corset from the top to the bottom—usually in the back. By adjusting the lacing at different points, you can make it work for your goals.
The trick is to remember that you have to breathe while you wear your corset, so be sure to test different lacing techniques to find the right one, and don’t sacrifice breathing for fashion!
Bustiers are not as constrictive, but with a proper fit, can give you a smooth silhouette from bust to waist, while also giving your bustline support. Especially for wearing under strapless garments, bustiers can be an important part of your wardrobe.
The earliest versions of corsets were used in the 16th century, primarily by members of the aristocracy. Earlier versions began just under the bustline and went down to the hip to make the upper body into a conical shape. Later versions began nipping in the waistline to create the hourglass shape for which corsets are known.
As fashions relaxed over the centuries, corsets became an optional, sexy part of the well-rounded lingerie wardrobe.
In the mid-20th Century, bustiers were simply known as long-line brassiere. As they gained popularity for their ability to support the bustline and smooth the midriff, the name bustier became more popular. Today, some boning has been replaced by mesh panels or other structural elements.
Their evolving style has led to many bustiers being worn as outer garments with beautiful and fashion-forward results.
Whatever shape you want to show in your fashion, having the right undergarments is important. Corsets, with their ability to support and reshape, can be a game-changer for those special occasion outfits, or everyday confidence. Bustiers can be a fun alternative to a brassiere, providing a sexy silhouette and new possibilities.