The Language of Corsets: A Guide to Styles

Corsets have been around for hundreds of years. For the most part, we're super psyched about that fact - who doesn't love the knowledge that they're part of a centuries-long trend which includes everyone from royalty to movie stars? But, there is one less than amazing side effect of this amazing history: Corsets have had a lot of time to change and develop, and corset makers and wearers have had a lot of time to experiment.

What does that mean for us modern day corset lovers? Well...it means that there are a lot of different styles to choose from. How many, you ask? So many that if we wrote an article listing every single one, we'd probably be typing for a week straight and have no time left to write articles about any other topic ever again. OK, maybe that's slightly an exaggeration, but there are a whole lot of corset styles to choose from. Lucky for you guys, we've compiled this handy dandy guide to some of the most common ones.

Read on to learn about the different ways to categorize corsets. We can promise that, after reading this article, you'll be informed and ready to make your next corset purchase armed with all this fantastic new knowledge!

Based on Bust: Two Main Categories

The simplest method of breaking down corsets into styles is to split them into two categories: overbust and underbust. These separate corsets by whether or not they cover the chest area. We've mentioned these terms a few times in some of our earlier articles, but we'll provide a refresher on the definitions right here.

The Underbust

An underbust corset stops just below the breasts - right below the bottom edge of a standard bra. It covers the entire stomach and ends at the top of the hips. (Another way to think of it is, when you sit down, the corset does not cover any part of your "lap").

Underbust corsets usually push the breasts upward somewhat but do not provide any support to them. They can be worn together with a standard bra - in fact, this is often the recommended method of wear because of their inability to support the breasts properly.

An underbust corset can even be paired with a push-up bra to further emphasize the chest. Typically, men and women with smaller chests prefer to use an underbust corset. Individuals with larger chests often complain that an underbust corset does not provide enough support for day to day use. However, larger chested people may still use underbusts for shorter periods of time such as during special events.

Underbusts are the most versatile type of corset, as they can be worn both under and over clothing. They also do not usually feature much decoration due to having a smaller surface area. A plain underbust in a neutral color such as black, white or grey can be easily coordinate with practically any type of outfit.

The Overbust

On the other hand, an overbust corset covers at least the bottom half of the upper chest area - and, in some cases, the entire breast. They typically stop at the hips like the underbust, but may come in some slightly longer variants for extra support to the abdomen area.

Support is considered by many to be the primary benefit of an overbust corset. It supports not only the chest, but also the core, abdomen and lower back. People with larger chests find that overbust corsets are comfortable to wear throughout the day without causing any irritation or pain. It is typically not recommended to wear a bra underneath or with an overbust corset, as it can become uncomfortable or cause excess friction due to rubbing. Unlike underbusts, overbusts can be worn as a shirt or top on their own without needing any additional layers. Most can be worn over clothes; some simpler varieties can also be worn under outfits as a form of lingerie.

Overbust corsets are usually considered to be the more formal of the two types, pairing well with both elegant dresses and smart, professional blazers. More decorative varieties of overbust corsets can also be found. They feature such additions as ribbons, lace, buttons, gemstones, ruffles and more.

Overbust Necklines

Unfortunately, it gets a little more complicated from here on in. The overbust corset category can be further divided into three types depending on the type of neckline used in the design. Despite all being types of overbust corset, the three necklines have different properties and tend to be used for different events and with different outfits.

The Flat-Front

As its name suggests, a flat-front overbust features a straight, horizontal neckline cutting directly across the top of the breasts. There will be minimal to no "dip" between the breasts. The overall design of a flat-front usually features a lot of straight, smooth lines to create an elegant but not flashy appearance. It will sometimes feature straps, usually standard shoulder straps to create a balanced, symmetrical impression.

Smaller-chested individuals may find that a flat-front successfully creates the appearance of a larger bust size - even one multiple cup sizes larger. It does this by downplaying cleavage and focusing on the natural curve of the breast. However, this does not necessarily mean that those with larger chests cannot totally rock a flat-front style.

Flat-front overbust corsets are inspired by the traditional Victorian style, and are sometimes also sold under the name Victorian corset. They are fairly formal and go well with dresses or blazers. However, because they usually cover the entire breast, flat-front overbusts can be worn on their own without any covering or lower layer. This can be useful during hot or humid weather.

The Sweetheart

A sweetheart neckline gets its name due to creating a shape similar to the top part of a cartoon heart. A typical sweetheart neckline curves slightly above each breast and dips down between them, creating a pair of distinct curves outlining the breast. It usually does not have straps, as they are thought to detract from the prominence of the chest.

A sweetheart overbust corset typically provides the most support for the lower part of the breast. Therefore, they are often favored by those with larger chests. Again, like the flat-front, any individual of any bust size can wear a sweetheart overbust comfortably and look fabulous in it. Sweetheart necklines have long been found on prom or wedding dresses. Due to this, they are considered very formal.

A sweetheart corset will give off the impression of being very classical, feminine, and elegant. We recommend wearing your favorite overbust with this type of neckline to events such as galas, work parties, dances, and nights on the town!

The Cupped Overbust

A cupped overbust, as the name suggests, is designed for those who need either extra support or extra padding in the chest area. Like a support tank top or bathing suit, this corset will feature two sturdy, padded cups, usually made of synthetic sweat-resistant fabric. These pads serve the purpose of both supporting larger breasts and enhancing smaller ones.

Due to their reputation as supportive, cupped overbust corsets are more common among larger chested people than ones who do not need quite as much of a sturdy feel. However, a properly fitted cupped overbust can in some cases provide the appearance of a larger cup size due to its padded nature. Due to the cups, this type of corset must be properly fitted. Cups which are too large or small can be uncomfortable and ruin your hourglass silhouette. If you are not sure what size is right for you, ask a staff member at your local lingerie store to measure you. Many stores provide this service free of charge.

Cupped overbusts typically come in a wider variety of styles than the other two neckline types described above. Because of this, they are not limited to being only formal or casual, but can play multiple roles in multiple different outfits and be worn to a wide range of events.

Based on Length: Three Styles

The second way of categorizing corsets is by length. Often, a corset will be identified using multiple descriptive words.

For example, you might be able to purchase a "bodice overbust with sweetheart neckline" or a "longline underbust". For this reason, it is not enough simply to know the different between underbust and overbust corsets.

The three standard corset lengths are also important to understand. To figure out which length is best for you, use a soft measuring tape to measure the length of your torso, starting at the base of your bust and stopping at the top of your hip.

See our article here for more information about how to use these measurements to choose the right length of corset for you.

The Longline

The longline corset is, as its name suggests, the longest of the three available lengths. It is also sometimes referred to as the Edwardian corset due to its rise in popularity during that period in English history. (If you are a fan of period movies or dramas, you have likely seen actresses wearing longline corsets many times before.)

A standard longline corset extends all the way to the top part of the hips, covering the entire stomach and lower abdominal area. Of course, such a corset is frequently worn by tall people with long torsos who find more standard lengths to be uncomfortably short. However, that is far from the only use for a longline corset. Individuals with larger waists and stomach areas, such as those with apple or pear-shaped bodies, often appreciate the extra cover which a longline hem provides. (See here for more information about body types and how to identify which one best describes you.)

Longline corsets are known to prevent muffin tops, areas of fat which gather at your sides due to the gap between the hem of a shorter corset and the waistband or a skirt or pair of pants. If you are a fan of more modest, covering outfits or prefer extra support, a longline corset is a good choice for you. Of course, just because it's more covering doesn't mean a longline can't be plenty sexy - pair with some tight pants or choose one decorated with ribbons, frills or bows to create an alluring silhouette!

The Bodice

Unlike the longline, the bodice corset stops at or just below the natural waist (the thinnest part of your waistline) and does not fully reach or cover the hips. Because the bodice has long been the most popular type of corset, you may also see it referred to as the "standard" "normal" or "generic" corset. If you see a corset advertised without a length designation included, it is likely to be a bodice.

Bodices do not provide as much support to the stomach and lower abdomen as longlines do. However, they are more supportive in the upper chest and back area. Individuals suffering from spinal injuries or conditions are often recommended to wear bodice corsets. Due to its average length, a bodice is often considered to be the most versatile type of corset. It is long enough that it can be worn over most shirts and dresses and with most pants and skirts without causing any discomfort or awkward silhouettes.

It is also short enough for successful "stealth corseting" - it can be worn under a normal outfit without sticking out the bottom as a longline might run the risk of doing.

The Waspie / Wasp Waist

A waspie or wasp waist corset is the shortest length currently available and is often mistaken for simply a thick belt. It covers the natural waist and a small area above and below it; a standard waspie does not reach either the top of the chest or the hips. Most waspies are of the underbust variety due to their smaller size.

Waspie corsets focus less on providing support and more on offering the most extreme and dramatic narrowing of the waist possible. Due to having less fabricat the top or bottom and not needing to be padded or supportive, they can focus on this task successfully. Therefore, waspie corsets are extremely popular with extreme waist trainers or tightlacers (see here for more information).

A waspie corset is an excellent choice for stealth corseting, because they are short enough to fit underneath pretty much any top. Wearing a waspie over another outfit is also possible, though you should carefully choose garments which will not bunch up around the cinched waist. A simple button-up shirt or a plain dress are classic options!

Straps

Some sellers of corsets will also make reference to whether or not their product features straps and what style of straps are used. The most common terms you will see used are:

Standard, stays, tank top or camisole style refer to two symmetrical straps which can be either thin or thick. This is the same strap style used for most tank tops and many bathing suits. These create a balanced silhouette and are very common and usually quite comfortable.

A halter is a single long strap which forms a loop to put your head through. It gives an elegant appearance, but is not recommended for people with poor posture as it may encourage slouching.

Vest or waistcoat style straps are very thick and cover most of the shoulder. These straps are often found on corsets which feature buttons up the front or patterns such as stripes or plaid. They tend to create a masculine or androgynous look and can be very formal and classy.

Criss cross or X-shaped straps cross over one another, usually at the back and sometimes at the front. These are lightweight, breathable straps which are great for hot weather and summer sunshine while still providing support to the shoulders.

The Silhouette

Most sellers of corsets do not include notation describing the silhouette which wearing their product creates. Therefore, understanding this classification is less crucial than knowing the difference between the three lengths and two bust types.

However, as the following terms are still ones you might encounter, we have included a brief description of each. Categorizing a corset by silhouette focuses on the shape your body will attain while you are wearing it. This is usually achieved by comparing the shape of the corseted body to a common object.

  • Hourglass. The standard silhouette described in so many of our waist training articles. Rounded chest and hips with a narrow, pulled-in waist. A very symmetrical and balanced shape.
  • Ice cream cone. Creates smooth, clean diagonal lines from the shoulders to the waist. More prominence is given to the shoulders and chest than the hips. Not usually symmetrical.
  • Cupped rib. For those with less flexible, stiffer ribs or ribs which bruise more easily. "Bulges out" around the ribcage so as to put less pressure on this area of the body while still compressing the waist. Often recommended for those who find other, more standard silhouettes uncomfortable or painful.
  • Pipestem. An exaggerated hourglass focused on creating the thinnest waist possible. Focuses on elongating the torso while pushing the hips outwards. The name "pipestem" comes from the stem of a fancy wineglass. Sometimes also called the "Jessica" due to its perceived resemblance to the cartoon character Jessica Rabbit.
  • U-shape. Flatter, "boxier" shape with the least compression. Often recommended for beginners who are completely new to waist training before moving on and "graduating" to one of the more extreme styles.
As you can see, silhouettes are a lot more varied and individual than other ways of classifying corsets. Which silhouette is best for you will depend very much on your unique body and its one of a kind shape. Our best advice is to try out lots of different corsets in order to find the one which works best for you!

The Lingerie Corset

The very last style of corset which we will be discussing today is the lingerie corset. This classification is distinct from the others because it refers specifically to a type of corset which is meant to be worn only under your clothing - replacing your bra and other standard lingerie / underwear.

A lingerie corset can borrow elements from the various types of standard corset - it can be under- or over-bust and feature any type of length or neckline. They do not usually compress the waist as much as other varieties do. Most lingerie corsets will be specifically advertised as such. However, you can often tell if a corset is intended as lingerie simply by looking at it.

Lingerie corsets are usually made from "slinky" material such as silk or satin. They often feature "sexy" add-ons like ruffles, bows and lace to add to their allure and appeal.

Lastly, lingerie corsets are rarely sold on their own and often come in "sets" with other underwear items such as stockings, garters or G-strings.

What's your favorite style? Contact Get Waisted to let us know! And if this article has left you itching to try out a brand new style, go here to browse our fantastic catalog full of appealing options!