A Corset Family Tree

Sparklewren "Rose Gold" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Sparklewren “Rose Gold” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Corsets have an amazing breadth of variety, though I often simplify it for neophytes to the two basic types, overbust and underbust, at least as a starting point. When corset shopping, the range of options and, importantly, the nomenclature around them can be quite daunting.  The following is a simplified and streamlined guide to corset styles for modern corset wearers.  Those interested in learning about historical corsetry in greater detail are encouraged to check out some of the wonderful books about corsetry (I particularly recommend Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines), as I am not personally a fashion historian.

A Corset Family Tree, Abridged. Illustrations © Pop Antique.

A Corset Family Tree, Abridged. Illustrations © Pop Antique.

Overbusts



Dark Garden "Baroque" corset | Model: Anneka | Photo © Betsy Kershner

Dark Garden “Baroque” corset | Model: Anneka | Photo © Betsy Kershner

Stays/Bodice – stops around the natural waist, has straps, may have tabs, as shown above..

Dark Garden "Victorian" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Thomas Landon

Dark Garden “Victorian” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Thomas Landon

Midbust/Flat Front – the modern simplification of a “Victorian” corset, this is a very cleavage-friendly style with a straight-across neckline.

Sparklewren "Soft Dove" corset | Model: Tingyn | Photo © Sparklewren

Sparklewren “Soft Dove” corset | Model: Tingyn | Photo © Sparklewren

Edwardian/S-Curve – characterized by swooping seam lines, a flat front and outthrust derriere (the “S-Curve”), and a longline hip.

Pop Antique "Valentine" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Pop Antique “Valentine” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Sweetheart/Contoured bust – the modern standard, the bust is supported and rounded with a defined underbust and, of course, sweetheart neckline.

Dark Garden "Adelaide" corset | Model: Autumn Adamme | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden “Adelaide” corset | Model: Autumn Adamme | Photo © Joel Aron

Cupped Corset – Similar to a sweetheart, but the cups are actually seamed in at the underbust and more fitted, and may have any level of coverage available in a bra (demi, full, etc). Cupped corsets, ideally, should be custom-fit with a mockup.

Underbusts

Classic Underbust – covers from the underbust (bra band level) to the lap

Pop Antique "Ingenue" corset | Model: Eclectic a la Mode | Photo © Marianne Faulkner

Pop Antique “Ingenue” corset | Model: Eclectic a la Mode | Photo © Marianne Faulkner

Longline/Edwardian – hip shaping that is low at front and side hip but scoops up over the lap. Edwardian corsets were often underbusts or low midbusts, though modern longline styles are popular with waist trainers and plus-sizes bfor their hip shaping.

Sparklewren "Swiss Cincher" | Model: Samio Olowu | Photo © Vincent Abbey

Sparklewren “Swiss Cincher” | Model: Samio Olowu | Photo © Vincent Abbey

Pointed – similar to a classic underbust but shorter at the side hip, with points at the top and bottom.  The top line roughly echoes the line of an underwire, coming up between the breasts about an inch or so.

Pop Antique "Vixen" corset | Model: Nicole Simone | Photo © Max Johnson

Pop Antique “Vixen” corset | Model: Nicole Simone | Photo © Max Johnson

Ribbon Corset – a pointed underbust whose shaping is achieved by the careful laying of ribbons horizontally around the body, seamed into two to four vertical panels.

Exquisitely Waisted Designs corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Exquisitely Waisted Designs

Exquisitely Waisted Designs corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Exquisitely Waisted Designs

Cincher – a shorter underbust, covering the lower rib cage with a short hip.

Pop Antique "Bombshell" corset | Model: Olivia Campbell | Photo © Pop Antique

Pop Antique “Bombshell” corset | Model: Olivia Campbell | Photo © Pop Antique

Waspie – even shorter than a cincher, if only by a couple inches, the corseting equivalent of a wide belt. Great for styling with outerwear but more prone to creating a fold of skin at the back.  Cinchers and waspies can often be worn by full-busted women as standard underbusts.

As you can see, even with just the basic styles there are many corset options available. Each designer is going to have their own interpretations and completely new styles, so you can be sure to find a corset that suits both your silhouette and intended purpose.

Mad Mimi Form

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Marianne
Marianne Faulkner

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

2 Comments on this post

  1. Avigayil says:

    There are many more styles than I realized. If your body has a natural, say, S-shape (my body looks most like that corset), is it best to get a corset that resembles your body shape?

  2. What a great post, thank you!!! My favorite corset is the Sweetheart fit. Modern and classic all at the same time. Thanks.

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