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Corsets vs. Bustiers: What’s the Difference?

Q: First things first, what is corset week?

A: Corset Week is basically a week for me to rave and gush and babble about one of my most favorite garments in the world--corsets. I don't have the same level of knowledge about corsets, as I do about, say, stockings, but what little I've acquired I'm eager to share.
In addition to covering a few basics about corsets, I also want to post reviews of a few corsets I've tried out, and offer recommendations for people looking for truly unique corsets. In short, it's a week long celebration of the hourglass figure.
Q: All right then. What should I look for in a corset?
A: Oh boy, where to start? The most important thing I can say right away is that corsets are expensive. I'll say it again...corsets are expensive. All together now...corsets are expensive. You cannot get a real corset for anything less than $99 unless you have a friend who's hard up for cash and is practically giving them away.
What you see labeled as "corsets" in Frederick's of Hollywood or Victoria's Secret or even high end stores like Agent Provocateur are not corsets. Those are bustiers. A bustier is a bit like a girdle for your bust and waist. It'll tighten up what's there, but it won't cinch you in and it won't give you the kind of curves a corset will. Quite frankly, most bustiers made today don't even function that well as undergarments; they're primarily costume pieces. Made with plastic boning and cheap fabric, they usually tear up after a few wearings.
Speaking of boning, that's probably the next most important thing to talk about. You want the boning in your corset to be steel, either spring steel or flat steel. You also want the busk of your corset (that is, the front hook and eye closure) to be constructed of steel as well. Finally, you want the grommets (the holes in the back that your laces go through) to be made of steel. Plastic should not be option unless you're really in a rush to waste money (in which case, contact me, and I'll help! ;-) ).

Q: All this talk about how expensive corsets are and how bustiers aren't worth the long can I expect a real corset to last?

A: Here's the best part: a well-made, well-constructed, well-taken care of corset will last for decades. Literally. There are still functioning corsets in existence dating back from the Victorian Era, and a few that go even further back Regency and Romantic Era. Think of a corset like an investment; provided your measurements don't change too much, it's something you can wear for years and possibly even pass onto your children. What other kind of lingerie can you say that about?

Q: Okay. Enough talking (for now anyway), where can I buy a corset?
A: Now comes the fun part--shopping for what you like. First time corset buyers may want to try Scarlett's Corsets or Timeless Trends. They both have underbust corsets available in a variety of fabrics for the bargain basement price of $99. One word of caution, though, if you have a "vintage" figure, that is, if your hips are 10" or more larger than your waist, you may find their cut a bit confining. Voluptuous women can still wear their corsets but may find them less comfortable than women with more petite figures. Later on this week, I'll post about some of my favorite custom corsetieres as well more resources for people who just can't get enough corsets.
*Images courtesy of Frederick's of Hollywood, SugarKitty Corsets, and Lara Corsets*

Last Updated on

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

6 Comments on this post

  1. Emily Dreyer says:

    I have rather large love handles, big hips, and a not so thin waist, but a large bust line I was wondering if there was a functional corset that would help me fix this? Also how would I go about measuring myself in order to order one? Looking for any help.

  2. Shamra says:

    Thank you for clarifying. I was actually looking at a bustier on Fredrick’s but was sure if it would function as I hoped. Now I know :) thank you.

  3. K says:

    Thanks for this great info!

  4. Pink Nylon says:

    Wow. That’s a lot of great info.

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