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How to Choose the Right Corset for any Occasion

Today's amazing Corset Week feature is from Marianne Faulkner of Pop Antique. An independent corsetiere and corset model, Marianne's article is all about how to choose the right corset for your needs... whether that's tightlacing, everyday wear, or a fancy evening out. You can find Marianne on Pop Antique and on Facebook. Come back tomorrow for Part II, which focuses on buying the right corset for your figure.

So you want to wear a corset, and you're wondering where to start. At first glance, they all seem kind of the same – curvy pretty things with laces up the back. Well, your body type and corseting intentions should guide your choice of corset, just like they would for any other garment. A corset worn for a specific costume or event is probably not the same corset you wear to get the appropriate silhouette in your vintage day dress. Feel free to skip ahead until you see a paragraph relevant to you.

Let's begin with the corset's origin: a foundation garment, molding your body to a fashionable silhouette. For 20th century vintage or even under contemporary garments, a cotton underbust will be your friend, coupled with a good bra. Opt for internal, rather than external, bone channels. See if you can upgrade to a “busk cover” as well. Detachable garters are a valuable, and generally inexpensive, add-on; I recommend three pairs. If you are actually dressing for a particular historic period, don't assume that all corsets are created equal. As the centuries turned, the silhouettes did too, and your outerwear will neither fit nor look right if you are mixing and matching your foundations.

One popular misconception – and I do mean popular, the uneducated love to tout this “fact” --- is that corsets are uncomfortable and terrible for your body. To the contrary, a well-fitted corset is actually excellent back support, may even work out your core muscles as you wear it, and encourages good posture. If you struggle with backaches and poor posture, a corset may help combat them. The higher the back, the more supportive the corset. Add straps and it can pull back those rounded shoulders, too.

This being the Lingerie Addict, perhaps what you have in mind is more decadent than utilitarian. For a bedroom corset, it goes without saying that you should feel comfortable and confident in whatever style you select. That will depend on your own personal taste and body. When it comes to taking it off, though, you may hit a bit of a stumbling block – a real corset doesn't have a quick-release button, unless it's one of those steampunky affairs with swing-hook closures. Make the process part of your seduction. Whether you're unlacing yourself or having your partner assist, use the action to heighten the anticipation. Definitely do avoid closed-front corsets. Order a style with built-in or detachable garters for additional sexy functionality. This is the place for sumptuous silk duchess and lace overlays.

If you're thinking of starting waist training, there's no better place to start than a basic underbust corset. Several ready to wear corsetieres have curvy and comfortable styles to get you started until you're ready to upgrade to a custom corset. More panels will mean a better and more comfortable distribution of the shaping (and boning). Cotton will stand up better than silk to the rigors of frequent wear.

For the corseting equivalent of daytime casual, an underbust style can be worn as outerwear. If you are flat-stomached, a short underbust (often called a waspie or waist cincher) can be worn much as you might wear a wide belt. Select a bold print or contrasting color that will complement the rest of your wardrobe, or perhaps even a wool suiting. You can also pair the contemporary “sweetheart” silhouette with your favorite fitted jeans.

Now, if you're dressing up for a special event, this is the time to go all out. Order your corset with that extra trim or that plunging neckline. Leave your black underbust at home. Look at your favorite corsetiere's menu and consider their more unusual silhouettes, such as ribbon corsets or corset bodies. Peruse the decadent laces or the fancy brocades. If you have the moxie to pull it off, get a special occasion corset and not just a bread-and-butter style. You'll find other excuses to wear it, trust me.

If you've made it through this post and are still unsure about where to start, it's hard to go wrong with a black cotton underbust corset with detachable garters. This style will be the most flexible for a variety of outfits and uses.

Photo Credits: 
Model in all images: Victoria Dagger  
Bedroom corset: Dark Garden, photo: Ryan Chua
Daywear waist cincher: Pop Antique
Daywear overbust with jeans: Blooddrop, photo: IGP Photo
High-back with straps: Dark Garden, photo: Ryan Chua
Special event corset: Dark Garden
Underbust with garters: Dark Garden, photo: Max Johnson
Waist training underbust: Pop Antique, photo: AVA Photo

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.