Corset Styling Basics: How to Incorporate Corsets into Your Wardrobe
While there is something to be said for the mystique of corsetry, it has a side effect of creating a bit of a barrier, seeming distant, untouchable... and therefore daunting, and avoided. "What do I wear it with?" women ask me, somewhat bewildered, when I'm fitting for Dark Garden. "Where do your clients wear them?" people ask me when I talk about my line, Pop Antique. As soon as you learn a few tricks, though, corsets can integrate seamlessly into your wardrobe. Here are some guidelines to help you work corsets into your style.
Foundation or Outerwear?
Modern corsets are worn both as underwear, their original purpose, or as a visible garment, like a very structured shirt or belt. Whether you wear your corset as one or the other or both is entirely your decision, though overbusts tend to be a bit conspicuous as underwear since they create such a different bust silhouette. A corset worn visibly will always attract more attention, but a dramatic waist reduction will be visible even under clothing. Some clothes don't fit well over a corset; in some cases this can be resolved with a belt (such as on dresses).
The Rule: Boots, Then Corset
Actually, ANYTHING that doesn't actually go on over your corset should be put on before you lace up. Trust me, it's just easier this way. But boots are notoriously challenging.
The Exit Strategy
Using the bathroom in a corset, of course, can be tricky. It's generally inadvisable to wear high waisted tights underneath your corset unless you intend to relace every time you go to the bathroom. However, panties that are too low waisted, particularly when paired with a short-hip corset (such as a waspie style), can create what I call the "corset muffin" on your hip line. I generally recommend about an inch of overlap between the top of your panties and the bottom of your corset. This creates a nice, smooth line --- no muffin top or VPL.
Speaking of waistbands, make sure your jeans' waistband isn't too tight (with or without a belt). It'll cut into your hip, making the corset's hips too loose compared to how they would fit on an unencumbered hipline. You definitely also don't want a snug waistband on your natural waist under your corset, or anything else that creates bulk. It'll dig into your stomach and can make you feel sick, especially if you actually try to eat a normal size meal. (I have actually thrown up from this on two occasions --- learn from my mistakes.)
Corsets under Skirts
Skirts seem to cause more waistline conflicts than pants. Corset wearers obviously like drawing attention to their waist, which is often effective in a high-waisted skirt. However, your standard wool pinstripe high-waist is not going to fit well over your corset: the waist will gap. A low-rise skirt may create conflicting horizontal lines if too low on the hips (leaving a gap of skin or shirt between the corset bottom and skirt waist). A stretchy tube skirt works great, though, worn anywhere on the waistline.
Corsets over Shirts and Dresses
When wearing a corset over a dress or shirt, particularly one that is loose fitted and has sleeves, there's a careful balance to be struck. You want to make sure the fabric doesn't billow out too much above the corset, but also that your shoulders aren't overly constricted. If you pull your shirt down too far, your corset is more prone to riding up and sitting on the wrong part of your waist. I've noticed all of this particularly when pairing a corset with a standard button-down style shirt, which is otherwise a really great look.
What does a jacket have to do with a corset? Not a whole lot, but it does look pretty awkward when your corset or its laces are hanging out from the bottom. Make sure your jacket/cardigan/whatever is slightly longer than the corset over which you are wearing it.
What are your favorite tips for styling corsets? Any favorite corset outfits?