The corset is a garment that can divide opinion. To some, it’s a symbol of physical oppression and sexual objectification. To others, it’s an illustration of the sexual power of the wearer. We are certainly lucky to live in the 21st Century where corset wearing is not compulsory but, for those who enjoy the aesthetics of this former piece of underwear, there is still a lot more to consider when making a purchase than with any other garment. You may not think that corsets are for you but there are many different kinds and, believe it or not, even the waist-reducing types don’t have to be uncomfortable.
The three main types are bustier, fashion corset and steel boned corset. Bustiers are corset-style tops which usually contain plastic boning and may sometimes have decorative lacing at the back. In my opinion, these are almost always disappointing. The last one I purchased was in the Karen Millen sale and the boning had permanently bent out of shape by the time I’d driven to the New Year’s Eve party I’d bought it for. Not only that, but I had to fork out for a decent strapless bra to wear with it because, unsurprisingly, these sorts of corset tops offer no support whatsoever. Next up is the fashion corset. Again, it has plastic boning, but it has more of it and is constructed like a classic corset with a front busk fastening and laces at the back. Pretty though these might be, steel boned corsets are what I’m usually referring to when I use the word corset. These offer bust support (for overbust versions), posture correction and waist-reduction. The ultimate in shapewear, a decent corset makes you look and feel a million dollars.
So, what should you look for when choosing a corset?
- Boning – Plastic boning bends and often stays bent after a number of wears. It doesn’t provide any body sculpting at all, but it is more comfortable for many people. Steel boning (either flat or spiral) is the only way to go for a corset that will hold you in place and retain its shape long-term. This may feel uncomfortable at first, but finding a corset style that suits your figure will help a lot. What Katie Did have a great range of corset styles, and their Laurie overbust corset is the most comfortable one I own!
- Busk – The front of the corset should fasten with a busk, not hook and eye closures. You can also get corsets with no front opening at all, but do be aware that they will be much more tricky to get in and out of!
- Lacing – Laces should be tightened from the waist, not the top or the bottom of the corset. This is the only way you’ll get the gap at the back even, and the cinching just right.
- Price – Corsets are expensive. The cheapest steel boned corsets I’ve found are on Corsets-UK and cost around £60-70, before any discounts. Most steel boned corsets cost over £100. Even well-designed fashion corsets, like those from Playful Promises, cost over £60. Remember: you get what you pay for. Cheap prices usually mean cheap fabrics and shoddy designs.
The Lingerie Addict has some great articles on corsets, from what to look for when buying a corset through to tightlacing. They also have an article by Catherine from Kiss Me Deadly and Sam from Lulu & Lush about fake corsets and cheap copies. If the corset in the photo looks amazing yet the price is tiny, be very wary! If you’re completely new to all this, What Katie Did have a very useful corset guide for beginners, plus a video which shows you how to put on a corset. It can be quite confusing at first, so make sure you know what you’re doing or you’ll get your newly purchased laces in a tangle.
So… where should you go to spend your hard earned cash? Well, you all know that I have some favourite lingerie brands and, unsurprisingly, they all sell corsets! If you like the look of corsets but aren’t sure you can cope with the restriction of steel boning, you should probably go for something like Playful Promises’ ‘Dominique’ corset (or the pretty ‘Bound’ version in the photo that will be available online in December). For those of you after something more sturdy, Kiss Me Deadly’s blue ‘DeVille’ underbust corset is utterly stunning and can be worn over the top of a little black dress (meaning you’ll still be decent if you end up having to take it off to breathe before the end of the night!). Let me tell you now, if you love your first steel boned corset, it won’t be long before you’ve caught the corset bug and want another one. Once that happens, your search for the perfect corset will begin and nothing will ever be the right combination of style, colour and trim. Well, that used to be the case before What Katie Did introduced their Design Your Own Corset service. Once you know which of their many corset styles suits you, it’s then super-easy to order one custom made in the fabric of your choice. I’ve got my eye on a forest green Laurie corset with rose lace overlay and black satin trim. Where’s Santa when you need him?