Corsets 101 Part 3: Real Corsets

Welcome back to my series on corsets!  Last week I talked about fashion corsets.  And I shared a bunch of pretty pictures.  Each and every one of the fashion corsets I carry has a “upgraded version” that I offer by special request.  In most cases, the real corset costs at least twice as much.  If you are new to corsets, you might be wondering – why buy a real corset, when fashion corsets are perfectly cute at half the cost?

I use this image in my etsy shop to show the real corset styles which match my ‘Lady in Red” steampunk costume.

Let me describe to you what it feels like to wear a real corset.  Imagine a hug.  A gentle squeeze, perfectly proportioned all around your torso.  Imagine the best support you’ve ever felt (better than your best fitting bra) but with no weight on your shoulders, no elastic digging in anywhere.  Then imagine looking at yourself in the mirror – and seeing this gorgeous curvy bombshell figure that you never knew you could have!

Silver Siren Corset

There is one very simple way to tell if you are purchasing a real corset or a fashion corset.  How is it sized?  If the sizes are Small/Medium/Large/etc, that’s a fashion corset.  If the sizes are numbers, that’s a real corset.

Real corsets are designed to actually shrink your waist size, so they are sized by waist in inches.  They have steel bones, a busk in front to clasp (typically), and lacing in back that is laced in an over-under style that makes them easy to pull tight.  A good corset will be made nice and curvy, so that when you lace it tight it will squeeze your waist but curve out to give enough room for hips and bust.

Overbust Corsets

Overbust means, well, over the bust!  An Overbust corset covers the bust, so you don’t need to wear anything underneath to cover your chest.  I find that looks with overbust corsets are more elegant.  Many people say that overbust corsets can have fit issues in the chest area, but I find this to not be a problem as long as the corset has a good pattern.  My hourglass corsets, for instance, have been officially verified to fit perfectly on cup sizes from A to G.

Underbust Corsets

And similarly, I’m sure you’ve guessed that underbust means under the bust!  If you’re wearing an underbust corset, you’ll need to wear a chemise or blouse underneath (at least to be legal in public!)  You’ll have more mobility in an underbust corset, since it ends lower on your rib cage than an overbust.  If you can find an underbust corset that fits you perfectly in height as well as size, you’ll find it to be the most comfortable style too.

Midbust Corsets

You see these much less often.  Midbust corsets are somewhere in between under and overbust, and they are typically straight across the top.  Authentic historical corsets were often midbust – as there would be several layers worn over the corset, and the corset wasn’t supposed to show!  Midbust can be a great choice if you want to do a look inspired by the Tudor or Baroque era – since the necklines were extremely low and straight across in those days.  Depending on your level of endowment, you may be able to get away with wearing a midbust corset without a chemise.

Midbust Corset
My “Airship Pirate” corset has a very similar shape to a midbust corset.

And those are the primary types of real corsets.  Stay tuned for next week’s post, where I will talk about all the bits and pieces that go into making a corset.