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A Corset or a Bustier - What's the Difference?

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What's the Difference?
A corset by What Katie Did, and a bustier by Va Bien.

On the Left: A rigid, steel-boned corset by WHAT KATIE DID. It can take inches off your waist. On the Right: A stretch lace bustier by VA BIEN. It is shorter, and more flexible.

Photos courtesy of What Katie Did and Va Bien.

Corsets and bustiers may look similar, so what's the difference?
Here's the short answer -- a corset will "cinch," and a bustier will "boost."

THE BENEFITS

It may seem old-fashioned, but many women become addicted to wearing a corset. It's easy to see why -- you'll love how small your waist looks.

On the other hand, a bustier is a more modern style. I like to describe it as a fancy-bra-meets-shapewear. It'll make your chest look more "uplifted," while it smooths and flattens your midriff.

CORSET STYLES

Corsets are traditionally made in 2 styles:

  • An underbust corset starts just below the bust, and can be worn with any type of bra.
  • An overbust corset begins higher -- they're worn in place of a bra.

Corsets usually end below the waist -- either at the hips, or lower. Since creating that hourglass curve involves the hips, shorter styles aren't typical.

Some brands make corsets that are really just waist cinchers. They might resemble an extra-wide belt, with a few corset features. Depending on the brand, this type may even work well to cinch your waist.

The corset shown in the first photo above is a true, traditionally made steel-boned type. It's the Sophia corset, by What Katie Did, and it'll take inches off your waistine.

See how the corset ends much lower on the hips than the bustier? That's one style difference.

BUSTIER STYLES

Bustiers always have a built-in bra. They're typically shorter than a corset, ending just above -- or right at -- the waistline. They're not meant to cover the hips.

There are also some bustiers that are much shorter. Some brands will call a bustier a long-line bra, and vice-versa -- you'll see the names used interchangeably.

The bustier shown in the second photo above is Va Bien's Low Back Lacey Bustier. It has a built-in underwire bra and a lace bodice.

RIGID VS. FLEXIBLE

Corsets are traditionally made with a fabric like cotton coutil, stiffened with rigid boning.

The best corsets are made with steel boning, which is strong enough to take inches of your waistline, drastically re-shaping your figure. The more well-made a corset is, the curvier your hourglass shape will look.

Check out how much more "cinched in" the model's waist looks above, in the corset than in the bustier.

Bustiers usually feel less confining to wear, since they're always made from flexible fabric. They usually contain stretch panels, and soft plastic boning.

LACES VS. HOOK-AND-EYE CLOSURES

Corsets are traditionally held closed with laces. When the laces are at the back and tie at the waistline, they provide the most support. When you pull the laces tighter, your waist becomes smaller.

Traditional corsets also have a metal busk closure in the front.

Bustiers usually don't have laces. They have hook-and-eye closures in the front or the back.

HOW EXPENSIVE ARE THEY?

Corsets are much more expensive than bustiers. The average price for a made-to-order one that will cinch your waist properly is $250 to $350. A corset that is made to your measurements, for a perfect fit, can cost $800 to $1,000.

Bustiers are mass-produced and available in all price ranges. You'll even be able to find deep discounts during sales. For a better fit, look for a reputable brand.

HYBRID STYLES

The differences aren't always so clear.
Many types of shapewear are a combination of both styles. Some brands even have styles they call a "corset bustier."

A hybrid style, or 'fashion corset,' often looks like a lace-up corset, but the way it's made is more like a bustier. It won't deliver the waist-cinching ability of a "true" corset, but it's still stylish. These are also a lot less expensive than traditional corsets, since they're mass-produced.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Bustiers are much more common -- you'll find a ton of different styles, in all price ranges.

Fashion corsets and hybrid styles are also common. These styles are easier to wear than a "true" corset, because they're more flexible. Look for pne of these styles if you want the fashionable look of a lace-up corset, without the rigid confining fit -- at a budget price.

But women who are true corset aficionados won't settle for anything less than a traditional type -- and the true hourglass shape a corset creates.

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