Welcome to the wonderful world of corseting! If you’ve just discovered this new-but-time-honored trend in shapewear and fashion, there’s a lot to learn.
A common question we hear is, “Are corsets better to be worn under or over your clothing?” That’s a good question because the answer is…you can do it either way. It depends on the look you’re going for as well as your corseting goals.
What is a Corset?
First, let’s be clear on what a corset is, because there are many garments that look like corsets but aren’t the real deal.
For the purposes of this article, a corset is a lace-up waist-slimming garment. Real corsets are tightened with laces in the back and take off several inches from the waistline when you wear them fully fastened. They are reinforced with steel boning in the bodice, which molds to your figure and maintains an hourglass shape.
While you can use an overbust corset for slimming the waist and lifting the breasts, an underbust cut is more effective for creating a dramatic hourglass cinch. Underbust corsets are also more practical because you can pair them with the bra of your choice and wear them in several different ways.
Corsets are different than what most people think of as “waist trainers.” While waist trainers are used for similar purposes, they typically provide compression and shaping with latex instead of with rigid boning or a lace-up back.
Different Approaches to Wearing a Corset
It’s important to understand that there are a few different approaches to wearing a corset. Which approach you prefer is going to affect what kind of corsets you buy and how you wear them.
The first approach is to wear a corset under your clothes like shapewear. This provides powerful waist slimming and smoothing, so that you can have an hourglass shape at the foundation of your outfits. If you want to wear a corset occasionally, you’ll probably take it out for formal events like a wedding or gala. (Note that you’ll want to break in your corset for a couple of weeks prior to your event so that it will fit comfortably and effectively.)
You can also wear a corset over your clothes. This doubles as a fashion statement and slims your figure at the same time.
If you really want to harness a corset’s waist-slimming power, you can use it in an ongoing waist training regimen—also called “corseting. This practice involves wearing a corset for 8–12 hours a day, with the intent to slim your midsection on an ongoing basis. This works best when paired with a healthy lifestyle that includes a sensible, nutritious diet, and targeted exercise.
When following a waist training regimen, you can maintain the practice by wearing your corset over or under your clothes, as long as it is tightened and you do it regularly.
How Can You Wear a Corset as a Top? And What Should You Wear Under a Corset?
There are many ways you can approach wearing a corset as outerwear. This is an opportunity for you to creatively express yourself!
The most important consideration when styling a corset is, of course, the corset itself. Popular corset materials that are comfortable as outerwear include satin, cotton and mesh.
Satin corsets create a polished, classic appearance and pair well with feminine accents like floral patterns and lace. Cotton corsets are very soft and comfortable after you break them in and go on easily like your favorite pair of jeans. Mesh corsets are the most breathable and the ideal choice in warmer climates.
When wearing a corset over your clothing, you’ll prefer a thin garment underneath. This is not only more comfortable, but it will also enable you to get the full benefits of its slimming power. Fabrics that pair well with a corset include cotton, linen and breathable synthetics.
Another consideration when wearing a corset as a top is the cut. Short, or “waspie” corsets sit below the bust and above the hips and create a dramatic cinch at the waist. They can be worn comfortably and stylishly over clothes. But they don’t offer the same coverage over the lower abdomen that longer corsets do.
Can Corsets Be Worn Directly Against the Skin?
Since one of their uses is as shapewear, many corsets can be worn directly against the skin. However, preferences can vary when it comes to this practice, and it can depend on what kind of material the corset is. The most comfortable fabrics to be worn without anything underneath are mesh and cotton. If you don’t like the direct compression on your skin, you can always wear a light tank underneath your corset, and wear another top over that.
The Best Corsets for Getting Started
If you’re ready to try wearing a corset for fashion or for waist training, here are some beautiful, effective garments that you can wear under or over your clothes:
Underbust Cotton Corset by Hourglass Angel HA202: This cotton corset provides a natural feel as it sculpts your midsection. It is comfortable enough to wear directly against your skin but can also function as outerwear. It provides full coverage for your midsection from just beneath the bust to the hips, resulting in powerful slimming and a sleek hourglass shape.
If you like this style but want more breathable material, you can get the exact same design in mesh. The Underbust Mesh Corset by Hourglass Angel HA206 lets your skin breath if you wear it under your clothes and creates a distinct style if you wear it over your clothes.
Short Underbust Satin Corset by Hourglass Angel HA207: This waspie-style corset is constructed with silky smooth satin, making it easy for your clothes to glide over if you use it underneath. It also creates a polished, flirty look when you use it as outerwear. This short style also comes in cotton.
Underbust Waspie Mesh Corset by Hourglass Angel HA201: A little bit of mesh makes a huge difference! This flirty waspie underbust corset is made from a mesh material that is breathable and comfortable. You can wear it for light and breezy slimming and control underneath your outfits, or as a flirty garment over your clothes.
Do You Wear a Waist Trainer Over or Under Your Clothes?
As specialists in waist training and corseting, we get this related question quite a bit. As noted above, latex waist trainers are different than steel-boned corsets because of their materials and the way they’re designed. In general, latex waist trainers work best as undergarments and aren’t as versatile as steel-boned corsets when it comes to style.
Having said that, the exception is workout waist trainers. Often designed with stand-out colors and prints, they can be worn as outerwear during workouts, if preferred. You can wear them over a light top or directly against the skin with a sports bra. In this way, workout waist trainers can add some selfie-worthy style to your fitness routine.
Other Considerations for Wearing a Corset
Ready to start your corseting journey? After you select your ideal corset, here are some tips for getting started.
Steel-boned corsets need to be seasoned before you wear them fully fastened. Think of this process like breaking a new pair of shoes; the garment needs some time to mold to your body’s unique curves.
Give yourself about two weeks to season a new corset. Wear it for an hour or two a day fastened, but not pulled as tight as it will go. Most people find it most comfortable to do this over their clothes.
Over the course of the seasoning process, you’ll notice that a corset fits more and more like a glove. When it’s ready, it should lay flush with your curves. Pull the laces tight, and you’ll see the full effect of your corset’s capability.
If you want to start a daily waist training practice, you’ll also want to give your body adequate time to adjust to the practice (and you can start when you’re seasoning your corset). Wearing a garment at full compression can feel strange at first since you won’t be able to slouch or sit with your belly out. You’ll have to “train” your body to compress your abdomen and hold your torso tall.
Start by wearing a corset for just an hour or two a day fully tightened. From there you can gradually add a half an hour to an hour a day to your regimen. If it feels uncomfortable, you can always loosen the laces a bit and try to go longer next time (it’s wonderful how versatile corsets can be in this way).
If you stick to this practice, you should be able to comfortably wear a corset all day after a few weeks and start seeing the benefits of ongoing waist training.
Got Corset Questions?
If you’re getting started with wearing a corset, we’d love to help. Check out our blog for more tips or talk to our expert stylists for advice today.