Blame it on "Bridgerton." Or maybe credit goes to Britney Spears and the return of aughts culture. Perhaps it's the result of post-pandemic cravings for playful partywear, even. No matter exactly how the Venn diagram overlaps, smack dab in the center is one item: the corset.
This historical staple — traditionally a stiff, fitted undergarment — is now seeing a resurgence, spurred on by celebrities like Hailey Bieber, Beyoncé, Ashley Graham and many more, building on the work of designers ranging from Vivienne Westwood and Mugler to Wiederhoeft and Christopher John Rogers, who have relaxed and reinterpreted the corset across tops and dresses in their collections.
"For probably the last five years or so, we've seen glamour go out of fashion. But now, we're starting to see it come back," says Jackson Wiederhoeft, whose eponymous brand specializes in demi-couture (and offers many corsets). "Obviously, other garments alter proportion by adding fabric on, but corsets are the only ones that alter it by taking it away. It's a really interesting intersection of architecture, engineering and fashion."
While the start of the pandemic may have been marked by the complete domination of soft materials and relaxed silhouettes, stylist Brian Meller — who works with Bretman Rock, Lea Michele and Blake Gray — explains that corsetry can offer a sort of protection for its wearers: "A corset is the closest you get to [armor] with a piece of clothing. It feels strong and powerful, and it's so flattering on everyone."
Traditionally, corsets were designed to serve as undergarments, but for Wiederhoeft, it's a piece that can be visually stunning when worn as part of an outfit, whether it be casual or something dressier. Plus, "there’s also a lot of romantic and historical [context]," he says. "Even something like Kim Kardashian wearing the Marilyn dress to the Met Gala; you can define your own personal style by aligning with key historical figures that have defined those trends in the first place."
If you're ready to embrace the fitted feel of a corset, ahead, find five styling tips for incorporating this staple into your own wardrobe.
Since corsets tend to hug tightly to the body, embrace a bit of juxtaposition by styling it with a more voluminous layer underneath. "I think it's fun to play with shapes,” says Meller, "so something that would be a bit more oversize, like a big white button-down or even a shirt dress, with the corset over it."
Just add jeans
If you aspire to achieve a balance between dressed up and dressed down, denim is the way to go.
"Jeans are the iconic way to wear a corset," says Wiederhoeft. "Corsets inherently lean formal, so there are a lot of ways you can wear it with really casual pieces that are fun and surprising."
To pull off the combo during the daytime, try adding a playful sneaker; for evening, swap in a strappy heel.
Suit it up
Suits may seem like just a staple for the office, but a sleek tailored pant and blazer can get the night-out treatment, too.
"From 2018 to 2019, the go-to with a pantsuit was a silk cami," says Meller. "Changing that up and making it a little more modern would be doing a pantsuit with a corset underneath."
Grab a tee
To keep with a more relaxed look, try upgrading your weekend combo of bike shorts and a big tee, Wiederhoeft suggests: "A really oversized T-shirt under a corset is one of my favorite things because it's like this little tiny torso with big sleeves. It's a cool way of looking at it."
Lean into formality
You can really play up a formal ensemble with a corset. Meller proposes putting one over a fitted dress. "Layering it over really simple dresses is fun for evening wear because it can take something casual and give it some oomph," he says. He recommends a ribbed knit for something not-so-fancy, or you can try a slip for a more formal option.
Shop modern corset tops in the gallery below.
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