Few garments come close to the mystery and sensuality of the corset. Incorporating both stiff control and wild sexiness, the corset is an alluring, history-rich fashion oxymoron that multitasks. A corset is not only good as a romantic teaser, but also as a back supporter, shape controller, posture correction agent, and fashion item.

The corset market makes a product to suit practically any consumer; models exist for men, women, casual wear, and diligent waist-training. The amount of wear is also crucial and dictates the cost and fabrication of the garment. Which shape works best, and what type of cut will produce the desired effect?

Boning Types

Plastic-boned Corsets: this configuration uses thin strips of extruded plastic in the boning channels to create a corset that’s easy to wear, very flexible, and comfortable for an evening out. However, it’s completely ineffectual for any sort of serious corset training or drastic shaping, and the bones can distend after frequent wear. Plastic-boned corsets are priced to sell and are also simple to mass produce.

Metal-boned Corsets: corsets with metal bones constitute most of the high fashion, fetish and lifestyle models. They offer a high level of control, longevity, and strength. Metal bones have no yield, so there’s a comfort “learning curve” involved for most wearers. The hard bones also help with spinal support and can alleviate back pain when combined with strengthening exercise, according to Katie Halford, designer for corset couturier What Katie Did.

Corset Lengths

Waist Cincher: a waist cincher is a short corset that sits around the waist, underneath the bustline. This is a suitable choice for a wearer who wants the nipped-in look without the bust or hip control. A waist cincher corset can also double as an extra-wide belt over a pencil skirt or dress.

Underbust Corset: this particular model shapes the body without the bust support.  The top hem of an underbust corset can come to a small peak between the cleavage, adding some separation, or may be straight. This shape works best for day-to-day corset wear since it allows more flexibility and comfort for general life tasks.

Overbust Corset: this is the form to buy when a va-va-voom bustline is the goal. However, this form feels restricting after hours of wear, so it’s best for just a few hours of fun. When buying an overbust corset, inspect the waist, bust cup and band size. The corset has to be large enough to avoid the dreaded boob spillover effect, and a too-tight fit can turn painful quickly.

Longline Corset: a longline corset moulds from bust to hip, compressing the torso into a perfectly-shaped form. These corsets should be custom-made to the body’s unique measurements, or else the corset will be unbearable to wear. The longline corset combines flexibility with shape and produces an hourglass figure for a wedding or special event, but it’s too restrictive for general daily use.

When buying a corset, don’t hesitate to speak to someone in the know, like a seamstress or bra fit specialist. Good measurements and personal taste make for a purchase that gets used, rather than relegated to the back of the closet. Corset wear doesn’t have to be an exercise in discomfort. With the right fit, fabric, and boning, anyone can incorporate the famed, waspy corset look into life’s most important moments.