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I distinctly remember that “backwards upside-down day” at my elementary school was my favorite theme for the day of the spirit. It was a day designed to break the fashion rules, and I loved putting together an outfit that was technically “wrong”. Looking at the fashion landscape now, it seems like every day is a celebration of the “backwards upside-down day”! Pieces that were once meant to be hidden under layers of clothing have come to the surface of the style. Bras are worn under blazers as tops, influencers and celebrities proudly post pictures in shapewear, and my TikTok FYP is a master class in how to style a corset.
Corsets have an intense background. The laced upper was essentially meant to reshape the female body to fit the 17th century beauty standard by shrinking the waist. As the “favorite” female form developed, the cross responded to the role of a push-up bra. Traditional use of the corset is still practiced by some celebrities at fashion events – yes, I’m talking about Kim Kardashian’s stunning (and wildly uncomfortable) Thierry Mugler Met Gala dress. But for the rest of us, corsets are a way to jump on the slightly sexy, slightly cottagecore look without time travel or breaks a rib.
While corsets have the historical period drama affiliation, you do not necessarily have to lean into that era when styling them. A lot of inspiration for corset styling has a laid back, grungy or party atmosphere – the outfits make me think of city street style rather than prime and proper garden parties.
Once you have a corset, you are ready for any event. Below are some inspo to help you decide how to wear it.
With a mounted set
Lay a cross over something that looks a little more formal, like this fitted set. The chain details on this cross stand in nice contrast to the structured pleats on the trousers.
With patterned tights and loafers
A femme lace cross can be edged and raised with an interesting sock and shoe choice. Although these tights have a wild pattern, the loafers have tied the look and tie in the traditional plaid skirt.
With minimal accessories
Sometimes the best way to show off is to under-accessorize. Corsets will of course draw attention to your collarbones, so brush on a small highlighter, put on some comfortable pants and call it a day.
With a flowing dress
Adding a corset to a long, flowing or ruffled dress adds shape to your outfit – and it is much more interesting than just adding a belt. Just as you would match your belt to your shoes, try matching your shoes and the cross. Bonus points if they are both a fun color like this cool green.
With an oversized suit
Wearing a tight corset with an oversized suit will make the outfit polished instead of sloppy. If you have a white corset, consider wearing it with outfits that you typically want a white T-shirt on.
With a matching mini-skirt
Go ahead and add the combination of the cross and mini-skirt to your rotation of go-to outfits for a night on the town. Carrying them together (especially if they match) is more fun than a typical matching set and definitely puts the classic black go-out top to shame.
With a carved top
If you have bought one of the carved sweaters Zara has had in stock for the past year, this is the perfect opportunity to put it on! To put a cross over or below the sweater (depending on what works best with your necklines) will help highlight the details of the top.
With shorts and an oversize jacket
A corset helps emphasize the proportions of your body, so maximize the effect by choosing something small (like shorts!) With something big (like a big coat).
With a pair of matching pants
If you can find pieces (pants, jacket, skirt) that match the exact pattern on your corset, own that! Not only will you look super composed, the continuity of patterns will also make your body look amazing.
With leather jacket and jeans
When in doubt, a leather jacket and jeans look great on anything – including a corset. A cropped corset with low jeans is a fun way to show a little skin during everyday use.