I vividly remember “backwards inside out day” at my Elementary school being my favorite spirit day theme. It was a day designed for breaking fashion rules, and I loved putting together an outfit that was technically “wrong”. Looking at the landscape of fashion now, it seems like every day is a celebration of “backwards inside out day”! Pieces that were once meant to be hidden under layers of clothing have come to the surface of style. Bras are being worn under blazers as tops, influencers and celebrities are proudly posting photos in shapewear and my TikTok FYP is a masterclass in how to style a corset.
Corsets have an intense background. The laced bodice was essentially intended to reshape the female body to fit the 17th century beauty standard by shrinking the waist. As the “preferred” female shape evolved, the role of a corset was similar to that of a push-up bra. Traditional use of the corset is still practiced by some celebrities for 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-traveling or breaking a rib.
While corsets have the historical period drama affiliation, you don’t necessarily have to lean into that era when styling them. A lot of corset styling inspiration has a laid-back, grungy or party vibe to it—the outfits make me think of city street style rather than prim-and-proper garden parties.
Once you have a corset, you’re set for any event. Below, some inspo to help you decide how to wear it.
With a Fitted Set
Layer a corset over something that looks a little more formal, like this fitted set. The chain detailing on this corset contrasts nicely against the structured pleats on the pants.
With Patterned Tights and Loafers
A femme lace corset can be edged-up and elevated with an interesting sock and shoe choice. While these tights have a wild pattern, the loafers ground the look and tie in the traditional plaid skirt.
With Minimal Accessories
Sometimes, the best way to show off a piece is to under-accessorize. Corsets will naturally draw attention to your collarbones so brush on a little highlighter, throw on some comfortable pants and call it a day.
With a Flowy Dress
Adding a corset to a long, flowy or ruffled dress adds shape to your outfit—and is much more interesting than just adding a belt. Just as you’d match your belt to your shoes, try to match your shoes and corset. Bonus points if they’re both a fun color like this bold 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 you’d typically layer a white T-shirt with.
With a Matching Mini Skirt
Go ahead and add the corset and mini skirt combination to your rotation of go-to outfits for a night out. Wearing them together (especially if they match) is more fun than a typical matching set and definitely puts the classic black going-out top to shame.
With a Cut-Out Top
If you bought one of the cut-out sweaters Zara has had in stock for the last year or so, this is the perfect opportunity to wear it! Layering a corset over or under the sweater (whichever works best with your cut-outs) will help highlight the top’s detailing.
With Shorts and an Oversized Jacket
A corset helps emphasize the proportions of your body, so maximize the effect by opting for something tiny (like shorts!) with something huge (like a big coat).
With a Matching Pair of Pants
If you can find pieces (pants, jacket, skirt) that match the exact pattern of your corset, own it! Not only will you look super put-together, the continuity of patterns will make your body look amazing as well.
With a Leather Jacket and Jeans
When in doubt, a leather jacket and jeans looks good with everything—including a corset. A cropped corset with low-rise jeans is a fun way to show a little skin during everyday wear.