Vintage Lingerie: The Corselette

Vintage Lingerie: The Corselette

Corselettes to Smooth and Shape


Do you love to wear tightly tailored 1950s wiggle dresses or pencil skirts and are unsure of the right foundations to wear underneath? Say hello to the Corselette.

If you're new to retro style hosiery, or hosiery of any kind, then the terminology can be confusing - but help is at hand!

Check out our guide to hosiery and all will be revealed.

The Difference between Corselettes and Merry Widows

At What Katie Did we do focus a lot on the waist and a couple of weeks ago I spoke to you about our Merry Widow, which is a multi-way body shaper: it can be worn strapless, worn with or without suspenders and it's designed to cinch the waist and to be worn under 1950s full skirted dresses or skirts with tightly fitted bodices: think Dior’s ‘New Look’. When it comes to the other main '50s style; the tightly tailored wiggle dress or pencil skirt; this is where the Corselette comes into play.

I know there is a little bit of confusion between our Corselette and the Merry Widow, because they do look quite similar at first glance While the Merry

Widow is fully steel boned and designed to cinch your waist and be worn under strapless dresses, the Corselette is really designed to smooth out all those lumps and bumps to give you a totally smooth line under a tight wiggle dress.

When you add bones to garments you are adding bulk, and you're more likely to see a line at the top or the bottom of the garment, so by eliminating boning you will get a smoother line under clothing. Because our corselette does not have any boning it means you can’t wear it strapless, or remove the suspenders as it will roll up or down.



Above both Audrey Hipturn and Nikki Redcliffe wear our Glamour Corselette

Corselette Sizing Tips

With both our Merry Widow and our Corselette we do have a hidden waist tape to cinch in your waist, although with our Corselette it is a couple of inches bigger, because shaping the waist is not the primary concern when it comes to the Corselette. Really, we're looking at smoothing everything out, so it doesn't give you such a defined shape as it does with our Merry Widow.

As with our Merry Widow, you do need to take both your bra size and your dress size into account, when selecting the size for your Corselette. You can't

just go by the bra size, because that doesn't take into account your body size, so it does get a bit complicated and you might have to sister size. For example, if you wear a 32D bra, but you're a UK dress size 16, that is quite an extreme variance, then you will have to sister size, whereas if you're a 32D and you're a UK size 8-10 then you can stick with the 32D. You have to take your body into account as well as your bra size. We have more information on our sizing pages but if you do get stuck, please get in touch and we'll be able to point you in the right direction.


Front Fastening 1950s Shapewear

Both our Glamour Nouveau Corselette and Merry Widow have front hook and eye fastenings. As shapewear needs to be worn tightly by design, it’s extremely difficult to do up your own body shapers if they do up at the back. As there really isn’t room for the hook and eye tape to go all the way up between the breasts; the cups would be positioned too far apart; we added a little clasp at the top.

A couple of years later I was in Playclothes Vintage in Burbank when I found a 1950s torsolette with the same front fastening and clasp that we had come up with!


Miss Deadly Red & Miss Victory Violet both wearing our Glamour Corselette.

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A Future Design?

The black Merry Widow / Corselette hybrid I show at the end of the video is another vintage piece I couldn’t resist showing you as I know our designer; Teri Louise; is working on a longline Cathedral bra and will find this piece very interesting! I particularly like the powermesh section at the bottom which will ensure a smooth line at the bottom of the garment due to the flexibility of fit over the hip. What do you think about this piece? Please let us know below.

vintage lingerie

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