Clothes · Daily Life · Lingerie

Shapewear Series: Corselettes and Open-Bottom Girdles

As I said in my post last week, I’ll be looking at some of the various types of shapewear available, the merits & downfalls of each item, and what sort of outerwear you might wear with each.

The first items I want to look at are kind of the same, in a way, in that the main difference is a corselette has a built-in bra, and a open-bottom girdle does not. Before we go much further, I think it’s also important to note that there are two kinds of open-bottom girdle: one which finishes at or about your natural waist (which could be worn with a longline bra, if you can’t get a full corselette in your bra size), and one – like mine that you’ll see in the photos – that comes up to your underbust.

It’s also possibly worth noting, for those who have never seen them, an open-bottom girdle may sound confusing, but it simply means that the bottom of the girdle (i.e. where your legs go) is open, unlike a panty girdle which has a built-in panty, or looks like a pair of high-waisted cycling shorts.

As I have a personal preference for What Katie Did, I have their Glamour corselette and their Glamour underbust girdle because it goes with the rest of the glamour range, which I have a number of pieces from – as you’ll see.  They do have a regular waist-length girdle but I don’t own that piece – you’ll see why in a moment or two.

in the 1940s & 50s it was commonplace for a woman – and sometimes even an older teenager – to wear a girdle; the primary purpose being to assist in shaping the figure while also holding their stockings in place.  (I’ve also heard stories about girdles being used post-pregnancy to aid in reducing the “baby belly”, though how true this is I don’t know, but this link certainly has a lot of information which may help).

For every day wear, I’m generally happy just wearing a suspender belt, but if I did have the shorter girdle from What Katie Did, it would be something I wore when I just needed a little extra help to get into a pencil skirt or wiggle dress – it’s not designed to do a lot of shaping, but would give a smooth line to anyone who was a little concerned with the suspender belt shape and/or straps showing through a tight skirt or dress.

So: on to the corselette and underbust girdle!


As the corselette has a built-in bra, it’s best worn under a dress with a complimentary neckline and straps – this is to help avoid any accidental flashes of lingerie.

It’s also wise to consider the colour of your dress when choosing your shapewear: bright colours (like my Erin dress, left) may leave marks and stains on light coloured shapewear that are difficult to remove – especially if you’re in a warm room or have a liquid-related accident.  All of my glamour pieces are peach, but when I can afford to duplicate them in black I fully intend on doing so.

As you can see from the photo – even though my dress is tight you wouldn’t know what I was wearing underneath it unless I told you: you can’t see any telltale lines or evidence of the corselette.






And on the right you can see the corselette in all its’ glory.  For me, the peach colour is quite close to my skintone, and you can see how it smoothes me both in this photo and the ones below, especially where my panties are digging in due to my christmas gains.









Corselettes are sized by bra size, so you might not be able to get the corselett you’d like if you have a bra size that the manufacturer doesn’t regularly make.  What Katie Did’s corslettes go from a 32 to a 38 band, and from a B to an E cup.

The bra section should fit like your regular bra, and the corselette should be tight but not restrictive or oppressive – you should be able to breathe and move like normal, although you may take shorter strides than normal.








I’m wearing a 32E here, and the only time I ever have any troubles with it is when I’ve been showing my lack of self restraint around food, and even then it’s not a big problem, it just means I need to wiggle a little to get it on

From this angle, you can see some more of the smoothing action – even though my posture isn’t all that great, the corselette’s working to smooth my tummy, hips, and butt, giving me a smooth silhouette and no hint of VPL!





So, when you have a corselette, why do you need an underbust or regular open-bottom girdle, I hear you ask.



Well, not every dress or top you’ll want to wear will have wide straps, some may be halterneck or strapless, and some may have plunging necklines, which would show off the bra section of your corselette.

This may not be a problem for gals who don’t wear a bra, or who mind going bra-less, but for the rest of us this can pose a big problem.








Alternatively, you may have a bra size that any given shapewear manufacturer doesn’t make; and while you may want the shaping powers of a corselette, there is no way to make such a small bra size fit or make you feel good – and this is where the open-bottom, or underbust girdle comes in to play!

Again, you’d never know it to look at the pictures above and to the right, but I’m still wearing my shapewear!







This time, though, it’s my underbust girdle and I’ve paired it with a nude strapless bra.  You can see the girdle is still shaping me just like the corselette was







Only this time, the bra is better suited to my leopard halter dress because of the shape of the cups, and the clear plastic ‘strap’ to join the cups, rather than a thicker band which might show out of the plunging neckline

Like the corselette, your girdle should be tight, but not uncomfortable; for an underbust girdle it should not restrict your breathing, similarly a waist-length girdle should not restrict your ability to eat and drink normally.







This bra can also be worn with low-backed tops and dresses, though depending on the deepness of the back you may not be able to wear an underbust girdle with it.

Girdles are sized by waist size, and generally are suited to anyone who’s waist-to-hip (WtH) ratio is 10″ or below, as someone with a bigger WtH ratio may find a girdle sized by their waist size to be uncomfortable on their hips, and a girdle with a bigger waist size to better on theor hips but too big at the waist.





It’s worth noting that, even being as short as I am, I need to wear stockings that are the next size down so they don’t bag or wrinkle.

In terms of shaping, as you can see from these photos: both corselettes and open-bottom girdles focus most of their shaping power on the hips, derriere, and stomach; with the intention being to create a smooth silhouette – and smooth lines – under pencil skirts and wiggle dresses.

They could also both be worn under swing skirts and circle dresses,  but as neither of them particularly define the waistline most of their power would be lost.

What about you – have you tried a corselette or open-bottom girdle?  How did/do you find them?  Or are you considering trying one, and has this post helped you make a decision which one would be best for you?  I’d love for you to share with me in the comments below.


8 thoughts on “Shapewear Series: Corselettes and Open-Bottom Girdles

  1. Great discussion here! I used to LIVE out of open bottom girdles! And I still think they are vital to wearing vintage! Vintage honestly looks and feels better when wearing the proper undergarments!


  2. Nothing makes a great dress look even better on than wearing the right pieces underneath! I am glad you showed how fantastic your dresses look with the proper pieces underneath. I would have never known you were wearing anything. I totally agree about considering what color to wear as some clothing does rub off on the undergarments and stains them. Great tip and reminder!



  3. I want to buy them all! I wear corsets every day… except hot summer days when I can’t handle it or if wearing a backless garment. Shape-wear looks so much more comfortable! I have a few vintage bottomless gurdles. And shape wear knickers when I have gotten into too much chocolate (and mint slice). May I ask what the cup sizing is like at WKD? I’m all over the place depending on the cuts of bras with the ones here like in Australia. Isn’t it winter in the UK? You must have FROZE! You are one dedicated blogger! xxxxx


    1. Yep, it’s winter in the UK – it was 4’C & winds gusting to 50MPH when I took these – but my back door was only a couple of feet away and my garden’s pretty protected from the wind

      I love wearing corsets (though I only have one at the moment), but shapewear is a lot more comfortable – at least definitely for all-day wear.

      In WKDs standard-style bras, I go up a cup size, but whether that’s their pattern or my boobs I’m not sure. ‘The Nylon Swish’ is a blogger on your side of the world with a store that stocks WKD though, perhaps she could help better than I am?

      Liked by 1 person

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