Ever since Netflix released Bridgerton, the Regency-era drama has not only kept us glued to the TV — in its first month on Netflix, the show reached 82 million viewers — but its clothing has also seeped into our wardrobes. In the four weeks following its release alone, search for corsets on global shopping platform Lyst increased by 123%. During Fashion Month in February, taut bodices were shown on the fall '21 runways of Markarian, KNWLS, Prabal Gurung, and more. When Billie Eilish appeared on the June cover of British Vogue in a bevy of custom corsets by Gucci, Burberry, Mugler, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, and more, search for the constricting lingerie item went up 74% in the span of just two days, according to Lyst.
Eilish wasn’t the only celebrity spotted wearing the trend. Miley Cyrus wore a Schiaparelli corset while hosting SNL in May, followed by Katy Perry, who wore a white Maticevski suit with a black corset while filming American Idol. At the BRITs, Dua Lipa stunned in a Vivienne Westwood corseted dress; at the MTV Movies & TV Awards, Yara Shahidi paired an Erdem bodice with an Adidas tracksuit; and Olivia Rodrigo wore a plaid Vivienne Westwood corset during her own SNL performance.
In turn, one thing has become clear: Fashion’s obsession with Regencycore isn’t going anywhere. But, what is it really like to wear a corset IRL?
To find out, I tested an array of different styles, from NSFW lingerie to more fashion-forward iterations, including the SKIMS waist trainer, boned Miaou styles (worn by corset queen Kim Kardashian in the final season of Keeping Up With The Kardashians), and a sheer Savage x Fenty corset dress.
According to SKIMS’ site, the waist trainer, which is available in black and tan and sizes XXS to 4X, is meant to “accentuate your natural curves” and be worn underneath clothing. Though made from neoprene and soft to the touch, as the name suggests, it was the most constricting of the corset styles I tested out. As such, it didn’t feel the most comfortable when I wore it under a fitted gray dress while running errands in 90-degree weather. Even less so after I ate three servings of pasta (plus dessert and triple the recommended daily amount of free garlic bread). But then again, I had been warned by experts: “A corset will never be truly comfortable,” Bridgerton costume designer Ellen Mirojnick told Refinery29 prior to the show’s release.
While I expected a more true-to-history corset experience (read: painful) with the waist trainer, I didn't foresee that the more fashionable corsets would be as constricting. Thanks to the boning and power mesh, Instagram-favourite brand Miaou’s styles resulted in marks on my back (albeit much-improved posture) after a day of working from home. In addition to being as stylish in person as they appear on social media, the Campbell mesh corset and the Imogene corset (similar here) both created the look of a “blossoming bosom,” as Mirojnick described it in December, where there really wasn’t one (I wear a 32B bra size).
I wore the Campbell corset in a handful of ways over the course of a week, layering it over a silk mini dress, as well as with Bermuda-length denim shorts. Next time, I’ll take Kardashian’s route, pairing it with a matching mini skirt from the brand. Inspired by her look, I combined the brown-and-white Imogene corset with my own black mini skirt and knee-high boots.
When it came to the third style, Rihanna’s take on the corset felt less like an actual corset, despite the fact that it had laces running up the back, or a dress, as the name suggests, and more like straight lingerie. Given that the cups on the Savage X Fenty’s watercolour tie-dye corset dress (similar here) are completely sheer, I found that I couldn’t test it out on the streets. The piece did, however, look cute while worn in the confines of my bedroom.
Throughout this process, I simultaneously fell in love with corsets and sympathised with Bridgerton star Nicola Coughlan, who told Refinery29 in December of the sense of relief that ensues when you take off a corset after a long day: “Your ribs are just like, Ah.” While I wouldn’t recommend wearing a waist trainer for a three-course Italian dinner, nor a bone-in corset for a day spent sitting at the computer, my experience with corsets was far more enjoyable than I had expected it to be when I took on this task. Not only did they create the illusion of cleavage while also holding me in, but they also made for a fun and sexy styling piece in my otherwise understated wardrobe.
Sure, as Coughlan said, it feels good to take one off at the end of the day. But wearing one, especially a stylish one, isn’t half bad either.