Corsets come in a huge range of shapes and styles, and finding a corsetiere (or a corset pattern) that makes corsets in a shape that suits your body can be quite daunting! Here's a quick look at the main styles and silhouettes of modern corsetry and how they can shape the body.
This is the most mildly shaped corset silhouette, with minimal reduction and a smooth conical shape. This a great choice if you like the idea of a corset but aren't sure about waist reduction, or only want very slight shaping. Cheap corset companies often use this style but make big shaping claims based on how much steel boning the corsets contain - the shaping is determined by the corset pattern, NOT the boning, so feel free to completely ignore these claims, and opt to invest in a quality corset from a corsetiere if you're looking for proper, comfortable shaping.
Conical corsets create a smooth line from the upper edge of the corset to the waist, with little to no rounding at the ribs. Consequently, this style can be a little uncomfortable to wear unless you have naturally narrow ribs, or are only aiming to achieve a small waist reduction. Regardless of this hitch, conical rib corsets tend to be quite popular as a 'mainstream' shape, as they are often not as dramatic as other shapes and have a more universal appeal.
A classic corseted shape, with rounded ribs and hips and a defined waist. This style has a little more rib room than the conical shape, it should be snug around the ribs and may have a small amount of compression at the front. Because of this extra room, the hourglass shape allows for more waist reduction than the conical silhouette.
Effectively a more dramatic version of the hourglass silhouette, a cupped rib corset leaves lots of room for the ribs at both the front and sides, cupping in sharply to the waist just underneath. This allows for a large amount of waist reduction without causing rib discomfort.
A pipestem corset is essentially a cupped rib silhouette with an elongated waist. Instead of dipping smoothly in and out at the waist, a pipestem corset has a waist of 1-2 inches in length. It is the most extreme of the corset silhouettes and is generally only recommended for experienced tightlacers.
As well as these silhouettes, corsets come in a variety of styles/lengths, here are the main contenders in modern corsetry:
As the name suggests, an overbust corset covers and supports the bust, can be more comfortable than a bra for larger bust sizes, and they also give good back support. Overbust corsets give a nice large canvas for beautiful detailing and are often used as feature pieces for outfits, which can limit their versatility.
Another self-explanatory name, an underbust corset finishes just beneath the bust, usually where your bra band/underwire would sit. Depending on the style, they may be higher at the back, and there are a variety of centre front and hip edge shapes. The underbust is a super versatile style, and can be worn as a 'stealth' corset underneath clothing, or as an outerwear feature with a huge range of different outfits.
A shorter version of the underbust. Cinchers generally cover the lower part of the rib cage and are around mid-high hip length. Cinchers are great for accessorizing and achieving the 'nipped in' waist look without the restrictions of a longer corset.
An even shorter version of the underbust, almost more like a wide boned belt than a corset.
There are more variations on each of these silhouettes and styles depending on the maker, but these are the basic/most common categories. You will likely find that there are one or two styles that fit your body the best and are the most comfortable, but experienced corsetiers can sometimes shape or pad other styles to suit your figure so that you can achieve the silhouette you want (within reason, of course!).
I hope you've found this helpful for distinguishing corset types, please feel free to comment with any questions!
Thanks for reading!