The term bustier is derived from the French word “buste” which means bust. A woman wears it to define her shape and enhance her breasts. The bustier is a one piece, sleeveless garment that fits tightly to the torso while strips of stiff material known as boning create a look that complements the breasts while at the same time giving the waist a slimmer shape. It is meant to fit snugly around a woman’s breasts and down her ribcage. Unlike the corset which laces up the back for a tighter fit, the modern bustier has hook and eye closures in the front and/or a side zipper for a more mainstream look.
The bustier, also known as the “long-line bra” or “merry widow” is a garment that has been worn by women for centuries. It got its name, merry widow from the 1952 film by the same name, “The Merry Widow” starring Lana Turner. Maidenform capitalized on Turner’s well-known assets by naming a foundation garment after her and the name stuck.
The bustier materialized when fashion designers began to pay more attention to the style of the everyday brassiere and developed a trend towards long skirts and exaggerated smooth, bullet shaped busts. A great example of this is the classic pinup sweater girl look embodied by the young Marilyn Monroe. The pointed, bullet shape was achieved simply by adding a conical stitching to the bra cups on the bustier. Madonna followed up with her conical-cupped corset in the 80’s and today Hollywood stars are once again bringing the infamous bustier to the fashion forefront.
The look of a bustier can be simple seduction or come-hither dramatic. They can be embellished with ribbons, lace, beads or sequins. Even though the bustier is traditionally worn as sexy lingerie, it is now often worn under sheer clothing, blazers or even as the focal point of an ensemble. Designers continue to create outfits that not only utilize it as an undergarment, but as outerwear as well. You can find them built into all styles of women's clothing from party dresses to wedding gowns.
It’s important when buying a bustier to get the right size. The most important element of a bustier is the cup size. If the bra cup fits well, the rest of the bustier can be adjusted to fit your frame. Bustiers are about the illusion of abundance. This illusion is what the bustier should create. It should uplift your breasts; if it compresses or flattens your chest, you have not found the right fit. Full-figured women will need a bit of extra boning in the bodice and cup of the bustier, while less endowed women can get away with mesh panels instead.
A bustier is a very provocative and sexy garment. For an erotic look add a matching garter belt, thigh-high stockings and a pair of stiletto heels. Today, bustiers play a very alluring role in fantasy dress up and Halloween costumes.