Corset Bikini

How to say it:  kawr-sit  bih-kee-nee

Traditional Features: Corset Bikini

  • a bikini top that is constructed to resemble an underwire bra or corset
  • uses underwires to support the bust
  • often extends further down the torso than other bikini tops
  • matched with varying styles of bikini bottoms

21st Century Corset Bikini

The corset bikini is a style that has only recently become popular. Yet despite its relative newness, there are plenty of options available on the modern marketplace, as designers use the panelling of corsetry styles to mix and match prints, or take advantage of the extra length by broadcasting fabrics in bright colours, to make eye-catching bikinis that not only look fabulous, but also add a little extra covering for the more self-conscious beach-goer.

Gottex Maaji

Gottex, Maaji

Milly Norma Kamali

Milly, Norma Kamali


…of the style: A corset bikini features a top that resembles an underwire bra or corset, complete with underwires, cup supports and boning.

The idea of using metal to lift and support the female bust first came into being in the late 19th century; this lead to the creation of the underwire bra which hit the underwear market in the 1930s.

Despite its popularity in lingerie, the underwire didn’t make it to the swimwear market until the 1940s. Thanks to the War and the changing fashion trends that had freed women from the confines of boning and cinching, corsetry had suffered a dip in popularity. Fortunately, revealing, body-hugging swimsuits, that clearly required support and lift to smooth out the female figure and hide perceived faults, had begun to emerge, and corset makers saw a gap in the market. Manufacturers jumped at the opportunity and began adding tummy panels, underwires and boning to swimsuits to help women achieve the ‘ideal figure’. The only style to escape the underwire at the time was perhaps the bikini. Introduced in 1946, the bikini consisted of two triangles joined with a thin strip of fabric, and as such was not suitable for the underwire.

However, the underwire was added to the more modest two-piece suits of the 40s and 50s and it is these two piece suits that were no doubt the inspiration for the modern corset bikini. The bustier or corset style top that defines the style, with its extended length, panelling and boning, seems to be a fairly recent trend, as a quick look through bikini fashions of the last couple of decades will attest.

I couldn’t find any information as to why the corset bikini has become a trend and who is responsible for the style; but bustier tops have been a trend in women’s wear for the last couple of seasons so maybe the corset bikini is swimwear’s response to that. Or maybe swimwear designers just decided to take their inspiration from the 40s and 50s this season (high-waisted bikini bottoms seem to be back on trend too).

Whatever the reason, the corset bikini is everywhere in the summer of 2014. It is a fun, flattering style that makes anyones bust look great and gives designers the opportunity to play with print and colour in new ways. Will it last? Only time will tell.

…of the name: The top of this bikini is styled to resemble a corset, hence the name.

For more info on Corset Bikinis try Wikipedia, Fashion Era, Vintage Fashion Guild or the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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