There are three reasons a trend can take over. First, freshness, be it a unique perspective or reinterpretation of a decades-past design. Second, it garners notoriety on social media or via celebrities with an attainable trickle-down effect. Or third, it boasts universality, with offerings from brands that serve different tastes, budgets, and aesthetics. All three are the case when it comes to bustier tops. Fifteenth-century corsetry, Madonna’s satin Jean Paul Gaultier cone bodysuit, or Selena Quintanilla’s jewel and pearl-adorned bra tops from the ’90s are all iconic iterations of the past, but the summer 2021 versions are more suited to daily wear while hitting on the season’s sweeping romantic trend. Think feminine tops with boning at the waist, ruched or underlined busts, delicate hook-and-eye-closures, and pretty lace-up detailing. These details, indeed, riff off lingerie, but with added design elements like smocking, puff sleeves, and fuller-coverage silhouettes to make the trend more than appealing and genuinely wearable.
According to Intermix chief merchant Divya Mathur, there are a couple of explanations for the current bustier craze: The post-pandemic desire to dress up and go out combined with the representation of bustiers and corsets in the modern cultural zeitgeist. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, this includes Bridgerton mania and the associated Regencycore aesthetic. Plus, a deluge of celebrities like Dua Lipa, Hailey Bieber, and the Kardashian-Jenners all wearing them, most distinctly in a Y2K vein. “[Bustier tops are] a symbol of female empowerment and a way to own your womanhood, [which] is why they’re having such a moment right now,” Mathur says. “The pandemic, as we know, disproportionately affected women, particularly working mothers, and as we emerge from the crisis, I think women are having a moment of embracing their own resilience.”
While traditionally, these fitted tops may seem best relegated to going out, the latest iterations include more versatile options that can easily work for more casual daytime settings. Mathur recommends labels like Dion Lee, Jonathan Simkhai, and Staud for their fresh interpretations. “Boning, bustiers, and corsetry details are such a part of [Dion Lee’s] DNA. What makes [him] so brilliant at interpreting it is how he utilizes these details, whether in a T-shirt, a sexy top, or a blazer, truly showing the trend’s versatility. I also love how Johnathan Simkhai incorporates [bustier elements] into daywear and knits, while Staud is so great at taking of-the-moment trends and making them accessible.”
Styling and personal taste are key for mastering bustiers with modern gusto (as is the case with most unanimous trends), and Mathur says balance is the primary factor. The Intermix merchant says cotton fabrications and sweet prints offset the inherent suggestiveness of a bustier-inspired top, as will the proportion of bottoms and additional layers. “I would pair a bustier-inspired top like Jonathan Simkhai’s Mary Jane blouse with a high-waisted straight-leg jean and flat sandal for a casual day look.” With a strapless, spaghetti-strap, or cropped style like the Dee Rib Knit Top, Mathur suggests loose-fitting jeans and statement heels in tandem for a night-out look. She even favors a bustier for work with the right pieces in tow: “I love the idea of a bodysuit with boning detail back to a wide-leg pant and blazer for some major throwback Sharon Stone vibes,” she says.
Ready to hop aboard the bustier train? Ahead, five styles worth trialing throughout summer.
We only include products that have been independently selected by TZR’s editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
Embrace the romantic trends of the season with bow-tie straps in tandem with a boned waist, ruched bustline, or peplum hem. The easiest way to wear your top in the heat? Tucked into loose jeans, simple shorts, or roomy linen trousers.
Corsets have been reclaimed for the modern era and aren’t just a costume piece anymore. Steer yours in a trend-forward direction by styling with baggy bottoms, like distressed jeans, utility-inspired pants, or slouchy trousers.
Voluminous sleeves have been a popular trend for a few summers now, but this year it's all about balance. A bustier-inspired design is a perfect way to draw in at your waist and avoid feeling swathed in too much fabric.
Undoubtedly the most effortless take on the bustier top trend are the ribbed knit iterations popping up. These tight-fitting designs — bodysuits and crop tops included — are as comfy as they are beautiful. Style yours with sandals or sneakers with denim during the day. Or, go the dressy route with heels and jewelry for the evening.
A cropped bustier top is the perfect mate for high-rise bottoms. Whether your taste tends toward a smocked, frilled, or boldly printed design — these sweet styles are easy to transition from day to night. When you need an extra layer, toss on a cardigan, blazer, or shacket for a casual offset.