By Gretta Monahan
Love it or hate it, the bustier is back. Actually, it’s been back since the better part of last year, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. It’s lived on the funkier outskirts of fashion, leaving its life as lingerie and showing up as outerwear in creative ways — everywhere from the runways at Christian Dior shows to office-ready jackets in Isabel Marant’s collections and built into sequined cocktail dresses by Zac Posen.
Traditionally worn as an undergarment, its mission was historically the same as a corset — to tighten the midriff and push up your bust (hence the name). These days it’s mercifully far less tight and much more comfortable while still being flattering, and when worn for daytime, can be a chic, quirky statement.
There’s something almost uniform-like about the structured piece, making it office-appropriate if done in layers (i.e., without showing too much skin). Take, for example, wearing a black or bright blue one over a buttoned-up white shirt. Do that with jeans and heels or boots, and you’ve got a cool, high-drama but effortless look.
Or pull one on over a basic fitted turtleneck sweater and suddenly it doesn’t look so basic anymore. Pair one with pants of the same color and it will create a long, elegant silhouette.
Bustiers look fantastic with suits, too. Layer one such as Victoria Beckham’s black ribbed wool blend ($268 at netaporter.com) under a jacket and over a striped oxford, and you’ve just taken a suit from boring to brave.
They come in all kinds of dress shapes, too — as with the fitted body-con, thick jersey designs from H&M ($19.99 at hm.com), which look sleek and savvy underneath a denim jacket or a sharply cut cashmere cardigan in a contrasting color. Dolce & Gabbana is famous for theirs, covered in beautiful big spring blooms, as they are on the design duo’s floral-print Cady midi dress ($1,895 at netaporter.com).
At brunch time or for an afternoon party, go for a floral version like Milly’s brightly tropical silk one ($250 at saksfifthavenue.com) over a silk blouse. Or, if it’s a summertime patio party, skip the blouse underneath.