A Guide to Wearing a Corset or Girdle with an Authentic 1940s Dress

by Karen



When it came to perfecting the female form, women in the 1940s knew precisely how to set themselves right.

A slim waist, a narrow set of hips, and lean shoulders—women in the United States and worldwide had no problem achieving that waif-like quality, even if their bodies didn’t naturally allow it. For some, it was like magic how all ladies were able to acquire such a unique, flawless body shape.

But to women, it wasn’t magic at it. It all came down to the power of the corset or the girdle.


A Short History

Ladies using a style of corset and girdle

In the 1940s, girdles became more popular because of their relaxed fit. They were still able to provide women with the type of body shape they needed. Girdles, corsets, foundation undergarments, and brassieres—these remained popular throughout the decade and continued to reign in the years to come.

If you’re planning to wear an authentic 1940s dress, a corset or a girdle is perhaps the best piece of undergarment you can use to achieve that perfect 1940s look. Yet, we understand if you’re a little intimidated by how you’ll fit into such form-fitting designs.

Corsets or girdles are typically the butts of fashion jokes, with some comparing them to torture devices. But jokes aside, they are perhaps as harmless as your regular pair of underwear, granted that you get the right size.

Keep in mind, ladies, we all know the correct size matters when it comes to undergarments.

If you get the right size corset or girdle, you’ll have no problem fitting in it smoothly, so it hides your bumps and highlights your lumps!

How to Choose the Right Corset or Girdle

how to wear a corset or girdle 1940

Just as you would with a regular pair of underwear when it comes to buying shapewear, you make your decision by taking the following factors into account:

  • Quality
  • Type
  • Function
  • Fit
  • Comfort

And it’s the last one you must focus on.

Contrary to popular belief, comfort is crucial if you want to wear a corset or a girdle. It’s a shame that women were subjected to uncomfortable shapewear in the early eras. But with modern times comes the opportunity to wear something that gives you the ideal curves without making it difficult to breathe.

Combine the four previous factors, and you get something that stands the test of time and any increasing inches!


Penny-pinching will not work in this case.

A suitable corset requires perfect boning, strong stitching, and good-quality fabric that flows with your curves. Consider all this but with low-quality materials. It doesn’t have the same impact.

While you’ll find many inexpensive corsets online, don’t choose one that has a lot of three stars or less. Please don’t waste your hard-earned money on something that isn’t worth it.



underbust overbust corset type

Corsets are of two types: overbust and underbust.

An overbust corset is ideal for most body types. An underbust is a one-type-fits-all and can typically be worn with your underwear since it ends under the bust.

For those with larger cup sizes, such as a DD, using an overbust requires adding extra support, like an expert waist training corset or a waist taming corset.

If you have a smaller bust size, an underbust corset should suit you fine. Underbust corsets are for day-to-day wear and don’t have as much weight or stiffness as an overbust does.



girdle types scuba camisole thong one piece

You’ll find six different options for girdles.

The most common one, the scuba suit, goes down from under the bust to the mid-thigh. While this type of girdle does give you an excellent, desired form, it tends to roll up or roll down if you wear one that’s a little too tight.

The second type, the boy short slimmers, extends to the mid-thigh and goes straight up with a plunging neck so that you can wear your bra with the slimmer. Unfortunately, though, boy short slimmers are made with thin fabrics, so they don’t eliminate the extra bulge that much.

One-piece bodysuits and camisoles are helpful if you want an overall smooth look, but they don’t do such an excellent job at slimming you down because they are made with spandex. If you don’t have as much to slim down, though, you can wear them.

As for half and full slimmer tops, these serve as dresses because they do a great job fitting everything in. These also serve as slips you can wear under dresses. However, if you want something that only pushes in your stomach pooch, a slimmer thong is the best choice that comes to mind. A slimmer thong comes attached with a control top panel that compresses the tummy. If you can handle the thong, this is the best thing you can have.


how to wear a corset vintage

With a 1940s dress, you want something that’s sleek and doesn’t have many frills and bows so that it can improve upon your everyday wear. These types of shapewear are functional and versatile, so if you’re using one to enhance your dress’s shape, get a basic corset that comes without any added straps.

But be warned, if you’re wearing a corset or girdle so you can look ultra slim in your 40s dress, it will simply not do.

Leaning on that joke, a corset is not a torture device and should not be treated as such. Wear a nicely-fitted corset if you only want to smoothen your curves, not if you want to get from a size 10 to a size 6. It will not happen, and you’ll probably hurt yourself if you wear a too-tight corset.


how to wear a corset wardrobeshop

Harking to our note from before, a corset should suit your body measurements enough that it would remain comfortable once you wear it.

Typically, you’ll find shapewear in dress sizes or waist measurements. Corsets are meant to be at least four inches less than your natural waist. So, if you have a 28-inch waist, you’ll get a 24-inch corset. However, if that size does not feel comfortable, you can always go for a size up. A corset is still made with fabric and boning. If you wear one that’s too small, your bumps and bulges will start to stick out.

Please be honest with yourself when measuring, and choose one that fits you well to breathe easily.

Wearing the Right Shapewear with a 1940s Dress

right shapewear 1940s dress

Vintage 1940s dresses like those you’ll find at Wardrobe Shop are very comfortable and work well with generally any body type. However, if you want to enhance your look, the best option would be a girdle rather than a corset.

Also, considering that girdles were more common than corsets in the 1940s, it only adds to the level of authenticity. 1940s dresses focused on having a tiny waist and slim shoulders, with a slightly flared dress to show off the hourglass figure. For that, a girdle like a boy short slimmer would work perfectly. If your dress is more body-fitted, a full slimmer top might help pull off that smooth quality.

Nevertheless, if you want to make an impact, an underbust corset with a fitted bra is the right choice. Though it’s not as accurate to the era, it does the job well of maintaining a gorgeous body shape that accentuates the dress’s look.

Closing Thoughts

Post-WWI, the 1940s were all about returning to the traditional mindset, which influenced our fashion choices.

Corsets evolved into girdles, and women’s fashion welcomed more masculine touches, like padded shoulders, slimmer hemlines, and pantsuits. Yet, the general love of classic cinched waisted dresses continued.

So, for anyone out there who wants to emulate the 1940s fashionable look, get yourself the right girdle (or corset). And remember to buy the right accessories to complete the look. You’ll look like the belle of the ball!

1940s dress corset girdle


A Guide to Wearing a Corset or Girdle with an Authentic 1940s Dress infographic

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