What’s the difference between a girdle and a corset?

The words ‘corset’ and ‘girdle’ are often used interchangeably by many people when discussing vintage foundations, which can be confusing. Although girdles did indeed evolve from corsets, they are completely different types of foundations. With the recent ‘waist-training’ trend, I have had quite a few requests for ‘waist-training girdles’. I have also have also been asked which brand of corset I’m wearing when I’m actually wearing a girdle. So, what is the difference between the two garments?


  • Earlier girdles had minimal to zero stretch, nowadays modern girdles are designed with some stretch so that the garment can slightly expand to fit the individuals body
Image sourced from Glamourdaze

Image sourced from Glamourdaze

  • Designed to compress and smooth out problem areas and hold up stockings
  • Girdles can be either open-bottom or cut like a pair of shorts, known as panty girdles
  • Girdles are designed to reach over the hips and cover the buttocks
Image sourced from met museum.org

Image sourced from met museum.org

  • Traditional corsets usually involved some lacing, for example front/side laces or fan-laced girdles; however most girdles are now either stretchy enough to be pulled up with no fasteners or they have hook and eye fasteners and/ or zips
Rago Shapewear

Rago Shapewear


  • No stretch at all, size can be adjusted through lacing tighter or looser
Images sourced from Period Corsets

Images sourced from Period Corsets

  • Corsets traditionally have a busk at the front and laces at the back
  • They are designed to compress the body and not expand, they also have a non-stretch tape around the circumference of the garment


  • Not always designed to hold up stockings, main goal is to sculpt the body to a particular shape/ size
  • Corsets come in all shapes and lengths, however they are not usually cut to go over the buttocks (unless it is a corset dress or costume)



4 thoughts on “What’s the difference between a girdle and a corset?

  1. The sort of “unwritten rule” if there is such a thing in the US was that a girdle had at least some amount of elastic, and a corset had all non-stretch fabric.

    Generally, again not a hard and fast rule, a corset is more directed at the waist, whereas a girdle is more directed at the hips and tummy.

    There is some room for interpretation on this.

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