I’ve been meaning to write a longline/shapewear post for a while, but after recently sharing the below picture on Instagram, resulting in a flurry of comments asking what I was wearing (wink wink,) I knew it was time.
The struggle to find a vintage style longline bra or basque that works for you can be expensive, frustrating and time consuming.
There are products I’ve heard good things about which didn’t work for me. I’ve tried the House of Satin longline bra but felt it was too soft to offer any real nipping-in, as well as not being long enough to hit my true waist. A friend of mine espoused the cinching virtues of the Triumph Doreen longline, but I made the mistake of choosing too small a backband and finding it unbearably tight because of this. I suspect the Doreen will be a good option if I take the time to find it somewhere in store to try it on, but while I want the cinching powers it offers I’m not crazy about the thick-strapped, high cup-line visibility is has, as a lot of my dresses are thin strapped or strapless. So considering that, you might find Doreen is a good option for you, but I’ve find two cinching bra options that work well for me and I’m happy to share them both.
The first is the What Katie Did Gwendoline Merrywidow. This isn’t technically a longline bra, more of a basque, but as it ends at a point where it comfortably cups the top of my hips rather than than being as restrictive as a corselette that finishes under my butt, I happily wear it in place of a bra to get a nipped in waist. As it’s a basque, the back of it follows the same height as a typical bra backband, something I appreciate since low-backed strapless longline bras never give me quite as much support as needed in the front and can often great a back-fat overspill around my waist in the back where the full weight of the cinching falls to the low backband.
This Merry Widow has 8 spiral steel bones throughout and an internal elastic waist tape that work together to add the much-desired definition to your waist. The gently vintage-shaped cups create a subtle vintage shape somewhere between a bullet and a modern rounded cup, so it’s a great option for ladies who’re a bit too gun-shy to opt for a full bullet bra silhouette. It closes with hook and eye fastenings that run down the centre front of the basque, the outline of which can show through some kinds of clothing, but they’re much less noticeable than the busk of a corset. When this happens, if it bothers you you can layer in a slip or control shorts to help hide the outline. It has 4 detachable suspenders, which I typically remove when wearing this in place of a longline bra, but I do love that they’re there should I need or want them.
The WKD Merry Widow’s are sized by bra size but since they enclose your entire torso as well, making it tricky to choose the right size if you have substantial differences between your bust size and waist, they list that their bra sizes roughly co-ordinate with the following dress sizes in order to help you choose the correct size for your basque:
32″ – WKD dress size 10
34″ – WKD dress size 12
36″ – WKD dress size 14
38″ – WKD dress size 16
At the time of purchasing, I was a 36C and a size 16, so I opted for the 38C. It was the perfect fit for a while until I continued to gain more weight, a lot of it going to my bust. I remeasured and realised I’m actually a 36DD currently, so as of now my merry widow still fits me wonderfully in the waist but I’m testing the limits of the cups noticeably.
Despite needing to size up into a 38D most likely, of all the longline options I’ve tested in trying to achieve a cinched waist without the commitment of a corset, this Merry Widow is my absolute favourite solution. It takes 3 inches off waist and I also feel comfortable wearing it for long periods of time, much more so than I feel with other shapewear solutions at present.
Now, don’t be mad at me, but unfortunately the Gwendoline Merrywidow specifically is out of stock. However, What Katie Did offer a similar product in their Glamour Nouveau Merry Widow and comparing it to my Gwendoline, I believe will give the same results.
The other option I regularly utilize is a combination of two pieces which I can wear alone, but most like when worn together for maximum results.
The first is the ‘Dominique’ backless satin longline bra. I bought this bra in both black and white through Pinup Girl Clothing but it’s available through other stockists if it suits you better to search them out (a quick search showed me it’s available through Amazon.) This bra is a backless strapless longline, with 7 flexible bones placed throughout the front of the bra to support and cinch. The thick waistband pulls you in at the waist and fastens low on your back with 3 hooks, available with 3 tightness settings. That low back makes this a perfect bra for any top, dress or gown that has a low or interesting back detail that you don’t want to ruin with a visible bra band on display. I originally bought this bra specifically for this purpose more so than for it’s waist cinching properties and I’m very happy using it in this fashion.
Now, if you’re squidgy like me you’ll probably find you get a bit of backfat overspill happening where the back band sits so low and tight on you, but if you’re squidgy that’s kind of unavoidable with any item that cinches but isn’t full coverage. The bra is underwired and the cups have that kind of single-layered padding that stops the outline of your nipples being visible but doesn’t provide any push-up effects.
Getting the right size is the most important factor in getting this bra to work for you. I have this bra in a 38B and it fit me well when I first purchased it, but as mentioned above, my bra size has now changed so there’s a huge amount of overspill threatening to happen in the cups. Because it’s backless that mostly means my boobs push the bra away from my upper chest, the underwire no longer sitting flush against my body, rather than creating the ‘double-boob’ effect that a normal bra would create when the cups are too small. I need to size up but until then I’ll advise you on how I determined the right size to buy when I made my original purchase.
Reviews said this bra was a very tight fit but large in the cups. I knew that my waist, which is squidgy and plus size, would have to comfortably take all the weight and pressure of the thick waistband in order to support the backless aspect of the bra, so I sized up into 38 and down in the cups into a B, since 38B should be a sister size to my then-36C. This size worked for me at the time. I think I need a 38C now, but I haven’t got round to ordering one yet.
The Dominique bra alone takes 2.5 inches off my waist. Because it’s a strapless, backless style its power comes from only pulling you in actively in the waist, not also in the ribs or upper hips, so it’s not as uniform a cinch as the WKD Merrywidow gives me, which is why I prefer the WKD. Because of this limited cinching, sometimes I like to layer the Rago 821 Firm Control Waist Cincher over the Dominique bra to give me a more streamlined look. Together they take 3 inches off my waist and the Cincher helps to counteract any backfat issues caused by the backless style of the Dominique cinching so tightly in the waist.
I actually don’t particularly like the 821 Cincher by itself, as I don’t feel it really lives up to its ‘firm control’ name. It closes with front hook and eye fastenings and has ‘power circle inner contour bands,’ as well as 6 flexible bones throughout, but altogether it just doesn’t cinch me that much. Worn alone, it only has enough firm control to suck me in by 2 inches right in the dip of my waist, but at the cost of creating strange bulges in other places.
I bought it in a size 2X/34 as a compromise between my waist and hip measurements but it still creates a bulge where the bottom of it sits on my hips when I fasten it fully. If I sit down the bottom section also flips up to fold back on itself, presumably because it may also be too long for me as well as too tight in that area. In addition to the hips bulge, it actually gives me a bit of a bulge under my bra where it meets my bra band. Basically, it’s pretty useless for me personally unless I double it up with the Dominique longline bra so that the two pieces smooth out different areas together more effectively than alone: The Dominique cinches my waist, and the Rago then offers support in the back and ribs that the Dominique doesn’t have alone.
Overall, while my Rago and Dominique combination give me the same inch-loss in the waist as my WKD Merrywidow, I still prefer my Merrywidow for multiple reasons. It’s easier to put on than layering the other two pieces together, I find it more comfortable, and it’s a lot prettier. Saying that, however, the Dominique bra does offer versatility because of its backless structure, the rounded cups give a more modern silhouette which might be preferable to some ladies, and it’s cheaper than the WKD. It’s not necessary to layer the Rago Cincher over it like I did, but if you’re able to try the Rago on before purchase and find both pieces work well for you then you’ll have two pieces that can be worn alone or together for maximum versatility. Really, it’s all about what you’re looking to achieve and what will make you more comfortable.
That’s it, those are my longline secrets. As you can tell, I need to buy new pieces in sizes that’ll fit my recently increased bust, but the bras themselves work wonderfully so I’ll simply be repurchasing in a different size, rather than looking for new solutions altogether.
If you’ve had any experience with these items or want to share what underpinnings you’ve found that work best for you, please feel free to leave a comment.