How to Modernize an ’80s Bustier

by Sammy in 6 Comments — Updated December 6, 2023

I had a TON of fun styling with this bustier because like a bustier designer would assert: It truly works magic on your top torso, cutting inches but adding confidence! I’m sure a lot of you would NEVER think to wear a bustier, believing that you just don’t “have the body” to pull it off.

But you CAN! That’s the beauty of the bustier: With one that fits correctly in the first place (hint: fit is super important!) you will actually accentuate the beauty that is your natural figure and add to the color that is your charismatic character.

We’re all bustier babes here at Sammy Davis Vintage! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this week’s Style Monday post, plus any personal insight (or pics!) you may have on wearing a vintage bustier for a modern look.

Shout me some style hollers via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr (you can ask questions!) or email at [email protected]

Merry magical marvelous Memorial Day, everyone! Here’s to a very vintage loving summer for a stylish, fabulous YOU!

xx, SD


sammy davis vintage fashion outfit

THE LOOK: I paired an ’80s bustier with professional & modern pieces that distract from the fact that you are wearing something so daring (but in the same breath, also quite darling!)

THE INSPIRATION: The inspiration wasn’t exactly what I wanted TO create, but rather what I did NOT want to create.

Bustiers are quite “forward,” both style and personal presentation. I’d be lying to you if I said that “every girl can wear a bustier without issue.”

So the secret is to recognize how NOT to style your look so that you see how you CAN style it to look both modern and marvelous; not trendy but trashy.

HOW I MODERNIZED IT: So what I did is focus on shaping tailored pieces around this skin-tight bustier. Because it’s a solid black, my black and white cropped jacket establishes a professionally-charged color palette up top.

I stuck to blacks for my accessories with the choker necklace and black hairbow. I opted for a hair “bow” not just for the hairstyle, but for another vintage element that is also quite youthful. The bustier screams “woman” while the hairbow lessens that volume with a bit of “girl.”

While I kept it black & white up top, I went for a bright bottom that again, was tailored to fit and thus meant for modernization. Wide-legged pants or even a knee-length pencil skirt would have changed the tone of the look and arguably, would have just looked sloppy and undone.

Because my top pieces fit and drape close to my body, it was important that I polished this modern look with skinny pants in a luxurious silk material. New black heels on my feet seal the style deal!


sammy davis vintage fashion outfit

THE BUSTIER: ’80s bustier thanks to The Vintage Mistress on Etsy

THE PANTS: What I like to call my “creamsicle pants,” ’80s silk straight-legged with pockets I acquired thanks to this recent vintage haul

THE JACKET: White House/Black Market, a long-ago gift from my mother circa 2008

THE HAIRBOW: I DIYed this ’80s bow/hairpiece by attaching it to a short neck scarf that I positioned on the top of my head and then tied at my neck.

The hairpiece itself has a tough time “staying” in my hair, so this DIY trick helps faster it in place with a bit of a modern Madonna edge, to boot!

THE NECKLACE: Vintage lovers, I cannot for the life of me remember where I acquired this choker! I have a feeling it was stolen from my mother’s collection ;-)

THE SHOES: Faux croc closed-toe pumps from Ralph Lauren, a great investment I found on sale at a department store for less than $50

sammy davis vintage fashion outfit

sammy davis vintage fashion outfit


sammy davis vintage fashion outfit

The trick to recreating this look isn’t in matching the colors or accessories, but rather styling with pieces which mimic the streamlined silhouette I’ve established with this specific outfit.

Look in your closet for high-quality, lux-looking pieces. My pants are silk and my jacket is from a high-end mall store. My shoes are faux croc and choker designed with finer details in mind.

Weed out the “less” from the “lux” and then focus on finding your modern pieces which accentuate your body best.

High-waisted ankle cut pants help to create that hourglass effect brought on by the bustier. A tailored jacket that is cropped above your waist and when clasped shut is not baggy is your best bustier-flattering bet.

Close-toed shoes that reveal some skin (essentially, “pumps”) are a better option than a more casual wedge or peep-toe heel.

Last but definitely not least, wear your most prized accessories. Perhaps it’s a Tiffany’s necklace or a strand of real pearls. Opt for subtle stud earrings that sparkle and shine; or a silver larger-than-life cuff bracelet (like this one from Nasty Gal) which because of its size, will “balance” out the attention from bustier to bracelet when you’re not wearing a jacket for cover-up.

To recap how to recreate this look:

1.) Wear high-quality, lux-looking pieces (brand & material)

2.) Wear close-toed pump shoes

3.) Wear high-waisted skinny pants

4.) Wear a tailored, ideally cropped jacket with a snug closed fit

5.) Wear your most prized necklace (bigger is beautiful!), subtle but sparkling earrings OR, a larger-than-life silver cuff bracelet like this one from Nasty Gal


sammy davis vintage fashion outfit

I’ve styled this bustier for professional style thanks to high-quality modern pieces I styled with to complete the look.

I love the sexy-secrecy of this outfit because by wearing a cropped, trim & tailored jacket, you can hide that saucy bustier below to be revealed at post-work events, or just when things get too hot in the office and you need to show some skin to cool off!

The trick to wearing a bustier is finding one that fits. Like a bra, you want to have a cup and back size that sits and covers you comfortably. When the bustier fits right, you wont have to manage your movement so as not to prevent “spill-over!”

I wouldn’t suggest wearing this look to a particularly corporate environment if you feel uncomfortable wearing such a lingerie-inspired piece for day. But more creative ladies can be assured that with conscious care (i.e. marvelously modern, not trendy trash!) the vintage bustier is the new “pencil skirt” for the working girls’ 9 to 5.


LOOKBOOK: 5 Awesome ’80s Dresses from Olive’s Very Vintage!
Ways to Wear a … ’80s Edwardian Blouse
Ways to Wear a … ’80s Fishtail Skirt
Ways to Wear a … ’80s Greek Key Blazer
Ways to Wear a … ’80s Bed Jacket

6 thoughts on “How to Modernize an ’80s Bustier”

  1. Great look! I love your new style posts!

    Stacey Kay
    “Runway Inspiration, Vintage Decoration”

  2. love bustiers! i hardly come across them though while thrifting!! :( keep an eye out for me! and some sequined blazers too please!!


  3. oh man! i’ve seriously been looking for a black lace bustier over the past couple of weeks. unfortunately i’ve only found some that we pretty scary (VERY pointy boobs, every cup size fit the same, …”is that cardboard in the cup???”) ha ha ha. i love this look! it’s so great and i’m glad that there are others out there who think it can be appropriate outer-wear :D

  4. Hi? I love love love you and i need your advice…x

  5. I’m so jealous of your pants. I’ve really want pants like those.

    love this outfit.

  6. How adorable! I love how you paired the sexy bustier with a tailored pant. It is totally appropriate as outerwear like this. Oh, and I love the color of those pants. I’ve really been drawn to that light peachy orange lately. It reminds me of sherbet or something. :)



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