Objects of Desire: Bustiers

Jackie Mantey, Columbus Alive

Embarrassing story: In middle school, I used to tap dance with my older sister.

Wait, it gets better.

One year we did a routine to the jazz song "In the Mood." We wore these ridiculous zoot-suit-meets-flapper-dress costumes. Because of the way the outfit was designed, we had to wear strapless bustier bras underneath.

Bustiers are like corsets but shorter, extending only about as far down as your waist. Wearing this as a still-developing girl is a mistake. (Looking like a pre-steroid Carrot Top in a bustier doesn't do much in the way of body confidence.) But my loathing of bustiers was solidified when my sister and I performed our little number at our hometown's outdoor summer festival.

It was hot outside and I felt so awkward that I must have put too much effort into my shuffle-step-ball-change-jazz-hands. The boning in my bustier punctured through the silk and stabbed me in the side.

Since then, I've cursed the blasted bustier. Until recently.

What turned me? The most romantic, feminine cream lace lingerie bustier I've ever seen, from Anthropologie. The length of it, the soft cotton material, the ribbon bows - so sweet. There's a coveted loveliness to a bra that is sexy without looking Pam Anderson, demure without looking Amish.

My fondness only grows as the popularity of bustiers built for outerwear grows. Bustier tops like this one from H&M are fantastic (other shopping mall bread-and-butter stores like Charlotte Russe, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters carry similar styles).

The brave and/or washboard-bellied can wear these midriff-baring tops with just jeans and pearls. For the rest of us, try them over a strapless dress or under sheer lace tops. High-waisted shorts with long pockets are coming our way again this spring and summer, and longer bustiers work when tucked into those.

Satin and shapely bustiers are deliciously call-girl-meets-power-exec when paired with a waist-hugging vintage skirt or jeans and a form-fitting blazer.

Just, you know, keep in mind that wearing a bustier while tap dancing in front of a crowd of bored people eating onion rings in 90-degree weather is not optimal for comfort.

· Objects of Desire is a biweekly column that explores the items Columbus shoppers crave. Follow Jackie Mantey on Twitter at @Jackie_Mantey.