United States International Trade Commision Rulings And Harmonized Tariff Schedule
faqs.org  Rulings By Number  Rulings By Category  Tariff Numbers
faqs.org > Rulings and Tariffs Home > Rulings By Number > 1995 HQ Rulings > HQ 956577 - HQ 956694 > HQ 956668

Previous Ruling Next Ruling
HQ 956668

February 28, 1995

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 956668 CMR


TARIFF NO.: 6212.90.0030

Alan Klestadt, Esq.
Suzanne Barnett, Esq.
Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz & Silverman 245 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10167

RE: Classification of a "merry widow"; foundation garment; body supporting garment; corset v. long-line brassiere v. other garment; heading 6212, HTSUSA

Dear Ms. Barnett:

This ruling is in response to your request of June 17, 1994, on behalf of your client, Mast Industries Inc., regarding the classification of certain body supporting garments marketed as "merry widows". A sample garment was submitted with your request. Two additional samples were submitted along with comparison samples during the time period this classification decision was deliberated.


The first sample garment, style VSF-3018, is made of 100 percent polyester fabric with trim of 100 percent nylon fabric. The garment extends from the bust to the waist, extending slightly below the waist in the front. It is constructed from four woven and lace polyester fabric panels at the front, two woven polyester fabric panels at the sides with two more power- net knit panels at the rear. The power-net fabric consists of 79 percent nylon/21 percent lycra. The garment features two-piece underwire cups (woven polyester lower half of cups, lace upper part of cups), seven plastic vertical stays, a seven hook and eye triple adjustable brassiere or corset type rear closure, a ruffled lace-like bottom trim and four detachable garters. A 3- 1/2 inch V-shaped opening between the cups may be adjusted by means of five sets of metal eyes and a ribbon lace.

The two additional samples, styles VSI-701 and VSI-704, are constructed similarly to style VSF-3018. Style VSI-701 and VSI- 704 extend from the bust to the waist. Style VSI-701 is -2-
constructed from six panels of man-made fiber (we assume polyester) lace fabric panels and two power-net panels on the back. The garment features two underwire cups of man-made fiber lace fabric, detachable adjustable straps, four detachable garters, six plastic vertical stays, a ten hook and eye double adjustable brassiere type rear closure, four ribbon bows, and a woven man-made fiber fabric ruffle along the bottom of the garment. The front panels are joined by a cord intertwined through fabric loops and tied into a bow at the top.

Style VSI-704 is constructed from three panels of stretch lace fabric (we assume it is man-made material) on the front of the garment and four panels of power-net fabric on the side and back. The garment features two underwire padded cups with stretch lace fabric covering the padded portion of the cups. The garment has six plastic vertical stays, permanently attached adjustable straps, four permanently attached garters, and a ten hook and eye double adjustable brassiere type rear closure.

The original submission and sample indicated the garments would be made in China; however, the additional samples were marked with hang tags indicating they were from Hong Kong. In a telephone conversation on February 21, 1995, you informed a member of my staff that the garments will be made in Hong Kong. The garments are marketed with an accompanying matching lace G- string panty.


Are the submitted "merry widows" classifiable as corsets, as long line brassieres, or as other body supporting garments in heading 6212, HTSUSA?


Classification of goods under the HTSUSA is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 provides that "classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes and, provided such headings or notes do not otherwise require, according to [the remaining GRIs taken in order]."

Heading 6212, HTSUSA, provides for "Brassieres, girdles, corsets, braces, suspenders, garters and similar articles and parts thereof, whether or not knitted or crocheted". There is no dispute that the "merry widows" at issue are body supporting garments of heading 6212.

The Explanatory Notes to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level, state in pertinent part in regard to heading 6212:

This heading covers articles of a kind designed for wear as body-supporting garments or as supports for certain other articles of apparel, and parts thereof. These articles may be made of any textile material including knitted or crocheted fabrics (whether or not elastic).

The heading includes, inter alia:

(1) Brassieres of all kinds.

(2) Girdles and panty-girdles.

(3) Corselettes (combinations of girdles or panty-girdles and brassieres).

(4) Corsets and corset-belts. These are usually reinforced with flexible metallic, whalebone or plastic stays, and are generally fastened by lacing or by hooks.

All of the above articles may be furnished with trimmings of various kinds (ribbons, lace, etc.), and may incorporate fittings and accessories or non-textile materials (e.g., metal, rubber, plastics or leather).

The garments at issue are reinforced with flexible plastic stays and are fastened by multiple rear hooks. Thus, they have features which the Explanatory Note indicates are normally found in corsets. However, the Explanatory Note does not define the term "corsets" as it does in the case of the term "corselettes". Therefore, we must look to other sources for a better understanding of what is considered a corset.

Various definitions for "corset" have been found. Some of them are provided below.

Women's one piece sleeveless, laced garment for shaping the figure. Generally a heavily boned, rigid garment worn from 1820s to 1930s. Since 1940s made of lighter-weight elasticized fabrics and called a GIRDLE or FOUNDATION GARMENT. Fairchild's Dictionary of Fashion, 2d Edition

A stiff shaping garment of the torso, tending to pronounced diminution of the waist and raising of the bust. A variant was used by men as well. Infra-Apparel, by Richard Martin and Harold Koda, (1993), at 47. [emphasis added.]

A tight-fitting undergarment, often having stays, worn to support and shape the waistline, hips, and breasts. Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary, (1984), at 315. [emphasis added.]

A woman's close-fitting boned supporting undergarment often hooked and laced, extending from above or beneath the bust or from the waist to below the hips, and having garters attached--sometimes used in pl. Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, (1968), at 513.

Often, corsets. a close-fitting inner garment, stiffened with whalebone or similar material and capable of being tightened by lacing, enclosing the trunk: worn, esp. by women, to shape and support the body; stays. The Random House of the English Language, (1973), at 328. [emphasis added.]

Article of clothing worn to shape or constrict the torso, whether as underclothing or as outer decoration. * * * The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th Edition, at 167. [emphasis added.]

Smoothly fitted undergarment extending from or below the bust down over the hipline; often stiffened by strips of steel or whalebone, limbered by elastic goring, sometimes tightened by lacing. Worn by women for support and figure- molding. Originally, made in two pieces laced together at front and back. Formally called stays; now usually called corsets. The Fashion Dictionary, by Mary Brooks Picken, (1973), at 89. [emphasis added.]

A close-fitting, reinforced undergarment, reaching from the bust to below the hips, worn by women to support the body or mold the figure. The Modern Textile and Apparel Dictionary, 4th Edition, by George E. Linton, (1973), at 126. [emphasis added.]

"Merry widow" is defined as:

A 1951 corset manufactured by Warner's and named after the operetta by Franz Lehar. A pronounced hourglass shape, it corresponded to the New Look shaping, restraining the waist and lifting the bust. Infra-Apparel, by Richard Martin and Harold Koda, (1993), at 47. -5-

A long-line bra, with many stays, usually strapless and extending below the waist. Popular in the 50's worn under formals. The Fashion Dictionary, by Mary Brooks Picken, (1973), at 244.

A corset made by Warner's and named after Lehar's operetta. Creating an hour-glass shape it had half-cup bust support and long stocking suspenders. Underwear The Fashion History, by Alison Carter (1992), at 152.

In your submission, you indicate that the term "merry widow" is a misnomer which has been used inaccurately over the years. After reviewing many fashion articles and advertisements, we must agree that the term "merry widow", along with the terms "corset", "bustier", "corselette" and "torsolette" are used often interchangeably and thus clearly inaccurately to identify various garments. Indeed, the definitions of "merry widow" given above illustrate a difference of opinion. In two definitions, a "merry widow" is clearly identified as a corset, yet one definition calls it a long-line bra. Therefore, we will not make any inferences regarding the classification of the garments at issue based on their designation as "merry widows".

A key argument in your submission is that a corset serves to "cinch the waist". Indeed, as you point out, in Infra-Apparel, at 47 (1993), in discussing corsets, it is stated:

The corset cleaves and cinches the waist, by impression or by physical impress, then enhancing the bosom as it is lifted up by the corset construction.

Affidavits from two industry experts were submitted February 15, 1995, to provide additional support to your arguments. The "experts" are individuals who have extensive experience in the intimate apparel industry and one has been certified as a Trained Fitter of Corsets by the Corset Guild of Great Britain.

One of the experts stated in his affidavit:

A corset is a "body re-shaping" garment. It resculpts the body. The primary focus of the control feature is the waist.

The other expert in discussing corsets stated:

In the intimate apparel industry, a corset is recognized as a body shaping garment which encircles the waist. It is designed to displace flesh evenly throughout the torso. In this manner the dimensions and the shape of the wearer are actually changed. A corset must cover the hip area in order to create the hourglass figure or "wasp-waist" look. -6-

A review of the lexicographic sources and the testimony of the industry experts in the affidavits submitted by you support the view that part of the function of a corset is to "cinch the waist" or "give the impression or appearance of cinching the waist". As the "merry widows" at issue simply reach the waist and do not hold in the waist area or give the impression of holding in the waist area, we agree they fail to function as corsets. Thus, the garments at issue are not classifiable as corsets.

Classification as long-line brassieres has been suggested. The garments at issue do provide bust support which is the function of a brassiere. You argue that the garments provide minimal bust support and do not function as brassieres. In addition, you argue that the presence of the garters makes the garments at issue more than brassieres.

The following definitions are helpful to this discussion:

From Fairchild's Dictionary of Fashion, 2d Edition:

Bra: A shaped undergarment worn by women to mold and support the breasts. Usually consists of two cups held in place with straps over the shoulders and elastic in center back.

Long-line bra: Bra that fits the bust or rib cage, extends to waist or below. Worn with girdle to eliminate waistline bulges. Sometimes boned and wired to be worn without straps.

From Webster's Third New International Dictionary:

Brassiere: a woman's close-fitting undergarment having cups for bust support, varying in width from a band to a waist length bodice, made with or without straps, and often boned or wired for additional support or separation.

From The Fashion Dictionary, by Mary Brooks Picken, (1973), at 36:

Brassiere: Close-fitting undergarment shaped to support bust. Also called bra, uplift, bandeau.

From Essential Terms of Fashion: A Collections of Definitions, by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta, (1986), at 18.

Bra: A shaped undergarment worn by women to mold and support the breasts. Usually consists of two cups held in place with straps over the shoulders and elastic in center back. Bra is shortened form of word brassiere, a garment first popularized in the early 20th c. Also called bandeau. -7-

Long-line b: Bra that fits the bust or rib cage, extends to waist or below; worn with girdle to eliminate waistline bulges; sometimes boned and wired to be worn without straps.

Statements in the submitted affidavits referenced earlier support your argument that the "merry widows" at issue are not long-line brassieres. Of particular importance are statements by the industry experts that long-line brassieres never have any appendages attached to the garment, i.e., they never have garters. The affidavits also contain statements regarding fabrication differences between the garments at issue and corsets and brassieres. These statements give support to arguments made in your original submission.

As stated above, the "merry widows" at issue have attached garters. In two garments, the garters are detachable; in one, the garters are permanently attached. Customs agrees with the view that long-line brassieres do not have attachments such as garters. The presence of the garters on these garments give them the additional function of holding up stockings, a function not attributable to long-line brassieres. The "merry widows" provide bust support which is a function of brassieres, but the additional function of holding up stockings by the attached garters makes these garments more than long-line brassieres. As these garments are more than brassieres, they are not classifiable as brassieres. This is based on our belief that the two functions are equally important to the purchaser of these garments and to the character of the garments.

You claim the garments at issue are designed for short term wear and for appearance more than function. While this may be the case, the length of intended use does not affect the classification, nor does the emphasis on the appearance of the garment, i.e., that they are frilly, sexy items. Garments may be attractive and functional, and the length of use is the choice of the wearer.

As stated above, Customs agrees the garments fail to meet a key function of a corset, that is to hold in or appear to hold in the waist area. In addition, the garments function as more than brassieres, providing bust support, albeit minimal, and providing a means to hold up stockings by the use of the garter belts. As the garments do provide some body support, and provide support for other articles of apparel, i.e., stockings, the garments are classifiable in heading 6212, HTSUSA, as similar articles.

Customs notes the arguments made in your submission regarding use of fabrics in the construction of corsets, long- line brassieres and the garments at issue. However, while we recognize the types of fabric used in making these garments go to the ability of the garment to function in the manner of a corset -8-
or long-line brassiere, Customs also recognizes that use of fabrics may change and technological advances allow for changes in fabrication. Therefore, we will not comment further on the arguments regarding the fabrics used in making the garments at issue and those generally used in making corsets or long-line brassieres other than to state the arguments have been considered. The decision on the classification of the garments is not based on the fabrics used in making the garments, but on the garments ability to function as corsets or long-line brassieres.


The garments at issue, style VSF-3018, VSI-701, and VSI-704, are classifiable in subheading 6212.90.0030, HTSUSA, which provides for garments of heading 6212 other than brassieres, girdles and panty-girdles, and corsets. Goods classified in subheading 6212.90.0030, HTSUSA, are dutiable at 7 percent ad valorem and fall within textile category 659.

The designated textile and apparel category may be subdivided into parts. If so, the visa and quota requirements applicable to the subject merchandise may be affected. Since part categories are the result of international bilateral agreements which are subject to frequent renegotiations and changes, to obtain the most current information available, we suggest you check, close to the time of shipment, the Status Report On Current Import Quotas (Restraint Levels), an internal issuance of the U.S. Customs Service which is updated weekly and is available for inspection at your local Customs office.

Due to the changeable nature of the statistical annotation (the ninth and tenth digits of the classification) and the restraint (quota/visa) categories, you should contact your local Customs office prior to importation of this merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: