Corsets and Toilet Issues

This entry is a summary of the information in the video “Corsets and Toilet Issues”. If you would like more detail or demonstrations, please see my video on YouTube here:

Going to the bathroom. Visiting the loo. Going for a tinkle or a whiz. Dropping the kids off at the pool. Whatever you want to call it, and no matter how un-PC it is to talk about it, everybody needs to do it. Here’s a few tricks to make it easier when you’re wearing a corset:

WHAT TO WEAR TO MINIMIZE FRUSTRATION

1) Wear a skirt with a corset. Corset under your clothing with garters, then place your knickers over that, then your skirt over everything else. This way, when you need to go to the bathroom, you don’t have to unclip your garter straps to pull your underwear down.

2) Avoid wearing button/zip up pants with longline corsets. Wear high-waisted pants or yoga pants over your corset, and low-rise underwear will help if you’re wearing a longline.

3) You can usually wear a multitude of outfits with a short corset or waist cincher since it doesn’t cover the hips too much. Low-rise pants is a good choice if you don’t have tummy pooch hanging out underneath your corset. In this situation, a bit of “tucking” of your pants/underpants into the bottom of the corset is not too annoying. I wear cinchers most days.

HOW YOUR BODY’S FUNCTIONS MAY CHANGE WHILE WEARING A CORSET

You may notice that wearing a corset makes you defecate less often. This is because food is moved along by peristalsis, a pushing and squeezing action of the intestines, and that natural movement is slower when tightly cinched. This is another reason that it’s important to train your waist down slowly, so it gives you time for your intestines to get used to the change. If you find the corset causes constipation, loosen the corset, and try to cinch down more gradually over a longer amount of time.

Also adding fiber always helps. After I was corseting for awhile, I noticed that foods that stayed in my stomach for a long time didn’t make me feel good. I felt good whenever I ate fruit, soup and salad which all have a faster stomach-emptying rate (digests faster) and these foods also have higher fiber and water content. Everyone will find their own preferences in terms of how much soluble/ insoluble fiber and water they need to feel best. I personally find that foods with soluble fiber, like fruit, when taken with the proper amount of water, is more effective in making me regular compared to just insoluble fiber (bran, leafy greens etc).

You might also notice (especially if you have a longline corset that presses down on your pelvis) that you will have to pee more often. Don’t worry, your kidneys shouldn’t be affected by your corset, the main reason that you feel you have to pee is because the corset presses down on your bladder. But whatever you do, don’t decrease your water intake – you need water, it’s good for you and especially helps in bowel movements.

WHAT TO DO WHEN ACTUALLY DOING YOUR BUSINESS

Before you sit down, please make sure your laces are tucked safely away! Just stuff them under the X’s or underneath the bottom of the corset.

When sitting down on the toilet and doing your business, especially to poo, you might notice that you can’t push as hard. This is because your abdominal muscles and your diaphragm play a part in help pushing out the waste. If their movement is hindered then it can be a little more difficult to get your bowels feeling empty, especially if you didn’t have enough fiber! If this is a problem for you, just loosen up the corset when you go to the bathroom. You don’t have to take it off completely. If you’re the type who only has a bowel movement once a day, this won’t be too annoying. If you have 3-4 movements a day, the constant loosening and tightening of your corset may be a little laborious for you.

Other things you may notice: since a corset tends to flatten your intestines, you may notice that the circumference of your poop becomes a little skinnier. Maybe this is good news to those who find big poops painful. 😉

Wiping is a little different because you have perfect posture when sitting down. If you’ve got long arms, you will generally not have a problem with wiping. If you have a problem reaching, try a different position: squat down a little more, stand up a little more, or even approach it from a different angle. Just make sure, wherever you approach the mess from, to always wipe front to back. So if your hand’s in back, this is a pulling action, if your hand’s in front, it’s a pushing action. This is VERY important especially for the ladies, so you don’t get e.coli in your reproductive tract, because that can cause a very bad infection.

When worse comes to worst, you can feel free to loosen your corset prior to wiping.

Lucy’s Little Life Lesson: If a bully tries to intimidate you, imagine them pooping. Suddenly it puts you both on the same level.

 

*Please note that this article is strictly my opinion and provided for information purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of a medical doctor. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset.*

Corsets, Nerves and Pain

This entry is a summary of the video “Corsets, Nerves & Pain” which you can watch here:

I have always stated that I never feel pain when I corset. Granted, there were times that corsets have been uncomfortable, like how shoes are uncomfortable before you break them in, or parting your hair on the other side of your head is uncomfortable, but this discomfort in a new corset always subsides within a few hours or days. However, it never gets to the point of pain for me.

However other experienced corseters have mentioned that they are never quite comfortable in a corset. On Romantasy.com, Ann Grogan mentions that on a pain scale of 1-10 her corsets are consistently around a 6. What does this mean, and how can we explain this discrepancy?

Does it mean their corsets are worse quality than my own? Of course not; Ms Grogan owns corsets from some of the best modern corsetieres.

Does it means I’m a total wuss when it comes to pain? I definitely can be, I don’t have a high tolerance to pain and I don’t like it. However I can still successfully cinch down to 22 inches.

The best explanation I can find is that I must have a high pain threshold – this is related to the way my body was formed and this is different to pain tolerance.

What kinds of nerves are there?

Neurons (nerve cells) come in two different flavours:
Sensory nerves: the nerves that send signals from your body to your brain. These help you feel. These types of nerves are the ones that we will focus on in this entry.
Motor nerves: the nerves that send signals from your brain to parts of your body. These help you move.

How do nerves work?

Speaking very simply, nerves hold a charge, kind of like batteries. When they hold a charge we say that the cell is polarized. When they get the appropriate signal (by something touching our skin, in the case of sensory nerves) they release this charge, so the cell is now depolarized. This little depolarization signal travels down the axons of a cell.

Think of this action potential being kind of like a relay race, where the signal is like a little messenger running down the axon (the axon being like a long corridor leading to the next nerve). When the next neuron down the line receives the signal, it also depolarizes, releasing its charge, and the tiny runner (signal) gets relayed to the next nerve in line. This continues along each nerve cell in line until the signal reaches the brain. Once the brain makes sense of this signal, you become aware that you “felt” something. All this happens in a tiny fraction of a second!

 Different sensory nerves are built for reading different signals.

Nerves have many receptors (receptors being related to the word “RECEIVE”) because they receive and pick up information. These receptors are like doors and only certain signals, like keys, can open these doors.

Mechanoreceptors sense mechanical changes: touch and pressure like poking, scratching, fluttering etc. These mechanoreceptors open up simply by pushing open the door.

Nocireceptors sense both temperature and pain. Pain can obviously also be mechanic, like tearing or crushing your flesh, but there are many other types that have to have a certain key to open the door and sense, say, changes in temperature. One example is the molecule capsaicin. Capsaicin is present in spicy foods and your nerves may interpret it as heat – and in high enough quantities, pain. A molecule that opens up temperature receptors and gives you a cold sensation is, not surprisingly, menthol. This is why something warm, like peppermint tea, can still give you a cool refreshing sensation. However, if you have any part of your body get too cold (like frost nip), it will hurt!

 What’s the point of all this?

Basically, the feeling of pain depends on how many nerves you have, the type of signal your nerves are receiving, and how concentrated this signal is / how many receptors you have on your nerves.

Just like every tree has a somewhat random organization of branches, everybody’s nervous system is built differently (even identical twins!). We used to think that neurons stopped growing once you were born, but we now know that nerves CAN grow; they can branch out and become thicker in response to stimuli.  It then stands to reason that some people have more sensitive bodies than others. We all have different thresholds for sensation and different levels of pain. Consider the huge range of tolerance to spicy food! So, why would it be any different for separate people having differing levels of tolerance to corseting? I have a body that easily tolerates a corset. Other people don’t.

If your body can easily take the pressure of waist reduction and your friend can’t, don’t tease them or berate them – it doesn’t necessarily mean they are weak or cowardly; their bodies just cannot tolerate it. Likewise, if you have tried on a corset once and found it to be extremely uncomfortable or painful, don’t automatically assume that everyone who corsets must be a masochist. Some people (like myself) actually do feel comfortable and “at home” in a corset!

 I desperately want to corset, but I find them so uncomfortable! What can I do?

You can still wear corsets but you will need more time to get used to the pressure. Some of your sensory nerves get used to a consistent signal over time and become desensitized – sort of like you can feel yourself putting on a shirt in the morning but you don’t feel it on your skin all day. So if you want to start wearing a corset, try wearing it with little or no reduction for several weeks or until you get used to the feeling. Once you get to the point where you forget that you’re wearing it, tighten it just ¼ inch at a time and wait several weeks or a month before tightening it again. It may be a very slow process and take you several years to achieve your goal, but you can absolutely waist train safely, responsibly and without pain.

Lucy’s Little Life Lesson: “No pain, no gain” is a myth. Don’t believe it, nor live by it.

*Please note that this article is strictly my opinion and provided for information purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of a medical doctor. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset.*

Corsets and Skin issues

This is a summary of the two video “Corsets and Common Skin Issues” and “More Severe Skin Problems and Corseting” which you can watch on YouTube here:

In this entry, I will go over the common skin issues that may arise with regular corseting, and I’ll also mention some more severe skin problems that rarely occur (but you should still look out for).

Please note that this article pertains mostly to genuine steel boned corsets made with a cotton strength layer. If you wear latex cinchers, you could have a different issue such as an allergic reaction to the rubber latex. I’ve given my thoughts on latex cinchers in this article.

Sweating

Sweating is more of a problem if your corset or your liners are made from synthetic fibers instead of breathable natural fabrics. When possible, choose silk, cotton, bamboo and wool for your corsets and liners instead of polyester, nylon, vinyl etc. For those who like a bit of an edgier look to their corsets, real leather breathes better than pleather or PVC.

Sweating in a corset is hot, wet, uncomfortable, can worsen itching and chafing of your skin in the corset, and it can become a breeding ground for microbes which love dark, warm, moist, anaerobic conditions. Also, the sweat from your skin can damage your corset and causes the fabric to wear out faster. Worse, when your corset becomes soiled from sweat and oil, you will have to wash the corset more often, which also damages the fibers.

How can I control sweating when I already have a corset made from synthetic materials?

  • Use corset liners or shirts made from no less than 85% natural fibers like cotton or bamboo.
  • Bring multiple liners with you in your handbag so if you’re hot, you can change your liner when it gets sweaty.
  • Powder your skin before you put on the corset. I find I don’t need to do this, but it works the same way as using baby powder to prevent diaper rash. If you’re worried about talcum powder causing cancer, try cornstarch instead.
  • Last summer, I traveled to work a little early and put my corset on in the restroom – since my building was air conditioned, I was comfortable the entire time I was at work. I took the corset off again when I left for home, and if I felt like it I’d put the corset on again in the evening when my apartment was cooler. I was still able to waist train successfully this way.
  • Some corsetieres make “summer corsets” that are lighter and often made of one very strong layer of sport mesh to allow the skin to breathe. 

Itching

Both sweating and dry skin can cause itching. If you have very dry skin, use a moisturizer after showing and/or before putting on your corset. When my skin gets chapped in the winter I like to use cocoa butter (note: these days, I almost exclusively use extra-virgin olive oil on my skin). If you don’t like the greasy feeling of some moisturizers, udder cream (found at craft stores sometimes) will moisturize your skin and not leave a residue; however I still recommend you still wear a liner between your skin and your corset.
Itching can also be caused by wrinkles in your shirt or liner – your liner is supposed to shrink with your waist, so if you find your liner is wrinkling, it might be too big for you. Usually a liner containing 5-10% spandex or lycra will be stretchy enough and still be sufficiently breathable. In my experience it is easier to prevent wrinkles with nylon/lycra shirts or liners than it is with cotton or other natural liners, so there is a bit of a trade off between breathability and wrinkle-prevention.

How to scratch an itch under your corset

If I have an itch that I can’t ignore, then I can usually scratch the area with a little pencil or school-size wooden ruler. When it comes to scratching your skin under your tight corset, long, thin/flat objects usually do the trick. If the itch doesn’t go away, then take the corset off and do what you need to do to rectify the situation – scratch/change your shirt/moisturize etc.

Chafing/burning

When you ignore an itch, it can sometimes turn into a chafing or burning sensation. Your corset might not be fitting right (either from incorrect measurements or due to a slight twisting or riding up of the corset on your torso over several minutes/hours). Little micro-movements and shifting of the corset cause abrasion on your skin. Taking the corset off and putting it back on again, ensuring that it is straight and sitting properly at the waist, can often get rid of the problem. You can also try to change your shirt/liner as wrinkles can cause chafing. Sometimes if a corset is not of the best construction, then internal boning channels can cause chafing. This problem is more common in off-the-peg corsets than it is for custom corsets.

 

Pressure points

These sore spots are caused by the contours of a corset not following the contours of your body, and thus parts of the corset push down more on some parts of your body than other parts. People who corset too tightly before they’re ready (or if they bruise easily) may find bruises caused by pressure points especially where bone is close under the skin, such as the ribs or hipbones.

Take care of the pressure points by loosening your corset or taking it off completely. If you get pressure points from a custom made corset even after you’ve broken it in, take it back to the corsetiere and get it refitted. If these pressure points are ignored for a long period of time, you can start developing ulcers and your skin can become necrotic (compare it to a bedridden patient with bedsores). You do NOT want it to get that bad, so do be careful to take care of your pressure points.

Skin infections / irritations

Some microbes LOVE  dark, moist, anaerobic environments, especially yeast. You may think that candida overgrowth can only occur in your private parts or in your mouth (thrush) but it can happen anywhere you have folds of skin. Not all, but many morbidly obese people can get candida infections under their arms or breasts etc. However, if you’re not careful, you can create this environment on your skin underneath your corset, no matter what your size or shape.

How to prevent skin infections

Having a corset that breathes will help, as well minimizing your sweating and practicing good hygiene. You don’t need to become germophobic and use antibacterial soaps – remember, you have a good, balanced coating of good bacteria on your skin in order to keep bad microbes like MRSA and candida under control. Antibacterial soap ruins the balance of the ecosystem on your skin, allowing the growth for harmful microbes. Just wash with normal soap, and wash regularly.

If you do find an unusual skin rash, irritation or infection beginning to form on your skin, see your doctor or dermatologist quickly so you can catch it before it begins to spread. I learned this the hard way: When I got my first corset, I coincidentally developed an atypical case of pityriasis rosea at the same time (not caused by the corset).  My first thought was maybe my corset had picked up ringworm during manufacturing or delivery, but as it turns out pityriasis is a one-time nuisance and it went away on its own after a few weeks. However, if I had gotten my skin checked out when the initial herald patch occurred, I could have saved myself a great amount of unnecessary anxiety.

Skin calluses and “toughening” of your skin

The same way your feet toughen up when you start wearing sandals, I’ve heard of the skin of corseters toughening if they don’t moisturize or wear liners. Some of these corseters claim that toughening up the skin can prevent itching, abrasions etc., however this is an option I would never take; I certainly don’t want calluses on my torso and prefer to keep my skin soft.

Dry brushing for soft skin

I’ve been dry brushing my skin for several years now. There are supposedly many advantages to dry brushing, like clearing out your lymph system, helping improve circulation, and reducing the appearance of cellulite. I don’t know how true these claims are, but I love the way it feels and it keeps my skin soft and glowing. I have no calluses anywhere on my body (including my feet) and dry brushing has also helped reduce the small bumps and ingrown hairs on my elbows and knees. One brush will last several years if you keep it clean.

Next time we shall discuss how a person’s girth can affect the way they corset: full-figured corseters and what they can expect when waist training.

Lucy’s Little Life Lesson: Practicing good hygiene is not only good for your health, but also good for your social life.

*Please note that this article is strictly my opinion and provided for information purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of a medical doctor. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset.*

Corsets and their Effect on Muscle Tone, Sculpting & Flexibility

Corseting obviously affects many parts of the body, some systems more obviously than others. One of the more obvious parts that corsetry affects are the underlying core muscles – almost every week, someone asks me if corsets have caused any muscle weakness or atrophy in my core. I would argue that my core has only improved its strength since beginning tightlacing, because it’s made me more conscientious about my posture and muscle tone.

Can Corsets Cause Muscle Atrophy? Can Corsets Worsen your Posture?

If you wear your corset 23 hours a day, 7 days a week (taking it off only to shower and change), it is true that you may experience muscle atrophy, especially in your oblique muscles. Those who do experience atrophy may notice that they get fatigued easily when standing unsupported by their corset for long periods of time. However, nobody has ever flopped over at the waist or snapped their spine in half, from my research. This scenario is simply not realistic.

The risk and amount of atrophy depends on how long and how tight you wear your corset. If you’re wearing your corset with more than a 4-6″ reduction, it’s more likely that the corset will encourage muscle stretching, and by extension relaxation – this is great for people who have overtense muscles who experience back cramping or spasms, but relaxation over too long a time is what can cause atrophy.

It is of my opinion that wearing your corset to the point of atrophy is not beneficial. I try to maintain moderation in my tightlacing, where I enjoy wearing corsets but I also enjoy my uncorseted time. I don’t want to feel dependent (physically or psychologically) on the corset.

Not everyone experiences atrophy, however. Some corseters have even experienced that wearing their corset at a slightly lighter reduction has helped them improve their posture at all times (even when uncorseted) through muscle memory. Further, being lightly corseted has encouraged them to keep their abdominals engaged at all times. There are small things you can do to engage your muscles while wearing your corset. While I don’t necessarily condone trying to force your muscles to flex in a corset (typically you should not have to “fight” nor “help” a well-constructed corset), I occasionally push my abdominal muscles against the front wall of the corset as an isotonic exercise, and then I try to pull my abdominals inward, away from the front wall of the corset as much as possible, with a focus on the latter exercise. Even when you’re wearing your corset, it’s still possible to engage some of those muscles, at least up to a certain reduction – so atrophy of your core muscles while wearing a corset is not absolutely true.

1870 posture corset, to keep the shoulders back and spine erect. Click through for a lovely case study by Creative Couture

1870 posture corset, to keep the shoulders back and spine erect. Click through for a lovely case study by Creative Couture

Corsets, through encouraging a consistently proper posture, may help the vertebral ligaments to adapt and support the spine to maintain erect posture at all times

In a recent SciShow talk show, Michael Aranda and Hank Green discussed spinal posture and how slouching is encouraged by the ligaments between the vertebrae stretching over time. It was also proposed that this process is eventually reversible, and by maintaining a consistently erect posture, then the ligaments may shorten again (and the muscles of the back may become accustomed to holding this position) so that one’s “neutral” posture is naturally erect and can be enjoyed effortlessly.

 However, until the day arrives that your ligaments do shorten, many people find it exhausting to hold an erect posture, or they may often forget and begin to slouch again. Wearing a corset can serve as a reminder to maintain proper posture at all times that its worn. While overbust corsets or corsets with shoulder straps help to also keep your shoulders back, even wearing a normal underbust can help correct posture in the lumbar and low-thoracic area, and may help to set up the proper “stacking” of the rest of your vertebrae. By keeping your spine in this position, the ligaments may eventually shorten, whether or not your core muscles are engaged. Of course, if you do want to consistently use more of your own core muscles, you can simply wear your corset at a relatively light reduction, using it just as a rigid reminder to maintain proper posture but you’re depend more on yourself.

 

Does muscle tone impede your waist training progress?

Many people avoid exercising their core muscles because they believe that muscle is less compressible than fat (technically true), that well-toned muscles become larger over time (not necessarily), and therefore it will be more difficult to achieve their corseting goals (not necessarily). But in my opinion, this idea is not so simple.

The functional part of your muscles are called sarcomeres, which are contained inside the myofibrils, inside the muscle cells (myocytes). These are the fibers which are responsible for contraction. Surrounding your sarcomeres is the sarcoplasm, which is rich with glycogen, nutrients, and proteins like myoglobin that brings oxygen to the muscle cells.

There are two elements to muscle growth (hypertrophy): sarcomere hypertrophy, which increases muscle density, tone and strength but not so much size. This is why some people are little but mighty. Then there’s sarcoplasmic hypertrophy which makes the muscle bigger and puffier by increasing glycogen stores around the fibers, but this doesn’t directly affect the strength of the muscle.

Exercising your core can increase the size of the muscles, but most women don’t have to worry about this (there’s a genetic predisposition). But if you’re concerned about this, it’s worth researching ways to increase muscle tone without changing their size too much. I didn’t study exercise science in-depth but there are hundreds of forums that go into more detail about this – I personally just stick with the exercises I mention in the next section. (Click through the “read more” tab if you’re on the main site page)

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How to Avoid Gas & Bloating when Wearing a Corset

Trapped gas in the body can be an uncomfortable or even painful experience (my cousin was once hospitalized for what everyone thought was appendicitis and it turned out to just be gas). But when you put a corset overtop of a gassy tummy, it can be even more uncomfortable. Your stomach and intestines are the hollow, membranous organs that take up arguably most of the space in your peritoneal cavity. According to Dr. Bob Jung (an orthopedic surgeon and Cathie Jung‘s husband), when these organs are relatively empty and not bloated with gas (or waste), they can flatten easily to accommodate the compression from a corset. However, when these organs are filled, there is a competition for space in the body which results in discomfort when corseted.

Therefore it’s in our best interest to minimize the amount of bloating when corset training. Unfortunately, many people try to change their diets simultaneously when they start corset training, opting for a high-fiber and ‘clean’ diet, and while this may indeed be better for you in the long run, your digestive system might be shocked by the abrupt change – unable to deal with the sudden increase in fiber, your bowels may protest and you may experience more gas, bloating, diarrhea, etc. Hopefully this post will help you pinpoint what is creating your gas, and what you can do about it.

What causes gas?

Foods: beans, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, etc.), dairy if you’re lactose intolerant.

Drinks: carbonated beverages, milk (see above), hidden artificial sweeteners (especially the sugar alcohols: sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol etc.)

Your gut health: whether your intestinal flora is balanced and you are creating the necessary digestive enzymes.

Eating/ drinking habits: How quickly are you consuming your meals? Are you taking small bites and chewing slowly and thoroughly? Are you drinking enough water every day? Do you habitually chew gum or suck on candies throughout the day?

Other behaviours: Do you breathe more through your nose or your mouth? Do you tend to suck air through your teeth when you’re tense?

I wouldn’t necessarily say to swear off all the food and drinks above – that may be too much of a diet/ lifestyle change for some, and there are many benefits to eating beans and vegetables (as long as you don’t have an allergy or lectin sensitivity). But choosing your foods wisely, preparing them in a different way, or moderating how much you consume at a time can go a long way.

Tips on minimizing gas production when wearing a corset (or anytime):

Carbonated drinks:

There is no biological need for fizzy drinks, so avoid them if they’re not offering anything to your quality of life. If you must have a carbonated drink, let it bubble on your tongue and go flat before swallowing. My guilty pleasure is sparkling mineral water – no sugar, no phosphoric or citric acid to erode the enamel of my teeth if I let it sit in my mouth, no food colouring to stain my teeth, and no artificial sweeteners/ sugar alcohols to cause bloating.

Beans and pulses:

When I was in university I lived off a lot of dry beans, because they were even cheaper than canned beans but they did require more preparation when cooking. Some people say to soak the beans overnight and toss the water in the morning to avoid excess gas, then add the rinsed beans to your cooking. I often opted for lentils because they create less gas – and they’re small so they don’t need to be pre-soaked and they cook up relatively quickly.

Cruciferous vegetables:

Cooking your cruciferous vegetables can destroy some of the saccharides that cause bloating – this goes for beans as well – but overcooking your vegetables can denature some of the other nutrients as well, which leads to the next tip…

Take an enzyme supplement if you need it:

“Beano”  supplements the enzyme alpha-galactosidase which your body doesn’t normally produce – it helps to break down those undigestible sugars (essentially what our body sees as another form of fiber) so it doesn’t create gas and bloating in our gut. In the case of dairy, you can use lactase (“Lactaid”) which helps to digest and break down the lactose sugar if you are lactose intolerant. Of course, if you don’t need these enzymes, it’s not necessary to take them – and I hope it goes without saying that if you have food sensitivities or allergies unrelated to digestive enzymes, it’s better to avoid those foods completely.

Chew slowly:

Digestion starts in the mouth – your teeth grind up food and the amylase and other enzymes in your saliva start the breakdown process. The more time you spend chewing and the finer your chyme, the easier digestion will be for the remainder of the journey. As Ann Grogan also states, choosing smaller portions and eating slowly will help you recognize that full signal before you get to the point of feeling overfull, as overeating is discouraged when wearing a corset. On the topic of chewing, I personally had to give up my daily habit of chewing gum. Gum helped me with stress relief in some ways, but it eventually led to TMD symptoms and consistently upset stomach – so now I sip water instead of chewing gum, and manage my stress in other ways.

Stay hydrated:

Fran Blanche mentions several times in her own posts that it’s so very important to stay hydrated when wearing your corset – drinking enough water makes sure that your blood pressure and blood volume is regulated, which prevents wooziness or circulation issues, and to regular body temperature through sweating. Enough (not excess) water will also keep your digestive and urinary tract functioning properly, as well as keeping the other fluids in your body in the proper dilution – including your saliva and mucous. Gross to think about? Maybe. But having thick saliva or phlegm (or not enough at all) may contribute to swallowing more air or causing digestive upset.

Go slow when introducing new foods (or a new lifestyle):

I know that it’s easy to get swept up in a whole new lifestyle when you start waist training, and you might want to toss your old ways, cut out your old foods cold turkey, eat 100% clean, start a new exercise regime, etc. And for some people, that “all or nothing” approach might work for them – but for many others, this may cause them to feel sick and they may need to slowly change their habits over time. If you’re looking to introduce more fiber-rich foods, perhaps add them in a little bit at a time over the course of a few weeks so your digestive system has the time to adjust to the change. If you’re giving your diet and fitness regime a complete overhaul, maybe start with one or the other (either your meals or your exercise habits) and then phase in the other over time – that way, if you feel ill or have tummy troubles, you’ll better be able to pinpoint the culprit. Talking to a nutritionist or trainer can help you create a system or schedule.

See a doctor if your consistently bloated or have digestive issues:

Your natural gut flora may affect gas too, or what enzymes your body can naturally produce. If you are always having stomach or bowel issues, you might want to see a doctor, dietician or other trusted professional to investigate the issue. A solution may be as simple as cutting out foods to which you’re sensitive or supplementing probiotics, or it might be something bigger like undiagnosed IBS or diverticulosis which might go on for years without people really doing anything about it – so if you have digestive issues to begin with, definitely talk to your doctor before even trying a corset.

Let it out:

If social situations allow for it, and you feel that you’re going to burp or pass wind, just go for it. Your body has this function for a reason, and trust me, you’ll physically feel better for it.

*Please note that this article is provided for information purposes, and is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. Please contact your trusted physician if you plan to wear a corset for any reason.*

Corsets Boulevard Global Curvy Overbust Review

This post is a summary of the “Corsets Boulevard Global Corset Overbust review” video, which you can watch on Youtube if you prefer:

Fit, length Center front is 16.5 inches long (due to the tabs that extend down in the front), the princess seam (where you see the highest part of the sweetheart of the bust) is 16 inches long, the side seam is 15.5 inches, and the enter back is shorter at 13 inches. Circumferential measurements: waist is size 24″, full bust is between 34-35 inches, high hip (iliac) is 34-35 inches as well, and the low hip at the lap is about 37 inches in circumference. The silhouette is relatively curvy, definitely a traditional hourglass.
Material Fashion fabric is black satin (but can be specially ordered in any color satin), the strength layer is black twill.
Construction 6 panel pattern (12 panels total). Most of the ease for the bust is in panels 1-2, and most of the ease for the hip is in panels 3-4. The construction is the “welt-seam” method, which is different from a normal topstitch. The corset is double boned on the seams, and sandwiched between the layers.
Binding Commercial strips of 1-inch-wide black satin ribbon (so it wasn’t folded under; the edges of the ribbon were left raw). There are 6 garter tabs.
Waist tape No waist tape (at least, none could be detected when I inspected the corset carefully).
Modesty panel Modesty panel is around 5″ wide (will cover a back gap up to 4 inches wide) and finished in the same black satin as the fashion fabric. It is unstiffened, and stitched to one side of the back of the corset (can be removed if desired). Unstiffened front modesty placket under the busk, again finished in black satin.
Busk 14.5 inches long with 8 loops and pins, equidistantly spaced. Standard flexible busk (half inch on each side).
Boning 24 total bones not including busk. 1/4″ wide spirals, double boned on the seams. Two further 1/4″ wide flats sandwich the grommets on each side, making a total of 12 bones on each side.
Grommets 26 grommets total, size #00 with a small flange and finished in silver. Set equidistantly, about an inch apart.
Laces Black round cord, it is small enough and slick enough to slide through the grommets, but I find that they snag more than flat laces.
Price £46.97 or around $68 USD until February 15, 2016
The Curvy overbust as it appears on Corsets Blvd Global's website. Click through to learn more.

The Curvy overbust as it appears on Corsets Blvd Global’s website. Click through to learn more.

This corset is definitely one of the least expensive overbust corsets for curvier wearers, offering a 10-11 inch bust spring, and a 13 inch low hip spring. This brand also offers a large range sizes for this corset, from 18″ up to 46″. There is also an opportunity for slight customization, such as choosing between 9 colors of satin, or ordering the corset 2 inches longer or 2 inches shorter than their standard version (the one I’m wearing in this video is the standard length).

I also appreciate how high the corset comes up over bust, and continues high around the sides to control my “armpit squidge”. In the back it comes down a little lower, but not so low as to accommodate very low-back dresses.

The busk keeps my tummy flat, and doesn’t seem to bow outwards. Having 8 loops and pegs, it’s one of the longest corsets I’ve tried to date!

The one feature I wasn’t crazy about are the flaps in the bottom of the center front which are not supported by any steel so they can bend upwards (and therefore don’t offer much in terms of function or support). I believe these to be a nod to the antique Edwardian suspender corsets, but obviously the suspenders/ garters were omitted in this style so the flaps is a bit “vestigial”.

Other overbust corsets of equivalent curve (and support for large cup sizes) tend to average around $300 USD, even for ready-to-wear. Yes, the satin of this piece isn’t quite as lush, and the stitchwork isn’t as pristine as the other brands — don’t expect this piece to live up to the standards as the others — but at its current price, it’s filling a place in the corset industry that other brands aren’t.

I wouldn’t personally waist train in this corset, due to the apparent lack of waist and due to the construction method causing one bone out of each pair being essentially held in by the satin fabric instead of being securely sandwiched into a denser weave cotton (there may be a risk of a steel bone popping through the fabric if this is worn daily for weeks or months). But it would be great for occasional use, special events, and possibly to use as occasional relief from a heavier bust.

On the Corsets Blvd Global site, this curvy overbust in black satin is named the “Keira” corset, and if you get it before February 15, 2016, it will be £46.97 or around $68 USD currently. However, in two weeks all of Corsets Blvd Global prices are set to increase by up to 35%, including this corset which will jump to £62.95 ($91 USD), so grab it at the current price while you can.

What News Australia’s Tightlacing Article Failed to Mention

Miranda Rights, waist training advocate and journalism major, lost 10 inches off her waist over several years through a plant-based diet, exercise and waist training. She was told by Barcroft Media in late 2015 that her story and results were not "extreme" enough for media. Click through the picture to read her full response to Barcroft.

Miranda Rights, waist training advocate and journalism major, lost between 12-14 inches off her waist over several years through a combination of exercise, a plant-based diet, and waist training. She was told by Barcroft Media in late 2015 that her story and results were not “extreme” enough for media. Click through the picture to read her full response to Barcroft.

Ah, media. Through the years we’ve seen over and over (and over and over) that our words can’t be trusted to be conveyed clearly, fully or accurately in the news. For half a decade I’ve avoided speaking with reporters for fear of them putting a negative spin to my words and reflecting badly on corset wearers at large. What often ended up happening is that after I declined to be interviewed, these reporters sometimes found another innocent starry-eyed corseter who ended up saying something on the extreme side, and that one unfortunate sound bite was misconstrued and given a negative tone.

This is why this year I decided to start speaking up and answering questions about waist training, tightlacing and corset wear – because I’ve been in this industry long enough to know a bit about corsets, I choose my words wisely, and I always keep a record of what I say and write.

A few days ago Emma Reynolds, writer for News. Com. Au, contacted me wanting to know more about the difference between waist training and tightlacing (which was still confused in their final piece). Of course, at the time I was contacted, I was never given any hint that the article would have a negative spin, or that my answers would be spliced and creatively paraphrased, or that the photos of some of my friends would be used without consent to be treated as side show attractions.

Since I didn’t sign any NDA, I presume that it’s fair to post the questions presented to me by Reynolds, and my unabridged responses to the Australian news source, which were deliberately made extremely detailed, with an emphasis on listening to one’s body, being monitored by a doctor, and the community being body positive as a whole.

Also, before we get started: CORSETS ARE NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR WEIGHT LOSS.

 


 

How did you get into tightlacing?

This is a long and winding story, but my initial goal was not to tightlace. I simply enjoyed making corsets for cosplay and re-enactment purposes, and later for back support when I was working up to 16 hours at a time. When I discovered that I was very comfortable wearing a corset for several hours at a time/ several days a week, I became interested in waist training and learned about the process through Ann Grogan of Romantasy. I think of it as a form of sport or slow, long-term body modification that can be varied, changed or reversed as one desires. Many people train in order to achieve a certain waist circumference or silhouette when not wearing the corset. However, my end goal was simply being able to close a size 20″ corset, I had no expectations for how I wanted my bare waist to look.

 

Why is it different/better than waist training?

Waist training is wearing a genuine corset for long durations (months or years) with some kind of end goal in mind, like closing a specific size corset or reducing the size of your natural waist. It’s worth noting that within the corset community, the use of latex or neoprene fajas is not waist training in the traditional sense.

Tightlacing is simply wearing a corset that is notably smaller than your natural waist. For some people, a tightlacing corset is at least 4 inches smaller than your natural waist regardless of your starting size – while for other people, they only consider it tightlacing if you reduce at least 20% off your natural waist (which would be 6 inches reduction if you have a size 30″ natural waist, 8 inches if you have a size 40″ waist, and so on). Yet others will say “if the corset feels snug to the point that it’s challenging but not painful, whether that’s with 1 inch reduction or 10 inches, that is tightlacing to the individual.” To this effect, an actress or model that never wears corsets except on set may be considered tightlacing. But what all of them have in common is that with tightlacing you don’t have to set a goal, and you don’t necessarily wear your corset for long durations.

Put more simply, waist training is a goal-oriented process, while tightlacing is simply an action. You can theoretically waist train without tightlacing (if you are wearing your corset at gentle reductions, but consistently enough to see results), and you can tightlace without waist training (wearing your corset with a dramatic reduction, but only on an occasional basis so your natural waist expands back to normal within a few minutes of removing your corset). Some people enjoy tightlacing on a regular basis with no initial goal in mind, but over time they will notice that their waist will be inadvertently trained smaller.

I wouldn’t say that tightlacing is better than waist training. Not everyone can tightlace as easily as others; it tends to be easier for those who have a higher body fat percentage, and according to some, it can be easier for women who have already given birth. It can be a little more challenging for athletes with more muscle tone than average. Of course, I would recommend that one be in good health before they wear a corset, whether it’s for tightlacing, waist training, or otherwise – and that they never lace to the point of pain.

 

How much does your waist size change and does it last?

This photo of me has been stolen and spun out of context by hundreds of people. Contour Corset is engineered to be an illusion. It's actually slightly larger in the waist than my Puimond corset shown below, but the silhouette and hip spring makes it look more extreme than really is. Even though this corset is more comfortable than some of my larger corsets, once I waist trained to reach this goal, I found I preferred a gentler silhouette.

My Contour Corset (21 inches) is my most “extreme” looking corset. It’s specifically engineered to be an illusion. In reality it’s slightly larger in the waist than my Puimond corset shown below, but the silhouette makes it look smaller than it really is. My waist is thicker in profile. Even though this corset is one of the most comfortable I own, once I waist trained to reach this goal, I found I preferred a gentler silhouette and less reduction.

When tightlacing, I am able to reduce my natural waist by 6-7 inches in a corset – but be aware that I have been wearing corsets off and on for many years. When I started, I was only able to reduce my waist by 2-3 inches. When I take off the corset, my waist expands back to normal within the hour.

When I was waist training several years ago, in the interest of staying comfortable in my corset for longer durations, I wore my corset on average 4-5 inches smaller than my natural waist, around 5 days a week, and up to 8-12 hours a day. The body responds best with consistency, so over several months even with this (relatively) lighter reduction, my natural waist went from 29 inches to around 26.5 inches out of the corset (even if I hadn’t worn my corset in days), and I was comfortably wearing my corset at 22″ while waist training. If I then chose to tightlace, I was able to wear my corset at 20″ for shorter durations (a couple of hours at a time) once my body was warmed up. Once I achieved this goal, I realized that it was more extreme in silhouette than I preferred, which is why I chose to back off and now I wear my corset closer to 22-24 inches, which I feel is more proportional to the rest of my frame while still lending a retro silhouette.

 

What do you like about it?

When the corset is laced snug I can use it as a form of deep pressure therapy – essentially, it’s like wearing a big bear hug that you can keep on all day and even conceal under clothing, if desired. At the time I started wearing corsets regularly, I was working in a STEM field and living away from home, working long and odd hours in a lab, with not much free time to socialize. I initially started wearing my homemade corset for posture support during those long hours, but I also noticed that it helped me feel more calm and relaxed. I was less anxious before and during presentations because I felt protected and held by a suit of armor. This calm, quiet confidence began to spill over into other areas of my life, and I became more sure about myself and carried myself more proudly even when I wasn’t wearing the corset. At that point, it wasn’t even about the appearance anymore.

 

What is the community like as a whole?

The international corset community is extremely varied, and that’s part of why I like it. We come from all walks of life and have many different interests – with some people, the *only* thing I have in common with them is a mutual interest in corsets. Some people love history and the Victorian era, while some people take more to the 1950s New Look style and pin-up era. Some people wear corsets simply because they’re beautiful and luxurious, some people wear them for medical or therapeutic purposes, and some people wear them as a challenging sport. Some are as blasé about putting on their corset in the morning as they are about putting on their socks, while some are excited about corsetry and consider it a fetish.

There are many online forums and Facebook groups to choose from, whether you’re a beginner or veteran, whether you want to tightlace, waist train, or just wear them for fun, whether you want to buy and sell corset from collectors, or even if you want to learn to sew your own corsets. In the forums I frequent, the community emphasizes body positivity. While we support individuals for the waist training goals they have already chosen for themselves, it is extremely frowned upon to push someone else into wearing a corset if they’re not interested – it’s equally offensive to try and push another person to lace past their comfort level, or shame them for their natural body type.

 

What are your limits? Do some people take it too far?

My Puimond corset is actually smaller than my Contour Corset above. Proportion matters, and so does context.

My Puimond corset (20 inches) is actually smaller than my Contour Corset above. No one batted an eye at this. Proportion matters, and so does context.

My personal limit was closing a size 20″ corset. I found it a challenging goal that took 3 years to achieve, and once I reached it, I was over it. Of course there were the few trolls online who egged me to train further and called me all sorts of names when I didn’t – but they aren’t representative of the community. I always listen to my body and I’m always 100% in control of my laces. There are other people who can lace down less than 20″ but some of them are 6 inches shorter and weigh 20kg less than me – so while it may look extreme on my body, for a petite woman with a natural 23 inch waist, she might not consider a size 20″ corset to be tightlacing at all.

It’s not my mission to put everyone in a corset, but for those who are interested in wearing them, whether for waist training or tightlacing (or both), I’ve spent the last 5 years creating hundreds of free educational videos and articles so that people can learn to choose a corset that’s right for their body, and know how to use them properly and safely. I say over and over that pain is not normal. When a tightlacer hasn’t put proper research into their practice, when they aren’t open with their doctor, when they ignore the advice of more experienced lacers and ignore their body’s signals, and they wind up hurting themselves, I know that it could have been prevented and it will end up reflecting badly on the tens of thousands of others who do wear corsets responsibly.

There will always be those who lace down faster than what I would normally condone, or smaller than my personal preference – but beyond offering free educational resources and ensuring that they are listening to their own bodies, that they are not in pain, that they are prioritizing their well-being, and that they have open communication with their doctor and have regular checkups, no one has the right to tell another what to do with their body. Their body, their choice.


 

This was the end of my correspondence with Reynolds, but if you would like to read some balanced perspectives on corsetry, both historical and modern, there are a few articles linked below.

Collector’s Weekly: Everything You Know About Corsets is False

io9: No, Corsets Did Not Destroy the Health of Victorian Women

New York Academy of Medicine: Did Corsets Harm Women’s Health?

Several articles on The Lingerie Addict:
Tightlacing 101: Myths About Waist Training in a Corset
“20 Bones”, Broken Ribs, and Other Myths about Waist Training.
What Makes a Corset Comfortable?

Three corset articles on Kitsch-Slapped:
Part 1, historical medical “evidence“.
Part 2, corsets viewed as “sexy”.
Part 3, suffrage movement.

Yesterday’s Thimble has two articles on corset myths. Part 1. Part 2.

Historical Sewing: Dispelling the Myth of the Itsy Bitsy Teeny Tiny Waist

A Damsel in This Dress: Corsetted Victorians and others – myths and reality

The Pragmatic Costumer: With and Without: How Wearing a Corset Affects You and Your Clothes

A Most Beguiling Accomplishment – A Difficult History: Corsetry and Feminism, Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Appendix.

Corset Back TOO Straight? Curving Steel Bones for a Healthy, Neutral Posture

Last week I wrote about what to do when your steels are too bendy or difficult to keep straight – so this week, we’ll discuss whether there’s anything you can do for steels that are too stiff (and of course you can! Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it). This will help you change the curvature of the back steels by the grommets

Since we’re talking about both human bones and corset bones in this post, I’m going to distinguish between them by saying “bones” for the human skeleton and “steels” for the corset bones.

Human vertebral column from the National Cancer Institute SEER training modules. This work is in the public domain.

Human vertebral column from the National Cancer Institute SEER training modules. This work is in the public domain.

Looking at the profile of the OTR corset in the video above, it’s pretty straight in the back which is potentially good for supporting the spine and promoting better posture than someone may have naturally. However, if you look at a vertebral column in the sagittal plane (from the side), you’ll notice that upright humans are designed to have some curve to the spine. There’s a small amount of lordosis of the neck, a mild natural kyphosis of the thoracic region, lordosis again in the lumbar area, and then (fused) kyphosis in the tailbone. While any exaggeration of these curves is not ideal, neither is having a spine that is perfectly straight.

Esther Gokhale did a fantastic TED talk on this concept of the “J shaped spine” and primal posture, which you can watch here.

If you have exaggerated lumbar lordosis (more swayback than the average person) you may find that when wearing a corset with a very stiff, straight back may feel like they’re encouraged to hunch forward at the waistline – and people who have a high “apple bottom” may find that the steels tend to dig into the top of the bum as opposed to curving around it. What can be done about this?

When your new corset comes in the mail, the steels are straight – they are typically not pre-bent in any manner.

Interestingly, corsets in the late Victorian era used to be pre-seasoned by steaming the starched corsets, whalebone included, on formed mannequins as the last step in manufacturing! So these corsets did have pre-curved whalebone. Today, pre-bending steels is something reserved for custom corsets by some corsetieres – and some other custom brands prefer to use flexible steels in the back which easily bends to accommodate the lumbar curve. To prevent twisting or bowing of these flexible bones, see the post I wrote last week.

If you have pronounced swayback and you can afford to go custom, I would recommend Electra Designs, and also Lovely Rats Corsetry – both of these corsetieres have a case of lumbar lordosis themselves and have learned how to draft to accommodate this curve (and adjust the pattern for the severity of the curve of each individual client) so the curve is built into the shape of the panels in the fabric itself, in addition to the curve of the steels.

But if you can’t afford to go custom, or if you already have an OTR corset where the steels in the back are too stiff for you, here’s an extremely detailed, step-by-step tutorial on how to curve the steels yourself.

How to curve the back steels to fit your neutral posture:

  1. Firstly, be sure that you are committed to keeping the corset. Curving the steels is manipulating the structure of the corset and this may void any returns or warranties.
  2. Try on the corset as is, look in the mirror, and figure out where you’re experiencing the most stress in your back and the most unnatural curve to your spine. In my corset, I noticed the most stress was below my natural waistline – which on me, is below the pull-loops of the corset and around the “inflection point” of my spine, where the kyphosis of my thorax turns into the lordosis of my lumbar region. Mark this line with fabric chalk (make sure your chalk doesn’t have any oil in it and can brush off easily). I know that I will have to curve everything below this point.
  3. Take off the corset and take the back panel of the corset in your hands, flanking the area where you need the most curve, and bend it gently to create a smooth rounded curve. Start with a small amount, of only a few degrees (enough that when you put the corset flat on a table, you can just barely see that the top and bottom edges of last panel doesn’t touch the table anymore).
  4. Try the corset on – see if it’s more comfortable or if you need a little more curve. If you think you could use more curve, remove the corset and gently coax the steels with your hands, only adding a couple more degrees at a time.
    DO start with less and add more curve until you’re happy.
    It’s less ideal to start with a huge amount of curve and then try to straighten it back. If you do end up being a little overzealous, you can use your hands to coax the steels straighter again, but be careful to curve them in the same area as before so your steel bone doesn’t become “ziggly”. Also try not to bend the steel back and forth too much as this weakens the steel.
    DO go by comfort and listen to your body.
    DO NOT go by what simply looks cute – remember, S-curve corsets were considered alluring because they accentuated the curve of the bum, but they ended up creating more back pain and strain because of the exaggerated curve.
  5. If you have weak hands and you do need more leverage:
    DO use a tailor’s ham like this one, or curve the steels over your knee.
    DO NOT fold the steels over completely backwards and create a kink in them. This is not origami.
    DO NOT brace the corset against the corner of a table to create more leverage to bend the steels.
    We are not geometrically shaped, and a jagged bend in the steel bone can create uncomfortable pressure points – not only this, but a sharp bend can also weaken the steel even if you try to bend it back the other way! You don’t want to increase the risk of the steel snapping over time –  so be gentle and only create a smooth rounded curve.
  6. If your problem area is only your tailbone, then only curve the very bottom of the steels upward like a ski jump. This will prevent the bones from digging into your bum.
    If your problem is more your upper lumbar area, then only curve this area instead. Again, try it on to test the comfort before making any other changes.

When I did this to my corsets, I noticed a few different benefits:

  • I no longer felt a strain in my lower back
  • Because my lumbar region felt more neutral, I stopped hunching forward with my shoulders and found that my chest opened up and I reduced tension in my upper back and neck
  • I could wear my corset for longer durations without feeling tired from my back trying to “fight” the corset to maintain proper posture
  • The upward flip of the bottom of the steels took pressure off of the top of my bum and personally helped improve my sciatica (a complication from my twisted pelvis from a childhood injury)

Remember that this is not a perfect science, so only go a tiny bit at a time, try it on for fit, see how it feels, then rinse and repeat until you hit a point where the corset feels most comfortable for you and your posture feels the most neutral. Most people have a natural lumbar lordotic curve between 40-60° (whereas a totally straight spine would be 0°), and some people will have a higher or lower bum, a more prominent or flatter bum, so not everyone will require the same amount of curve.

Other modifications you can make to a corset may include removing the back steels and replacing them with more flexible flat steel bones, or even spirals (however, this can be quite annoying and difficult to keep the back gap parallel), or you can add hip gores in the last or second-last panel to give the corset a bit more kick in the back and curve over your bum more comfortably.

How do you modify your corset for greater comfort? Leave a comment below!

Please note that this post is to modify the corset to help maintain your personal, natural posture for comfort purposes, and is not intended to be used to correct or modify any spinal deformities, whether congenital or acquired, for therapeutic purposes. If you feel that a corset can help improve your skeletal structure and/or health, please consult your trusted healthcare practitioner.

How to Correct a “Bowing” Corset

In the past, I’ve discussed various reasons why your corset may be bowing (giving the “()” shape) in the back, including the popular “Shape of your Corset Gap” article –   however, the bowing is not only caused by a corset-body mismatch, but also by the types of bones and grommets in the back of the corset. In this article, I’m going to try and consolidate the information you need to identify why your corset is bowing in the back, and how you may be able to fix it if you think the pattern/ cut of the corset is not the problem.

Firstly, if you don’t know why bowing is an issue, refer back to my Addendum to Corset Gaps article, and how the steels can become permanently distorted with this gap shape.

Why is my Corset Bowing in the Back?

When the bones in the back of your corset are like “()”, there are a couple of issues going on.

As mentioned in my article about different corset gaps, one reason that the steels are bowing is that the corset is too curvy than your body is ready for. Typically, a corset is created to be smaller than your natural size at the waist, but the ribs and hips will match your natural measurements. It does NOT feel like a rubber cincher or faja, which tend to place pressure on the ribs, waist and hips equally. When you put on a corset, it reduces your waist (no kidding!). With every action, there’s an equal an opposite reaction – so your waist pushes back on the corset and provides resistance, while the ribs and hips of the corset have little to no tension, until you’re able to close the corset enough that the top and bottom edges pull in to hug the body.

Now, if you receive a corset and the first time you put it on you get the () gap, don’t panic. It doesn’t automatically mean that your corset wasn’t theoretically made to your measurements, but your waist is not compressing down or the corset is not reinforced in the best way to prevent the bowing. If you have a corset that flares a bit at the top and bottom edges, resist the urge to pull the ribs and hips of the corset in to meet the body right away – because if the waist doesn’t follow and refuses to reduce, then you will get the () gap.

Another reason that you’re seeing the () gap may be due to the grommets being set too far apart. Grommets are like multiple “anchor” points. Each one of them is responsible for holding a certain fraction of the total tension on the corset. The more grommets there are, the better this is distributed. If grommets are set more than about an inch apart (especially at or near the waistline), there won’t be enough grommets to provide the right distribution of tension through the back of the corset and the more likely you are to experience bowing. Later in the article I’ll discuss how to using lacing techniques and addition of more grommets to achieve more regular distribution of the tension, reducing the likelihood of those back steels bowing.

Other reasons may include the quality or the type of bones used in the back – the steels might be too malleable or too loose in their channels (the channels may be wide enough to allow the bones to twist and twirl) – or a combination of all of the above.

The more extreme the waist reduction, the more likely this kind of bowing can occur, and the bones could even potentially permanently kink and dig into your back – yikes!

Why would a corsetiere even consider putting flexible bones in the back of their corsets? Well, it often comes down to comfort and posture – in a previous video I demonstrated how some corsets (especially OTR corsets) tend to have very stiff and rigid steels in the back; so much that they refused to hug the lumbar spine and promote a healthy neutral posture. With some coaxing, you can gently curve these steels so they align better with you lumbar spine – but using flexible bones in a corset in the first place can eliminate this problem from the start, helping you maintain proper neutral posture, and making the corset much more comfortable (especially if you’re wearing it for longer durations or more frequently).

It’s important to note that bendy back bones are not necessarily a sign of inadequate experience on the maker’s part. There are some corsets that I’ve extensively altered to minimize the bowing, but other very experienced makers like Electra Designs and Dark Garden deliberately use more flexible steels for a variety of reasons, and in the case of their corsets I simply modified the lacing (a very simple and non-invasive solution) to reduce the bowing.

bowed-corset-back-steel-bones

Four different corsets, four different reasons that bowing can occur. From left to right: Heavenly corset being too small for me, Xandriana with very flexible steels despite having closer grommets, AZAC Curvy Girl with far set grommets, and Tighter Corsets with slippery laces. Corsets may have a combination or all of these problems, depending on the brand and the wearer’s body.

How to eliminate or reduce the bowing in your corset

There are four techniques I know of – here they are from least invasive to most invasive:

Chevron Lacing

I’ve also heard it called “tennis shoe lacing”. I have a video tutorial for the chevron lacing technique here. Like I mentioned, it creates a kind of an anchor point at each set of grommets – with this particular lacing style, there’s greater friction to hold the laces in place and prevent them from sliding open at the waist. Pair this with inverted bunny ears at the waistline and it will give even more control. I’ve seen this lacing used in my Electra Designs and Dark Garden corsets.

What I have also done in the past is use a set of two shorter laces in my corsets (or if you don’t have more laces and you’re not afraid of committing, you can simply cutting the bunny ears at the waistline to create two separate laces) – one lace is used for the top of the corset ending at the waistline, and one for the bottom of the corset up to the waistline, so I can pull and tighten each one individually. This also works best when the pulls are inverted, although it can be a bit confusing and take some time to get the hang of lacing it up. To lace up using two laces, I tighten the top a bit, and then tie off that ribbon.

Then I tighten the bottom and then tie that off.

Then I untie the top again and pull it tighter, then tie it off again.

Then I untie the bottom one and pull that one tighter, then tie it off, etc. so they work together and the waistline never has an opportunity to slide open. My corsets from The Bad Button laced with two ribbons, and also I tried this with my Tighter Corset and it worked well. However, I’ll admit that this can get annoying after awhile and I would eventually end up altering the corset, which brings us to…

Add More Grommets

Another suggestion is to add more grommets. Sometimes the grommets are spaced too far apart – if there were more grommets closer together at the waistline, they can distribute the tension more evenly and give you more leverage. In my Curvy Girl corset, my Gallery Serpentine corset, and my Heavenly Corset, I added more grommets in between the pre-existing ones (matching the grommets as best as I can).

See all the alterations I did in my Gallery Serpentine corset

See the alterations I did in my Curvy Girl corset

NOTE: if your corset has lacing bones (like Electra Designs corsets), adding more grommets is not possible without drilling through the bone. I don’t recommend doing this as it exposes the uncoated metal and may encourage rusting later, and it weakens the bone which increases the risk of snapping.

Tighten the Boning Channels

If the steels are twirling in their channels and you know how to sew, you can make the boning channel smaller or tighter which can help prevent twisting. As to which side of the channel to manipulate, I prefer to push the bone towards the grommets. Doing it by machine might be faster, but be careful not to hit the bone with your needle! For best results use a narrow zipper or cording foot if you can find one for your machine. The standard zipper foot that comes with domestic machines tend to not give quite as tight a result compared to a narrow foot. (Also, wear your safety goggles because if the needle hits the bone, it might break and fly at your face).

If sewing around your steel bone makes you nervous, you can undo the binding and slip out the bone completely, then tighten the channel with a smaller risk of breaking your needle – then just slide the bone back in and sew up the binding again. But if you’re going to this level of effort, then you can use this opportunity to…

Change out the Bones Completely

If you find that the original steels are paper thin and easily mangled, or if you’ve ended up permanently kinking them because of prolonged bowing in the back, you can simply replace them with new steels. You can purchase steels at pre-cut lengths online at sites like Vena Cava, Sew Curvy, Farthingales, or Corset Making. (Do NOT purchase the carbon-fiber bones for the back of the corset. They’re fantastic for the front of a corset if you like an extremely rigid, straight front – but they will not curve to the lumbar spine).

And if you put all of these techniques together, it makes for a corset with a very small chance of bowing outward at the waist.

The ONE Corset that has NEVER Bowed:

What’s an example of a corset that absolutely never bows in the back? My Contour Corset (actually, I now have two Contour Corsets. They’re that good.) The bones themselves are not remarkably stiff, the width of the boning channel looks average, and the grommets are not crazy close together. So how did she achieve this? The boning channels themselves are spaced very close together – the space where the grommets are inserted are only wide enough for the shank – and the wide flange of the grommets literally overlap with the bones themselves. This ensures two things: the washer of the grommet should never rip through because it’s anchored by the bones, and the bones should never twist because they’re anchored by the grommets! The grommets are also a little closer together at the waistline, but that’s not the most crucial detail. What also may contribute to the stability of the back panel is the very stiff mesh – it resists collapsing, stretching, warping or wrinkling so perhaps the fabric itself helps prevent bowing. Fran once demonstrated that her lacing panels are so strong, she can hang one from a door frame and sit on it like a swing!

Go forth and bow no more!

Reflections on 2015, Looking to 2016

Every year I write a personal post about the accomplishments and challenges of the year, and what I look forward to next year. You’re welcome to read the reflections from 2014, 2013, and 2012.

This year was a big one, as I had spent nearly 2 cumulative months in travel. Additionally, I’ve been making Youtube videos for 5 years now, and have had the blog for 4 years. I admit that in the last two years my frequency in updating the blog has decreased considerably, but I do make an effort to post about the most important topics, some of which I’ll discuss below.

The first few months of this year were spent largely grinding with work, slowly recovering from my car accident from November 2014, and spending some time reading more about small business, productivity, and personal growth. I took a short course with Cathy Hay (of Foundations Revealed) on running a creative business which has revolutionized my perspective and given me the edge I needed to, say, hop on a plane heading halfway around the world with only a few days’ notice and follow my dreams.

 

Business and Website changes

Consultations had returned for the first half of the year, with the new Skype option being highly successful – but this was put on hiatus during the second half of the year due to my international travel and then going back to school. I hope to resume consultations next year on a limited basis during spring, and return to them full time after August with a new option for nutritional coaching once I pass my board exams.

In January the highly successful Before / After page was created, to showcase the success stories of corset wearers and waist trainers of many different shapes and sizes. Next year I plan to add even more stories, and update the success stories from the original contributors. It remains one of my most popular posts on my website today.

black-leather-hourglass-corset

The 2015 hourglass silhouette underbust for Timeless Trends, one of my major redesign projects this year.

In March 2015 I also gave my website a makeover, as well as launching my WooCommerce store. By August, the Hourglass silhouette corsets had been launched and it’s been a wild ride ever since.

This year I also had my name and logo officially trademarked which was an exciting step forward for my business!

Other highlights of this year included making a case study of 3 Wasp Creations corsets, giving an interview with Kitty from girly-girl’s osteotomy blog, doing a walkthrough for a bespoke overbust corset from Dark Garden, and discussing this year’s findings of the anthropological study on how corsets affected the spine and ribcage of impoverished Victorian women.

As always, the Lace Base and the Corsetiere Map continue to grow and improve. The Lace Base has now become a more interactive and easily searchable table, and its corresponding corset dimensions calculator has had more corset brands and styles added to it over the year. The Corsetiere Map has seen some corset makers go out of business this year unfortunately, but the trend is still slowly upward with the total number of makers now at 325 and counting.

 

Youtube videos

I admit that my Youtube channel has been relatively “meh” over 2015. With my accident recovery, my unexpected travelling schedule, and then school starting, videos fell on the back burner and that’s one regret I have this year. However, I completed my goal to upload at least 60 videos this year (in fact, I completed 67 public videos in 2015, for a grand total of 528 videos in the last 5 years!).

Included in this year’s videos were 22 corset reviews, 6 unboxings, and 7 interviews (if you include the written interviews with Rebecca Gibson and Kitty!)

 

Decluttering and confronting materialism

Over the past year and a half I have been indulging in a deep purge.  Even though I had moved house 4 years ago, I had to admit that I hadn’t fully finished unpacking those last few “miscellaneous” boxes, and I probably didn’t miss what was in them! I was one of the many people who jumped the KonMarie bandwagon around February. I read it twice, six months apart – and today I still find items I can discard or donate. To say that I’ve purged at least 25% of my total belongings wouldn’t be an exaggeration!

It was interesting to confront my relationship with material things, and how I value items differently depending on whether I had purchased them vs whether I received them as gifts, regardless of their price. I would say that I reduced my corset collection by at least 25% as well – and I had to admit that my pride of having a very large corset collection was interfering with my mental well-being of being constantly surrounded by just too many corsets. I got rid of a lot of my fabric stash as well – coming to grips with the fact that I am simply no longer interested in finishing certain sewing projects or costumes for which that fabric was originally purchased. I also got rid of a lot of my paper clutter, including the notes of my least favourite courses from high school. By selling my clothing to local consignment shops, I ended up making a few hundred dollars – and when I have fewer items and I spend less on trivial items, I don’t feel bad about upgrading the few things I really do use on a daily basis (like finally getting a new cell phone, after using a broken old one for 3 years).

 

Travel

This year I did a huge amount of traveling. In March I went to NYC with Mina of L’atelier de LaFleur for the Grand Corset Ball. Getting to meet Melanie Talkington of Lace Embrace, Cathie and Bob Jung (the Guinness World Record holder of the smallest corseted waist on a living person) and model/ activist Kelly Lee Dekay was an amazing experience.

In June I flew to Thailand to work with Timeless Trends on their new hourglass corset line, and to prepare for some future corset styles. Taking in the food and culture in Bangkok was incredibly eye-opening and humbling. It was two weeks of extremely hard work but I loved every moment of it, partially because of Sarah’s wit! Even when absolutely exhausted, everyday was full of laughter. I’m very grateful for Jim and Black’s hospitality and we’re already talking of planning another work trip in the future, and perhaps spend a bit more time to appreciate more of what the beautiful country has to offer.

LovelyRats

With Amber of Lovely Rats Corsetry

In July I spent three weeks in Texas, partially filming videos for TT, partially catching up with old school friends and partially spending time with Amber Welch of Lovely Rats Corsetry. During the couple of weeks with Amber, we filmed an interview, made a corset together and shared our corset construction techniques, and she introduced me to Steven Universe – after which point I became a barnacle on her couch and watched all the available episodes. Amber and I flew straight from Texas to the North American Corsetry and Lingerie Symposium in California, where we met so many amazing corsetieres from across the US, including Sidney Eileen (and did an interview with her here), Jasmine of Sin & Satin, Alisha of The Bad Button, and I saw many friends again including Jessica of Ties that Bynde, and Heidi of Strait-Laced Dame.

Some of the attendees of the North American Lingerie and Corsetry Symposium - photo credit to Heidi of Strait-Laced Dame

Some (sleepy) attendees of the North American Lingerie and Corsetry Symposium. Photo: Heidi of Strait-Laced Dame

 

After the Symposium, I spent a few more days in Los Angeles with model-photographer Zessinna, taking in a few of the things LA had to offer. We spent a day with Puimond (his interview can be found here), we went to Venice beach another day, and we went shopping in Burbank, known as being the shopping area for corsets and pin-up attire. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to Disneyland, but I resolve to go one day!

I returned home for about three weeks in August. During this time I was able to squeeze in a corset commission and register to go back to school. During this time period there were also a few losses – including one of my oldest school friends who passed away after a long battle with cancer. It was a highly emotional time, but I had to push forward.

Hugging a tree somewhere near where Quidditch matches are held, with Joni of Rainbow Curve Corsetry

Hugging a tree somewhere near where Quidditch matches are held, with Joni of Rainbow Curve Corsetry

Later in August I travelled to England to attend the Oxford Conference of Corsetry (for my second year, and their third year running). Highlights of the trip included meeting Mr. Pearl and Immodesty Blaize amongst all the other wonderful corsetieres who attended this year for the first time, and seeing some wonderful people again like Lowana of Vanyanis, Cora of The Lingerie Addict, and Autumn Adamme of Dark Garden (the keynote speaker from the previous year).

After the conference was over, I spent a few days with Katie of What Katie Did which was a joy (see our interview here), and then spent my last few days in England down in Portsmouth with Ian and Corina Voller of Voller’s Corsets where I got to see their factory and interview them as well.

 

Returning to School

Only 4 days after returning home from my England trip in September, school started where I’m studying to become a registered Holistic Nutritionist – and have been studying ever since with a standing average of 98.9 % for the first quarter. While it’s prohibited to give away any specific details about the curriculum, I’ve been absolutely loving the material and coursework and I can’t wait to graduate and combine my new knowledge with my previous skills in this industry.

 

 

Looking to 2016: upcoming projects

In late 2015 I announced my upcoming corset benefits compilation book, which I hope will be ready by spring 2016 (so far, corresponding with 100+ contributors have been like herding cats!).

In 2016 I would again like to create at least 60 Youtube videos, although the majority of my time and energy will be in getting my book out and studying for the first few months this year.

I’m also creating another curvier design for Timeless Trends, which I hope will be in production by May (there’s a special reason that I want it completed by May!) and have ideas for at least 4 other corset designs, and depending on which are approved, some may be produced by the end of 2016.

Later in 2016 I will also be graduating from nutrition school, and I hope to travel more once my studies are completed.

I also hope to have more giveaway contests in 2016 compared to 2015; I’ve missed giving back so much and I want my followers to feel appreciated for their incredible support over this past half a decade.

Thank you all for sticking by my side – I am thrilled for what 2016 will bring. Do you have any exciting plans for 2016? Let me know in a comment below! <3

Corset Jewellery

The corset has been the inspiration behind iconic photographs, songs, body piercings, and various other art pieces, but I’d like to take a moment and create a gallery to highlight some of the lovely corset-themed jewellery, accessories and adornment. If you have a corset enthusiast in your life and you’re looking for a holiday gift for them, perhaps these will give you a few ideas:

 

Corset Inspired Jewellery

LadyTigerLily modelling the tiny pewter busk earrings by Silent Songbyrd

LadyTigerLily modelling the tiny pewter busk earrings by Silent Songbyrd

Detachable busk earrings by Silent Songbyrd

Detachable busk earrings by Silent Songbyrd, worn as a double piercing in one ear

There are only 5 people in the world who own these tiny detachable busk earrings: Silent SongbyrdLadyTigerLily, RandomCorset, The Steel Boned Baker, and myself. Byrdi was the genius artist who created and cast these earrings in pewter – each miniscule busk peg made from the head of a pin, and each busk being unique so the corresponding half of each earring can only be matched to its partner. They can be worn with the busk half in each ear (as LadyTigerlily shows above), or if you have multiple piercings you can wear them together. Although they’re not available for sale currently, I’ve suggested that Byrdi market these someday, as they would make a lovely gift for corset enthusiasts – if they are eventually made on a larger scale, I suggest wearing them with your hair up! See the earrings modelled by us Youtube Corset Vloggers in our interview at Orchard Corset!

 

Vanyanis Engraved Busk loop Jewellery

Vanyanis Engraved Busk necklace and earrings set, $285 AUD

Another friend of mine, Lowana from Vanyanis, has created these beautiful pendants and earrings fashioned from her new line of laurel engraved busks, which are the only busks of their kind in the world. The busks are originally sourced from German Wissner busks, some of the finest quality busks made today – each busk loop is then individually engraved and the contrast black color set using a modern annealing process in Australia. Lastly, the busk loops are detached from the busk with the greatest of care and a jeweller attaches the busk loop to the jump ring and hung onto a solid sterling silver necklace or earring hooks. I find them to be a beautifully mysterious “understated statement piece”. Those who know what a corset is will almost immediately recognize the busk loops as they are, but those unfamiliar with corsetry will simply consider it an ornate keyplate. Amazingly, this jewellery supports four different artists – the busk maker, the corsetiere/designer, the engraver and the jeweller.

 

Vollers Corset armcuff

Vollers “Downtown” Corset Armcuff, £325

Vollers corset necklace / choker

Vollers corset necklace / choker, £325

Vollers Corsets have had corset-inspired jewellery for many years, made in silver by a local jeweller exclusively for the oldest corset manufacturer in England. They have busk-themed and lacing-themed bracelets, rings, necklaces and even little busk-loop cufflinks options, and these are not your delicate costume jewellery – these are substantial, as you may derive from the photos! Unfortunately these listings no longer appear to be on the Vollers website, but last summer I spoke at length with Corina regarding their themed jewellery and their availability – if you’re interested in any of these pieces, I would encourage you to contact Vollers via email.

 

Miniature jute corset pendant made by Too Sweet

Miniature jute corset pendant made by Too Sweet – recreation of the original work by Snowblack Corsets

Recreation of RetroFolie's "Mucha" corset - pendant made by Too Sweet

Recreation of RetroFolie’s “Mucha” corset – pendant made by Too Sweet

Too Sweet from Poland is an incredibly talented designer who makes miniature versions of her favourite corsets – featured here are recreations of Snowblack’s “My Secret Garden” corset, and Retrofolie’s pattern matched corset featuring Alfons Mucha’s “Primrose and Feathers” (which I particularly love, as it’s a pendant inspired by a corset inspired by a painting). See more of Too Sweet’s creations here!

Jewellery for your Corsets

"Carmim Passion" adorned cupped overbust, made by Ferrer Corsets in Brazil

“Carmine Passion” adorned cupped overbust, made by Ferrer Corsets in Brazil

Custom cup jewellery for Ferrer's "Carmim Passion" overbust.

Custom cup jewellery for Ferrer’s “Carmine Passion” overbust.

I’m in love with this jewelled corset by Ferrer Corsets. The Carmine Passion corset is a radiant red cupped overbust with gold busk and grommets, and amazing sparkling golden wire “flames” with attached red and clear stones adorning the cups. In the second photo you can see how each piece starts with a curved base similar to the underwire of a bra, with small loops to sew it to the corset. Each one is built up and made to curve smoothly around the cup – and of course, would be made to order to fit the wearer.

 

Detachable corset chain by Institut Corsetologie on Etsy

Detachable corset chain by Institut Corsetologie, £35

Detachable Corset busk charm by Institut Corsetologie on Etsy

Detachable Corset busk charm by Institut Corsetologie, £5

Institut Corsetologie has an Etsy shop that sells one-of-a-kind adorable ornaments to add bling to your corsets, including little hanging tokens that can be hung from your busk, or dangling chains of multiple charms. They are made with your corset in mind, and Miss K ensures that the non-sharp pieces won’t catch on the outer fabric for your corset.

 

Sarah Chrisman, author of "This Victorian Life" and "Victorian Secrets" wearing her Chatelaine

Sarah Chrisman, author of “This Victorian Life” and “Victorian Secrets” wearing her Chatelaine

While not a piece of jewellery specifically for the corset, the chatelaine has a long and rich history amongst Victorian women and have been used to denote the status of the woman wearing it. Indeed, “chatelaine” means “woman of the house” (derived from the French word for a house for nobility, chateau) and the woman was the keeper of all the keys! While at first a glorified keychain, the chatelaine was later used to hold sewing tools, perfume, and other small tokens and notions, sometimes gilded and jewelled. Even if a chatelaine became heavy, the support from a corset would help distribute the weight. There have been a several proponents for bringing back a variation of the chatelaine, allowing people to hang their clutches, wallets and handbags from their corset – with style, of course! See my 2011 video of how I made my own chatelaine, or pick up a copy of Sarah Chrisman’s newest book (where she describes how she made her own chatelaine as well), “This Victorian Life“!

 

Do you know of any other corset jewellery, or do you make your own corset jewellery? Let me know in the comments and it may be added to this list!

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