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When to Consider an Overbust Corset – and When to Pass

19 Feb

In the past, I have quickly outlined why, if you would like to wear corset on a daily basis, you may want to start with an underbust corset instead of an overbust – however up until now I haven’t dedicated an entire video to this or had gone over this in detail. In this article I’ll outline the reasons why it’s generally better for a beginner to start with an underbust corset instead of the overbust – but if you’re interested in the possible benefits of overbust corsets, you can scroll down for the Overbust “Pros”. You can watch the video below, or you can read the article below the video which has the same information.

There are five main reasons that a beginner may want to start by wearing underbust corsets rather than ovebusts, especially if they plan to waist train:

Overbust Con #1: Reduced Mobility

Overbust corsets are obviously longer and come up higher on the torso – instead of just wrapping around the lower ribcage like an underbust or a cincher would, overbusts extend higher on the chest, and they often wrap around the back as high as the wingbones (or higher!). Because of this, overbust corsets allow a more narrow range of motion than shorter underbusts; they reduce your mobility. This means that you may not be able to reach or bend over as much as you normally would, and you have to make greater adjustments to move ‘naturally’ in an overbust. If mobility is required in your job or it’s something that’s important to you, then an underbust or cincher might suit you better. *However, do note that those who have hypermobility issues may actually desire this reduced mobility from an overbust, as it may decrease the prevalence of overextension/ flexibility-related injuries.

Overbust Con #2: Reduced Full Lung Capacity

A corset obviously differs in structure to that of a bra. Most bras out there have a certain amount of elasticity in their band, which expands and contracts each time you take a breath. With a corset, there is no elasticity (or there shouldn’t be), so the corset’s circumference around your ribcage is relatively fixed.

Take a hypothetical female whose chest measures 32 inches when she exhales completely, and 35 inches when she takes in a full breath. She might want to tie the corset to ~33-34 inches around the bust. This is enough to support the breasts while giving you enough space to take a normal, comfortable (tidal) breath. But each time she inhales deeply, and tries to use her absolute, full lung capacity, she might feel a bit of resistance from the corset. And every time she exhales completely, the ribcage may feel a bit loose and she might have the illusion that she’s not properly supported (even though she probably still is). So if you have breathing issues (or you work in an environment where you need your full lung capacity), you might feel more comfortable wearing an underbust corset that stops lower on the ribcage.

Overbust Con #3: More Conspicuous under Clothing

Cupped overbust made by Doris Müller (Corsets & More)

Cupped overbust made by Doris Müller (Corsets & More)

If you plan to “stealth” your corset underneath your shirts (wear your corsets underneath your clothing), then an underbust corset may look more natural. As mentioned before, the way that overbust corsets support the breasts is different from conventional bras today. Most overbust corsets don’t have individual cups the way that bras do, (although I do have a gallery for cupped overbusts here). But these are often expensive, and the vast majority of conventional (non-cupped) overbust corsets simply don’t give the same bust shape under clothing. An overbust corset may flatten the shape of the bust slightly more, and may not give the defined underwire area where you can see where the breast stops and the ribcage begins. It may also lift the breasts higher than bras, or otherwise make the top half of the breast look fuller – and because of this, overbusts can create more cleavage than bras in some individuals – so wearing an overbust corset under a tight or form-fitting shirt will sometimes make it seem obvious that something is different about you. If you are self-conscious about this kind of attention, you might want to simply pair an underbust corset with one of your regular bras, which will give you a slightly less conspicuous silhouette under your clothes.

Overbust Con #4: More Difficult to Fit Properly

Underbust corsets are much easier to fit a wide range of body shapes compared to overbust corsets. First think about how many bra brands and styles are out there, and how many people still need to go custom fit in their bras to get the right support, shape and comfort they desire. Now think about the number of standard size overbusts are out there – this number is much smaller, and they fit a much smaller range of bust sizes in wearers! If the circumference of your bust is more than 10 inches bigger than your corseted waist size (e.g. 34″ bust, and 24″ corseted waist), you can pretty much forget about finding a standard sized overbust that will accommodate your curves. In order to ensure the best possible fit in overbusts, you will have to go semi-custom or fully-custom, and preferably get professionally fitted with one or more mockups to make sure that the bust fits right. There is a lot to consider when fitting the bust! It must be properly sized – not too big, not too small – the fabric must come up high enough and cover as much of the chest as the wearer desires, the bust must be lifted high enough for the wearer’s preference but not too high, there shouldn’t be any spill over at the armpits/ out of the cup/ over the back, etc. etc. Fitting an overbust can be extremely challenging, and even I have quite expensive custom overbust corsets that didn’t even fit me properly in the end because I didn’t get a mockup.

 Overbust Con #5: More Expensive

If your budget dictates that your choices are limited to standard sized corsets, and you are not of “moderate” or “standard” bust size according to the fashion industry, (whatever “standard” is supposed to mean), then underbust corsets will be much more affordable for you. Even in standard sizes, overbust corsets simply cost more than underbust corsets because they require more fabric, they’re using a longer busk and longer bones, it takes more time to sew over the curve of the bust, etc. So, unless you are dedicated to saving up for a properly-fitted overbust corset, or unless you can somehow be compensated for an overbust by your insurance company, then perhaps an underbust corset would be better for your wallet.

 

At this point it probably sounds like I hate overbust corsets or that it’s difficult to find anything good about them, but this is not true! Well-fitting overbust corsets do have some very redeeming qualities, so now we will discuss the possible Pros about these corsets:

Overbust Pro #1: Better Posture Support

Overbust corsets can be ultimately better for your posture compared to underbust corsets. As mentioned above, overbusts come up higher on the ribcage, and often up to the shoulder blades in the back. This means that it’s nearly impossible to lean over and hunch your shoulders in an overbust corset. Short underbust corsets can help support your lumbar area, but I have seen corset wearers who still hunch or round their shoulders. If a corset comes up higher (halfway up the thoracic vertebrae or higher) then this can greatly reduce the risk of forward-rolled, rounded shoulders, and you might see less forward-head posture as well since your spine is “stacking up” properly.

Overbust Pro #2: Possible Upper Back Pain Management/ Curve Correction

Speaking of the spine, overbust corsets might be more supportive for people with upper back pain, or spine misalignment like scoliosis. Click here to read an article about a middle-age scoliosis patient who used a standard-sized overbust corset in conjunction with special exercises to actually decrease the curvature of his spine over time. Now, please be aware that this is a bit controversial, because this patient used himself as a “guinea pig” in this corrective process. Many corset makers will avoid making “corrective” corsets for those with scoliosis. Some of them can specially draft for an asymmetric corset that will fit a scoliosis patient comfortably, but most makers will not want to make corrective corsets unless they’ve trained with an orthopedic technician or have some experience in making medical prosthetics. But if you have a curvature in your upper or thoracic spine, then perhaps an overbust corset – whether corrective or simply supportive – will help support you better and make for a more comfortable experience as you go throughout your day.

Overbust Pro #3: Support for Large and/or Heavy Breasts

Cartoon by Kat Rosenfield

In some parts of the world, breast reductions are covered by insurance if the patient is able to prove that their breasts impede their lifestyle and cause them pain. Some people have breasts so large that they can cause or exacerbate spinal curvature, they can cause inflammation or even snapping of the scalene muscles and surrounding tendons, among other problems. Having very large or heavy breasts can sometimes lead to very serious medical issues, and one way to help prevent or help these issues is to wear an overbust corset. This is probably the most obvious positive application for overbust corsets, and it’s the one reason I hear most often from people wanting to purchase an overbust. The rigid bones and non-stretch fabric from the overbust corset helps to support the breasts 100% from below, with no pressure or tension coming from above the breast or over the shoulder. The weight from the bust is distributed throughout the rest of the corset, eliminating pressure points or strain in a well-fitting corset. 

Now, in a properly fitting bra, it’s said that at least 80% of the support should come from the band wrapping around the back, and very little support comes from the shoulder straps – but it’s a sad fact that strapless bras don’t work for many people; either the bra doesn’t come in their size, they don’t feel secure in one, or the bra doesn’t stay in place. Consider the damage that has already incurred in many women; think about the hunched shoulders and the permanent indentations in their shoulders and the pain that they’re already experiencing. This is where an overbust corset would be of huge benefit, because it is able to securely support the bust from below without the risk of falling down like many strapless bras do, and without the need for shoulder straps.

Overbust Pro #4: Prevention or Management of shoulder injuries or Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Illustration of TOS. Source: Wikipedia.

Heavy breasts can cause muscle strain and tendon injuries, and they can even lead to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. The Brachial Plexus is a group of nerves that runs from the neck and clavicle region into the shoulder, arm and hands. It’s part of the thoracic outlet, in the same region, which is a bundle of nerves and blood vessels together. This area can be compressed or stressed from heavy breasts, or a previous shoulder or neck injury, or even repetitive motions like playing an instrument (guitar, drums or violin). Basically, these factors can lead to nerve compression that can lead to a number of symptoms like tingling, numbness and pain in the hands; swelling and circulation isses; it can mimic the symptoms of carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel syndromes and can limit the use or strength of the hands. In extreme situations, other complications can arise as a result of TOS, such as blood clots.

Depending on the severity of thoracic outlet syndrome, it can be corrected with one or a combination of the following: physical therapy, injections (steroids or botox), surgery (often by removing the first rib next to the collarbone, and sometimes cutting the scalene muscles), and in some situations such as TOS caused by heavy breasts, wearing an overbust corset. Preventing and healing TOS may mean that there can be absolutely zero compression or tension around this delicate neck/ shoulder area, so conventional bras with shoulder straps are no longer an option for these patients.

If you’d like to learn more about TOS, here is an easy-to-understand publication by Dr. S. Mackinnon, M.D.

 

Need an Overbust Corset, but Don’t Want to Tightlace? No Problem.

For those that would like to wear an overbust corset to support their heavy bust, improve their upper back pain or help with TOS, but they don’t want to waist train or they’re nervous about the waist compression, the best part about this is that you don’t need to lace very tightly to reap the benefits of breast support or pain relief. So if you think that the use of an overbust corset can help you with any medical issues, I’d highly recommend you talk to your doctor before investing in one. And for those who are currently actively looking for a corset maker that is experienced in fitting heavy-busted clients, feel free to check out this Guided Gallery made just for you.

What are your reasons for wearing an overbust corset, or for avoiding them? Let me know in the comments below!

Shapewear Squeezes your Organs? My response.

25 Jan

A few days ago, HuffPost released this article on how Spanx and other shapewear are associated with various health risks, including organ compression – and I was asked by a few followers what I thought of this. After a few days of thought, this was my response on Tumblr:

Vedette Shapewear Body Suit

Wow, this might be opening a can of worms. I could talk for a long, long, long time on this, but I’ll try to keep it on point and try not to get too ranty about it. Going point-by-point with the original article:

When you wear shapewear, you’re compressing your organs.

  • This is also true for corsets – but to what extent is important to note. [Note, see my article on corsets and organs here]
  • Pregnancy also compresses your organs.
  • Leaning or bending in any direction compresses your organs.
  • Nauli Kriya really compresses your organs.
  • Your own organs compress your other organs. Taking a deep breath expands your lungs, lowers your diaphragm, and pushes down on your intestines. Peristalsis is the motion of your intestines moving chyme along – they’re constantly contracting and writhing.
  • Organs are not supposed to be rigid. Life as we know it would never have existed if our organs were not made to move and compress. (The one exception to this is the brain, which has conveniently evolved to be encased within a hard skull.)

That includes compressing your bowels.

  • Indeed, and this exactly why the body is so resilient and able to tolerate compression. From what I understand, corsets typically compress the organs in the peritoneal cavity, and the vast majority of what fills this cavity are hollow, membranous organs (like the stomach and intestines) that contain food/water/air/waste. When your stomach and intestines are mostly empty, they can easily be flattened down, and they take the majority of the pressure from shapewear (or a baby, or nauli), leaving other solid organs like the liver and pancreas bearing relatively little stress.
  • As for shapewear possibly causing constipation and other bathroom issues, I talk about that in detail in this video (or this related article). Fran from Contour Corsets has also talked about why it’s important to learn how to have bowel movements while corseted, in this article.
  • But some people who’ve had chronic constipation throughout their adult life have actually found that corsets have helped stimulate their bowels and help them have more regular movements. It works similarly to applying abdominal pressure and massage for relieving constipation.
  • Speaking personally, I find that cycling the pressure of my corset (looser, then tighter, then looser, etc.) actually pushes things along in my bowels. Within the first 30-60 minutes of putting on my corset, I’m pretty much guaranteed to poop (I imagine it’s a toothpaste effect) and then I find I’m able to lace down further in greater comfort, as my abdomen just effectively lost volume. If no corset were on, this space would be replaced with air.

You can develop tingling, numbness and pain in your legs.

  • This is not just true for corsets and shapewear. It’s also true for tight underwear and jeans, and some people get numbness and tingling when they sit even in loose clothing – it depends on the person, how long they’ve been sitting, how they’re sitting, whether they have ergonomic furniture, etc. So I find it a bit unfair that they would point the finger at shapewear for something SO common. That said, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s safe or good for you.
  • Also, they mentioned something very important here – the problem usually arises when sitting, which is a serious issue in itself. Seriously, do you know how bad sitting is for you? If they wish to minimize their health risks, humans should not sit.
  • A well-fitting corset, when worn properly, should never cause numbness or tingling. This is why I’m constantly stressing the importance of finding a corset that fits you properly and doesn’t put any pressure on your iliac crest. A reducing corset should only compress the waist, not the hips or the underbust.
  • In my last giveaway (where contestants wrote in explaining how corsets had improved their quality of life), several people have written in and explained how corsets had a hand in actually relieving nerve issues like sciatica and other complications related to scoliosis and/or slipped discs – this is because a proper corset made by a trained professional can function like a therapeutic brace.
  • While we’re on the topic of nerves in general, corsets can help prevent/ relieve thoracic outlet syndrome in women with heavy breasts, and can help with sensory adaptation in those with sensory integration dysfunction and other sensory disorders. So while corsets have their risks with nerve issues (which is an indication of wearing it wrong, actually), corsets have their potential benefits as well. It’s a balance, you see.
I demonstrate a bicycle crunch, one of the staples of my daily core workout.

I demonstrate a bicycle crunch, one of the staples of my daily core workout.

Your muscles will suffer if you rely on shapewear for good posture.

  • If you don’t use it, you lose it. I don’t deny that some people can develop a reliance on corsets or other shapewear for good posture – but this is precisely the reason that Ann Grogan recommends a training schedule working yourself up to ~8 hours a day, 6 days a week. The 7th day is a full uncorseted day and gives you the opportunity to rely on your own core muscles so you can gauge your strength.
  • Also – I’m not sure why this idea is propagated so widely, but corsets were never intended to be a substitute for exercise and toning. In fact, when people take on a waist training regimen, it often motivates them to work out more often in order to avoid atrophy. I recommend a daily core-strengthening workout if you start corseting – this can actually help you potentially obtain faster results than corseting alone or exercising alone, and it also ensures that you don’t experience core muscle atrophy.
  • Also, when used properly, corsets may actually train you to improve your posture over time, not necessarily worsen your posture. More on that here.

Plus, shapewear can create an environment prone to infections.

  • I’ve talked about corsets and common skin issues here, so yes – if you don’t have good personal hygiene, and you’re not wise about the fabrics you choose for your corset and liners, there are risks.
  • But I would argue that the risks for skin issues with something like Spanx is even greater than the risk associated with corsets. The greatest cause of skin issues is the lack of breathable fibers. Many types of spandex/rubber shapewear are designed to make you overheat and sweat, claiming that this is how you lose bloat. Corsets are not designed to work that way, and they can be just as effective at shaping your figure even when made out of cool, breathable mesh.
  • Honestly, mesh corsets will change your life.

Like everything in life, it’s important to exercise moderation: Don’t wear them too often…. Lastly, choosing the right fit is key.

Hopefully this clears up my thoughts on the anti-shapewear article. I think that the article brings up some valid points, particularly the last one about moderation and proper fit. But by researching corsets properly, acquiring a high quality piece that fits you well, and using it responsibly, you can enjoy corsets (and maybe even other shapewear) and still minimize your risks. Of course, if you have pre-existing health issues, you should see a trusted doctor before corseting, and same goes if you experience any discomfort while corseting.

*This article contains my own opinion and is provided strictly for informational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of a medical physician. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset for any reason.*

Corsets and their Effect on Muscle Tone, Sculpting & Flexibility

4 Sep

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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X-rays from “Le Corset” (1908) Explained

27 Jun

Several articles around the internet have picked up on the old Wikipedia publication “Le Corset” written in 1908 by a doctor named Ludovic  O’Followell.

When I first saw these photos, I (like many others) immediately thought that they were tampered with or “doctored” (couldn’t resist the pun!).  But actually, there’s a good chance those photos are (somewhat) real. This is why it’s important to read the WHOLE story instead of jumping to conclusions from a set of photos.

This is two examples of the photos in question (I’d post them all, but the computer I’m working on today is ridiculously slow and takes over a minute to properly load a page):

 

 

X-ray projection of a Victorian style (“curved”) corset, from “Le Corset” (1908). Same waist reduction as that shown below.

 

X-ray projection of a straight-front (“line”) corset, from “Le Corset” (1908). Same waist reduction as that shown above.

 

If you know anything about X-rays and about how corsets are made, you will see that this doesn’t quite add up.

  • Why are the binding and laces as dark as the steel bones? They are usually made just from fabric, and like the rest of the fabric in the corset itself, should not show up on the projection.
  • Why do the bones show up clearly only on one side of the corset, and not the other? After all, when you see a saggital X-ray of a skull of a subject wearing earrings, you see BOTH earrings on either side of his or her head:

This is how an X-ray works. Incidentally, I myself have gotten an X-ray recently and could see my earrings right through my skull as well.

However, today I’ve been reading through that chapter – those photos were originally used as a comparison of how the older Victorian (“curved”) corsets compressed the 9th-12th ribs (and the doctor also admitted that the Victorian corset was also positioned too high on the subject), compared to a straight-fronted (“line”) corset of the same waist reduction and how it hardly affects the position of the ribs at all. The author explains that the curved corset not only restricts more of the ribcage by starting higher on the body, but restricts breathing much more than the Edwardian “line” corsets; and shows that with a well-made corset, the ribcage does not have to be restricted at all.

He notes that the corsets used for the X-rays had in fact been modified; they used suture in the binding to make the edges show up and had dipped (or otherwise treated) the whalebone in one side of the corset (but not the other) so it would show up more clearly (presumably because balein is cartilage, it might not show up at all in X-rays as it may not be dense enough). They had also replaced the normal laces with wire. After the radiographs were taken, the photo was then optimized (probably drawn over) to mark the details more clearly.

The doctor had to admit that the subject, although she corseted for a few hours every day, she was in good health. He mentioned that he wanted to compare this subject with another woman in good health who had *never* worn a corset, but apparently couldn’t find one at the time of this study.

He also notes that since the X-ray is a projection of a 3-dimensional subject, the image becomes distorted and must be compared with X-rays of the subject without the corset as well – otherwise the image of the corseted figure looks much more abnormal than it really is.

There is quite a lot of information in this publication that I would love to touch on in the future (for instance, the argument that the corset caused spinal deformities such as scoliosis merely from the fact that it was observed in more women than men at the time – this had been de-bunked eventually from the fact that scoliosis found in modern young females progresses at a rate 8 times that in young males).

I encourage you to read a bit of “Le Corset” out of mere interest if you’re proficient in French (or happen to have a good translator). As always, take this information with a grain of salt.

Responding to Media Sensationalism… Again.

10 May

One of my lovely friends had shared this video with me yesterday evening, in which one reporter uncovers the hidden dangers of living in the Victorian era. Not surprisingly, corsets were featured (the corset segment starts around the 17:50 mark).

I would like to address some of the concerns mentioned in the video. Now, I’m not going to make sweeping generalizations and say that corsets are everyone’s friend. I don’t believe that everybody should wear corsets and I don’t deny that injuries from corsets have occurred on occasion. But I’m willing to believe that corset-related injuries were more the exception than the norm – just like injuries from everyday beauty products today, like:

  • high heels (bunions, broken toes, hammer toes, corns, modification of posture/weight distribution, broken and sprained ankles)
  • hairstyling products (thermal burns, chemical burns and severe allergies to certain products)
  • pierced ears (infections, keloid scarring, tissue necrosis)

I could go on.

Anyways – onto addressing some of the concerns in the video:

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Corsets as Deep Pressure Therapy & Relaxation (for Autism, Anxiety, ADHD, Somatosensory Disorders)

17 Jan

This article covers another area in how corsets can affect us positively in a physical, mental and emotional manner, except instead of discussing how corsets affect our confidence through posture, I hope to show you how the deep touch pressure of a corset can induce a calming effect on some wearers. Once again this  has less to do with what your figure looks like or how many inches you can cinch down – tightlacing is not mandatory for this to work – this has more to do what level of pressure you personally may find enjoyable.

If you would rather watch or listen, feel free to view the video I’ve prepared below. This article is more or less a transcript of the video.

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4 Reasons Why Corsets and Soft Drinks Don’t Mix

11 Jan

The last two weeks have been full of family, friends, fun, laughter, and a lot of eating/drinking. Christmas, New Years, and my birthday have all paid a toll on my waistline – especially because my bronchitis prevented me from corseting much of the time over the holiday season.

But probably more than the food I ate (which aren’t all that bad, as I tend to stick to lighter and easily digestible options), the carbonated drinks I had including colas, sparkling water, and champagne were probably my worst choice when I was corseted, both from an immediate standpoint and in the long term. Here’s why:

The bubbles! Why, bubbles, why??

The most obvious reason is that a corset reduces the volume in your stomach and intestines and encourages

From my 25 questions tag video - I'm also guilty of drinking fizzy drinks and corseting, and pay for it every time.

From my 25 questions tag video – I’m also guilty of drinking fizzy drinks and corseting, and pay for it every time.

these mostly-hollow organs to flatten down. When you inject gas into your digestive system with fizzy drinks, it increases the volume – and when more space in your body is taken up by the bubbles, there’s less space for everything else. Simple physics. This means you can immediately feel bloated, uncomfortable, or even in pain if you try to chug a can of club soda while corseted.

Possible solution? If you must have a carbonated drink, have a smaller glass and sip it slowly. Let the drink bubble on your tongue and fizz out completely. By the time you swallow it, it should be flat. Or, preferably just go for water.

The sugar content

Alright, we all know that the 35- 43 grams of sugar in various flavors of soft drinks aren’t good for you. Too many processed sugary beverages will make a person gain weight. But this has both immediate and long-term effects on your body. Too many to count really, but directly related to wearing corsets – even before the sugar is converted to fat, it’s contributing to bloating. Due to their hydroxyl groups, glucose and fructose molecules are hydrophilic, pulling water molecules around themselves. Translation: the more sugar that is in your body, the more water it may cause you to retain, which may result in your corsets fitting a bit more snugly than they had before.

Possible solution? If you must have a carbonated drink, choose those with a lower sugar content, or preferably no sugar at all, in the case of sparkling water. Do NOT go for artificially sweetened drinks! Or, preferably, just go for water.

Water retention also doesn’t happen inside your cells, which carefully control their intake of water and nutrients, but rather in the interstitial fluid in your tissues – this can sometimes draw water out of your cells and mess with your hydration level. But even when you choose less sugary options, soft drinks can still cause dehydration in other ways, which brings us to the next point…

Dehydration

When you’re corseted, it’s imperative that you maintain good hydration. This means that the cells in your body are well-hydrated, so all your tissues and organs can work properly. Adequate hydration aids in all processes of the body, not least of all maintaining good digestion and proper blood pressure. More often than not, carbonated drinks are high in sugar – but even when they’re not, other ingredients like caffeine and alcohol can wreak havoc on your hydration.

Caffeine and alcohol are both diuretics. Without giving you the entire pathways (I could ramble for days), these drugs can work in different ways to indirectly suppress the hormone ADH (Vasopressin) and cause your kidneys to work in overdrive, pulling more water out of your blood. If your blood doesn’t have enough water, it may cause your blood pressure to drop, causing you to feel faint (whether you’re wearing a corset or not). You may also experience stomach and intestinal cramping, in addition to a host of other possible symptoms. Is it likely you’ll have this problem if you just have one caffeinated or alcoholic drink, once in a blue moon? Perhaps not. But keep in mind that while you’re corseted, you are more aware of your body and symptoms can sometimes be exacerbated. Be especially careful if you wear your corset out to clubs and concerts. Hot environments and hard dancing, combined with diuretics and corsets, can quickly leave you feeling nauseated and woozy.

Possible solution? If you must drink alcoholic or caffeinated soft beverages while wearing a corset, limit how many and how fast you drink it, and alternate with lots of water. But preferably, go for non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic options like sparkling water. Or just flat water.

Them bones, them rattling bones

This point has been heavily disputed, but it’s still worth mentioning – various types of carbonated drinks, especially colas, have been allegedly linked with loss of bone density. Some studies link the risk of osteopenia to the caffeine in these drinks (caffeine affects vitamin D levels in the body, which are also in balance with calcium levels), other studies link bone loss to the phosphoric acid in cola, as phosphorus and calcium are in a delicate optimal balance. Still other articles credit bone loss to acidification of the body. Whatever the reason, osteoporosis and corsets are not a combination I would ever condone. While healthy human ribs have typically been shown to be strong enough to withstand the compression of a corset, this may not be true for those with loss of bone density.

Summary

Online articles listing the health risks of various carbonated drinks are a dime a dozen, so I’m sure that little to none of this information is new to you. Moreover, I know that it’s nigh on impossible to convince anyone to stop drinking carbonated drinks completely – for those who cannot live without their fizzy drinks, the possible solutions are for you. Your own body will tell you whether you can handle carbonation while wearing a corset. But in my mind, the case against soft drinks far outweigh the benefits, and I can safely say that my body feels best (and I see faster progress in my corseting) when I drink only water.

*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 physician. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset for any reason.*

Corsets, Posture and Confidence (it’s not all about size)

11 Dec

In the past, I’ve discussed at length the effects that the corset can have physically on the body, but up until now haven’t discussed how it can affect your mental and emotional state. In this article, I will discuss how corsets can directly affect your confidence and your interactions with others. You may also view my video version of this article, if you prefer not to read:

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Let me preface this by saying that a corset can affect one’s positive self-image, without feeding into society’s warped views on weight and its relation to social hierarchy. So many people chide corseters, presuming that our own confidence stems directly from changing or lying about our figures. This couldn’t be a more misinformed frame of mind.

 I will start with my own personal experience in this sense, and go on to discuss the science behind this.

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Deborah Roberts’ blog on Waist Training experiment (ABC 20/20)

13 Oct

Just a few hours ago, the late-night TV show ABC-20/20 had aired an episode on “Going to Extremes”, in which corseting was discussed (in the same light as plastic surgery and feeding-tube diets). While I could make this post easily dissolve into an argument on why I think the simple wearing of a garment (which can be removed at any time) is not necessarily as extreme as going under the knife, the real reason I’m posting is to bring attention to Deborah Roberts’ latest blog entry on the ABC website and discuss the representative doctor’s statement. In this article, Ms. Roberts explains how she received a custom-fit underbust training corset (made by Jill Hoverman) and undergoes a waist training experiment over the course of two weeks, under the guidance of Ann Grogan, owner of Romantasy.

I’m certain I’m not the only one who noted a tiny discrepancy in the mood of the TV segment vs the blog. While I have 100% respect for Dr. Gottfried and still maintain that one should see their doctor and ensure that they’re in good health before and during the process of corseting, I’m extremely curious to know where she found the statistic that “Corsets can squish your lungs by 30 to 60 percent, making you breathe like a scared rabbit”. In my several years of research, I have only found studies that had shown a maximum of 30% reduction in capacity while wearing a corset, with the average decrease in lung capacity among corseted females being only 20% (see my article on corsets and lungs here for more information). Being one who believes in backing up research with proof in numbers, I’d be annoyed in either scenario if I were to learn that the 30-60% statistic came from a study that was only available within the medical community and deliberately concealed from the public, OR to learn that number were mere speculation and stated as absolute fact.

A diminished capacity of the traditionally reported maximum  30% would be less likely to cause hyperventilation (compared Gottfried’s statistic of 60%) since the tidal volume – the amount of air a healthy, uncorsetted individual takes in during a typical relaxed breath – is a mere 10-15% of the vital capacity for an average human. It would, of course, be stupid to run a 100m dash while tightlaced – but under normal, relaxed circumstances I and many other corsetted individuals have never experienced adverse effects in breathing, particularly when using an underbust corset (which was largely not used in daywear during the Victorian era). If anyone can find the study that states capacity reduction of up to 60%, please let me know because it would be worth adding to my research.

In the very least, the written blog is refreshingly corset-neutral and fairly highlights both Deborah Roberts’ positive and negative experiences – and even Dr. Gottfried’s statement is somewhat ‘softer’ here compared to that on the TV segment. I thank Ms. Roberts for being sensitive and sensible around the subject of corseting.

 

If you would like to watch the video of ABC’s 10/12/12 20/20 “Going to Extremes” show, click through this link. The corset segment runs six minutes and starts at the 20 minute mark—about 1/3 through the “bar” at the bottom of the screen.

Deborah’s blog: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/10/10/my-life-in-a-corset-squeezing-into-a-new-dieting-strategy/

Finally, this video shows more of the interviewer’s week-long trial of corset wearing.

Age limits to corseting?

10 Oct

How old is too old to start corseting? How young is too young to start corseting?

This is a tricky subject. Since corseting is not an incredibly mainstream activity, no laws in any country (to my knowledge) has put down laws concerning a ‘safe’ age for someone to wear a corset. Further, there are so many levels to “corseting” – are we talking about waist training every day? Only a few hours every day, or 23/7? Are we dealing with light reductions or extreme tightlacing with much higher reductions? Are you compressing the ribcage, or just the waistline? There are as many ways to wear a corset as there are to consume alcohol. Does this mean that a ‘blanket law’ should apply to all corsets of all sizes for all people, the way that such laws exist for alcohol consumption?

For simplicity’s sake, I’m talking specifically about waist training and tight lacing in this article – that being waist reductions of 3-4 inches or more, and corsets being worn on a regular basis, a few times a week or everyday, with moderate pressure on the floating ribs. Furthermore, these are my opinions and my opinions only. I know some corsetieres and other ‘corset authorities’ who have similar views to mine, and some that have differing views. Just know that this is my side of things, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone has the same answer – nor does it replace the medical advice of a doctor.

If you’d prefer to watch my video on the subject instead of read about it, you may do so here:

How young is too young to start waist training/ tight lacing?

I’ve had viewers as young as 12 ask me if it’s alright to start corseting. They promise me that they’ll go slowly and they’ll be very patient about it, etc. Every time, I will tell them the same thing:

Waist training is a form of body modification. Therefore it should more or less follow the same rules and guidelines as other forms of body modification. In North America, most legal tattoo and piercing parlors require you to be at least 18 years old – that is the age at which you’re considered an adult and you’re responsible for your own actions and what you do with your body. Before that age, you’re not considered 100% responsible for your own body. Furthermore, depending on the country you live in, you have to be older than 18 to engage in risky activity like smoking or drinking – for instance, 21 years old in America, or 25 years reportedly in India. It’s my belief that corseting should be treated the same way.

Whenever somebody asks me permission to waist train, I feel a bit awkward. Firstly, I’m essentially “just a woman on the internet”. You and I are total strangers and I can’t give you “permission” to do or not do anything. If you’re under the age of 18, you’d have to go to your legal guardians for permission. On a general level, I tell these youth the same thing most tattoo parlors will say: You should be at least 18 years of age – OR 16 years of age if you have your parent or guardian’s consent. This is to protect all parties involved:

  • It’s to protect your body from anything going awry during corseting, whether through the poor choice of going too far/too fast with your reduction, OR from accidental injury that was not the cause of poor choices.
  • It’s to protect your parents from being blamed for neglecting your well-being, should anything happen to you.
  • And it’s to protect my ass from being called a “bad role model to children”, because I have never claimed to be a role model to children. I’m as much as a role model as Joe having a cigarette outside on his lunch break, or Linda having a glass of wine with dinner. I’m an adult engaging in an adult activity, trying to mind her own business.

A lot of teens might want to say at this point, “Well I think it’s B.S. that I should have to wait until I’m 18, because I’m so mature for my age and I’ve stopped growing in height and I went through puberty really young, etc. etc. etc.” It doesn’t matter. It has nothing to do with maturity level. It has nothing to do with how old you were when you started your period. It has to do with your skeleton, and how ALL people’s skeletons as children are comprised largely of cartilage – this much softer and weaker than bone, and your bones don’t fully mature until about age 25.

Is it true that two hundred years ago, girls wore bodices? Yes – actually both girls and boys wore bodices. At the time, it was thought that this promoted good posture and reduced the risk of skeletal deformity as the child grows.

Is it true that you can see 12 year olds wearing back braces as a mode of therapy for scoliosis or other congenital skeletal issues, even today? Yes, and these braces can reduce the waist several inches, and also put pressure on the ribcage much like a corset does – and this is all done under medical supervision! But it doesn’t mean that any old off-the-rack corset is designed to be as safe and as effective (if you’d like a medical corset, you’d have to go to a corsetiere who specializes in such). It’s true that the younger you start reducing and training your waist, the more malleable your ribs are, and the easier it is for them to move out of the way. But cartilage is much easier to bend and/or break compared to bone – and if there’s even the tiniest risk of that happening, I don’t want you to take that risk.

If you’ve been tightlacing since you were 13 years old and you’re fine today, I’m happy for you. I hope that would be the norm and not the exception, if other young teens/tweens decide to go against what I say and begin corseting at a young age. But I don’t condone wearing corsets under the age of 18 years, and I’m highly unlikely to change my mind on this. Foot down.

Now, if you’re younger than 18 and you just like the look of corsets, then there are cheaper options (cheaper both in quality and in price). These won’t pull you in more than 1-2 inches, which is about the same reduction that one might expect from their belt or their skinny jeans. There are decorative ‘corset-like’ bustiers and tops available so you can get the look without getting the reduction. (The Pragmatic Costumier showed the difference a corset can make on a person’s silhouette even with zero waist reduction.)

Am I too old to start waist training / tight lacing?

I’m hesitant to set an upper limit in this scenario, because whether or not a person can corset train depends on the individual’s health, lifestyle and family history. Cathie Jung started tightlacing ’round the clock when she was about 45 years old and she is close to 75 now, still wearing her corsets tight as ever. However, this took 3 decades of persistent work, and 3 decades of her body acclimatizing to this pressure. For someone who is just starting to wear corsets at 75 years old, the amount of reduction plausible and the health concerns would be much different.

For mature women just starting waist training, I would say that the biggest health concerns would be osteoporosis or any osteolytic auto-immune conditions, because having brittle bones means your ribs are more likely to give under pressure. Also if you have any vaginal or uterine prolapse, the increased intra-abdominal pressure from a corset may exacerbate the condition. You also have to watch out for hypertension, circulation problems and – depending on certain medications – your activity level and whether or not you smoke cigarettes, you need to watch out for thrombosis.

Now, this may sound scary, and a lot of people might be reading this and say, “Oh, a corset can cause all that?!”
Not necessarily cause these. But exacerbate, quite possibly. In many cases, the body can already have had a pre-existing condition and the corset can merely amplify its symptoms. But it would be unfair to blame a corset for bringing out whatever problems you had in the first place. Wearing a corset has actually brought attention to certain aspects of my own body (such as dairy and gluten sensitivities, and my asymmetric hips) and drove me to seek assistance to correct these issues. Had I not noticed these through the use of corsets, these may have remained underlying issues that could have taken years to detect and correct.

But you see, there are so many different factors that go into the health of a person it really goes much farther beyond age. A person can be healthier at 65 years than they were at 20 years. But whatever your age is, make sure that your body is healthy and prepared for a corset.
Healthy and prepared.
Healthy and prepared.
Prepared being mature enough and fully grown, and healthy meaning preferably no underlying health conditions conditions (unless your condition is one that your doctor thinks can be improved with a corset, like a hiatal hernia).

If you have a clean bill of health and your doc gives you the thumbs up, then go for it.