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“Which way is up?”

This post is a summary of the video called “Corset Basics: Which way is up?” which you can view on YouTube here:

Read another post about upside down corsets from Ann Grogan of Romantasy (click through the photo)

I fully admit that the very first time I tried on an underbust “corset” (more of a tube with plastic bones and eyelets) in a local goth/alternative fashion store 7 years ago, I first put on the corset upside down. Thankfully the saleslady was very understanding and whispered my error to me so I could fix it before anyone else in the store could notice.

When I received a request to explain the differences between the top and bottom of a corset no less than a dozen times (most of these private messages by slightly embarrassed new corseters), I realized that this type of mistake is done more often than many realize.  It was time to make this a public topic.

Here are six different ways to tell the top of your corset from the bottom. Most likely your corset will have 2 or more of these features (if not, you may want to re-examine the quality of your garment).

1: The Busk

A cincher like this could easily be worn upside down as its pattern is vertically symmetric, but the bow at the top, the direction of the busk, and the lacing tips at the bottom (in back) give clues as to which way to wear it.

One of the easiest ways is to look at the busk. A busk traditionally has the loops on the left and the knobs on the right when you’re looking at it head-on. When you’re putting the corset on yourself and looking down, it will look like the loops are on the right and the knobs are on the left. Same if you’re looking at yourself in the mirror.

If your busk has two clasps closer together, those go at the bottom. This is a feature, not a bug – it helps control any protrusion of the lower belly. If your corset has a spoon busk then the bottom is the wider part.

2: The Laces

Another option is to look at the laces in the back of the corset – many corsets will have loops (bunny ears) at the waist, and the ends of the ribbon will be knotted at the bottom of the corset.

3: The Garter Tabs

Garter Straps (Suspenders) attached to the nubbin tabs at the bottom edge of a corset.

But what if your corset arrives in the mail without the laces in? Look inside the corset to see if you can find garter tabs. These are little short, squat loops of ribbon. They are NOT the same as loops for hanging. Hanger loops, which are longer, will appear at the top while garter tabs will be shorter and at the bottom.

4: The Panels

Look at shape of the actual panels in the corset, particularly at the front. They will often taper towards the bottom into a little V shape. This concentrates the bones over the lower belly to hold in that lower pooch.

5: Gores and Gussets

Sometimes a corset won’t have those V-shaped panels but will instead have very straight-cut panels and make use of gores to distribute the fullness.  In this case, look at the placement of those gores:

  • Gores placed on the side or back of a corset were put there to accommodate hips or bum so that end goes toward the bottom.
  • Gores put on the front of a corset are most often to accommodate the curve of the bust, so that end goes toward the top.

6: The Look/Fit

If all of that fails, then try on the corset and LIGHTLY lace it up both ways, seeing which way fits better. Even if the corset looks identical in both orientations when it’s sitting in front of you, often the hips of a corset are a couple of inches larger than the ribcage and you may feel this difference. If you have a corset that is custom made to your measurements, then the differences in comfort in fit will likely be quite prominent.

Now, some people who have ribcages larger than their hips, like most men or some athletic women, they may find that wearing an off-the-rack corset deliberately upside down is more comfortable and they can get a better cinch. If this is the case for you, then that’s fine – as long as you commit to wearing your corset in that orientation every time you put it on, so it’s seasoned to your body that way. Avoid alternating between wearing your corset in one direction and then in the other direction – doing this repeatedly will cause weird seasoning of your corset and it may end up not fitting well in either orientation.

Now that you are armed with these six tips on finding the correct orientation of a corset, you should never have to worry about committing any unintentional fashion faux-pas in the future.

Lucy’s Little Life Lesson: Intentional faux-pas are half the fun of fashion.

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