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Age limits to corseting?

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?

Lucy with Cathie Jung and Melanie Talkington
Cathie Jung (center) with Melanie Talkington (left) and Lucy (right) at the Grand Corset Ball.

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 now in 2012 she is 75 years old, 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.
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 an abdominal hernia or pain from a slipped disc).

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

20 thoughts on “Age limits to corseting?

  1. Would renaissance stays, or a medieval bodice would be a suitable alternative for younger girls? Since they supposedly weren’t designed to actually reduce the waist.

  2. Dear Lucy,

    What constitutes waist training vs. wearing it as a costume piece? I’m thirteen, and don’t plan on wearing a corset for tightlacing, just to provide a firm foundation for the occasional bit of historical dress. I’m worried about medical issues. I’m healthy, but growing still. Basically, will wearing a not-very-tight corset (maybe 1 inch, 2 inches reduction?) a couple of non-consecutive days a month change my non-corseted body? Is it the act of corseting alone that is dangerous to a developing body or is it wearing it for long periods of time?

  3. Hi Lucy,

    Thanks for covering age limits and corseting. I am close to 60 and started to waist train a month ago and can say that mentally corsetting has been great, and with the exception of my GERD being exacerbated a bit, so far I have not had any severer effects. I have actually reduced my waist by an inch and have lost 3 lbs in the short time. I will definitely keep an eye on my health while waist training and make a comment if, in fact, I do run into issues.

  4. Hi, I just turned twelve and my mother allowed me to wear a corset. I’ve worn one for back problems earlier, but even though I do not have them anymore would a corset be okay to wear to shape my body.

    1. Hi Liza, even though your mother gives you permission, I would also check with your doctor whether it would be okay to start – while some people say they stopped growing at 12 years old, in my case I was still growing in height at 21 years old. As a rule I don’t recommend it until at least 18 years old.

  5. I am 13 years old turning 14 later this year (Grade 8) I have permission from my mom to use a waist trainer, and must use it extremely slowly and responsibly. But I want to ask first it it’s fine. Thanks! :)

    1. Hey Amy! As Lucy said, it’s best to wait until the end of growing. But if your parents gave consent then it is of course legal. I’m no expert but you should check with your doctor first.

  6. As a grandmother of 6 I have been doing corseting off and on for most of my adult life. I just enjoy the sensation I get from wearing one but also know that I am not a typical grandmother. I shared an image on your facebook page several years ago of me wearing one of my corsets out for a night out with friends. I think regardless of age as long as you are healthy and doing any new activity with your doctors knowledge you should be fine. I do not encourage those who are still growing (aka under the legal age) to do corseting simply because their bodies are still maturing but know as an older woman I do a lot of things women my age do not. I ran my first marathon to celebrate my turning 50 and am going ziplining to celebrate my anniversary next week. I just really enjoy your videos and am a huge fan but wanted to give voice to the older women who may want to try waist training but are afraid they may be to old. As long as your bones are not brittle and you are in good health I say speak with your physician and if he gives the green light then go slow but have fun and explore a new avenue that some may feel you are to old to explore.

  7. Hi!
    I am 51 yrs old and have noticed my lower abdomen is bigger than it used to be. Will wearing a corset cut down on lower abdomen belly fat or will it just get bigger from fat being pushed down from wearing corset?

    1. Hi Coni, a properly fitting corset should pull up and flatten the lower tummy while you’re wearing the corset. A large reduction in the waist can contribute to fullness in the lower tummy due to displaced flesh, but if you are careful to get a well-fitting custom fit corset and you pull up your lower tummy to collect it properly within the corset (see the video here), then you can minimize a bigger lower tummy.

  8. Hi, Lucy. I’ve always been interested in waist training, and ever since the ‘Cinderella’ movie came out I’ve been more interested than ever. I don’t want such drastic results as Lily James’ got, but an inch or two would be nice. At first I wanted to make my own, but I really don’t understand the whole concept of measuring and all that, so I remembered a makeshift corset/waist cincher I’d made when I was younger. It really just goes around the stomach and is very soft, but when pulled tight enough, my waist is definitely ‘cinching’ or whatever. I wear it every night, all night, and some evenings and mornings, as well. I don’t know how much effect it has when I’m not wearing it, as it isn’t nearly as heavy duty as some corsets (or as I’d like it to be, to be honest.) So my question is, will it have any lasting effect at all, or am I just fooling myself into thinking I’m helping?

    1. Hi Bella, it’s sort of hard to predict whether your homemade cincher is doing anything, because a) I don’t know how it’s fitting you, and b) there are many different factors that play into how permanent the waist reduction is.

    2. Hi , as a male above 45 years old started corseting like 25 days ago (22 /7) i am doing well and happy from the result

  9. can you tell me should you purchase your corset at least 1 to 2 inches smaller than your waist?
    Bought one and felt fine for the first couple of days and then it just felt a little bit big, is it suppose to feel streched.
    Thank YOu

    1. Hi Ana, the standard for a starter corset is about 4 inches less than your natural waist. Depending on your starting size, how compressible you are, and your experience level, some people may choose to cinch only 3 inches, while others can go down by 6-7 inches (if their natural waist is above 40″). Remember that the laces in the back can expand so if you put on a corset 4 inches smaller but it feels too tight, you always have the option of loosening up.

  10. Hi , i am 49 years old man and i started wearing corset 10 days ago , to lose stomach fat and i wear it 23/7 today i was surprise with a clear curve i got , do you think i may have female shape ?

    1. Hi Moni, there are specific corsets that can be used for feminizing the body, however if you prefer to maintain a masculine shape while still wearing a corset, there are specific corsets for men as well.

  11. Hi Lucy, I am really really interested in corset training but I have a few questions, The most important question I want answered is, Can you see results when you don’t have a corset on? I know if you waist train for a long period of time consecutively and with loyalty, along with exercising you will get inches of your waist, but what about when the corset is off?

    1. Hi Alensha, thanks for your comment. Waist training does have the potential to give you a smaller waist semi-permanently, even without the corset – but results vary depending on your individual situation. Your musculature, your body fat %, your activity level and diet, your water retention, the size of your organs and their orientation, how well your ribcage responds to pressure, the shape of your corset, how long you wear it, at what reduction, your body’s tolerance to restriction – all of these are factors in how many inches you can lose in your waist, and in how long! Also, once you reach your goal, your waist won’t stay that way forever. Some maintenance is necessary, as with all things. I talk about it in more detail in my video Permanent Waist Reduction.

  12. LUCY !!! I just saw you on ABCs 20/20 program. Did you know you were part of it? It was a clip from You Tube in your corner. The program is about extremes, one part is on corsets. You looked great of course,

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