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NYC weekend and Grand Corset Ball 2015

Lucy with Cathie Jung and Melanie Talkington

To start, I want to say that I did bring my camcorder to New York last weekend, but got very little footage – so a video recap would have been bit boring with just my face waffling for 10 minutes as per usual.

 

I suppose I’ll start from the beginning: back in October 2014, I was delighted to receive an email from Melanie of Lace Embrace Atelier, with news of her Kickstarter campaign. The Grand Corset Ball was to be in the style of La Gracieuses Modernes balls from the past, and would help fund Melanie’s antique corset exhibit, “Fashioning the Body”.

 

Lucy tying sari
Practicing wrapping my sari prior to the event. Although I initially learned from my aunt how to wear them, I required a refresher from Zessinna. Here I’m wearing my overbust from Electra Designs.

I asked both my sister and my boyfriend if either of them would be interested in attending, and both expressed mild interest at the time but made no commitments. My plans, my health and my finances had a wrench thrown into them in late November due to the car accident, and I truly didn’t know how long I would need to go without a corset in order to fully heal from the ordeal. I felt horrible about not being able to contribute to the Kickstarter at the time, and thus made the announcement that I wouldn’t be able to attend the ball (which is why a few people were a bit surprised to see me there after all!).

 

After a few months of recuperation, I finally got the green light to start wearing corsets again from my doctor at the end of January – by which time, neither of my prospective dates were able to go to New York that weekend with me. The ball was approaching fast, so I asked Mina LaFleur of L’Atelier de LaFleur if she was going since I knew she lived relatively close-by in Toronto; we could fly down together and share accommodations. She graciously agreed, and only about 3 weeks before the event, we bought our tickets. We also made some loose plans to visit Body Worlds, the Met Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Frick Collection, Central Park, and FAO Schwarz while we were there. (Perhaps a teeny bit ambitious for less than 48 hours in NYC!)

 

Fast forward to the day before the ball: Mina and I arranged to meet at the airport on Friday morning, and after a brief period of Marco Polo via cellphone, finally found one another in the terminal. Our first flight had been bumped, so we had a 90-minute wait in front of us. I purchased an obscenely large choux bun for the novelty (not a wise choice in retrospect, as I was to be fitted for a corset later). Mina and I boarded our flight, and then we sat on the runway for another hour or so. Thankfully, we had plenty to talk about!

 

Dark Garden Mockup Fitting
Being a complete dork and unable to contain my excitement at a Dark Garden mockup fitting.

We finally checked into our hotel about 2 hours later than anticipated. I had made plans to have a mockup fitting with Autumn Adamme of Dark Garden, so we dropped our bags off at the hotel and took a cab over to Tricia’s Millinery shop, House of Nines Design. I have only had a couple in-person fittings with corsetieres (as opposed to remote fittings) so it was educational to see what Autumn looked for and how she tweaked the toile. The pic on the left shows my excitement:

 

Best. Salad. Ever.
Best. Salad. Ever.

After excitedly discussing the ball and Mr. Pearl, we said our goodbyes and decided to walk back to our hotel, during which time we sufficiently checked off “get lost in NYC” from our Bucket Lists. I made amends for the choux bun at dinner that night with an amazing feta, avocado and butternut squash salad at the Stone Street Tavern.

 

The next day, Mina and I only got to see Body Worlds Pulse and a tiny portion of the Met Museum, but I found it incredibly interesting. At Body Worlds they have a liver which shows natural hepatic grooves from the ribcage – and not caused by corsets – which somewhat confirms the findings of the article I referenced in my Dr. Oz response last month. I would have taken a picture of the liver, but they have a strict no-cameras rule in the exhibit.

 

At the Met, we mostly focused on the Chinese tapestries, Fragonard paintings and the armor exhibitions. We also indulged in a selfie on the balcony before quickly rushing back to the hotel to get ready for the ball. Mina created everything in her own ensemble, from the dove-grey overbust with asymmetric lace, to the matching palest-blue taffeta bustle, to her reticule and tiara. I wore a lace-smothered gold overbust made by Sparklewren (originally made for Immodesty Blaize) which complemented the vintage cream lace sari purchased from Zessinna last year. (My great-aunt, who lived in Pakistan, was the first to teach me to tie a sari when I was a child, but Laysa kindly gave me a refresher as it had been awhile.)

 

Mina and myself at the Met
Mina and myself at the Met

Evidently there was some miscommunication about the starting time for the ball as Mina and I (as well as a few others) arrived a bit early, so we passed the time by chatting and of course taking pictures in the powder room until they were ready to accept us in the ballroom.

Lucy in the mirror
Fixing my sari for the 135894017th time in the ladies’ powder room.

 

Shien Lee (creator of Dances of Vice) helped coordinate the event, and also gave out one of her lipstick shades (Red Lantern) to attendees who donated $100 or more!

 

I saw many familiar faces at the ball – Kirk Whitmer (deux lunes) and his wife Kerstin, Ian Frazer Wallace (The Whitechapel Workhouse), and Autumn Adamme of course (Dark Garden), all of whom I had met last summer in England at the Oxford Conference of Corsetry.

 

When the Royal Court had arrived, I was too shy to introduce myself to Bob and Cathie Jung, so Melanie led me over to them and formally introduced us. It was a dream come true to tell them how much I appreciated their immense contribution to the corsetry community, including their willingness to be in the spotlight of mainstream media to educate others about modern waist training (even though Cathie insists that they are just normal, everyday people), their modern medical tests that demonstrate real-time physical effects of corsetry (including cross-section CAT scans of Cathie while wearing a corset, years before the more recent MRI scans), and Cathie’s slow training over close to 40 years being a responsible influence for those who also aspire to train; teaching others that slow and steady wins the race. Cathie is a living testament that a corseted lifestyle, while not for everyone, is very possible and can be done comfortably while maintaining good health.

Autumn Adamme and Lucy at the Grand Corset Ball in NYC
Autumn Adamme and Lucy at the Grand Corset Ball in NYC
Lucy with Cathie Jung and Melanie Talkington
Cathie Jung (center) with Melanie Talkington (left) and Lucy (right) at the Grand Corset Ball.
Mina, Cathie and Lucy
Cathie Jung (center) with Mina LaFleur (left) and Lucy (right) at the Grand Corset Ball.
KLD and Lucy
Kelly Lee Dekay (left) with Lucy at the Grand Corset Ball.

Other people that I was too happy to finally meet and chat with included designer and model Kelly Lee Dekay (seen above); Jasmine Ines, corsetiere behind Sin & Satin; designer Rachael Reichert; model and illustrator Flora Jasper, and many many others – thanks to Vilma, Debbie, Cassie, Raquel, Samantha, Ellie, and everyone else who came up to me that night, as I’m naturally a painfully shy person and if it weren’t for you I probably would have sat in a corner all evening. :p

 

Later in the night, there was a Q&A session with Cathie and Bob where we could all approach them with our questions, as well as a dance lesson (which I sadly missed), a non-competitive fashion show where people showed off their hand-made and commissioned outfits, and at midnight, two burlesque performances by Perle Noire and Aseult.

 

Sterling Silver Corset Cover
Sterling Silver Corset Cover made by Anthony Pacesa in 1997, designed to fit Cathie Jung. One of the pieces on display at the ball.

After the ball, Mina and I spent the night packing and indulging in some New York pizza (another thing to check off our list!), and with less than 3 hours sleep, we finally said goodbye to NYC and headed home. Since we didn’t get everything finished on our itinerary, we agreed that we definitely have to return to NY again in the future, and for a longer stay next time! ;)

 

As mentioned on Facebook, this ball was an amazing opportunity for many of us in the corsetry community in North America to come together for the first time. It’s a beautiful thing when we can all stand in solidarity and support one another’s work, approaching one mutual interest from completely different directions and knowing that coming together only strengthens our community. The night of the ball, there was no sense of competition for waist size, sewing skills, historical knowledge, or dancing ability. I was nervous going in, but honestly it was so worth it for the networking alone (and the music, performances and countless pretties were a bonus too!). I sincerely hope that there are more events like this in the future. 

 

Thanks to the friendly people of New York for the lovely weekend, thanks to Mina for being an awesome travel companion, and huge thanks to Melanie for organizing the ball! I’m sure this will not be the last of such events.

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Lovely Rats Christine Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Lovely Rats Christine Corset Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length This style is standard sized: Center front is about 11.5 inches high, from underbust to lap is 9 inches, and the center back is 11 inches. Conical ribcage and rounded hip. Waist in this corset is 22″, ribcage is 28″ and lower hip is 36″.
NOTE: updated standard size measurements for a size 22″: ribcage of 30″ and lower hip of 34″.
Material 3 main layers. Outer layer is a psychedelic cotton print, which is fused to twill. Black herringbone coutil as lining.
Construction 6 panel pattern, panels assembled using the sandwich method (lock-stitched 3 times so very sturdy), and double-boned on the seams, sandwiched between two layers.
Binding Hand-made bias strips of complementary gold dupioni silk, machine stitched on the outside and hand-finished inside for a couture finish.
Waist tape 1 inch wide invisible waist tape – sandwiched between the layers.
Modesty panel No back lacing protector because I didn’t order one (but I did get a complimentary storage bag). Front modesty placket is made from black herringbone coutil.
Busk Heavy-duty busk (1″ wide on each side), 10 inches long. 5 loops + pins, equidistantly spaced. Some flat steels adjacent to the busk helps keep the abdomen flat.
Boning 24 bones total, 12 on each side. There are eight 1/4″ wide flats by the front, four flats by the back grommets, and the remaining bones around the side of the body are 1/4″ spirals, double boned on the seams.
Grommets 26 two-part grommets, size #00, medium flange, quite sturdy. Gold finish. Set closer together at the waistline. Large washers on the underside, most of them have rolled nicely without splitting or cracking.
Laces Double-faced satin ribbon in bright green. Too short for my uses, but following this review, Amber started including longer laces with all of her corsets.
Price $350 USD as of 2016. To upgrade to custom-fit, this starts at $450 USD.

 

The details of the fashion fabric of this particular corset. Click through to see Amber's Etsy store for more samples.
The details of the fashion fabric of this particular corset. Click through to see Amber’s Etsy store for more samples.

Amber’s corsets have a distinctive silhouette; normally conical in the ribs and rounded over the hips, stopping at mid-to-low hip. The front of her corsets are extremely rigid while the back of her corsets tend to be more flexible – a pattern she developed on her own to accommodate for her own pronounced lumbar lordosis. As such, if you have lordosis or if you have a “shelf-bum” and you need more curve over the back, Amber will know how to draft for your body.

Amber herself is a joy to work with. Her service and communication were excellent throughout this past collaboration, and she is fun yet professional. During the construction process we had an easy rapport and she asked me whether I would like regular updates on the corsets or if I preferred to be surprised. When I preferred having pictures, she shared with me without prompting. She worked quickly and efficiently, and can make a simple, standard sized underbust corset in one workday! However, her schedule fills up quickly, so if you’re keen on ordering from Lovely Rats for a special event, join her waiting list early.

Check out her website here, or if you’re lucky you might fit one of Amber’s samples in her Etsy store.

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Lovely Rats Princess Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Lovely Rats Princess Corset Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length This style is standard sized: Center front is about 11.5 inches high, from underbust to lap is 9 inches, and the center back is 11 inches. Conical ribcage and rounded hip. Waist in this corset is 22″, ribcage is 28″ and lower hip is 36″.
NOTE: updated standard size measurements for a size 22″: ribcage of 30″ and lower hip of 34″.
Material This style of corset has 2 main layers, and external boning channels (instead of 3 layers with sandwiched bones like her Christine Corset). Outer layer is a cotton floral fabric, which is fused to black herringbone coutil.
Construction 6 panel pattern. The fashion fabric and lining were fused, and the panels were assembled with seam allowances facing outward. External boning channels cover the seam allowances, and more external channels are distributed in the middle of the panels as well.
Binding Bias strips of black twill, machine stitched on the outside and hand-finished inside for a couture finish.
Waist tape 1 inch wide exposed waist tape. Partial: starts at the seam between panels 1-2, and goes to the back edge.
Modesty panel Back modesty panel (4 inches wide) is suspended on the laces and boned for support. Front modesty placket is made from black herringbone coutil.
Busk Heavy-duty busk (1″ wide on each side), 10 inches long. 5 loops + pins, equidistantly spaced. Some flat steels adjacent to the busk helps keep the abdomen flat.
Boning 24 bones total, 12 on each side. There are eight 1/4″ wide flats by the front, four flats by the back grommets, and the remaining bones around the side of the body are 1/4″ spirals, single boned on the seams and also in the middle of each panel.
Grommets 24 two-part grommets, size #00, medium flange, quite sturdy. Gold finish. Set closer together at the waistline. Large washers on the underside, most of them have rolled nicely without splitting or cracking.
Laces Black double-faced satin ribbon: no spring, very strong, low-profile under clothing and easy to tie.
Price $350 USD as of 2016. To upgrade to custom-fit, this starts at $450 USD.
Decorative external boning channels are another $50-75.
Flossing on each of the boning channels is an additional $100.

 

The details of the fashion fabric of this particular corset. Click through to see Amber's Etsy store for more samples.
The details of the design of the floral princess corset. Click through to see Amber’s Etsy store for more samples.

Amber’s corsets have a distinctive silhouette; normally conical in the ribs and rounded over the hips, stopping at mid-to-low hip. The front of her corsets are extremely rigid while the back of her corsets tend to be more flexible – a pattern she developed on her own to accommodate for her own pronounced lumbar lordosis. As such, if you have lordosis or if you have a “shelf-bum” and you need more curve over the back, Amber will know how to draft for your body.

Amber herself is a joy to work with. Her service and communication were excellent throughout this past collaboration, and she is fun yet professional. During the construction process we had an easy rapport and she asked me whether I would like regular updates on the corsets or if I preferred to be surprised. When I preferred having pictures, she shared with me without prompting. She worked quickly and efficiently, and can make a simple, standard sized underbust corset in one workday! However, her schedule fills up quickly, so if you’re keen on ordering from Lovely Rats for a special event, join her waiting list early.

Check out her website here, or if you’re lucky you might fit one of Amber’s samples in her Etsy store.

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Dr. Oz Investigates Waist Training: My Response

On February 12, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz took on the topic of waist training for a second time in his show titled “Dr. Oz Investigates Waist Training – Is It Safe?”. I suspected this would happen, as in October you may remember that Dr. Hirschhausen (another celebrity doctor in Germany) performed the first known MRI scan on a tightlaced subject.

A month later in November, Oz’s producers contacted me about doing a second segment about waist training on the show (in which I declined to participate since I had seen his angle on it the first time).

Ann Grogan (Romantasy Exquisite Corsetry) has already responded to Dr. Oz in an open letter on her own blog, but I have also been asked by a dozen or so people to write my own response – make no mistake that I am not a medical expert, but I do believe that the results are worth talking about and sharing. I’d like this to become a conversation between the corsetry and medical industries, and for us to come to a mutual understanding that not all shapewear is the same and not all of them are suitable for all applications (including and especially waist training).

Oz’s segment can be viewed here, and I will address each concern in order.

First video: theoretical discussion and MRI results  

Corsets can theoretically squeeze your lungs, compress the ribs and reduce oxygen intake

This is true if the corset is not made to fit your body and deliberately tightened to reduce the size of the ribcage. It’s also more likely to be true with an overbust corset rather than an underbust, as it encases more of the ribcage. In my article about corsets, lungs and breathing, I address some common concerns and myths regarding corsets and respiratory infections. My response article to the “Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home” episode on corsets also showed that the maximum loss to the reporter’s vital capacity was about 10%, even after strapping on an overbust corset for the first time, lacing down several inches immediately (and over a bulky sweater) and then proceeding to sprint up and down a staircase repeatedly for several minutes – altogether a scenario that would have never happened in the Victorian era.

There are corsetieres who are dedicated to patterning their corsets to deliberately curve around the ribcage and accommodate the ribs instead of affecting their position, for those who find it more comfortable and prefer this silhouette. Now, it is possible to reduce the lung capacity slightly simply by the nature of pushing up the stomach and diaphragm slightly, but again this depends on the reduction held – and in many cases the temporary reduction in capacity is small enough that it would only be noticeable in situations of hard exertion, not tidal breathing (a normal breath while at rest only uses about 15% of the vital lung capacity, and many sedentary people very rarely use their full capacity).

Myself (Lucy) wearing a cupped-rib hourglass corset made by Sugarkitty, designed to compress only the waistline and not the rib cage.
Myself (Lucy) wearing a cupped-rib hourglass corset made by Sugarkitty, designed to compress only the waistline and not the rib cage.

Corsets can cause acid reflux

If the stomach is pushed up, heartburn is possible – especially if you eat a semi-large meal prior to lacing up (but who does that?). Corsets can exacerbate reflux in those people who already suffer from GERD (a condition caused by a loosened lower esophageal sphincter, production of too much stomach acid, hiatal hernia, abdominal obesity, etc).

Pregnancy can often cause heartburn, not only because the baby is competing for space and pushing up on the stomach, but also because the elevated hormones can cause the sphincter of the stomach to relax. Common tips given to pregnant women include eating small meals (and eating slowly), avoiding foods that are commonly known to bring on heartburn (like spicy food and caffeine), and keeping hydrated and drinking fluids throughout the day – all healthy tips that can be done anyway, and all tips that have helped corset wearers to avoid reflux as well. I eat small, regular meals by choice and I cannot remember one incident of heartburn I’ve experienced while wearing a corset.

Some may be interested to read Sarah Chrisman’s experience in how wearing a corset had helped to stop her GERD (which she previously believed was a chronic, hereditary condition that she’d have to deal with for life).

That said, if you know that you experience GERD, if you have a hernia or any other health condition, it’s always a good idea to speak with your trusted medical professional before trying a corset.

MRI results of a waist trainer

For contrast, I want to compare Dr. Oz’s methodology and subsequent results with the MRI results of a tightlacer on Dr. Hirschhausen’s show. On Hirschhausen’s show, Eden Berlin (the tightlacer and willing subject) wore a custom fit corset made by Tonia of Korsett Manufaktur Tomto, specially constructed with plastic synthetic whalebone instead of steel, and also nonferrous grommets so as not to react in the MRI machine. The results demonstrated how a well-fit corset does not seem to drastically affect the morphology or position of kidneys or lungs. Even her liver looked similar in shape and simply shifted upwards slightly. The only organ that got ‘trapped’ was her transverse colon, and Eden mentioned that she had been rushed in putting on the corset and lacing down 5 inches within mere minutes – she said that if she had more time to lace down slowly and properly, she may have been able to shift that colon down appropriately, as Fran Blanche describes in her tightlacing articles “The Cycle Method” and Divide and Conquer”.

Why corsets are not the same as stretch shapewear

I have several criticisms with the way Dr. Oz performed his version of the experiment, namely the fact that he used a rubber cincher instead of a corset. It’s understandable that they would opt for this, as 1) the rubber faja is gaining popularity as exercise gear these days, and 2) since it tends to contain no metal, it is a quick and easy ‘substitute’ for steel boned corsets.

I have been over the superficial differences between rubber cinchers and corsets before, as well as given my response regarding other types of shapewear, but this MRI experiment revealed something else to me: rubber cinchers create an even pressure over the whole torso instead of focusing the majority of the restriction at the waistline, meaning that the wearer has little control over what’s “squished” and what’s not.

Elastic latex/rubber waist cincher or faja
Lucy wearing a rubber waist cincher or faja. Although there is not as much compression as my usual corsets, what pressure IS there cannot be controlled or concentrated.

The way a stretchy rubber or neoprene faja is constructed, it is not custom-fit to the individual’s anatomy, and it’s designed to compress everywhere that it touches – from the ribcage to the hips. It will compress whatever gives the least resistance, whether that is the sides of the waistline or the front and back; whether that includes the floating ribs or not (Marianne has an article on The Lingerie Addict about different the compression feels between corsets and shapewear). Because each individual has a different amount of muscle tone or body fat percentage, because each person has very slight differences in position and size of their internal organs, because the exact amount of compression on the body is difficult to control because it fastens with hooks and not laces, it’s very difficult to predict how the outcome would look in each person. Only two days ago someone commented on my site asking if it’s normal to experience uncomfortable pressure on the back from rubber cinchers (to answer this quickly: pain is never normal; if you ever experience discomfort, the responsible thing to do is to loosen or remove the garment).

By contrast, a corset can be drafted to accommodate each person’s individual anatomy and we can control exactly where the compression is occurring and how much (0 inches, 2 inches, 4 inches) due to the adjustability of the laces.

In a custom-fit corset, there is a gradient of pressure that is maximized at the skeletal waistline (the squishy area below the ribs and above the pelvis), dissipating to zero compression up over the ribcage and down over the hips. The compression is also focused primarily laterally (on either side of the body, and not from front and back). In most cases, a strong front busk will prevent dishing or collapsing of the waistline in the front of the body, and a proper corset is also specially drafted to ensure no compression of the back, as it should support a healthy posture and maintain a proper lumbar curve. A well-fitting corset should be drafted in such a way that if the organs come into play, then the hollow membranous organs like the intestines flatten in response to the compression, and the corset should not affect the retroperitoneal organs such as the kidneys, as shown in Hirschhausen’s results.

Stand-up MRI imaging vs traditional reclining patient

Dr. Oz used a stand-up MRI facility to do the test, which may show a slightly different view of the organs compared to the conventional MRI scans where the patient is lying down. I believe that stand-up and positional diagnostic imaging is a fantastic tool, especially considering that most corset-wearers are standing or sitting for most of their day and not reclining – but this also means that Oz’s results cannot truly be accurately compared with Hirschhausen’s, since the position of the organs may shift slightly depending on the body’s position, with or without a corset.

My friend and fellow tightlacer Michael informed me that when internal diagnostic imaging was first discovered (e.g. X-rays where you could see the positions of solid organs like the heart and liver against less dense organs like the lungs), there were several unnecessary surgeries performed to “correct” the position of the organs. Before stand-up imaging, physicians’ only knowledge of organ positions in the human body came from examining corpses (who were obviously reclining) and from performing surgeries (where patients were also reclining), and they didn’t realize that the organs can and do slightly shift from standing to lying down.

I’m currently investigating this history further to verify the details – but it’s easy to imagine how, for instance, breasts can look incredibly different from standing to reclining even with the presence of Cooper’s ligaments keeping them relatively in place, so it’s not hard to believe that the position of the organs can also slightly shift from standing to reclining as well, despite ligaments and the visceral membrane keeping them relatively in place.

It’s not known whether Oz’s subject was scanned while standing up or lying down, as the brief video clip merely showed her “spinning” somewhat in the machine. Perhaps she wasn’t standing nor completely reclining but was at a slight incline. It is also unknown whether the angle of imaging with and without her rubber cincher had been performed at the same angle. If they had by chance been performed at different angles, this change in position may have skewed the results from the cincher.

Should we be scared by a grooved liver?

Dr. Oz expressed some shock upon discovering indentations in the woman’s liver caused by the ribcage – I was hoping that he would explain how such indentations would prove deleterious but unfortunately it was not mentioned (or the clip was cut short). However, indentations of the liver are not all that uncommon. Although the liver is one of the more solid organs, it is still described as pliable, and the shape and size naturally varies.

In a 1986 publication in the JPMA, the liver shapes of 500 live humans were studied via radio-colloid imaging. Over 15% of the subjects showed indentations of some kind on the liver, and these are from healthy individuals who were not wearing corsets. This is consistent with the indented livers I’ve seen in rat dissections in school. These slight variances in liver morphology are not necessarily tied with the health of the individual.

Another issue to bring to light is that organ crowding and indentations may also occur in those who are pregnant, those who have a high percentage of visceral (intra-abdominal) fat, and those who have skeletal issues like scoliosis, which shortens the torso and the amount of space for the organs within it – yet particularly in the last case, bracing a scoliosis patient often involves torso compression of a couple of inches, in the interest of stabilizing and correcting the spine – would this not further compress the organs of a person who is already experiencing compromised organ space? The history of the modern brace lies in corsetry, and research in the physiological effects of corsetry is not a vain apologist activity. More research into the functional effects of organ crowding may lead to new innovations in the medical field as well.

The Sforzesco brace for scoliosis
The Sforzesco brace for a scoliosis patient creates an hourglass silhouette similar to that of a corset. Click through to read more about this brace.

Video 2: Interview with Dr. Nicole Florence, bariatrician

Can Waist Training lead to Weight Loss?

Dr. Florence states that there is no clinical evidence that waist training can result in weight loss. That’s not for want of trying though, as a 2010 study by Wikstrand et al attempted a trial of wearing “soft corsets” for a period of 9 months to maintain weight loss – however, the results could not be properly evaluated due to low compliance (the subjects didn’t wear their corsets). I was as disappointed as the next person.

I tend to agree that weight loss is not necessarily guaranteed with the use of a corset, and the corset should not be treated as a substitute for diet or exercise (I’ve spoken at length about this before) – however, it can be seen as a non-surgical aid in many individuals. As mentioned above, I would personally be delighted to perform long-term studies on corset wearers, and rely on real data instead of anecdotes, given the funds and the opportunity. Universities and research centers may feel free to contact me if you’d like me to lead a proper trial in your facility. (I’m not kidding.)

Since Dr. Florence is a bariatrician, I would also like to study real quantifiable health risks associated with moderate corset wear as compared with gastric band surgery, where 10-20% of patients require a second procedure to correct complications, up to 30% of patients develop nutritional deficiencies / absorption disorders, and up to 33% of patients develop gallstones according to the Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, with a 53% chance of gaining the weight back within 15 years according to this 2013 study. If I were in the position to opt for either bariatric surgery or corsets, I’d personally try the corsets first, but that’s just my subjective stance.

Do corsets lead to eating disorders?

I have always tried to tread lightly on this subject as it is a sensitive topic for many. Dr. Florence believes that wearing corsets can create body dysmorphic disorder or distorted body image, and there was implication that the corset may become a gateway to eating disorders or more drastic body modification.

It’s my personal belief that body dysmorphia starts in the mind and then the body follows, not the other way around. Extreme weight loss associated with conditions like anorexia are the later symptoms – the physical manifestations of the psychological/ emotional struggle that has already existed in the person for months or years prior. Is it possible that some people who already have body dysmorphic disorder or eating disorders use corsets as a tool? Yes, I would say that it’s probable that some individuals use corsets for this reason, but it’s insulting to imply that all people who wear corsets are at risk of developing an eating disorder or are already there, especially as I have personally seen corsets used to help some of my friends overcome their personal body image issues and fall in love with their own body. I don’t believe that corsets cause body image issues any more than bra cutlets would contribute to delusions about one’s own natural breast size, or high heel shoes would create insecurity in one’s natural height.

Other health concerns mentioned

Dr. Florence says that corsets can cause pneumonia (again, I’ve written about pneumonia in this article), and that they can cause constipation (I’ve addressed this in my Corsets and Toilet Issues article, although more and more I’m hearing from viewers how abdominal compression has helped keep them regular, interestingly). She also wrote that corsets can cause chronic pain and bruising, to which I respond that if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong. Pain or bruising when wearing a corset is never ever ever ever normal – and if this is happening, then you are using a corset that is not the right shape for you, or you’re cinching too tight, too fast, or for too long a duration than your body is ready for.

She also mentioned that corsets can cause fainting – she erroneously stated that the origin of “fainting couches” had their origin in the Victorian era to catch women fainting from their corsets, which is known to be untrue. The Chaise Longue has existed for well over 2000 years. Corsets may have caused fainting in Victorian women if overtightened (which was not unheard of during balls and other special events), and yes corsets can affect blood pressure, but women also fainted from exhaustion, dehydration, low blood sugar, overheating and overexertion, just as many people faint today without a corset. Victorian ladies also faked fainting because it was the cool thing to do.

In summary, I don’t believe that Dr. Oz gave the last word or drove the nail in the coffin for waist training, but I do think it’s important to take all information into account. Recall that after Hirschhausen’s episode on corsets, I said, “I would love to repeat this MRI study with different tightlacers to see how the positions of organs change slightly depending on the individual, the silhouette of corset worn, the reduction of the corset, and how long they’ve been training.” My position hasn’t changed; on the contrary, Dr. Oz’s contribution has only strengthened my resolve.

If we’re to truly understand the physiological effects of corsetry, we need a sample size of more than 1, we need some consistency in the type of corset used (not simply *any* compression garment) and we need a consistent method of imaging.

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Guide to Corset Laces and Ribbons

In this post we’ll be discussing the 7 most common types of corset laces, their pros and cons, which ones are my personal favorites in different situations, etc.

Round Polyester Cord

You’ll usually find this style of lacing in budget OTR corsets. It’s a round type of corded shoelace, not flat, and often 1/8 inch in width. Being polyester based, it’s a fairly strong fiber.

You may recall that I will almost exclusively use cotton and natural fibers for my strength layer in corsets because of its breathability, but when it comes to laces, I will almost exlcusively use nylon or polyester based laces because they’re so strong.

Polyester cord tends to have some “spring” to it, and when you’re dealing with laces that are often 8 yards (7.3 meters) in length, this “springiness” can become annoying or frustrating, especially when a corset is new, because you just feel like you’re stretching out the laces as opposed to closing the corset.

The thinness of the cord helps the bows and knots to hold well without slipping, but I personally find that such a thin cord cuts into my hands when I’m trying to lace up, and makes my palms sore – for this reason, round polyester cords are one of my least favorite types of corset laces.

550 Paracord

30 different color options for 550 paracord from LibertyProducts, Etsy. 100 ft for $5.99 USD.

This cord comes in a multitude of colors online, and they can be purchased in 100-yard lengths in bulk and in any color you can imagine. This is the strongest type of cord used in corsetry today; it’s called 550 because it’s able to withstand up to 550 pounds of tension before breaking, and it’s called paracord because it was often used in parachutes. You’ll find paracord in emergency situations, like sold in bracelets that you can wear while camping, hiking or rafting, so if you fall down a cliff or get swept away by a current, you can unravel the bracelet and throw the paracord around a sturdy object to stop yourself.

In Ann Grogan’s “Corset Magic” book, she mentions that a corset can put up to 90 lbs of pressure around the torso, so this paracord would easily be able to withstand the tension.

In my opinion, this is where the positive things end. The cord has the colored outer coating, and then 7 smaller cords inside. Even while using a proper square knot, I find that my bows are not quite as secure as when I use ribbon or flat laces, and I also find the cord to be quite bulky and conspicuous especially under clothing. Because the inner cords and the outer sheath are not attached in any way, the outer part tends to twirl around the core and twists and bunches up in weird ways, making my corsets difficult to lace up. And once again, I find it painful on my hands when I’m lacing up.

Some people pull out the 7 tiny cords in the center and simply use the colored sheath for their laces – it will be more flat (but more springy), but you won’t have to sacrifice any of the color! It won’t withstand 550 lbs of tension without the internal cords, but it should still hold up fine for corsetry.

LibertyProducts sells 100ft (about 33 yards, enough for 4-5 corsets) of 550 paracord in 30 color options on Etsy for $5.99.

Satin Rat Tail Cord

25m long rat tail cord, 2mm wide, for $3.50 USD from Cchange on Etsy.

I consider this a hybrid between round cord and satin laces. It’s called “rat tail” lacing because it’s so thin. I’ve heard it’s diffciult to source in Europe, but I’ve been able to walk into my local Fabricland (here in Canada) and find 3mm wide satin rat tail cord in a multitude of colors. It’s also quite inconspicuous and not bulky under clothing because it’s so thin.

It has no springiness to it, and it’s surprisingly strong, especially for its tiny width. I find rat tail cord great for small grommets (#00 or even #X00 size) and it comes in a multitude of colors. I’m not sure why, but despite its small width it doesn’t cut into my hands as much as the bulkier round cords above – perhaps less friction due to the satin outside.

However, because it has a satiny coating, if there are any splits in your grommets then the laces can catch and cause scarring or fraying of the laces.

Because the satin cord is more slippery, you do have to know how to tie a proper bow and proper knots (not granny-bows) otherwise they can easily slip and your corset can easily loosen.

Cchange sells 25m of 2mm wide rat tail cord (easily enough for 3 corsets), in 24 different colors on Etsy for $3.50.

Satin Ribbon:

Single-Face Satin Ribbon

Depending on the corset maker, they will either recommend using ribbon or they won’t – it’s a matter of personal preference. Some claim that ribbons don’t last long, and they either stretch out or break – if this has been their experience, most likely they have used single-faced satin ribbon.

Single-face ribbon does not look the same on both sides. One side (the “good side”) is shiny and smooth, while the underside is more matte, a bit more rough or scratchy, and may even look similar to grosgrain ribbon. Single-face ribbon tends to be a little harder on the hands compared to double-face ribbon.

Double-Face Satin Ribbon (DF ribbon)
DF satin ribbon from Little Mint Company, Etsy. 8 yards for $5.20.

Double-face ribbon has the same texture on both sides (smooth and shiny), and is often a heavier weight/ slightly thicker than single-face satin.

DF ribbon is also used in single-layer ribbon cinchers, as they’re quite strong, have no “springiness” or stretch, and hold tension well. DF ribbon is stronger than SF ribbon, more lush and softer on the hands, but it’s also more expensive.

Regardless of which type of satin ribbon you use, if your grommets have splits, they will catch on the ribbon and cause fraying and scarring, which eventually leads to weakness and your ribbon may break after months of regular use. Fortunately, ribbon is easily sourced and laces are easy to replace.

One of the big advantages about ribbon laces is that they’re very flat and low-profile under clothing.

Most ribbons in corsets use 1cm (or 0.5 inch) wide ribbon. Some brands have slightly less wide ribbons (Starkers uses 3/8 inch wide) and some brands have wider ribbons (Totally Waisted uses 1 inch wide). The wider ribbons feel more luxurious, but consider the size of the grommets in your corset. Using a thin ribbon in large grommets, your corset may loosen as soon as you let go of the laces because they’re so slippery. On the other hand, thick ribbon through small grommets increases the friction, which may make your corset more difficult to unlace.

I will always use DF satin ribbon in my couture corsets – it can usually be perfectly matched to the rest of the corset and it has a luxurious finish – plus I rarely wear my bespoke corsets, so I don’t really have to worry about wearing out the ribbons for long time.

Little Mint Company sells DF-satin ribbon (4 units [8 yards long] and 12mm wide is usually sufficient for a longline corset or overbust) for $5.20 on Etsy.

Flat Shoelace

1/4 inch wide flat nylon shoelace-style lacing from historicaldesigns, Etsy.

These are ubiquitous – they’re easy to source, they’re often cheaper than ribbon, and they’re a “workhorse” lacing that will last you a long time. You will find flat shoelace most often in corsets (both OTR and custom waist training corsets). Because they’re flatter they will hold knots and bows well, and they’re “middle of the road” in terms of bulkiness so it’s possible to hide these laces under clothing. They’re quite strong, with minimal spring. They also don’t cut into my hands in a painful way while lacing, as long as the laces are flat in my hand and I don’t hold the laces on their edge, or they’re twisted up.

White cotton laces are more eco-friendly and can also be dyed to match the rest of your cotton corset perfectly. The cotton flat laces are softer and fuzzier to the touch – but for a more definitive test, burn a small sample of the laces (outside) – cotton will create an ash, whereas polyester will melt. Polyester laces take dye less readily, but they can still be dyed.

I personally find that when it comes to waist training corsets, that the polyester lace is a better choice because it seems to have less wear over time compared to the cotton laces (I’ve had cotton laces snap after a few months of wear, whereas I’ve never had polyester laces snap on me yet, even in the corsets I’ve kept for years).

Historical Designs sells 1/4 inch wide flat lacing in white and black on Etsy.

FTC: I purchased these laces for personal use, and all opinions are my own. Tiddly links are Etsy affiliate links which help keep this site online and the articles free for everyone. Photos courtesy of Etsy.

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Dependence on Corsets – Can you ever stop wearing a corset?

Ethel Granger without corset bare waist

There is this false theory that “once you start using corsets, you can never take them off”. I remember one girl telling me this when I was younger, painting an image in my head that the moment I put on a corset for the first time, I’d be doomed to wear it for the rest of my life, as if the corset would immediately and magically impair all function of my core muscles.
 
Obviously, this hasn’t been the case, and it’s my belief that permanent dependence on corsets is another one of those cases of “broken telephone” where the meaning has become misconstrued. While a few notable people have experienced a physical dependence on corsets, this has been the result of wearing corsets daily for years, in some cases starting from adolescence. When it comes to most modern corset wearers who begin wearing corsets in adulthood, who maintain a healthy core maintenance regimen and who practice lacing in moderation, physiological dependence on corsets isn’t that applicable.
 

Psychological Dependence on Corsets

 
As many of you know, about 3 months ago in November I suffered a number of injuries (falling down the stairs, and then an auto accident – during both incidents I was not wearing a corset). I took a break from wearing corsets for about 2 months, waiting for my bruises to heal and my bloating from the medication to decrease. During those two months, a thought crossed my mind that intrigued me: I missed that familiar “hug” from my corsets.
 
I followed a waist training regimen from 2010 to mid 2013 to achieve my goal of closing a 20″ corset – once I reached that goal, I decided that silhouette wasn’t for me. Since then I’ve simply been wearing corsets “casually”: wearing them occasionally as I feel like it, or as is necessary when I’m breaking in corsets for my reviews, but no longer 12 hours a day.
 
When my freedom of choice to wear a corset was taken away from me, I deeply resented the circumstances. I spent some time thinking about my own reactions and thoughts around this – was it a sign that I had a psychological or emotional dependence on the corset itself, or was it simply the fact that I was denied this practice that made it more tempting (like forbidden fruit)?
(If I’m completely honest with myself, part of the frustration was also that seasoning corsets is part of my job, and my injuries were pushing back my review schedule.)
 
I’ve written at length about using corsets as deep pressure therapy, and how corsets can improve your posture and even make you more confident, regardless of the figure-shaping perks. But I do believe that it’s important for each person to occasionally gauge themselves and make sure that they’re using corsets for the right reasons, and that they’re using the corset as an aide to improve their experience or quality of life, and not using the corset as crutch that they can’t function without.

 

I hear stories of agoraphobic people being able to step outside without having a panic attack when they wear their corset and that is truly amazing. But certain people can become psychologically “addicted” to corsets, same as some people are hooked on buying shoes/ following a TV series/ eating a certain food.

 

We see taglines in commercials “Betcha can’t eat just one” (Lay’s chips) or “Once you pop, you can’t stop” (Pringles) – but these statements are meant to be fun and make the product seem enticing. It doesn’t make people freak out or ponder the addictiveness of processed snacks. You don’t have visions of being caught in a horrible circular existence of eating bag after bag of potato chips till you explode. It’s supposed to be taken lightly – but corsets are almost never taken lightly in this context. Because the corset is not as ubiquitous as high heel shoes, for instance (another easily collectable garment) it’s easy to try to blame the corset for a person’s “addiction”, as opposed to acknowledging that person’s possible tendencies to collect things, or immerse themselves in fashion, or research controversial topics.

 

2014 was especially full of sensationalist headlines about tightlacers Penny Brown, Kelly Lee Dekay and Michèle Köbke. Narrators purposely chose adjectives for them like “obsessed” and “addicted” to corsets – when in reality, when you speak to these ladies themselves, they may prefer to use words like “dedicated” or “disciplined” to describe themselves. Even if someone is a lifestyle corseter, tightlacer or waist trainer, it doesn’t necessarily equate to that person going bananas after one day without their corset as a journalist may insinuate. Remember that more often than not, the media blows stories out of proportion as it’s easy clickbait.

 

Physiological Dependence on Corsets

 
It is, however, important to discuss the potential physical dependence on a corset, because it’s not impossible. If one constantly wears their corset and doesn’t make it a priority to tone their core with exercise, it is possible to experience muscle atrophy and experience a weak back or abdominal muscles. I’ve written at length about the corset’s effect on the core muscles before.

 

Ethel Granger without corset bare waist
Ethel Granger, who laced to just 13 inches in her corset over several decades, experienced weakness in her core but as shown here was still able stand without her corset.
Although core muscle weakness can lead to physical dependence on the corset, it’s my belief that in the vast majority of cases, this dependence is not permanent (as long as the affected person has the desire to do something about it). I have never found a medically documented case of someone taking off their corset and suddenly flopping over, snapping in half or breaking their spine from a lack of support.
Even Ethel Granger, who wore her corset for some 50 years and laced to 13 inches, was still able to support herself without the corset for short periods of time.
Cathie Jung, who currently laces to 15 inches, has also said that she removes the corset for bathing, although allegedly becomes a little lightheaded without the corset. News segments on Michèle Köbke have claimed that she was unable stand up without their corset, however there is evidence of Michèle standing up without a corset in the video footage, contradicting the information given. Michele explained that she did lose some strength in her torso and became winded when changing her corsets, but she could still stand up unassisted. Michèle has since stopped wearing corsets, and a newer video filmed nearly a year after the first shows that she has gained more strength in her torso and her waist measurement has now expanded to approximately 25 inches, similar to her starting waist measurement before corseting.
 

“You can’t stop wearing corsets…”

… otherwise you will lose your waist training progress and your waist may begin to expand again. This is a much more sensible interpretation of the statement.
  • If you get braces to change the position of your teeth: you can’t stop wearing your retainer, otherwise your teeth may shift slightly back to the way they were before.
  • If you build yourself up for a body building competition: after that competition is over you can’t stop lifting weights completely, otherwise your muscles will eventually shrink/ waste away, you’ll get soft, and you’ll lose your progress.
  • If you put yourself on a diet to lose weight: once you reach your goal, you can’t stop eating healthily and start eating all the junk food you want, otherwise you’ll gain weight again.
  • If you train your waist smaller with corsets: if you stop wearing your corset cold turkey once you reach your goal, your waist is likely to expand. Certainly, many waist trainers see a change in their natural, uncorseted waist over time; but a certain level of maintenance is required to keep any results you get.
 

Even if you train your ribcage to be more tapered, if you get pregnant, the baby can push out your ribcage again. This is why it’s said that corset training is “semi permanent” – but that is the topic of another article.

Read more about dependence on corsets on Contour Corsets, and also Staylace.

What do you think about corset dependency? Have you experienced a psychological, emotional or physical dependence on your own corset, to positive or negative results? Leave a comment.
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Burleska Steel Boned Longline Corset Review

This post is a summary of the “‘Burleska Steel Boned Longline Corset Review” video, which you can watch on Youtube:

Fit, length Center front is 13 inches long, the side seam is 9.5 inches long. (Your torso should be about 10.5 inches long from underbust to lap). Center back is 12.5 inches long. Circumferential measurements: waist is size 24 (24 inches), the underbust is 30 inches (6 inch rib spring), and the low hip is about 35-36 inches (11-12 inch hip spring at the lap level).
Material Two main layers: fashion fabric is brown polyester king brocade, and lining is black cotton twill.
Construction 6 panel pattern, constructed using the sandwich method. The panels are stitched with a lock-stitch, and the corset is double-boned on the seams (bones sandwiched between the layers).
Binding Bias strips of matching poly brocade. Top-stitched on both outside (tiny topstitch) and inside (overlock finish, not folded under). Includes 6 garter tabs at the bottom.
Waist tape 1/2″ wide tape in between the layers, stitched from the 2nd panel to the 5th panel.
Modesty panel Modesty panel is nearly 7″ wide and finished in matching brown brocade. Unstiffened and stitched to the corset on one side (easily removable). No modesty placket in the front by the busk.
Busk 11 inches long with 5 loops and pins, equidistantly spaced. Standard flexible busk (1/2″ wide) and supported by two more flat steels on each side.
Boning 26 total bones not including busk (13 on each side). 1/4″ wide spirals, double boned on the seams. Two 1/4″ wide flats sandwich the grommets on each side.
Grommets 26 grommets total, size #0 (or possibly size 1 – it’s a big internal diameter) with a small flange and finished in dark silver. Set equidistantly, a little more than 1 inch apart. Holding in fairly well (the washers on the underside are wider than the top part of the grommets).
Laces Brown braided round cord. Slightly springy, and shreds when it catches on the split grommets, but difficult to snap. The cord felt a bit “waxy” to the touch but it held the bow just fine when I laced up my corset.
Price This corset is £65 on Burleska’s website.

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Victorian double steel boned underbust corset in brown king brocade, as it's displayed on Burleska's site. Click through for more info.
Victorian double steel boned underbust corset in brown king brocade, as it’s displayed on Burleska’s site. Click through for more info.

This is the third corset I’ve reviewed from Burleska, and I can tell that their quality is slowly improving over time – this corset is indeed steel boned, made with higher quality materials, and is made from a curvier and more comfortable pattern compared to the two fashion corsets I had reviewed from the same company in previous years (2012 and 2014).

This particular corset style (longline, moderate hourglass) is very popular nowadays; the pattern is reminiscent to the Josephine by Isabella Corsetry (made in California) and the CS-426 from Orchard Corset (made in Pakistan), as well as several other corset brands. It’s interesting to see how each company puts their own unique spin on the same or similar corset patterns; for instance the king brocade fashion fabric options in Burleska’s case, a slightly shorter busk, different grommets, and a very slightly different construction method. I believe Burleska corsets are made in Nepal, if I’m not mistaken, so all three corsets have different manufacturers.