This week is part “story time”, part “Physical Effects of Corseting”, and hopefully an opportunity for others to learn from my early mistakes.
In early 2010 I purchased my first custom corset, which also happened to be a front-lacing corset – but these days, I would not recommend a front-lacing corset for higher reductions (tightlacing more than 6 inches) or daily waist training, and this post will explain why.
Why I chose a front-lacing corset for waist training in the first place:
In 2010 I was still in school which required copious time sitting in class, and I figured that if a corset has no laces in the back, then there wouldn’t be an annoying lump in the back when I’m resting against a hard plastic flat-backed chair.
I also figured that if I were to wear a corset in my sleep, a front-lacing corset might be more comfortable to sleep in since there wouldn’t be a knot at my back. I could fall asleep comfortably on my back, and if I ever needed to tighten or loosen the laces throughout the night, I could continue lying down on my back and easily reach in front of me to loosen the laces a bit – this (I figured) would disrupt my sleep less, as I wouldn’t have to sit up or get out of bed to adjust laces behind me.
Even though I was able to lace a back-lacing corset pretty well (since I had ‘normal’ back-lacing OTR corsets and homemade corsets for several years already), I had to admit that it was a pretty attractive idea at the time to not have to twist my neck to see what I’m doing in the mirror, and not have to twist my arms behind my back to lace up my corset every morning: a front lacing corset felt very intuitive; I didn’t even have to open my eyes to just tighten my corset in the morning and start my day.
I was also dealing with anxiety back in 2010 for several reasons (performing well in school, living so far away from family, dealing with a difficult relationship, etc.) and I figured if I ever had a sudden panic attack or began to feel claustrophobic, it would be easier and faster to cut myself out of a front-lacing corset. I also worked in a microbiology lab at the time so I was constantly around open flames and caustic reagents – and even though many lab coats have a fire-resistant coating, I figured that if there were ever a fire or if I ever spilled something on myself and needed to disrobe quickly, then – again – cutting the laces from the front would be faster and easier.
Admittedly, I was also attracted to the novelty / rarity of a front-lacing corset: I had seldom seen anyone else commissioning one – and I wondered why, because it seemed like the greatest idea at the time.
As it turned out, I was just reinventing the wheel – if front-lacing corsets were so functional and comfortable for everyone, they would have caught on long ago and survived through the centuries. It was after around 6 months of consistently training with this corset that I realized that a front-lacing corset is not as practical as I had hoped.
At first I blamed myself and my body… “Why had my waist training progress halted? Why am I experiencing discomfort when I feel that I was going about my training in a responsible way, and I had a made-to-measure corset? What was I doing wrong? Is my body just not made for corseting?”
It was only when I decided to stop training for a short time, let my body rest, and then start my training anew with a new custom fit corset with back lacing, that I realized that the issue was with the tool I was using, rather than my waist training technique per se.
Why I Don’t Recommend Front-Lacing Corsets for Tightlacing or Waist Training:
This post is not to bash the maker of my first custom corset – they were an engineer who made corsets in their spare time, and they discontinued shortly after my commission. My inexperience in ordering custom corsets combined with their inexperience with waist training at high reductions. The corset construction was strong and durable, and it gave a beautiful silhouette – however, although it matched my measurements, it did not fit my body for several reasons which could not be predicted by the numbers alone. This is one distinction between a made-to-measure corset and a truly custom corset that includes a mockup fitting.
If I remember correctly, my front-lacing corset was spiral boned all the way around the corset (with exception to the center front by the laces). This means it also included fine spirals in the center back – which I thought I would love for the flexibility, but the corset ended up being slightly too curved in the back for me. It was trying to create curve where my spine normally is, so I felt a band of pressure on the vertebra that was directly under the waistline of the corset – this led to a bit of lumbar pain when I laced down too much, and (where many corsets have the opposite problem of being too straight in the back) the front-lacing corset created an unnatural swayback in my posture while I was wearing it. The profile view in the corset was lovely, but it was not comfortable or healthy for me.
Also, this corset was conical in silhouette as I was interested in training my floating ribs at the time. instead of placing pressure in the front “tips” of my floating ribs, my front-lacing corset placed more pressure on the back of my ribs – imagine trying to close a door by pushing on it close to the hinge instead of near the doorknob. The torque just didn’t feel right. It felt like too much force with little efficacy, resulting in “hot spots”. (Now, if your body is a little larger and your corset affects mostly the adipose over your abdomen and doesn’t affect the placement of you ribs, you might not notice the difference in how the pressure is placed, but at the time I personally felt the pressure on my ribs).
The curve in the back and the pressure on my ribs could possibly have been eliminated if the pattern were improved and the construction slightly changed – perhaps taking out some of the curve at the back seam, installing flat steels instead of spirals, and making the ribs more rounded – but at the moment, this is not something I’m keen to experiment with – because there are other issues with front-lacing corsets, which I’ll continue below.
I also felt that more pressure was placed on my retroperitoneal cavity and kind of pushed my flesh forward, which is not a great idea. One big reason why traditional back lacing corsets work (and this is explained in further detail in my Corsets and Organs article) is because the majority of the pressure is on the peritoneal cavity which primarily consists of hollow organs, like the stomach and intestines. These are not solid organs (although they contain food, waste and air) and they are designed to move. They can also compress and flatten out of the way, like during yoga or pregnancy. As long as you have soft stools and good peristalsis, and as long as you take your time lacing down slowly, digestion and elimination should not normally be adversely affected.
But my front-lacing corset didn’t put pressure on the front (peritoneal) cavity – instead, it placed a lot of pressure on the back, where solid organs like the kidneys are location, and it made my tummy pooch out in turn. (You can see in my self lacing video, my abdomen was bulging a bit.)
One thing that would have made my front-lacing corset better would be if it included a modesty panel to support my abdomen where the lacing gap left no support. Alas, my corset didn’t come with one. Back in 2010, at the time I thought I would be okay because the bones sandwiching the grommets were flat steel – but I quickly learned that I needed more support, especially I was dealing with large waist reductions (my natural waist was around 28 inches and my corset was a size 20, worn with about a 1.5 inch gap in the front). I ended up having to make a separate boned modesty panel myself to help support my abdomen, avoid bulging and keep it flat.
Another reason why a front-lacing corset is not the best for me: as it turns out, I prefer to sleep on my stomach! I always start out falling asleep on my back, but more often than not I wake up on my front. However, having a big knot / bow in the front is uncomfortable to lie on (rather than “princess and the pea”, it was more like a mess of laces which felt more like the size of a tennis ball on my abdomen when I laid flat on it).
Under What Circumstances Would I Recommend a Front-Lacing Corset?
- If it’s a waist training corset that you’ll be wearing for long periods of time, I think a back lacing corset would be more appropriate – it provides the proper support and compression from the front of the body and not the back. I would not recommend a front-lacing corset here.
- Same if you’re tightlacing, or lacing down 6, 7, 8 or more inches – it will likely be more comfortable if you have a back lacing corset, not a front-lacing one.
- If you’re using a light reduction corset, say not more than 2-4 inches of waist reduction, for medical purposes or posture support, a front-lacing corset might be okay.
- If you have an abdominal hernia, especially an umbilical hernia, I would never recommend having a front-lacing corset.
- If you have mobility issues in your shoulders or strength issues and you are unable to lace up a corset in the back, then front-lacing is a reasonable option for light reductions (as mentioned before) but also, a fan-lacing corset might be an option for you.
If you’re making your own corset and you just have no access or funds for a front busk – try a metal zip, or closed front corset, or a corset that is laced in both front AND back.
A corset that is laced in both front AND back is better because you’re able pull in the front by two inches, then pull in the back by two inches, and keep alternating so that you’re bringing in both sides of the corset laterally (placing pressure pretty evenly on either side of the body), without creating any weird torque at the back of the body. Just remember that if the front of your corset has a lacing gap, it’s best to have a stiffened or boned modesty panel to support the abdomen.
Later on, I plan to make a video on fan-laced corsets, what they’re good for (and what they’re not good for), and pehraps a tutorial on how to convert a regular laced OTR corset into a fan lacing corset, if I have the time.
I’m also talking with a friend on making a collab video with helpful info on how to put on and take off a corset, whether you use a wheelchair or have issues with strength or mobility. This is still in the early planning stages, but I hope to share more with you later.
Again – hopefully my loss is your gain, and you can learn from my mistakes so you have a more comfortable corseting experience. Let me know in a comment whether you’d like to see those upcoming videos, and leave a question below if I’ve forgotten anything or if you’d like to know more about any other details of my front-lacing corset.