Hey everyone! I’m creating this in the middle of a heat wave, it’s a humidex of 40°C here or (~105°F) and I realized that I hadn’t really made a video solely dedicated on preventing overheating while waist training. (Despite my Caribbean heritage, I’m actually a bit heat intolerant so I have to be extra careful not to get heat exhaustion, so I have plenty of experience with trying to stay cool in the summer.)
When you’re wearing a corset, you have several extra layers of fabric around your core, holding heat in — so it’s all the more important to stay cool and hydrated.
Every once in awhile I will hear or read of another corset wearer who fainted at a nightclub / convention / Renfaire, and oftentimes it can be explained by dehydration and overheating, low blood sugar, or exhaustion. However, the Victorians’ weird preoccupation with swooning ladies did not help with the rumors around the alleged dangers of corsets (read more about the Victorian swooning culture here, because it was definitely a learned behavior and not necessarily due to the corset itself).
I will make another video in the future on tips for wearing corsets as part of your cosplay, but for now, let’s jump into my 3 tips for keeping cool in general, whether you’re wearing your corset over or under your clothes:
1: Invest in a mesh or ventilated corset
Choose a corset that’s thinner or more breathable. Mesh corsets are the first and obvious choice that comes to mind, but they have their pros and cons. I have a whole other post dedicated to comparing mesh corsets here. Mesh corsets are more thin and breezy, which allows heat and sweat to escape — but they usually don’t have the longevity of an all-cotton corset.
Victorian corsets were often made from a single layer of strong cotton, which you can do as well. Upon the resurgence of the corset’s popularity in the last ~10 years, single-layer corsets used to relatively unpopular because they seemed a bit flimsy compared to the “4-5 layer super-duper heavy-duty training corsets” that certain OTR corsets were touting as higher quality — and subsequently, this formed the misconception that fewer layers meant less strength — but it makes more sense that a single layer of good quality coutil is more breathable, and also stronger/ less resistant to stretching out compared to 3 layers of cheap elastic satin, for instance. and as the community of waist trainers has grown in recent years, including many who train throughout the year and some who live in hotter climates year-round, I think the demand for thinner and more lightweight corsets has grown.
Victorians also had mesh and ventilated corsets to help keep themselves cooler (despite the several layers overtop). Lace Embrace Atelier makes recreations of mesh and skeleton corsets, as well as corsets made from cute cotton eyelet fabric.
Narrowed Visions also has recreated 1895 ventilated corset below which looks gorgeous. (I had experimented with making my own skeleton corset, which came out hideous but it was a good learning experience that later led to my sports mesh corset.)
2: Stay hydrated.
It’s probably obvious, but it’s too important to leave out. Even if you don’t think you’re sweating under your corset — believe me, you are. Even if you’re in an air-conditioned building (and air conditioned spaces tend to have dry air), still take in water. But especially if you’re out and about, bring a water bottle and sip it every half hour at minimum, and do not down it all at once. Because if you feel dehydrated and nauseated, and then you chug a pint of water all at once, you’re probably going to feel even more sick. If you’re sweating profusely, you’re also losing salt, so put a pinch of salt or an electrolyte mix in your water bottle and sip frequently.
3: Try a Bodice Chiller!
If you have a tendency to overheat, one amazing thing that was recommended to me was a bodice cooler or bodice chiller. It’s essentially a metal vial that you put in the freezer in advance and stick it in your cleavage or down the front of your corset to keep you cool. This works better with overbust corsets than underbust, because most overbusts leave you a bit of space between the breasts and at the sternum, whereas underbusts tend to fit more flush around the ribs.
Now, these are surprisingly difficult to find. Sometimes they are sold at Renfaires, they can be made from metal or glass — I’d personally be afraid of putting glass that close to my solar plexus (but if it’s designed to go from hot to cold frequently, then most likely it will be tempered glass that’s resistant to shattering). I’ve found one on Etsy here made from stainless steel — it’s available in several different colors and designs, and best of all it’s $20 USD which is much less than you’ll find at most Renaissance Faires.
If you can’t find a bodice chiller nearby, you could also get one of those long stainless steel chillers designed for beer or wine. I have actually not bought a bodice chiller yet, but what I have done is take small freezies or ice pops, wrap it in a paper towel so the plastic doesn’t risk cutting me (and the paper towel also catches condensation and prevents frostnip), and the best part is that they’re easy to find and only cost ~20 cents each. Since they’re sealed, you can pop them back in the freezer when you’re done — but let’s be honest, I usually end up eating them.
What did the Victorians do to keep cool?
While Victorians didn’t have air conditioning (currently my best friend), they did have ventilated, mesh, or skeleton corsets as mentioned above — other ways that Victorians kept cool was by using fans and carrying parasols to shade themselves from the sun. There are patents dating back to the 1800s showing that they even had ceiling fans in some areas, although they worked using a spring and crank, and were usually operated by slaves / servants (another reason why we can feel better about modern air conditioning). Lastly, Victorian women also had summer dresses made from lightweight cotton and linen, which despite wearing multiple layers can sometimes still be cooler than modern synthetic fabrics.
Ready to buy a mesh or a lightweight summer corset? Hey, I’ve got them corsets in my shop! Support this blog and stay cool this summer at the same time.