Introducing Corset Database + Giveaway!!

For many years I have been categorizing and organizing all my corset research in many different locations on this blog (location in the Corsetiere Map, price on the Brands by Budget page, corset dimensions and measurements in the Lace Base, etc.)

Finally after months of work, I have finally consolidated this information in the new Corset Database!

Click to see the new database!

See the video below on how to use the database to its fullest potential, define your perfect corset, and add your input! At the end of the video I show you how to enter the launch contest, where you have the opportunity to win ANY corset, of ANY brand in the database, valued at $150 USD or less!

 

 

Contest closes on March 15, 2017 at 23:59 EST. The winner will be chosen on March 16th.

Good luck, and thanks to my many readers and subscribers for making the Corset Database a reality!

How to Talk to your Doctor about Corsets

Lucy, I have discovered that corsets help greatly with my medical condition – but I’m hesitant to tell my doctor. How should I approach my physician with this information, and how can I convince my insurance provider to cover the cost of a therapeutic corset?

I’ve been receiving this question more frequently ever since my book Solaced was published, since the book covers many people’s true first-hand experiences of how they use their corsets not for vanity, but rather for medical purposes – like back support, pain relief, and anxiety reduction.

I’m not a doctor – I don’t have a medical license so I can’t give out medical advice. The book doesn’t violate this point, but of course, in the book and here on my site as well, I provide disclaimers that if you intend to wear corsets, it’s best to check with your doctor. Up until today however, I haven’t covered in detail how exactly I went about telling my own doctor (and chiropractor).

I understand that many people are shy or apprehensive about bringing it up with their doctor, but I must stress that it’s best for you to be open with your doctor about it, for better or for worse. Asking me for my opinion on whether you should or should not wear corsets is not that useful, because I have never met you – but if you have a family physician, they’re familiar with your long-term medical history. And just like your pharmacist would be able to tell you not to combine two different medications, your doctor might notice something in your medical history that might be incompatible with corseting (e.g. high blood pressure, inguinal hernia, gall stones).

 

Medical Professionals are People Too


Coming from a science background, I have several friends who have gone on to become doctors and nurses. Subsequently, I get to hear a lot of stories about their more interesting shifts, and believe me when I say that they’ve seen some pretty disgusting things. I honestly don’t think you mentioning that you wear corsets is going to particularly shock or faze them. In fact, there’s a surprising number of nurses who use corsets at work, to help support their backs while lifting patients. See the news segment below which features a nurse that wears a custom Starkers corset under her scrubs.

(All this said, if you work in an environment where there are potentially emergency situations where you need to spring into action, you will need to weigh the pros and cons yourself as to whether the corset would help with your strength vs hinder your mobility).

Remember that a (good) doctor’s office is a judgement-free zone. No matter what you show them, they’ve probably seen much worse. Smoking tobacco is almost universally seen as bad for your health, but you wouldn’t hide your smoking habit from your doctor. If you caught an STI, you would show your doctor. I don’t believe that corsets are as detrimental as cigarettes or STIs, even if they are considered by society as more controversial (that’s a post for another day) – but the point is that you should never be ashamed or afraid of bringing up anything with your doctor.

Also remember that all doctors are different, and different doctors may be more or less familiar with corsets depending on their location, their age, and what kinds of ‘side stories’ they learned from their professors in med school. A doctor from California has likely encountered patients wearing corsets more often than a doctor from Ohio. An elderly doctor who has childhood memories of their mother wearing corsets may have a different opinion about corsets than a younger doctor might, whose only exposure to corsets has been the sensationalistic social media posts on tightlacing.

 

How did I bring up the fact that I wear corsets with my doctor?


When I brought it up with my family doctor, and also my chiropractor, I did it as clearly and directly as possible. The first time I mentioned corsets to my family doctor, she seemed bored and was wondering why I was bringing it up in the first place. When you mention a corset to someone who’s unfamiliar, they might be thinking of flimsy lace bustiers, or perhaps latex or neoprene cinchers. (One person thought I was talking about floral corsages!) So the next time I had an appointment with my doctor, I brought one of my corsets in.

I showed them “THIS is exactly what I’m talking about, THIS is how it works. It has breathable material, it can be adjusted with laces, it has flexible steels, it’s rigid in these places, it presses on these areas of my body, it gives me this posture, etc.” That way, there was no miscommunication.

This isn’t my xray, but it looked very similar to this. Normally my neck is slightly lordotic (normal) but in this particular corset, my posture completely changed. Photo: e-Health Hall.

My chiropractor saw me lace into my corset, and took X-rays of my posture with and without my corsets. From that experience I learned that although I love the look of Edwardian inspired, flat-front longline corsets, they’re not the best for my posture and can lead to neck and shoulder strain over time. Longline, flat front corsets overcorrect my posture and give me an anterior (forward) tilting pelvis. This gives an exaggerated lumbar lordosis – not quite as dramatic as that associated with S-bend corsets, but it changed my posture all the same. This posture encouraged me to throw my shoulders back to counterbalance, and my head ended up popping forward too much, giving my neck a kyphotic curve. The hip bone’s connected to the… neck bone! (Abbreviated version of the song.) So, we learned that if I want to avoid neck and shoulder strain, I would need a corset that doesn’t tilt my pelvis and supports a more neutral posture.

 

In Sum:


If you have a G.P., a chiropractor, or some other health practitioner that you know and trust, I think it is in your best interest to tell them about your corseting for any reason – but especially if you are using it for therapeutic applications. Doctors need as much detail as possible to fully understand the situation help you the best they can, so the best way to approach your doctor is a directly and clearly as possible. They might be able to make suggestions about the way you’re wearing your corset to maximize comfort and minimize risks. For instance the tightness, or the duration, etc. (Or in my case, the type of corset to help improve but not overcorrect my posture).

Regarding convincing your insurance provider to cover the costs of a corset, unfortunately that is not my area of expertise. You will likely need a written note from your doctor in order to move forward, even a prescription for a custom corset (preferably one made by a corsetiere with some experience in orthopedics or medical devices). Your doctor may be able to give you more instruction on what to do next, and if the corsetiere is experienced in working with insurance companies already, they may be able to provide advice as well.

 

Have you told your doctor about your corsets? How did you tell them, and how did they respond? Leave a comment below!

Reflecting on 2016, Looking to 2017

Every year I write a personal post about the accomplishments and challenges of the year, and what I look forward to next year. You’re welcome to read the reflections from 20152014, 2013, and 2012.

This year I felt much less productive than usual; nevertheless, I did manage to accomplish more than half of my goals:

February 2016


The old Lucy’s Corsetry site (courtesy of The Wayback Machine)

My redesigned website was launched in late February, creating a cleaner, less cluttered and more streamlined experience. Additionally, my Corset shop has become easier to navigate and more products added, including the Gemini corsets (see below!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2016


Click here to purchase Solaced (the official Corset Benefits book)

Solaced: 101 Uplifting Narratives About Corsets, Well-Being, and Hope  – my first kindle book was published on Amazon. This was a labor of love; I personally invested over $6000 into this project and poured over nearly 2000 contributor’s stories, narrowing them down to the main 100 stories (plus my own). This has been a huge joint effort and I’m so grateful to everyone who helped make this book a reality! In the future, there may be a sister compilation focused exclusively on how corset makers stumbled upon this industry, and why they decided to dedicate their livelihoods to the craft.

Also in May, I joyfully witnessed my high school best friend get married! Unexpectedly, I also stumbled upon love that day. After 10 years of hearing zany stories about the bride’s crew from undergrad, one of them eventually gathered the courage to ask me out. (The bride was pleased!) (And so was I!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2016


NEW: GEMINI Corsets!

Through late September and well into October, I unfortunately suffered a bad flare-up in my neck (likely related to my car accident two years prior) which left me in excruciating pain. I spent much of this time lying flat on my back on the floor with no pillow, as it was the only way I could relieve the pain. This put a damper on my productivity as I was hoping to catch up on old blog posts and Youtube videos during this time.

Despite the setback, October saw the release of the Timeless Trends Gemini corsets! This was my exclusive line that I’ve been slowly working on since June 2015 on my Thailand trip. For the first run we decided on two neutral colors and natural fibers: the black cashmere and the creme cotton. In 2017, we plan to introduce the Gemini in more colorways and fabrics.

Also in late October, I did away with my office chair and invested in a treadmill desk (I will be making a video about this very soon!). Despite my doubts, I have seen a huge change in my body in a short amount of time thanks to walking slowly 4-6 hours a day. I lost 25 lbs in two months (combining my walking with a sensible nutrition plan – treating myself as my own nutrition client), my sciatica and the crepitus in my knees are almost completely resolved, I’m more awake and alert throughout the day, my back has strengthened and my shoulders are less tense, and my Winter Blues has been much, much better than it has been in previous years. Although it was a huge investment, it’s been one of the wisest things I’ve done for my health and well-being – ever.

 

November 2016


Selfie on my graduation day. Dress is the Monica by PUG.

After handing in my final project and completing my board exams at the end of August, a very exhausted/burnt-out/happy Lucy finally walked the stage, graduating as a registered nutritionist at the top of my class with an average of 94%. I’m currently working to relaunch my vlog channel for those who are looking to supplement their waist training regime with a personalized nutrition plan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plans for 2017


Solaced in Paperback – While I was hoping that this would have been done before Christmas, unfortunately plans fell through with both the person I was working with for the internal layout, and also with the photographers I was consulting with. The perfectionist in me may never be satisfied with the final version of the paperback, but I know that so many people are waiting – so this will be a priority over the next coming months.

New Ebook Coming – Consultations have been on indefinite hiatus through 2016, as I’m currently working on an Ebook that answers 90% of questions covered in my previous consultations. This buyer’s guide and beginner’s manual means to empower the reader to navigate through the industry and find the corsetiere that perfectly matches their aesthetic, their physiological needs and their training goals. I’m updating and adding information that I’ve never included in videos or blog posts before, such as identifying higher quality corsets from the knockoffs, as well as scoring awesome designer corsets second-hand. When this Ebook is completed (I’m looking to launch in late spring/ early summer again), consultations may resume, but in a different format.

More Corset Designs – After the success of the Gemini line, Timeless Trends has invited me to create more designs with them over 2017. This is very exciting! I already have ideas for at least 5 more corsets that cater to “neglected body types”. My hope is to have at least 2-3 of these cuts released in 2-17. Previously, the hourglass and Gemini corsets were developed and graded all by hand. This year I’m starting off on the right foot by upgrading my skills and taking some CAD courses so I can easily draft and grade corset patterns digitally.

More Videos – in 2015 and 2016, I had the goal to create at least 60 Youtube videos. I achieved that in 2015, but unfortunately with finishing school, publishing a book, and creating a new corset line, my videos fell by the wayside and I only made 26 videos on my corset channel, plus 2 on my vlog channel. However, this coming year my goal is to consistently upload 1 video per week (52 videos) across my two channels. If I happen to make more than this, I’ll consider it a bonus! I have more Physical Effects of Corseting videos planned, as well as reviews of couture corsets made from independent corsetieres, as well as some sewing and repair videos planned for this year. Making Youtube videos was my passion, and I’m excited to get back into filming!

Nutrition Business – I’m keeping this a secret for now, but just know that it’s coming. 😉

Here’s to a great 2017, everyone!
Do you have any resolutions, dreams, or business goals for the coming year? Let me know in a comment below!

Timeless Trends Hourglass Longline Corset Review

Full disclosure: The hourglass longline corset featured in this review is one of the four new designs I helped create for Timeless Trends in 2015, along with the hourglass standard corsets, hourglass cinchers, and the newest Gemini corset.

This entry is a summary of the video “Timeless Trends Hourglass Longline (Comparison/ Overview)” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length This style is standard sized 24″: Center front is about 13 inches high, from underbust to lap is 11 inches, and the center back is 13.5 inches. Waist in this corset is 24″, ribcage is 30.5″ (6.5 inch rib spring), upper hip is 31″ (7 inch high hip spring), and lower hip is 36″ (12 inch low hip spring), with the hip ties closed. (You can expand the hips for more room.)
Material Three layers of fabric. The fashion fabric is emerald brocade laminated to cotton twill, and it’s lined in black cotton twill as well.
Construction 6 panel pattern, constructed using the sandwich method. The roundness of the ribs can be found primarily in pattern pieces 2, 3 and 4, while the curve over the hips and bum are in panels 3, 4 and 5.
Binding Matching green satin bias binding, machine-stitched on both sides. Also has 6 garter tabs (the slim silhouette corsets only have 4 garter tabs).
Waist tape 1 inch wide invisible waist tap, sandwiched between the panels. Full waist tape, from center front to center back.
Modesty panel Modesty panels are not included in with the corsets, because unstiffened panels are somewhat unpopular amongst many customers. However, stiffened, boned modesty panels are now available for separate purchase, and can be suspended on the laces.
All hourglass corsets have front modesty plackets in matching fashion fabric.
Busk 21 inches long. 6 loops + pins, equidistantly spaced. It is a standard flexible busk, but it is reinforced with flat steels on either side of the busk.
Boning 26 bones total, not including busk. On each side, there are ten 1/4″ wide spirals, two flat steels by the grommets, and one flat steel by the busk.
Grommets 28 two-part grommets, size #0, with a small to medium flange. Finished in dark silver and equidistantly spaced. Big washers, most grommets rolled nicely. There are some splits, but they don’t catch much on the laces.
Laces Single face satin ribbon in matching green, 1/2″ wide. It’s relatively long and has no stretch, but single face satin is not quite as strong as double-face satin. I often add free shoelace for those who purchase longline corsets ($6 value) for customers who prefer it.
Price This particular style is $119 USD; other fabrics like leather or styles with swinghooks may be slightly more.
emerald-long-hourglass-corset

The emerald hourglass longline corset as it appears in the product image.

The ribcage is more rounded compared to the more conical “slim” longline corset. The hips are also more cupped as well, and provide for ample adjustment. We specifically chose to draft this corset with the upper hips nearly the same size as the rounded ribcage, so it can fit both men and women. Even if you have square-shaped hips where your upper hip is the same size (or larger) than your lower hips, you can open up the top part of the hip ties and tighten the lower part of the hip ties to have it fit just to your body.

The corset was also designed to curve around a broader ribcage, and accommodate some lumbar curve for a more comfortable fit.

Comparing the length of other longline corset brands to this one: the Timeless Trends longline has the most distribution from the waist up (suitable for those with a low waist); Orchard Corset’s CS-426 is more equally balanced in the length distribution from the waist up vs waist down, and Mystic City’s corsets tend to be drafted more for those with a high waist, as much of the length is distributed from the waist down.

If you’d like to learn more about the hourglass longline corset, I’m incredibly proud to say that they are available here in my shop.

Interview and Chat with Sidney Eileen

Some may remember back in early 2013, I launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for Sidney Eileen to be properly diagnosed and treated for a 6-year-long anaplasma phagocytophilum infection (what we originally thought was Lyme disease) which left Sidney disabled, unable to walk long distances, unable to continue her artwork due to weakness and tremors in her hands, and suffering from seizures due to inflammation of the brain.

2 years later, in August of 2015, I finally had the opportunity to meet Sidney for the first time and we caught up on how she’s feeling after the treatment and the daily realities of chronic illness – we also talked about her contribution to the corset making community and her hopes for the future.

1:05 How are you feeling now that you’ve completed the antibiotic treatment for your anaplasma infection?

1:40 Are your symptoms expected to completely disappear, or are you looking at some permanent damage from your chronic infection?

2:15 How did you become interested in making corsets in the first place?

4:10 What is the value in being self-taught and having a community of other corsetieres to share different techniques with?

5:10 What about corset making do you specifically enjoy?

5:55 What is your favorite step of the corset making process?

6:10 What is your least favorite step about corset making?

7:30 What drew you towards teaching art and corset making, as opposed to only making corsets or taking commissions?

9:15 What are your future aspirations, now that you have a fresh start?

11:15 For other people who are just getting started with making corsets (or any other type of art), what words of encouragement would you offer to them?

You can find Sidney Eileen’s artwork and free corset tutorials on her website, sidneyeileen.com

Photo from the North American Lingerie and Corsetry Symposium in California, 2015. From left to right: Me (Lucy), Zessinna, Amber (Lovely Rats Corsetry), and Sidney Eileen.

Photo from the North American Lingerie and Corsetry Symposium in California, 2015. From left to right: Me (Lucy), Zessinna, Amber (Lovely Rats Corsetry), and Sidney Eileen.

Interview with Amber Welch, Lovely Rats Corsetry

Following my trip to Thailand in 2015 to design the hourglass silhouette corsets with Timeless Trends, I spent three weeks in Texas. One of those weeks was in Austin, creating some informational videos for Timeless Trends, and the other two weeks were spent in Dallas where I stayed with Amber of Lovely Rats Corsetry. Together we compared corset styles, patterns and construction techniques, we made a corset together using a custom pattern from the late Christine Wickham of Ariadne’s Thread, and she introduced me to Steven Universe (a show that changed my life).

In this interview, you’ll find Amber’s answers to the following. Feel free to skip ahead in the video to hear the answers that interest you most!

 

0:30 How did you first become interested in making corsets?

0:50 What was your first corset like and how far have you come since then?

1:15 How did you come up with the name Lovely Rats, and how does this relate to corsetry?

1:50 What has your favorite project been so far?

2:10 Who would you like to dress in the future, or what would you consider a dream project?

2:25 Tell us more about your personal aesthetic and how you’ve branded yourself.

3:01 What other brands or designers do you look up to?

3:35 What is your favorite step in the corset construction process?

4:15 What is your least favorite part about making corsets?

4:30 What are your dreams and aspirations for Lovely Rats?

4:55 What do you do when you’re not making corsets?

5:25 If you weren’t making corsets, what do you think you’d be doing?

5:45 If you had any advice for people who follow you or want to make a corset, what kind of encouragement would you give them?

Visit Amber’s Etsy Shop, or her website here!

What questions would you ask Amber if given the chance? Leave a comment below and she might answer you!

Mystic City MCC64 Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the video “Mystic City MCC64 Corset (Mesh Longline Underbust) Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length This style is standard sized 24″: Center front is about 12 inches high, from underbust to lap is 10 inches, and the center back is 13.5 inches (but this is sweetheart shaped). Waist in this corset is 24″, ribcage is 32″ (8 inch rib spring), upper hip is 36″ (12 inch high hip spring), and lower hip is 40″ (16 inch low hip spring). This is a pear-shaped, longline corset.
Material The solid cotton parts are two layers of black twill (the fashion layer is a finer weave of twill, while the lining is a coarser bull-denim). The mesh panels are made with a cotton type of fishnet, which is available in a variety of colors. (Read more below for more info on the mesh.)
Construction 6 panel pattern, probably assembled using welt-seam method for the twill panels, and the twill boning channels sandwich the single-layer mesh panels.
Binding Commercial black satin stretch bias binding, which combined with the mesh panels provide a bit of give or ease. 4 garter tabs, 2 on each side.
Waist tape 1 inch wide invisible waist tape, exposed on the inside of the mesh panels, but sandwiched in the twill panels. Full waist tape, from center front to center back.
Modesty panel Stiffened (boned) black twill modesty panel, suspended on the laces. Modesty placket under the busk, which is also boned.
Busk 11 inches long. 5 loops + pins, equidistantly spaced. It is a standard flexible busk, but it is reinforced with flat steels on either side of the busk (plus the boned modesty placket).
Boning 27 bones total. On each side, there are ten 1/4″ wide spirals, two flat steels by the grommets, and one flat steel by the busk. The last remaining bone is in the modesty placket under the busk.
Grommets 28 two-part grommets, size #0, with wide flange. Finished in silver and equidistantly spaced. Big washers, most grommets rolled nicely. There are some splits, but they don’t catch much on the laces. There is a lot of friction lacing up but probably because of the modesty panel.
Laces The original lacing that came in this corset was a springy nylon-based shoelace, but my friend had switched out those laces with double-faced satin ribbon instead.
Price $119 USD as of 2015; the all-twill version of this (no mesh) is $89 as of 2016.

 

This sample was in a larger size than I usually take; I would have fit the size 22″ in this corset because it’s so curvy, but I had borrowed this particular corset from a friend when I was visiting the US in 2015.

The large, rounded ribcage and generous “hip shelf” allow for ample room for those who are naturally curvy or are advanced corset-wearers capable of large waist reductions. The hip ties along the front of each hip allow for modest expansion of the bottom of the corset, in case the wearer is particularly pear-shaped and needs the extra few inches.

The sweetheart shape in the center back is a nice touch and even somewhat helps combat muffin-top. The center front has quite a long point at the bottom though, and as someone who carries most of my torso length from the waist up, I personally found this to be a touch longer than comfortable on my body.

The fishnet-type fabric used on the mesh panels is very common among mesh corsets, but they do stretch and break down over time. Since 2015, MCC has changed their mesh to a polyester based fine weave mesh instead of the fishnet, which appears to hold up a bit better.

The particular sample I received had a reinforced waist tape – I believe the original waist tape is made with cotton twill, but after some concerns of the twill waist tape eventually breaking down or tearing, it appears that MCC had gone back and installed satin ribbon underneath the twill tape to help it hold up to tension.

Visit Mystic City’s shop here to learn more about this corset and dozens of others.

Corset Liner Master Post + Comparing 5 Brands

Back in 2011 I made an introductory video on corset liners, what they are used for and what you can use as a substitute (tank top, tube top, etc). But at the time I had only experienced one brand of corset liner, and in the past few years I’ve tried a few more from different companies so I’ll be discussing the pros and cons of each today.

What is a corset liner?

A liner is a thin, stretchy, breathable garment that you wear underneath your corset which provides a barrier or buffer between your skin and the corset.

Liners do two things: they protect your skin against chafing, and they help keep the corset clean. I’ll go into more detail below.

Liners are typically made from a very stretchy fabric and designed to be smaller than your natural waist. A well-fitting corset liner, when unstretched, should be about the same waist measurement as your corset’s closed internal waist measurement, so when you’re lacing down, the liner will shrink back with the corset and remain smooth around your body.

Preventing wrinkles or folds under the corset will help keep you more comfortable and prevent pressure sores that might have otherwise occurred if you wore a bulky shirt under your corset instead.

You can purchase specific corset liners, which look like hourglass-shaped tube tops. Most corset liners are for underbust corsets – they cover only from the underbust to the upper hips.

 

Corset liners help protect your body

If you are lacing without a liner, the rigid corset may drag against your skin and pull it in uncomfortable ways, resulting in chafing and bruising. Laces can also cause rope/friction burn if the corset doesn’t have a modesty panel. Corset liners are sometimes made with a relatively slick fabric which allows the corset (and laces) to glide over the liner, reducing the risk of chafing.

A good liner can also prevent your skin from being scratched by a split or rough grommet. All proper liners will also be breathable and moisture-wicking so will help keep your skin comfortable and feeling cool and dry throughout the day.

 

Corset liners help protect your corset

White corset liner by Corset Connection, one of the liners being compared in the table below.

White corset liner by Corset Connection, one of the liners being compared in the table below.

If you’re wearing a corset on a regular basis, especially in warm weather, you’re going to sweat quite a lot. Your body also produces sebum, and trillions of bacteria and yeast cells grow all over your skin and feed of the oil and cholesterol in your sebum, kept in a careful balance to protect you from external pathogenic germs. You are also constantly sloughing off dead skin cells and losing downy little hairs from all over your body. Also, if you use skin products like lotions and perfumes, these can also transfer onto your clothing! This is why some people are understandably disgusted to learn that corsets are rarely (if ever) washed.

Corsets should not be washed regularly, for several reasons which I discuss this article.  It’s imperative that the corset be kept as clean as possible and washing be kept to a minimum.The catch 22 is that corsets can be damaged by being washed, but they can also be damaged by not being washed! The salt in our sweat and the acidic pH of the mantle of our skin can break down fibers in delicate fabrics like silk. Also, an unwashed, dark, damp corset can create a breeding ground for microbes, and affect that delicate balance of critters on our skin – making us more prone to skin infections – yuck!

But wearing a liner between your body and the corset means that the liner will take this abuse instead, and the liner can be washed regularly, saving your corset and keeping it clean and fresh.

Are you absolutely required to wear a liner under your corset? Of course not; a garment is yours to do with as you wish – but if you want your corset to last as long as possible, then it’s a great reason to start!

 

Thin stretchy shirts can be a corset liner substitute

If you don’t have access or can’t afford real corset liners, there are many products that will do as makeshift liners. Some of my favorites include thin cotton babydoll t-shirts (as they are thin, close-fitting, stretchy and breathable), seamless microfiber camisoles and tank tops in the summer, and microfiber turtlenecks in the winter. I have even heard of people wearing body stockings or leotards – just make sure you have some way of going to the bathroom in these, as you don’t want to be in a rush and discover that you have to remove your corset to do your business!

However, most shirts have their limitations: they are usually cut to suit a natural waist, and they’re unlikely to shrink down enough with a corset – the result is a few wrinkles in your shirt under the corset. This is usually not the end of the world, and many people are fine with this especially if their corset is only a moderate reduction and they’re not training 23 hours a day. In shirts that tend to wrinkle on me, I will slide my hands under the corset before tightening and try to bring the fullness of the fabric away from the sides of my waist (where there’s the most pressure) to the back, where it’s less likely to irritate.

 

Corset liner =/= Faja

Both liners and fajas are stretchy and designed to fit smooth around the body. However, they have some important differences:

A corset liner is breathable and moisture-wicking. It’s not shapewear, it’s not so strong that it’s going to pull your waist in by more than an inch or so.

A “rubber cincher” or faja is still stretchy, but it has more resistance so it may bring in the waist by a couple of inches. But the main difference is that it’s not designed to be breathable. The rubber or neoprene coating keeps you warm and encourages you to sweat. The rubber cincher makes you hot and sweaty, whereas a corset liner keeps you cool and dry – literally opposite effects!

Let’s compare the stats of all the corset liners:

The table is pretty wide, be sure to use the slider at the bottom to see all the brands.
BrandContour CorsetsChabaMeMadame SherHeavenly CorsetsCorset Connection
Price$45 USD each, or $125 for set of 3.$10 USD each$20 USD for a pair£14 GBP (~$18 USD) each$20 USD each
Type of FabricSynthetic 4-way stretch Spandex fabric (not swimsuit fabric).75% Bamboo
20% Polyamide
5% Spandex
cotton jersey (4-way stretch knit).Synthetic spandex fabric (feels like swimsuit fabric).Cotton and lycra (thinner than Madame Sher).
# of seams2 seams (I wear the corset with the seams to the front and back, and the tag on the outside).Zero seams (woven tube).2 seams (I wear it inside-out, and rotated so the seams are at the front and back).1 seam which is designed to be worn toward the back of the body, where the laces are.1 seam, and the seam is kind of lapped so it's flatter than a typical seam allowance.
Custom or StandardCustom to my measurementsStandard (sizes S, M, L)Made to match my corset sizeCustom to my measurementsStandard (size medium)
Colors availableBlack, beige, BlackNudeBlack, whiteBlack, white, ivory, nude
Length (Unstretched)14”11” (size medium), 10" (size small)10”12”10”
Circumferential measurements (Unstretched)Waist is 20", underbust is 26", hips are 32”.Size small is 20” along the entire length, size Medium is 24” along entire length.22" waist, same as my corsets - but the underbust/ hips were not to my measurements.Waist is 21", underbust is 28”, hips are 29”.Waist is 24", underbust is 27", hips are 27”.
Stretch Test190%170%150%152%155%
ProsElastic ribbon on the top and bottom helps keep it in place. You can fold your liner over the top and bottom edges of your corset, which helps protect the binding from wear, abrasion, or underboob sweat. Very slick fabric and has very little friction. Very thin and stretchy.Smooth, moisture-wicking, soft to the touch, no seams. Mostly natural fibers (good for those who are sensitive too all synthetic liners).Breathable and cool, great for those who have a skin sensitivity to synthetics. Very slick fabric and has very little friction. Very thin.Pretty stretch lace on the top and bottom edges, which is flatter/ lower profile than a thick folded sewn hem.
ConsNot quite as breathable as the cotton fabrics. Most expensive option (worth it, in my opinion).Fabric is more plush and less slick. The woven hem may leave temporary marks on the skin.When on my body, it tends to shorten a bit so it doesn't cover the full length of my corset. Cotton knits tend to wrinkle a bit more compared to some synthetic knits (like nylon jersey).Not quite as breathable as the cotton fabrics. Also it's a weird shape, and the seam creates a point at the top and the bottom that tends to extend beyond the edges of my corset.The lace has a habit of rolling over on itself - if this annoys you, go with one of the other corsets with a more sturdy hem. Also, cotton wrinkles a little more than the synthetic liners.
Award:Most stretchy, most smooth under corsets. Lucy’s personal favorite.Affordable, moisture-wicking, soft to the touch, 2nd-most stretchy. Lucy’s 2nd favorite.Least expensive, most moisture-wicking.Most slippery.Softest to the touch, most breathable.
Link:http://contourcorsets.com/liners.htmlhttp://amzn.to/2fhEl78http://www.madamesher.com/en/designs/tight-confort/1/cotton-liner/1/http://heavenlycorsets.com/shop-now/#!/Corset-Liner/p/23280799/category=5525899http://www.corsetconnection.com/corset-liner/

Have you tried a corset liner brand not mentioned here? Which brand is your favorite? Leave a comment below!

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.

Is it Possible to “Shrink your Hips” using a Corset or Girdle?

 

“I’ve been wearing a corset for a few months, and I like the way my waist looks small but I hate that it makes my hips look big! Can I use a corset over my hips and make them smaller over time?”

I’ve received this question half a dozen times over the past few years, from people who started wearing corsets but then didn’t like the way the smallness of the waist made their hips look wider. Unfortunately (or fortunately) wider-looking hips is an intrinsic property of wearing corsets: when you reduce the waist, everything else looks larger in contrast, including the size of your bust, the breadth of your shoulders and the width of your hips. This is what creates the illusion of curves!

Still, some people would like to know if it’s possible to make your hips look smaller over time. I have to say, I’ve never seen a corset per se that has specifically achieved this.

Hip Compression is ONLY Logically Feasible in the Weeks Following Childbirth


The Hip Slimmer is a hip compression belt marketed toward those who have recently given birth. Click through to Amazon.

The Hip Slimmer is a hip compression belt marketed toward those who have recently given birth. Click through to Amazon.

I have seen some more modern hip belts and compression girdles that are marketed towards people who had recently given birth (like this one and this one and this one) so they can reduce their hips that may have widened during pregnancy. This is an important note. Your “hip bones” are the outermost crest of your pelvis. During puberty, the bones of your pelvis more or less fuse together. When you’re pregnant, especially during the last month of pregnancy, your body creates the hormone relaxin which helps your ligaments and joints to relax and widen – mostly in your pelvis so the baby can pass through (but because the hormone is circulating through your entire body, some people also report their feet getting larger during their last trimester).

The amount of relaxin circulating through the body reaches its peak around labor (which makes sense). After you give birth, the amount of relaxin is supposed to taper off and leave your system – so it’s during these crucial few weeks following delivery that the hip compression belt companies will target these women with the relaxin in their system. Because the relaxin had helped to loosen their ligaments in the first place, the idea is that the relaxin will also allow the pelvis to “shrink” back together with the help of some mild compression.

But for people with nulliparous hips (people who had never given birth before), there is essentially “nothing to compress” since your ligaments are still more or less tight (as long as you don’t have a connective tissue disorder). Even people who HAD given birth but it had been 6 months or more since delivery, I’m not sure how effective hip compression would be because the relaxin is no longer circulating at higher levels.

 

There are Risks Associated with Trying to Compress Your Hips


Personally, even when I’m wearing a conventional corset (designed to reduce only the waist) I have to be careful about the way the hips of the corset are shaped, because genetically I don’t put fat on my hips (I tend to gain weight in my abdomen but not over my hip bones). When I have a corset that pushes down on my hips, the corset grinds against my iliac crest and it’s quite uncomfortable and painful. There are delicate blood vessels and nerves that run over a person’s hip bone, which are fairly superficial (close under the skin) and when I’m wearing a corset, these delicate nerves and blood vessels are easily pinched (“trapped between a rock and a hard place” – between my hip bone and the rigid corset) which can cause numbness, tingling or pain.

While there are some people who put on a generous amount of subcutaneous fat over their hipbones and they may be able to compress their hips down slightly, this is still not something I personally recommend or condone. If you do experience numbness, tingling or pain in your hips, this is a sign that your corset is not fitting you correctly. This is not normal and do not ignore this. If you continue to ignore the immediate (acute) discomfort you’re experiencing, the longer compression over the hips may cause some bruising in your hip area, and cause damage to the nerves in the area that can take weeks or months to heal, because nerves take a very long time to recover.

This is not unique to corsets; some people have experienced similar hip pain from people wearing modern clothing like skinny jeans, low-rise pants and hip-huggers.

 

Why Properly-Fitting Corsets Don’t Hurt Your Hips


The reason why a well-fitting conventional corset does NOT cause numbness or tingling in your hips/ legs/ bum is mostly due to the fact that you’re not pinching the vessels that run between your bone and the corset (two rigid spots). Your waist (apart from your spine running through) is mostly soft tissue – muscles, fat, and mostly hollow membranous organs (like intestines which can easily flatten down). The corset then “springs outward” as it passes the waistline heading towards the hips, and it does not compress the hip bones at all – instead, it is drafted to be the same size as your natural hips, so it gently hugs and supports the hips, fitting it like a glove while not pushing down on the area.

There is only one situation where I would recommend someone buy a corset with a hip measurement that is smaller than their own “hip meaurements” and that is if a person has a large, protruding lower tummy. If you take a high hip measurement and a pendulous lower tummy is in the way, then your hip will artificially measure larger than it should be. So if your corset supports your abdomen properly and pulls that lower pooch in and up, that compression over the lower tummy will likely lead to a “smaller than natural” hip measurement – but the corset will still be drafted to curve over the hips and not compress them. The corset may have a sturdy busk to pull in the front, while possibly having pre-formed steels that “kick out” the hips at the side seam. In this situation, I would highly recommend having a custom corset fitted to you by an experienced maker, or in the very least try on a corset in-store so that you can assure it fits properly before you buy it.

 

What Can You Do if you Love Corsets, but Not the Look of Wide Hips?


Redthreaded is one corsetiere who makes custom longline Titanic-era corsets. Click through to see the gallery of more Titanic-era corsets!

Redthreaded is one corsetiere who makes custom longline Titanic-era corsets. Click through to see the gallery of more Titanic-era corsets!

Because there is a risk of hip bruising, tingling, numbness or pain, I would NOT recommend deliberately buying a corset smaller than your own hips and trying to use hip compression to make your hips look more narrow.

If you don’t like the way your corset puts your hips on display and makes them look wider, there may be a couple of other solutions:

  • Easiest solution would be to buy a larger corset – a piece that is less curvy with a less dramatic “hip shelf”. Your waist will be bigger in this corset, which will make your hips would not look so big in contrast.
  • You can also experiment with different styles and silhouettes of corsets – instead of a shorter Victorian style corset, you might want to try an elongated Titanic era (19-teens) style corset that is designed to make the body look long and svelte.

 

Do you have any other suggestions for those who want to make their hips look slimmer? Leave a comment below!

Dimples of Venus: A Helpful Gauge for Corsets!

Below is a transcription of the video above – please refer to the video for all visual guides. 🙂

Today we’re going to talk about the dimples of Venus.
Girls can have them, guys can have them, older people can have them, babies can have them. But what are they, and how do they relate to corsets?

The official name for “Venus dimples” is actually “lateral lumbar indentations“.
Indentations = dimples,
Lumbar = lower spine,
Lateral = to the side.

The indentation is caused by ligaments pulling under the skin in that area, and it marks the sacroiliac joint – the place where your sacrum, or tailbone area, meets up with the ilium, or what I call the “wings” of your pelvis. (Because if you squint your eyes, the pelvis vaguely resembles the shape of a butterfly.)

When I was younger, someone told me that the wider a woman’s dimples, the more fertile she’s said to be. (Which isn’t exactly true – although during pregnancy, the hormone relaxin causes stretching of all ligaments in the body, but especially those of the pelvis – so it’s theoretically possible for one’s Venus dimples to become wider during pregnancy.)

Horizontally, Venus Dimples mark where you should measure your Upper Hip!

The reason I’m talking about it today is because the venus dimple, being a marker of the sacroiliac joint, is an excellent marker of where to measure your high-hip line as it’s roughly in line with your iliac crest. Even if you have a lot of padding on your hip area and can’t find your hip bone pressing down, if your Venus dimples are visible, you can use these as a marker to measure your upper hip. Remember, your upper hip is an important measurement, because the pelvic bones cannot and should not be compressed in a corset.

 

Vertically, Venus Dimples can tell you how long your corset should be!

Venus dimples tend to be visible right above the curve of the bum and the tailbone, which can make it a marker for how long you need the back of your corset to be. In previous videos and articles, I talked about the importance of the length of the front of the corset, and of course it’s still important – but the length of the back can also affect the comfort and fit.

Measuring from your waistline UP to the bottom of your shoulder blade (or just above your bra band) will give you a reasonable corset height that will help you avoid muffin top, while allowing good mobility of the arms and shoulders (although it’s possible to make the back of a corset even higher!).

Measuring from the waist DOWN to the Venus dimples provides the absolute minimum measurement for a comfortable corset in the back (for me, in any case) – a corset shouldn’t end above this spot. A corset can be longer than this too, but it must be able to curve over the tailbone and bum.

Corsets that stop short of the Venus dimples in the back won’t provide sufficient support for a lower tummy in the front, and corsets that extend much, much lower than the Venus dimples are likely to require bones that can curve and flex over the upper bum and tailbone area (otherwise the bones will dig into the top of your bum!). I tend to prefer my corsets to end about 2 inches below the Venus dimples – depending on the height of your bum, this might be where the butt crack starts for you.

 

The distance between your Venus Dimples can help you choose a comfortable ‘lacing gap’ width!

The width of the Venus dimples can also provide a good gauge for you to determine what gap width in the back would be suitable, as it can give clues to the musculature of your back. A corset with a gap far too wide may cause the steels to rest closer to your oblique muscles as opposed to your erector spine muscles, and you’re not going to get the right torque to pull your waist in.

Dimples of Venus (arrows) on a model with prominent spine. Photo by Zaheer12a for Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Dimples of Venus (arrows) on a model with prominent spine. Photo by Zaheer12a for Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

When you’re choosing a first corset, it’s a good idea to at least have the gap in the back within the width of your Venus dimples. In the case of the model in the video, her spine is prominent (you can see the vertebrae through the skin), so it might be more comfortable for her to wear a corset with at least 1 inch gap so the corset steels aren’t grinding on her spine. Her Venus dimples are about 3 inches apart – so based on her anatomy, I’d estimate that a suitable lacing gap for a well-fitting corset would be between 1-3 inches. Incidentally, this is what many professional corsetieres recommend to begin with!

In sum: beyond just looking cute, using Venus dimples as clues can actually help you measure for a corset and predict how it might fit on you.

What do you think of the “Venus Dimple” theory for fitting corsets? Do you agree or disagree? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Case Study: Sapsford Silver Overbust Corset

This post is a summary of the “‘Case Study: Sapsford Silver Overbust” video, which you can watch on Youtube:

Quick Stats:

Material Two main layers: fashion fabric is a pattern-matched synthetic upholstery fabric with metallic threads interwoven, and it’s already backed onto a twill-like fabric. The lining is white herringbone coutil.
Construction 7 panel pattern (drafted by Scarlett Sapsford). The fashion layer is floating, and the corset is single-boned on the lining side.
Binding Bias strips of matching silver metallic fabric, machine stitched on both outside and inside (stitched in the ditch on the outside).
Waist tape 1 inch wide twill tape sandwiched between the layers.
Modesty panel No back modesty panel, but there is a narrow placket by the busk.
Busk 12 inches long with 6 loops and pins, equidistantly spaced. The busk is 1/2 inch on each side, and there are a pair of grommets above that ties at the bustline.
Boning 16 total bones not including busk (8 on each side). 1/4″ wide spirals, single boned on the seams. Two 1/2″ wide flats sandwich the grommets on each side.
Grommets 34 grommets total, size #00 with a small flange and finished in silver. Set equidistantly, a little more than 1 inch apart.
Laces 1/2″ wide, double-face satin ribbon finished in silver.

*

A bonus from yours truly - last month I made this pattern-matched overbust with a complicated asymmetric motif as a challenge to myself. I made this using the techniques in Scarlet Sapsford's Corset Making course (click the photo to learn more about the course).

A bonus from yours truly – last month I made this pattern-matched overbust with a complicated asymmetric motif as a challenge to myself. I made this using the techniques in Scarlet Sapsford’s Corset Making course (click the photo to learn more about the course).

This was a great project that came together in just a few days! Although I’ve known how to make my own corsets for years, it was fun going through Scarlett Sapsford’s Express Corset Making Course, discovering slightly different techniques from my own, and honing my skills by learning from a different angle.

Matching the motifs on this corset was a bit of a challenge, but a fun one. I followed Scarlett Sapsford’s instructions in her complete Corset Making Course, and it turned out (mostly) fabulous. A few things I would do differently:

  • I would have backed the fashion fabric onto interfacing to stabilize it and prevent warping (because warping is bad news when you try to match panels together!)
  • I might have chosen a fabric that has a less bold motif. Although the clear-cut and high-contrast motif made it easy to see where I should be matching the pieces, it also makes it super obvious where the matching wasn’t quite perfect. Yes, I did have to re-cut a panel because it was a few mm off!
  • I might lock-stitch the seams and press the seams open instead of using a top-stitch, because it makes the outside smoother and would prevent the motif from looking “off” when viewed at different angles.

I have a long torso and a low waist, and most OTR overbust corsets are a bit short on me – this is an issue if I want to keep my bust comfortably covered! So I modified Scarlett’s overbust pattern and added an inch of length in the ribcage. I did not make a mockup for this corset before jumping in and creating the final piece; if I had made a mockup, I would have lengthened the pattern even more in the front, and added another 2 inches in the bust to accommodate for my fuller chest.

Of course, this means opportunity to make more corsets in the future, about which I will not complain! 😀

If you’d like to learn how to make your own corset like this one, be sure to check out Scarlett Sapsford’s Express Corset Making Course!

Advanced Breaking in your Corset (Intuitive Seasoning)

This serves as a synopsis to my corset seasoning mini series from 2013, but also an addendum for experienced corset wearers and how they break in their corsets as well. Feel free to watch the video from 2014 above, or read the post (a transcript, revised in 2016) below.

There are understandably some complaints from people about the 2-2-2 guidelines and how this doesn’t work for people who wear corsets at a 6, 7, or 8+ inch waist reduction. This is a valid point and I want to share with you the same thing that I told to these more extreme tightlacers back in 2014.

Romantasy’s 2-2-2 guideline (wearing the corset at a 2-inch reduction [measured over the corset, so it is actually a slightly more dramatic reduction under the corset], for a duration of 2 hours a day, each day for 2 weeks) is exactly that: a guideline for beginners. You can choose to follow it or not follow it.

Some 7 or 8 years ago, before I ever read about the Romantasy method, some other corset companies posted instructions online for beginners, telling customers to “lace the corset as tight as you possibly can, and keep it on for as long as you can stand it” on the first wear – and more alarmingly, to “expect that it will hurt” until you can force the corset to soften and mold to your body.

Holy crap, that is bad advice.

Luckily I had the sense to not tie my corsets as tightly as possible from the first wear, but I did observe that for the first couple of corsets I owned, when I had not broken them in gently, one of my corsets ripped at the seam when I sneezed, another corset had a busk break through the center front seam, and yet another had a grommet pull out within 2 wears – at this time I believed that I was lacing too tightly/ too fast, or treated my corsets too roughly.

I will add a note here though: if you read through my seasoning mini-series, you’ll see that even when you treat a professionally-made, custom-fit corset quite gently, sometimes SNAFUs can still occur. It was only after a different corsetiere came forward a year later and noted a ripped seam in a green corset her own company had made, that it was hypothesized that this particular batch and color of green Gütermann thread might have been defective and not as strong as their usual thread!

The 2-2-2 guideline was designed to combat the incorrect and potentially dangerous information that was previously distributed by other brands [to wear your corset as tight as possible on the first wear]. The Romantasy method helps the gently ease the beginner’s body into the process of wearing a corset (because most people are so accustomed to elastic, loose fabrics today that such a rigid garment such as a corset may take some getting used to). The process of “seasoning your body” is just as much (if not more) important than the softening process of the corset itself – making sure the fibers are aligning and settling properly (if the corset is on-grain), and observing the corset losing its ‘crispness’ so it may hug around your body better.

It’s already implied that a beginner would not be starting with an 8-10 inch reduction that would fit on them like a wobbly corset with only the waistline touching your body. Although a small amount of flaring at the top and bottom edges is normal if your corset is not closed in the back, to experience flaring so extreme that you can fit stuffed animals into your corset, I believe the corset is probably too curvy for you if you’re a beginner. Refer back to my article about corset fitting, and why having a gap too wide in the back of the corset is a bad thing.

 

At the time these guidelines were created, achieving more than 4-6 inches of reduction was extremely rare.

Back in the 1990s to early-2000s, when I was researching corsets as a teenager, many authorities and corset makers were only recommending that people start with a 3-4 inch reduction – maybe 6 inches if you were plus size or particularly compressible. Think of the OTR corset brands that existed 10-15 years ago: Axfords, Vollers, Corsets-UK, Timeless Trends – these corset vendors did not make extremely curvy corsets designed for dramatic reductions at the time, and the average person would be lucky to achieve more than a 3-4 inch waist reduction without their ribs and hips getting compressed too tightly anyway. Over the past 5 years, curvier corsets have become more accessible through OTR brands (as opposed to having to commission a custom piece at 3-5x the price of OTR). Today I’m hearing of people buying their first OTR corset at 8 or even 10 inches smaller than their natural waistline, which is not a practice I would condone for everyone.

I can wear a corset around a 7-inch reduction, but I’ve been wearing corsets occasionally for around 12 years, and waist training off and on in the past 6 years. My waist has become accustomed to the pressure such that my muscles readily stretch, my intestines readily flatten and give way, and my body can accommodate moderate-to-largish reductions relatively quickly. But this may not be the case for a beginner, and there is such a thing as going down too much, too quickly. My concern is that if a beginner is starting with a corset 8-10 inches smaller than their natural waist, their corset will not fit properly because they may not tolerate large reductions in the beginning, but they may be impatient and want to close the corset within a few weeks or months. I don’t want people to end up hurting themselves.

Regardless, nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to season your corset using the 2-2-2 method. I mentioned in one episode of my corset seasoning mini-series that different methods and durations of breaking in your corset exists, and there is no “One” perfect way, no one hard and fast set of rules to break in your corset.

Romantasy has one way of doing it, Orchard Corset has a different method, Contour Corsets has yet a different method, and I’m certain that there are other brands who have their own way. Some methods are faster, some are slower, some methods are more structured, some are very free. The common goal is to have a corset that wraps around your body like a glove, and feels comfortable enough to wear for long durations without injury to yourself. But it’s also imperative that you start with a corset with a reduction suited to your experience level and body type, and with dimensions predicted to fit you well.

 

Different people have different bodies, and can cinch to varying reductions.

Someone who is larger, more squishy or more experienced might be able to cinch down more than 2 inches on the first wear (indeed, one of my clients whose natural waistline approaches 50 inches is able to close a corset 12 inches smaller within a few wears! Same with someone who has had surgeries to remove their colon earlier in life, but this is an extreme situation obviously not applicable to 99% of the population).

However, some other people are very lean, or they are body builders and have a lot of muscle tone, or they may simply have inflexible obliques or inflexible ribs, or they have a low tolerance to compression, and they may not be able to reduce their waist by even 2 inches – and those who are naturally able to lace to dramatic reductions should not shame those that can’t. Also by having a general guideline for beginners, and a modest one at that, it can help eliminate a false sense of competition between inexperienced lacers who have not yet learned to listen to their bodies.

 

Viewer question:

“I’m wearing the corset as tight as I possibly can, and it measures the same on the outside of the corset as my natural waist? What am I doing wrong?” The answer: nothing is wrong. Firstly, your corset has some bulk, so even though your external corseted measurement is the same as your natural waist, most likely your internal waist measures 1.5 – 2 inches smaller. And if that’s as small as you can comfortably go at this time, and if your corset is fitting you properly (it’s not a case of the ribs/hips of the corset being too small for your body and blocking your waist from reducing more), that reduction is perfectly fine! Wearing a corset should be enjoyable, not a cause of stress. With patience, most people find they can comfortably reduce more in several weeks or months.

Another question I regularly receive:

“How long does it take to season a corset?” Different corset makers will state that it takes different amounts of time for their corset to be fully broken in, just like I mentioned in a previous episode of the mini-series. Orchard Corset once said that it takes around 10 hours to season, while Contour Corsets says to take closer to 100+ hours to season one of her hardcore summer mesh tightlacing corsets – so there is a spectrum, and it depends on the brand, materials and construction methods.

 

Some people like rules, others don’t.

The whole point of Romantasy’s 2-2-2 guidelines is to encourage beginners to ease into the process of wearing the corset and to be gentle with themselves from the start. What I’ve found over the years is that some people are more intuitive and like to learn from experience – they prefer to navigate their own way through a new skill/ process through trial and error, while some others are more analytical and prefer to have a more rigid system that they can follow. This is true for more than just corsetry – it’s true for learning to play a new instrument (classical vs contemporary lessons, or even having a teacher at all vs being self-taught) or losing weight (some prefer to just eat well and walk more often, while others take on a strict workout regime with a certain number of reps with certain weights, and they count calories and macromolecules, etc.). Most people are somewhere in between. Most importantly, both methods have their perks and drawbacks, and one method is not inherently better than the other.

Perhaps it’s a certain type of person who is drawn to corsets in the first place, but I notice a larger proportion of my viewers and readers prefer to have some rules or guidelines to start out with. It’s okay to follow a system until you become familiar with your body and you can come to trust your own experience. It’s okay to “learn rules” and then choose to accept or reject them later on.

And of course, some people naturally possess more common sense than others (I cringe when someone tells me that their ill-fitting, poor quality corset bruised them and yet they refuse to stop wearing it!).

 

Let guidelines guide you, not control you.

There are some beginners who are very pedantic and they begin to worry that they seasoned their corset at 2.5 inches instead of only 2 inches – of course, there is a limit to everything and it’s not that big a deal if you don’t follow the guideline to the letter. However, if you wore your corset for 12 hours on the first day and ended up bruising yourself, this is a greater concern (and you should always place more importance on your body than on your corset – a corset may cost $50 – $300 on average, but your body is priceless and irreplaceable). A 2(ish)-hour guideline should be long enough for you to tell whether your corset is causing any fitting issues (or is contraindicated with any pre-existing condition, like if a corset tends to bring on a headache or blood pressure spikes to those already prone), while usually being short enough in duration that it shouldn’t cause bruising or pinched nerves or any other troubles that could arise.

Obviously, corsets should never ever hurt, pinch, or bruise you, nor should it cause muscle tension, or headaches, or exacerbate your health problems – if it does, that type of corset is not right for you, or you may not be healthy enough to wear a corset.

These days, I have a very intuitive way of wearing my corsets after they’re broken in – I don’t necessarily count the hours I wear them, or the reduction. If the corset feels too loose, I might lace it a bit more snug. If the corset feels too tight, I will loosen it. If I’m sick of it, I take it off! (By the way, you can learn more about different waist training methods in this article.)

When you’re more experienced with corsets, you can trust yourself to be more intuitive regarding how long to wear the corset and how tightly.

Analogy: Hard Contact Lenses

I started wearing hard contact lenses at 14 years old. They correct my astigmatism by literally acting like a brace for my eyeball and changing the shape of my cornea. While soft contacts mold to the natural shape of the eye, hard contacts will encourage the eye to take the shape of the contact lens (similar to how a corset molds your waist). But this can cause eye irritation especially in the beginning – my corneas were not adapted to the shape of the contact lens, so I couldn’t wear my contacts 14-16 hours a day. The optometrist gave me a strict schedule to follow, starting with wearing the contacts for 2-3 hours a day, one or two times each day, and slowly building up from there. The schedule lasted about 3 weeks until I was able to wear my contacts all day without eye strain, nausea, headaches, eye dryness, or irritation. Of course, when I get a new pair of contact lenses (with a stronger prescription, booo but such is life), I don’t have to go through the exact same schedule because my eyeballs are already accustomed to wearing contacts – I only have to get used to the strength of the prescription. When receiving a new corset (with a silhouette you’re already accustomed to), you don’t have to “re-season” your body the same way you did as a beginner, but you may need to train your body if your new corset is a few inches smaller than you’re used to.

Analogy: Weight Lifting

Some people will go to a personal trainer for a few weeks or months to learn good form and to get help with finding the weight, number of reps in a set and number of sets in a workout – and then once they know what they’re doing, they can stop going to the trainer and adapt their own workouts the way they like. Over time, you can expect to improve your strength and you may be able to lift more weight or go for more reps – but the program you make for yourself over time may not be suitable for a different person, especially not a beginner. On another note: other experienced athletes prefer to keep going to a personal trainer for years, long after they already know how to perform certain exercises properly and know intuitively what works for their own body, because these folks find value in having someone else create a system for them and continue to hold them accountable (which is also likely why Romantasy’s 3-month waist training coaching service has been successful over the years).

What is Lucy’s excuse for still seasoning all her corsets the same way?

I’ve been wearing corsets for over a decade and have seasoned well over 100 corsets in that time. Why do I still follow a structured seasoning schedule, especially as an intuitive corseter after the seasoning process?

The reason for this is mainly because I prefer to season all of my corsets in the same method. I do regular reviews with different corset brands. By controlling the reduction and the duration I wear every corset and giving them all the same treatment prior to review, I can see how well some corsets stand up to tension over time. In truth, I can tell within 10 minutes of putting a new corset on whether that corset is going to work with my body or not. Quite honestly, there have been certain corsets where (had I not received a request to review the corset) I would have tried on that corset once and immediately gotten rid of it. But if I’m going to give a fair review, I have to give a corset fair treatment.

In science, you have to control as many variables as possible in order to perform a fair, objective experiment. So I’ve incorporated a quality control system where I control as many variables as best as possible by seasoning every corset the same way. This ensures that I’m not putting more stress on some corsets than others (the exception to this being a ‘rental’ or ‘loaned’ corset that I need to send back after filming, in which case I won’t season it at all). The 2-2-2 guidelines are, as mentioned before, a very mild amount of stress to put on a corset – and if that corset does not even survive a trial period of 30-50 hours without seams stretching or a grommet pulling out, then I definitely know that the construction is compromised and the quality isn’t close to what I’d consider industry standard.

Bottom line, if you are an experienced corset wearer, or if you are particularly compressible, or if you hate following a rigid schedule, then the 2-2-2 guidelines (or indeed, any other corset seasoning guidelines) may very well not work for you, and that’s alright. But other people find it more comfortable follow a more rigid seasoning schedule. It’s really no skin off your back to let someone break in their corsets in a different way, as long as the other person is not hurting themselves and not destroying property. Live and let live.

OOTD: Cinch Clips to Accentuate your Corseted Figure

If you don’t want to permanently tailor your clothing to contour over your corseted waist, but you still want to show off your hourglass figure, what can you do?

Wearing my Contour Corset under my sweater tunic and toddler belt.

Wearing my Contour Corset under my sweater tunic and toddler belt.

In a previous video I discussed belted fashions (that belt was originally made for a toddler, by the way – waist size 20 inches up to 25 inches), but if you are concerned that a belt would cause too much friction and damage a delicate fashion fabric of your corset, you can try cinch clips as an alternative (also called dress clips or jacket clips). Check Etsy, they come in a myriad of colors, and you can get them ruched or flat, with silver clips or gold.

My friend Zessinna crochets adorable roses and bows to conceal cinch clips – check out her Etsy shop here if you have the time!

The cinch clips can be hidden by a cardigan or jacket (or in my case, my long hair!) if you don’t like the look of it. Alternatively, with a little bit of fiddling to make the creases look tidy, you can theoretically cinch your shirt from the underside so the clip doesn’t show! But you can try a more decorative cinch clip like the one below from Amazon if you want to show it off.

Watch the video above to see how the cinch clips transform my look in several different outfits!

H/T to Gabrielle for her great cinch clip solution!

amazon-filigree-cinch-clip

Cardigan Clip: Silver Antiqued Swirls with Crystals. Photo courtesy of Amazon affiliate.

 

How to Deal with Corset Modesty Panels

Struggling with your modesty panel every time you lace up? Worry not, there’s a solution! Read ahead to learn about the 3 most common types of modesty panels in corsets – and how to keep them straight and centered while you’re lacing up. If you don’t like to use modesty panels, most types are completely removable, and panels are usually not required in the first place.

Stiffened, detached modesty panels (Dark Garden)

You can choose to use it or not use it depending on your preference. If you’re wearing a silky shirt, this panel wants to slide off your back before you even wrap your corset around yourself! There are a couple of ways I get around this.

Method 1:
  1. Bend forward a bit, so you can balance the panel on your back. Hold the panel in place with one hand while you wrap the corset around yourself with the other hand. Don’t worry if it’s uneven at this point.
  2. Do up the busk. The laces and very slight tension at this point should keep the panel from falling.
  3. Look in the mirror and adjust the position of the panel so it’s centered, not tilted, and the top and bottom edges match up with the corset properly. This is best done when you’re half-finished lacing your corset (if you try to adjust it when you’re finished lacing up, there may be too much tension for you to adjust the panel easily.
Method 2:
  1. Put your corset on and do up the busk. Do not tighten the laces yet – in fact, it’s a good idea to loosen the laces even more than you usually would (if possible).
  2. Lean over slightly and slide the panel under the corset at the SIDE (if you try to do it at the back, the panel is highly likely to get tangled in the laces).
    Sliding the panel underneath the corset at the side first (to avoid tangling the laces).

    Sliding the panel underneath the corset at the side first (to avoid tangling the laces).

  3. Once the panel is in place vertically, then slide the panel to the back and center it on your back. It should not get tangled in the laces this way.
  4. Give a tug on the laces to provide enough tension to keep the panel in place. When you’re halfway done tightening up the corset, check one last time that your panel is placed where you want it, then finish up lacing.

 

Unstiffened modesty panels, stitched to the side (most OTR corsets)

This is the most popular style of modesty panel – usually a couple of layers of fabric, fastened to one side of the corset.

Keep in mind, the following steps work if the modesty panel is sewn to the left side (like Orchard Corset). If your corset has the panel sewn to the right side (like What Katie Did, Corset Story, etc.), you’ll need to do these steps in mirror image.

  1. Hold the corset in your left hand and lean to the right. As you swing the corset around your back and catching the other side in your right hand, gravity will help the panel flop towards the laces and flatten across your back.
    The panel is attached to the left side, so I have to lean to the right - gravity helps it flop in the right direction.

    The panel is attached to the left side, so I have to lean to the right – gravity helps it flop in the right direction.

  2. Wrap the corset around your body and fasten the busk.
  3. Look in the mirror. Ensure your modesty panel is flat.
  4. Tug the laces at the waistline. If your panel starts to crinkle or fold on itself. Then use your right hand to reach around your back, and grab the panel to pull it flat.
  5. Lace up your corset a little more, stopping periodically to pull and tuck the modesty panel flat again and again.
  6. Is this a pain in the butt? Yes, but there’s really no way around it (unless you want to modify the panel).
  7. Don’t expect the panel to be perfectly smooth the way the rest of your corset is. A vertical or crease fold over your spine is perfectly normal!

In a previous video I showed how to take an unstiffened modesty panel, detach it, add a stiffener (using either bones or canvas) and suspend it on the laces using grommets (some prefer to use ribbons to suspend it instead, which is also gorgeous). Here’s how I made my own modesty panel for a corset using canvas.
N.B. some types of modesty panels (like What Katie Did) are sewn into the lining of the corset such that the panel cannot be removed using a seam ripper without compromising the integrity of the corset. In such cases, if you want to completely remove the modesty panel, it’s best to simply cut the panel out while keeping the stitching undisturbed.

 

Stiffened, suspended (floating) modesty panels (Retrofolie)

This is a stiffened rectangle very much like Dark Garden’s modesty panel (the first type) except it’s suspended on the laces. Here’s how to lace up with one of these:

  1. When I initially wrap the corset around my body, I try NOT to lean too much to one side or the other – this helps keep the panel from sliding horizontally on the laces, and minimizes my work to adjust its position later on.
  2. Fasten the busk. Adjust the panel so that it’s not tilted, and the top and bottom edges of the panel is level with the top and bottom of the corset.
  3. Notice in the video that I have to make relatively few adjustments with this panel (it stays nicely in place and doesn’t crinkle too badly). This why this type of modesty panel is my personal favorite! The only disadvantage is that if you want to change your corset laces (or remove the panel) it’s quite time-consuming to unlace and relace.
    However, some modesty panels have easily-removable velcro tabs which fasten quickly and easily to suspend itself on the laces, and can be removed just as easily! Find them here in my shop.

    These awesome modesty panels are boned and they hang on the laces using small velcro loops - super easy to attach and remove.

    These awesome modesty panels are boned and they hang on the laces using small velcro loops – super easy to attach and remove.

Do you have a different way of dealing with your modesty panel while lacing up? Let me know in a comment below!

Corset and Strapless Bra: low-back solution for fuller busts!

In Summer of 2014, I purchased this lovely dress from Zumel & Co in Toronto. Although I love the dress, it has a bit of a low back (enough that my bra band shows in the back). One question I receive quite often, especially from brides, is whether it’s possible to have a low back overbust corset for precisely this reason, and it got me thinking.

This Contessa Gothique corset has a lower back made possible with the help of shoulder straps. Photo: DiaIF. Model: Nea Dune.

This Contessa Gothique corset has a low back made possible with the help of shoulder straps.
Photo: DiaIF. Model: Nea Dune.

If you commission a custom-made overbust, creating a somewhat-low back is theoretically possible (to a point). However, a problem arises especially if you are heavy busted: you’re not going to get the same breast support if you have a very low back. You’ll notice that most overbust corsets don’t have a back that stop close to nipple-height, and not usually lower than under the shoulder blades. This prevents the front of the corset from flopping forward, away from your body. You may be able to adjust that support with halter straps for instance, or even (cringe) heavy duty double sided tape. In any sense, it’s going to be mighty difficult if not impossible to achieve a corseted silhouette with a backless dress.

If there were a cupped overbust corset that allowed you to wear backless, strapless dresses (think Jessica Rabbit) with perfect support, I believe that thousands of people would be all over that! However, in my journey though corsetry, I have never actually found a corset that’s been able to achieve this.

If you want full support along the fullest part of your breasts, you must rely on the fabric wrapping around the entire torso at that same line.
The same premise holds with long line corsets – if you want a lot of control of the lower tummy, you could put many stiff, rigid steel bones in the front, but if you have a protruding lower tummy that resists these bones, the whole bottom front of the corset could end up bowing outwards (especially if the front of the corset extends down into a point and is cut high over the hips). With a longline corset, it helps pull in a lower tummy easily because it has extra fabric that starts at the pubic bone and wraps around the hip area along a similar height, and around to the back.  The tension of the fabric wrapping around the body acts as leverage to help pull that protruding tummy inward.

Seriously, Jessica's dress goes down to the tailbone and has no straps. This defies physics. There has to be skintone mesh, or double sided tape, or something.

Seriously, Jessica’s dress goes down to the tailbone and has no straps. This defies physics. There has to be skintone mesh, or double sided tape, or something.

So, what can be done if you want to wear a low back wedding dress, especially if you’re quite heavy-busted? What I did in the above video was a trick that Ashley (Lisa Freemont Street) taught me a few years back:

Find yourself a well-fitting strapless, longline bra. The Goddess brand strapless low-back bra works great for my purposes, and I love that the lightly boned cups provide support while retaining the roundness of the breast and it gives a slightly vintage shape to my bustline (it doesn’t flatten my bustline like most modern cut strapless bras seem to do). There is a silicone band around the top to help keep it in place on my skin as well.

As it’s a longline bra, it also has a few bones coming down and stopping at around navel height – this helps keep the garment smooth and prevent it from rolling up. If you plan to wear this bra underneath corsets, you can absolutely remove some of the bones in the bra so as not to irritate your skin by having the stays smushed up against your ribs under the corset. I like to wear this bra with an underbust corset (usually a cincher or waspie, which stops lower on the ribcage) worn over the bra – the corset also helps anchor the bra in place so it’s less likely to slide down over the course of the day. Even if I don’t utilize all the hooks and eyes of the bra (you can fold some of the top ones down if you need to accommodate for a lower back), the bra still stays in place due to the silicone strip and the anchoring of my corset.

One thing to look out for, however, is having a bit of “muffin top” with this combination. When you wear very short cinchers or waspies, the more of your ribcage it leaves exposed/ unsupported, the bigger the risk of it giving you “muffin top” (a roll of skin that folds over the top of the corset when worn). The fact that it’s combined with a longline bra in this case does help to somewhat combat this, but how much “muffin” occurs will depend on the person as well (how long your torso is, how low the back of your dress is, and whether your body tends to ‘displace upward’ or ‘displace downward’ in a corset).

The Goddess Longline bra can be partially folded under to accommodate for an even lower back.

The Goddess Longline bra can be partially folded under to accommodate for an even lower back.

There is rhyme and reason to the corset I chose to wear over my longline corset as well! In this video, I’m wearing the True Corset mesh cincher because it’s cut quite straight across at the ribcage and hips – there are no “points” to bow outwards and protrude underneath clothing. As a mesh corset, although it may not last quite as long as other corsets, it makes for more breathable, lightweight undergarments, and therefore a more comfortable experience – especially if you’re planning to wear a warm outfit in a warm venue!

Other inexpensive mesh corsets that hide well under clothing is Orchard Corset’s mesh CS-411 and mesh CS-426 (for those who prefer longline), as well as Madame Sher’s mesh cincher. As much as I adore custom fit corsets, I understand that weddings can be exorbitant. Even the cost of an OTR mesh corset combined with the Goddess bra comes up as cheaper (and quicker to ship) than commissioning a custom overbust corset with a lower back (and, of course, they can be combined with other outfits after the wedding!). Even though a mesh corset may not last a lifetime, it should at least last through your wedding day!

If you have ideas for other corset and bra combinations that work well underneath your low-back outfits, leave a comment down below and help out some other potential brides on a budget!

Why do we call it “Seasoning” your corset?

A few weeks ago someone asked where the word “seasoning” came from (in the context of corset seasoning).

I had looked up the etymology of the word “season” for kicks and giggles 2 years ago, but I hadn’t made a video about it at the time because, well, after my video/ article on intuitive seasoning I just got tired of talking about seasoning. People continued to argue about how to properly execute it, and it became like beating a dead horse. Some people prefer to follow a schedule, others don’t, that’s fine.

Where I disagree with some people is when they claim that seasoning is 100% for the person, and that the corset doesn’t change when worn over time (I’m of the opinion that it prepares a beginner’s body and the corset simultaneously). While I’m bored of this subject, I will probably make a video on it to explain why a person can pick up two corsets and they can still tell which one has been worn and which one hasn’t, even though both of their horizontal dimensions may still measure true.

But today, I’m focusing only on the etymology of the word “season”. It’s actually a bit romantic (just in time for Valentine’s Day, heh).

(And it has only a little to do with cinnamon and turmeric.)

Season: “a process of priming an object for a specific use”


This definition isn’t the first, but it is the most applicable – its use was first documented in the 1500s (close to the time that what we consider payres of bodies, the ancestor of corsets, was also first documented, coincidentally). However, the term “seasoning” was used more for timber: treating wood to be used for building, carpentry, etc. (Around the same time, “season” became slang “to make love to” a person or thing). Today, we still use “season” in this context for cookware: for example sealing and preparing a cast iron pan for a lifetime of use (baking oil into the pores of the iron, not sprinkling herbs into the pan).

So for over 500 years, to “season an object” has meant to prepare, prime, or ready that object for its intended use, and for 500 years has had sensual and gentle connotations.

If you don’t care about the other definitions of seasoning, you can stop watching the video here, but for those history buffs we can also discuss the other applications of the word “season”, starting with the Latin root from almost 1000 years ago.

Serere: “to sow” (and later Saison: “a period of time” e.g. seasons of the year)


The first definition of season came from the Latin word “to sow (a field)”. A specific period of time in which you perform a certain task. Sowing your field is also specific to a certain amount of labor or investment you put in and you expect to receive a return on your investment later on. In this context, seasoning your corset could mean that specific period of time where your body and the corset are getting familiar with one another, or putting in work in preparation for “harvest”, (in this case, priming your body to be able to tolerate waist training or larger corset reductions later on).

Assaisoner: “to ripen” and become ready for use


The most common modern definition of the word “season” is in context of flavors and spices. This came from the French word “assaisoner” which actually originated from the word “to ripen”. Unripe fruit starts out green and crispy, but over time as the fiber breaks down into digestible sugars, it becomes softer – more tender – and it’s quite tasty when it’s ripe. Adding herbs and spices to a meat or dish is a way of making it more palatable (and also softer/ more digestible after cooking it) and tastier.

When you get a new corset, particularly an off the rack corset, it tends to be pretty crispy – part of this is due to the thickness of the fabrics, the fact that the sizing (starches, pesticides and other chemicals in the fabric) wasn’t washed out before constructing the corset, and the number of layers – especially when it comes to OTR corsets, which can be 3-4 layers thick. But a “seasoned” corset makes it softer and less crispy (essentially “riper”) and it’s more comfortable for long term wear.

Also, wearing a corset gently also seasons you. I have gained flexibility in my oblique muscles, because the corset stretches these muscles. (Remember a curve is always longer than a straight line, so the more waist reduction my corset gives on the side, the more it curves inward, the more the oblique is being stretched. My body has been trained to tolerate this stretch over long durations and remain comfortable, so my body has become seasoned as well.)

Just as a mango is (ideally) plucked from the tree once ripe and it’s ready for consumption, so our bodies (and our corsets) when they’re seasoned and prepped, you’re ready to start training, if desired. Which leads nicely into the other context of seasoning, that being experience.

Seasoned by Experience (e.g. “a seasoned professional”)


A person who has a considerable amount knowledge, skill, or experience in a particular topic/ activity can be said to be “seasoned” – for instance a “seasoned pilot”. A well-loved and frequently-worn corset has, in a sense, gained the “experience” of fitting its its wearer – even after removing the corset, it retains the “memory” of the shape of its owner, all the curves, hills and valleys of their body. And of course, a person that wears corsets frequently or for many years can be called a seasoned corseter or seasoned lacer.

Any way you turn it, the word “season” works for corsets.

By contrast, consider the etymology of the word “break”


Of course, it’s considered more common to use the term “break in” with clothing, specifically shoes.

How ballet dancers break in their pointe shoes is interesting: they forcefully bend the instep, they hit the toe box against a hard surface like the floor (or they might just take a hammer to it), they tend to take a knife and score the sole, they may rip the shank to make it more flexible, etc. It makes your dance shoes much more comfortable, almost immediately, but dancers I’ve spoken with have told me that their shoes might last a few months at best, but many people go through several shoes for every performance – their shoes may not last a whole show.

Synonyms of break include: shatter, fracture, burst; injure, violate, destroy, disintegrate, disconnect, crush, pound, etc. Breaking in dance shoes is a relatively violent process, compared to breaking in a corset (which is basically just wearing it… just not quite as tightly as you plan to in the future).

Understandably, this is not what we associate with of the word “break in” today, and I don’t mind when anyone says that they “break in” their corset instead of season, because really in this context, the two are interchangeable. Even I use the terms interchangeably depending on the audience I’m speaking to, as some are more familiar with one term or the other.

I personally prefer to say season because it has soft, gentle, sensual, time-associated connotations throughout history. To me, the term “seasoning” seems more harmonious with my idea of corsets and what they represent.

But those who exclusively use the term “season” shouldn’t get hung up on the destructive connotations of the word “break”, and those who exclusively use the term “break in” shouldn’t get hung up on the culinary associations with the word “season”. This is how language flows and develops over time, and one term is not more correct than the other.


Do you prefer the term “season” or “break-in”, and why? Leave a comment below!

6 Different Types of Corset Front Closures

See the video above for an explanation of several different front closures for corsets – or read away below!

HOOK & EYE

The Goddess Longline bra can be partially folded under to accommodate for an even lower back.

Hook and eye closures are usually found on bras and bustiers, not corsets. (This is the Goddess bra, click through for more information.)

You will pretty much never see this in a genuine, off the rack corset (or a couture one, for that matter). If you see a garment marketed as a waist training corset and it contains hooks and eyes, I personally wouldn’t trust it.

If you are making your own corsets, this form of closure is easy to source and fairly inexpensive. I’ve seen it done (recently) in a viewer’s homemade gentle reduction corset, but it was supported by steels on both sides, and still had a lacing system in the back – this allowed the wearer to fasten up the hooks and eyes with zero pressure on them until they were ALL fastened, and then they tightened the corset using the laces in the back. This can take a long time to fasten and unfasten!

One concern is that the little metal hooks can bend, warp and break if they have uneven pressure on them. If one breaks, you have a few others surrounding it that might be able to support it temporarily, but once the garment has uneven tension, more hooks will be at greater risk for also warping and breaking. The entire row of hooks and eyes would be inexpensive to replace as you can purchase them in a tape – but for me personally, I overwhelmingly prefer a busk.

 

BUSK

Busks come in a multitude of colors, like these by Narrowed Visions (click through to the Etsy shop)

Busks come in a multitude of colors, like these by Narrowed Visions (click through to the Etsy shop).

This is like your bread and butter closure for corsets. Loops on one side, and knobs (aka pins, aka pegs) on the other side, each side supported by a bone. Busks can come in a multitude of lengths, widths and colors.  My friend Nikki (Narrowed Visions on Etsy) sells several lengths of heavy-duty busks in a rainbow of colors, as you see above!

The bones are strong and help support the abdomen, and the busk can fasten and unfasten in seconds once you get used to it. But when a knob breaks, you either have to replace it with a screw or a rivet, but more likely will need to replace the knob side of the busk with a new one.

I also have a video on how to completely remove an old broken busk and replace it with grommets to make it a front lacing corset.

 

FRONT LACING

Electra Designs made this cincher which is laced both in the back and in the front. They can be individually adjusted to your comfort.

Electra Designs made this cincher which is laced both in the back and in the front. They can be individually adjusted to your comfort.

In a previous Fast Foundation article, I discussed why wearing your corset backwards is usually not a good idea because of the way panels are individually drafted to contour over a different part of your back or abdomen.

But a corset that is deliberately front-lacing can be good for people with arm weakness, inflexible shoulders or just aren’t very coordinated when fiddling with laces behind their back.

A corset that has only a front lacing system and back closure will need to be loosened a lot and you’ll need to shimmy into it: either pull it down over your head, or step into it and pull it up from your feet.

I would personally not recommend a high-reduction corset that is closed in the back and laced in the front, as it personally caused some discomfort around my floating ribs after a while and I had to purchase a new waist training corset with back lacing.

 

ZIPPER

Wearing my Contour Corset under my sweater tunic and toddler belt.

My Contour Corset (metal zip closure) is strong enough for a dramatic silhouette, but incredibly smooth under my clothing.

Some of my favorite corsets have zippers, like my Contour Corset. A front zip should have metal teeth, it should be made to military specification, and it should be flanked by steel bones. The stitching around the zipper should fail before the teeth do!

The right zipper can be just as strong as a busk, and can also be zipped up and unzipped in seconds once you’re accustomed to it. Another nice thing about zippers is that they can be more discreet under clothing compared to busks.

However, those bustiers sold in Halloween shops that have a nylon coiled zipper and no supportive stays supporting them, so the fabric wrinkles around the zipper from stress? Expect them to fail if you lace them too tight.

But even if you use the best quality zippers – like with any other garment, if you break the zipper or lose a tooth in the zip, just replace the whole thing.

 

SWING HOOKS

black cashmere swinghooks long hourglass corset

Hourglass Cashmere Longline corset with Swing Hooks, available through my shop (click through).

Swing hooks are neat, and they’re very very decorative, but very high profile and will not hide well under clothing. I first saw swing hooks used by Lucy of Waisted Creations, many moons ago. She even made a tutorial on Foundations Revealed on how to insert them yourself! After that, it spread like wildfire and you saw corset supply shops selling the swing hooks, and different OTR companies started selling corsets with swing hooks.

If you plan to use swing hooks in your own corset, it’s best to put a swing hook at the waistline where there is the most tension. If you don’t, the fabric in the center front will gape, and even the bones in the center front might bow a bit if they’re not high quality.

 

CLOSED FRONT

Angela Stringer Corsetry mesh and floral longline overbust model Victoria Dagger

Closed front corsets allow for a beautiful unbroken line, but they’re less convenient. Corset: Angela Stringer. Model: Victoria Dagger. Photo: Chris Murray.

Closed front corsets have no opening, but rather are stitched completely closed. Similar to the front-laced corset, it will require you to shimmy into it! This takes some extra time, and if you have anxiety or claustrophobia I might not recommend this style – because it also takes time to get out of it. But this is the smoothest option under clothing if you want to “stealth” your corset under your clothes.

Which corset closure is your favorite? Do you know of any other closures not mentioned here? Leave me a comment below!

Lucy’s Personal Corset Journey – A Reading

When better-known authors release a book and go on tour, they sometimes read the first chapter to a live audience at a book store or library. As my new book Solaced is only released on Kindle at the moment, I thought I would read my personal corset journey to you via Youtube. I know that it’s not quite the same, but hopefully many of you will appreciate it nonetheless. Fair warning, I do end up crying a little bit. :p

The story starts 1:37 into the video. If you like, you can click over to the Amazon listing and click “look inside”. My story is right at the beginning (in the introduction), and you can use Amazon’s free Kindle preview to read along with me on any platform.

Enjoy the reading… and thank you for being a part of this journey. ♡

 

Why Anthologies Are Important (Solaced Ebook Rant)

This is a summary/ transcript of last Friday’s rant. You can watch the video, or read the abridged version below.

Sonder: n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you…

This is a term in John Koenig’s Dictionary of Sorrows, and while it may not be in the OED (yet), it’s important nonetheless. Sonder is an important part of empathy, and it’s what I hope to share through my book.

It is so easy to take a person, their experiences, and their whole lived existence, and condense them down into a hard statistic: cause and effect. Before and after.

Don’t get me wrong: as a biochemist who dabbled in research and academia (before my creative side pulled me away) I still think quantitative studies are awesome because they can definitively show a correlation between two events (causation, however, is a different monster).

Coincidentally, Derek of Veritasium uploaded a vlog last week called Why Anecdotes Trump Data and showed that while (scientifically speaking) a longitudinal quantitative study with a large cohort is always more credible — sometimes personal experiences and strong, relatable narratives are more memorable, and carry more weight (emotionally speaking), even when the scientific evidence is not so strong.

While I would LOVE to do a longitudinal study on the long term physiological effects of corset wear (I’ve been saying this for a good 3-4 years now), I do not yet have the resources to do so. But every study starts with a proposal. And Solaced (the Corset Benefits book), while full of “anecdata” that may very well be pooh-pooh’d by some, will inevitably start a conversation.

The Importance of Empathy and Stories of Adversity

Through this anthology, over 100 writers have poured out their hearts and opened themselves up. Some have recounted past horrors and made themselves vulnerable to let you to step inside their heads and live vicariously through them for a few minutes.

Now, I know that normally “vicarious” is associated with something positive. A lot of the stories in this book are about adversity, and I would even warn that some stories may be considered triggering to some readers. But in many ways, stories of overcoming adversity is important too.

Not all of the testimonials in this book will necessarily have “happy endings” because:

  1. In a true first-person narrative, the end of the story is the writer’s true lived experience up to that moment. Therefore it’s not really an ending.
  2. “Happy Endings” imply perfection, and no life is perfect. The stories you will read in this anthology are far from a perfect outcome — but you will see where the writers have come from and where they are now. For some people, it’s not about perfection. It’s about a journey towards recovery, improved health, a highER quality of life than they once had. It’s inspiration and motivation to use the tools you’ve got (even if that tool is a simple corset) to get yourself to a better place.

The real question: why didn’t I write this entire book myself?

Well, gosh. That question sounds like I didn’t even do any work for this book. Even though there are over 100 writers who contributed to this book, I still put in a considerable amount of time and effort as the organizer, compiler, main editor, interviewer, and transcriber (for people who were too ill to write and sent in their stories through phone or Skype). I also consulted lawyers, made sure the writers were compensated (out of my own pocket), followed up on contracts, etc. — so it’s not like I had NO role in this book.

(On another note, I did write material and introductions to nearly every chapter, and soon realized that this book might be 2000 pages long — so, much of it was scrapped or stored for later for several future mini ebooks… One project at a time.)

Who cares about a book filled with the testimonials of strangers?

Click here to purchase Solaced (the official Corset Benefits book)

Update: Solaced is now available exclusively on Amazon! Click here to learn more.

Please refer to the above statements on empathy. Also, there’s nothing quite like a true, first-person testimonial straight from the source — even though a quantitative study is strongest form of research, the sworn testimonies in this anthology will always be stronger than me referring to a “friend-of-a-friend-who-claimed-blah-blah-blah.” It is more credible and more “clean” than a game of broken telephone.

I’m flattered that some people care so much about the content I write that they prefer to exclusively read my work, and are less excited about reading the experiences of others. But I feel it’s important to remind you that I do not pull knowledge out of the ether! I have useful research skills and have done my own footwork, yes — but a lot of what I know is because of people in the community just like these writers — because of YOU.

I am indebted to others for freely sharing what they know, because that is how we collectively grow. Knowledge is power, and it is meant to be shared — and everyone deserves a voice, not just myself.

So for those who object to this anthology, I think we’re focusing on the wrong question. Instead of asking “who cares about the stories of strangers,” the question should be: “Given that these ‘strangers’ granted me this platform in the first place, what good is my platform if not to give leverage to those voices that would not otherwise heard?”

Corset Benefits Book (Chapter Preview!) + Your Thoughts Wanted!

Photo [Right]: Juno Lucina is one of the writers for Solaced – you’ll read her story of her personal transformation, The Art of Aging, in the Mature Corseting chapter.

As we take the next few weeks to put the finishing touches on the Solaced Corset Anthology, I’d like to make sure that we’re on the right track. Since the corset community has made this book possible in the first place (first by helping to build the list of corset benefits on this page, and then by submitting more in-depth experience for the book), it’s only fair that you, the community, also have a say in what stories end up in the final book.

I was initially worried about not having enough stories for the book, but after over 150 prospective writers (about 120 of whom submitted stories) as it turns out, I have too many stories now, and my editor has told me to cull. I’m very bad at this and need your help.

This book will have more of a focus on the therapeutic (physical and emotional) benefits of corsets, and there may be an opportunity to make another volume focused around the corset community and industry in general, as well as other “softer” stories (so whatever stories will be cut from this book, will likely make it into the next one!). Below you’ll find the list of topics/ chapters: you get a say in which topics interest you most, and which ones you would probably skip.

You can also let me know in your comment whether you prefer Kindle, Paperback, Audio, or another book format! Kindle will be the first to be released, but I will almost definitely bring the book to print a bit later on. Other formats I will consider if the demand is high enough.

Thanks so much for your feedback!

Solaced: 99 Uplifting Narratives about Corsets, Well-Being, and Hope

Chapter list (NOTE: This has been edited to reflect the final version of the book)

Click here to purchase Solaced (the official Corset Benefits book)

UPDATE: The book is now available! Click here to see it on Amazon!

  1. Back Injuries – structural support after physical trauma
  2. Spinal Curve – support or correction of scoliosis, kyphosis, or lordosis
  3. Breast support – including treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome
  4. Weight Loss & Lifestyle – using the corset as a kickstarter or external lap-band
  5. Hypermobility & EDS – preventing subluxation
  6. Disability – seven stories of how corsets help with various physiological disorders
  7. Fibromyalgia – promoting muscle relaxation and drug-free pain relief
  8. Gastrointestinal Disorders – helping with the symptoms of IBS, chronic constipation, and ulcerative colitis
  9. Dysmenorrhea & Endometriosis – using compression to reduce period cramping
  10. Post-Surgical Abdominal Weakness – support of the abdominal muscles following surgery
  11. Armor – the corset’s protective role during car accidents or against violent aggressors
  12. Body Positive – recovery from eating disorders and body dysmorphia
  13. Post Partum – treatment of diastasis recti, symphysis pubic dysfunction, and post partum depression
  14. Gender Identity – overcoming gender/body dysphoria, assisting in expression
  15. Anxiety & Depression – using deep pressure therapy to improve mental well-being
  16. Autism Spectrum – using deep pressure therapy for those with ASD
  17. PTSD & Coping with Adversity – pressure therapy following traumatic or difficult events
  18. Mature Corseting – wearing corsets from middle age and onward, commentary on aging
  19. Corsets & Metaphysics – essays on Reiki and the chakras
  20. Newspaper Clippings – a small collection of Victorian newspaper articles on corsets saving the lives of wearers
  21. Potpourri – stories that don’t quite fit in with the others

Which topics do you look forward to reading the most? Leave a comment below!

What News Australia’s Tightlacing Article Failed to Mention

Miranda Rights, waist training advocate and journalism major, lost 10 inches off her waist over several years through a plant-based diet, exercise and waist training. She was told by Barcroft Media in late 2015 that her story and results were not "extreme" enough for media. Click through the picture to read her full response to Barcroft.

Miranda Rights, waist training advocate and journalism major, lost between 12-14 inches off her waist over several years through a combination of exercise, a plant-based diet, and waist training. She was told by Barcroft Media in late 2015 that her story and results were not “extreme” enough for media. Click through the picture to read her full response to Barcroft.

Ah, media. Through the years we’ve seen over and over (and over and over) that our words can’t be trusted to be conveyed clearly, fully or accurately in the news. For half a decade I’ve avoided speaking with reporters for fear of them putting a negative spin to my words and reflecting badly on corset wearers at large. What often ended up happening is that after I declined to be interviewed, these reporters sometimes found another innocent starry-eyed corseter who ended up saying something on the extreme side, and that one unfortunate sound bite was misconstrued and given a negative tone.

This is why this year I decided to start speaking up and answering questions about waist training, tightlacing and corset wear – because I’ve been in this industry long enough to know a bit about corsets, I choose my words wisely, and I always keep a record of what I say and write.

A few days ago Emma Reynolds, writer for News. Com. Au, contacted me wanting to know more about the difference between waist training and tightlacing (which was still confused in their final piece). Of course, at the time I was contacted, I was never given any hint that the article would have a negative spin, or that my answers would be spliced and creatively paraphrased, or that the photos of some of my friends would be used without consent to be treated as side show attractions.

Since I didn’t sign any NDA, I presume that it’s fair to post the questions presented to me by Reynolds, and my unabridged responses to the Australian news source, which were deliberately made extremely detailed, with an emphasis on listening to one’s body, being monitored by a doctor, and the community being body positive as a whole.

Also, before we get started: CORSETS ARE NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR WEIGHT LOSS.

 


 

How did you get into tightlacing?

This is a long and winding story, but my initial goal was not to tightlace. I simply enjoyed making corsets for cosplay and re-enactment purposes, and later for back support when I was working up to 16 hours at a time. When I discovered that I was very comfortable wearing a corset for several hours at a time/ several days a week, I became interested in waist training and learned about the process through Ann Grogan of Romantasy. I think of it as a form of sport or slow, long-term body modification that can be varied, changed or reversed as one desires. Many people train in order to achieve a certain waist circumference or silhouette when not wearing the corset. However, my end goal was simply being able to close a size 20″ corset, I had no expectations for how I wanted my bare waist to look.

 

Why is it different/better than waist training?

Waist training is wearing a genuine corset for long durations (months or years) with some kind of end goal in mind, like closing a specific size corset or reducing the size of your natural waist. It’s worth noting that within the corset community, the use of latex or neoprene fajas is not waist training in the traditional sense.

Tightlacing is simply wearing a corset that is notably smaller than your natural waist. For some people, a tightlacing corset is at least 4 inches smaller than your natural waist regardless of your starting size – while for other people, they only consider it tightlacing if you reduce at least 20% off your natural waist (which would be 6 inches reduction if you have a size 30″ natural waist, 8 inches if you have a size 40″ waist, and so on). Yet others will say “if the corset feels snug to the point that it’s challenging but not painful, whether that’s with 1 inch reduction or 10 inches, that is tightlacing to the individual.” To this effect, an actress or model that never wears corsets except on set may be considered tightlacing. But what all of them have in common is that with tightlacing you don’t have to set a goal, and you don’t necessarily wear your corset for long durations.

Put more simply, waist training is a goal-oriented process, while tightlacing is simply an action. You can theoretically waist train without tightlacing (if you are wearing your corset at gentle reductions, but consistently enough to see results), and you can tightlace without waist training (wearing your corset with a dramatic reduction, but only on an occasional basis so your natural waist expands back to normal within a few minutes of removing your corset). Some people enjoy tightlacing on a regular basis with no initial goal in mind, but over time they will notice that their waist will be inadvertently trained smaller.

I wouldn’t say that tightlacing is better than waist training. Not everyone can tightlace as easily as others; it tends to be easier for those who have a higher body fat percentage, and according to some, it can be easier for women who have already given birth. It can be a little more challenging for athletes with more muscle tone than average. Of course, I would recommend that one be in good health before they wear a corset, whether it’s for tightlacing, waist training, or otherwise – and that they never lace to the point of pain.

 

How much does your waist size change and does it last?

This photo of me has been stolen and spun out of context by hundreds of people. Contour Corset is engineered to be an illusion. It's actually slightly larger in the waist than my Puimond corset shown below, but the silhouette and hip spring makes it look more extreme than really is. Even though this corset is more comfortable than some of my larger corsets, once I waist trained to reach this goal, I found I preferred a gentler silhouette.

My Contour Corset (21 inches) is my most “extreme” looking corset. It’s specifically engineered to be an illusion. In reality it’s slightly larger in the waist than my Puimond corset shown below, but the silhouette makes it look smaller than it really is. My waist is thicker in profile. Even though this corset is one of the most comfortable I own, once I waist trained to reach this goal, I found I preferred a gentler silhouette and less reduction.

When tightlacing, I am able to reduce my natural waist by 6-7 inches in a corset – but be aware that I have been wearing corsets off and on for many years. When I started, I was only able to reduce my waist by 2-3 inches. When I take off the corset, my waist expands back to normal within the hour.

When I was waist training several years ago, in the interest of staying comfortable in my corset for longer durations, I wore my corset on average 4-5 inches smaller than my natural waist, around 5 days a week, and up to 8-12 hours a day. The body responds best with consistency, so over several months even with this (relatively) lighter reduction, my natural waist went from 29 inches to around 26.5 inches out of the corset (even if I hadn’t worn my corset in days), and I was comfortably wearing my corset at 22″ while waist training. If I then chose to tightlace, I was able to wear my corset at 20″ for shorter durations (a couple of hours at a time) once my body was warmed up. Once I achieved this goal, I realized that it was more extreme in silhouette than I preferred, which is why I chose to back off and now I wear my corset closer to 22-24 inches, which I feel is more proportional to the rest of my frame while still lending a retro silhouette.

 

What do you like about it?

When the corset is laced snug I can use it as a form of deep pressure therapy – essentially, it’s like wearing a big bear hug that you can keep on all day and even conceal under clothing, if desired. At the time I started wearing corsets regularly, I was working in a STEM field and living away from home, working long and odd hours in a lab, with not much free time to socialize. I initially started wearing my homemade corset for posture support during those long hours, but I also noticed that it helped me feel more calm and relaxed. I was less anxious before and during presentations because I felt protected and held by a suit of armor. This calm, quiet confidence began to spill over into other areas of my life, and I became more sure about myself and carried myself more proudly even when I wasn’t wearing the corset. At that point, it wasn’t even about the appearance anymore.

 

What is the community like as a whole?

The international corset community is extremely varied, and that’s part of why I like it. We come from all walks of life and have many different interests – with some people, the *only* thing I have in common with them is a mutual interest in corsets. Some people love history and the Victorian era, while some people take more to the 1950s New Look style and pin-up era. Some people wear corsets simply because they’re beautiful and luxurious, some people wear them for medical or therapeutic purposes, and some people wear them as a challenging sport. Some are as blasé about putting on their corset in the morning as they are about putting on their socks, while some are excited about corsetry and consider it a fetish.

There are many online forums and Facebook groups to choose from, whether you’re a beginner or veteran, whether you want to tightlace, waist train, or just wear them for fun, whether you want to buy and sell corset from collectors, or even if you want to learn to sew your own corsets. In the forums I frequent, the community emphasizes body positivity. While we support individuals for the waist training goals they have already chosen for themselves, it is extremely frowned upon to push someone else into wearing a corset if they’re not interested – it’s equally offensive to try and push another person to lace past their comfort level, or shame them for their natural body type.

 

What are your limits? Do some people take it too far?

My Puimond corset is actually smaller than my Contour Corset above. Proportion matters, and so does context.

My Puimond corset (20 inches) is actually smaller than my Contour Corset above. No one batted an eye at this. Proportion matters, and so does context.

My personal limit was closing a size 20″ corset. I found it a challenging goal that took 3 years to achieve, and once I reached it, I was over it. Of course there were the few trolls online who egged me to train further and called me all sorts of names when I didn’t – but they aren’t representative of the community. I always listen to my body and I’m always 100% in control of my laces. There are other people who can lace down less than 20″ but some of them are 6 inches shorter and weigh 20kg less than me – so while it may look extreme on my body, for a petite woman with a natural 23 inch waist, she might not consider a size 20″ corset to be tightlacing at all.

It’s not my mission to put everyone in a corset, but for those who are interested in wearing them, whether for waist training or tightlacing (or both), I’ve spent the last 5 years creating hundreds of free educational videos and articles so that people can learn to choose a corset that’s right for their body, and know how to use them properly and safely. I say over and over that pain is not normal. When a tightlacer hasn’t put proper research into their practice, when they aren’t open with their doctor, when they ignore the advice of more experienced lacers and ignore their body’s signals, and they wind up hurting themselves, I know that it could have been prevented and it will end up reflecting badly on the tens of thousands of others who do wear corsets responsibly.

There will always be those who lace down faster than what I would normally condone, or smaller than my personal preference – but beyond offering free educational resources and ensuring that they are listening to their own bodies, that they are not in pain, that they are prioritizing their well-being, and that they have open communication with their doctor and have regular checkups, no one has the right to tell another what to do with their body. Their body, their choice.


 

This was the end of my correspondence with Reynolds, but if you would like to read some balanced perspectives on corsetry, both historical and modern, there are a few articles linked below.

Collector’s Weekly: Everything You Know About Corsets is False

io9: No, Corsets Did Not Destroy the Health of Victorian Women

New York Academy of Medicine: Did Corsets Harm Women’s Health?

Several articles on The Lingerie Addict:
Tightlacing 101: Myths About Waist Training in a Corset
“20 Bones”, Broken Ribs, and Other Myths about Waist Training.
What Makes a Corset Comfortable?

Three corset articles on Kitsch-Slapped:
Part 1, historical medical “evidence“.
Part 2, corsets viewed as “sexy”.
Part 3, suffrage movement.

Yesterday’s Thimble has two articles on corset myths. Part 1. Part 2.

Historical Sewing: Dispelling the Myth of the Itsy Bitsy Teeny Tiny Waist

A Damsel in This Dress: Corsetted Victorians and others – myths and reality

The Pragmatic Costumer: With and Without: How Wearing a Corset Affects You and Your Clothes

A Most Beguiling Accomplishment – A Difficult History: Corsetry and Feminism, Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Appendix.

Corset Back TOO Straight? Curving Steel Bones for a Healthy, Neutral Posture

Last week I wrote about what to do when your steels are too bendy or difficult to keep straight – so this week, we’ll discuss whether there’s anything you can do for steels that are too stiff (and of course you can! Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it). This will help you change the curvature of the back steels by the grommets

Since we’re talking about both human bones and corset bones in this post, I’m going to distinguish between them by saying “bones” for the human skeleton and “steels” for the corset bones.

Human vertebral column from the National Cancer Institute SEER training modules. This work is in the public domain.

Human vertebral column from the National Cancer Institute SEER training modules. This work is in the public domain.

Looking at the profile of the OTR corset in the video above, it’s pretty straight in the back which is potentially good for supporting the spine and promoting better posture than someone may have naturally. However, if you look at a vertebral column in the sagittal plane (from the side), you’ll notice that upright humans are designed to have some curve to the spine. There’s a small amount of lordosis of the neck, a mild natural kyphosis of the thoracic region, lordosis again in the lumbar area, and then (fused) kyphosis in the tailbone. While any exaggeration of these curves is not ideal, neither is having a spine that is perfectly straight.

Esther Gokhale did a fantastic TED talk on this concept of the “J shaped spine” and primal posture, which you can watch here.

If you have exaggerated lumbar lordosis (more swayback than the average person) you may find that when wearing a corset with a very stiff, straight back may feel like they’re encouraged to hunch forward at the waistline – and people who have a high “apple bottom” may find that the steels tend to dig into the top of the bum as opposed to curving around it. What can be done about this?

When your new corset comes in the mail, the steels are straight – they are typically not pre-bent in any manner.

Interestingly, corsets in the late Victorian era used to be pre-seasoned by steaming the starched corsets, whalebone included, on formed mannequins as the last step in manufacturing! So these corsets did have pre-curved whalebone. Today, pre-bending steels is something reserved for custom corsets by some corsetieres – and some other custom brands prefer to use flexible steels in the back which easily bends to accommodate the lumbar curve. To prevent twisting or bowing of these flexible bones, see the post I wrote last week.

If you have pronounced swayback and you can afford to go custom, I would recommend Electra Designs, and also Lovely Rats Corsetry – both of these corsetieres have a case of lumbar lordosis themselves and have learned how to draft to accommodate this curve (and adjust the pattern for the severity of the curve of each individual client) so the curve is built into the shape of the panels in the fabric itself, in addition to the curve of the steels.

But if you can’t afford to go custom, or if you already have an OTR corset where the steels in the back are too stiff for you, here’s an extremely detailed, step-by-step tutorial on how to curve the steels yourself.

How to curve the back steels to fit your neutral posture:

  1. Firstly, be sure that you are committed to keeping the corset. Curving the steels is manipulating the structure of the corset and this may void any returns or warranties.
  2. Try on the corset as is, look in the mirror, and figure out where you’re experiencing the most stress in your back and the most unnatural curve to your spine. In my corset, I noticed the most stress was below my natural waistline – which on me, is below the pull-loops of the corset and around the “inflection point” of my spine, where the kyphosis of my thorax turns into the lordosis of my lumbar region. Mark this line with fabric chalk (make sure your chalk doesn’t have any oil in it and can brush off easily). I know that I will have to curve everything below this point.
  3. Take off the corset and take the back panel of the corset in your hands, flanking the area where you need the most curve, and bend it gently to create a smooth rounded curve. Start with a small amount, of only a few degrees (enough that when you put the corset flat on a table, you can just barely see that the top and bottom edges of last panel doesn’t touch the table anymore).
  4. Try the corset on – see if it’s more comfortable or if you need a little more curve. If you think you could use more curve, remove the corset and gently coax the steels with your hands, only adding a couple more degrees at a time.
    DO start with less and add more curve until you’re happy.
    It’s less ideal to start with a huge amount of curve and then try to straighten it back. If you do end up being a little overzealous, you can use your hands to coax the steels straighter again, but be careful to curve them in the same area as before so your steel bone doesn’t become “ziggly”. Also try not to bend the steel back and forth too much as this weakens the steel.
    DO go by comfort and listen to your body.
    DO NOT go by what simply looks cute – remember, S-curve corsets were considered alluring because they accentuated the curve of the bum, but they ended up creating more back pain and strain because of the exaggerated curve.
  5. If you have weak hands and you do need more leverage:
    DO use a tailor’s ham like this one, or curve the steels over your knee.
    DO NOT fold the steels over completely backwards and create a kink in them. This is not origami.
    DO NOT brace the corset against the corner of a table to create more leverage to bend the steels.
    We are not geometrically shaped, and a jagged bend in the steel bone can create uncomfortable pressure points – not only this, but a sharp bend can also weaken the steel even if you try to bend it back the other way! You don’t want to increase the risk of the steel snapping over time –  so be gentle and only create a smooth rounded curve.
  6. If your problem area is only your tailbone, then only curve the very bottom of the steels upward like a ski jump. This will prevent the bones from digging into your bum.
    If your problem is more your upper lumbar area, then only curve this area instead. Again, try it on to test the comfort before making any other changes.

When I did this to my corsets, I noticed a few different benefits:

  • I no longer felt a strain in my lower back
  • Because my lumbar region felt more neutral, I stopped hunching forward with my shoulders and found that my chest opened up and I reduced tension in my upper back and neck
  • I could wear my corset for longer durations without feeling tired from my back trying to “fight” the corset to maintain proper posture
  • The upward flip of the bottom of the steels took pressure off of the top of my bum and personally helped improve my sciatica (a complication from my twisted pelvis from a childhood injury)

Remember that this is not a perfect science, so only go a tiny bit at a time, try it on for fit, see how it feels, then rinse and repeat until you hit a point where the corset feels most comfortable for you and your posture feels the most neutral. Most people have a natural lumbar lordotic curve between 40-60° (whereas a totally straight spine would be 0°), and some people will have a higher or lower bum, a more prominent or flatter bum, so not everyone will require the same amount of curve.

Other modifications you can make to a corset may include removing the back steels and replacing them with more flexible flat steel bones, or even spirals (however, this can be quite annoying and difficult to keep the back gap parallel), or you can add hip gores in the last or second-last panel to give the corset a bit more kick in the back and curve over your bum more comfortably.

How do you modify your corset for greater comfort? Leave a comment below!

Please note that this post is to modify the corset to help maintain your personal, natural posture for comfort purposes, and is not intended to be used to correct or modify any spinal deformities, whether congenital or acquired, for therapeutic purposes. If you feel that a corset can help improve your skeletal structure and/or health, please consult your trusted healthcare practitioner.

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