Category Archive: Corset Fitting/ Sizing Help

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!

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.

How to Correct a “Bowing” Corset

In the past, I’ve discussed various reasons why your corset may be bowing (giving the “()” shape) in the back, including the popular “Shape of your Corset Gap” article –   however, the bowing is not only caused by a corset-body mismatch, but also by the types of bones and grommets in the back of the corset. In this article, I’m going to try and consolidate the information you need to identify why your corset is bowing in the back, and how you may be able to fix it if you think the pattern/ cut of the corset is not the problem.

Firstly, if you don’t know why bowing is an issue, refer back to my Addendum to Corset Gaps article, and how the steels can become permanently distorted with this gap shape.

Why is my Corset Bowing in the Back?

When the bones in the back of your corset are like “()”, there are a couple of issues going on.

As mentioned in my article about different corset gaps, one reason that the steels are bowing is that the corset is too curvy than your body is ready for. Typically, a corset is created to be smaller than your natural size at the waist, but the ribs and hips will match your natural measurements. It does NOT feel like a rubber cincher or faja, which tend to place pressure on the ribs, waist and hips equally. When you put on a corset, it reduces your waist (no kidding!). With every action, there’s an equal an opposite reaction – so your waist pushes back on the corset and provides resistance, while the ribs and hips of the corset have little to no tension, until you’re able to close the corset enough that the top and bottom edges pull in to hug the body.

Now, if you receive a corset and the first time you put it on you get the () gap, don’t panic. It doesn’t automatically mean that your corset wasn’t theoretically made to your measurements, but your waist is not compressing down or the corset is not reinforced in the best way to prevent the bowing. If you have a corset that flares a bit at the top and bottom edges, resist the urge to pull the ribs and hips of the corset in to meet the body right away – because if the waist doesn’t follow and refuses to reduce, then you will get the () gap.

Another reason that you’re seeing the () gap may be due to the grommets being set too far apart. Grommets are like multiple “anchor” points. Each one of them is responsible for holding a certain fraction of the total tension on the corset. The more grommets there are, the better this is distributed. If grommets are set more than about an inch apart (especially at or near the waistline), there won’t be enough grommets to provide the right distribution of tension through the back of the corset and the more likely you are to experience bowing. Later in the article I’ll discuss how to using lacing techniques and addition of more grommets to achieve more regular distribution of the tension, reducing the likelihood of those back steels bowing.

Other reasons may include the quality or the type of bones used in the back – the steels might be too malleable or too loose in their channels (the channels may be wide enough to allow the bones to twist and twirl) – or a combination of all of the above.

The more extreme the waist reduction, the more likely this kind of bowing can occur, and the bones could even potentially permanently kink and dig into your back – yikes!

Why would a corsetiere even consider putting flexible bones in the back of their corsets? Well, it often comes down to comfort and posture – in a previous video I demonstrated how some corsets (especially OTR corsets) tend to have very stiff and rigid steels in the back; so much that they refused to hug the lumbar spine and promote a healthy neutral posture. With some coaxing, you can gently curve these steels so they align better with you lumbar spine – but using flexible bones in a corset in the first place can eliminate this problem from the start, helping you maintain proper neutral posture, and making the corset much more comfortable (especially if you’re wearing it for longer durations or more frequently).

It’s important to note that bendy back bones are not necessarily a sign of inadequate experience on the maker’s part. There are some corsets that I’ve extensively altered to minimize the bowing, but other very experienced makers like Electra Designs and Dark Garden deliberately use more flexible steels for a variety of reasons, and in the case of their corsets I simply modified the lacing (a very simple and non-invasive solution) to reduce the bowing.

bowed-corset-back-steel-bones

Four different corsets, four different reasons that bowing can occur. From left to right: Heavenly corset being too small for me, Xandriana with very flexible steels despite having closer grommets, AZAC Curvy Girl with far set grommets, and Tighter Corsets with slippery laces. Corsets may have a combination or all of these problems, depending on the brand and the wearer’s body.

How to eliminate or reduce the bowing in your corset

There are four techniques I know of – here they are from least invasive to most invasive:

Chevron Lacing

I’ve also heard it called “tennis shoe lacing”. I have a video tutorial for the chevron lacing technique here. Like I mentioned, it creates a kind of an anchor point at each set of grommets – with this particular lacing style, there’s greater friction to hold the laces in place and prevent them from sliding open at the waist. Pair this with inverted bunny ears at the waistline and it will give even more control. I’ve seen this lacing used in my Electra Designs and Dark Garden corsets.

What I have also done in the past is use a set of two shorter laces in my corsets (or if you don’t have more laces and you’re not afraid of committing, you can simply cutting the bunny ears at the waistline to create two separate laces) – one lace is used for the top of the corset ending at the waistline, and one for the bottom of the corset up to the waistline, so I can pull and tighten each one individually. This also works best when the pulls are inverted, although it can be a bit confusing and take some time to get the hang of lacing it up. To lace up using two laces, I tighten the top a bit, and then tie off that ribbon.

Then I tighten the bottom and then tie that off.

Then I untie the top again and pull it tighter, then tie it off again.

Then I untie the bottom one and pull that one tighter, then tie it off, etc. so they work together and the waistline never has an opportunity to slide open. My corsets from The Bad Button laced with two ribbons, and also I tried this with my Tighter Corset and it worked well. However, I’ll admit that this can get annoying after awhile and I would eventually end up altering the corset, which brings us to…

Add More Grommets

Another suggestion is to add more grommets. Sometimes the grommets are spaced too far apart – if there were more grommets closer together at the waistline, they can distribute the tension more evenly and give you more leverage. In my Curvy Girl corset, my Gallery Serpentine corset, and my Heavenly Corset, I added more grommets in between the pre-existing ones (matching the grommets as best as I can).

See all the alterations I did in my Gallery Serpentine corset

See the alterations I did in my Curvy Girl corset

NOTE: if your corset has lacing bones (like Electra Designs corsets), adding more grommets is not possible without drilling through the bone. I don’t recommend doing this as it exposes the uncoated metal and may encourage rusting later, and it weakens the bone which increases the risk of snapping.

Tighten the Boning Channels

If the steels are twirling in their channels and you know how to sew, you can make the boning channel smaller or tighter which can help prevent twisting. As to which side of the channel to manipulate, I prefer to push the bone towards the grommets. Doing it by machine might be faster, but be careful not to hit the bone with your needle! For best results use a narrow zipper or cording foot if you can find one for your machine. The standard zipper foot that comes with domestic machines tend to not give quite as tight a result compared to a narrow foot. (Also, wear your safety goggles because if the needle hits the bone, it might break and fly at your face).

If sewing around your steel bone makes you nervous, you can undo the binding and slip out the bone completely, then tighten the channel with a smaller risk of breaking your needle – then just slide the bone back in and sew up the binding again. But if you’re going to this level of effort, then you can use this opportunity to…

Change out the Bones Completely

If you find that the original steels are paper thin and easily mangled, or if you’ve ended up permanently kinking them because of prolonged bowing in the back, you can simply replace them with new steels. You can purchase steels at pre-cut lengths online at sites like Vena Cava, Sew Curvy, Farthingales, or Corset Making. (Do NOT purchase the carbon-fiber bones for the back of the corset. They’re fantastic for the front of a corset if you like an extremely rigid, straight front – but they will not curve to the lumbar spine).

And if you put all of these techniques together, it makes for a corset with a very small chance of bowing outward at the waist.

The ONE Corset that has NEVER Bowed:

What’s an example of a corset that absolutely never bows in the back? My Contour Corset (actually, I now have two Contour Corsets. They’re that good.) The bones themselves are not remarkably stiff, the width of the boning channel looks average, and the grommets are not crazy close together. So how did she achieve this? The boning channels themselves are spaced very close together – the space where the grommets are inserted are only wide enough for the shank – and the wide flange of the grommets literally overlap with the bones themselves. This ensures two things: the washer of the grommet should never rip through because it’s anchored by the bones, and the bones should never twist because they’re anchored by the grommets! The grommets are also a little closer together at the waistline, but that’s not the most crucial detail. What also may contribute to the stability of the back panel is the very stiff mesh – it resists collapsing, stretching, warping or wrinkling so perhaps the fabric itself helps prevent bowing. Fran once demonstrated that her lacing panels are so strong, she can hang one from a door frame and sit on it like a swing!

Go forth and bow no more!

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!

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.

How much to Size Down, and why too-wide Corset Gaps are BAD

Last week we discussed how you can tell when you’re ready to size down, and what to do with your older, bigger corset – today we’ll discuss what you need to consider when choosing your next, smaller corset. You can watch the video below, or skip over the video and read the article – they contain the same information.

Once again, remember that sizing down is a personal choice – you don’t have to if you don’t want to. And as usual if you’re ever concerned with the idea of training down in the first place, talk to a trusted medical professional.

Stick with the same brand for your smaller corset, or try a new brand?

If you’re elated with the brand you previously owned, then by all means you can order from them again. This is especially beneficial if you’re ordering custom from the same corsetiere; you get to build a rapport with them, they are familiar with your body and they may be able to improve on any possible minor fitting issues that you may have had from previous corsets. Some of them also keep your pattern and notes on hand, and a few corsetieres also offer loyalty discounts for repeat customers – this is the great advantage to practicing brand loyalty!

But if you’re going with a standard sized corset, then just be aware that when you size down, you may have to order a curvier style.  Remember that as corsets go smaller in size, the underbust, waist and hips all get proportionally smaller, not just the waist. So if you’re sizing down in the waist but your natural underbust and hips measurements haven’t changed, then if you try to put yourself into a smaller version of your first corset, you might experience muffin top or flesh spillover; your hips might feel pinched and the bones in the back of the corset may twist warp as you try to close the waist while the top and bottom edges refuse to meet.

If these things sound familiar, it may be because it’s been covered in my “corset gaps” article with respect to the )( shaped gap – the gap that signifies that the corset is

Click the photo to see my seasoning series, where I talk about flaring in more detail.

If you are losing weight and find that the top and bottom edges of your old corset are loose on you when it’s fully closed, you can likely size down with the same cut and style.

not curvy enough for your natural figure and experience level!

However, there’s one situation that you may be able to stick with the exact same OTR corset brand and style, just a size smaller – if you have lost weight and you find that you’ve dropped inches all over (including underbust, waist and hips) proportionally, then the same corset may fit you in the smaller size.

Should I choose a corset one size smaller, or skip one and go two sizes smaller?

The amount that you size down depends on your starting numbers, whether you’re more squishy/compressible or more muscular/uncompressible, how quickly you’re reducing in size, and whether you’re combining waist training with a change in your meal plan or fitness regimen to lose a large amount of weight (or more accurately, volume).

Some reasons that you may want to go down only one size, or the equivalent of two inches:

  • if you are smaller or more muscular to begin with.
  • if you are training very slowly.
  • if you are maintaining your weight or body composition.
  • if your corset, when worn completely closed, feels still kinda snug but not tight; and you’re not able to feel a large space between yourself and the internal wall of the corset.

Some reasons that you may consider going down by two sizes, or the equivalent of 4 inches:

  • if you are larger and softer to begin with, perhaps with a natural waist size exceeding 40 inches.
  • if you may find yourself extra compressible and training much quicker than expected (you’ve closed your first corset within a month or so).
  • if you are ACTIVELY and steadily losing weight. (Note that this doesn’t count those who simply have intentions of losing weight and haven’t started yet.)
  • if the corset is literally falling off you, and you can put yourself plus both your hands into the corset, or pull your abdomen away from the internal wall of the corset and create a space.

It also depends on what you feel comfortable with. If you are not comfortable or don’t feel ready to size down two sizes, one size, or at all, then don’t! Nobody is forcing you.

Special considerations for those experiencing rapid weight change:

In the case of rapid and copious amounts of weight loss (or gain, but generally quick loss is the more common situation I hear about), if you have limited funds I would advise that you wait until your loss has slowed down to around 1 pound a week, or your weight has stabilized completely. One reason for this is that it obviously stinks to buy a corset and have it be too big even a month later, and another reason is that during a process of a drastic body transformation, not a lot of people can predict exactly where they’re going to lose the next inch. When you’re losing 10 or more pounds a month, over the course of one month you may find that you’re losing more from your breasts or abdomen, while the next month you might find your hips and bum are reducing – and in the case of such a close-fitting garment such as a corset, these small changes of just a few inches can drastically affect how a corset fits and feels.

“Mind the gap!”

A too-small corset (the gap is too wide, even if the back edges are parallel).

A too-small corset (the gap is too wide, even if the back edges are parallel).

The last topic is to please once again, mind the gap in the back of your corset when trying on your new, smaller corset! Even when you’re sticking with the same brand you trust (just in a new smaller size) you should still keep in mind the shape and the size of the gap in the back. As we discussed above: just because one particular corset cut worked for you the first time, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for the smaller size!

A new corset, when unseasoned and worn at a comfortable reduction, often has a gap of 2-4 inches if it’s designed to close completely in the back, or possibly a slightly larger gap of 4-6 inches if the corset is designed to always have a small gap in the back (which some corsetieres do draft for).

I know that a lot of people out there want to save money and they don’t want to keep spending money to buy smaller and smaller corsets, so even if they have a 35 inch natural waist, they might be tempted to buy a size 20”. But sizing down gradually is important for the corset to fit and be comfortable.

If the gap in the back is too large (more than 4-6 inches while you’re gently seasoning, depending on the experience level of the waist trainer), the corset might be too small for you in general or too advanced for your level. Even if a custom corset has all the measurements and curves to theoretically fit you perfectly when closed, you might not be ready for that kind of reduction on the get-go.

Why is too large a gap bad, even when kept parallel and true?

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 1.10.15 AM

The hips of the corset are angled too forward compared to my own hips. This creates a “pocket” in the front, and uneven pressure at the back of my hip.

With such a huge gap in the back, you may also feel tempted to lace the corset tighter than your body is ready for in order to minimize that gap faster, and you may end up hurting yourself, or damaging the corset, or becoming discouraged by what you feel is a relative lack of progress (or all three!). And if you end up breaking your corset and having to pay for a replacement or repair, then your waist training regimen may not end up being any less expensive than if you had sized down gradually with several different corsets.

Remember when you size down a little at a time, those old larger training corsets not necessarily a waste! See my last article on what to do with your old corsets when you feel that you’re done with them. 

I  hope this article and the last one helped some readers determine when it’s time to size down and by how much to size down. If you have any other tips and tricks to add, do let me know in a comment below!

Sizing Down in your Corset, plus What to Do with your Old, Bigger Corset

When you’re waist training, sizing down is a natural part of the process. Your first corset may be 4-6 inches smaller than your natural waist, but what happens if and when you “outshrink” your first corset, and you still want to train down further? How do you know when it’s time to get a new, smaller corset? Read ahead, or watch the video linked below (which gives the same information):

(Please note that sizing down is in the context of someone who is actually waist training; if you’re just an occasional corset wearer or you have no desire to size down, just disregard this post!)

When do I know it’s time to size down in my corset?

I suppose the question to precede this one is when do you know that a corset is fitting correctly before you even size down? We’ve discussed corset gap shapes and other fitting issues, but what about the size of your corset gap? A new corset that properly fits often initially has a gap of 2-4 inches (if it’s designed to eventually close completely in the back), or possibly a slightly larger gap of 4-6 inches (if the corset is designed to always have a small gap in the back, which some corsetieres do draft for). If you ever put a corset on for the first time, lace it loosely (as in the case of seasoning it), and it closes all the way in the back from top to bottom, your corset is probably too large to begin with and you need to size down immediately. Let’s say you’ve started with a well-fitting corset though, and you’ve been wearing it for several months. Today, for the first time, you were able to close your corset fully from top to bottom! Congratulations – do you go out and buy your next corset that very day? Not yet.

I would say that it’s time to size down when you can do one or more of the following:
  • you can easily and consistently close the corset every time you put it on, for at least a month.
  • your ability to close the corset is typically not affected by your menstrual cycle, water retention, small weight fluctuations or other natural fluctuations.
  • you can stick an arm down inside of the corset while it’s closed, or perhaps pull your abdomen away from internal wall of the corset while sucking in.

In the next post in this series, I will discuss what to consider when sizing down choosing your next, smaller corset. But for now, let’s discuss what you can do with your old corset that you no longer need as a primary corset:

What can you do with your old corset?

Can you alter your corset to be smaller?

Theoretically yes, but if you don’t sew, good luck finding a corsetiere who is willing to alter another person’s work. Many corset makers would rather make a new corset from scratch, rather than modify an old one – this is because if you want a “perfectly” altered corset that has no evidence of alteration, you’d have to:

  1. make friends with your seam ripper, and then:
  2. remove the binding
  3. remove the bones
  4. take apart the seams (and hope that the fabric survives this trauma as the seamlines are now perforated)
  5. likely cut through the waist tape (which weakens the corset), or put in a new, smaller waist tape
  6. reshape every panel (it’s not a good idea to do just one seam, if you want to ensure that the hips are not angled forward or backward in the end product)
  7. put the corset back together again, including reassembling the panels, adding the smaller waist tape, inserting the bones, and adding the binding!

Personally, I don’t consider this level of alteration worth the time or frustration when I can make a new corset in half that time! If you’re still interested in seeing how other people “took in” their corsets so they’re smaller, check out this video by CorsetRookie who sewed darts and pleats into his Axfords corset, although I should note that by doing this (especially in a thicker corset) the pleat may form a ridge or bump that can be felt when you’re wearing the corset and may result in pressure points. Another alteration walk-through by Snowblack Corsets shows her taking a larger WKD corset and cutting it down smaller and curvier, and adding embellishment like external contrasting channels and lace.

So, if you don’t feel like altering your old corset to be smaller, what can you do with it?

Click here to learn more about sleeping in your corset!

Click here to learn more about sleeping in your corset!

1: Use your old corset as a night/ sleeping corset.

If you have ever tried sleeping in your corset, you may find you’re the type who needs to loosen the laces a little when you sleep. So if you buy or make a new, smaller corset, you can designate the old larger one as a sleeping corset. Sleeping in a corset can be a bit traumatic to the corset (it can cause warping or abrasion) but since your old, bigger corset is no longer your primary training corset, you don’t have to worry as much about getting dander or oil on it, or if the satin fabric sees any thinning or wear if you’re rolling around and putting uneven pressure on it through the night.

2: Trade or sell your old corset 2nd hand.

If your old corset is still relatively good quality, you can sell it second hand or trade for a different corset! There’s a ton of old corsets sold on Ebay or Craigslist, and if your corset is more than 20 years old, it qualifies as an “Vintage” item on Etsy. There are also corset sale groups on Facebook, Tumblr, and my own consignment shop (the Bronze Line) as well. You can use the funds from selling your old corset to put towards your new corset! Before listing your corset, do some research into how much similar-quality corsets are being sold for. Presuming that your old corset is still decent quality/ wearable, then a 2nd hand corset will often sell for 50% – 75% of the original price (depending on who made it and how rare it is).

3: Cannibalize your old corset for materials for future sewing projects.

This corset had been sacrificed for hardware.

This corset had been sacrificed for hardware.

If your corsets are in poor condition and not appropriate for resale (and they don’t hold much sentimental value for you), then you can harvest parts of your old corset to be recycled in new corsets. Hardware like the busk and bones can be used over and over again for mockups or in future completed corsets as long as they’re not rusted or warped, and salvageable embellishments like large pieces of lace appliqué or crystals may be reused as well. You can also cut out the grommet panel of your old corset (making sure you leave a seam allowance) and you can quickly and easily sew that grommet panel onto all your future mockups and toiles, saving you time and grommets. There you have it – how you know when to size down from your current corset, and three suggestions of what to do with your old corsets. What are your requirements as to when to size down, and what do you do with your larger corsets? Let me know in a comment below!

How to measure your corsets with precision

For a detailed look at how I measure various corsets, see my in-depth tutorial below:

This is the third and final part to my OTR fitting mini series. In part 1 I taught you the various ways that an OTR corset company may share their fitting information (if at all), and the takeaway message from part 1 was to urge more OTR companies to display more than just the waist size – proportions are important too! Measurements of the ribcage, hips, and torso length all play a factor in proper fit, as well as the bust circumference if it’s an overbust corset.

In part 2 I showed you some case studies in determining if an OTR corset would at least approximately fit you. The point of this video is to show how to take your own body measurements and compare it with a sizing chart provided by your OTR company of interest – and really explain in detail why this exercise is so important. If you know for a fact that a corset is not going to fit your ribcage or hips properly for a given waist size, don’t waste your time and money! Move on and find a different brand that will fit you better. You will be more comfortable and your training will be better for it.

Here, in part 3, I will show you how exactly I measure my corsets. When I first receive a corset in the mail, I will take 5-8 measurements:

  • Circumference measurements: bust (if overbust), underbust, closed waist, high hip (iliac), and low hip (if longline).
  • Vertical measurements: center front, princess seam from underbust to lap, and sometimes side seam and/or center back.

I now log these measurements in the Corset Dimensions Directory, for everyone’s use. You can compare these measurements with your own measurements and see which corsets may fit best on you!

If the corset gets a lot of use, I may measure it again in a year’s time and see if it has stretched out at all.

Once you get the hang of measuring your corsets, it becomes intuitive: circumferential measurements should be perpendicular to the busk and back edge of the corset, or parallel to the waist-tape. Vertical measurements are always parallel with the busk or the back edge of the corset.  You may choose to measure your corsets several times and take an average, since the location of an iliac crest circumference or true underbust circumference may not be entirely obvious in some corsets.

Using Measurements to Predict the Fit of OTR Corsets Online

Way back on January 7th, I posted Part 1 of this 3 part mini series on fitting OTR corsets, wherein I discussed the different ways that some corset companies use to describe the curviness or the proportions of the corsets they sell. To summarize this first part, there are 3 main ways: the use of size charts; recommending that clients’ natural measurements be within a certain range; or discussing the rib-spring and hip-spring of these corsets. If this does not make sense to you, I recommend going back and refreshing yourself on these points.

This is important because corsets don’t have ease the way that other clothes do – for the most, part they’re not supposed to stretch. In fact, corsets can be said to have what’s called “negative ease” (instead of your body manipulating the clothing around you, the clothing instead manipulates your body).

My favorite way for corsetiers and businesses to display their information is through the use of a size chart, because I can see everything at a glance. But why is it so important to know the precise underbust, waist and hip measurements of a corset before you buy it? Why not just go strictly by the waist size? By making the most of the size charts you may be able to fairly accurately predict whether a corset is going to fit you or not, before you ever buy it or try it on. Let’s look at some case studies. If you’d rather watch the video instead of reading through these case studies, I won’t blame you:

Let’s take a look at my natural measurements:

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 8.07.14 PM

I take my measurements to the closest cm (or in this specific case, the closest half-inch). Bodies are squishy though, so there is an acceptable range for the corsets I wear – especially if the corset is designed to have a small gap in the back instead of being worn completely closed (many corset makers draft their pieces to have a 2″ gap in the back, so I accommodate for this in my regular range). For the upper range, this is the maximum measurement I can wear before the corset starts to look visibly baggy on me (despite wearing jeans, poofy clothing underneath etc. that fill out the space).

Now let’s go hypothetical corset-shopping!

Case Study A:

 Corset_A

The waist of Corset A is 22″. As an experienced corset wearer, I already know that I can wear a size 22” corset – it’s a 6” reduction, which is fine for me. A corset is supposed to compress the waist, but not the ribs and hips.

But the underbust measurement of Corset A is far too small for me! On a good day, I can perhaps tighten the top edge of a corset to 28” but it’s not comfortable for me. This corset has an underbust of 26”. No matter how much I try, it’s not likely that the top edge of the corset will ever close on me, and I can’t expect it to stretch out because corsets aren’t supposed to stretch. It will likely cause muffin top/ flesh spillover, and if I pull it too tight then it may hinder my breathing. This is NOT supposed to happen with a well-fitting corset, so this corset is not right for me.

The hips are a little small as well, but as it’s only 1 inch smaller than my natural hips, I will be able to wear it with a small gap in the back and it would still look fine. If I could go up one size in Corset A, then the circumference measurements would be (underbust 28″, waist 24″, hips 34″) and would fit my body much better, albeit not perfectly.

But it’s also important to look at the length as well! Corset A is 2 inches longer than my own torso. I would probably be able to wear it fine when I’m standing up, but if I sit down, then the top of the corset may push up on my bust uncomfortably, or the bottom of the corset will dig into my lap – it’s probably best to just pass on this corset altogether.

Case Study B:

Corset_B

This corset would fit reasonably well in the underbust and waist. If I try to close it all the way, it may create a tiny bit of muffin top, but it won’t be that uncomfortable on me. However the hips of the corset (being 30”) is too small for my own iliac measurement of 33”. Knowing my own body, trying to wear this corset closed will likely result in my hips feeling very pinched and they may begin to hurt or go numb.

I can tell from looking at the length of this corset (7″ tall) that it’s more of a cincher. It’s 4” shorter than my own torso. I don’t have a protruding tummy so wearing a short corset is not a huge issue for me, but if you have any lower-tummy pooch or a pendulous abdomen, then you may want to bypass this corset and try a longer one that you know will hold in your tummy better. I explain why you may want a longline corset for low tummies in this video.

Case Study C:

Example corset C

I can immediately tell from the measurements that this is a super curvy corset! I know this because by the numbers, the ribcage is 8″ larger than the waist, and the hips are 12″ larger than the waist. The waist and the length measurements are fine for me, but both the underbust and the hips will be too large (larger than my wearable range). I would likely be able to close this corset right away from the first wear, and will still have room to spare in the ribs and hips – they’ll be gaping away from my body. In this situation, I don’t necessarily have to go with a different style, but I might want to try going a size down:

Corset C_size_smaller

Here is Corset C except a size 22″ instead of size 24″, and it looks like we hit the jackpot! Here is a standard sized corset that fits my natural measurements reasonably well in all four areas. If, however, I have no desire to go down a size and make my waist smaller, then I will need to find a different corset that is less curvy, and my search will continue.

When you’re shopping for an OTR corset, read everything you can on the website. Look for a size chart or fitting notes; and if you don’t see it, then email and ASK customer service if they have the proportions of the corset you’re looking to buy! Be sure to check out my Corset Dimensions Directory, where I have measured almost all of the standard sized corsets I’ve tried and logged their measurements so you can do this same fitting practice: use your own natural measurements, and compare them to the corset’s measurements. Try to find a brand and size that fits your ribs and hips within one inch!

I hope these case studies showed you how important it is to know the underbust, waist, and hip circumference measurements, as well as the length of the corset. In part 3 of this mini series, I will show you my own method of fairly precisely measuring my corsets – you can use this method to  corsets that you own as well, and we can share sizing information with one another in the Lace-Base.

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