Category Archive: Fast Foundations

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!

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!

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!

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!

How to Avoid Gas & Bloating when Wearing a Corset

Trapped gas in the body can be an uncomfortable or even painful experience (my cousin was once hospitalized for what everyone thought was appendicitis and it turned out to just be gas). But when you put a corset overtop of a gassy tummy, it can be even more uncomfortable. Your stomach and intestines are the hollow, membranous organs that take up arguably most of the space in your peritoneal cavity. According to Dr. Bob Jung (an orthopedic surgeon and Cathie Jung‘s husband), when these organs are relatively empty and not bloated with gas (or waste), they can flatten easily to accommodate the compression from a corset. However, when these organs are filled, there is a competition for space in the body which results in discomfort when corseted.

Therefore it’s in our best interest to minimize the amount of bloating when corset training. Unfortunately, many people try to change their diets simultaneously when they start corset training, opting for a high-fiber and ‘clean’ diet, and while this may indeed be better for you in the long run, your digestive system might be shocked by the abrupt change – unable to deal with the sudden increase in fiber, your bowels may protest and you may experience more gas, bloating, diarrhea, etc. Hopefully this post will help you pinpoint what is creating your gas, and what you can do about it.

What causes gas?

Foods: beans, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, etc.), dairy if you’re lactose intolerant.

Drinks: carbonated beverages, milk (see above), hidden artificial sweeteners (especially the sugar alcohols: sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol etc.)

Your gut health: whether your intestinal flora is balanced and you are creating the necessary digestive enzymes.

Eating/ drinking habits: How quickly are you consuming your meals? Are you taking small bites and chewing slowly and thoroughly? Are you drinking enough water every day? Do you habitually chew gum or suck on candies throughout the day?

Other behaviours: Do you breathe more through your nose or your mouth? Do you tend to suck air through your teeth when you’re tense?

I wouldn’t necessarily say to swear off all the food and drinks above – that may be too much of a diet/ lifestyle change for some, and there are many benefits to eating beans and vegetables (as long as you don’t have an allergy or lectin sensitivity). But choosing your foods wisely, preparing them in a different way, or moderating how much you consume at a time can go a long way.

Tips on minimizing gas production when wearing a corset (or anytime):

Carbonated drinks:

From my 25 questions tag video – I’m also guilty of drinking fizzy drinks and corseting, and pay for it every time.

There is no biological need for fizzy drinks, so avoid them if they’re not offering anything to your quality of life. If you must have a carbonated drink, let it bubble on your tongue and go flat before swallowing. My guilty pleasure is sparkling mineral water – no sugar, no phosphoric or citric acid to erode the enamel of my teeth if I let it sit in my mouth, no food colouring to stain my teeth, and no artificial sweeteners/ sugar alcohols to cause bloating.

Beans and pulses:

When I was in university I lived off a lot of dry beans, because they were even cheaper than canned beans but they did require more preparation when cooking. Some people say to soak the beans overnight and toss the water in the morning to avoid excess gas, then add the rinsed beans to your cooking. I often opted for lentils because they create less gas – and they’re small so they don’t need to be pre-soaked and they cook up relatively quickly.

Cruciferous vegetables:

Cooking your cruciferous vegetables can destroy some of the saccharides that cause bloating – this goes for beans as well – but overcooking your vegetables can denature some of the other nutrients as well, which leads to the next tip…

Take an enzyme supplement if you need it:

“Beano”  supplements the enzyme alpha-galactosidase which your body doesn’t normally produce – it helps to break down those undigestible sugars (essentially what our body sees as another form of fiber) so it doesn’t create gas and bloating in our gut. In the case of dairy, you can use lactase (“Lactaid”) which helps to digest and break down the lactose sugar if you are lactose intolerant. Of course, if you don’t need these enzymes, it’s not necessary to take them – and I hope it goes without saying that if you have food sensitivities or allergies unrelated to digestive enzymes, it’s better to avoid those foods completely.

Chew slowly:

Digestion starts in the mouth – your teeth grind up food and the amylase and other enzymes in your saliva start the breakdown process. The more time you spend chewing and the finer your chyme, the easier digestion will be for the remainder of the journey. As Ann Grogan also states, choosing smaller portions and eating slowly will help you recognize that full signal before you get to the point of feeling overfull, as overeating is discouraged when wearing a corset. On the topic of chewing, I personally had to give up my daily habit of chewing gum. Gum helped me with stress relief in some ways, but it eventually led to TMD symptoms and consistently upset stomach – so now I sip water instead of chewing gum, and manage my stress in other ways.

Stay hydrated:

Fran Blanche mentions several times in her own posts that it’s so very important to stay hydrated when wearing your corset – drinking enough water makes sure that your blood pressure and blood volume is regulated, which prevents wooziness or circulation issues, and to regular body temperature through sweating. Enough (not excess) water will also keep your digestive and urinary tract functioning properly, as well as keeping the other fluids in your body in the proper dilution – including your saliva and mucous. Gross to think about? Maybe. But having thick saliva or phlegm (or not enough at all) may contribute to swallowing more air or causing digestive upset.

Go slow when introducing new foods (or a new lifestyle):

I know that it’s easy to get swept up in a whole new lifestyle when you start waist training, and you might want to toss your old ways, cut out your old foods cold turkey, eat 100% clean, start a new exercise regime, etc. And for some people, that “all or nothing” approach might work for them – but for many others, this may cause them to feel sick and they may need to slowly change their habits over time. If you’re looking to introduce more fiber-rich foods, perhaps add them in a little bit at a time over the course of a few weeks so your digestive system has the time to adjust to the change. If you’re giving your diet and fitness regime a complete overhaul, maybe start with one or the other (either your meals or your exercise habits) and then phase in the other over time – that way, if you feel ill or have tummy troubles, you’ll better be able to pinpoint the culprit. Talking to a nutritionist or trainer can help you create a system or schedule.

See a doctor if your consistently bloated or have digestive issues:

Your natural gut flora may affect gas too, or what enzymes your body can naturally produce. If you are always having stomach or bowel issues, you might want to see a doctor, dietician or other trusted professional to investigate the issue. A solution may be as simple as cutting out foods to which you’re sensitive or supplementing probiotics, or it might be something bigger like undiagnosed IBS or diverticulosis which might go on for years without people really doing anything about it – so if you have digestive issues to begin with, definitely talk to your doctor before even trying a corset.

Let it out:

If social situations allow for it, and you feel that you’re going to burp or pass wind, just go for it. Your body has this function for a reason, and trust me, you’ll physically feel better for it.

*Please note that this article is provided for information purposes, and is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. Please contact your trusted physician if you plan to wear a corset for any reason.*

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!

How to Prep and Pack Corsets for Shipping

It’s well-known that I sell off my gently-used corsets once I’ve finished reviewing them. I’ve received a few requests to show how I safely mail my 2nd-hand corsets, and in the video below I show the most common method I use.

Please keep in mind that there is a spectrum for the way corsets come in the mail. When I purchase corsets from professional corsetieres, some corsets had been literally bent into an “L” shape and stuffed into a (non-waterproof!) manilla envelope. Conversely, some other corsets had been wrapped lovingly in acid-free tissue paper and tied with a ribbon, spritzed with perfume*, included a hand-written thank-you note and topped it off in a high quality engraved box!

My method is “middle of the road” finding a balance between keeping the corset protected and dry, while minimizing waste and keeping the package as light as possible – and when it comes to mailing a heavy steel boned corset, minimizing the weight of the packaging can mean the difference between shipping costs of $12 (small packet) vs $25 (full parcel)!

I know that some people will be appalled that I don’t ship my 2nd-hand corsets in a cardboard box with a load of styrofoam. Despite this, I fortunately have a 100% success rate of corsets being delivered to their new homes unmarred. (So far.)

Here’s how I prep and pack my corsets for shipping (feel free to follow along with the video above!):

  1. Weigh your corset, bag/ box, tissue paper and any accessories on a kitchen scale that can measure in grams (or ounces if you’re in the US). In the video, you see that a cardboard box adds nearly a pound of weight, which inflates the shipping price by $6-10! This is why I use waterproof bubble mailers which have an almost negligible mass.
  2. Measure the dimensions of the bag/ box as well.
  3. Check over the corset for any flaws or issues. (Although, your customer should know about these before purchasing the corset in the first place!)
  4. Tighten the laces and either tie in a bow or wrap it neatly with a band.
  5. Use a (CLEAN!) lint-roller and get rid of any dust or lint on the corset. You do not want to transfer pet hair onto a corset, nor would you want to lint-roll a white corset right after rolling a black one – so really, just use a clean piece of lint tape for EVERY corset.
  6. Fasten the busk. You can either put one (or two) loops under the knob side of the busk to lock it in place (so it doesn’t unfasten). If you’re worried about the busk bending in transit (or if your corset has a modesty placket under the busk) then fasten the busk normally and put an elastic band over the knobs to prevent the busk from becoming undone.
  7. Fold the corset (some corsets fold more nicely than others. Most, I’ve found, like to fold in thirds).
  8. Wrap the corset in some tissue paper. This is especially important if shipping two corsets of different colors, because you don’t want the ink to transfer! Also, don’t wrap a white corset in colored paper. Just don’t do it.
  9. Add a business card or personal thank-you note, if you wish.
  10. Waterproof your corset: if you are using a paper envelope or box, then wrap it in a plastic bag or plastic wrap beforehand. But as I use a waterproof bubble mailer, I don’t usually need to worry about this extra step.
  11. Then seal up your box or bag with the corset and accessories inside!
  12. If mailing in a soft bag/ mailer, I tend to write on the mailer: “PLEASE DO NOT FOLD OR BEND” (fortunately, my post system is good about respecting this!)
  13. Add the address as per your post system’s requirements (in Canada you can hand-write it, while in some other places they must be typed, especially if shipping internationally).

*I actually prefer no scent, as some people are sensitive or allergic to perfumes.

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!

Can you Layer your Corsets?

Not long ago I received some questions regarding whether you can wear one corset on top of another, for greater control or more “effective” thermal conductivity. I’m presuming this question was actually inspired by Jessica Alba’s mysterious “double corset” from 2011 (which is now presumed to be two elastic garments, not two genuine corsets).

It is technically possible to layer one real corset on top of the other, but I don’t see the functional benefit because:

  •  corsets come in all levels of thickness and rigidity (the soft mesh corsets from Orchard Corset being the most flexible I’ve experienced, and the waist training corsets from Contour Corsets being the most rigid I’ve experienced – both with their advantages and disadvantages).
  • putting one corset on top of another is likely to increase bulk around the waistline, not decrease it.
  • layering corsets is not likely to improve the fit or comfort – on the contrary, it may worsen the fit of the corset by putting too much pressure on the ribs and hips.
  • if the corset underneath has a more delicate fashion fabric, there’s a risk of that fabric being damaged by the friction of the corset overtop.

Some corsetieres and designers may layer a cincher or a yoke on top of a corset as an accent piece, but this is more an aesthetic motive rather than a functional one – and these are typically custom made to fit perfectly overtop of one another.

But if you feel that your corset is not “strong” enough and you want more control, then you don’t need to layer your corsets – it’s just that the corset you have is not doing its job properly and it would be time to invest in a corset that has the rigidity and gives you the waist reduction you’re looking for.

Swiss Waists

In some fashion plates, you may see Victorian women wearing something similar to a waspie or underbust corset over their dresses – these were not real corsets per se; their real corsets were still underneath their clothing. The Swiss waist was simply an accessory to accentuate the waistline, usually in a darker color. Swiss waists may still have been lightly boned just to maintain some structure through the garment and keep it smooth over the bodice, but they weren’t as heavy-duty as a corset and not functional in the same sense.

Can you use a real corset as foundation under fashion corsets/ bustiers?

Absolutely – I’ve seen this a lot at conventions. Almost every costume shop stocks cheap, plastic boned fashion corsets that may be cute and interesting (especially the superheroine themed corsets around Halloween) but in my opinion, those are not the most comfortable garments. Once the plastic boning begins to warm to the body and soften, they may begin to warp and kink, poking into the body and collapsing in places which (at least on me) can create what looks like rolls on my body where rolls never existed before! By wearing a more structured, higher quality corset underneath, this provides support for the bustier and as well as protection for you against any rogue plastic bones threatening to poke you in the side. Note that the bustier is not as strong as a genuine corset, and don’t be surprised if the lacing in the back is a mess (see my video below).

A real corset almost always looks better (in my opinion) but using a cheaper garment over a higher quality corset may be a more cost-effective solution for those with smaller budgets – and corsets can transforms costumes instantaneously.

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