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3 Tips to Keep Cool and Prevent Overheating while Waist Training

Hey everyone! I’m creating this in the middle of a heat wave, it’s a humidex of 40°C here or (~105°F) and I realized that I hadn’t really made a video solely dedicated on preventing overheating while waist training. (Despite my Caribbean heritage, I’m actually a bit heat intolerant so I have to be extra careful not to get heat exhaustion, so I have plenty of experience with trying to stay cool in the summer.)

When you’re wearing a corset, you have several extra layers of fabric around your core, holding heat in — so it’s all the more important to stay cool and hydrated.

Every once in awhile I will hear or read of another corset wearer who fainted at a nightclub / convention / Renfaire, and oftentimes it can be explained by dehydration and overheating, low blood sugar, or exhaustion. However, the Victorians’ weird preoccupation with swooning ladies did not help with the rumors around the alleged dangers of corsets (read more about the Victorian swooning culture here, because it was definitely a learned behavior and not necessarily due to the corset itself).

I will make another video in the future on tips for wearing corsets as part of your cosplay, but for now, let’s jump into my 3 tips for keeping cool in general, whether you’re wearing your corset over or under your clothes:

1: Invest in a mesh or ventilated corset

Choose a corset that’s thinner or more breathable. Mesh corsets are the first and obvious choice that comes to mind, but they have their pros and cons. I have a whole other post dedicated to comparing mesh corsets here. Mesh corsets are more thin and breezy, which allows heat and sweat to escape — but they usually don’t have the longevity of an all-cotton corset.

Click here to see the post where I compare all these different mesh corsets.

Victorian corsets were often made from a single layer of strong cotton, which you can do as well. Upon the resurgence of the corset’s popularity in the last ~10 years, single-layer corsets used to relatively unpopular because they seemed a bit flimsy compared to the “4-5 layer super-duper heavy-duty training corsets” that certain OTR corsets were touting as higher quality — and subsequently, this formed the misconception that fewer layers meant less strength — but it makes more sense that a single layer of good quality coutil is more breathable, and also stronger/ less resistant to stretching out compared to 3 layers of cheap elastic satin, for instance. and as the community of waist trainers has grown in recent years, including many who train throughout the year and some who live in hotter climates year-round, I think the demand for thinner and more lightweight corsets has grown.

Victorians also had mesh and ventilated corsets to help keep themselves cooler (despite the several layers overtop). Lace Embrace Atelier makes recreations of mesh and skeleton corsets, as well as corsets made from cute cotton eyelet fabric.

Melanie Talkington, owner of Lace Embrace, models her own summer mesh Victorian reproduction corset.

Narrowed Visions also has recreated 1895 ventilated corset below which looks gorgeous. (I had experimented with making my own skeleton corset, which came out hideous but it was a good learning experience that later led to my sports mesh corset.)

Nikki Swift of Narrowed Visions made this lovely ventilated corset from an 1895 antique pattern, made with drab coutil.


2: Stay hydrated.

It’s probably obvious, but it’s too important to leave out. Even if you don’t think you’re sweating under your corset — believe me, you are. Even if you’re in an air-conditioned building (and air conditioned spaces tend to have dry air), still take in water. But especially if you’re out and about, bring a water bottle and sip it every half hour at minimum, and do not down it all at once. Because if you feel dehydrated and nauseated, and then you chug a pint of water all at once, you’re probably going to feel even more sick. If you’re sweating profusely, you’re also losing salt, so put a pinch of salt or an electrolyte mix in your water bottle and sip frequently.

Related Content: See the Guided Galleries, Lucy’s regularly updated master post on some of the most gorgeous Summer, Mesh, Sheer, and Ventilated Corsets by OTR brands and custom corsetieres


3: Try a Bodice Chiller!

If you have a tendency to overheat, one amazing thing that was recommended to me was a bodice cooler or bodice chiller. It’s essentially a metal vial that you put in the freezer in advance and stick it in your cleavage or down the front of your corset to keep you cool. This works better with overbust corsets than underbust, because most overbusts leave you a bit of space between the breasts and at the sternum, whereas underbusts tend to fit more flush around the ribs.

Now, these are surprisingly difficult to find. Sometimes they are sold at Renfaires, they can be made from metal or glass — I’d personally be afraid of putting glass that close to my solar plexus (but if it’s designed to go from hot to cold frequently, then most likely it will be tempered glass that’s resistant to shattering). I’ve found one on Etsy here made from stainless steel — it’s available in several different colors and designs, and best of all it’s $20 USD which is much less than you’ll find at most Renaissance Faires.

If you can’t find a bodice chiller nearby, you could also get one of those long stainless steel chillers designed for beer or wine. I have actually not bought a bodice chiller yet, but what I have done is take small freezies or ice pops, wrap it in a paper towel so the plastic doesn’t risk cutting me (and the paper towel also catches condensation and prevents frostnip), and the best part is that they’re easy to find and only cost ~20 cents each. Since they’re sealed, you can pop them back in the freezer when you’re done — but let’s be honest, I usually end up eating them.

What did the Victorians do to keep cool?

While Victorians didn’t have air conditioning (currently my best friend), they did have ventilated, mesh, or skeleton corsets as mentioned above — other ways that Victorians kept cool was by using fans and carrying parasols to shade themselves from the sun. There are patents dating back to the 1800s showing that they even had ceiling fans in some areas, although they worked using a spring and crank, and were usually operated by slaves / servants (another reason why we can feel better about modern air conditioning). Lastly, Victorian women also had summer dresses made from lightweight cotton and linen, which despite wearing multiple layers can sometimes still be cooler than modern synthetic fabrics.


Ready to buy a mesh or a lightweight summer corset? Hey, I’ve got them corsets in my shop! Support this blog and stay cool this summer at the same time.

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How to Attach Garter Straps (Suspenders) to Your Corset

I recently received an email from a client who had purchased a corset and garter straps (suspenders) from my shop. They had assumed that when they’re purchased together, they would come attached, but in reality the garter straps are detachable and interchangeable (which means you can use them in many of your corsets!) but it does mean that there is “some assembly required.”

Most brands of corsets come with garter tabs, which are small loops at the bottom edge of the corset – they’re usually sewn upwards so that when they’re not in use, they are out of the way and not visible from the outside. They are also pressed very flat so as not to irritate your skin in any way.

When you do want to attach your garter straps to the corset, you take the “hook” side (it looks just like the hooks that come with interchangeable bra straps) and slide it through the garter loops.

Make sure that you’re not attaching your garter strap inside out! There’s an inside and an outside. The outside has the metal slider which allows you to adjust the length of the strap. You will also see that the “button” part of the garter clip faces outwards, for ease of use and to prevent your skin from touching the metal wire loop.

Check out the video below to see how to attach your garter straps to your corset. It’s much easier to do this before you put on the corset as opposed to when you’re wearing the corset.

You can also adjust the length of the garter strap (if it’s your first time attaching your stockings and you’re not sure how taut you need the straps to be, it might be easier to lengthen the garter straps as far as they will go when you attach to your stockings, and then tighten to your preferred amount once everything is attached.

To adjust the length of your garter straps:

  • Flip up the metal slider to unlock it – this helps it glide easier.
  • To lengthen the strap, grab the upper portion (with the single layer of elastic) while pulling down gently on the slider, allowing the lower portion (the double-layer loop of elastic) to glide freely. This makes a smaller loop, lengthening the strap.
  • To shorten the strap, pull up on the metal slider with one hand and you may also need to pull gently on the loop of elastic below the slider as well, if there is tension on the strap from your corset being attached to your stockings. The aim is to make that loop bigger, which shortens the strap.
  • Once you’re happy with the length, remember to flip down the metal slider – this makes the “teeth” of the slider bite into the elastic, keeping it in place!

My corset has 6 garter loops, but I only have 4 garter straps!

This can happen if you ordered your corset from a different shop as your garters, or if you lost a couple of garter straps – but not to worry! You can still use your straps.

There are 3 garter tabs on each side of your corset – I would recommend attaching your straps to the first one (closest to the front busk) and the last one (closest to the back laces), leaving the side seam without a strap.

Or – if you have a bigger bum, or if your garters just don’t like to stay attached at the back of your stockings when you sit down or stoop, you can attach your straps to loop 1 (by the busk) and 2 (on the side seam) and leave the back unsupported. This does mean that your stockings might sag a little at the back, but if your skirt / slacks are long enough, this won’t be visually noticeable.

My corset has only 4 garter loops, but I have 6 garter straps!

Keep those extra two garter straps for backup in case you lose a couple. ;)

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Did Victorian Women Break In Their Corsets?

 

Many moons ago, one of my Tumblr followers asked: “Did people season their corsets in the 19th century?”

Short answer:

Not really. But they molded to the body much faster than many corsets made today, and some corsets came out of the factory already seasoned, in a sense.

Long answer:

Victorian corsets were usually single layer and molded quickly to the body

The vast majority of corsets in the 1800s were utilitarian, daily pieces – often a single layer of cotton, with lap seams that were either wide enough to hold a bone, and/or separate channels that were sewn on externally or internally. I have tried some single layer corsets and MANY multiple layer corsets, and single layer corsets always mold to the body faster and season very quickly. If you’ve ever had a mockup fitting, think of how well the single-layer mockup fits you, and how much heavier and stiffer the final corset feels in comparison, even with the same or similar measurements.

I also own some single layer corsets – some homemade, some factory samples, and some that were deliberately commissioned as a single layer like my Bizarre Design corset, and they have all felt fairly broken in after only 1 day.


Victorian corsets had a different construction (and shorter stitches)

In the case of those single-layer homemade mockups or samples that I’ve worn for extended amounts of time, they also started falling apart faster too, mostly at the seams. But why wasn’t this the case in Victorian corsets?

I remember at the Symington museum collections where they have dozens of antique corsets from the 19th century you can touch and study – there were hand-written factory specs of many corsets, but one of them in particular caught my eye because this one said that it was sewn with a stitch length of 26 stitches to the inch (the stitches were less than 1mm long!).

Check out the teeny tiny stitch length on this antique corset, as compared to the busk knobs or my thumb – even in “non tension bearing” seams like the quilting or boning channels!
(From the Symington Collection: Leicestershire County Council Museum Service)

Compared that to an OTR corset today, which has about 8.5-9 stitches per inch. (Of course, thread quality strength matters too, not just stitch length.) With a shorter stitch length, there is less “sliding and redistribution of the threads so you get less of a shear force. And with lap seams, flat felled seams, or seams straddled by a boning channel, these types of seams put much less stress on the thread compared to, say, the sandwich method that is popular today.


Whalebone (baleen) molded to the body with body heat and perspiration

Remember that prior to steel, the corsets contained whalebone which were thinner, lighter and – when exposed to warmth and moisture – the baleen became very malleable and could be bent in pretty much any direction. So when the corset is put on, the warmth and perspiration from the body would soften the corset more – and when the corset was removed, the bones would get the chance to cool and dry out, but could retain the shape of its wearer.

Steel bones do not have these same properties, especially some of the cheaper, rigid, less-comfortable flat steel bones often found in budget OTR corsets.


Side note: Second-hand / hand-me-down corsets were more common than you think!

Anthropologist Rebecca Gibson has studied the skeletons of impoverished French women from the 1800s and she said that it wasn’t uncommon for corsets to be be passed down from mother to daughter, or from mistress to maid – hand-me-downs and 2nd-hand purchases were a thing in the 19th century! So in that sense, the corset was already very much seasoned, but Gibson’s research also showed that just because they were seasoned doesn’t necessarily mean that they fit well – because the corset might not have matched their measurements.


Some corsets were steamed and “pre-seasoned” before being sold

After the industrial revolution in the 1830s, some factories actually steam molded their corsets which is kind of like rapid seasoning before it ever sees a body. Here’s one example from the V&A museum:

1887 steamed and molded wedding corset, Edwin Izod. Courtesy of the V&A Museum, London, UK. Click through for more info.

Quote from this page:

To improve shape, performance and comfort, manufacturers claimed numerous inventions. One of the most successful was the steam-moulding process developed by Edwin Izod in 1868, and still used in the 1880s to create elegant corsets such as this one. The procedure involved placing a corset, wet with starch, on a steam-heated copper torso form until it dried into shape. The result was a beautifully formed corset, whereby ‘the fabric and bones are adapted with marvellous accuracy to every curve and undulation of the finest type of figure’ (The Ladies’ Gazette of Fashion advertisement, London July 1879).

 


Victorians were accustomed to restrictive, non-stretch clothing

Almost all clothing today contain at least a small amount of spandex/lycra for comfort and positive ease. With the exceptions, say if someone puts on a nice work suit with no stretch they think it’s confining enough – imagine when they put on a corset for the first time and they’re introduced to the concept of negative ease! I’ve found that when someone is new to wearing corsets, they have a much more positive association with it if they only wear a corset gently for a small amount of time and build up from there (as opposed to taking 6 inches off their waist immediately and wearing it like that for 12 hours). As Ann Grogan of Romantasy says, “You wouldn’t put on a pair of 6-inch stilettos and run the Boston Marathon, would you?”

Soft children’s corded stays, for no waist reduction – fastened by buttons in front, and contains no bones (not even baleen). (From the Symington Collection: Leicestershire County Council Museum Service)

For this reason, I consider the seasoning process as important for a novice’s body, or probably more important for the body, than it is for the corset.

Victorians, on the other hand, had no stretch in their clothing per se (although pleats and gathers do what they can), and wore stays from childhood. Now, these stays wouldn’t take much (if anything) off their waist, they were corded stays and fastened with buttons instead of laces – but they would be quite snug and be close to fitting their natural waist measurement – such that their waist circumference was probably held more or less constant even as the rest of their body grew.


Tightlacing was less common; light reductions were more the norm

Props to Alexa for pointing this out: Most Victorian women didn’t tightlace, but rather their corsets were worn more for support (bust support and back support), supporting the heavy skirts, and perhaps gentle cinching. So even when worn daily, their wear might not be as rigorous as someone who laces down 6-8 inches and wears it 23/7 today.

This one study from the Victorian era mentions that corsets were typically laced with a reduction of 1.5 to 4.5 inches, with the average being just 2.5 inch reduction from the natural waist (26.5 inch natural waist, and 24 inch corseted waist). When you consider that a reduction of 2-3 inches is recommended during the modern seasoning process, it’s really not all that different from how many Victorians wore their corsets all the time.


How long was a corset supposed to last, anyway?

This antique corset was guaranteed to not break for 12 months! This implies that other brands or makes may not have lasted that long with daily wear.
(From the Symington Collection: Leicestershire County Council Museum Service)

Another thing to consider is how long a typical corset lasted back then. Some corsets boasted that they’re guaranteed to last 12 months, which implies that many other corsets didn’t last that long (but, as we know from Gibson’s research, hand-me-downs were not uncommon so they probably got a few years of use, and they mended and repaired where they could).

Some Victorian women may have bought a new corset every few years or up to multiple times in a year, depending on the family’s wealth, the quality of the corset, and the amount of wear and tear on the corset from the woman’s activities. But they would likely find it unreasonable to expect a corset to last 5-10 years or up to a lifetime, the way that some people consider modern corsets to last.

So although Victorians didn’t having a seasoning regimen the way it’s been popularized today, their corsets were very different to modern corsets. Today, corsets come out of the factories fairly flat, and often contain multiple layers of fabric (often a mix of fibers too, like polyester). They’re decidedly crunchy due to the starch and sizing, and they contain almost exclusively steel bones (which don’t change properties when exposed to body heat), AND also consider the fact that that people today are not used to wearing restraining clothing.

I hope this answered the question as to why seasoning was probably not done during the Victorian era, but was also likely not required.

If you have any comments or questions on the matter, leave a comment below!

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Buying Used / Second Hand Corsets – FAQ

Over the years I’ve gotten an influx of questions about second hand corsets. Like other used clothing, they tend to be much less expensive and you can occasionally find “unicorns” (rare finds from corset makers who have retired or passed away). But can you trust a used corset to fit well or be as strong as a new corset? Are there any health concerns? Is it gross or shameful to buy second hand? I answer your questions here!

 

 

Isn’t it “gross” or unhygienic to buy a used corset?

I personally don’t see a problem with going gently used, as long as you know that it’s gently used and the previous owner is trying to convince you that it’s brand new – and as long as the corset is relatively clean or not used during unhygienic activities. Many people only wear their corset with a shirt or liner underneath, so technically the corset has never touched the skin on their torso, and the corset may not be any more “dirty” than a blazer.

I buy second-hand corsets where I can (I like discounted clothing as much as the next person), especially if I know the previous owner through the corset community and we’ve already developed good rapport. 90% of my closet is probably from thrift shops like Goodwill or Value Village. There are certain items that I don’t buy used (socks, stockings, underwear or bathing suits), and I will only buy shoes used if they look and feel almost brand new (look at the scuff marks on the soles) and don’t have signs that someone bled in them, for instance.

 

How can I tell if my corset is used or new?

There are differences between gently used and new corsets, the way that there are differences between used and new shoes. Look for the following in a NEW corset:

  • Crispier feel to the fabric, due to the sizing and starch used in the fabric (factories almost never pre-wash their fabric)
  • Stitches are all even
  • Steel bones are all straight, not twisted or warped
  • No wrinkling around the fabric
  • No shifted grommets in the back
  • The laces may feel springy too (if they are nylon OTR shoelace), and they might need to be “worked” a bit before they start gliding through the grommets like it’s second nature.

Used corsets might still show some traits of the above, depending on the construction and quality, and exactly how much it was worn by the previous owner.

 

This antique corset has teeny tiny stitches – about 25 per inch – and would show less shifting of stitches compared to the OTR corsets of today which have around 6-8 stitches per inch.
Corset courtesy of the Symington Museum Collections in Leicester, UK.

How does the construction play a role? A used corset that’s constructed with the sandwich method may show some slight shifting of the threads towards the waistline (where there is the highest tension), whereas with a corset with all external boning channels, this shifting in the stitching is harder to see. It’s also easier to see this shift if a corset has a longer stitch length, compared to if they used a shorter stitch length.

Other changes you can see in USED corsets (applies mostly to OTR corsets):

  • If a corset is very lightly boned with a several inches of unsupported fabric between each bone, you might see more wrinkling at the waistline compared to corsets with more bones (and more evenly distributed bones).
  • With the bones themselves, flat steels may have curved slightly to conform to the lumbar curve of the wearer over time, and because of this concave curve, the fabric along the grommet panel might have slightly wrinkled.
  • Grommets might have shifted slightly towards the center back seam if they’ve had tension placed on them. (A grommet should not be like falling out of its hole as this is damage, but in a used corset don’t be surprised if they are not perfectly lined up with laser precision.)
  • With a really well loved corset, you will likely notice that a corset doesn’t like to lie flat like it did when it was new. It may look slightly wonky and might also retain the roundness of its wearer when taken off.
  • The fabric will be softer than when it was new.

 

How much “stretching” should I expect in a used corset?

An OTR corset (depending on its quality and the style of construction, and depending on how often it was used) may commonly stretch 0.5 – 1 inch in the waistline. Some may stretch even more, and this should be stated by the previous owner if the corset has stretched to the point where it’s considered a completely different size.

Also, mesh corsets stretch more than non-mesh ones, and corsets with a partial waist tape tend to stretch more than corsets with a full waist tape. I was burned once where I bought a 2nd hand corset off ebay that was stated to be a size 22″, but in reality had a waist of 26″ because it had stretched out so much by the previous owner.

The most lucky buys are situations where the first owner tried on their new corset once or twice, and then decided it wasn’t for them – essentially selling an unseasoned, effectively new corset.

Sidenote: will the ribs and hips of a corset stretch out too?: The waist will almost certainly expand more than any other part of the corset, because it’s the place of highest tension. A well-fitting corset should ideally create a gradient where there’s compression at the waist, which dissipates up and down so that there’s essentially no pressure at the underbust and the hips. But some change to the fabric may still occur.
One really good quote from Laurie Tavan is that “we as corset makers of course never want our corsets to stretch out [such that the measurements change] but it is actually good to have some ease on the bias” as it helps the corset lie smoothly and it’s more comfortable as well. A couple of other corsetieres I know will deliberately cut specific panels on a slight bias (e.g. along the bustline, or around the front hip) to mold smoothly around curves and prevent wrinkles.

To some effect, all fabric, even the industry favorite herringbone coutil, are going to stretch on the bias a bit. The measurements of the underbust, waist, and hips will not change by too much in a good quality corset because the binding will hold horizontal measurements at the ribs and hips, and the waist tape will hold the waist measurement – but along the bias in other areas of the corset, yes there will be some ease, and this is actually a good thing for a comfortable corset that “molds” to the body.

 

I recently purchased this Restyle corset 2nd hand, and it still looked and felt new from the first wear because the previous owner listed it for sale after only trying it on briefly. It was essentially “new” but at a great price, with cheaper shipping than if I bought it new from Europe.

Do I have to “re-season” or “re-break-in” a used corset?

Let’s go back to the shoe analogy: when you break in new shoes, its purpose is to soften the shoe and get it to mold around your foot so it doesn’t give you blisters. In a pre-used corset, the threads have already shifted, the corset has already softened, and the fabric has already eased along the bias (helping an effectively “2D plane” of fabric to better wrap around the hills and valleys of a 3D body), so the corset will likely be more comfortable and you will probably be able to lace it tighter than if the corset were “factory fresh” new.

If you’ve had the pleasure of being fitted for a corset in a brick-and-mortar shop, they will probably lace their floor sample on you which has been worn by hundreds of other customers, and it will feel less crunchy and more comfy than the brand new corset you purchase and take home. But let’s say you exclusively wear that new corset for several weeks or months; if you were to go back to that shop and try on the floor sample again, I bet you would probably be able to say, “nope, this is not my corset. It is A seasoned corset, but it’s not MY seasoned corset.” Same way that a mom can tell her baby apart from another baby with very similar but non-identical features.

So you may not have to “re-break-in” a pre-loved corset. However, if this is your very first corset and you have no prior experience with waist training / tightlacing etc, you will probably still want to ease yourself into it slowly and NOT go as tight as possible on the first wear. Baby steps.

 

Any fitting issues I should worry about in used corsets (that I don’t have to worry about in new corsets)?

If you lace up your corset to find that the ribs or hips are bigger than your own, then no amount of wearing your corset is going to make it shrink to fit (but this is the same with new corsets!).

If the original owner had a noticeably asymmetric body, such that their body placed different amounts of pressure on different sides of the corset, there’s a chance that you won’t be able to make the corset perfectly symmetric again. Especially if that corset was laced on an angle or ended up twisting on their body over time, unfortunately I have never figured out how to get the corset to untwist.

 

If you have any other questions regarding gently used corsets, feel free to leave your questions below! If you have anything to add (or if you agree or disagree with anything here) also leave a respectful comment below and let’s continue the conversation.

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Corsets and Riding a Bike / Motorcycle

Welcome to another Fast Foundation Friday! Today we will explore the question of whether you’re able to ride a bicycle / motorcycle while wearing a corset.

While I don’t own a motorcycle or a bike (so I can’t give you a live demo unfortunately), I do however know a few corset wearers who do ride bikes or motorcycles. The have informed me that the corset works on a bike similarly to how corsets helped cavaliers on their horses in the 19th century: the corset helps correct posture while on the motorbike, it can act like a kidney belt to prevent organ jiggling especially over gravel, and it can provide another layer of proprioceptive feedback (telling you when you’re leaning and when you’re straight).

One acquaintance who rides motorcycles, Deanna, contributed to my Solaced book. Hers is the first story of the Back Injuries chapter, you can read her story for free if you go to Amazon and read the kindle sample. In her testimony, she mentioned that she had wiped out on her motorcycle twice – once before discovering corsets (and wearing a corset helped in back recovery) and quite a bit later, she had an accident again – this time while wearing her corset. The second time she had an accident, she said she had injured almost every part of her body except where her corset covered (armor indeed!).

“Love Will Find a Wheel” by Sarah Chrisman – a story about Victorian Biking Clubs. Image courtesy of Amazon.

Regarding bicycles, there are many accounts of corset wearers biking while in a corset. The first person that comes to mind is Sarah Chrisman, author of Victorian Secrets. She is a lifestyle corset wearer and has many pictures of herself on a bike as well as many resources from the Victorian era regarding bicycling.

For those who are looking for some advice regarding how to start riding your bike while in a corset – some common sense tips include getting used to riding your bike without the corset, and getting accustomed to wearing your corset before jumping on a bike. Learn how to breathe, bend and move in a corset before your first bike trip, and learn your bike paths and figure out how much you’ll be exerting yourself.

While on your bike, in your corset, pace yourself so you don’t get too winded e.g. when going up hills, and don’t be afraid to stop and loosen the corset if you feel the need to. I will always say safety first on the road, so if a corset prevents you from turning properly to check any blind spots behind you (regardless of the vehicle) then you may want to consider going without the corset – take it in your bag and put the corset on when you get to your destination.

Do you have any other ideas or questions you want answered in future Fast Foundation videos? Leave a comment below!

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Corset Lacing Gap: How Wide Should It Be?

We’ve talked about the shape of your lacing gap before (multiple times) and said that a parallel gap is what most people strive for in a well-fitting corset. But even in a corset with a parallel gap, how wide should that gap be? (And is it okay to wear it completely closed?) That’s what we’re going to discuss today!

 

Long story short: whether you wear a corset with a gap in the back or laced closed is 99% preference, unless a gap in the back is enforced by the specific corset maker you’re commissioning from.

With most OTR corsets, the size you see is the size you get.

In other words: if you order a corset that says it’s size 30″, then when it’s laced closed, your internal corseted waist will also be 30 inches (barring any stretch or ease).

Tomto Taifun corset
Taifun men’s corset by TO.mTO: An example of a corset that’s pretty much laced closed in the back. If you were to lace it any tighter, the edges would begin to overlap. (This lacing gap is okay!)

By the way, the definition of a “closed” corset is when the two edges of the lacing panels are touching. A closed corset does not mean one that is “simply laced enough for the modesty panel to reach across the back”. (There is way too much variation between the width of modesty panels of different brands – some panels are 4 inches wide, others are like 7 inches wide, and some don’t have modesty panels at all!)

So closed means that it’s laced shut and you can’t get it any smaller without actually altering the corset (see photo to the right).

Why would someone want or need a lacing gap in their corset?

There are a lot of reasons why you might want to wear a corset with a small lacing gap:

  • it can add some flexibility to the back of the corset. I’ve heard it described as the open laces acting like a hinge – so as you swing your hips when you’re walking or bending or doing activities, the corset can shift and swing with you.
  • If you have a sensitive spine (say you have very low body fat and your vertebrae visibly protrude from your back), you might find it more comfortable to wear the corset with a gap so the steels of the corset don’t rub against your back.
  • Having a gap in the back also accounts for weight fluctuations. If you happen to lose 5-10 pounds, your corset will still fit without feeling too loose.

But then again… if you want to wear your corset closed, that’s okay too.

  • Almost everyone I’ve seen in a corset, regardless of their body fat, experience the “Venus fold” – this is where the skin and erector muscles of your back get pushed together to create a cleavage in the back. (That’s not necessarily fat, people of every size can get that to some degree – and same with “muffin top” in corsets with a too-tight ribcage.) So if you are prone to the Venus fold, which more than likely you are, you might not have to worry about the corset rubbing against your spine, and you might be able to wear the corset completely closed with comfort if that’s your desire.
  • Also, if you are like myself and many others, and your weight fluctuations tend towards increasing as opposed to decreasing (especially as you age), you may find it more economical to order your corsets in such as size that they lace closed when at one’s lower end of your comfortable weight range. I do this as well (I’m happy to lace closed my size 22″, and if /when I eventually gain some inches, the gap in the back of my corset will not be too large).

I don’t wear my corsets closed all the time.

A relatively tubular corset laced in a )( shape, to make the corset seem curvier than it really is. (This lacing gap is not ideal)

Because I prefer the cycle method of wearing my corset (even though I don’t train per se anymore), throughout the day I may fluctuate the tightness based on my personal comfort level. For the purpose of my corset reviews though, I like the tidy look of a closed corset – and a corset that is closed from top to bottom is giving no illusions about the size I am wearing, or the silhouette the corset gives. I can’t “lie” about a tubular corset being curvier than it actually is by wearing the corset with a wonky )( shape in the back. In my reviews, I’m all about transparency – if the gap in the back is closed, you know that what you see is what you get.

I’m also transparent about the size I’m wearing, so you aren’t getting any illusion about the amount of curve you receive in a corset relative to the size. A 10-inch hip spring on a size 20″ corset is a 50% difference from waist to hips, which makes that small corset seem incredibly curvy. But a 10-inch hip spring on a size 40″ corset will only look half as curvy, because the waist is twice as big. Over the years I’ve worn corsets as small as size 20″ and as large as size 26″, and I mention this in my videos because the size does affect the apparent curve of the corset.

(There have been some corset makers who tried to make a range of corsets where the rib- and hip-springs increased proportionally with the size, but the complications involved in producing and fitting customers is with those types of corsets is a story for another time.)

Many OTR brands recommend a 2-3 inch wide lacing gap.

black-steel-boned-long-hourglass-back
OTR corset with a standard 2-inch lacing gap in the back, to account for fluctuations. Hourglass Cashmere Longline corset, available from my shop. (This lacing gap is okay too!)

Like I said before: most OTR corsets are designed and made such that, if you wear the corset closed, then your internal waist will measure what it says on the label. However, it’s worth noting that many OTR brands train their employees to give sizing advice such that the customer will wear it with a 2-3 inch gap in the back. So if Sally-Joe from Blorset Corsets looks at your measurements and says your measurements almost perfectly match a size 30″ corset laced closed, she may recommend you buy the size 28″ instead, so that it’s deliberately worn with a gap. This may be for several reasons:

  • If you as a customer are extra compressible and lace the corset closed on the first wear, it would be considered too big (even if the ribs and hips of your corset fit flush with your body)
  • If your OTR corset is known to stretch or ease over time, the size 28″ might expand to fit you similarly to the (unstretched) size 30″. This is often the reason for going down a size in mesh corsets, for instance.

When prospective clients are coming through my personalized sizing service for the corsets in my shop, I will often recommend two sizes – the size that will lace closed in the back, and the size that will fit them with a small gap in the back.

If the client is in the process of losing weight, I will recommend the smaller size as it may fit them for a longer time (they may not drop in size proportionally, but at least the larger corset will not be too big in a short amount of time). If the client’s weight fluctuates towards increasing, I might recommend the larger corset, for the reasons I mentioned above in this article. If the person aesthetically likes the corset laced closed, they can choose the larger corset – or if they like the corset with a gap, they can choose the smaller corset.

How wide of a gap is too wide?

A too-small corset: the gap is too wide, even if the back edges are parallel. (This lacing gap is not ideal)

I’ve spoken about this in my addendum to corset gaps article. If you’ve got a 10-inch gap in the back of your corset –> the side seams of the corset are offset too much from the side of your body –> you don’t have appropriate torque to tighten the corset –> this runs the risk of putting uneven stress on the corset and warping it, and putting too much pressure on the back of your body and not enough tension at the front of the body. (See picture to the right.)

What is a good guideline for a gap that is just the right size?

A 1-3 inch gap is generally fine for many people and it won’t offset the seams of an OTR corset or the intended fit too much, even if your weight fluctuates by an estimated 5-10 pounds.

One guideline for the maximum gap in the back of the corset is the distance between your Venus Dimples.

For other brands (e.g. Dark Garden), they say that a gap that is about 10% of your size of your corset is fine. So if you wear a 60 inch corset (which do exist, just not in OTR), your gap in the back can be 6 inches wide and it won’t affect the fit by too much. But a 6-inch wide gap on someone wearing a size 20” is definitely not going to look/ feel/ fit the same way, and its best to aim for a 2-inch gap for that size.

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No, Wraps Don’t Cause Fat Loss or Detox Your Body

This Fast Foundation Friday topic is thanks to a fan request – thanks to “KT” for suggesting a video on plastic wrap under corsets. (If any readers have requests for future FF videos, leave a comment below.)

Wearing plastic wrap under your corset is not the best of ideas. Wearing plastic wrap at all isn’t a good idea, actually.

Back in 2011 I made a couple of videos explaining potential skin issues that can arise from wearing corsets improperly or in an unhygienic way – some of these issues can include bacterial and fungal skin infections, broken skin, etc. There are ways to prevent these issues, like wearing a washable, breathable and moisture-wicking corset liner between yourself and the corset, trying mesh corsets for better air flow to your skin, etc. But in this post I’ll address the two main reasons why people claim to wear plastic wrap, other types of wraps, or unbreathable garments next to their skin: for weight loss, and for detoxification purposes.

Myth #1:

Wraps heat up the body through “thermogenesis”, and helps “burn more fat” around the waist and lead to spot reduction.


“Sweating out the fat” is unfortunately bad science.
When I was a kid I remember an adult saying “if you’re not sweating while you’re exercising, you’re not working out hard enough, you’re not burning enough calories”.

 

Why this is incorrect (the scientific explanation)

If you’re exercising, you’re taking organic molecules of fat and sugar and combining it with oxygen you breathe to transfer the energy in those bonds to ATP, and then converting ATP to ADP and free phosphorus and energy to move your actin and myosin, which makes your muscles move. This is an exothermic reaction (moving from higher energy bonds to lower energy bonds) and also a fairly inefficient reaction, so part of the energy is lost as thermal energy (aka heat). This causes your body to heat up during exertion and then your body produces sweat, which absorbs your body heat and then evaporates in an effort to cool you down.

Sidenote: If your body heats up too much without a cooling system like sweating, then by the time your body reaches ~42°C (107°F), many of the proteins in your body’s cells actually lose their shape (denature) and stop working, and this can be fatal. This is why they say if you ever have a fever of over 106°F you should immediately go to the hospital.

(The layperson’s explanation)

That is to say, the heat is a byproduct of exercise, but heat in and of itself does not mean that you’re burning more calories. You may might burn a tiny amount of energy just through the mechanism of vasodilation and sweating, however shivering from the cold activates your muscles and also burns calories. A sizable number of the calories you consume in a day is allotted to maintaining your body heat at 37°C (98.6°F) instead of having it cool to room temperature. What are you doing if you’re helping your body increase its core temperature more efficiently?

Put another way: an engine gets hot because it’s working. Simply heating up an inactive engine will not necessarily make it work.

 

Myth #2:

Wraps increase the amount you sweat and “help you to detox” your body more effectively.


There are people who say that you can sweat out heavy metals and other toxins. This is to a small extent true, but your skin is only responsible for about 1% of the total detoxification of your body (according to toxicologist David Cruz). Your liver, kidneys, lungs, and even your gut helps with most of the detoxification of your body.

The body’s natural detoxification processes (the abridged scientific explanation)

Let’s say you eat something toxic. Your microbiome, partially comprised of your beneficial gut bacteria, can help to deactivate some toxins and prevent them from being absorbed into your gut in the first place, so it passes through your body instead of absorbing it into your blood stream.

If it does get absorbed from your intestines, your liver should filter out the majority of toxins. Anything you absorb from your guts goes through the portal vein to the liver to be cleaned and processed before it gets into the rest of the body. Your liver has well over 500 functions in the body, so it gets “first dibs” in many of the nutrients, and it also cleans and filters the blood before it’s sent out to the rest of your body.

And if the toxins still get through to the rest of the body, then the liver or kidneys are constantly filtering them to catch them again and dump them into the poop or urine. Some water soluble toxins can also be expelled through the lungs. By the time toxins are circulating through your body long enough to get pushed out of the blood stream into the interstitial fluid, percolate into your dermis and be sweated out, this might mean that the other detoxification systems in your body didn’t catch them in time, meaning they are not as effective as they should be, or may be overwhelmed.

 

(The layperson’s explanation)

Of course, sweating is good (even if it is a relatively inefficient form of detoxification). But your skin would not be a form of detoxification, however small, if it weren’t necessary. However, trapping the sweat in next to your skin for hours may be defeating the purpose.

In a normal situation, you sweat, then it beads up and rolls off your body, or gets wicked into your absorbable fabric, or it evaporates with the wind. But putting plastic wrap or unbreathable fabrics over your skin traps the sweat in, and that clamminess you feel when you take it off means that whatever you sweated out before, just turned around and got absorbed by your skin again.

Think of transdermal patches (like the birth control patch), cortisone creams, and other topical medications which get absorbed into your skin and circulate throughout the body. Whatever you detox out through your sweat, if it stays next to your skin for hours every day, can also have the opportunity to be absorbed right back into your system. (Same as toxins that get dumped by your liver into the intestines – if you have a lazy bowel, these toxins can be reabsorbed again, but I’ll address this another day). So unfortunately, forcing your body to sweat but not getting rid of the sweat doesn’t work to detoxify the body the way that many people hope it does.

 

“But why do I lose weight and why do I look more muscular when I wear wraps?”

Let’s say that you do sweat profusely and this sweat was wicked away. You’ve lost both water and electrolytes, and you’ve effectively dehydrated yourself. This temporarily relieves edema in your skin, and this is a well-known trick amongst body builders and fitness models to bring out the definition of the muscles and vascularity. But drink some water, rehydrate your body, and take in a balanced amount of electrolytes, and you will see plumpness return to your skin and that water weight come back.

If you are personally an advocate for sweating for detoxification, I would say that a more effective way of sweating is taking a warm bath and letting your sweat be washed away by clean water. But plastic wrap is never required for waist training, weight loss, or detoxification – and for certain people, this may be doing more harm than good.

 

What do you think about the “wraps” trend? Leave a comment below or under the Youtube video.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

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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.*

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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!

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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.