Category Archive: General information

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!

What News Australia’s Tightlacing Article Failed to Mention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

How did you get into tightlacing?

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

 

Why is it different/better than waist training?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

What do you like about it?

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

 

What is the community like as a whole?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hourglass Corsets have Arrived!

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 9.12.25 PM

I’m proud to announce that the hourglass silhouette corsets are now up in the shop!

Back in June, myself and Sarah (Administrator for Timeless Trends, beside me in the first picture) travelled to Bangkok, Thailand to redesign the Timeless Trends and Black Iris corset patterns.

The corsets still have their “essence” (they are still immediately recognizable as Timeless Trends) but they all now feature a larger rib spring and hip spring (so the waist can be cinched further), comfortable cupped ribs, and a neutral lumbar curve – these corset patterns were draped on a human body, so they are surprisingly comfortable.

We’ve also added extra features such as an extra pair of garter tabs (now 6 instead of 4) and front modesty placket under the busk. Stiffened and suspendable back modesty panels are available for separate purchase in white and black, with other colors possible in future.

Lucy in hourglass longline underbust, in emerald brocade

Lucy in hourglass longline underbust, in emerald brocade

Timeless Trends and I worked hard over the past several months to consider every element of the construction process of these corsets so we can preserve their lifetime warranty, and I’m extremely proud of the results.

Next week, I’ll be uploading an overview of the new hourglass longline underbust, as well as a highlights video of my experience working in the factory in Thailand to my Youtube channel.

In the meantime, you are welcome to ask any questions about details of the corsets, the redesign process, the factory conditions, or my Thailand adventures in general.

You’ll find the new hourglass silhouette corsets for sale here in my corset shop.

Corset Liner Master Post + Comparing 5 Brands

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

What is a corset liner?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Corset liners help protect your body

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

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

 

Corset liners help protect your corset

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thin stretchy shirts can be a corset liner substitute

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

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

 

Corset liner =/= Faja

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immersing Corsets in Water – some considerations

 

If you plan to immerse your corset under water (in order to wash it, dye it a different color, or you plan to wear it to the beach, pool or water park), there are a few things to consider. I have received a surprising number of emails (in the past month especially) from various people wanting to know if it’s okay to swim in their corset.

Although I know of at least two people who have occasionally taken a dip while wearing a corset, and a handful of other models who have worn corsets in water-themed photo shoots (see below), I know that I would not personally swim in a corset. I am not a very strong swimmer, and I need to have full lung capacity and full mobility when I swim – so I know that I’d prefer not to cinch my waist or restrict my ribcage when swimming laps. If I were frolicking in the shallow end and just wearing a corset under my swimsuit for a bit of shape without intending to swim, this might be a different story.

Katelizabeth Waisted Creations Corset betta fish

Creative “Betta Fish” themed photo shoot, featuring a tightlacer in water. Corset and outfit by Waisted Creations. Model/MUA/photo by Katelizabeth Photography. Click through the photo to read more about this photo shoot!

Why do so many corsetieres not recommend washing their corsets?

If your corsetiere creates a custom piece for you and they mention in their wear & care information that the corset should not be washed, please follow their directions. The biggest concern regarding consistently wetting your corset is that the steel bones may rust over time. Also, fabrics like silk and even polyester satin can water stain, and fabrics that are not colorfast will have the dye bleed and fade. JoAnn Peterson (owner of Laughing Moon Mercantile) also taught me that if multiple-layer corsets are made with different fibers (for instance are strength fabric of cotton and a fashion layer of wool suiting) they will have different shrink rates – especially if the fabric isn’t pre-washed – so your corset may end up warped, wrinkly or bubbly if it ends up shrinking.

 

Why were so many advertisements for washable corsets in the early 1900s?

Corsets made in the 1800s that were designed to be worn every day (especially for the working class) were often made from a single layer of hardy cotton and not made in vibrant colours – so there was little worry about different shrink rates or dyes bleeding. Back when corsets were made with reed and whalebone, these come from plants and animals that live in the water, so wetting them occasionally actually helped to condition them, and keep them supple and flexible. Old, dry baleen was brittle and prone to snapping or splintering (which is where the rumors of corsets causing “broken bones” likely came from – it was broken baleen, not broken human bones!).

(Above is a silent film advertisement from the 1910s for Warners corsets, which were guaranteed not to rust, break or tear. By the 20th century, the vast majority of corsets did contain steel bones, though.)

When baleen was first replaced with steel, it was initially a type of ‘mild steel’ ribbon. While in England last year during a visit to the Symington collection, I had the opportunity to see how thin, flexible, and badly rusted these older steel bones were. A few styles of corsets back then had little deliberate slits or gaps in the boning channels, which allowed you to remove the bones before you washed the corset and easily replace them afterward!

Lara Corsets comments: “This ad showing a corset getting wet was shocking at the time because it was common knowledge that soaking a corset would ruin it. Corsets of the 19th century in general are often starched and steam molded to have a certain shape. Washing will literally wash out all of that shaping. They were never intended to be washed. Steel busks were usually paper, fabric or leather wrapped and would absolutely rust. The enameled steel was a big step forward in the 1890s but on OLD enameled flat steels the surface crackles and rust forms quickly. Washing often causes huge rust stains. These Warner’s corsets that claimed to be washable were boned with coraline which was thread wrapped reeds. The only metal on those corsets was the busk, grommets and side steels (if there were any).”

Corset with exposed steel bones

Antique corset with exposed steel bones. This particular style was likely to display the (then) newfangled spirals, but several other corsets had similar slots to remove the bones from the corset prior to washing. From the Symington collection in Leicestershire, England.

Today, modern technology has greatly helped prevent rusting and corrosion of steel. Flat (spring) steels are covered with a white coating and tipped with a tipping fluid, silicone or teflon. Wide busks are made of stainless steel (similar to modern silverware or your kitchen sink) so it’s more resistant to rust.  Spiral steels are galvanized – they’re given a thin coating of zinc to help make them more resistant to rust, but even zinc can corrode over time, so nothing truly makes steel bones rust-proof forever (especially in the case of poor-quality steels sometimes found in budget corsets, which are not coated or galvanized properly).

The difference between workhorse corsets and collectible corsets

Please note that the recommendations and antique ads for washing your corset were intended for workhorse corsets – garments that were designed to be used every day, hold up to high tension for a short time, and eventually wear out. Other brand advertisements of the time boasted that their corsets lasted up to a whole year of use! (Consider the mentality today, where so many people think they can purchase one OTR corset, wear it daily and have it last 5, 10 years or more – not likely today as it wasn’t likely then!)

I’m sure that in 1910, hardly any woman of the time would predict that one of their daily undergarments would become a collector’s piece today – yet here we are. Again, it’s important to note that these garments were not intended to last 100 years. Areas of the cloth can become thin from damage by the elements: fluctuations in moisture and humidity, UV and other radiation, too acidic or too basic pH, or can even be eaten away by moths and microbes. Fibers can dry-rot and become delicate, and you may not see microscopic damage until you handle the corset in some way!

I’ve gotten some traffic recently from antique corset owners who are interested in washing their corset to get rid of the staining and grime the corset has collected over the years. Personally, I would not wash an antique. While the salt and oils from the body left over from the corset’s previous owner can cause some damage to a corset, the strong basic pH of cleanser and the agitation of washing is by far worse for the longevity of the corset – even if that antique contained baleen, and even if it was once intended to be a workhorse.

Additionally, there is a catch-22 with how thoroughly to cleanse an antique. If you use a gentle cleanser, these sometimes contain conditioners that stick to the fibers of the corset and can cause product build-up. Washing with a gentle cleanser will also not kill all the spores that may have settled into the fibers of the corset over decades, which, once wet, can encourage the growth of mould and mildew in your valuable collectible. If you use a harsher cleanser, this will undoubtedly damage the fibers irreversibly! Please consider carefully the ramifications of washing an antique. You will notice that museums don’t wash all their corsets; and many of them are very badly stained. They know that cleaning an antique can possibly destroy it, and would rather put a dirty corset on display than none at all. Despite their manufactured sturdiness, these pieces have become precious and delicate with age, so treat them as such.

Therefore, the information below on getting your corset wet (and in the video, for suggestions on how one might wash a corset) are intended only for contemporary corsets – often modern OTR and workhorse corsets – and not for couture pieces or antiques. When in doubt, always ask the corsetiere or seller their views on wetting or washing your corset.

What should you do if you get your corset wet?

If your corset does end up being immersed water, either for dying reasons, washing, for a photo shoot, or just by accident, it’s best to air-dry it as fast as possible, perhaps in an area with a warm breeze, out of direct sunlight if you’re worried about color fading. If the corset is white, then the UV rays in sunlight have a bleaching effect, and can also naturally deodorize and disinfect – but do be aware that UV rays can also break down the fibers of a corset faster. Absolutely never throw your corset in a tumble dryer!

Still want / need to dunk your corset in water?

Cathie Jung beach corset

Cathie Jung in one of her swimsuit-style corsets

If you do plan to wet your corset on a regular basis, here are some tips to keep your corset functional and beautiful for as long as possible:

  1. Don’t be incredibly attached to your corset. There is a possibility that it’ll get ruined, even when it’s made to specifications below. Perhaps have an OTR corset set aside for those soggy situations, instead of wetting a custom/ couture corset.
  2. If your corset has multiple layers, be sure that those layers are the same fiber (e.g. cotton inner and cotton outer layers). These fabrics should preferably be pre-washed and pre-shrunk before the corset was constructed.
  3. Your steel bones need to be properly coated, galvanized, tipped or otherwise made rust-resistant.
  4. Your grommets should preferably be iron free (and also nickel free if you’re sensitive to that). The most common is brass (an alloy of copper and zinc). Some grommets are made with aluminum as well.
  5. If you are a really hardcore trainer and you’re invested in having a corset for all types of situations, and you’re also not allergic to latex or rubber, consider a rubber corset. Bizarre Design and Fantastic Rubber are both well-known for their rubber corsets. Cathie Jung and Michele Köbke both have been seen wearing ‘swimming corsets’ (although it’s not known whether Cathie has really been in the water with hers!). But know that rubber does not breathe and wouldn’t be best for your skin or your internal body temperature if you were to wear it for long hours in the hot sun.

 

Lara’s Expert Tips for Washing a Corset:

 

Don’t wash your antique corset unless you are willing to take a chance in compromising it’s strength further if not completely as well as possibly making it worse that it’s current condition. Now, when I am willing to wash a corset here is my method and what I recommend to my customers for the corsets I make them:

  1. In a basin, tub or sink – fill a few inches deep with lukewarm water and a mild soap (No woolite!). Good old Ivory bar soap, Fels-Naptha, or Orvis soap are great choices.
  2. Place corset within, and push it around a bit. Spot scrub any stained spots gently – consider the fabric before you brush or rub too hard – a brocade would not withstand harsh treatment. No need to soak. Rinse immediately – Do not wring ever.
  3. Lay out a thick dry towel and lay the open corset upon it. Roll the towel with the corset and gently press as much water from the corset as possible. Repeat with a fresh towel as needed.
  4. Hang the corset over a rod, hanger or something similar with a fan or two blowing directly upon it. This will get it dry as fast as possible and help to discourage rust from forming.

Do you swim in your corsets, wash them, or otherwise wet them regularly? Leave a comment below and let us know what steps you take to keep your corset in tip-top shape.

Guide to Corset Laces and Ribbons

In this post we’ll be discussing the 7 most common types of corset laces, their pros and cons, which ones are my personal favorites in different situations, etc.

Round Polyester Cord

You’ll usually find this style of lacing in budget OTR corsets. It’s a round type of corded shoelace, not flat, and often 1/8 inch in width. Being polyester based, it’s a fairly strong fiber.

You may recall that I will almost exclusively use cotton and natural fibers for my strength layer in corsets because of its breathability, but when it comes to laces, I will almost exlcusively use nylon or polyester based laces because they’re so strong.

Polyester cord tends to have some “spring” to it, and when you’re dealing with laces that are often 8 yards (7.3 meters) in length, this “springiness” can become annoying or frustrating, especially when a corset is new, because you just feel like you’re stretching out the laces as opposed to closing the corset.

The thinness of the cord helps the bows and knots to hold well without slipping, but I personally find that such a thin cord cuts into my hands when I’m trying to lace up, and makes my palms sore – for this reason, round polyester cords are one of my least favorite types of corset laces.

 

550 Paracord

30 different color options for 550 paracord from LibertyProducts, Etsy. 100 ft for $5.99 USD.

This cord comes in a multitude of colors online, and they can be purchased in 100-yard lengths in bulk and in any color you can imagine. This is the strongest type of cord used in corsetry today; it’s called 550 because it’s able to withstand up to 550 pounds of tension before breaking, and it’s called paracord because it was often used in parachutes. You’ll find paracord in emergency situations, like sold in bracelets that you can wear while camping, hiking or rafting, so if you fall down a cliff or get swept away by a current, you can unravel the bracelet and throw the paracord around a sturdy object to stop yourself.

In Ann Grogan’s “Corset Magic” book, she mentions that a corset can put up to 90 lbs of pressure around the torso, so this paracord would easily be able to withstand the tension.

In my opinion, this is where the positive things end. The cord has the colored outer coating, and then 7 smaller cords inside. Even while using a proper square knot, I find that my bows are not quite as secure as when I use ribbon or flat laces, and I also find the cord to be quite bulky and conspicuous especially under clothing. Because the inner cords and the outer sheath are not attached in any way, the outer part tends to twirl around the core and twists and bunches up in weird ways, making my corsets difficult to lace up. And once again, I find it painful on my hands when I’m lacing up.

Some people pull out the 7 tiny cords in the center and simply use the colored sheath for their laces – it will be more flat (but more springy), but you won’t have to sacrifice any of the color! It won’t withstand 550 lbs of tension without the internal cords, but it should still hold up fine for corsetry.

LibertyProducts sells 100ft (about 33 yards, enough for 4-5 corsets) of 550 paracord in 30 color options on Etsy for $5.99.

 

Satin Rat Tail Cord

25m long rat tail cord, 2mm wide, for $3.50 USD from Cchange on Etsy.

I consider this a hybrid between round cord and satin laces. It’s called “rat tail” lacing because it’s so thin. I’ve heard it’s diffciult to source in Europe, but I’ve been able to walk into my local Fabricland (here in Canada) and find 3mm wide satin rat tail cord in a multitude of colors. It’s also quite inconspicuous and not bulky under clothing because it’s so thin.

It has no springiness to it, and it’s surprisingly strong, especially for its tiny width. I find rat tail cord great for small grommets (#00 or even #X00 size) and it comes in a multitude of colors. I’m not sure why, but despite its small width it doesn’t cut into my hands as much as the bulkier round cords above – perhaps less friction due to the satin outside.

However, because it has a satiny coating, if there are any splits in your grommets then the laces can catch and cause scarring or fraying of the laces.

Because the satin cord is more slippery, you do have to know how to tie a proper bow and proper knots (not granny-bows) otherwise they can easily slip and your corset can easily loosen.

Cchange sells 25m of 2mm wide rat tail cord (easily enough for 3 corsets), in 24 different colors on Etsy for $3.50.

 

Satin Ribbon:

Single-Face Satin Ribbon

Depending on the corset maker, they will either recommend using ribbon or they won’t – it’s a matter of personal preference. Some claim that ribbons don’t last long, and they either stretch out or break – if this has been their experience, most likely they have used single-faced satin ribbon.

Single-face ribbon does not look the same on both sides. One side (the “good side”) is shiny and smooth, while the underside is more matte, a bit more rough or scratchy, and may even look similar to grosgrain ribbon. Single-face ribbon tends to be a little harder on the hands compared to double-face ribbon.

Double-Face Satin Ribbon (DF ribbon)

DF satin ribbon from Little Mint Company, Etsy. 8 yards for $5.20.

Double-face ribbon has the same texture on both sides (smooth and shiny), and is often a heavier weight/ slightly thicker than single-face satin.

DF ribbon is also used in single-layer ribbon cinchers, as they’re quite strong, have no “springiness” or stretch, and hold tension well. DF ribbon is stronger than SF ribbon, more lush and softer on the hands, but it’s also more expensive.

Regardless of which type of satin ribbon you use, if your grommets have splits, they will catch on the ribbon and cause fraying and scarring, which eventually leads to weakness and your ribbon may break after months of regular use. Fortunately, ribbon is easily sourced and laces are easy to replace.

One of the big advantages about ribbon laces is that they’re very flat and low-profile under clothing.

Most ribbons in corsets use 1cm (or 0.5 inch) wide ribbon. Some brands have slightly less wide ribbons (Starkers uses 3/8 inch wide) and some brands have wider ribbons (Totally Waisted uses 1 inch wide). The wider ribbons feel more luxurious, but consider the size of the grommets in your corset. Using a thin ribbon in large grommets, your corset may loosen as soon as you let go of the laces because they’re so slippery. On the other hand, thick ribbon through small grommets increases the friction, which may make your corset more difficult to unlace.

I will always use DF satin ribbon in my couture corsets – it can usually be perfectly matched to the rest of the corset and it has a luxurious finish – plus I rarely wear my bespoke corsets, so I don’t really have to worry about wearing out the ribbons for long time.

Little Mint Company sells DF-satin ribbon (4 units [8 yards long] and 12mm wide is usually sufficient for a longline corset or overbust) for $5.20 on Etsy.

 

Flat Shoelace

1/4 inch wide flat nylon shoelace-style lacing from historicaldesigns, Etsy.

These are ubiquitous – they’re easy to source, they’re often cheaper than ribbon, and they’re a “workhorse” lacing that will last you a long time. You will find flat shoelace most often in corsets (both OTR and custom waist training corsets). Because they’re flatter they will hold knots and bows well, and they’re “middle of the road” in terms of bulkiness so it’s possible to hide these laces under clothing. They’re quite strong, with minimal spring. They also don’t cut into my hands in a painful way while lacing, as long as the laces are flat in my hand and I don’t hold the laces on their edge, or they’re twisted up.

White cotton laces are more eco-friendly and can also be dyed to match the rest of your cotton corset perfectly. The cotton flat laces are softer and fuzzier to the touch – but for a more definitive test, burn a small sample of the laces (outside) – cotton will create an ash, whereas polyester will melt. Polyester laces take dye less readily, but they can still be dyed.

I personally find that when it comes to waist training corsets, that the polyester lace is a better choice because it seems to have less wear over time compared to the cotton laces (I’ve had cotton laces snap after a few months of wear, whereas I’ve never had polyester laces snap on me yet, even in the corsets I’ve kept for years).

Historical Designs sells 1/4 inch wide flat lacing in white and black on Etsy.

FTC: I purchased these laces for personal use, and all opinions are my own. Tiddly links are Etsy affiliate links which help keep this site online and the articles free for everyone. Photos courtesy of Etsy.

Advanced Breaking in your Corset (Intuitive Seasoning)

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

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

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

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

Holy crap, that is bad advice.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Viewer question:

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

Another question I regularly receive:

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

 

Some people like rules, others don’t.

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

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

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

 

Let guidelines guide you, not control you.

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

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

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

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

Analogy: Hard Contact Lenses

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

Analogy: Weight Lifting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corsets and the Victorian Fainting Culture

In a previous article, we discussed how feeling faint or light headed is caused by the brain not being properly oxygenated – but contrary to popular belief, most of the fainting done by people in corsets was not due to suffocation. Most genuine fainting was said to be rather due to abrupt changes in blood pressure. (This is just one of many reasons why it’s important to lace down gradually; tying your corset too tight, too quickly can cause acute changes in blood pressure and make you feel lightheaded.)

Today we’re not going to focus on blood pressure per se, but we’re going to specifically touch on the “Victorian fainting culture” – what do I mean by that? Well, have you ever wondered why there are so many stories of fainting during the Victorian era, and why the “swooning Southern Belle” is depicted so often in period movies? Have you ever wondered why people claim that the Victorians invented the fainting couch solely for this reason? Let’s analyze a few different reasons why upper class Victorian women could have fainted:

Shortness of Breath (from possible overexertion)

I’m not denying that some women could have genuinely fainted from shortness of breath, but this scenario was likely far less common than some individuals claim. Someone could feel woozy if they were laced more tightly than they’re accustomed to, for a special occasion (like a party or ball). It wasn’t out of the ordinary for a woman of wealth to own more than one corset, and sometimes her formal corset would be slightly smaller than her day corset to give a more dramatic or impressive silhouette (I should add that I don’t personally consider it responsible to tightlace past the point of discomfort/pain; nevertheless, other people do go the extra inch for a special event). Add an evening of more exertion than usual (like hours of dancing) and dehydration on top of that, and it would not be outside of the realm of possibility that a woman would faint.

Overheating

Let’s not rule out the possibility that women may have fainted from simply overheating. Consider the Full Monty of undergarments: a chemise under the corset, bloomers, the corset itself, a corset cover, possibly a hoopskirt, several petticoats, and then over that would be a blouse, an overskirt, possibly a jacket, train for the skirt, and perhaps a little hat or bonnet on top of your head. Clothing can exceed 20 lbs at times, and there would be around 4 layers of clothing between your skin and the air – which, even if made from the lightest linens and using the thinnest corset, would still add up in weight and insulation. If you could imagine wearing all this in the middle of summer in Texas or Georgia (since the media love to depict Victorian ladies as specifically Southern Belles), and air conditioning won’t be invented for another 100 years, it’s safe to say that you may feel considerably overheated – and this can lead to fainting and heat stroke.

Dehydration

It is so very easy to become dehydrated. Even today, some sources state that 75% of North Americans are chronically dehydrated – we do not drink enough water or eat enough hydrating foods. Corsets are able to exacerbate symptoms that you would not normally notice when you’re uncorseted – i.e. while corsets are not to blame for our chronic dehydration, wearing a corset may make you more aware of your body, and you may feel dehydrated faster and with more intensity than if you were uncorseted. When I started corseting on a regular basis, I noticed that I felt thirstier than usual. When I started setting alarms for myself to drink 2-3 liters of water each day, I started feeling much better both in and out of the corset. Fran Blanche of Contour Corsets has written about blood volume, dehydration and corseting on her blog here.

The scenarios already mentioned above (overheating, overexertion etc.) can lead to further dehydration, which may cause fainting much faster or more frequently in an already chronically dehydrated person. Staying hydrated is so very important if you choose to wear a corset.

Shock/ surprise

Yes, fainting from shock does happen. I have two stories where I’ve almost fainted in my life, and neither of them involve corsets: I remember being about 6-7 years old, trying to make a paper palm tree, and I accidentally stapled my thumb. I took one look at my thumb and I remember developing tunnel vision and ringing in my ears (classic vasovagal response). According to those around me, my face went pale and my lips turned blue. I never lost consciousness, but I do remember instinctively lying down quickly. A similar thing happened the very first time I put in contact lenses. Fainting from shock, with or without corsets, is a real possibility.

But would Victorian women be so sheltered as to faint at the slightest bad news? It likely depended on the individual’s temperament, and also their family’s status. The very high class were probably not exposed to the blood and gore like those living on a farm, nevermind being desensitized to shocking news and images and media the way we are today. News came from newspapers, magazines and word of mouth. Public executions were not done everywhere, and likely not attended by all people. It’s therefore not hard consider that if a sheltered person were see or hear something out of the ordinary (something appalling or grotesque) they may have reacted somewhat more dramatically and could very well have even fainted – whether intentionally or unintentionally, which leads us to the last point…

Mock Fainting (or what I like to call “Feign-ting”)

Many Victorian women were probably taught to pretend to faint in uncomfortable situations. Remember that it was unbecoming for a proper lady to throw a hissy fit (lest she be diagnosed with “hysteria” and hauled away). What’s a woman to do when she:

  • wants to quickly become the center of attention at a party?
  • sees someone annoying and wants to avoid talking to them?
  • is angry about certain circumstances but society doesn’t allow her to throw a temper tantrum?
  • (And as one viewer mentioned in a recent comment:) needs to escape to the toilet but doesn’t want to announce something so unbecoming?

The answer to all of these? She faints. Or feigns fainting, in any case. Fainting was said to be one of few ways to abruptly change a subject or leave a room while still saving face and being considered a lady. “Fainting culture” indeed!

What about all those fainting couches?

“Chaise longue in a 4th-century Roman manuscript” (Wikipedia commons)

Many people will claim that the Chaise Longue was invented in the Victorian era – in reality, they existed in Egypt and Greece at least 2000 years prior, and possibly as far back as the 8th century BCE. Unfortunately, taking a millennia-old piece of furniture and reinventing it as a strictly Victorian “fainting couch” (and treating their invention as a direct response to the corset) did nothing more than glorify and perpetuate the fainting culture and help Victorian women look fabulous while they were (pretending to be) unconscious.

While fainting in a corset is not impossible, there is much more to the wilting Victorian lady than what we’re usually taught. It’s worth noting that while many people faint for many reasons, it is NEVER “normal” to feel faint whether in or out of a corset. If you faint on a regular basis or for unexplained reasons, always see your doctor.

But there is a big difference between genuinely feeling lightheaded vs feign-ting for the “fun of it” – and I would prefer that the perpetuation of the swooning corset-wearer stereotype would stop today. So the next time you’re at a Renfaire or convention and you see someone at the corset vendor’s kiosk, melodramatically swooning and pretending to fall over for the “fun of it”, be sure to let them know that their melodramatic performance is hardly an original act.

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.

Weighing in on “The Corset Diet”

The first time I heard about the “Corset Diet” was late last year (2013), and at first I didn’t quite know what to think of it. I laid low, watching carefully what the media was doing with this “new-old fad”. Despite many people asking me what I think about it over the last 8-ish months, I have eschewed the topic up until now, because while I don’t feel that the “corset diet” is totally invalid, I do think that the concept is highly flawed.

(Please note that I will continue to use the “corset diet” in quotation marks for the remainder of this article, for reasons I’ll explain shortly. I had my own independent experiences with weight loss while waist training long before the “official corset diet” came to exist – but I cannot say I’ve tried the “official corset diet” as recommended by their website, because they only guarantee the program if you use one of the corsets they supply (either latex cinchers or Corset-Story stock), and I have had bad experiences with both of these product brands in the past.)

I will admit that at first I was intrigued that this “corset diet” designed by a doctor – I have had a few doctors quietly buy corsets from me in the past, but here is one that is actually willing to publicly condone the use of corsets and monitor his patients’ health! But the products recommended by the program, and the way they choose to market the concept in itself, both left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The greatest issue I take with this program is that they choose to call corseting a “diet”.

“The Corset Diet”: it’s short, punchy, and it attracts people’s attention. They also claim a 100% success rate, and guarantee a loss of at least 2 lbs per week. I understand why they opt to call it a diet, but I don’t agree with it. When I think of a diet, I typically think of limiting certain foods, eliminating others completely, moving the time of day you eat or the frequency you have your meals, and sometimes limiting the volume of food or the amount/type of calories you eat. From a glance, it seems that this “corset diet” is only limiting the volume of food, by stomach constriction from the corset.

Here’s the crux of it: a corset is not a diet. It is no more of a “diet” than a pair of running shoes is a “marathon”.

A corset is a garment, and I have never ever believed, mentioned, or condoned that it is a way to replace proper nutrition and exercise. It’s a piece of clothing! Let’s compare this to a different piece of clothing: the running shoe. Just because you own a pair of running shoes, doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful at running a marathon. You still have to put time, effort and dedication into running on a regular basis. Granted, a good quality pair of running shoes can certainly help you run better than a pair of high heels – the shoes can aid you in your goal, can support your feet properly and keep your body in alignment. They can help you bring your A-game, but the shoes are not an exercise routine in and of themselves. This idea is flawed. 

Moreover, do you only wear running shoes when you’re running marathons? Not necessarily – you can wear running shoes because you like them, and you can wear them every day if you desire. It’s the same with corsets – not all people wear running shoes when they’re training for a marathon, just as not all people wear corsets for the purpose of weight loss. To presume so is incredibly narrow-minded and it is a form of prejudice based on one’s choice of dress.

However, for some people, a corset can aid in weight loss in some ways, so the argument is not totally invalid, but it is flawed. This article will discuss the specific application of a corset as an aid in weight loss, and examine the pros and cons with respect to this corset “diet”.

 

The Pros of the “corset diet”

(or rather, not the official “corset diet” but rather the general use of corsets as one tool/ aid for weight loss, or for positive changes to your nutrition and fitness levels)

Ann Grogan from Romantasy has shown for years that it’s not unusual to lose weight when waist training – she says that a corset can act like an external, less invasive gastric band, by putting pressure on your stomach so that it’s not able to expand as much during a meal. (Have you ever heard of a ‘food baby’, where you eat so much your abdomen is distended? This is impossible in a corset.)

Many people are accustomed to eating heavy foods and large portions; they may eat way too quickly, and some customarily binge in the evenings from the time they get home from work until whenever they go to bed. For many people, their stomachs have stretched to a very large capacity (they can accommodate a huge volume of food at any one time), and these people may have issues with their leptin/ ghrelin hormone levels (leptin insensitivity can inhibit a person from feeling full or satiated, while high ghrelin levels can cause that person to feel hungry all the time). 

 

How a corset may combat appetite issues is by increasing intra-abdominal pressure – some of the first organs to respond to this are the stomach and intestines (the more hollow and membranous organs, in contrast to the more solid organs). In the stomach and intestines, most of the volume is filled with air, food and waste. When those contents are excreted and not replaced (or not replaced quite as much), the stomach and intestines are easily able to flatten and reduce in volume. (In my corsets and toilet issues article, I described how wearing a corset can sometimes encourage bowel movements just from a “toothpaste effect”.) 

By wearing a corset and decreasing the capacity of your stomach, it may help you feel full faster (and if you eat too much, it becomes uncomfortable faster). So if you consistently wear a corset with your meals, particularly your largest meal of the day (which is dinner for many of us), then you will quickly learn that it’s not quite as easy to overeat in a corset compared to when you’re not wearing one.

And while it’s not the same for everyone, for some people who have those malfunctioning hunger signals, it’s possible to recondition and reset your appetite over time: not only learning to take smaller portions, but also feeling satisfied with less.

 

Another way that the corset may help (which is a bit more controversial as it deals with personal body image) is that a corset may allow you to see yourself in a way you always wanted to look, but could never visualize before that moment. A lot of people give up on “diets” or fitness regimes because they don’t see their figure transforming fast enough – but a corset is able to give you an instant hourglass silhouette, and sometimes allow you to instantaneously fit into smaller or more fitted clothes that perhaps you couldn’t fit into before. The corset smooths out any bumps under an outfit and makes your clothing hang differently; for some people, that gives them a boost in confidence and makes them feel fabulous.

But at the risk of naysayers telling me that I’m encouraging people to “fool themselves” into having a figure they don’t naturally possess, I am proposing the possibility that if a person is currently not 100% happy with the way they treat their body, and they have problems motivating themselves to change their current lifestyle (due to a lack of results or not being able to visualize themselves any different from their current state), these people may find that the immediate change they see in their figure by the use of corsets can serve as inspiration and motivation. A shocking, sudden shift in your self-image (being able to ‘imagine results’ before they happen) may help to kickstart a new regime: help you to start a fitness program or to choose higher quality foods, because you know you deserve to treat your body well, to give it clean fuel and keep it strong.

But please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying, because I’m not suggesting that all people with a sedentary lifestyle who eat junk food have low confidence/poor body image, or even people who carry a little more weight than the “average” have low confidence. Confidence and positive body image can exist at any size. Ultimately, those who wear corsets choose to do so because they enjoy it.

 

The Cons of the “corset diet”

(or rather, the expectation that corsets can be used as the only tool for weight loss/ changes to your nutrition and fitness levels)

A lot of people apply the first law of thermodynamics to dieting and weight loss: calories in, calories out. Fuel in, energy out. Energy density within certain foods, and which foods tip that scale. (I know a lot of people don’t believe in the concept of equal calories but just bear with me here. For many people, this is the oversimplified relationship between diet and weight loss.)

Now let’s look at the simplified view of corseting as related to diet and weight loss. It’s a matter of physics instead of chemistry now: how large of a volume of food can you fit comfortably in your body at one time (whilst your stomach capacity is reduced by the corset)? Let’s say that while you’re wearing your corset, your stomach can only comfortably hold 2 cup of food, instead of 5-6 cups.

But you can easily see where this concept doesn’t work for everyone, because it completely removes the factor of the quality of food you’re eating – you’re not looking at nutritional density at all!

  • If you eat 2 cups of very calorie dense foods (cheese, deep fried foods, or nutritionally deprived foods like candy), instead of a cup of calorically-low and nutritionally-dense foods (steamed cruciferous vegetables, squash, berries or eggs), then don’t be surprised if the “corset diet” doesn’t work.
  • Conversely, if you already eat healthy to begin with and you maintain your healthy habits after you take on corseting, you may not see any change with the “corset diet”.
  • If you are the type to not eat meals, and you just graze 16 hours throughout the day (keeping your stomach volume small at any given time but your total day’s quantity of food is high while its quality is low overall) then the “corset diet” may not work for you.
  • And if you get tired of wearing the corset and you take it off halfway through your meal to be able to eat more, then the “corset diet” is probably not the right method for you. 

Not all people’s bodies are the same, either. There will always be those types who are able to constantly shovel in poor quality food (with or without a corset), and still not experience any undesirable effects in their health, their appearance or how they feel. And while there are some people whose appetites are curbed by wearing a corset, I’ve actually talked to some individuals who feel more hungry when wearing a corset! So as with any other “diet” in this world, results will of course vary with the effectiveness of this “corset diet” as well. 

 

My Personal Experience

(with the general use of corsets as one tool/ aid for weight loss, or for positive changes to nutrition and fitness habits)

In the past, I’ve talked about “stomach hunger” (appetite, physical hunger, need for fuel) versus “head hunger” (food cravings, food addiction, stress/ emotional eating). I have personally found that the corset helps with my “stomach hunger”, but I must still practice some willpower when it comes to overcoming my addiction to refined sugar and junk food – even when wearing a corset, you have to choose foods that are of higher nutritional quality, and you have to choose to not remove the corset when the corset makes your body feel full before the meal feels ‘over’.

However, while I can’t speak for everyone else, I know that in my experience, wearing corsets has helped train me to avoid certain foods over time. Carbonated drinks, ice cream, cheesecake, fried dishes, certain types of heavy meats, a lot of artificial sweeteners (especially the sugar-alcohols that can cause bloating), and empty calorie foods high in corn syrup and refined sugar all tend to give me a slight stomach ache when I’m corseted. So, what do I do when I eat something that doesn’t agree with me? I avoid it!

When I’m corseted, I notice that I have a tendency to choose lighter foods and higher quality foods – smoothies and protein shakes, salads, grilled vegetables, overripe fruit, and leaner meats – obviously depending on your lifestyle, your beliefs, your health and what feels good in your stomach, you may opt for different foods, but 99% of the time, the foods that are gentle on my stomach have also been foods that are more healthful (less processed and more nutritionally dense).

In my experience, when I am actively waist training (as I was through mid 2012 through to mid 2013), I tend to drop weight. When I realized that I didn’t like my silhouette with a 20-inch waist and I stopped waist training, then consequently my weight and my natural waist size both went back up.

However, it’s important to note that corsets have not been about weight for me to begin with. People have told me that I’m just lazy for strapping on a corset, and that I’m trying to “trick” people into thinking I’m thinner than I really am. But for me, having a temporary vintage hourglass figure when I’m wearing a corset was always more about creating curves and having vintage clothing fit a certain way, not about “looking skinny”. For me, corsets are about the waist, NOT the weight.

 

 

When I was contacted by a producer of The Dr Oz show a few months ago, they asked me how much weight I lost by corseting, and how long have I kept off the weight – I knew that they were trying to put a certain spin on what corseting is supposed to offer, but I wasn’t ready to lie. Before I started corseting, I was a university student, living off $5 a week for food. I ate lentils, carrots and apples for months at a time. When I didn’t buy a bus pass, I often walked 45 minutes to class (which was situated up on a steep hill), wearing a 20 lb backpack. (I wish I were hyperbolizing, but those who have gone to school with me know that I’m not.)

These days, I work a cushy job, I live in a suburb where it’s customary to drive most places, and I can pay for more than just lentils. I’m not eating the same, I’m not getting the same exercise, and I doubt I have the same metabolism I did in my late teens or early 20s. If you want to look at the whole 5-ish year span between the time before I started corseting on a regular basis and today, it’s clear that I have gained weight!

If I wanted to lose that weight, I know what I need to do. Yes I would personally include corsets in my regimen, but that will not by any means be the only tool. Once again, I have never ever ever said that corsets were designed to be a substitute for proper diet and exercise. In fact, I have regularly said that when you start corseting, that’s a good reason to increase your core strength exercises, and to reflect on what you eat and drink in order to make your waist training as comfortable and smooth as possible.

(For what it’s worth: with what I know about weight and health these days, I’d probably be happier with a shift in composition as opposed to a flat-out loss in weight. Remember that weight and BMI alone cannot accurately tell a person the state of their health. Instead of wanting to lose a flat 30 lbs, it would perhaps be healthier to try for 20 lbs of fat loss, but 10 lbs gained in muscle – so the scale may only register 10 lbs lost overall, but my body would probably look and feel incredibly different.)

 

In summary:

WEIGHT ALONE IS NOT NECESSARILY AN ACCURATE REFLECTION OF HEALTH, and should not be too closely tied to your body image. Focusing on your fitness and overall health is more important than what the scale reads.

CORSETS ARE NOT A DIET, and they are NEVER a substitute for good nutrition and fitness.

WAIST TRAINING IS NOT AN EASY, SHORT-TERM SOLUTION. It is often a form of slow body modification that directly affects your ribcage and muscle morphology – any effect on weight (or particularly body fat percentage) is by indirect means. Reduction of your waist size may be independent of any change in the scale.

While weight loss by use of a corset is possible, the expectation that it works perfectly/quickly/effortlessly is flawed. Again, and forever: it should not be the only tool you use to take control of your fitness or body image.

 

Have you experienced any weight loss or change in body composition with long-term use of a genuine corset, whether intentional or unintentional? Does your appetite increase, decrease or stay the same in a corset? What about the quality or the volume of food you eat? Leave a comment below.

How to Waist Train: Comparing Corset Training Methods

In previous articles, I’ve talked quite a bit about waist training, but I’ve never actually focused on the different methods at length. Just as there is more than one path to physical fitness or other physical goals, there are also different methods of waist training. This article will outline the two most popular waist training methods, and their pros/ cons as I tried them for myself.

(Always check with your doctor before wearing corsets for any reason, and should you decide to take up waist training, remember to have your health monitored throughout your journey.) 

 

Romantasy “Roller Coaster Method”: 

My front-lacing Bezerk cincher - from my very first Youtube video.

In 2010, I went from wearing corsets occasionally to actually waist training. I started with the Roller Coaster Method.

In my very first waist training video, I mentioned that this is the method I started with. The “roller coaster” method was developed by Ann Grogan, president of Romantasy Exquisite Corsetry and waist training advisor for nearly 25 years.

Grogan outlines her roller coaster method of waist training in her manual, Corset Magic (you can watch my overview of the book here) but for those who need more guidance, she also offers personalized waist training plans and full 3-month waist training programs.

The roller coaster method can be a bit strict – it relies on you maintaining a specific waist reduction, for a certain duration of time, for a certain number of days. For instance, let’s say that your natural waist is 30” and you’re wearing the corset at 28 inches (a 2-inch reduction over the corset). You would start just by wearing your corset for a couple of hours each day, until your corset is seasoned.

  • Once you are ready, you can increase your wear by another couple of hours per day (so you’re wearing the corset for 4 hours each day instead of only 2) for several days or a week. Once you feel comfortable with that, you can once again increase your wear for several more hours per day – being mindful to always remain at 28 inches and slowly building up your tolerance for longer durations of time.
  • Once you’re able to wear your corset for over 8 hours or all day at that 28 inch measurement, you can tighten your corset just a little bit, but also drop your hours back down so you’re cinched in tighter, but wearing the corset for a shorter duration of time.
  • Just like before, over the course of days and weeks, you can slowly build up your tolerance for longer hours at that restriction. When you’re ready, tighten your corset just a tiny bit more but then drop your hours down again. Grogan has a sample outline of this method on her website on this page, for you to view freely.

This method of waist training requires you to watch the clock carefully, and to also monitor your reduction daily or multiple times a day, using a tape measure over the corset. If you need a really concrete instructional guide for waist training and you enjoy structure and discipline, you will probably appreciate the Roller Coaster method.

 

Contour Corsets “Cycle Method”: 

My Contour Corset was very close to being perfect - it just needed perhaps 1.5 - 2" more length in the underbust, and tweaking around the hips.

After a few hiatuses, I reached my waist training goal of 20″ in 2013 by using the Cycle Method.

This waist training method was first outlined by Fran Blanche, owner of Contour Corsets. The cycle method is less strict and scheduled compared to the roller coaster method, and is described as more intuitive and ‘zen’ by those who use it.

It takes into consideration the fact that your body is not always stable; it’s in a constant state of flux – your natural waist measurement can change by several inches over the course of a day just from water retention, what you eat, your menstrual cycle (if you have one), your stress levels and more. And these factors can all affect how much you’re able to comfortably lace down on a given day or even a given time of day. Because of this, it may feel more intuitive to lace down more on days and times that you’re able to tolerate this greater restriction, and lace down less on days and times that you need more space.

In other words, if the corset feels too loose, tighten it. If the corset feels too tight, loosen it. And some people may find that they need to loosen or tighten the corset many times throughout the day – there is nothing inherently wrong with this.

Fran says that with consistent wear (even when cycling your pressures), a waist trainer may find that over a long period of time, their ‘average’ waist measurement will reduce, even if it may not feel like it by having to vary the measurements slightly every day.

Here, the exact number of your waist to the half-inch is not as important as your overall comfort level – but the cycle method also somewhat implies that the trainer is wearing the corset for longer hours each day compared to the roller coaster method (which tends to aim for a duration of 2-8 hours a day).

 

How many hours a day is best when it comes to waist training?

This answer is different for everybody. Some people are able to see quick results in a corset with fewer hours put in, and some people have slower results even when wearing their corset all day. Of course, when we’re talking about “results”, not all of us waist train for the same reasons or have the same goals.

But many experienced waist trainers will agree that the length of time that you wear a corset is a bit more important than the actual reduction. If you are able to wear your corset at a 3-4 reduction comfortably all day, this will likely be more comfortable and more productive for your waist training compared to wearing a corset at a 6-7 inch reduction for only 1 hour and having to remove it to recuperate for the next couple of days (this is effectively overlacing). The latter scenario could set you up for discomfort, injury, it may lead to you having to take unwanted time off to regroup – and it also may lead to you associating the corset with pain and negative experiences, which is the exact opposite of what a waist trainer should experience.

Some people aim for wearing their corset for a specific number of hours each day. The Romantasy roller coaster method suggests 8 hours a day, 6 days a week as a good duration to strive for. In order to break my 22-inch plateau, I found I had to corset for about 12 hours a day.

Some people wear their corsets during waking hours (they put on their corsets when they get up in the morning, and take off their corset when getting ready for bed) – which may be in the range of 16 hours a day.

Others may do the opposite and only wear their corset during sleeping hours – they may not wear their corset during the day, but they cinch their waist when getting ready to sleep, and so they unconsciously get 8 hours in per day.

Some very dedicated trainers will wear their corset 23 hours a day – reserving one hour per day for bathing and exercising – often trainers will have to work their way up to this lifestyle over the course of months or years, because jumping into a 23/7 waist training regime can be a drastic change in lifestyle: all the things you did before without your corset, you would have to adjust to doing it with a corset, eliminate activities that are not compatible, or substitute some things that are more compatible. I do not recommend the 23/7 method for beginners, nor do I believe that a 23/7 lifestyle is really necessary for any waist trainer except under extenuating circumstances (like if they are going after the world record).

And it’s worth mentioning that sometimes the results from the 23/7 method are not worth the challenges that come with them. Heidi, aka Straight-Laced Dame/ Corset Athlete, has written a fantastic article which compares your enjoyment/ comfort level while wearing a corset, with the effectiveness of your training – and finding that “sweet spot” where you get your highest return on investment.

 

Which Method of Waist Training is Best?

I can’t tell you which waist training method is best for you, as I said before – we all have different bodies, different schedules and different goals. But myself, having tried both the Romantasy Roller Coaster method and the Contour Corsets Cycle method, I found that the Roller Coaster method gave me what I was looking for in the beginning, when I was still relatively new at corseting – back when I needed technical, straightforward, step-by-step guidance on wearing a corset.

Slowly building up my hours over many weeks and months at a time helped to teach me how my body is supposed to feel during the process of waist training, and how it’s not supposed to feel. I used the roller coaster method to successfully train down the first 5 or so inches of reduction.

Of course (as with most other forms of training!) I eventually reached a plateau. I had a hard time lacing past about 22″ comfortably for long periods of time. I sort of felt myself a failure at that point because I wasn’t advancing with the same speed I was before. Not wanting to risk pain or injury, after some time off and some research, I invested in a number of better fitting corsets and also found myself gravitating more to the Cycle method.

The Cycle method allowed me to be a bit less hard on myself if I didn’t meet a certain goal within a certain time, because I was no longer focusing on time. The method respected the limitations of my body and the signals it was giving me. It felt healthier – like I was allowed to be more gentle with myself, while still presenting enough of a challenge to see progress and advancement if I chose.

And I began enjoying wearing my corset again – it allowed me to take my eyes off the clock, to stop measuring my waist circumference every day, and to just enjoy the feeling of being in a corset – the posture support and the feeling of being hugged, my silhouette under a vintage gown, and the empowerment of wearing a form of armor. This method reminded me to enjoy the journey, as opposed to being unhealthily and impatiently focused on the destination.

In this article I touched on just a few different methods of waist training. I encourage you to do a little of your own research into waist training and to find the one that you find the one that feels most safe and comfortable for you. If you waist train, leave me a comment below and me know which method works best for you, or which methods you’ve tried in the past!

*Please note that this article is strictly my opinion and provided for information purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of a medical physician. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset.*

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