One question I get semi-frequently is whether you have to wear a bra with your underbust corset. With an overbust corset, it’s easy to go without a bra as the corset itself provides support, lift, and shaping – but what about underbust corsets?
As a wearer of corsets and a keeper of long hair, I’m no stranger to confrontation. On a regular basis I have people telling me that I’m not fashionable; that I’m gross or disturbing or an eyesore. I often stealth my corsets and wear my hair up, because what makes me happy and is not hurting others doesn’t necessarily have to be flaunted. And this experience has made me hyper-aware of what I say to others in terms of fashion and dress.
So what does this have to do with wearing a bra with your underbust corset?
I am in no position whatsoever to make you wear a bra or not wear a bra with your corset. End of story.
But if you are expecting your underbust corset to lift, support, and shape your breasts the way that a conventional bra will, you may be disappointed to know that this isn’t the case. An underbust corset doesn’t cover the breasts and cannot support what it doesn’t touch. So if you want the support /shaping of a bra, you can wear a bra in conjunction with your underbust corset.
I understand that there can be some incompatibility between underbust corsets and certain bras. I’ve been through the frustration of trying to wear mainstream underwired, push-up bras with your underbust corsets. If your corset is just a little too long in the torso, then the top edge of the corset can push up on your underwire and cause a “double-lift” effect – and this is often made worse when sitting down! Many fuller-busted women have complained to me that this looks and feels unnatural, and they don’t like the end result that has become colloquially known as a “chin-rest”. Also, if your corset is too tight around the ribcage and your underwire becomes trapped between your body and the corset, the wire can dig quite uncomfortably into your ribs (I call this “underwire entrapment”).
This is the reason why I always ask for a person’s torso length along the princess line, from the underwire to the lap when sitting down. This is the maximum length that an underbust corset can be before the top edge starts pushing up on the bust, or the bottom edge starts digging into the lap.
So, what can you do if you’d like to avoid the modern bra/underbust corset compatibility issues, but you’d still prefer to wear bras and corsets at the same time?
Opt for shorter corsets or cinchers, which stop lower on the ribcage and steer clear of the underwire of your bra. If you are savvy with a sewing machine, you can shorten some of your own corsets along the top edge.
Wear a well-fitting wire-free bra with your corsets. I don’t have a huge collection of these, but I like my Enell Lite as it’s wire-free and has a non-rolling band. I like the bust-shaping and support it gives, and it works well under my graphic tees and high-neckline shirts.
If you can’t afford or don’t have access to wire-free bras /shorter corsets, as another resort you can simply lift up your bra and position the underwires overtop of your corset instead of underneath. This works best if you wear your corsets under your clothing instead of overtop, and it really only works with a bra that’s slightly big in the band. Does it mean slightly less support from your bra? Yes. Does this look a little unusual if you’re wearing the corset on the outside of your clothing? Perhaps a little. Are the passionate bra-fitters pulling their hair out at my even suggesting this? Maybe. But I used this technique regularly before I got new well-fitting bras, and I found it resulted in a more natural-looking bust (compared to wearing the bra under the corset and getting the “double-lift”) and it was more comfortable too.
In conclusion: are you required to wear a bra with your underbust corset? Not necessarily, but know that an underbust won’t give you the same lift, support and shaping that your conventional bra will. If you have bra/corset compatibility issues, try out one of the three solutions I listed above and see if any work for you.
Do you have any alternate solutions to avoid “double-lift” or “underwire entrapment” caused by bra/corset incompatibility? Let me know in a comment below!
In March 2014, after the blogger conference at Orchard Corset headquarters, some friends and I took the ferry to visit Port Townsend and stay with Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman. For those who don’t remember, Sarah Chrisman is the author of “Waisted Curves”, which I had reviewed last year. Since then, the corset has been officially published by Skyhorse and renamed “Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself“. During our brief visit, Sarah gave us a walking tour of Port Townsend, allowed us to study her and Gabriel’s large collection of antique artifacts an read some original Victorian and Edwardian literature, cooked up a feast for my friends and myself, and sat down for an interview. It was a quick but packed weekend!
I enjoyed seeing first-hand Gabriel and Sarah’s ongoing life project; how they’ve already placed Tesla lightbulbs in their house and use oil lamps at night; they own a wood-burning oven and they are working on refurbishing a vintage ice-box to replace their refrigerator – which leads into their aim of eating locally and seasonally, growing their own food, and wasting as little as possible.
Below you’ll find the interview in full on my Youtube channel! Scroll down below the video to see the list of the questions.
It’s been several years since you’ve written your memoir; how has life changed for you since then? Has your book been received well?
Are you recognized more often in your hometown? When you travel? If so, do you enjoy being recognized?
Have any of your friends and family been inspired to use a corset after seeing your own personal journey? Have you found yourself becoming a mentor to others in lifestyle corseting?
What are some reasons that you and Gabriel love Victoriana and the Victorian way of living, or what important lessons could the layperson learn from this? (e.g. adornment, the mannerisms, a possible economic or ‘greener’ lifestyle, the tendency to mend/ repair instead of dispose, etc.)
It must be wonderful having a supportive partner who shares your tastes and passions. Who do you think was the instigator to move from simply ‘collecting’ antique items to really living as if you were in the era?
Has Gabriel experienced any personal growth during these years that you have been transforming?
If you had to pin down a specific year or decade where most of your style or your favorite pieces come from, what would that be?
You mentioned in your book that you used to do martial arts. Do you still do that? What are some of your other favorite pastimes apart from reading, writing and bicycling?
What are your ambitions for the future? Are there plans for a “Victorian Secrets Part 2” in the future?
Huge thanks to Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman for their incredible hospitality and for kindly answering our questions! If you’d like to learn more about Sarah’s book “Victorian Secrets”, find it on Amazon here.
Back in March 2014 while visiting Orchard Corset headquarters in Wenatchee, Washington, USA, I had the immense honour of sitting down with Cora Harrington, founder of The Lingerie Addict. In this interview, you will learn:
How many years Cora has been blogging and how she got her start
From where or from whom Cora drew inspiration when she was just starting out with her first blog
At what point Cora felt that she was ready to move from the role of a hobbyist blogger to a full-time writer
The work that Cora is proudest of to date
What Cora does when she’s not being a Lingerie Addict
What to expect from The Lingerie Addict in the near future
If you’d like to learn the answers to these questions and more, see the video below!
Once again, huge thanks to Cora for taking the time to answer my questions and let me pick her brain – it has been a dream come true. :) You can learn more about Cora and read her blog here at The Lingerie Addict.
Last week we discussed how you can tell when you’re ready to size down, and what to do with your older, bigger corset – today we’ll discuss what you need to consider when choosing your next, smaller corset. You can watch the video below, or skip over the video and read the article – they contain the same information.
Once again, remember that sizing down is a personal choice – you don’t have to if you don’t want to. And as usual if you’re ever concerned with the idea of training down in the first place, talk to a trusted medical professional.
Stick with the same brand for your smaller corset, or try a new brand?
If you’re elated with the brand you previously owned, then by all means you can order from them again. This is especially beneficial if you’re ordering custom from the same corsetiere; you get to build a rapport with them, they are familiar with your body and they may be able to improve on any possible minor fitting issues that you may have had from previous corsets. Some of them also keep your pattern and notes on hand, and a few corsetieres also offer loyalty discounts for repeat customers – this is the great advantage to practicing brand loyalty!
But if you’re going with a standard sized corset, then just be aware that when you size down, you may have to order a curvier style. Remember that as corsets go smaller in size, the underbust, waist and hips all get proportionally smaller, not just the waist. So if you’re sizing down in the waist but your natural underbust and hips measurements haven’t changed, then if you try to put yourself into a smaller version of your first corset, you might experience muffin top or flesh spillover; your hips might feel pinched and the bones in the back of the corset may twist warp as you try to close the waist while the top and bottom edges refuse to meet.
If these things sound familiar, it may be because it’s been covered in my“corset gaps” article with respect to the )( shaped gap – the gap that signifies that the corset is
not curvy enough for your natural figure and experience level!
However, there’s one situation that you may be able to stick with the exact same OTR corset brand and style, just a size smaller – if you have lost weight and you find that you’ve dropped inches all over (including underbust, waist and hips) proportionally, then the same corset may fit you in the smaller size.
Should I choose a corset one size smaller, or skip one and go two sizes smaller?
The amount that you size down depends on your starting numbers, whether you’re more squishy/compressible or more muscular/uncompressible, how quickly you’re reducing in size, and whether you’re combining waist training with a change in your meal plan or fitness regimen to lose a large amount of weight (or more accurately, volume).
Some reasons that you may want to go down only one size, or the equivalent of two inches:
if you are smaller or more muscular to begin with.
if you are training very slowly.
if you are maintaining your weight or body composition.
if your corset, when worn completely closed, feels still kinda snug but not tight; and you’re not able to feel a large space between yourself and the internal wall of the corset.
Some reasons that you may consider going down by two sizes, or the equivalent of 4 inches:
if you are larger and softer to begin with, perhaps with a natural waist size exceeding 40 inches.
if you may find yourself extra compressible and training much quicker than expected (you’ve closed your first corset within a month or so).
if you are ACTIVELY and steadily losing weight. (Note that this doesn’t count those who simply have intentions of losing weight and haven’t started yet.)
if the corset is literally falling off you, and you can put yourself plus both your hands into the corset, or pull your abdomen away from the internal wall of the corset and create a space.
It also depends on what you feel comfortable with. If you are not comfortable or don’t feel ready to size down two sizes, one size, or at all, then don’t! Nobody is forcing you.
Special considerations for those experiencing rapid weight change:
In the case of rapid and copious amounts of weight loss (or gain, but generally quick loss is the more common situation I hear about), if you have limited funds I would advise that you wait until your loss has slowed down to around 1 pound a week, or your weight has stabilized completely. One reason for this is that it obviously stinks to buy a corset and have it be too big even a month later, and another reason is that during a process of a drastic body transformation, not a lot of people can predict exactly where they’re going to lose the next inch. When you’re losing 10 or more pounds a month, over the course of one month you may find that you’re losing more from your breasts or abdomen, while the next month you might find your hips and bum are reducing – and in the case of such a close-fitting garment such as a corset, these small changes of just a few inches can drastically affect how a corset fits and feels.
“Mind the gap!”
The last topic is to please once again, mind the gap in the back of your corset when trying on your new, smaller corset! Even when you’re sticking with the same brand you trust (just in a new smaller size) you should still keep in mind the shape and the size of the gap in the back. As we discussed above: just because one particular corset cut worked for you the first time, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for the smaller size!
A new corset, when unseasoned and worn at a comfortable reduction, often has a gap of 2-4 inches if it’s designed to close completely in the back, or possibly a slightly larger gap of 4-6 inches if the corset is designed to always have a small gap in the back (which some corsetieres do draft for).
I know that a lot of people out there want to save money and they don’t want to keep spending money to buy smaller and smaller corsets, so even if they have a 35 inch natural waist, they might be tempted to buy a size 20”. But sizing down gradually is important for the corset to fit and be comfortable.
If the gap in the back is too large (more than 4-6 inches while you’re gently seasoning, depending on the experience level of the waist trainer), the corset might be too small for you in general or too advanced for your level. Even if a custom corset has all the measurements and curves to theoretically fit you perfectly when closed, you might not be ready for that kind of reduction on the get-go.
Why is too large a gap bad, even when kept parallel and true?
With such a huge gap in the back, you may also feel tempted to lace the corset tighter than your body is ready for in order to minimize that gap faster, and you may end up hurting yourself, or damaging the corset, or becoming discouraged by what you feel is a relative lack of progress (or all three!). And if you end up breaking your corset and having to pay for a replacement or repair, then your waist training regimen may not end up being any less expensive than if you had sized down gradually with several different corsets.
Remember when you size down a little at a time, those old larger training corsets not necessarily a waste! See my last article on what to do with your old corsets when you feel that you’re done with them.
I hope this article and the last one helped some readers determine when it’s time to size down and by how much to size down. If you have any other tips and tricks to add, do let me know in a comment below!
When you’re waist training, sizing down is a natural part of the process. Your first corset may be 4-6 inches smaller than your natural waist, but what happens if and when you “outshrink” your first corset, and you still want to train down further? How do you know when it’s time to get a new, smaller corset? Read ahead, or watch the video linked below (which gives the same information):
(Please note that sizing down is in the context of someone who is actually waist training; if you’re just an occasional corset wearer or you have no desire to size down, just disregard this post!)
When do I know it’s time to size down in my corset?
I suppose the question to precede this one is when do you know that a corset is fitting correctly before you even size down? We’ve discussed corset gap shapes and other fitting issues, but what about the size of your corset gap? A new corset that properly fits often initially has a gap of 2-4 inches (if it’s designed to eventually close completely in the back), or possibly a slightly larger gap of 4-6 inches (if the corset is designed to always have a small gap in the back, which some corsetieres do draft for). If you ever put a corset on for the first time, lace it loosely (as in the case of seasoning it), and it closes all the way in the back from top to bottom, your corset is probably too large to begin with and you need to size down immediately.Let’s say you’ve started with a well-fitting corset though, and you’ve been wearing it for several months. Today, for the first time, you were able to close your corset fully from top to bottom! Congratulations – do you go out and buy your next corset that very day? Not yet.
I would say that it’s time to size down when you can do one or more of the following:
you can easily and consistently close the corset every time you put it on, for at least a month.
your ability to close the corset is typically not affected by your menstrual cycle, water retention, small weight fluctuations or other natural fluctuations.
you can stick an arm down inside of the corset while it’s closed, or perhaps pull your abdomen away from internal wall of the corset while sucking in.
In the next post in this series, I will discuss what to consider when sizing down choosing your next, smaller corset. But for now, let’s discuss what you can do with your old corset that you no longer need as a primary corset:
What can you do with your old corset?
Can you alter your corset to be smaller?
Theoretically yes, but if you don’t sew, good luck finding a corsetiere who is willing to alter another person’s work. Many corset makers would rather make a new corset from scratch, rather than modify an old one – this is because if you want a “perfectly” altered corset that has no evidence of alteration, you’d have to:
make friends with your seam ripper, and then:
remove the binding
remove the bones
take apart the seams (and hope that the fabric survives this trauma as the seamlines are now perforated)
likely cut through the waist tape (which weakens the corset), or put in a new, smaller waist tape
reshape every panel (it’s not a good idea to do just one seam, if you want to ensure that the hips are not angled forward or backward in the end product)
put the corset back together again, including reassembling the panels, adding the smaller waist tape, inserting the bones, and adding the binding!
Personally, I don’t consider this level of alteration worth the time or frustration when I can make a new corset in half that time! If you’re still interested in seeing how other people “took in” their corsets so they’re smaller, check out this video by CorsetRookie who sewed darts and pleats into his Axfords corset, although I should note that by doing this (especially in a thicker corset) the pleat may form a ridge or bump that can be felt when you’re wearing the corset and may result in pressure points. Another alteration walk-through by Snowblack Corsets shows her taking a larger WKD corset and cutting it down smaller and curvier, and adding embellishment like external contrasting channels and lace.
So, if you don’t feel like altering your old corset to be smaller, what can you do with it?
1: Use your old corset as a night/ sleeping corset.
If you have ever tried sleeping in your corset, you may find you’re the type who needs to loosen the laces a little when you sleep. So if you buy or make a new, smaller corset, you can designate the old larger one as a sleeping corset. Sleeping in a corset can be a bit traumatic to the corset (it can cause warping or abrasion) but since your old, bigger corset is no longer your primary training corset, you don’t have to worry as much about getting dander or oil on it, or if the satin fabric sees any thinning or wear if you’re rolling around and putting uneven pressure on it through the night.
2: Trade or sell your old corset 2nd hand.
If your old corset is still relatively good quality, you can sell it second hand or trade for a different corset! There’s a ton of old corsets sold on Ebay or Craigslist, and if your corset is more than 20 years old, it qualifies as an “Vintage” item on Etsy. There are also corset sale groups on Facebook, Tumblr, and my own consignment shop (the Bronze Line) as well. You can use the funds from selling your old corset to put towards your new corset!Before listing your corset, do some research into how much similar-quality corsets are being sold for. Presuming that your old corset is still decent quality/ wearable, then a 2nd hand corset will often sell for 50% – 75% of the original price (depending on who made it and how rare it is).
3: Cannibalize your old corset for materials for future sewing projects.
If your corsets are in poor condition and not appropriate for resale (and they don’t hold much sentimental value for you), then you can harvest parts of your old corset to be recycled in new corsets. Hardware like the busk and bones can be used over and over again for mockups or in future completed corsets as long as they’re not rusted or warped, and salvageable embellishments like large pieces of lace appliqué or crystals may be reused as well. You can also cut out the grommet panel of your old corset (making sure you leave a seam allowance) and you can quickly and easily sew that grommet panel onto all your future mockups and toiles, saving you time and grommets.There you have it – how you know when to size down from your current corset, and three suggestions of what to do with your old corsets. What are your requirements as to when to size down, and what do you do with your larger corsets? Let me know in a comment below!
This is important because corsets don’t have ease the way that other clothes do – for the most, part they’re not supposed to stretch. In fact, corsets can be said to have what’s called “negative ease” (instead of your body manipulating the clothing around you, the clothing instead manipulates your body).
My favorite way for corsetiers and businesses to display their information is through the use of a size chart, because I can see everything at a glance. But why is it so important to know the precise underbust, waist and hip measurements of a corset before you buy it? Why not just go strictly by the waist size? By making the most of the size charts you may be able to fairly accurately predict whether a corset is going to fit you or not, before you ever buy it or try it on. Let’s look at some case studies. If you’d rather watch the video instead of reading through these case studies, I won’t blame you:
Let’s take a look at my natural measurements:
I take my measurements to the closest cm (or in this specific case, the closest half-inch). Bodies are squishy though, so there is an acceptable range for the corsets I wear – especially if the corset is designed to have a small gap in the back instead of being worn completely closed (many corset makers draft their pieces to have a 2″ gap in the back, so I accommodate for this in my regular range). For the upper range, this is the maximum measurement I can wear before the corset starts to look visibly baggy on me (despite wearing jeans, poofy clothing underneath etc. that fill out the space).
Now let’s go hypothetical corset-shopping!
Case Study A:
The waist of Corset A is 22″. As an experienced corset wearer, I already know that I can wear a size 22” corset – it’s a 6” reduction, which is fine for me. A corset is supposed to compress the waist, but not the ribs and hips.
But the underbust measurement of Corset A is far too small for me! On a good day, I can perhaps tighten the top edge of a corset to 28” but it’s not comfortable for me. This corset has an underbust of 26”. No matter how much I try, it’s not likely that the top edge of the corset will ever close on me, and I can’t expect it to stretch out because corsets aren’t supposed to stretch. It will likely cause muffin top/ flesh spillover, and if I pull it too tight then it may hinder my breathing. This is NOT supposed to happen with a well-fitting corset, so this corset is not right for me.
The hips are a little small as well, but as it’s only 1 inch smaller than my natural hips, I will be able to wear it with a small gap in the back and it would still look fine. If I could go up one size in Corset A, then the circumference measurements would be (underbust 28″, waist 24″, hips 34″) and would fit my body much better, albeit not perfectly.
But it’s also important to look at the length as well! Corset A is 2 inches longer than my own torso. I would probably be able to wear it fine when I’m standing up, but if I sit down, then the top of the corset may push up on my bust uncomfortably, or the bottom of the corset will dig into my lap – it’s probably best to just pass on this corset altogether.
Case Study B:
This corset would fit reasonably well in the underbust and waist. If I try to close it all the way, it may create a tiny bit of muffin top, but it won’t be that uncomfortable on me. However the hips of the corset (being 30”) is too small for my own iliac measurement of 33”. Knowing my own body, trying to wear this corset closed will likely result in my hips feeling very pinched and they may begin to hurt or go numb.
I can tell from looking at the length of this corset (7″ tall) that it’s more of a cincher. It’s 4” shorter than my own torso. I don’t have a protruding tummy so wearing a short corset is not a huge issue for me, but if you have any lower-tummy pooch or a pendulous abdomen, then you may want to bypass this corset and try a longer one that you know will hold in your tummy better. I explain why you may want a longline corset for low tummies in this video.
Case Study C:
I can immediately tell from the measurements that this is a super curvy corset! I know this because by the numbers, the ribcage is 8″ larger than the waist, and the hips are 12″ larger than the waist. The waist and the length measurements are fine for me, but both the underbust and the hips will be too large (larger than my wearable range). I would likely be able to close this corset right away from the first wear, and will still have room to spare in the ribs and hips – they’ll be gaping away from my body. In this situation, I don’t necessarily have to go with a different style, but I might want to try going a size down:
Here is Corset C except a size 22″ instead of size 24″, and it looks like we hit the jackpot! Here is a standard sized corset that fits my natural measurements reasonably well in all four areas. If, however, I have no desire to go down a size and make my waist smaller, then I will need to find a different corset that is less curvy, and my search will continue.
When you’re shopping for an OTR corset, read everything you can on the website. Look for a size chart or fitting notes; and if you don’t see it, then email and ASK customer service if they have the proportions of the corset you’re looking to buy! Be sure to check out my Corset Dimensions Directory, where I have measured almost all of the standard sized corsets I’ve tried and logged their measurements so you can do this same fitting practice: use your own natural measurements, and compare them to the corset’s measurements. Try to find a brand and size that fits your ribs and hips within one inch!
I hope these case studies showed you how important it is to know the underbust, waist, and hip circumference measurements, as well as the length of the corset. In part 3 of this mini series, I will show you my own method of fairly precisely measuring my corsets – you can use this method to corsets that you own as well, and we can share sizing information with one another in the Lace-Base.
In the past, I have quickly outlined why, if you would like to wear corset on a daily basis, you may want to start with an underbust corset instead of an overbust – however up until now I haven’t dedicated an entire video to this or had gone over this in detail. In this article I’ll outline the reasons why it’s generally better for a beginner to start with an underbust corset instead of the overbust – but if you’re interested in the possible benefits of overbust corsets, you can scroll down for the Overbust “Pros”. You can watch the video below, or you can read the article below the video which has the same information.
There are five main reasons that a beginner may want to start by wearing underbust corsets rather than ovebusts, especially if they plan to waist train:
Overbust Con #1: Reduced Mobility
Overbust corsets are obviously longer and come up higher on the torso – instead of just wrapping around the lower ribcage like an underbust or a cincher would, overbusts extend higher on the chest, and they often wrap around the back as high as the wingbones (or higher!). Because of this, overbust corsets allow a more narrow range of motion than shorter underbusts; they reduce your mobility. This means that you may not be able to reach or bend over as much as you normally would, and you have to make greater adjustments to move ‘naturally’ in an overbust. If mobility is required in your job or it’s something that’s important to you, then an underbust or cincher might suit you better. *However, do note that those who have hypermobility issues may actually desire this reduced mobility from an overbust, as it may decrease the prevalence of overextension/ flexibility-related injuries.
Overbust Con #2: Reduced Full Lung Capacity
A corset obviously differs in structure to that of a bra. Most bras out there have a certain amount of elasticity in their band, which expands and contracts each time you take a breath. With a corset, there is no elasticity (or there shouldn’t be), so the corset’s circumference around your ribcage is relatively fixed.
Take a hypothetical female whose chest measures 32 inches when she exhales completely, and 35 inches when she takes in a full breath. She might want to tie the corset to ~33-34 inches around the bust. This is enough to support the breasts while giving you enough space to take a normal, comfortable (tidal) breath. But each time she inhales deeply, and tries to use her absolute, full lung capacity, she might feel a bit of resistance from the corset. And every time she exhales completely, the ribcage may feel a bit loose and she might have the illusion that she’s not properly supported (even though she probably still is). So if you have breathing issues (or you work in an environment where you need your full lung capacity), you might feel more comfortable wearing an underbust corset that stops lower on the ribcage.
Overbust Con #3: More Conspicuous under Clothing
If you plan to “stealth” your corset underneath your shirts (wear your corsets underneath your clothing), then an underbust corset may look more natural. As mentioned before, the way that overbust corsets support the breasts is different from conventional bras today. Most overbust corsets don’t have individual cups the way that bras do, (although I do have a gallery for cupped overbusts here). But these are often expensive, and the vast majority of conventional (non-cupped) overbust corsets simply don’t give the same bust shape under clothing. An overbust corset may flatten the shape of the bust slightly more, and may not give the defined underwire area where you can see where the breast stops and the ribcage begins. It may also lift the breasts higher than bras, or otherwise make the top half of the breast look fuller – and because of this, overbusts can create more cleavage than bras in some individuals – so wearing an overbust corset under a tight or form-fitting shirt will sometimes make it seem obvious that something is different about you. If you are self-conscious about this kind of attention, you might want to simply pair an underbust corset with one of your regular bras, which will give you a slightly less conspicuous silhouette under your clothes.
Overbust Con #4: More Difficult to Fit Properly
Underbust corsets are much easier to fit a wide range of body shapes compared to overbust corsets. First think about how many bra brands and styles are out there, and how many people still need to go custom fit in their bras to get the right support, shape and comfort they desire. Now think about the number of standard size overbusts are out there – this number is much smaller, and they fit a much smaller range of bust sizes in wearers! If the circumference of your bust is more than 10 inches bigger than your corseted waist size (e.g. 34″ bust, and 24″ corseted waist), you can pretty much forget about finding a standard sized overbust that will accommodate your curves. In order to ensure the best possible fit in overbusts, you will have to go semi-custom or fully-custom, and preferably get professionally fitted with one or more mockups to make sure that the bust fits right. There is a lot to consider when fitting the bust! It must be properly sized – not too big, not too small – the fabric must come up high enough and cover as much of the chest as the wearer desires, the bust must be lifted high enough for the wearer’s preference but not too high, there shouldn’t be any spill over at the armpits/ out of the cup/ over the back, etc. etc. Fitting an overbust can be extremely challenging, and even I have quite expensive custom overbust corsets that didn’t even fit me properly in the end because I didn’t get a mockup.
Overbust Con #5: More Expensive
If your budget dictates that your choices are limited to standard sized corsets, and you are not of “moderate” or “standard” bust size according to the fashion industry, (whatever “standard” is supposed to mean), then underbust corsets will be much more affordable for you. Even in standard sizes, overbust corsets simply cost more than underbust corsets because they require more fabric, they’re using a longer busk and longer bones, it takes more time to sew over the curve of the bust, etc. So, unless you are dedicated to saving up for a properly-fitted overbust corset, or unless you can somehow be compensated for an overbust by your insurance company, then perhaps an underbust corset would be better for your wallet.
At this point it probably sounds like I hate overbust corsets or that it’s difficult to find anything good about them, but this is not true! Well-fitting overbust corsets do have some very redeeming qualities, so now we will discuss the possible Pros about these corsets:
Overbust Pro #1: Better Posture Support
Overbust corsets can be ultimately better for your posture compared to underbust corsets. As mentioned above, overbusts come up higher on the ribcage, and often up to the shoulder blades in the back. This means that it’s nearly impossible to lean over and hunch your shoulders in an overbust corset. Short underbust corsets can help support your lumbar area, but I have seen corset wearers who still hunch or round their shoulders. If a corset comes up higher (halfway up the thoracic vertebrae or higher) then this can greatly reduce the risk of forward-rolled, rounded shoulders, and you might see less forward-head posture as well since your spine is “stacking up” properly.
Overbust Pro #2: Possible Upper Back Pain Management/ Curve Correction
Speaking of the spine, overbust corsets might be more supportive for people with upper back pain, or spine misalignment like scoliosis. Click here to read an article about a middle-age scoliosis patient who used a standard-sized overbust corset in conjunction with special exercises to actually decrease the curvature of his spine over time. Now, please be aware that this is a bit controversial, because this patient used himself as a “guinea pig” in this corrective process. Many corset makers will avoid making “corrective” corsets for those with scoliosis. Some of them can specially draft for an asymmetric corset that will fit a scoliosis patient comfortably, but most makers will not want to make corrective corsets unless they’ve trained with an orthopedic technician or have some experience in making medical prosthetics. But if you have a curvature in your upper or thoracic spine, then perhaps an overbust corset – whether corrective or simply supportive – will help support you better and make for a more comfortable experience as you go throughout your day.
Overbust Pro #3: Support for Large and/or Heavy Breasts
In some parts of the world, breast reductions are covered by insurance if the patient is able to prove that their breasts impede their lifestyle and cause them pain. Some people have breasts so large that they can cause or exacerbate spinal curvature, they can cause inflammation or even snapping of the scalene muscles and surrounding tendons, among other problems. Having very large or heavy breasts can sometimes lead to very serious medical issues, and one way to help prevent or help these issues is to wear an overbust corset. This is probably the most obvious positive application for overbust corsets, and it’s the one reason I hear most often from people wanting to purchase an overbust. The rigid bones and non-stretch fabric from the overbust corset helps to support the breasts 100% from below, with no pressure or tension coming from above the breast or over the shoulder. The weight from the bust is distributed throughout the rest of the corset, eliminating pressure points or strain in a well-fitting corset.
Now, in a properly fitting bra, it’s said that at least 80% of the support should come from the band wrapping around the back, and very little support comes from the shoulder straps – but it’s a sad fact that strapless bras don’t work for many people; either the bra doesn’t come in their size, they don’t feel secure in one, or the bra doesn’t stay in place. Consider the damage that has already incurred in many women; think about the hunched shoulders and the permanent indentations in their shoulders and the pain that they’re already experiencing. This is where an overbust corset would be of huge benefit, because it is able to securely support the bust from below without the risk of falling down like many strapless bras do, and without the need for shoulder straps.
Overbust Pro #4: Prevention or Management of shoulder injuries or Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Heavy breasts can cause muscle strain and tendon injuries, and they can even lead to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. The Brachial Plexus is a group of nerves that runs from the neck and clavicle region into the shoulder, arm and hands. It’s part of the thoracic outlet, in the same region, which is a bundle of nerves and blood vessels together. This area can be compressed or stressed from heavy breasts, or a previous shoulder or neck injury, or even repetitive motions like playing an instrument (guitar, drums or violin). Basically, these factors can lead to nerve compression that can lead to a number of symptoms like tingling, numbness and pain in the hands; swelling and circulation isses; it can mimic the symptoms of carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel syndromes and can limit the use or strength of the hands. In extreme situations, other complications can arise as a result of TOS, such as blood clots.
Depending on the severity of thoracic outlet syndrome, it can be corrected with one or a combination of the following: physical therapy, injections (steroids or botox), surgery (often by removing the first rib next to the collarbone, and sometimes cutting the scalene muscles), and in some situations such as TOS caused by heavy breasts, wearing an overbust corset. Preventing and healing TOS may mean that there can be absolutely zero compression or tension around this delicate neck/ shoulder area, so conventional bras with shoulder straps are no longer an option for these patients.
Need an Overbust Corset, but Don’t Want to Tightlace? No Problem.
For those that would like to wear an overbust corset to support their heavy bust, improve their upper back pain or help with TOS, but they don’t want to waist train or they’re nervous about the waist compression, the best part about this is that you don’t need to lace very tightly to reap the benefits of breast support or pain relief. So if you think that the use of an overbust corset can help you with any medical issues, I’d highly recommend you talk to your doctor before investing in one. And for those who are currently actively looking for a corset maker that is experienced in fitting heavy-busted clients, feel free to check out this Guided Gallery made just for you.
What are your reasons for wearing an overbust corset, or for avoiding them? Let me know in the comments below!
Wow, this might be opening a can of worms. I could talk for a long, long, long time on this, but I’ll try to keep it on point and try not to get too ranty about it. Going point-by-point withthe original article:
When you wear shapewear, you’re compressing your organs.
Your own organs compress your other organs. Taking a deep breath expands your lungs, lowers your diaphragm, and pushes down on your intestines. Peristalsis is the motion of your intestines moving chyme along – they’re constantly contracting and writhing.
Organs are not supposed to be rigid. Life as we know it would never have existed if our organs were not made to move and compress. (The one exception to this is the brain, which has conveniently evolved to be encased within a hard skull.)
That includes compressing your bowels.
Indeed, and this exactly why the body is so resilient and able to tolerate compression. From what I understand, corsets typically compress the organs in the peritoneal cavity, and the vast majority of what fills this cavity are hollow, membranous organs (like the stomach and intestines) that contain food/water/air/waste. When your stomach and intestines are mostly empty, they can easily be flattened down, and they take the majority of the pressure from shapewear (or a baby, or nauli), leaving other solid organs like the liver and pancreas bearing relatively little stress.
As for shapewear possibly causing constipation and other bathroom issues, I talk about that in detailin this video (or this related article). Fran from Contour Corsets has also talked about why it’s important to learn how to have bowel movements while corseted,in this article.
But some people who’ve had chronic constipation throughout their adult life have actually found that corsets have helped stimulate their bowels and help them have more regular movements. It works similarly to applying abdominal pressure and massage for relieving constipation.
Speaking personally, I find that cycling the pressure of my corset (looser, then tighter, then looser, etc.) actually pushes things along in my bowels. Within the first 30-60 minutes of putting on my corset, I’m pretty much guaranteed to poop (I imagine it’s a toothpaste effect) and then I find I’m able to lace down further in greater comfort, as my abdomen just effectively lost volume. If no corset were on, this space would be replaced with air.
You can develop tingling, numbness and pain in your legs.
This is not just true for corsets and shapewear. It’s also true for tight underwear and jeans, and some people get numbness and tingling when they sit even in loose clothing – it depends on the person, how long they’ve been sitting, how they’re sitting, whether they have ergonomic furniture, etc. So I find it a bit unfair that they would point the finger at shapewear for something SO common. That said, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s safe or good for you.
A well-fitting corset, when worn properly, should never cause numbness or tingling. This is why I’m constantly stressing the importance of finding a corset that fits you properly and doesn’t put any pressure on your iliac crest. A reducing corset should only compress the waist, not the hips or the underbust.
While we’re on the topic of nerves in general, corsets can help prevent/ relieve thoracic outlet syndrome in women with heavy breasts, andcan help with sensory adaptation in those with sensory integration dysfunctionand other sensory disorders. So while corsets have their risks with nerve issues (which is an indication of wearing it wrong, actually), corsets have their potential benefits as well. It’s a balance, you see.
Your muscles will suffer if you rely on shapewear for good posture.
If you don’t use it, you lose it. I don’t deny that some people can “develop a reliance on corsets” or other shapewear for good posture – but this is precisely the reason thatAnn Grogan recommends a training schedule working yourself up to ~8 hours a day, 6 days a week. The 7th day is a full uncorseted day and gives you the opportunity to rely on your own core muscles so you can gauge your strength.
Also – I’m not sure why this idea is propagated so widely, but corsets were never intended to be a substitute for exercise and toning. In fact, when people take on a waist training regimen, it often motivates them to work out more often in order to avoid atrophy.I recommend a daily core-strengthening workout if you start corseting – this can actually help you potentially obtain faster results than corseting alone or exercising alone, and it also ensures that you don’t experience core muscle atrophy.
Also, when used properly, corsets may actually train you to improve your posture over time, not necessarily worsen your posture.More on that here.
Plus, shapewear can create an environment prone to infections.
But I would argue that the risks for skin issues with rubber shapewear is even greater than the risk associated with corsets. The greatest cause of skin issues is the lack of breathable fibers. Many types of spandex/rubber shapewear are designed to make you overheat and sweat, claiming that this is how you lose bloat. Real corsets are not designed to work that way, and they can be just as effective at shaping your figure even when made out of cool, breathable mesh.
Hopefully this clears up my thoughts on the anti-shapewear article. I think that the article brings up some valid points, particularly the last one about moderation and proper fit. But by researching corsets properly, acquiring a high quality piece that fits you well, and using it responsibly, you can enjoy corsets (and maybe even other shapewear) and still minimize your risks. Of course, if you have pre-existing health issues, you should see a trusted doctor before corseting, and same goes if you experience any discomfort while corseting.
*This article contains my own opinion and is provided strictly for informational 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 for any reason.*
This article contains the same information as my video, “3 ways to Predict Fit & Proportion in OTR Corsets”. You may watch the video here if you prefer not to read – or you can continue reading below the video.
Before reading this article, you may want to catch up with some of my other corset fitting articles like “Shape of the Corset Gap” and “Troubleshooting More Fitting Issues“. Those videos and articles had focused on how a corset will look and feel on your body, and how to determine whether it’s a proper fit. However, there are ways to predict how a corset will fit your body even before you purchase it online! Making the most of size charts and fitting information can mean the difference between “fits almost like a custom” and “not what you expected”. It’s of absolute importance to remember that corsets don’t stretch the way most modern clothes do, and your bodies bones largely don’t compress.
The biggest issue I have with OTR corsets these days is that many companies still recommend that you choose your corset size based only on a 1-point measuring system (i.e. “subtract 4 inches from your natural waist”). But this is oversimplified. Different corsets will fit differently on different bodies, even if they’re the same size!
There is no reason why a corset company would NOT provide at least 3-4 measuring points (underbust circumference, waist circumference, high hip/iliac circumference, and then the vertical length of the torso) so you can determine the proportions and the length that will fit your body best even before you buy a corset. These proportions can be determined immediately by looking at the original draft of the corset pattern, or you can do some quick and simple measuring of the final corset to determine these proportions.
When I sell standard-sized corsets (either new OTR corsets or my own pre-made samples) I almost always ask the customer for their natural underbust/waist/iliac measurements and their torso length. I personally check their measurements against the measurements of the corset, and verify that the size they would like is going to fit them well. Doing this has greatly decreased the number of exchanges/ returns requested.
Some businesses already use the 3-4 point measuring system, and they may provide this information in 3 different ways:
1: Using size charts/ tables
To the right, you see an example of a size chart for a corset. You want the waist of the corset to be between 3-6 inches smaller than your natural waist (depending on your squish level), but you want the rib and hip measurements to be as close as possible to your own natural measurements. This will ensure that the corset cinches the waist and NOT the upper ribs or hips (which are far less compressible), and thereby result in a more flattering silhouette and comfortable fit. Size charts are my favourite way of logging proportions of a corset, because I can check its measurements against my own natural measurements at a glance. Corset businesses that utilize size charts include (but are not limited to): Meschantes, Electra Designs, and Mystic City corsets.
2: Recommending that the customer’s measurements fall within a certain range
Some corset makers prefer not to use a size chart, but will instead recommend that your natural measurements be within a certain set of measurements. If you are on the upper end of this range, then you can expect the corset to have a larger gap in the back compared to if you were at the smaller end. Although this situation is better than a 1-point system, you may still end up with slightly uneven gaps in the back depending on where your own measurements fall and how large the given range of measurements is. Corset businesses that utilize this system include (but aren’t limited to) Isabella Corsetry, Starkers Corsets ready-to-wear samples, and Morgana Femme Couture.
3: Discussing the proportion (rib spring and hip spring) of the corset, rather than absolute numbers
Orchard Corset is an example of a company that simplifies the measurements into a simple set of proportions – for instance, for a Level 3 silhouette corset you may find that the underbust (upper ribcage) circumference is 5-6 inches larger than the closed waist measurement, and the low hip circumference is 10-12 inches larger than the closed waist measurement. (Typically OTR corsets are made quickly so the measurements aren’t likely to be as precise as a custom corset, that’s why you have a general range.) Doing some simple math, this means that for a size 30” corset, the underbust will measure (30 + 5 = 35 inches), and the low hips will measure (30 + 10 = 40 inches).
In the next video/ article of the series (part 2), I will show you how to use size charts properly, to predict whether a corset will fit you or not *before* you purchase it. And in part 3, I will show you how to fairly accurately measure your own corsets. This will help you verify that the corset you just received in the mail has the correct measurements (they match the size chart/ ranges mentioned on the website) and that the corset will be likely to fit comfortably once closed.
Back in November 2013, I was consulting with a lovely lady who confided in me that she loved to wear Enell bras with her corsets. I have seen Enell here and there online, but this is the first time the name really caught my attention. I looked into it; the bra was supposed to be “The Terminator” of all sports bras; the one that leaves no room for movement. I nearly only got the Enell Sport because its use in my high-impact workouts (kickboxing) looked very appealing; but I’m glad I had consulted with Mara from Enell beforehand, who suggested that I try both the Sport and Lite versions.
It is not hyperbole to say that these bras have changed me. Although the Enell Sport gave me a flat profile and tended to accentuate my underarm pudge. It didn’t look quite as natural under clothing, and the way that it paired with the corset was *okay*. It was definitely comfortable, being a well-supportive, wire-free bra designed for large busts, but it wasn’t the look I was going for everyday wear. But when I wore this bra during my workouts, I found that they instantly became more intense as I wasn’t afraid of boobling out all over the place. My jumps were higher, my sprints were faster, I was moving with more confidence and motivated to work out more because I was finally being supported the way I was supposed to.
However, the Enell Lite really shone when paired with a corset. The Enell Lite was designed to be a daily-wear or low-impact sports bra, which can be used during yoga, Pilates, or anytime. The cups lift and separate, and create a lovely shape without smooshing you. I also found that since the band at the underbust was not as OMG constricting on this piece, that it created a beautiful smooth transition between the top edge of the corset to the bra, with very little muffin top. The 4″ back came up high enough although not too high, so it wasn’t creating back rolls above the band, and the lack of underwire meant that an underbust corset could come up as high as you want on your torso and you don’t have to be afraid of pinching.
Both types of Enell bras have a different sizing system compared to other bras – you simply measure your underbust circumference and your full bust circumference, in cm or inches, and get the size whose range you fall into. Some people don’t like this sizing system, but in the confusing world of different cup sizes and band calculations depending on what country is manufacturing a bra, I find Enell’s system extremely simple to use, and rather fool-proof. If you don’t fall into the regular size range, you can also check out Ebay where factory seconds are sold at discount, which often have different ratios of band to cup compared to their standards.
The only thing I wish is that this bra were not so high-cut on the chest, as it does show under even simple V-neck shirts. If this bra were somehow available in a more balconette or plunge version and still provided the same wire-free support, I would buy two in every colour and wear them everyday.
If you’d like to see both the Enell Sport and the Enell Lite bras in detail, as well as how they pair with an underbust corset, you’re welcome to check out my video review below:
Note that this post is a copy of the same one under the “Research Corset Brands –> Guided Galleries” menu. It is part of a collection of articles to help corset enthusiasts shop more wisely.
The extreme hourglass silhouette can be effectively described as the “belted pillow” look. I should note that different schools of corsetry have different interpretations of silhouettes; for instance Romantasy calls this style the “wasp” while I had initially been taught that the wasp waist featured a more conical torso (a guide for conical corsets will be created later on). The extreme hourglass silhouette is less popular than it used to be, but I still personally find it to be very comfortable. The waist nips in very suddenly and dramatically, while the ribcage remains relatively rounded and free to expand with each breath. I can achieve quite extreme reductions using this silhouette, even if the wasp is aesthetically my favourite. If this is your desired silhouette, the following makers and purveyors will be able to assist you – and some even offer the extremely rare pipestem silhouette!
Corset makers: If you have made any extreme hourglass or pipestem corsets and you would like to be added to the gallery, you’re welcome to email me with your pictures here. Safe for Work photos are preferred! Thank you!
Bethan, skilled corsetiere and owner of Orchid Corsetry, offers the Sloth training underbust which gently cups the ribcage and then dramatically dips inward at the waist. This corset is strong enough to be used in 23/7 waist training, and can be purchased on its own or in a waist training kit.
Marianne, the proprietor of Pop Antique, has many years experience as both a corsetiere and a professional model. After learning that her own ribcage is very unmovable and that conical ribcages bruise her, she drafted all her own corsets to cup the ribs, which has become a bit of a trademark. By default, all Pop Antique designs feature a distinctive rounded ribcage and abruptly nipped waist.
Sugarkitty Corsets is able to accommodate silhouettes and styles of all kinds, including this dramatic almost-pipestem rendition of the Abigail II underbust corset (starts at $377). Speaking from experience, it is very easy to take large breaths in this corset. Please note that Sugarkitty will only be accepting corset commissions up till the end of 2013.
The Bad Button Bespoke Corsets makes hardy waist training corsets as well as couture designer pieces; Alisha the corsetiere will create the corset with as much or as little rib contouring as you need or desire. The above example shows a very rounded ribcage and dramatically nipped in waistline.
Salonkiompelimo HiroNIA is a corset maker from Finland who is capable of creating a magical fit, no matter what your preference in silhouette. Some of their clients can achieve a 17″ waist in this silhouette – here is one of their creations is modelled by burlesque artist LouLou D’Vil, who easily wears this style corset while modelling/ performing.
Neon Duchess (bespoke corsetry by Hannah Light) had created this incredible corset for the Oxford Conference of Corsetry in summer of 2013. This particular overbust is just one layer of a 3-corset ensemble. Each corset could be worn on its own, or mixed and matched, layered on top of one another. Hannah describes this corset has having “shell pink silk dupion with bronzed leather and bronze leaf detail to the bust and hips. The dramatic shape is achieved by cupping the ribs and hip with reduction at the waist only.”
Delicate Facade Corsetry is an Australia-based business with 13 years experience. In the above photo, you can see an extremely curvy underbust tightlacing corset, which is designed to give an amazing 12-inch reduction from the client’s natural corseted waist.
Puimond Progressive Corset Design believes in maintaining an anatomical shape around the ribcage, and for extreme reductions he is able to easily nip in the waist an extra couple of inches while leaving a beautiful softly rounded ribcage. The effect is not quite as dramatic as others, but you can see the soft convex curves around the ribcage here. He offers several styles of corsets starting at $330, which can be made suitable for daily waist training. My review of this corset can be seen here.
Helen (the owner of KookyC / Creative Corsets) couldn’t have said it any better – along with this photo, she described the extreme hourglass shape as being a more comfortable especially for those with rigid, unmovable ribs (see the note under Pop Antique’s photo as well). “I’ve always liked this look,” she said, “and it achieves such extreme curves with far less reduction.”
Another maker of corsets with anatomically-shaped ribcages is Sparklewren. The corset above is modelled by Immodesty Blaize. I have owned 4 corsets from Sparklewren, and from personal experience I can say that my own overbust very easily and gently cups around my ribs, only compressing the last two or so for a subtle dip in the waist. The continuous steel boning adds to the structure.
Romantasy offers a beautifully shaped underbust with a nipped-in waist (this is their definition of the wasp waist) placing most of the reduction at the waist and very little on the ribcage. All of their wasp corsets are made by the talented Sheri Jurnecka.
Mr. Pearl seems to be the Grandaddy of the modern extreme waist, having trained himself down to 18″ while keeping his ribcage relatively anatomical. Although it’s said that he does take corset commissions, legend has it that Mr. Pearl eschews the internet and communicates by written letter, and only takes in-person fittings.
Mr. Pearl’s only well-known protégé, Gabriel Moginot, has launched his lineMaison Moginot and offers the ready-to-wear Fierce corset for €580, with an option to upgrade to made-to-measure. His design puts little stress the ribcage, and offers a pipestem-like silhouette.
C&S Constructions is the master of the extreme hourglass and the pipestem corset, keeping a long list of loyal customers over the decades. The photo above is not even the most extreme pipestem they have made for a client. C&S has made nearly all the corsets worn by the legendary Spook, who is said to have had a 14″ waist in diameter with a 2″ pipestem.
Corsets and More from Germany is a hugely under-appreciated gem among corsetieres, who is capable of creating corsets with extreme reductions and fascinating pipestems, like the above piece in acid green dupioni.
Finally, although I’m not currently taking commissions, here is an extreme hourglass creation of my own, made in March 2012 for a friend and client across the continent. Drafting for a rounded ribcage was more easy than I originally thought; but getting the roundness in the right panels so as not to create pressure points or gaping in the ribs was an interesting venture. I still use this corset pattern today, as B.P.’s measurements are already close to my own. You can see the sports mesh corset I made from this pattern here.
*Please note that I have not personally tried every corset brand in this list, nor do I necessarily endorse every company on this list. This is for informational purposes only.
Note that this post is a copy of the same one under the “Research Corset Brands –> Guided Galleries” menu. It is part of a collection of articles to help corset enthusiasts shop more wisely.
Rather than an hourglass silhouette, some people prefer their corsets to give them a more conical, tapered ribcage like what was so popular around the 1950’s New Look era. A human’s floating ribs (the 11th and 12th ribs) often have flexible joints, and they’re designed to swing in and out like a hinge with each breath you take. It is also possible for some individuals to train their ribs to be pushed inward, so they have a slightly tapered ribcage with or without the corset on. There are arguably over 100 different makers who can cater to the conical ribcage to give that 50’s “wasp waist” look, but I will just show some of my personal favourites, and some particularly impressive corsets that I’ve found to give this shape.
As mentioned before, different ‘schools’ of corsetry have different definitions for silhouettes. I was first introduced to this style as the “wasp waist” silhouette, as rib shaping is often more demanding to wear compared to more rounded hourglass silhouettes. Others may call this the conical silhouette, or the ice-cream cone silhouette – so when purchasing a corset, do clarify what kind of silhouette you’re looking for.
Note that this post is a copy of the same one under the “Research Corset Brands –> Guided Galleries” menu. It is part of a collection of articles to help corset enthusiasts shop more wisely.
Realistically speaking, no human being is perfectly symmetric. We all have some variance in our frame or how we distribute our tissues, and more often than not, one side of our bodies is stronger (and has more muscle tone) than the other side. This all has an effect on how we are able to cinch down and what silhouette of corsets fit our bodies best, but our bodies are incredibly accommodating and most of us can get away with symmetric corsets. However, those who have scoliosis or other congenital skeletal conditions, and those who have suffered injuries (for instance, a broken bone from childhood that results in an uneven pelvis or protruding rib) may have such great asymmetry that wearing a cheap OTR corset may look crooked or twist on the body, ruining the corset. More worrying, a symmetric corset can be painful or may cause other issues from not fitting correctly.
The right kind of asymmetric corset can work with the client’s body to make it look more symmetric, and will feel more comfortable. A well-fitted asymmetric corset may relieve back pain from scoliosis or past injury, or possibly even partially correct asymmetry over time. Here are the few corsetieres I know who have created corsets for asymmetric clients in the past:
Contour Corsets is arguably the most well-known corsetiere for asymmetric corsets. Having an asymmetric figure herself, Fran learned from early on how to draft a corset for various issues like scoliosis, protruding ribs or hips, legs of different lengths, a rotated pelvis and more. Depending on the condition, she can draft a corset to simply fit well over asymmetry and make it look like a symmetric corset, or she can design the corset to apply pressure to certain parts of the body to partially correct the asymmetry. The silver corset above is designed to straighten spinal curvature over time in a patient with severe scoliosis. Fran has a page dedicated to her medical corsets here.
Katrina of Totally Waisted! Corsets is experienced in creating asymmetric corsets for clients with scoliosis or other issues. She takes separate measurements for each quadrant of the client, and requires an in-person mockup fitting to ensure everything fits properly and feels comfortable. She then artfully uses strategically-placed external boning channels to hide the asymmetry and create a beautifully smooth corset.
Electra Designs also has much experience creating asymmetric corsets, and she expertly hides the asymmetry in the corset shown above via artistic placement of the decorative black piping. Alexis also uses unique lacing bones in the back of all her corsets, which ensures that her 2-part eyelets never rip out. The lacing bones are not fusion-coated so they flex and hug the natural lumbar curve and don’t force an unnatural or unhealthy posture, and the bones don’t dig into the tailbone or top of the bum. Lastly, this corset has shoulder straps for correcting hunched shoulders.
Sparklewren has also experimented with asymmetric corsets, such as this custom underbust made for petite alternative model KathTea Katastrophy. In addition to each half having different measurements, the deliberate diagonal embellishment draws the eye away from physical asymmetry. KathTea is very public about her scoliosis and subsequent physical asymmetry. You can read more about her adventures in tightlacing with scoliosis here.
Morua Designs has made asymmetric corsets in the past, like this beautiful bridal ensemble. The bride had one breast larger than the other, but through clever pattern drafting the asymmetry was expertly concealed, made even more impressive that the use of a very symmetric lace motif in the front did not draw attention to any asymmetry in the body. Gerry also travels from the US to the UK, so if you have asymmetry issues, it would be best to contact her for the possibility of an in-person fitting. Overbust corsets start at £425.
Delicate Facade Corsetry is also said to make asymmetric corsets; one client mentions that the owner of DFC herself has scoliosis and she has over 13 years experience in drafting corsets.
Although I haven’t personally seen a photo of this particular corset, Harman Hay (the owner of Foundations Revealed) has also created an asymmetric corset for a client in the past; she describes that she started with a symmetric toile and adjusted each side separately during the fitting. Some lines were curved off the body where they would normally be straight when worn, and the final piece was said to be beautiful and perfectly fitted.
*Please note that I have not personally tried every corset brand in this list, nor do I necessarily endorse every company in these guided galleries. This is for informational purposes only, and not meant to replace the advice of a medical practitioner. If you have scoliosis or other health concerns that cause your asymmetry, please talk to your doctor, orthopedic technician or chiropractor before using a corset to correct your posture (or for any other reason).
Note that this post is a copy of the same one under the “Research Corset Brands –> Guided Galleries” menu. It is part of a collection of articles to help corset enthusiasts shop more wisely.
Most off-the-rack corsets cater only to relatively small-busted corseters, and it can be difficult to find a standard corset that fits D+ cups.* If your bust size is over about an F cup then it is almost impossible to find a standard sized corset to lift, support and cover your bust appropriately. The ideal overbust corset (in my opinion) should fully encompass the breast tissue and prevent you from spilling over or popping out of the corset. It should also give your bust a moderate lift, but not flatten the breasts like pancakes and not push up the breasts so high that it creates a chin rest.
It’s almost guaranteed that you will need to find a custom overbust to cover and flatter your bust, and not every corsetiere is experienced in fitting overbusts for top-heavy women. A well-fitted overbust can be quite healthy for women with large or heavy breasts, as it takes considerable pressure off the neck, shoulders and upper back by supporting the bust from below, as opposed to having shoulder straps from bras cutting into the flesh. Some medical professionals have recommended overbust corsets as part of treatment/ prevention of thoracic outlet syndrome and torn scalene muscles from heavy breasts.
While it’s the best situation to have a corsetiere give you an in-person mockup fitting (or several) to ensure the best outcome possible, not everyone has a corsetiere living closeby. (To check if you have any corsetieres in your vicinity, see my Corsetiere Map.) The next best thing is to find a corsetiere online who is experienced at fitting large busts. The following is a non-exhaustive list of corsetieres that I’ve found to give beautiful bust shaping for larger cup sizes in conventional (non-cupped) overbusts. If you’re interested in cupped overbusts, I have a separate gallery here.
There is only one OTR corset I have tested that’s suitable for larger cup sizes: What Katie Did keeps the Storm overbust in stock in black satin. Drafted specifically for cup sizes D-F, it is the only OTR conventional corset I’ve personally tried that didn’t flatten my bust and made me feel safe against any “boobling out”. In addition to the Storm overbust, WKD can also make their Laurie and Sophia corsets to suit larger cup sizes, with a 4-week turnaround.
Eikhell wrote the manual on supporting large busts – literally! Isabelle, the corsetiere behind Eikhell, has written a two-part instructional article on Foundations Revealed, showing other corsetieres how to fit and support heavy busts with overbust corsets. The first article is available to read for free – the 1901 overbust however, is €420 (about $570) for a custom fit.
Jupiter Moon 3 is incredibly talented at making corsets for all shapes and sizes, and she does not shy away from ample-busted clientele. Jennifer has said that the overbust corset shown above in 2011 was the most custom overbust she has ever made, and she’s won the respect of top-heavy women everywhere. Her bare-bones made-to-measure overbust corsets start at $200 and she offers a huge number of upgrades and further customization in styles.
New York designer Angela Friedman makes magic with her beautifully supportive overbusts for the fuller-busted. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then you can see that the many panels running down the front of her custom-fit corsets work to create a superbly smooth, highly-customized overbust with a round bust shape – no excessive push-up, no flattening of the bust and no tissue spillover.
Certainly not your typical plain overbust: Mina LaFleur made waves with this historical recreation of a traditional Victorian overbust. Historical overbusts are not usually overbusts in the sense that we think of them; they’re actually closer to demibust (half-covering the breast) with a chemise worn underneath to cover the rest of the chest. Mina slightly altered the pattern to curve a little more over the breast and prevent flattening or spillage. As a large-busted corset-wearer herself, she understands the need for a comfortable and flattering overbust. Her bespoke overbusts start at just $500 including toile fitting.
What’s not to love about this Hera overbust by Crikey Aphrodite? Alison, the owner of Crikey Aphrodite, has worked as a professional bra-fitter for years – knowledge that she’s expertly incorporated into her characteristic gored overbust corsets made especially for fuller busts, creating a superb lifted and rounded bust area. This overbust starts at £350 which includes a toile fitting.
This robin’s egg blue overbust from Totally Waisted! Corsetry is an exquisitely shaped piece from early 2011. The curve around the bust combined with the external boning channels and delicate flossing makes for a soft, feminine piece that still effectively shapes and controls curves. Kate is knowledgeable in fitting both fuller busts and smaller busts, and she takes commissions for custom overbusts through Etsy.
This avant-garde purple overbust was created by Joëlle at Atelier Sylphe Corsets for Alina, the lead singer of Markize. It’s designed for a fuller cup size and wider hip spring and features a plunge neckline while still keeping the bust fully covered. The majority of the corsets sold through Atelier Sylphe are special one-off samples, but do contact Joëlle directly if you’re interested in a custom commission.
Whatever your shape, size, corseting experience, age or gender, Doris Müller will create a corset to shape and flatter – large busts are no challenge to her. To be truthful, I can’t believe I’ve gone so long without knowing about Corsets and More, as Doris excels in nearly every style of corset. The overbust featured above combines a modest sweetheart bustline that effectively covers the entire cup, while still accentuating a tiny waist and impressive hipspring – and beautifully mirror-matching the stripes to create perfect chevrons down the center front.
More stripes! Electra Designs is also accomplished in making sweetheart overbust corsets that lifts the bust to a natural level, with cups that round over the breast to keep the bust in place while looking both attractive yet tasteful. With a custom corset, the bustline can be raised to show almost no cleavage, or lowered to expose more of the décolletage while still feeling safe and secure in your corset.
Other corsetieres who can accommodate full-busted clients include:
*Please note that D+ cups are generally regarded as “fuller” cup sizes, but whether an individual can fit into a standard overbust corset obviously depends on the band size. I have not personally tried every corset brand in this list, nor do I necessarily endorse every company featured in my Guided Galleries. This is for informational purposes only. Please visit your doctor if you would like to start corseting for any reason, and especially if you are searching for an overbust for medical purposes.
Many people have seen my “Shape of Your Corset Gap: What Does it Mean?” video and article, but several people have walked away with the wrong idea – they think that if you have anything BUT a straight, parallel gap down the back, that this means it’s going to break the corset.
This is actually incorrect. In this article, I will explain a bit more about what the gaps mean, and will also discuss some other fitting issues, like flaring, gaping, and problems with curviness/ lack of curves. If you’d like you can watch the video below instead of reading (it’s the same information):
Revisiting the V shape and A shape:
If your corset is making a V shape or A shape, the bones are not parallel but they’re still kept straight and they’re not bent per se. What it means is that the corset is not the best shape for you (I call it a corset-body mismatch). What may happen is that your corset may become seasoned in the V shape or A shape – but as your ribs and your hips are not going to dramatically change their natural measurements, there’s no reason that you should be worried about wearing the corset any other way. It is not likely to ruin the corset to wear it this way, as long as the bones in the back don’t bend or twist in their channels.
Some corsetieres and designers even deliberately draft a corset to have a V shape in the back. This is seen all the time on the backs of wedding dresses, and other formal wear and costumes. Some lacers and performers specifically request that their authentic corsets are drafted to have a V shape in the back. Also, Elizabethan stays/ payres of bodies were often made to have the V gap in the front, to show off the decorative stomacher. The “rules” of corset gaps are not universal throughout all fashion eras!
I also sometimes see people wearing a corset with the V shape or inverted V shape online (mostly Youtube and Tumblr), and people will tell the wearer that they’re wearing the corset incorrectly and the gap needs to be corrected so it’s parallel. This also isn’t true. If your corset is too small at the top, and you try to force the corset closed and reduce your own underbust measurement, you may find that it’s more difficult to take a deep breath and/or you’ll have flesh spilling over the top of the corset. In the opposite case, if your corset is too small at the bottom (A-shaped gap) and you try to force it closed and reduce the girth of your hips, you may feel some uncomfortable pinching or numbness in your hips, bum or legs; or you could even long-term nerve damage or bruising! Wearing a corset with an uneven gap doesn’t mean you’re wearing the corset incorrectly – it’s not the fault of the wearer, they are lacing it so that it’s comfortable and it’s not going to cause injury. However, this corset is simply not the right shape for the wearer’s body, and ideally the corset should be modified (one can add expandable hip ties or gores) or it should be returned/ exchanged for a curvier corset that will fit with a more even gap.
Revisiting the ( ) shape and )( shape:
The gap shapes you really need to worry about are the ones that look like parentheses. If you have the top and bottom of the corset touching and a big gap at the waistline (known as the “()” shape) or the opposite where the shape of the gap is echoing the hourglass shape of the corset (the “)(” shape), this means that the corset is the wrong size for your body, it’s either too curvy or not curvy enough for your experience level, and/or there may be something structurally wrong with the corset.
These gap shapes show that the bones are literally bending and twisting and not remaining straight and flat like they’re designed to do. What can happen to the corset in this situation is that the bone may permanently kink or bend, which weakens the bone and can dig into you uncomfortably. Not only that but because the bone has space to rub and twist in the channel, the fabric channel is being worn more (and less evenly) than a snug bone and this may cause a bone to pop out of its channel if there’s too much friction wearing away at the fabric. Also, the bones are there to support the grommets! If the bones are not doing their job, it can warp the fabric, putting uneven tension on the grommets and may make them more susceptible to eventually ripping out (think of those fashion corsets that are unsupported by bones in the back, and they crumple with any tension on the laces). The () and )( gap shapes are the ones that can really ruin the corset; not the V-shape.
Other fitting issues: Should my new corset flare away from my body or not?
I’ve been asked a lot lately about “flaring”, when people first try on a corset and it gapes away from your body. This is not only normal, it’s to be expected. In fact, if you’re seasoning your corset at a gentle reduction and you’re NOT getting some flaring (it’s snug around your ribs and hips, not loose or “big”), something might be wrong and the corset is probably not curvy enough for you.
Most people buy a corset that is curvier than their bodies (this is often the point of corseting). A well-fitting corset is supposed to have a smaller waist than your natural waist, but will have an underbust measurement the same as your natural underbust, and a hip measurement that is the same size as your natural hips. This way, when you cinch down in the corset, it’s not trying to reduce the size of your underbust, waist and hips simultaneously, but will only reduce your waist while gently supporting the ribs and hips – when it’s not too big, it won’t flare, and when it’s not too small, you don’t get pinching or spillover.
My corset has a big gap in the back, but there’s no more room in the ribs or hips to cinch down further!
Many OTR corsets out there are not curvy enough for some people’s bodies. I have reviewed some corsets in the past that were not curvy enough to close all the way on me, because the ribcage and hip measurements of the corset are smaller than my own. You’ll notice that I don’t force the waist to be smaller to give the )( gap, I just leave it with a huge gap in the back because I want to show the true silhouette of the corset, and I also don’t want to ruin the corset.
My corset has a wide parallel gap in the back, but I’m seeing flaring.
This is the proper scenario: let’s say you have a very curvy corset but you’re not achieving large reductions in your waist yet. If the corset isn’t closed in the back, it is perfectly normal to have the top and bottom flare away from your body at this stage, because the corset is designed to fit when closed. You have to keep your eye on the end result, not on what the corset is doing at very gentle reductions.
In the meantime, does this mean that you should lace the top and bottom tighter, and keep the waist more loose so the back of the corset looks like () ? I personally wouldn’t. That is a good way to make the bones by the grommets bend and twist in the back, and potentially ruin the corset in the ways outlined above.
When I’m seasoning or training down in a corset that has a dramatic waist reduction, I just deal with the gaping or flaring at the ribs and hips. I don’t like the way the corset looks with the gaping, but it can be hidden by wearing sweaters or jeans under the corset to add bulk – or I’ll just wear the corset under my clothes so I don’t have to see it. It might feel wobbly, but I just remind myself that it’s a very temporary state until I’m able to train down further.
My corset is closed all the way in the back, but the top/ bottom are still flaring away from my body!
The corset is either too curvy for your body type, or it’s too big for you. If you feel that you’re able to cinch smaller and you want to train down further, then exchange the corset for a size smaller. If you have no interest in having a smaller waist, then see if you can get your corset exchanged for a less curvy one. Maybe a dramatic wasp-waist just isn’t for you, and you would prefer a more gentle hourglass or modern slim silhouette – there is nothing wrong with that! This is why different shapes of corsets exist for different people.
Hopefully this has helped clarify some points from my previous “Corset Gaps” video/article, and you’re able to troubleshoot your fitting issues more effectively. Do you have any other fitting issues that you’d like discussed in the future? Do you have anything to add, or do you disagree with anything said here? Do let me know in a comment.
Note that this post is a copy of the same one under the “Research Corset Brands –> Guided Galleries” menu. It is part of a collection of articles to help corset enthusiasts shop more wisely.
Please note: this page is no longer regularly updated, please see the permanent page for a more comprehensive gallery and list of corsetieres!
Most well-known OTR corset companies carry corset sizes for natural waists up to and around 40″. However, what if your waist size is over 40 inches around? What if it’s over 50 inches? 60 inches? Full-figured people deserve beautiful corsets too, and in this article I’m going to share with you some of the companies that cater to larger clients. All of the following businesses offer corsets larger than 40″. There are many many more corsetieres than these that offer larger-sized corsets as custom commissions, and I recommend that if you have your heart set on a specific corset maker (even one not mentioned here), message or email them personally and see if they can accommodate your requests.
Please note that some of these companies charge a markup for larger sizes while others don’t. If you would like to learn more about any of the following corset companies and their pricing policy, please contact them directly.
Corsetieres, if you cater to larger clientele and would like to share an example of your work, submit photos by email to be added to the gallery. Safe-for-work photos are preferred!
Ms. Martha’s Corset Shoppe has a selection of silk and leather standard-sized corsets for natural waist sizes 18″ to 52″. She never charges more for larger sizes, and some of her silk cinchers are as low as $100 in her close-out section. She particularly caters to full-figured and hard-to-fit customers, and she regularly uses plus-size models to demonstrate the gorgeous silhouette they give on all sizes. See her Wicked Kitten photoshoot for examples of how more of her corsets fit on fuller figures.
Hips & Curves is a popular plus-size lingerie site that carries corsets in sizes 28″ up to 44″ (recommended natural waists from 30″ to 49″). Their “Luxe Steel-Boned Corsets” section offers standard-sized underbusts and overbusts starting from $130. They also have a great 60-day refund policy on all their garments.
Orchard Corset offers steel boned underbust corsets up to size 46″, which would fit up to a recommended natural waist of 56″. Since fuller-figured corseters often require more length, I’d personally suggest their CS-426 underbust (shown above, modelled by Tess Munster), preferably in cotton if it’s for daily wear. While they do charge more for sizes 32-46″, it’s only $1 more for each successive size so the largest option is still only $87, by far the least expensive option in this list. (And if you use my discount code CORSETLUCY, you’ll save 10% on your purchase.)
Meschantes Corsetry offers ready-to-wear, standard sized training underbust corsets up to size 44″ corseted waist (suitable for up to 50″ natural uncorseted waists, size chart here). Sadly I couldn’t find any photos of these plus sized corsets, though. Meschantes also accepts commissions for custom fit corset styles, with a 25% markup for natural uncorseted waists between 40″-50″. Those with waists above 50″ are encouraged to email for further inquiry.
Stormy Leather of San Francisco (note: very NSFW) has 12 different corset styles for waist sizes up to 52″ if you look in their Women’s Plus Sizes section. These are offered in 40 shades of leather and 12 shades silk, and you can even choose 2-tone or complementary colours if you wish. The Can-Can underbust seen above is available in both silk and leather, and in smaller sizes (natural waists 22 – 32) or larger sizes (called Lusty sizes, natural waists 32-52).
Dark Garden Corsetry also offers standard-sized and custom-fit corsets for full-figured corseters. Their standard Valentine overbust is cut particularly for curvy clientele, and DG is also comfortable making corset sizes well over 40″ for those that upgrade to custom fit. Anyone who finds themselves in the San Francisco area is invited to have a personal fitting at Dark Garden’s boutique.
Electra Designs is comfortable making corsets for women with waists well over 40″, and Alexis has expressed excitement about making more corsets (and purchasable corset patterns!) for full figured customers in the coming year. Featured above is her lovely bridal client Stephanie from 2005; her corset features a very flat abdomen and beautiful bust shaping and support.
Totally Waisted! Corsets also caters to full-figured clientele, offering made-to-measure corsets whatever your size. Kate’s commissions are almost always heavily boned and she uses the highest quality materials she can find; the result as seen above is proper abdominal and bust support, and beautifully smooth curves. The photo featured above is also drafted for an asymmetric client (which will be discussed in another article).
Luscious Pearl Designs from B.C. Canada specializes in beautiful made-to-measure corsets for plus sizes. Her pieces range from historical reproductions to contemporary couture and every fusion in between. Being a full-figured corseter herself, she understands how to specially draft for extra-curvy women in order to give flattering shape and support.
The Bad Button Bespoke Corsets is also well experienced in making corsets for full-figured clients; Alisha has mentioned that her corsets have been made up to size 50″ in the past. The gorgeous modified “Armor” corset with straps featured above was made for one of her clients, bride Jamie, in summer 2013. (You can see more pictures of Jamie’s wedding in her Offbeat Bride feature!)
Romantasy Exquisite Corsetry offers corsets in both standard sizes and custom-fit, all made in the USA, and available for natural waists up to 60″. Above is a photo of their Simple Pleasures cincher, which has an average price of $235 for the full-figured woman, depending on your waist size. This cincher can also be used upside down to fit gentlemen.
TO.mTO from Berlin makes impressively curvy and unbelievably smooth corsets for women and men of all sizes. In the above picture, client Claudia models the beautifully fitted Amelia longline corset from TO.mTO’s Vanity Fair special collection. This couture corset costs €489, or about $660 USD.
Forever in Black is a UK business that’s been creating corsets since 1995, adding historical costume and goth/Steampunk clothing to the list of commissions. Their standard sized corsets go up to a 42″ closed waist, and custom corsets like the Belladonna overbust (seen above, modelled by Evie Wolfe) can be made for any waist size if you need larger. An included toile fitting ensures dramatic curves for $249.
For those who prefer more Elizabethan-style stays, Woodsholme on Etsy creates beautiful historically-inspired stays, Victorian corsets and clothing. Louise, the corsetiere, creates made-to-measure pieces for all sizes; the Tudor stays featured above were made to fit a client with a 50″ bust.
For other corset makers who cater to full-figured clientele, also check out the following links: