Posted on 1 Comment

“Corset Waist Training” Primer (Romantasy) Book Review

Today I’m providing a walkthrough and review of Romantasy’s newest book, titled Corset Waist Training: A Primer on Easy, Fun & Fashionable Waistline Reduction written by Ann Grogan. This was released in late 2016 and I read through it in 2017.

Differences between the Primer and Corset Magic:

Cover Art for the Corset Waist Training primer, by Ann Grogan (Romantasy.com)

This is a different book to the one I had reviewed back in 2011 (Corset Magic), and there are quite a few differences (and improvements made!) to this new book. I still maintain that Corset Magic is the most thorough publication I’ve ever read on waist training – but it was a daunting read at the time, being well over 125,000 words (over 300 A4-size pages with smallish font, single-spaced). I remember that the search function / page numbers didn’t work with my Adobe PDF reader, making it easy to lose my place.

The Primer is a bit shorter (perhaps closer to 100,000 words, in 4 very digestible parts), more concise, more organized, and easy to search for words and find your place again) in the PDF reader. It has also been carefully edited, proof-read and beta-tested to create a more user-friendly read overall. Resources and links have also been updated from the old Corset Magic version, so they work properly and no longer lead to dead links – so from a technical standpoint, the Primer is a huge improvement!

The Primer is not meant to be a full replacement for Corset Magic, but it definitely helps you get started (hence: Primer). You can still buy Corset Magic for $50 which goes into more detail about what happens to the body when you wear corsets; it’s more heavy on research, and also seems to have additional chapters (e.g. on men wearing corsets). Corset Magic really is a comprehensive resource for the keeners (no shame; I fall into this category too!) but the Primer will still give you more than enough information to get started, and at a more attractive price ($14.95 on this site), it’s a much smaller and more manageable investment.

Like I said in my old Corset Magic review: if you’re not sure if waist training is for you, then it’s wiser to invest [now $15, for the Primer] to educate yourself than it is to spend $300 or $400 on a custom corset, discover that you’re not the biggest fan of wearing corsets or your lifestyle doesn’t allow you to wear corsets, and find that you just wasted hundreds of dollars on a garment you’ll never wear.

 

Some disclaimers before we start:

Oftentimes in this book, waist training is mentioned hand-in-hand with weight loss, and there’s considerable emphasis placed on the obesity epidemic and the importance of losing weight or having a svelte figure. While weight loss admittedly does seem to be the general trend with many people who waist train, I also know of several people who have successfully trained their waists and developed a curvier natural silhouette while staying the same weight or even gaining weight, so I know that training can be achieved independent of weight loss.

So if you’re rocking the plus size and have no intentions of losing weight, there are portions of this book which will not apply as much to you – and try not to take offense to some passages in this book which emphasize weight loss. If you have a history of disordered eating, some concepts in this book may be considered triggering (small portion sizes, calorie counting, food restriction / denial).

Ann does acknowledge the fact that not all waist trainers lose weight, writing on pg 24: “When following the basic waist-training steps outlined in this book, depending on your figure size and shape, it’s not unusual to find that you permanently lose 2″ to 3″ or more from your waist with or without weight loss.” But then also adds: “You also might lose from a few pounds, up to 20 or more.”

Edited to add: since I knew there are a few trans women and non-binary folks who visit my site: in this book there are terms used like “genetic male,” “transsexual”, etc. in reference to trans women. From my understanding, some of these terms are inaccurate and outdated and might be cause for concern – I had emailed the author to suggest using some more updated terminology (AMAB, transgender) but she said she checked with the transgender community in San Francisco regarding her writing and received no negative feedback. Since I’m a cis woman, it’s not my place to police these terms, so I let the subject go. Use your own discretion when coming across these terms in the book.

 

PART 1 (includes Introduction and Ch 1-3)

A peek into the contents and organization of the Corset Waist Training Primer (Romantasy.com)

The Introduction goes into parallels between corset training vs dieting/ starting a fitness regime. One might think it all starts with how tight you wear your corset or how long you wear it (in the former), or how much you exercise or what you eat (in the latter). But in reality, all starts with your mind and in identifying – and setting – your priorities. It might involve a quite a bit of mentally “checking in”, and she says that our default behavior in times of stress (challenging times, emergencies) is particularly telling compared to times when life is smooth sailing. A little mindfulness can go a long way, and she recommends checking in with a waist training coach, having a buddy system, or if possible, even talking to a counselor to identify unhealthy automatic behaviors.

Ann also says that waist training regimens are highly individual and not a “one size fits all” approach, the same way that one person can feel amazing on one diet while another person can do the same diet and end up very sick. I fundamentally agree with this as a nutritionist – if one diet worked for everyone, we’d only ever have one. We all need to find what works best for our bodies.

Chapter 1 discusses some of the many benefits you may experience with wearing corsets – not only physical benefits (better posture, back support, appetite reduction if that’s your thing), but also the comforting aspects of deep pressure, some possible reduction in stress and anxiety, etc.

Chapter 2 is all about the “Corset Question” which is “Don’t corsets hurt?” And obviously the answer to that is an emphatic NO!… as long as the corset is of decent quality, properly fitted to the unique hills and valleys of your body, and you’re wearing it responsibly (which also includes the fact that you will loosen the laces when you feel the need to).

This chapter also goes into various unsavory experiences Ann has had with sensationalistic TV segments and news reports which negatively portrayed corsets, and I sympathize as I have multiple responses to such news segments here on my blog.

Chapter 3 explains how waist training works. Ann provides plenty of before and after examples, showing many of her students who permanently lost inches on their waist, most of them losing a significant amount of weight as well (the most dramatic being one client who lost 50 lbs in 3 months). However, Ann is also quick to mention that corset waist training is not a “lose weight quick” scheme – it requires considerable discipline and consistency, and often a lifestyle change. She says waist training works best if you focus not only on wearing the corset, but changing other elements as well (including what to eat and how to exercise).

But even though this regimen requires control, Ann recommends going into it with an open mind and positive mindset – you don’t want to force the process and end up developing resentment towards your corset or your routine.

 

PART 2 (includes Ch 4-5)

Chapter 4 is a big chapter. It goes into her official requirements for the perfect waist training corset – I remember reading this checklist back in 2010 or 2011 and being very surprised by the amount of scrutiny that went into every detail of the corset. Now, in 2018, I agree that these components are reasonable, and most could even be considered obvious! Some of these requirements include non-stretch tightly woven fabric, strong thread and tidy stitches, steel bones, front busk, 2-part grommets, presence of a waist tape, etc.

She says for best results, get an underbust corset made custom to your measurements, and she goes into detail on how to measure yourself accurately for a custom corset. Above all, Ann recommends you don’t rush into getting a corset.

She is vehemently against OTR corsets (this is where she and I disagree). But what I do agree with is that if someone is impatient about choosing a corset/ they don’t want to put any homework into exploring their options/ they choose “rock-bottom prices” over their own comfort and proper fit, then this person is not likely to be successful regarding waist training over time. Waist training is a long, slow process which requires considerable discipline and control, so if you can’t bring yourself to spend at least a few weeks exploring your options for corset brands, quality, and fit, then you’re not likely patient enough for waist training to begin with.

Ann also discusses turnaround times for corset makers: some may be 4-6 weeks, while others in very high demand might take 6 months to a year (or more!). She also troubleshoots many corset fitting issues, like if the top edge is too loose or too tight, the corset is too long or too short, and she also gives special consideration if the client has scoliosis.

She also discusses client-maker communication – and, should you find anything you suspect is wrong with your corset, to first check that you didn’t lace it too high, too low, upside down or on a slant, and to check whether your demands are unreasonable, like if one stitch is 1mm longer than the others.

Finally, she talks about how to lace up your corset, the seasoning (break-in) process, and beginning your waist training regimen – which takes us to chapter 5.

Chapter 5 is where Ann introduces us to her 13-step system for successful waist training. She walks you through the preparation before you even begin – knowing what to expect, taking your “before” pictures, and writing down your stats. Then she shows you how to set realistic goals for yourself: writing down not only the number of inches off your waistline you want to lose (and/or how much weight you want to lose), but also how long you want your intensive training period to be. She recommends a minimum of 3 months, lacing 6 days out of the week and giving yourself one rest day per week.)

She also walks you through the Roller Coaster method of waist training, and ways to keep striving toward your goals and not lose motivation. Some suggestions she makes include writing a contract with yourself, hiring a coach or having a buddy system, betting money on your success (or having some other kind of reward and punishment system), having a daily ritual and daily journal, and even visualization or meditation.

 

PART 3 (includes Ch 6-7)

The author of the Primer, and Proprietess of Romantasy, Ann Grogan. Corset: Sheri Jurnika. Mascot: Miss Tata

Chapter 6 deals exclusively with food and eating habits, and she recommends breaking up your meals into 6-8 small meals and snacks spread throughout the day, cutting down on refined sugars and processed foods, and taking in more fiber and water.

As I’m a registered nutritionist, this is the one particular chapter where I found I disagreed most, especially regarding certain generic statements e.g. calorie counting (as some people can easily run away with that), and some of the portion sizes mentioned in the book are smaller than I would recommend – but I understand that Ann is discussing this in the context that one may not be able to eat full-size portions while wearing a waist training corset. Ann mentions that she eats quite often (around 7-8 times a day) and requires a considerable amount soluble fiber to keep her own gut happy. Others may eat 4 times a day or whatever personally works for them.
What I do agree with is mindful eating, eating at a relaxed pace if your work/lifestyle allows it, and especially to avoid overeating to the point of discomfort when in a corset. I also agree with keeping a focus on more nutritionally rich foods, and checking in with yourself if you feel compelled to eat out of boredom, stress, or during emotionally challenging times.

Ann also goes into the plausible reasons as to why and how corsets act similarly to bariatric surgery (without the same risks that surgery carries). Ann is quite strict about the idea that food is for nourishment, and although it’s fine to mindfully enjoy what you do eat, she says it’s important not to overindulge or treat food as a crutch, especially during social outings.

Chapter 7 is all about exercise – and in particular, toning and strengthening your core.

There are some lifestyle waist trainers who enjoy wearing their corsets almost 24/7 and they are scared of building up muscle that may interfere with their training, but Ann recommends maintaining your muscle tone in your back and core – her waist training regime doesn’t require a 24/7 schedule (in fact it requires as little as 2 hours a day, up to 8 hours a day – although you can wear your corset for 12+ hours if you desire).

In addition to doing some core-strengthening exercises every day, Ann also recommends taking one day per week off from your corset to make sure you’re not growing dependent on the corset for back support, and this I agree with.

Obviously, we all have different starting points regarding fitness: we have different strengths and weaknesses, different ranges of motion/ flexibility, and some of us may have old injuries that we need to be careful of, so Ann ensures that not all exercises are suited to everyone. But she does illustrate and explain some of her favorite exercises for warmup / cooldown, strengthening the core and back, and improving flexibility.

 

Part 4: includes Ch 8-9 and Appendices

Chapter 8 is about making waist training easy and comfortable. She says there are 3 challenges to waist training: Logistical, Emotional, and Physical.

Logistical issues include which types of furniture to sit on comfortably, and some tips on riding in a car or plane when corseted. She also gives advice on sleeping in a corset, preventing yourself from overheating, how to stealth in your corset, etc.

Emotional issues include impatience, frustration, or excitement around waist training. Whats your emotional state when wearing your corset – uptight or relaxed? Ann says that the goal is to remain a bit detached to the whole process of waist training, “even a bit blasé.” She also gives some tips on how to overcome the judgmental reactions from strangers or colleagues regarding your figure, and how to keep up your personal motivation.

Physical challenges include concerns as to what happens to the body when you wear a corset, and Ann quotes a few studies on pressure on the waistline delivered by corsets (first done in 1887 and repeated again in 1999 with similar results).

Ann has a section on discomfort: how much is normal, and when you should loosen your corset or when you should bear up. She says that training should be challenging, and one should aim for a 6 or 7 on the discomfort scale out of a possible 10, and bear up as long as you’re in good health. I tend to disagree (I don’t like wearing corsets that make me uncomfortable, and I think anything more uncomfortable than a pair of shoes means something about the fit of the corset or the method of wearing it is wrong). Where both Ann and I agree is that discomfort is subjective, bodily autonomy is a thing, and as long as an individual is not causing injury to themselves or others, it’s up to that individual as to how tight or loose they want to wear their own corset.

She also addresses other things like blood pressure, what to do if you have acid reflux, skin problems like itching, bruising or redness (although bruising is not normal and shouldn’t happen), and various restroom issues.

Chapter 9 is on maintenance corseting: once you’ve reached your training goals, how to keep your results while corseting less (if you want. If you like wearing your corset every day then do what you like!).

The appendices can be quite helpful as well; there’s a guide on the difference between different corset silhouettes, a discussion on the difference between tight lacing and waist training, some recipes, a typical measuring guide for a custom corset, and a chart to keep a record of your waist training progress over 3 months.

 

Takeaway:

All in all, you’re receiving a huge amount of information in this book – essentially four books for the price of one. As much info as I described in this overview, it still only covers perhaps 2% of the entire Primer.

The Corset Waist Training Primer answers nearly every question you ever had about corseting (and some you’d probably never thought to ask as well). At $15, it is much more accessible to those with smaller budgets compared to Corset Magic ($50) and it’s more than sufficient for beginners and intermediates.

As Ann and I are both very passionate about corsetry (and also strongly opinionated), take my criticisms with a grain of salt – at the time I’m writing this, there is still no other waist training book on the market has come close to the length, detail and scope as this Primer (with the obvious exception to the even more exhaustive Corset Magic). If you choose to read this book, incorporate the things that resonate with you, and leave the rest (but I don’t have you tell you this; this is true of any book!).

Click here to go to Romantasy’s site and learn more about Ann’s newest book (not a referral link): Corset Waist Training: A Primer on Easy, Fun & Fashionable Waistline Reduction

Posted on 51 Comments

Dr. Oz Investigates Waist Training: My Response

On February 12, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz took on the topic of waist training for a second time in his show titled “Dr. Oz Investigates Waist Training – Is It Safe?”. I suspected this would happen, as in October you may remember that Dr. Hirschhausen (another celebrity doctor in Germany) performed the first known MRI scan on a tightlaced subject.

A month later in November, Oz’s producers contacted me about doing a second segment about waist training on the show (in which I declined to participate since I had seen his angle on it the first time).

Ann Grogan (Romantasy Exquisite Corsetry) has already responded to Dr. Oz in an open letter on her own blog, but I have also been asked by a dozen or so people to write my own response – make no mistake that I am not a medical expert, but I do believe that the results are worth talking about and sharing. I’d like this to become a conversation between the corsetry and medical industries, and for us to come to a mutual understanding that not all shapewear is the same and not all of them are suitable for all applications (including and especially waist training).

Oz’s segment can be viewed here, and I will address each concern in order.

 

First video: theoretical discussion and MRI results  

Corsets can theoretically squeeze your lungs, compress the ribs and reduce oxygen intake

This is true if the corset is not made to fit your body and deliberately tightened to reduce the size of the ribcage. It’s also more likely to be true with an overbust corset rather than an underbust, as it encases more of the ribcage. In my article about corsets, lungs and breathing, I address some common concerns and myths regarding corsets and respiratory infections. My response article to the “Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home” episode on corsets also showed that the maximum loss to the reporter’s vital capacity was about 10%, even after strapping on an overbust corset for the first time, lacing down several inches immediately (and over a bulky sweater) and then proceeding to sprint up and down a staircase repeatedly for several minutes – altogether a scenario that would have never happened in the Victorian era.

There are corsetieres who are dedicated to patterning their corsets to deliberately curve around the ribcage and accommodate the ribs instead of affecting their position, for those who find it more comfortable and prefer this silhouette. Now, it is possible to reduce the lung capacity slightly simply by the nature of pushing up the stomach and diaphragm slightly, but again this depends on the reduction held – and in many cases the temporary reduction in capacity is small enough that it would only be noticeable in situations of hard exertion, not tidal breathing (a normal breath while at rest only uses about 15% of the vital lung capacity, and many sedentary people very rarely use their full capacity).

Myself (Lucy) wearing a cupped-rib hourglass corset made by Sugarkitty, designed to compress only the waistline and not the rib cage.
Myself (Lucy) wearing a cupped-rib hourglass corset made by Sugarkitty, designed to compress only the waistline and not the rib cage.

 

Corsets can cause acid reflux

If the stomach is pushed up, heartburn is possible – especially if you eat a semi-large meal prior to lacing up (but who does that?). Corsets can exacerbate reflux in those people who already suffer from GERD (a condition caused by a loosened lower esophageal sphincter, production of too much stomach acid, hiatal hernia, abdominal obesity, etc).

Pregnancy can often cause heartburn, not only because the baby is competing for space and pushing up on the stomach, but also because the elevated hormones can cause the sphincter of the stomach to relax. Common tips given to pregnant women include eating small meals (and eating slowly), avoiding foods that are commonly known to bring on heartburn (like spicy food and caffeine), and keeping hydrated and drinking fluids throughout the day – all healthy tips that can be done anyway, and all tips that have helped corset wearers to avoid reflux as well. I eat small, regular meals by choice and I cannot remember one incident of heartburn I’ve experienced while wearing a corset.

Some may be interested to read Sarah Chrisman’s experience in how wearing a corset had helped to stop her GERD (which she previously believed was a chronic, hereditary condition that she’d have to deal with for life).

That said, if you know that you experience GERD, if you have a hernia or any other health condition, it’s always a good idea to speak with your trusted medical professional before trying a corset.

 

MRI results of a waist trainer

For contrast, I want to compare Dr. Oz’s methodology and subsequent results with the MRI results of a tightlacer on Dr. Hirschhausen’s show. On Hirschhausen’s show, Eden Berlin (the tightlacer and willing subject) wore a custom fit corset made by Tonia of Korsett Manufaktur Tomto, specially constructed with plastic synthetic whalebone instead of steel, and also nonferrous grommets so as not to react in the MRI machine. The results demonstrated how a well-fit corset does not seem to drastically affect the morphology or position of kidneys or lungs. Even her liver looked similar in shape and simply shifted upwards slightly. The only organ that got ‘trapped’ was her transverse colon, and Eden mentioned that she had been rushed in putting on the corset and lacing down 5 inches within mere minutes – she said that if she had more time to lace down slowly and properly, she may have been able to shift that colon down appropriately, as Fran Blanche describes in her tightlacing articles “The Cycle Method” and Divide and Conquer”.

 

Why corsets are not the same as stretch shapewear

I have several criticisms with the way Dr. Oz performed his version of the experiment, namely the fact that he used a rubber cincher instead of a corset. It’s understandable that they would opt for this, as 1) the rubber faja is gaining popularity as exercise gear these days, and 2) since it tends to contain no metal, it is a quick and easy ‘substitute’ for steel boned corsets.

I have been over the superficial differences between rubber cinchers and corsets before, as well as given my response regarding other types of shapewear, but this MRI experiment revealed something else to me: rubber cinchers create an even pressure over the whole torso instead of focusing the majority of the restriction at the waistline, meaning that the wearer has little control over what’s “squished” and what’s not.

Elastic latex/rubber waist cincher or faja
Lucy wearing a rubber waist cincher or faja. Although there is not as much compression as my usual corsets, what pressure IS there cannot be controlled or concentrated.

The way a stretchy rubber or neoprene faja is constructed, it is not custom-fit to the individual’s anatomy, and it’s designed to compress everywhere that it touches – from the ribcage to the hips. It will compress whatever gives the least resistance, whether that is the sides of the waistline or the front and back; whether that includes the floating ribs or not (Marianne has an article on The Lingerie Addict about different the compression feels between corsets and shapewear). Because each individual has a different amount of muscle tone or body fat percentage, because each person has very slight differences in position and size of their internal organs, because the exact amount of compression on the body is difficult to control because it fastens with hooks and not laces, it’s very difficult to predict how the outcome would look in each person. Only two days ago someone commented on my site asking if it’s normal to experience uncomfortable pressure on the back from rubber cinchers (to answer this quickly: pain is never normal; if you ever experience discomfort, the responsible thing to do is to loosen or remove the garment).

By contrast, a corset can be drafted to accommodate each person’s individual anatomy and we can control exactly where the compression is occurring and how much (0 inches, 2 inches, 4 inches) due to the adjustability of the laces.

In a custom-fit corset, there is a gradient of pressure that is maximized at the skeletal waistline (the squishy area below the ribs and above the pelvis), dissipating to zero compression up over the ribcage and down over the hips. The compression is also focused primarily laterally (on either side of the body, and not from front and back). In most cases, a strong front busk will prevent dishing or collapsing of the waistline in the front of the body, and a proper corset is also specially drafted to ensure no compression of the back, as it should support a healthy posture and maintain a proper lumbar curve. A well-fitting corset should be drafted in such a way that if the organs come into play, then the hollow membranous organs like the intestines flatten in response to the compression, and the corset should not affect the retroperitoneal organs such as the kidneys, as shown in Hirschhausen’s results.

 

Stand-up MRI imaging vs traditional reclining patient

Dr. Oz used a stand-up MRI facility to do the test, which may show a slightly different view of the organs compared to the conventional MRI scans where the patient is lying down. I believe that stand-up and positional diagnostic imaging is a fantastic tool, especially considering that most corset-wearers are standing or sitting for most of their day and not reclining – but this also means that Oz’s results cannot truly be accurately compared with Hirschhausen’s, since the position of the organs may shift slightly depending on the body’s position, with or without a corset.

My friend and fellow tightlacer Michael informed me that when internal diagnostic imaging was first discovered (e.g. X-rays where you could see the positions of solid organs like the heart and liver against less dense organs like the lungs), there were several unnecessary surgeries performed to “correct” the position of the organs. Before stand-up imaging, physicians’ only knowledge of organ positions in the human body came from examining corpses (who were obviously reclining) and from performing surgeries (where patients were also reclining), and they didn’t realize that the organs can and do slightly shift from standing to lying down.

I’m currently investigating this history further to verify the details – but it’s easy to imagine how, for instance, breasts can look incredibly different from standing to reclining even with the presence of Cooper’s ligaments keeping them relatively in place, so it’s not hard to believe that the position of the organs can also slightly shift from standing to reclining as well, despite ligaments and the visceral membrane keeping them relatively in place.

It’s not known whether Oz’s subject was scanned while standing up or lying down, as the brief video clip merely showed her “spinning” somewhat in the machine. Perhaps she wasn’t standing nor completely reclining but was at a slight incline. It is also unknown whether the angle of imaging with and without her rubber cincher had been performed at the same angle. If they had by chance been performed at different angles, this change in position may have skewed the results from the cincher.

 

Should we be scared by a grooved liver?

Dr. Oz expressed some shock upon discovering indentations in the woman’s liver caused by the ribcage – I was hoping that he would explain how such indentations would prove deleterious but unfortunately it was not mentioned (or the clip was cut short). However, indentations of the liver are not all that uncommon. Although the liver is one of the more solid organs, it is still described as pliable, and the shape and size naturally varies.

In a 1986 publication in the JPMA, the liver shapes of 500 live humans were studied via radio-colloid imaging. Over 15% of the subjects showed indentations of some kind on the liver, and these are from healthy individuals who were not wearing corsets. This is consistent with the indented livers I’ve seen in rat dissections in school. These slight variances in liver morphology are not necessarily tied with the health of the individual.

Another issue to bring to light is that organ crowding and indentations may also occur in those who are pregnant, those who have a high percentage of visceral (intra-abdominal) fat, and those who have skeletal issues like scoliosis, which shortens the torso and the amount of space for the organs within it – yet particularly in the last case, bracing a scoliosis patient often involves torso compression of a couple of inches, in the interest of stabilizing and correcting the spine – would this not further compress the organs of a person who is already experiencing compromised organ space? The history of the modern brace lies in corsetry, and research in the physiological effects of corsetry is not a vain apologist activity. More research into the functional effects of organ crowding may lead to new innovations in the medical field as well.

 

The Sforzesco brace for scoliosis
The Sforzesco brace for a scoliosis patient creates an hourglass silhouette similar to that of a corset. Click through to read more about this brace.

 

Video 2: Interview with Dr. Nicole Florence, bariatrician

Can Waist Training lead to Weight Loss?

Dr. Florence states that there is no clinical evidence that waist training can result in weight loss. That’s not for want of trying though, as a 2010 study by Wikstrand et al attempted a trial of wearing “soft corsets” for a period of 9 months to maintain weight loss – however, the results could not be properly evaluated due to low compliance (the subjects didn’t wear their corsets). I was as disappointed as the next person.

I tend to agree that weight loss is not necessarily guaranteed with the use of a corset, and the corset should not be treated as a substitute for diet or exercise (I’ve spoken at length about this before) – however, it can be seen as a non-surgical aid in many individuals. As mentioned above, I would personally be delighted to perform long-term studies on corset wearers, and rely on real data instead of anecdotes, given the funds and the opportunity. Universities and research centers may feel free to contact me if you’d like me to lead a proper trial in your facility. (I’m not kidding.)

Since Dr. Florence is a bariatrician, I would also like to study real quantifiable health risks associated with moderate corset wear as compared with gastric band surgery, where 10-20% of patients require a second procedure to correct complications, up to 30% of patients develop nutritional deficiencies / absorption disorders, and up to 33% of patients develop gallstones according to the Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, with a 53% chance of gaining the weight back within 15 years according to this 2013 study. If I were in the position to opt for either bariatric surgery or corsets, I’d personally try the corsets first, but that’s just my subjective stance.

 

Do corsets lead to eating disorders?

I have always tried to tread lightly on this subject as it is a sensitive topic for many. Dr. Florence believes that wearing corsets can create body dysmorphic disorder or distorted body image, and there was implication that the corset may become a gateway to eating disorders or more drastic body modification.

It’s my personal belief that body dysmorphia starts in the mind and then the body follows, not the other way around. Extreme weight loss associated with conditions like anorexia are the later symptoms – the physical manifestations of the psychological/ emotional struggle that has already existed in the person for months or years prior. Is it possible that some people who already have body dysmorphic disorder or eating disorders use corsets as a tool? Yes, I would say that it’s probable that some individuals use corsets for this reason, but it’s insulting to imply that all people who wear corsets are at risk of developing an eating disorder or are already there, especially as I have personally seen corsets used to help some of my friends overcome their personal body image issues and fall in love with their own body. I don’t believe that corsets cause body image issues any more than bra cutlets would contribute to delusions about one’s own natural breast size, or high heel shoes would create insecurity in one’s natural height.

 

Other health concerns mentioned

Dr. Florence says that corsets can cause pneumonia (again, I’ve written about pneumonia in this article), and that they can cause constipation (I’ve addressed this in my Corsets and Toilet Issues article, although more and more I’m hearing from viewers how abdominal compression has helped keep them regular, interestingly). She also wrote that corsets can cause chronic pain and bruising, to which I respond that if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong. Pain or bruising when wearing a corset is never ever ever ever normal – and if this is happening, then you are using a corset that is not the right shape for you, or you’re cinching too tight, too fast, or for too long a duration than your body is ready for.

She also mentioned that corsets can cause fainting – she erroneously stated that the origin of “fainting couches” had their origin in the Victorian era to catch women fainting from their corsets, which is known to be untrue. The Chaise Longue has existed for well over 2000 years. Corsets may have caused fainting in Victorian women if overtightened (which was not unheard of during balls and other special events), and yes corsets can affect blood pressure, but women also fainted from exhaustion, dehydration, low blood sugar, overheating and overexertion, just as many people faint today without a corset. Victorian ladies also faked fainting because it was the cool thing to do.

 

In summary, I don’t believe that Dr. Oz gave the last word or drove the nail in the coffin for waist training, but I do think it’s important to take all information into account. Recall that after Hirschhausen’s episode on corsets, I said, “I would love to repeat this MRI study with different tightlacers to see how the positions of organs change slightly depending on the individual, the silhouette of corset worn, the reduction of the corset, and how long they’ve been training.” My position hasn’t changed; on the contrary, Dr. Oz’s contribution has only strengthened my resolve.

If we’re to truly understand the physiological effects of corsetry, we need a sample size of more than 1, we need some consistency in the type of corset used (not simply *any* compression garment) and we need a consistent method of imaging.

Posted on 6 Comments

Remembering our Absent Corsetier(e)s

As 2014 draws to a close, I feel that it’s only fitting to look back with respect to the notable corset makers that are sadly no longer active in our community, whether by choice (closing commissions) or by passing on. These wonderful, talented artists will never be forgotten. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list – so if you would like to add anyone, please feel free to comment below.

 

In Memory of those who have Passed On:

 

Iris Norris, 1921 – 2000

2000, April – Iris Norris (The Independent Corsetiere).

Iris lived in London, England, and worked as a seamstress for 38 years (and later on, a model) for Gardner & Son Corsets, Ltd until they closed their doors in 1981. According to Staylace, Iris carried her love of corsetry over such that she continued to take commissions until the beginning of 2000. She passed away in April of that year, at the age of 78. I was not active in the corset community at this time, but felt that it would be respectful to include her as she helped pave the way for other independent corsetieres to succeed. Read tributes to Iris here on Staylace, and also here and here on corsetiere.net.

 

Michael Garrod (1928 – 2003) with Cathie Jung.

2003, July – Michael Garrod (True Grace Corset Company).

Michael Garrod started his business in 1982 and ingeniously incorporated some of his knowledge in glider aircraft engineering into his corsets to create incredibly sturdy and smooth pieces. It is said that he passed away peacefully in 2003 at the age of 75 after a long battle with cancer. Both Ann Grogan and Velda Lauder dedicated their books in his memory. See tributes by both Romantasy (another), and Staylace.

 

Constance Trench-Brown (right) with husband and partner Stuart, and friend Karen on the left.

2008, October – Constance Trench-Brown (C&S Constructions).

Constance made 50% of the C&S Constructions company, along with her Business and Life partner Stuart. According to Staylace, the couple started making corsets in 1988 and went into business in 1995, specializing in pipestem silhouette corsets. Constance was said to have persevered and continued passionately sewing corsets even as her health was on-and-off in her last few years, but sadly she passed in 2008. Stuart has kept the name of the company and continues creating corsets even today. Read a memoriam on Constance here, and visit C&S Constructions website here.

 

Amy Crowder, 1971 – 2010

2010, May – Amy Crowder (Wasp Creations).

Amy had 25 years of corset-making experience and had been a dedicated tightlacer since 1991. In this video you can see her revolutionary corsets as she demonstrates the zip-closure and effortless lacing system – Amy had a very loyal following and many believed that she would transform modern corsetry as we know it. Amy passed away in May of 2010, at the age of 39 – I was relatively new in the online corset community at this time, and was very saddened to hear of her passing. According to one source who is in touch with Amy’s mother, heart conditions ran in Amy’s family. Read Amy’s obituary here.

 

Ruth Johnson (1932 – 2010) with Ann Grogan.

2010, August – Ruth Johnson (B.R. Creations).

Ruth Johnson worked with several notable educators and pioneers within the corset community as corsets were experiencing their renaissance in the mid 20th century. As early as the 1960s, she worked with Fakir Musafar (the Ol’ Corsetier, Hourglass Company) and she was also a resident corsetiere on Ann Grogan’s Romantasy team from 1990 until her retirement in 2004. She became a source of inspiration for many younger corsetieres and passed away in 2010 at the age of 78. Read about her legacy on Romantasy here and here.

 

Velda Lauder, 1964 – 2003

2013, March – Velda Lauder.

Velda Lauder describes herself perfectly and concisely in her Twitter bio: Corsetiere, designer, author, consultant. She was a popular designer in the UK and around the world, dressing celebrities like Dita Von Teese. In 2010 she published her book, “Corsets: A Modern Guide” – and as Marianne Faulkner said – she was in her professional prime. Velda passed away in her sleep in 2013 while on a trip to Dublin, shortly after her 49th birthday. One source proposes that the cause may have been food poisoning or a virus. Read tributes on The Lingerie Addict and Jed Phoenix.

 

Christine Wickham (1992 – 2014), in a corset by Lovely Rats Quality Custom Clothing.

2014, July – Christine Wickham (Ariadne’s Thread).

Christine was a good friend of mine and I was deeply affected when I learned of her passing. She had only been active within the corset community for a few years – but in that short time she became hugely involved, moderating multiple groups and forums, creating and selling corset patterns, operating a graphics company (she did all the design work for my dress-up doll) and creating corsets under the name Ariadne’s Thread. She passed away earlier this year, just short of her 22nd birthday, from a pulmonary embolism thought to be the result of a knee injury during yoga practice. She is still deeply missed by all who knew her. Read memoriams by myself, The Lingerie Addict, Vanyanis, Sidney Eileen and Foundations Revealed.

 

Respecting those who have Retired:

Blue overbust with black lace by Creations l’Escarpolette

2008 – Creations l’Escarpolette.

The story of Joyce, the corsetiere behind Creations l’Escarpolette, is an unfortunate one. She had amazing talent and skill when it came to creating corsets, and particularly within the LiveJournal community her popularity exploded in the early 2000s. She was ahead of her years in construction and embellishment, and clients were willing to wait years for the opportunity to own a piece from Joyce. It’s said that between 2006 – 2008 she became overwhelmed with the volume of orders, and disappeared from the online community as more clients came forward with stories of not receiving their orders (1, 2). Perhaps this is a curse of reaching success too quickly. I feel that she still had so much to give, and perhaps tried to make too many people happy at once. The website and journal of Creations l’Escarpolette are still available here.

 

Lucy (me!) in the Abigail II underbust by SugarKitty Corsets

2013 – SugarKitty Corsets.

At the end of 2013, SugarKitty Corsets announced that after 11 years of making corsets, they were retiring from corsetry indefinitely. The owner Shannon still operates under SugarKitty Couture and offers burlesque-related accessories like pasties and knickers through her Etsy shop. I’m very fortunate to have been able to purchase and review one of her pieces, and still hope against hope that perhaps one day she’ll take commissions again! See SugarKitty’s website here.

 

Cathie Jung modelling an underbust by J.C. Creations.

2014 – J.C. Creations.

On November 1 2014, J.C. Creations shut their doors. J.C. Creations proved their expertise in corsetry through creating lovely corsets for the likes of Cathie Jung, Guinness World Record holder for the smallest waist on a living person. I was only able to study one of their men’s corsets – and I wish I had more time to learn more about their history and accomplishments, but I’m still grateful for the opportunity to share what I knew about them through the generosity of EgapTesroc. May J.C. Creations enjoy their retirement, knowing that they will be welcomed with open arms if they should ever decide to return.

 

To all those on this list: your work was well-loved, and you yourselves will be missed. Thank you for your contribution to our community, no matter how large or small.

Would you add anyone else to this list? If so, who?

Posted on 61 Comments

Waist Training vs Tight Lacing – what’s the difference?

In a previous article, I mentioned that close to half the emails I receive are from people wanting to know what is the “best” corset for waist training or tight lacing – but today I want to touch on the topic of waist training vs tight lacing (or tightlacing or tight lacing) because it’s very important to know that they are not synonymous, and the definitions vary depending on the source.


Some corset companies use the terms interchangeably, which can be confusing or possibly even dangerous because saying that a corset is designed for “waist training”, a client may come along with an entirely different idea of what “waist training” really is, and may end up using the corset in a way that it was not designed for. So when a corset company (especially an OTR company) claims it to be appropriate for waist training, be very careful about how they define the terms waist training vs tight lacing before you decide to invest. Email them and ask them to get more specific, if possible.

I have talked about the book Corset Magic before (written by Ann Grogan, owner of Romantasy – you can find the book here). The book is primarily about waist training, but there is an entire chapter featuring different people’s arguments about what is and what is not considered proper “tight lacing”. After 3 years, I still refer beginners to this manual because it is a wealth of information.

It seems that many people find it difficult to come to a consensus about what “tight lacing” is and what “waist training” is. I’ve talked about this with other lacers, other trainers/trainees, other corseters/corsetees (as different people also define themselves by different terms) to try and come up with a definition that everyone can agree with. So far, this has been rather unsuccessful – but I will explain the definitions of tight lacing and waist training as I have come to understand them:

WHAT IS TIGHTLACING?

  • Some people say that tight lacing is anything beyond a 4 inch reduction. This may be challenging if you have a natural 24″ waist, but easy if you have a 40″ waist.

    This is my main waist training corset. I waist train to be able to achieve a certain tight laced reduction.
    This Contour corset is my main waist training corset. I waist train primarily to achieve a certain tight laced reduction.
  • Others say that tightlacing is anything more than 20% reduction, which would obviously be different if you are starting from a different size. This would be the equivalent of a person with a 24″ waist lacing down to about 19″, while the person with the 40″ natural waist being able to lace down to 32″.
  • Still others say that tight lacing is arbitrary and dependent on the individual’s personal squishiness, tolerance to restriction, etc. Therefore two people with the same starting waist may each cinch down to a different point, they may have a different apparent hip spring, etc. but as long as they are laced to the point where it is a ‘challenging’ (but not painful) reduction, each may be considered a tight lacer in their own right.

At the time that I’m writing this, own views of tightlacing hover somewhere between the second and third points. In my own experience, I can differentiate between “lightly laced” (feels like nothing) “moderately laced” (snug), “tight laced” (challenging but not painful) and then “over laced” (which is where you may begin to feel unwell or in pain – in this case, you have pushed yourself too hard and I’d advise not getting to this point for any reason, not even to “test yourself”).

Nevertheless, almost everyone I’ve talked to seem to agree that tightlacing is something that can be done “once in awhile” – for photo shoots, performances, special events etc. In the case of waist training, this is not something that can only be done “once in awhile”.

WHAT IS WAIST TRAINING?

Just like weight training, voice training or marathon training, waist training is something that you work at over time. It involves a certain intention, end goal, consistent work and dedication.

I can’t lace down by 4 inches. Can I still be called a waist trainer?

If you are just starting out with waist training and you cannot tolerate high reductions, then you can still call it waist training if you want. Some people wear their corsets all day, every day at a 2-3 inch reduction, which to most lacers would likely not be classified as “tightlacing”. But I know a few individuals who have actually noticed a difference in themselves while lightly laced if they consistently do this for 6 months or more. If you’re petite with a natural 22″ waist and you can’t lace down that much – or even if you’re larger but you just can’t tolerate a lot of pressure – but you are dedicated and try to wear your corset on a near-daily basis, don’t let anybody tell you “that’s not waist training”. Like I said, definitions vary depending on the source.

If you can tightlace, and you do so every day (even if you only do it because you enjoy it and don’t have particular goals), some might be consider this to be waist training as well. You can be a tightlacer without waist training, and you can waist train without being a tightlacer (to a point). But many people are both at the same time, if they can achieve high reductions for long durations on a daily basis.

Why do people waist train? (What are their goals?)

  • Some people waist train so that they will be able to tightlace to a certain reduction – so if I want to close my 20″ corsets, I have to train to get there.
  • Many other people waist train with the intention of making their natural waist smaller even when they’re not wearing the corset.

I would argue that the vast majority of people who contact me about waist training fall into this category, so lot of the time I use this definition of waist training (if only because it’s by popular vote):

Waist training (corset training): achieving moderate to high reductions in a corset for long durations (months or years) with the intention reducing one’s natural, uncorseted waist – whether by indirect means (e.g. weight loss), or by direct means (e.g. altering muscle, ribcage and/or fat-pad morphology).

 

Is it possible to “accidentally” waist train (reduce your natural waist without intention)?

Yes, it’s possible – I know some people who wear a corset every day for medical purposes (e.g. to relieve back spasms, or to provide bust support) and many have experienced that their natural waist measurement reduces over time. Some of these have been delighted at the “unexpected perk” to wearing corsets, but several others have been annoyed or upset by this development. Continually purchasing smaller and smaller corsets is not something everyone can afford, so sizing down can occasionally be unwanted. This individual may not consider this “waist training” as they used the corset for another reason entirely, but some others might consider it “accidental” waist training.

HOWEVER – other people may consider this a “happy accident” to train their natural waist down. In one sense, this is what happened to me. I used to have corseting goals of making my natural waist smaller – and getting back down to a natural waist somewhere around 24 inches, which was where I was at when I was around 20 – 21 years old (at that time, my waist was achieved with diet/ exercise, not with corsets). These days, I don’t have the same goal of having a natural 24″ waist. The main purpose for my waist training was to be able to close my size 20″ corsets – I was waist training to achieve a tightlacing goal, and as I got closer to that goal, my natural waist dropped from 28-29 inches down to about 26.5 – 27 inches – and it would stay that way for 24 hours or more after taking off my corset. (However, if I stopped maintaining that reduction for weeks, my waist would begin to expand again). Having a naturally smaller waist was a waist training bonus for me, even though it wasn’t my primary goal.

 What corset should I look for if I want to Tight Lace?

If someone asks me what kind of corset is appropriate for tightlacing, I presume they mean something that is:

  • strong enough that it’s not going to rip the first couple times you wear it
  • gives a noticeable waist reduction and shaping, because it’s not elastic,
  • has steel bones, not plastic bones that easily warp, and
  • has a hip spring and rib spring that is wide enough that the corset will effectively cinch in the waist without squishing or pinching everything else.
  • A tightlacing corset may be either custom fit or standard size.
  • I have two video on how to shop for a tightlacing corset, whether you’re shopping in person/ in store, or if you’re shopping online.

What corset should I look for if I want to Waist Train? 

This corset has coutil strength layer, a smooth floating liner, waist tape, and carefully dispersed bones.
This custom Puimond corset has a coutil strength layer, a smooth floating liner, waist tape, and carefully dispersed bones.

If someone asks me what corset is appropriate for waist training, I presume that they will be using the corset on a daily or almost daily basis, likely for long hours and eventually at high reductions. If you intend to waist train, GO CUSTOM FIT. Even if you have rather “standard” measurements, a custom fit piece is almost always more comfortable. Many corsetieres will construct specific “waist training” corsets. Some of the differences I’ve observed with “waist training” corsets vs regular or “tight lacing” corsets amongst corsetieres:

  • waist training corsets may have higher quality and stronger materials like coutil or special corsetry broche (whereas tightlacing corsets may be made only from twill)
  • waist training corsets may be constructed with stronger seams or they may feature triple or even quadruple stitching (tightlacing corsets may have double stitching but that’s it)
  • waist training corsets sometimes have more bones, but more importantly the boning may be interspersed in such a way that it helps avoid giving the wearer pressure points. (Please note that just because a corset is double boned on the seams, doesn’t automatically means that it is suitable for waist training.)
  • waist training corsets usually have a smooth interior to prevent wrinkling or abrasion (tightlacing corsets are sometimes constructed with internal boning channels, which I find least comfortable of all construction methods)
  • waist training corsets may feature a reinforced busk/ extra wide busk, modesty panel, stronger laces and other upgrades to make your lacing experience more comfortable (tightlacing corsets may or may not include these. Please note that even for waist training corsets, some of these features may need to be purchased or requested)

All this makes a waist training corset not only more comfortable, which means you will be able to lace tighter and longer in comfort, but it also lasts longer without falling apart and overall, it’s more effective at molding your body and will be a more positive experience. You save time, you save money, and you save yourself from discomfort and frustration by choosing a higher quality corset that is made for the job you’re giving it.

THE BIG QUESTION: is it possible to waist train in an OTR, tight lacing corset?

It’s possible. You may see progress, but it might not be as comfortable compared to a waist training corset. Depending on the brand, your corset may break or stretch significantly after a few months because it wasn’t designed to take daily rigorous use.

Like I’ve said in many Youtube videos and blog posts before, an OTR corset is something that you can test the waters with and see if corseting is for you. If you are tight lacing on an occasional basis or wearing it for temporary shaping and fashion, OTR corsets are fine. But after the first OTR corset, if you want to cinch down past the advised 4-6 inches and continue sizing down in corsets, it would be worth your while (and probably your wallet) to get a well-made, properly fit corset that will hold up to the tension you put on it and last you a long time. 

If you see an OTR corset company that boasts up to 6-8 inches reduction and says they’re appropriate for waist training, and especially if they make no distinction between tight lacing and waist training, proceed with caution. Educate yourself as much as possible before investing in a corset – your body deserves the best.

How do you define tight lacing vs waist training? What do you think are the features of a good tight lacing corset vs a waist training corset? Let me know in the comments below!

You may also want to read my related article: “What is the BEST Corset Brand for Tight Lacing/ Waist Training?”