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Your Corset Doesn’t Fit… Now What? When to Alter Your Corset, or Let It Go.

In this post we’re going to discuss corset alterations to adjust the fit of your corset, and when it’s worth it to try to go DIY, when to leave it to professionals, and when to cut your losses and just toss (or sell) your corset.

Before I get to that, I will say that if you absolutely hate sewing and you have the funds to commission someone else for alteration or repairs, there is no shame in doing so. Back in 2010 I made a video titled “Should you buy a corset or make one?” where I explained (with math and tables, in all my nerdy goodness) to weigh the pros and cons of purchasing a corset or making one by myself.

But one thing I didn’t factor in was your willingness to learn and how much you value your time. Let’s say it takes ~20 hours to make one good-quality-yet-relatively-simple corset. (This is about right for me, as I’m a very slow and meticulous worker.) If you have no desire to learn how to sew, and you’re lucky enough to have a job where you’re paid over $30 per hour, that means you can work 10 hours and commission a corsetiere to make you a custom corset for $300 (instead of making a corset in 20 hours and saving yourself $300). If you have zero interest in sewing, it’s better to go with the former situation as you’ve just saved yourself 10 hours of labor.

Just as there’s no shame in buying a custom corset if you can afford it (and you simply don’t like sewing), there’s also no shame in sending your corset to a tailor or corsetiere for alterations – nor is there anything wrong with selling your poorly-fitting corset to someone who would fit it better, and buying a new corset that will fit you correctly! Consider your personal situation and use your discretion.

By the way, altering your corset is something you do when your return / exchange period has expired (or if the company you bought your corset from doesn’t have a decent exchange policy). To see the various exchange / return windows of different OTR corset brands, see my page “Can I Waist Train In That Corset?”

With that said, let’s start with fitting issues with your corset, and what can be done about each.

 

The hips of the corset are too narrow

The A Shape corset gap

(By the way, this gives the “A” shaped corset gap.) You have a corset that is not curvy enough in the hips, and the solution is to create more space in the hips.

If the corset was constructed using the sandwich method (and only the sandwich method), it’s probably fastest and easiest to add hip ties. The advantage with hip ties is that you can adjust them as you train down your waist – if the waist is loose, you can tighten the hip ties to be snug around your own hips, and as you tighten down the waist, you can loosen up the hip ties to accommodate your own hips as that corseted hip spring gradually becomes larger – so the hips of your corset always fit. With a corset with a fixed hip measurement, there’s a narrow window where it fits best, without being too loose or too tight.

Time needed to add hip ties: 2-4 hours.

If your corset is not made with the sandwich method, or if you don’t like hip ties, you can add hip gores which are easiest to do by slashing the middle of the panel, that way you don’t have to take out the boning and pick out all the seams between the panels.

Time needed to add hip gores: 4-6+ hours depending on the number of gores.


The ribcage of the corset is too small

The V shape corset gap

(By the way, this gives the “V” shaped corset gap.)

Some people asked if “rib ties” are a thing. Technically yes – you can do the same thing on the top half of the corset compared to the bottom half. But generally there’s a bit more pressure on the ribs than there are on the hips, especially if it was a conical rib corset. If you put in rib ties, even in the most straight-ribbed corsets, they will automatically create a cupped-rib corset. Another concern is that over a longer time, those laces would push against your ribcage and that pressure might get uncomfortable over time.

So I would recommend only gores for introducing more room in the bust or ribcage. With gores, you can also control how round or how conical you want the ribcage to be.

Time needed to add “rib gores”: 4-6+ hours depending on the number of gores

If you want to add hand flossing to the gores to strengthen the seams, give yourself extra time for that!


The steels by the grommets are too straight and hurt your back.

Corset with hand-curved back steels to support lumbar curve. Click through to see my tutorial on how to curve the steels.

This is a pretty easy fix, you don’t even need to get out your seam ripper. You can use your hands to gently curve the steels to fit the curve along your back.

You can also do this in the front, curving the busk itself, or the steel bones adjacent to the busk. It can create a slightly “spoon busk” effect so if you have a protruding tummy, the busk “scoops” it up and in. However if you are very slender (you have a flat tummy with protruding pubic mound), then I might not recommend curving the busk inward, as the bottom of the busk might jab into your pubic bone.

(If your corset contains carbon fiber bones instead of a malleable steel, you don’t have a chance in heck to bend those bones. Don’t even try.)

Time needed to curve the back steels: 10-20 minutes.


The corset is too long (you can’t comfortably sit down in it)

You can cut down the length of a corset, although it’s a more complicated job. My tutorial on cutting down a corset shows how to turn an overbust corset into an underbust (by only cutting down the top edge) but you can also cut down the bottom edge to your desired length.

Cutting down the top edge will stop the corset from pushing up on your bustline, while cutting the bottom edge of the corset will stop the corset from digging into your lap when you sit down.

For a very long corset that’s problematic on both top and bottom, do not attempt to just cut down one edge and “fudge” the fit by changing where you put the waistline of the corset on your body. If you’re tempted to cut corners, you’re better off selling the corset and using the funds towards a better-fitting, shorter corset for yourself.

Cutting down the corset involves removing the binding, removing the bones, cutting down the corset fabric, cutting down the bones (and busk), retipping the bones and putting them back in, and finally sewing on the binding again. See my video tutorial here!

Time needed to cut down your corset: 5+ hours, depending how many bones you need to cut down.


The corset is too short (it’s not fully covering or supporting your lower tummy, and/or may be causing some “muffin top” at the ribs or back)

There are not a lot of effective ways to lengthen a corset. If you are stuck with that corset, then pair it with some shapewear: control top briefs can help pull in and support your lower tummy if the corset stops too high on your hip, or a longline bra can help smooth your ribs and the skin along your back if the corset stops too low on your ribs. But honestly, if at all possible, I would exchange that corset for a longer one – or if an exchange is not possible with your vendor, just sell the corset and use the funds toward a longer, better fitting corset.


The corset is too big or too curvy – can you take in a corset?

Does your corset flare at the ribs and hips, even while laced completely closed? Then it’s too big or too curvy for your body.

Technically it is possible to sew darts or pleats into a corset, but it’s not a good idea because it can create pressure points on the body. I discussed this in my first “Sizing Down in Your Corset” post here.

To “take in” a corset the professional way, where you would never have known it was altered: you would have to apart the corset completely – seam by seam – and cut each panel smaller. But there are so many seams in a corset that it would probably take longer to alter a corset than it takes to make one from scratch. Also, by ripping apart so many seams, it’s possible to damage the fabric beyond repair (and if you don’t have sufficient seam allowance, you’re done for).

You can make a new corset by gutting the last one for parts and reusing the busk and bones, or you can sell your old corset if it’s in good condition and use the funds towards a new, smaller corset.

Time needed to properly “take in” a corset: 20+ hours depending on the complexity, number of panels, etc.


Bonus: you hate the unstiffened, attached modesty panel

Example of a standard, unstiffened, sewn-in modesty panel hanging from the left side of the corset. These panels can be removed if desired.

Some people hate modesty panels. If you just want to remove your modesty panel, and it’s a standard unstiffened panel of fabric that’s simply sewn into your corset – just take your seam ripper and detach the modesty panel from the rest of the corset. The exception is a WKD corset, where you might have to cut it out instead because it’s sewn right into the lining of the corset and you don’t want to compromise the integrity, the strength of the corset by removing it.

Time needed to remove a modesty panel: 2-5 minutes.

To bone or otherwise stiffen the modesty panel and suspend it on the laces, give yourself an hour. See my tutorial here on how to make a stiffened modesty panel using a sheet of plastic canvas (more affordable and easily accessible than steel bones, and allows the panel to be hand-washed without fear of rusting).

 

Were there any fitting issues I missed here, or any other fitting alteration tutorials you’d like to see? Let me know in a comment below!

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How to Correct a “Bowing” Corset

In the past, I’ve discussed various reasons why your corset may be bowing (giving the “()” shape) in the back, including the popular “Shape of your Corset Gap” article –   however, the bowing is not only caused by a corset-body mismatch, but also by the types of bones and grommets in the back of the corset. In this article, I’m going to try and consolidate the information you need to identify why your corset is bowing in the back, and how you may be able to fix it if you think the pattern/ cut of the corset is not the problem.

Firstly, if you don’t know why bowing is an issue, refer back to my Addendum to Corset Gaps article, and how the steels can become permanently distorted with this gap shape.

Why is my Corset Bowing in the Back?

When the bones in the back of your corset are like “()”, there are a couple of issues going on.

As mentioned in my article about different corset gaps, one reason that the steels are bowing is that the corset is too curvy than your body is ready for. Typically, a corset is created to be smaller than your natural size at the waist, but the ribs and hips will match your natural measurements. It does NOT feel like a rubber cincher or faja, which tend to place pressure on the ribs, waist and hips equally. When you put on a corset, it reduces your waist (no kidding!). With every action, there’s an equal an opposite reaction – so your waist pushes back on the corset and provides resistance, while the ribs and hips of the corset have little to no tension, until you’re able to close the corset enough that the top and bottom edges pull in to hug the body.

Now, if you receive a corset and the first time you put it on you get the () gap, don’t panic. It doesn’t automatically mean that your corset wasn’t theoretically made to your measurements, but your waist is not compressing down or the corset is not reinforced in the best way to prevent the bowing. If you have a corset that flares a bit at the top and bottom edges, resist the urge to pull the ribs and hips of the corset in to meet the body right away – because if the waist doesn’t follow and refuses to reduce, then you will get the () gap.

Another reason that you’re seeing the () gap may be due to the grommets being set too far apart. Grommets are like multiple “anchor” points. Each one of them is responsible for holding a certain fraction of the total tension on the corset. The more grommets there are, the better this is distributed. If grommets are set more than about an inch apart (especially at or near the waistline), there won’t be enough grommets to provide the right distribution of tension through the back of the corset and the more likely you are to experience bowing. Later in the article I’ll discuss how to using lacing techniques and addition of more grommets to achieve more regular distribution of the tension, reducing the likelihood of those back steels bowing.

Other reasons may include the quality or the type of bones used in the back – the steels might be too malleable or too loose in their channels (the channels may be wide enough to allow the bones to twist and twirl) – or a combination of all of the above.

The more extreme the waist reduction, the more likely this kind of bowing can occur, and the bones could even potentially permanently kink and dig into your back – yikes!

Why would a corsetiere even consider putting flexible bones in the back of their corsets? Well, it often comes down to comfort and posture – in a previous video I demonstrated how some corsets (especially OTR corsets) tend to have very stiff and rigid steels in the back; so much that they refused to hug the lumbar spine and promote a healthy neutral posture. With some coaxing, you can gently curve these steels so they align better with you lumbar spine – but using flexible bones in a corset in the first place can eliminate this problem from the start, helping you maintain proper neutral posture, and making the corset much more comfortable (especially if you’re wearing it for longer durations or more frequently).

It’s important to note that bendy back bones are not necessarily a sign of inadequate experience on the maker’s part. There are some corsets that I’ve extensively altered to minimize the bowing, but other very experienced makers like Electra Designs and Dark Garden deliberately use more flexible steels for a variety of reasons, and in the case of their corsets I simply modified the lacing (a very simple and non-invasive solution) to reduce the bowing.

bowed-corset-back-steel-bones
Four different corsets, four different reasons that bowing can occur. From left to right: Heavenly corset being too small for me, Xandriana with very flexible steels despite having closer grommets, AZAC Curvy Girl with far set grommets, and Tighter Corsets with slippery laces. Corsets may have a combination or all of these problems, depending on the brand and the wearer’s body.

How to eliminate or reduce the bowing in your corset

There are four techniques I know of – here they are from least invasive to most invasive:

Chevron Lacing

I’ve also heard it called “tennis shoe lacing”. I have a video tutorial for the chevron lacing technique here. Like I mentioned, it creates a kind of an anchor point at each set of grommets – with this particular lacing style, there’s greater friction to hold the laces in place and prevent them from sliding open at the waist. Pair this with inverted bunny ears at the waistline and it will give even more control. I’ve seen this lacing used in my Electra Designs and Dark Garden corsets.

What I have also done in the past is use a set of two shorter laces in my corsets (or if you don’t have more laces and you’re not afraid of committing, you can simply cutting the bunny ears at the waistline to create two separate laces) – one lace is used for the top of the corset ending at the waistline, and one for the bottom of the corset up to the waistline, so I can pull and tighten each one individually. This also works best when the pulls are inverted, although it can be a bit confusing and take some time to get the hang of lacing it up. To lace up using two laces, I tighten the top a bit, and then tie off that ribbon.

Then I tighten the bottom and then tie that off.

Then I untie the top again and pull it tighter, then tie it off again.

Then I untie the bottom one and pull that one tighter, then tie it off, etc. so they work together and the waistline never has an opportunity to slide open. My corsets from The Bad Button laced with two ribbons, and also I tried this with my Tighter Corset and it worked well. However, I’ll admit that this can get annoying after awhile and I would eventually end up altering the corset, which brings us to…

Add More Grommets

Another suggestion is to add more grommets. Sometimes the grommets are spaced too far apart – if there were more grommets closer together at the waistline, they can distribute the tension more evenly and give you more leverage. In my Curvy Girl corset, my Gallery Serpentine corset, and my Heavenly Corset, I added more grommets in between the pre-existing ones (matching the grommets as best as I can).

See all the alterations I did in my Gallery Serpentine corset

See the alterations I did in my Curvy Girl corset

NOTE: if your corset has lacing bones (like Electra Designs corsets), adding more grommets is not possible without drilling through the bone. I don’t recommend doing this as it exposes the uncoated metal and may encourage rusting later, and it weakens the bone which increases the risk of snapping.

Tighten the Boning Channels

If the steels are twirling in their channels and you know how to sew, you can make the boning channel smaller or tighter which can help prevent twisting. As to which side of the channel to manipulate, I prefer to push the bone towards the grommets. Doing it by machine might be faster, but be careful not to hit the bone with your needle! For best results use a narrow zipper or cording foot if you can find one for your machine. The standard zipper foot that comes with domestic machines tend to not give quite as tight a result compared to a narrow foot. (Also, wear your safety goggles because if the needle hits the bone, it might break and fly at your face).

If sewing around your steel bone makes you nervous, you can undo the binding and slip out the bone completely, then tighten the channel with a smaller risk of breaking your needle – then just slide the bone back in and sew up the binding again. But if you’re going to this level of effort, then you can use this opportunity to…

Change out the Bones Completely

If you find that the original steels are paper thin and easily mangled, or if you’ve ended up permanently kinking them because of prolonged bowing in the back, you can simply replace them with new steels. You can purchase steels at pre-cut lengths online at sites like Vena Cava, Sew Curvy, Farthingales, or Corset Making. (Do NOT purchase the carbon-fiber bones for the back of the corset. They’re fantastic for the front of a corset if you like an extremely rigid, straight front – but they will not curve to the lumbar spine).

And if you put all of these techniques together, it makes for a corset with a very small chance of bowing outward at the waist.

The ONE Corset that has NEVER Bowed:

What’s an example of a corset that absolutely never bows in the back? My Contour Corset (actually, I now have two Contour Corsets. They’re that good.) The bones themselves are not remarkably stiff, the width of the boning channel looks average, and the grommets are not crazy close together. So how did she achieve this? The boning channels themselves are spaced very close together – the space where the grommets are inserted are only wide enough for the shank – and the wide flange of the grommets literally overlap with the bones themselves. This ensures two things: the washer of the grommet should never rip through because it’s anchored by the bones, and the bones should never twist because they’re anchored by the grommets! The grommets are also a little closer together at the waistline, but that’s not the most crucial detail. What also may contribute to the stability of the back panel is the very stiff mesh – it resists collapsing, stretching, warping or wrinkling so perhaps the fabric itself helps prevent bowing. Fran once demonstrated that her lacing panels are so strong, she can hang one from a door frame and sit on it like a swing!

Go forth and bow no more!

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How much to Size Down, and why too-wide Corset Gaps are BAD

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

Click the photo to see my seasoning series, where I talk about flaring in more detail.
If you are losing weight and find that the top and bottom edges of your old corset are loose on you when it’s fully closed, you can likely size down with the same cut and style.

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!”

A too-small corset (the gap is too wide, even if the back edges are parallel).
A too-small corset (the gap is too wide, even if the back edges are parallel).

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?

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 1.10.15 AM
The hips of the corset are angled too forward compared to my own hips. This creates a “pocket” in the front, and uneven pressure at the back of my hip.

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!

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How to measure your corsets with precision

For a detailed look at how I measure various corsets, see my in-depth tutorial below:

This is the third and final part to my OTR fitting mini series. In part 1 I taught you the various ways that an OTR corset company may share their fitting information (if at all), and the takeaway message from part 1 was to urge more OTR companies to display more than just the waist size – proportions are important too! Measurements of the ribcage, hips, and torso length all play a factor in proper fit, as well as the bust circumference if it’s an overbust corset.

In part 2 I showed you some case studies in determining if an OTR corset would at least approximately fit you. The point of this video is to show how to take your own body measurements and compare it with a sizing chart provided by your OTR company of interest – and really explain in detail why this exercise is so important. If you know for a fact that a corset is not going to fit your ribcage or hips properly for a given waist size, don’t waste your time and money! Move on and find a different brand that will fit you better. You will be more comfortable and your training will be better for it.

Here, in part 3, I will show you how exactly I measure my corsets. When I first receive a corset in the mail, I will take 5-8 measurements:

  • Circumference measurements: bust (if overbust), underbust, closed waist, high hip (iliac), and low hip (if longline).
  • Vertical measurements: center front, princess seam from underbust to lap, and sometimes side seam and/or center back.

I now log these measurements in the Corset Dimensions Directory, for everyone’s use. You can compare these measurements with your own measurements and see which corsets may fit best on you!

If the corset gets a lot of use, I may measure it again in a year’s time and see if it has stretched out at all.

Once you get the hang of measuring your corsets, it becomes intuitive: circumferential measurements should be perpendicular to the busk and back edge of the corset, or parallel to the waist-tape. Vertical measurements are always parallel with the busk or the back edge of the corset.  You may choose to measure your corsets several times and take an average, since the location of an iliac crest circumference or true underbust circumference may not be entirely obvious in some corsets.

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Addendum to “Corset Gaps”: troubleshooting more corset fitting issues

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:

 

The V shape
The V 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!

 

The A Shape
The A Shape

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 () shape
The () 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.

The )( shape
The )( 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!

 

This corset cannot be laced down further due to the underbust and hips. I keep a parallel but wide | | gap down the back.
This corset cannot be laced down further due to the underbust and hips. I keep a parallel but wide | | gap down the back.

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.

Click the photo to see my seasoning series, where I talk about flaring in more detail.
Click the photo to see my seasoning series, where I talk about flaring in more detail.

 

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.