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Corset Lacing Gap: How Wide Should It Be?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How wide of a gap is too wide?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Using Measurements to Predict the Fit of OTR Corsets Online

Way back on January 7th, I posted Part 1 of this 3 part mini series on fitting OTR corsets, wherein I discussed the different ways that some corset companies use to describe the curviness or the proportions of the corsets they sell. To summarize this first part, there are 3 main ways: the use of size charts; recommending that clients’ natural measurements be within a certain range; or discussing the rib-spring and hip-spring of these corsets. If this does not make sense to you, I recommend going back and refreshing yourself on these points.

This is important because corsets don’t have ease the way that other clothes do – for the most, part they’re not supposed to stretch. In fact, corsets can be said to have what’s called “negative ease” (instead of your body manipulating the clothing around you, the clothing instead manipulates your body).

My favorite way for corsetiers and businesses to display their information is through the use of a size chart, because I can see everything at a glance. But why is it so important to know the precise underbust, waist and hip measurements of a corset before you buy it? Why not just go strictly by the waist size? By making the most of the size charts you may be able to fairly accurately predict whether a corset is going to fit you or not, before you ever buy it or try it on. Let’s look at some case studies. If you’d rather watch the video instead of reading through these case studies, I won’t blame you:

Let’s take a look at my natural measurements:

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 8.07.14 PM

I take my measurements to the closest cm (or in this specific case, the closest half-inch). Bodies are squishy though, so there is an acceptable range for the corsets I wear – especially if the corset is designed to have a small gap in the back instead of being worn completely closed (many corset makers draft their pieces to have a 2″ gap in the back, so I accommodate for this in my regular range). For the upper range, this is the maximum measurement I can wear before the corset starts to look visibly baggy on me (despite wearing jeans, poofy clothing underneath etc. that fill out the space).

Now let’s go hypothetical corset-shopping!

Case Study A:

 Corset_A

The waist of Corset A is 22″. As an experienced corset wearer, I already know that I can wear a size 22” corset – it’s a 6” reduction, which is fine for me. A corset is supposed to compress the waist, but not the ribs and hips.

But the underbust measurement of Corset A is far too small for me! On a good day, I can perhaps tighten the top edge of a corset to 28” but it’s not comfortable for me. This corset has an underbust of 26”. No matter how much I try, it’s not likely that the top edge of the corset will ever close on me, and I can’t expect it to stretch out because corsets aren’t supposed to stretch. It will likely cause muffin top/ flesh spillover, and if I pull it too tight then it may hinder my breathing. This is NOT supposed to happen with a well-fitting corset, so this corset is not right for me.

The hips are a little small as well, but as it’s only 1 inch smaller than my natural hips, I will be able to wear it with a small gap in the back and it would still look fine. If I could go up one size in Corset A, then the circumference measurements would be (underbust 28″, waist 24″, hips 34″) and would fit my body much better, albeit not perfectly.

But it’s also important to look at the length as well! Corset A is 2 inches longer than my own torso. I would probably be able to wear it fine when I’m standing up, but if I sit down, then the top of the corset may push up on my bust uncomfortably, or the bottom of the corset will dig into my lap – it’s probably best to just pass on this corset altogether.

Case Study B:

Corset_B

This corset would fit reasonably well in the underbust and waist. If I try to close it all the way, it may create a tiny bit of muffin top, but it won’t be that uncomfortable on me. However the hips of the corset (being 30”) is too small for my own iliac measurement of 33”. Knowing my own body, trying to wear this corset closed will likely result in my hips feeling very pinched and they may begin to hurt or go numb.

I can tell from looking at the length of this corset (7″ tall) that it’s more of a cincher. It’s 4” shorter than my own torso. I don’t have a protruding tummy so wearing a short corset is not a huge issue for me, but if you have any lower-tummy pooch or a pendulous abdomen, then you may want to bypass this corset and try a longer one that you know will hold in your tummy better. I explain why you may want a longline corset for low tummies in this video.

Case Study C:

Example corset C

I can immediately tell from the measurements that this is a super curvy corset! I know this because by the numbers, the ribcage is 8″ larger than the waist, and the hips are 12″ larger than the waist. The waist and the length measurements are fine for me, but both the underbust and the hips will be too large (larger than my wearable range). I would likely be able to close this corset right away from the first wear, and will still have room to spare in the ribs and hips – they’ll be gaping away from my body. In this situation, I don’t necessarily have to go with a different style, but I might want to try going a size down:

Corset C_size_smaller

Here is Corset C except a size 22″ instead of size 24″, and it looks like we hit the jackpot! Here is a standard sized corset that fits my natural measurements reasonably well in all four areas. If, however, I have no desire to go down a size and make my waist smaller, then I will need to find a different corset that is less curvy, and my search will continue.

When you’re shopping for an OTR corset, read everything you can on the website. Look for a size chart or fitting notes; and if you don’t see it, then email and ASK customer service if they have the proportions of the corset you’re looking to buy! Be sure to check out my Corset Dimensions Directory, where I have measured almost all of the standard sized corsets I’ve tried and logged their measurements so you can do this same fitting practice: use your own natural measurements, and compare them to the corset’s measurements. Try to find a brand and size that fits your ribs and hips within one inch!

I hope these case studies showed you how important it is to know the underbust, waist, and hip circumference measurements, as well as the length of the corset. In part 3 of this mini series, I will show you my own method of fairly precisely measuring my corsets – you can use this method to  corsets that you own as well, and we can share sizing information with one another in the Lace-Base.