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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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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.