Posted on 2 Comments

Why I No Longer Recommend Front-Lacing Corsets

This week is part “story time”, part “Physical Effects of Corseting”, and hopefully an opportunity for others to learn from my early mistakes.

In early 2010 I purchased my first custom corset, which also happened to be a front-lacing corset – but these days, I would not recommend a front-lacing corset for higher reductions (tightlacing more than 6 inches) or daily waist training, and this post will explain why.

Why I chose a front-lacing corset for waist training in the first place:

In 2010 I was still in school which required copious time sitting in class, and I figured that if a corset has no laces in the back, then there wouldn’t be an annoying lump in the back when I’m resting against a hard plastic flat-backed chair.

I also figured that if I were to wear a corset in my sleep, a front-lacing corset might be more comfortable to sleep in since there wouldn’t be a knot at my back. I could fall asleep comfortably on my back, and if I ever needed to tighten or loosen the laces throughout the night, I could continue lying down on my back and easily reach in front of me to loosen the laces a bit – this (I figured) would disrupt my sleep less, as I wouldn’t have to sit up or get out of bed to adjust laces behind me.

Even though I was able to lace a back-lacing corset pretty well (since I had ‘normal’ back-lacing OTR corsets and homemade corsets for several years already), I had to admit that it was a pretty attractive idea at the time to not have to twist my neck to see what I’m doing in the mirror, and not have to twist my arms behind my back to lace up my corset every morning: a front lacing corset felt very intuitive; I didn’t even have to open my eyes to just tighten my corset in the morning and start my day.

I was also dealing with anxiety back in 2010 for several reasons (performing well in school, living so far away from family, dealing with a difficult relationship, etc.) and I figured if I ever had a sudden panic attack or began to feel claustrophobic, it would be easier and faster to cut myself out of a front-lacing corset. I also worked in a microbiology lab at the time so I was constantly around open flames and caustic reagents – and even though many lab coats have a fire-resistant coating, I figured that if there were ever a fire or if I ever spilled something on myself and needed to disrobe quickly, then – again – cutting the laces from the front would be faster and easier.

Admittedly, I was also attracted to the novelty / rarity of a front-lacing corset: I had seldom seen anyone else commissioning one – and I wondered why, because it seemed like the greatest idea at the time.

As it turned out, I was just reinventing the wheel – if front-lacing corsets were so functional and comfortable for everyone, they would have caught on long ago and survived through the centuries. It was after around 6 months of consistently training with this corset that I realized that a front-lacing corset is not as practical as I had hoped.

At first I blamed myself and my body… “Why had my waist training progress halted? Why am I experiencing discomfort when I feel that I was going about my training in a responsible way, and I had a made-to-measure corset? What was I doing wrong? Is my body just not made for corseting?”

It was only when I decided to stop training for a short time, let my body rest, and then start my training anew with a new custom fit corset with back lacing, that I realized that the issue was with the tool I was using, rather than my waist training technique per se.

Why I Don’t Recommend Front-Lacing Corsets for Tightlacing or Waist Training:

This post is not to bash the maker of my first custom corset – they were an engineer who made corsets in their spare time, and they discontinued shortly after my commission. My inexperience in ordering custom corsets combined with their inexperience with waist training at high reductions. The corset construction was strong and durable, and it gave a beautiful silhouette – however, although it matched my measurements, it did not fit my body for several reasons which could not be predicted by the numbers alone. This is one distinction between a made-to-measure corset and a truly custom corset that includes a mockup fitting.

If I remember correctly, my front-lacing corset was spiral boned all the way around the corset (with exception to the center front by the laces). This means it also included fine spirals in the center back – which I thought I would love for the flexibility, but the corset ended up being slightly too curved in the back for me. It was trying to create curve where my spine normally is, so I felt a band of pressure on the vertebra that was directly under the waistline of the corset – this led to a bit of lumbar pain when I laced down too much, and (where many corsets have the opposite problem of being too straight in the back) the front-lacing corset created an unnatural swayback in my posture while I was wearing it. The profile view in the corset was lovely, but it was not comfortable or healthy for me.

Also, this corset was conical in silhouette as I was interested in training my floating ribs at the time. instead of placing pressure in the front “tips” of my floating ribs, my front-lacing corset placed more pressure on the back of my ribs – imagine trying to close a door by pushing on it close to the hinge instead of near the doorknob. The torque just didn’t feel right. It felt like too much force with little efficacy, resulting in “hot spots”. (Now, if your body is a little larger and your corset affects mostly the adipose over your abdomen and doesn’t affect the placement of you ribs, you might not notice the difference in how the pressure is placed, but at the time I personally felt the pressure on my ribs).

The curve in the back and the pressure on my ribs could possibly have been eliminated if the pattern were improved and the construction slightly changed – perhaps taking out some of the curve at the back seam, installing flat steels instead of spirals, and making the ribs more rounded – but at the moment, this is not something I’m keen to experiment with – because there are other issues with front-lacing corsets, which I’ll continue below.

I also felt that more pressure was placed on my retroperitoneal cavity and kind of pushed my flesh forward, which is not a great idea. One big reason why traditional back lacing corsets work (and this is explained in further detail in my Corsets and Organs article) is because the majority of the pressure is on the peritoneal cavity which primarily consists of hollow organs, like the stomach and intestines. These are not solid organs (although they contain food, waste and air) and they are designed to move. They can also compress and flatten out of the way, like during yoga or pregnancy. As long as you have soft stools and good peristalsis, and as long as you take your time lacing down slowly, digestion and elimination should not normally be adversely affected.

But my front-lacing corset didn’t put pressure on the front (peritoneal) cavity – instead, it placed a lot of pressure on the back, where solid organs like the kidneys are location, and it made my tummy pooch out in turn. (You can see in my self lacing video, my abdomen was bulging a bit.)

One thing that would have made my front-lacing corset better would be if it included a modesty panel to support my abdomen where the lacing gap left no support. Alas, my corset didn’t come with one. Back in 2010, at the time I thought I would be okay because the bones sandwiching the grommets were flat steel – but I quickly learned that I needed more support, especially I was dealing with large waist reductions (my natural waist was around 28 inches and my corset was a size 20, worn with about a 1.5 inch gap in the front). I ended up having to make a separate boned modesty panel myself to help support my abdomen, avoid bulging and keep it flat.

Another reason why a front-lacing corset is not the best for me: as it turns out, I prefer to sleep on my stomach! I always start out falling asleep on my back, but more often than not I wake up on my front. However, having a big knot / bow in the front is uncomfortable to lie on (rather than “princess and the pea”, it was more like a mess of laces which felt more like the size of a tennis ball on my abdomen when I laid flat on it).

Under What Circumstances Would I Recommend a Front-Lacing Corset?

  • If it’s a waist training corset that you’ll be wearing for long periods of time, I think a back lacing corset would be more appropriate – it provides the proper support and compression from the front of the body and not the back. I would not recommend a front-lacing corset here.
  • Same if you’re tightlacing, or lacing down 6, 7, 8 or more inches – it will likely be more comfortable if you have a back lacing corset, not a front-lacing one.
  • If you’re using a light reduction corset, say not more than 2-4 inches of waist reduction, for medical purposes or posture support, a front-lacing corset might be okay.
  • If you have an abdominal hernia, especially an umbilical hernia, I would never recommend having a front-lacing corset.
  • If you have mobility issues in your shoulders or strength issues and you are unable to lace up a corset in the back, then front-lacing is a reasonable option for light reductions (as mentioned before) but also, a fan-lacing corset might be an option for you.

If you’re making your own corset and you just have no access or funds for a front busk – try a metal zip, or closed front corset, or a corset that is laced in both front AND back.

A corset that is laced in both front AND back is better because you’re able pull in the front by two inches, then pull in the back by two inches, and keep alternating so that you’re bringing in both sides of the corset laterally (placing pressure pretty evenly on either side of the body), without creating any weird torque at the back of the body. Just remember that if the front of your corset has a lacing gap, it’s best to have a stiffened or boned modesty panel to support the abdomen.

Later on, I plan to make a video on fan-laced corsets, what they’re good for (and what they’re not good for), and pehraps a tutorial on how to convert a regular laced OTR corset into a fan lacing corset, if I have the time.

I’m also talking with a friend on making a collab video with helpful info on how to put on and take off a corset, whether you use a wheelchair or have issues with strength or mobility. This is still in the early planning stages, but I hope to share more with you later.

Again – hopefully my loss is your gain, and you can learn from my mistakes so you have a more comfortable corseting experience. Let me know in a comment whether you’d like to see those upcoming videos, and leave a question below if I’ve forgotten anything or if you’d like to know more about any other details of my front-lacing corset.

Posted on 10 Comments

6 Different Types of Corset Front Closures

See the video above for an explanation of several different front closures for corsets – or read away below!

HOOK & EYE

The Goddess Longline bra can be partially folded under to accommodate for an even lower back.
Hook and eye closures are usually found on bras and bustiers, not corsets. (This is the Goddess bra, click through for more information.)

You will pretty much never see this in a genuine, off the rack corset (or a couture one, for that matter). If you see a garment marketed as a waist training corset and it contains hooks and eyes, I personally wouldn’t trust it.

If you are making your own corsets, this form of closure is easy to source and fairly inexpensive. I’ve seen it done (recently) in a viewer’s homemade gentle reduction corset, but it was supported by steels on both sides, and still had a lacing system in the back – this allowed the wearer to fasten up the hooks and eyes with zero pressure on them until they were ALL fastened, and then they tightened the corset using the laces in the back. This can take a long time to fasten and unfasten!

One concern is that the little metal hooks can bend, warp and break if they have uneven pressure on them. If one breaks, you have a few others surrounding it that might be able to support it temporarily, but once the garment has uneven tension, more hooks will be at greater risk for also warping and breaking. The entire row of hooks and eyes would be inexpensive to replace as you can purchase them in a tape – but for me personally, I overwhelmingly prefer a busk.

 

BUSK

Busks come in a multitude of colors, like these by Narrowed Visions (click through to the Etsy shop)
Busks come in a multitude of colors, like these by Narrowed Visions (click through to the Etsy shop).

This is like your bread and butter closure for corsets. Loops on one side, and knobs (aka pins, aka pegs) on the other side, each side supported by a bone. Busks can come in a multitude of lengths, widths and colors.  My friend Nikki (Narrowed Visions on Etsy) sells several lengths of heavy-duty busks in a rainbow of colors, as you see above!

The bones are strong and help support the abdomen, and the busk can fasten and unfasten in seconds once you get used to it. But when a knob breaks, you either have to replace it with a screw or a rivet, but more likely will need to replace the knob side of the busk with a new one.

I also have a video on how to completely remove an old broken busk and replace it with grommets to make it a front lacing corset.

 

FRONT LACING

Electra Designs made this cincher which is laced both in the back and in the front. They can be individually adjusted to your comfort.
Electra Designs made this cincher which is laced both in the back and in the front. They can be individually adjusted to your comfort.

In a previous Fast Foundation article, I discussed why wearing your corset backwards is usually not a good idea because of the way panels are individually drafted to contour over a different part of your back or abdomen.

But a corset that is deliberately front-lacing can be good for people with arm weakness, inflexible shoulders or just aren’t very coordinated when fiddling with laces behind their back.

A corset that has only a front lacing system and back closure will need to be loosened a lot and you’ll need to shimmy into it: either pull it down over your head, or step into it and pull it up from your feet.

I would personally not recommend a high-reduction corset that is closed in the back and laced in the front, as it personally caused some discomfort around my floating ribs after a while and I had to purchase a new waist training corset with back lacing.

 

ZIPPER

Wearing my Contour Corset under my sweater tunic and toddler belt.
My Contour Corset (metal zip closure) is strong enough for a dramatic silhouette, but incredibly smooth under my clothing.

Some of my favorite corsets have zippers, like my Contour Corset. A front zip should have metal teeth, it should be made to military specification, and it should be flanked by steel bones. The stitching around the zipper should fail before the teeth do!

The right zipper can be just as strong as a busk, and can also be zipped up and unzipped in seconds once you’re accustomed to it. Another nice thing about zippers is that they can be more discreet under clothing compared to busks.

However, those bustiers sold in Halloween shops that have a nylon coiled zipper and no supportive stays supporting them, so the fabric wrinkles around the zipper from stress? Expect them to fail if you lace them too tight.

But even if you use the best quality zippers – like with any other garment, if you break the zipper or lose a tooth in the zip, just replace the whole thing.

 

SWING HOOKS

black cashmere swinghooks long hourglass corset
Hourglass Cashmere Longline corset with Swing Hooks, available through my shop (click through).

Swing hooks are neat, and they’re very very decorative, but very high profile and will not hide well under clothing. I first saw swing hooks used by Lucy of Waisted Creations, many moons ago. She even made a tutorial on Foundations Revealed on how to insert them yourself! After that, it spread like wildfire and you saw corset supply shops selling the swing hooks, and different OTR companies started selling corsets with swing hooks.

If you plan to use swing hooks in your own corset, it’s best to put a swing hook at the waistline where there is the most tension. If you don’t, the fabric in the center front will gape, and even the bones in the center front might bow a bit if they’re not high quality.

 

CLOSED FRONT

Angela Stringer Corsetry mesh and floral longline overbust model Victoria Dagger
Closed front corsets allow for a beautiful unbroken line, but they’re less convenient. Corset: Angela Stringer. Model: Victoria Dagger. Photo: Chris Murray.

Closed front corsets have no opening, but rather are stitched completely closed. Similar to the front-laced corset, it will require you to shimmy into it! This takes some extra time, and if you have anxiety or claustrophobia I might not recommend this style – because it also takes time to get out of it. But this is the smoothest option under clothing if you want to “stealth” your corset under your clothes.

Which corset closure is your favorite? Do you know of any other closures not mentioned here? Leave me a comment below!