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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.

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Can you wear your corset backwards?

Orchard Corset CS-426 red cotton

There are quite a few people out there who, if they decided to corset, would not be able to reach around and access any laces behind them – these may include people who may have limited mobility or strength in their arms and shoulders, or those who may use a wheelchair. Since front-lacing corsets are so few and far-between, it’s not uncommon for me to get the question, “Can you turn a regular corset back-to-front and wear it as a front-lacing corset?”

Truthfully, I wouldn’t recommend it. Your body is not symmetric from back-to-front. In the front of your body, you have your peritoneal organs and soft tissues; you have to worry about the corset being rigid enough to hold in the tummy and keep your abdomen supported and flat. Many people are also concerned about the corset being long enough to support the lower tummy, but short enough to be able to sit down comfortably in it.

In the back, you have your retroperitoneal organs, and a good corset will not affect these organs. The corset should be high enough in the back to prevent muffin top, and the bones in the back edges should be strong enough to support the grommets, but flexible enough to contour to the natural curve of the lumbar spine, and avoid pressing uncomfortably into the tailbone or the bum area.

So what happens when you wear a corset back-to-front? I demonstrate in the video below with three different corsets: a longline underbust, a mid-hip underbust, and a cincher. Watch the video below to see the conclusions.

Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 10.44.05 PM

Longline underbust corset (CS-426 from Orchard Corset), worn the right way:

  • The sturdy busk in front keeps the tummy flat.
  • There is this contoured shaping at the underbust and lap area.
  • There is the flat steel boning that is a little less rigid than the busk – so it can conform to your lumbar curve, but still support the grommets. 

Longline underbust corset, worn backwards:

  • The lumbar curve is mostly lost from the rigid busk – it’s forcing me into an unnatural posture.
  • I feel a little unsupported from the laces now in front; the laces are bowing at the lower tummy.
  • I feel a bit more pressure on my hips in the front, and less pressure on the back.
  • The cut on the top and bottom edge is too long in front so I cannot sit comfortably, and the contouring looks ridiculous from the back.
  • I feel that I cannot expand my lungs quite as much as when the corset is worn the right way around, because of the awkward/ unusual pressure on the back of my ribcage, and less in the front.

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Short-hipped underbust corset (Timeless Trends “Spring Delight” standard underbust), worn the right way:

  • Tapered panels in the center front cause the bones to converge towards the lower tummy and give more support.
  • At the bottom edge of the corset, there is less pressure on the sides (hips) than in the front.
  • Although the bones in the back are still less rigid than the busk, these bones are more sturdy than the bones used in the longline underbust.
  • There is some contouring of the top line to curve under the breasts, but not that much contouring at the lower edge.

Short-hipped underbust, worn backwards:

  • The support from the tapered panels has been lost from the center front, so I feel less flattening of my lower tummy and more pressure along the front hip. However, due to the sturdier bones compared to the last corset, I don’t feel as much bowing in the center front.
  • The rigid busk is not conforming to the natural curve of my spine – there is a gap between my spine and the corset.
  • The length now in front is slightly better compared to the last corset, but the contoured line in the back is still a little ridiculous and it accentuates my back fat. We need to try this experiment one more time, with a corset that’s nearly identical from back to front. 

Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 10.51.31 PM

Last try: Cincher (Orchard Corset CS-301, which has no contouring under the bust), worn the right way:

  • This corset is very short, and there is no contouring under the breasts or over the lap, so it shouldn’t look that bad when worn front to back.
  • There are only 4 panels on each side of this corset, and the shape of the panels are nearly identical from front to back, so I’m curious to see the fit.

Cincher, worn backwards:

  • This one is the least conspicuous when worn reversed (but it’s probably still a good idea to hide the busk in the back)
  • Busk is still not laying flat to my lumbar curve, and the bottom edge of the busk is poking into my sacrum uncomfortably.
  • The corset is angled a little bit, so that the now-front of the corset is not covering my tummy all the way.
  • There was a tendency for the bones by the grommets to bow in a ( ) shape. I felt that I needed a stiffened modesty panel to properly support and flatten the tummy.

Conclusion – although it is certainly possible to wear a corset from front-to-back and wear it as a front-lacing corset, it is not the most comfortable or flattering experience. If you require a front-lacing corset, would recommend commissioning a corsetiere to make you one specially, or I would recommend modifying a corset to replace the busk with some front lacing, so you can still wear the corset the right-way forward, but avoid complications with fit and comfort. However, wearing a corset upside-down, when more comfortable and more flattering for an individual than right-side up? That is still fair game.

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Electra Designs Pointed Cincher Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Electra Designs Overbust Corset Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length Center front is about 11 inches long, side length is about 6.5″ long. Wasp waist silhouette. Standard size 20T cincher – the low ribcage is 24″, waist is 20″, hips at the bottom edge is 32″ (which is where my iliac crest hits).
Material Fashion layer is black floral broche (strong in itself, but fused to a sturdy interlining to help it lie smooth); strength layer (lining) is cotton coutil.
Construction 6 panel pattern. Top-stitching between panels, stitched 4 times between panels (extremely sturdy). Many many sandwiched bones. No garter tabs, but they can be added if you commission a piece.
Binding Black bias strips of satin, machine stitched on both sides and very tidy.
Waist tape 1″ wide waist tape invisibly secured between the layers.
Modesty panel Unstiffened floating modesty panel in the back, and unstiffened placket in front (made by the first owner of this corset, not by Alexis the corsetiere).
Busk No busk in this corset, the original owner had requested both front and back functional lacing.
Boning 36 steel bones (18 on each side!), an average of 3-4 spiral bones on each panel, plus flat steel bones in front and back, and special lacing bones in the back.
Eyelets 18 in total, size #00 two-part eyelets with small flange; set equidistantly (they have to be because they’re set into a lacing bone); high quality – no splits, no wear/fraying/pulling out of grommets. Washer on the back is larger than flange for extra support. In the front, the eyelets are set between two flat bones, unlike the special lacing bone in the back.
Laces Matching black double-face satin ribbon on the back and also the front. They glide smoothly through the eyelets, they grip well and they are long enough. Very easy to lace up. Zero spring.
Price At the time I’m writing this, the standard sized pointed cincher is $260. There’s a $60 markup for functional front lacing instead of a busk, and another $50 markup for double boning, for a total of $370. You can see the options on her website here.

Final Thoughts:

This corset was purchased 2nd hand from my friend and corset double. The only difference between our measurements is that she is a bit shorter in the torso than I am, so where this corset would come up higher on her ribcage, it fits like a cincher on me and only nips in my floating ribs and waist underneath. This is Electra Designs’ standard sized corset from her old size chart, and it’s a little small in the ribcage for me, as I have a fleshy torso and broad back – but the hips fit nearly perfectly, I get no pinching or irritation in the hip area. In her newer size chart, the fit is close to perfect for me (which you will see in a future review!).

The flexible lacing bones follow the natural curve of my spine, allowing me to hold a neutral posture in this corset – I feel that this style of lacing would be excellent for those who have lordosis (swayback) as it doesn’t force the wearer to “flatten” the lumbar spine or hunch over.

The construction is remarkably strong and it’s sturdy enough for waist training – Alexis remains one of my favourite corsetieres and I look forward to commissioning her for a custom in the near future. At the moment she is busy creating a multimedia corset making instructional course, which you can learn more about on this page.

To see other styles from Electra Designs, do visit the official website here!