“I’ve been wearing a corset for a few months, and I like the way my waist looks small but I hate that it makes my hips look big! Can I use a corset over my hips and make them smaller over time?”
I’ve received this question half a dozen times over the past few years, from people who started wearing corsets but then didn’t like the way the smallness of the waist made their hips look wider. Unfortunately (or fortunately) wider-looking hips is an intrinsic property of wearing corsets: when you reduce the waist, everything else looks larger in contrast, including the size of your bust, the breadth of your shoulders and the width of your hips. This is what creates the illusion of curves!
Still, some people would like to know if it’s possible to make your hips look smaller over time. I have to say, I’ve never seen a corset per se that has specifically achieved this.
Hip Compression is ONLY Logically Feasible in the Weeks Following Childbirth
I have seen some more modern hip belts and compression girdles that are marketed towards people who had recently given birth (like this one and this one and this one) so they can reduce their hips that may have widened during pregnancy. This is an important note. Your “hip bones” are the outermost crest of your pelvis. During puberty, the bones of your pelvis more or less fuse together. When you’re pregnant, especially during the last month of pregnancy, your body creates the hormone relaxin which helps your ligaments and joints to relax and widen – mostly in your pelvis so the baby can pass through (but because the hormone is circulating through your entire body, some people also report their feet getting larger during their last trimester).
The amount of relaxin circulating through the body reaches its peak around labor (which makes sense). After you give birth, the amount of relaxin is supposed to taper off and leave your system – so it’s during these crucial few weeks following delivery that the hip compression belt companies will target these women with the relaxin in their system. Because the relaxin had helped to loosen their ligaments in the first place, the idea is that the relaxin will also allow the pelvis to “shrink” back together with the help of some mild compression.
But for people with nulliparous hips (people who had never given birth before), there is essentially “nothing to compress” since your ligaments are still more or less tight (as long as you don’t have a connective tissue disorder). Even people who HAD given birth but it had been 6 months or more since delivery, I’m not sure how effective hip compression would be because the relaxin is no longer circulating at higher levels.
There are Risks Associated with Trying to Compress Your Hips
Personally, even when I’m wearing a conventional corset (designed to reduce only the waist) I have to be careful about the way the hips of the corset are shaped, because genetically I don’t put fat on my hips (I tend to gain weight in my abdomen but not over my hip bones). When I have a corset that pushes down on my hips, the corset grinds against my iliac crest and it’s quite uncomfortable and painful. There are delicate blood vessels and nerves that run over a person’s hip bone, which are fairly superficial (close under the skin) and when I’m wearing a corset, these delicate nerves and blood vessels are easily pinched (“trapped between a rock and a hard place” – between my hip bone and the rigid corset) which can cause numbness, tingling or pain.
While there are some people who put on a generous amount of subcutaneous fat over their hipbones and they may be able to compress their hips down slightly, this is still not something I personally recommend or condone. If you do experience numbness, tingling or pain in your hips, this is a sign that your corset is not fitting you correctly. This is not normal and do not ignore this. If you continue to ignore the immediate (acute) discomfort you’re experiencing, the longer compression over the hips may cause some bruising in your hip area, and cause damage to the nerves in the area that can take weeks or months to heal, because nerves take a very long time to recover.
This is not unique to corsets; some people have experienced similar hip pain from people wearing modern clothing like skinny jeans, low-rise pants and hip-huggers.
Why Properly-Fitting Corsets Don’t Hurt Your Hips
The reason why a well-fitting conventional corset does NOT cause numbness or tingling in your hips/ legs/ bum is mostly due to the fact that you’re not pinching the vessels that run between your bone and the corset (two rigid spots). Your waist (apart from your spine running through) is mostly soft tissue – muscles, fat, and mostly hollow membranous organs (like intestines which can easily flatten down). The corset then “springs outward” as it passes the waistline heading towards the hips, and it does not compress the hip bones at all – instead, it is drafted to be the same size as your natural hips, so it gently hugs and supports the hips, fitting it like a glove while not pushing down on the area.
There is only one situation where I would recommend someone buy a corset with a hip measurement that is smaller than their own “hip meaurements” and that is if a person has a large, protruding lower tummy. If you take a high hip measurement and a pendulous lower tummy is in the way, then your hip will artificially measure larger than it should be. So if your corset supports your abdomen properly and pulls that lower pooch in and up, that compression over the lower tummy will likely lead to a “smaller than natural” hip measurement – but the corset will still be drafted to curve over the hips and not compress them. The corset may have a sturdy busk to pull in the front, while possibly having pre-formed steels that “kick out” the hips at the side seam. In this situation, I would highly recommend having a custom corset fitted to you by an experienced maker, or in the very least try on a corset in-store so that you can assure it fits properly before you buy it.
What Can You Do if you Love Corsets, but Not the Look of Wide Hips?
Because there is a risk of hip bruising, tingling, numbness or pain, I would NOT recommend deliberately buying a corset smaller than your own hips and trying to use hip compression to make your hips look more narrow.
If you don’t like the way your corset puts your hips on display and makes them look wider, there may be a couple of other solutions:
- Easiest solution would be to buy a larger corset – a piece that is less curvy with a less dramatic “hip shelf”. Your waist will be bigger in this corset, which will make your hips would not look so big in contrast.
- You can also experiment with different styles and silhouettes of corsets – instead of a shorter Victorian style corset, you might want to try an elongated Titanic era (19-teens) style corset that is designed to make the body look long and svelte.
Do you have any other suggestions for those who want to make their hips look slimmer? Leave a comment below!