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Wearing Corsets with a Stoma – Interview with Kitty

Kitty is a writer based in Canada, who runs the site Girly-Girl’s Ileostomy Blog – a no-nonsense explanation of life with an Ileostomy, as told by a foul-mouthed individual with no shame

Last year I received several questions from viewers wondering if it’s safe to wear a corset if one has an ileostomy. Having no personal experience, I asked around. One helpful follower then introduced me to Kitty’s blog, and to my surprise I also found that there were a few different corsetieres who specialize in making corsets for ileostomates.

I love Kitty’s candor, and found it fascinating that she is not only able to wear corsets with her ostomy, but also that her corset is used for stabilizing her hepaptosis (floating liver) and scoliosis. Her posts on corsetry can be found here and here. I asked if she would be willing to share a bit more of her personal experience on my blog, and she graciously agreed.

(Please note that this is in context of an ileostomy only, and may not work the exact same way for other types of stomas. If you have a stoma and would like to wear a corset, please speak with your doctor!)


 

When did you take an interest in corsets? Was it merely aesthetic, or was there something else to it as well?

Kitty: I first became interested in corsets as a young girl. They resembled my TLSO backbrace I wore for ten years to stop my spine from curving any more with scoliosis, except they were beautiful–a celebration of the female shape instead of the hard plastic ugly shape I had been fitted for at the Children’s Hospital.

Are your doctors okay with you wearing a corset? Did any of them have objections due to negative myths?

Kitty: One of the doctors I had in British Columbia actually signed papers saying I needed a corset for my back, but stupid me, I never got around to fighting that out with the insurance company.

You had experience with back bracing when you were younger – many of my viewers/ readers have scoliosis, and some have said that they worry that wearing a corset might trigger unpleasant memories of being braced. In your experience, how does a corset differ from the back brace (comfort-wise, aesthetically or otherwise)?

Kitty: Ah, silly me,  I already answered about the back-brace. It was a very unpleasant time being braced and physically and emotionally bullied by both teachers and my peers, but it really has no bearing on me now. I have gotten the perspective of years behind me, and to take that thick plastic foot-ball players’ uniform compared to my delicate corset–well, there really is no comparison.

How did you go about finding a corsetiere who was comfortable making the proper accommodations for your medical needs (e.g. asymmetric construction for scoliosis, access to your ileostomy, ensuring that your organs were properly positioned with the right silhouette and reduction)?

Kitty: I was fortunate enough to live near the same corsetiere as Dita Von Teese goes to–it is called Lace Embrace in Vancouver, British Columbia, and I found it quite by accident while searching for such on the internet.

How is your corset made differently to standard corsets? Are you able to access and change your ostomy bag easily? Does the corset prevent your bag from filling properly and create discomfort or bloating?

Kitty in her custom peach underbust Corset from Lace Embrace Atelier, which offers back support, lifts the stomach and liver, and features a concealed flap to access her bag.
Kitty in her custom peach underbust Corset from Lace Embrace Atelier, which offers back support, lifts the stomach and liver, and features a concealed flap to access her bag.

Kitty: My corset has a side panel that flows smoothly over my ileostomy bag, that I can simply unhook whenever I need to dump my bag. The bones were also removed from that section, though you couldn’t tell if you looked at it, which was the point.

I have suffered no ill-effects of my corset, I have even slept in my corset. I just have my normal bag on, and fit the corset over it easily, tie it up, and I am ready to go.

You mentioned in your blog that you have issues with your ligaments, and the corset helps keep your liver from dropping. How does that condition affect your daily quality of life (is it painful or nauseating), and how does the corset help?

Kitty: With the corset, it lifts up both my stomach and liver which otherwise float a bit inside of my abdominal cavity.

One of the concerns I’ve heard regarding stomas is the risk of hernias. Was the extra pressure from a corset a concern for you in this situation – or do you think that the specific application of pressure on your abdomen by the corset would help to prevent such a hernia from occurring?

Kitty: Because I tie it correctly, my organs are not being pushed down to the bottom of the corset, but lifted, and I have never felt like my stomach was bulging or that I might be getting a hernia. The corset lifts pressure from that area and transfers it up to my rib-cage.

Were there any drawbacks you found to wearing a corset?

Kitty: The only drawback is you will need someone to help you tie it up until you get a hang of it yourself! I still have yet to do it alone!

Were there any other unexpected benefits that you discovered from wearing the corset – either physically or emotionally?

Kitty: Of course the benefit is a sexy silhouette, you always have grand posture, and you feel pretty darn good doing so :)

What advice can you give to others who have an ostomy and are looking into corsets (either for fashion or for therapeutic purposes)?

Kitty: For ileostomates: dont be afraid to try on or wear corsets. if you buy one already made, have the seller make a snap-panel over your bag area so you can let that bugger breathe and do what it does best. Eat as you normally would, but more grazing during the day and avoiding dumping one big meal all at once into your stomach.
I chose a corset in a pale peach so it would go under all of my clothing, but that is a personal choice–it’s up to you!
<3 Kitty

Huge thanks to Kitty for sharing her experience with us! If you’d like to read more about Kitty’s custom corset from Lace Embrace, here’s her post on her fitting appointment, and here’s her post on her finished corset.

 

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Asymmetric Corsets for Scoliosis (or other skeletal issues)

Note that this post is a copy of the same one under the “Research Corset Brands –> Guided Galleries” menu. It is part of a collection of articles to help corset enthusiasts shop more wisely.

Realistically speaking, no human being is perfectly symmetric. We all have some variance in our frame or how we distribute our tissues, and more often than not, one side of our bodies is stronger (and has more muscle tone) than the other side. This all has an effect on how we are able to cinch down and what silhouette of corsets fit our bodies best, but our bodies are incredibly accommodating and most of us can get away with symmetric corsets. However, those who have scoliosis or other congenital skeletal conditions, and those who have suffered injuries (for instance, a broken bone from childhood that results in an uneven pelvis or protruding rib) may have such great asymmetry that wearing a cheap OTR corset may look crooked or twist on the body, ruining the corset. More worrying, a symmetric corset can be painful or may cause other issues from not fitting correctly.

The right kind of asymmetric corset can work with the client’s body to make it look more symmetric, and will feel more comfortable. A well-fitted asymmetric corset may relieve back pain from scoliosis or past injury, or possibly even partially correct asymmetry over time. Here are the few corsetieres I know who have created corsets for asymmetric clients in the past:

Contour Corsets asymmetric corrective corset brace for client with scoliosis

Contour Corsets is arguably the most well-known corsetiere for asymmetric corsets. Having an asymmetric figure herself, Fran learned from early on how to draft a corset for various issues like scoliosis, protruding ribs or hips, legs of different lengths, a rotated pelvis and more. Depending on the condition, she can draft a corset to simply fit well over asymmetry and make it look like a symmetric corset, or she can design the corset to apply pressure to certain parts of the body to partially correct the asymmetry. The silver corset above is designed to straighten spinal curvature over time in a patient with severe scoliosis. Fran has a page dedicated to her medical corsets here.

Totally Waisted! Corsets asymmetric overbust
Totally Waisted! Corsets asymmetric overbust

Katrina of Totally Waisted! Corsets is experienced in creating asymmetric corsets for clients with scoliosis or other issues. She takes separate measurements for each quadrant of the client, and requires an in-person mockup fitting to ensure everything fits properly and feels comfortable. She then artfully uses strategically-placed external boning channels to hide the asymmetry and create a beautifully smooth corset.

Electra Designs asymmetric high-backed underbust with posture-correcting shoulder straps

Electra Designs also has much experience creating asymmetric corsets, and she expertly hides the asymmetry in the corset shown above via artistic placement of the decorative black piping. Alexis also uses unique lacing bones in the back of all her corsets, which ensures that her 2-part eyelets never rip out. The lacing bones are not fusion-coated so they flex and hug the natural lumbar curve and don’t force an unnatural or unhealthy posture, and the bones don’t dig into the tailbone or top of the bum. Lastly, this corset has shoulder straps for correcting hunched shoulders.

Sparklewren asymmetric underbust (Model: KathTea Katastrophy)

Sparklewren has also experimented with asymmetric corsets, such as this custom underbust made for petite alternative model KathTea Katastrophy. In addition to each half  having different measurements, the deliberate diagonal embellishment draws the eye away from physical asymmetry. KathTea is very public about her scoliosis and subsequent physical asymmetry. You can read more about her adventures in tightlacing with scoliosis here.

Morua Designs bridal overbust, starts at £425
Morua Designs bridal overbust, starts at £425

Morua Designs has made asymmetric corsets in the past, like this beautiful bridal ensemble. The bride had one breast larger than the other, but through clever pattern drafting the asymmetry was expertly concealed, made even more impressive that the use of a very symmetric lace motif in the front did not draw attention to any asymmetry in the body. Gerry also travels from the US to the UK, so if you have asymmetry issues, it would be best to contact her for the possibility of an in-person fitting. Overbust corsets start at £425.

Delicate Facade Corsetry is also said to make asymmetric corsets; one client mentions that the owner of DFC herself has scoliosis and she has over 13 years experience in drafting corsets.

Although I haven’t personally seen a photo of this particular corset, Harman Hay (the owner of Foundations Revealed) has also created an asymmetric corset for a client in the past; she describes that she started with a symmetric toile and adjusted each side separately during the fitting. Some lines were curved off the body where they would normally be straight when worn, and the final piece was said to be beautiful and perfectly fitted.

*Please note that I have not personally tried every corset brand in this list, nor do I necessarily endorse every company in these guided galleries. This is for informational purposes only, and not meant to replace the advice of a medical practitioner. If you have scoliosis or other health concerns that cause your asymmetry, please talk to your doctor, orthopedic technician or chiropractor before using a corset to correct your posture (or for any other reason).

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Using Corsets as part of Scoliosis Correction

I happily stumbled across this fantastic publication today. Published quite recently (early 2012), it is a study on the use of corsets (in conjunction with wearing weighted backpacks and regular physiotherapy/ exercise) to considerably improve the scoliosis in this adult patient.

NB: these results may not be typical (especially since there’s a variation in the severity of scoliosis from the start) and the use of corsets (either standard sized or custom) may not work miracles. But as the author mentioned, corsets or “textile braces” may provide a method of reshaping the ribs (and through this offer some secondary effects such as improved breathing) to a point, which is not normally possible through surgery.

Lumbostat back brace, image from ortotika.cz

Depending on one’s personal situation, a scoliosis patient may find wearing a corset more discreet, more comfortable and more affordable than wearing a rigid brace of hard plastic or steel plates. However, effectiveness in treatment may vary. A skilled corset maker should be able to take measurements of each side of the body and create a special asymmetric corset made to stabilize (and in some cases, as you can read in the article, even possibly correct) the curvature of the spine.

You can view a gallery dedicated to asymmetric corsets here!

Edit: a number of scoliosis patients have confirmed that some medical braces are very similar in shape and form to a corset (medical corset or otherwise). Do click the picture on the right to see more examples of back braces, some of which give up to 5″ reduction in the waist in order to keep the spine immobile.

*Please note that this article is strictly for information purposes and not intended to replace the advice of a licensed medical professional. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset for any reason.*