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How much to Size Down, and why too-wide Corset Gaps are BAD

Last week we discussed how you can tell when you’re ready to size down, and what to do with your older, bigger corset – today we’ll discuss what you need to consider when choosing your next, smaller corset. You can watch the video below, or skip over the video and read the article – they contain the same information.

Once again, remember that sizing down is a personal choice – you don’t have to if you don’t want to. And as usual if you’re ever concerned with the idea of training down in the first place, talk to a trusted medical professional.

Stick with the same brand for your smaller corset, or try a new brand?

If you’re elated with the brand you previously owned, then by all means you can order from them again. This is especially beneficial if you’re ordering custom from the same corsetiere; you get to build a rapport with them, they are familiar with your body and they may be able to improve on any possible minor fitting issues that you may have had from previous corsets. Some of them also keep your pattern and notes on hand, and a few corsetieres also offer loyalty discounts for repeat customers – this is the great advantage to practicing brand loyalty!

But if you’re going with a standard sized corset, then just be aware that when you size down, you may have to order a curvier style.  Remember that as corsets go smaller in size, the underbust, waist and hips all get proportionally smaller, not just the waist. So if you’re sizing down in the waist but your natural underbust and hips measurements haven’t changed, then if you try to put yourself into a smaller version of your first corset, you might experience muffin top or flesh spillover; your hips might feel pinched and the bones in the back of the corset may twist warp as you try to close the waist while the top and bottom edges refuse to meet.

If these things sound familiar, it may be because it’s been covered in my “corset gaps” article with respect to the )( shaped gap – the gap that signifies that the corset is

Click the photo to see my seasoning series, where I talk about flaring in more detail.
If you are losing weight and find that the top and bottom edges of your old corset are loose on you when it’s fully closed, you can likely size down with the same cut and style.

not curvy enough for your natural figure and experience level!

However, there’s one situation that you may be able to stick with the exact same OTR corset brand and style, just a size smaller – if you have lost weight and you find that you’ve dropped inches all over (including underbust, waist and hips) proportionally, then the same corset may fit you in the smaller size.

Should I choose a corset one size smaller, or skip one and go two sizes smaller?

The amount that you size down depends on your starting numbers, whether you’re more squishy/compressible or more muscular/uncompressible, how quickly you’re reducing in size, and whether you’re combining waist training with a change in your meal plan or fitness regimen to lose a large amount of weight (or more accurately, volume).

Some reasons that you may want to go down only one size, or the equivalent of two inches:

  • if you are smaller or more muscular to begin with.
  • if you are training very slowly.
  • if you are maintaining your weight or body composition.
  • if your corset, when worn completely closed, feels still kinda snug but not tight; and you’re not able to feel a large space between yourself and the internal wall of the corset.

Some reasons that you may consider going down by two sizes, or the equivalent of 4 inches:

  • if you are larger and softer to begin with, perhaps with a natural waist size exceeding 40 inches.
  • if you may find yourself extra compressible and training much quicker than expected (you’ve closed your first corset within a month or so).
  • if you are ACTIVELY and steadily losing weight. (Note that this doesn’t count those who simply have intentions of losing weight and haven’t started yet.)
  • if the corset is literally falling off you, and you can put yourself plus both your hands into the corset, or pull your abdomen away from the internal wall of the corset and create a space.

It also depends on what you feel comfortable with. If you are not comfortable or don’t feel ready to size down two sizes, one size, or at all, then don’t! Nobody is forcing you.

Special considerations for those experiencing rapid weight change:

In the case of rapid and copious amounts of weight loss (or gain, but generally quick loss is the more common situation I hear about), if you have limited funds I would advise that you wait until your loss has slowed down to around 1 pound a week, or your weight has stabilized completely. One reason for this is that it obviously stinks to buy a corset and have it be too big even a month later, and another reason is that during a process of a drastic body transformation, not a lot of people can predict exactly where they’re going to lose the next inch. When you’re losing 10 or more pounds a month, over the course of one month you may find that you’re losing more from your breasts or abdomen, while the next month you might find your hips and bum are reducing – and in the case of such a close-fitting garment such as a corset, these small changes of just a few inches can drastically affect how a corset fits and feels.

“Mind the gap!”

A too-small corset (the gap is too wide, even if the back edges are parallel).
A too-small corset (the gap is too wide, even if the back edges are parallel).

The last topic is to please once again, mind the gap in the back of your corset when trying on your new, smaller corset! Even when you’re sticking with the same brand you trust (just in a new smaller size) you should still keep in mind the shape and the size of the gap in the back. As we discussed above: just because one particular corset cut worked for you the first time, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for the smaller size!

A new corset, when unseasoned and worn at a comfortable reduction, often has a gap of 2-4 inches if it’s designed to close completely in the back, or possibly a slightly larger gap of 4-6 inches if the corset is designed to always have a small gap in the back (which some corsetieres do draft for).

I know that a lot of people out there want to save money and they don’t want to keep spending money to buy smaller and smaller corsets, so even if they have a 35 inch natural waist, they might be tempted to buy a size 20”. But sizing down gradually is important for the corset to fit and be comfortable.

If the gap in the back is too large (more than 4-6 inches while you’re gently seasoning, depending on the experience level of the waist trainer), the corset might be too small for you in general or too advanced for your level. Even if a custom corset has all the measurements and curves to theoretically fit you perfectly when closed, you might not be ready for that kind of reduction on the get-go.

Why is too large a gap bad, even when kept parallel and true?

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 1.10.15 AM
The hips of the corset are angled too forward compared to my own hips. This creates a “pocket” in the front, and uneven pressure at the back of my hip.

With such a huge gap in the back, you may also feel tempted to lace the corset tighter than your body is ready for in order to minimize that gap faster, and you may end up hurting yourself, or damaging the corset, or becoming discouraged by what you feel is a relative lack of progress (or all three!). And if you end up breaking your corset and having to pay for a replacement or repair, then your waist training regimen may not end up being any less expensive than if you had sized down gradually with several different corsets.

Remember when you size down a little at a time, those old larger training corsets not necessarily a waste! See my last article on what to do with your old corsets when you feel that you’re done with them. 

I  hope this article and the last one helped some readers determine when it’s time to size down and by how much to size down. If you have any other tips and tricks to add, do let me know in a comment below!

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Sizing Down in your Corset, plus What to Do with your Old, Bigger Corset

When you’re waist training, sizing down is a natural part of the process. Your first corset may be 4-6 inches smaller than your natural waist, but what happens if and when you “outshrink” your first corset, and you still want to train down further? How do you know when it’s time to get a new, smaller corset? Read ahead, or watch the video linked below (which gives the same information):

(Please note that sizing down is in the context of someone who is actually waist training; if you’re just an occasional corset wearer or you have no desire to size down, just disregard this post!)

When do I know it’s time to size down in my corset?

I suppose the question to precede this one is when do you know that a corset is fitting correctly before you even size down? We’ve discussed corset gap shapes and other fitting issues, but what about the size of your corset gap? A new corset that properly fits often initially has a gap of 2-4 inches (if it’s designed to eventually close completely in the back), or possibly a slightly larger gap of 4-6 inches (if the corset is designed to always have a small gap in the back, which some corsetieres do draft for). If you ever put a corset on for the first time, lace it loosely (as in the case of seasoning it), and it closes all the way in the back from top to bottom, your corset is probably too large to begin with and you need to size down immediately. Let’s say you’ve started with a well-fitting corset though, and you’ve been wearing it for several months. Today, for the first time, you were able to close your corset fully from top to bottom! Congratulations – do you go out and buy your next corset that very day? Not yet.

I would say that it’s time to size down when you can do one or more of the following:
  • you can easily and consistently close the corset every time you put it on, for at least a month.
  • your ability to close the corset is typically not affected by your menstrual cycle, water retention, small weight fluctuations or other natural fluctuations.
  • you can stick an arm down inside of the corset while it’s closed, or perhaps pull your abdomen away from internal wall of the corset while sucking in.

In the next post in this series, I will discuss what to consider when sizing down choosing your next, smaller corset. But for now, let’s discuss what you can do with your old corset that you no longer need as a primary corset:

What can you do with your old corset?

Can you alter your corset to be smaller?

Theoretically yes, but if you don’t sew, good luck finding a corsetiere who is willing to alter another person’s work. Many corset makers would rather make a new corset from scratch, rather than modify an old one – this is because if you want a “perfectly” altered corset that has no evidence of alteration, you’d have to:

  1. make friends with your seam ripper, and then:
  2. remove the binding
  3. remove the bones
  4. take apart the seams (and hope that the fabric survives this trauma as the seamlines are now perforated)
  5. likely cut through the waist tape (which weakens the corset), or put in a new, smaller waist tape
  6. reshape every panel (it’s not a good idea to do just one seam, if you want to ensure that the hips are not angled forward or backward in the end product)
  7. put the corset back together again, including reassembling the panels, adding the smaller waist tape, inserting the bones, and adding the binding!

Personally, I don’t consider this level of alteration worth the time or frustration when I can make a new corset in half that time! If you’re still interested in seeing how other people “took in” their corsets so they’re smaller, check out this video by CorsetRookie who sewed darts and pleats into his Axfords corset, although I should note that by doing this (especially in a thicker corset) the pleat may form a ridge or bump that can be felt when you’re wearing the corset and may result in pressure points. Another alteration walk-through by Snowblack Corsets shows her taking a larger WKD corset and cutting it down smaller and curvier, and adding embellishment like external contrasting channels and lace.

So, if you don’t feel like altering your old corset to be smaller, what can you do with it?

Click here to learn more about sleeping in your corset!
Click here to learn more about sleeping in your corset!

1: Use your old corset as a night/ sleeping corset.

If you have ever tried sleeping in your corset, you may find you’re the type who needs to loosen the laces a little when you sleep. So if you buy or make a new, smaller corset, you can designate the old larger one as a sleeping corset. Sleeping in a corset can be a bit traumatic to the corset (it can cause warping or abrasion) but since your old, bigger corset is no longer your primary training corset, you don’t have to worry as much about getting dander or oil on it, or if the satin fabric sees any thinning or wear if you’re rolling around and putting uneven pressure on it through the night.

2: Trade or sell your old corset 2nd hand.

If your old corset is still relatively good quality, you can sell it second hand or trade for a different corset! There’s a ton of old corsets sold on Ebay or Craigslist, and if your corset is more than 20 years old, it qualifies as an “Vintage” item on Etsy. There are also corset sale groups on Facebook, Tumblr, and my own consignment shop (the Bronze Line) as well. You can use the funds from selling your old corset to put towards your new corset! Before listing your corset, do some research into how much similar-quality corsets are being sold for. Presuming that your old corset is still decent quality/ wearable, then a 2nd hand corset will often sell for 50% – 75% of the original price (depending on who made it and how rare it is).

3: Cannibalize your old corset for materials for future sewing projects.

This corset had been sacrificed for hardware.
This corset had been sacrificed for hardware.

If your corsets are in poor condition and not appropriate for resale (and they don’t hold much sentimental value for you), then you can harvest parts of your old corset to be recycled in new corsets. Hardware like the busk and bones can be used over and over again for mockups or in future completed corsets as long as they’re not rusted or warped, and salvageable embellishments like large pieces of lace appliqué or crystals may be reused as well. You can also cut out the grommet panel of your old corset (making sure you leave a seam allowance) and you can quickly and easily sew that grommet panel onto all your future mockups and toiles, saving you time and grommets. There you have it – how you know when to size down from your current corset, and three suggestions of what to do with your old corsets. What are your requirements as to when to size down, and what do you do with your larger corsets? Let me know in a comment below!