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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!

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Corsets and Sleep

This entry is a summary of the video “Corsets and Sleep”. If you would like more information and demonstrations of the sleeping positions, please watch the video on YouTube here:

Whether you wear a corset to bed is a personal decision. I personally don’t think you have to wear a corset while you sleep in order to effectively waist train, but for those of you who would like to try it, here are some tips and tricks to help you get a comfortable night’s sleep.

WHY WEAR A CORSET TO BED?

  1. You may be a hardcore waist trainer, wanting to train up to 23 hours/day.
  2. You may not be able to waist train during the day for activity or work reasons, and you may want to take advantage of the 6-8 hours in which you’re unconscious, to train your waist.
  3.  You may have completed your waist training (have achieved a new, smaller natural waist without the corset) and you just want to do a bit of maintenance corseting in order to keep your smaller waist. When my aunt was a teenager, she cinched her waist only at night and she had a defined waist into her 60’s, years after she stopped training. I’m not saying this was a typical situation, but it’s a possible situation.

Now, everyone’s going to experience sleeping in a corset differently, because some people are light sleepers, some are heavy sleepers. Some are dead still, some tend to roll around a lot. Some have firm mattresses or soft mattresses, fluffy pillows, flat pillows or no pillows, and some are tummy-sleepers, side sleepers or back sleepers. Therefore, not all of these tips will work for everyone.

GENERAL NOTES ON SLEEPING IN A CORSET

Many corseters find it uncomfortable to sleep in a corset more than a few hours. I’ve heard descriptions along the line of “my abdomen feels bloated in the night” and this is partially true. When your body is at rest, the parasympathetic system is activated and this is responsible for the “Rest and Ruminate” reaction of the body. Much of the blood flow is directed away from the limbs and into the core and gut of the body to provide the necessary nutrients to allow for digestion of food and for maintenance of the organs in the body. This is why many people advise that if a person is wearing a corset to bed, they loosen the corset by a couple of inches, which will help the corseter comfortably “Ruminate” while they sleep.

It is under debate whether sleeping in a corset can actually ruin the corset or cause it to wear out faster. Some claim that the added friction and the oils of the body accumulated on the sheets can wear the fashion fabric, while others claim that the corset is designed to hold the body in a neutral standing position, and this position changes when reclining, causing the organs to shift, so causes uneven stress on different panels of the corset. If you are worried about ruining your good corset, you can have two corsets; a day one and a night one. Many people save their older, larger corsets for sleeping in.

Some people may find it more comfortable to have a lighter and shorter corset at night, such as a cincher or a ribbon corset. Some don’t even sleep in a corset but instead a wide leather belt – something with minimal boning to prevent skin abrasions.

BACK SLEEPERS

You may find that the corset causes your pelvis to tuck under, especially if you don’t have a supportive mattress and it tends to dip in the middle. To maintain the natural curve in your lumbar area,  slip a small pillow or rolled up towel under the small of your back, and another small pillow or towel under your knees. This will take considerable pressure off of your back.

ACID REFLUX – some people may find that they get acid reflux when reclined and wearing a corset, . If you find that this is the case for you during the night, use several pillows or a wedge to elevate your torso slightly, so gravity can help prevent acid from leaking into your esophagus.

SIDE SLEEPERS

I find that sleeping on your side can be very odd when wearing a corset
1) because in my case, sleeping on my side requires a bit of balance to keep myself from rolling over, and part of that balance requires keeping my core muscles engaged. Of course, when you’re flexing your core muscles inside a corset, you’re providing resistance to the restriction, which can get uncomfortable.

2) Most of my restriction comes at the sides of my torso as opposed to my front, so when I lay on my side I have a huge gap between my corset and the bed. If the corset isn’t heavily boned, then my hips can shift and this causes the upper hip to jut out, creating more tension on that side of the waist than I’m used to and thus creating discomfort. To prevent this, use a small pillow or rolled up towel to fill the hollow between your waist and the bed, which will keep your spine straight and your hips aligned. One trick I learned from a pregnant woman is to have an additional pillow behind your back to prevent you from rolling over during the night, so you have that support to lean against instead of balancing on your side. You may also find it more comfortable on your hips to put a small pillow between your knees to keep your hips aligned.

TUMMY SLEEPERS

In this situation, a flat-fronted corset might be more comfortable than a Victorian corset. Many health professionals would not advise sleeping on your stomach at all (nevermind in a corset) but realistically speaking tummy sleepers exist. You may find there is more stress on your neck if you sleep on your tummy in a corset, because the corset somewhat prevents curvature of your spine. In this situation it may be more comfortable to sleep without a pillow, instead opting for a pillowtop over your mattress if you need the softness.

Lucy’s Little Life Lesson: When scheduling how much sleep to get in a night, try to sleep in increments of 90 minutes, so can complete a full REM cycle and wake up refreshed.

 

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