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Dependence on Corsets – Can you ever stop wearing a corset?

Ethel Granger without corset bare waist

There is this false theory that “once you start using corsets, you can never take them off”. I remember one girl telling me this when I was younger, painting an image in my head that the moment I put on a corset for the first time, I’d be doomed to wear it for the rest of my life, as if the corset would immediately and magically impair all function of my core muscles.
 
Obviously, this hasn’t been the case, and it’s my belief that permanent dependence on corsets is another one of those cases of “broken telephone” where the meaning has become misconstrued. While a few notable people have experienced a physical dependence on corsets, this has been the result of wearing corsets daily for years, in some cases starting from adolescence. When it comes to most modern corset wearers who begin wearing corsets in adulthood, who maintain a healthy core maintenance regimen and who practice lacing in moderation, physiological dependence on corsets isn’t that applicable.
 

Psychological Dependence on Corsets

 
As many of you know, about 3 months ago in November I suffered a number of injuries (falling down the stairs, and then an auto accident – during both incidents I was not wearing a corset). I took a break from wearing corsets for about 2 months, waiting for my bruises to heal and my bloating from the medication to decrease. During those two months, a thought crossed my mind that intrigued me: I missed that familiar “hug” from my corsets.
 
I followed a waist training regimen from 2010 to mid 2013 to achieve my goal of closing a 20″ corset – once I reached that goal, I decided that silhouette wasn’t for me. Since then I’ve simply been wearing corsets “casually”: wearing them occasionally as I feel like it, or as is necessary when I’m breaking in corsets for my reviews, but no longer 12 hours a day.
 
When my freedom of choice to wear a corset was taken away from me, I deeply resented the circumstances. I spent some time thinking about my own reactions and thoughts around this – was it a sign that I had a psychological or emotional dependence on the corset itself, or was it simply the fact that I was denied this practice that made it more tempting (like forbidden fruit)?
(If I’m completely honest with myself, part of the frustration was also that seasoning corsets is part of my job, and my injuries were pushing back my review schedule.)
 
I’ve written at length about using corsets as deep pressure therapy, and how corsets can improve your posture and even make you more confident, regardless of the figure-shaping perks. But I do believe that it’s important for each person to occasionally gauge themselves and make sure that they’re using corsets for the right reasons, and that they’re using the corset as an aide to improve their experience or quality of life, and not using the corset as crutch that they can’t function without.

 

I hear stories of agoraphobic people being able to step outside without having a panic attack when they wear their corset and that is truly amazing. But certain people can become psychologically “addicted” to corsets, same as some people are hooked on buying shoes/ following a TV series/ eating a certain food.

 

We see taglines in commercials “Betcha can’t eat just one” (Lay’s chips) or “Once you pop, you can’t stop” (Pringles) – but these statements are meant to be fun and make the product seem enticing. It doesn’t make people freak out or ponder the addictiveness of processed snacks. You don’t have visions of being caught in a horrible circular existence of eating bag after bag of potato chips till you explode. It’s supposed to be taken lightly – but corsets are almost never taken lightly in this context. Because the corset is not as ubiquitous as high heel shoes, for instance (another easily collectable garment) it’s easy to try to blame the corset for a person’s “addiction”, as opposed to acknowledging that person’s possible tendencies to collect things, or immerse themselves in fashion, or research controversial topics.

 

2014 was especially full of sensationalist headlines about tightlacers Penny Brown, Kelly Lee Dekay and Michèle Köbke. Narrators purposely chose adjectives for them like “obsessed” and “addicted” to corsets – when in reality, when you speak to these ladies themselves, they may prefer to use words like “dedicated” or “disciplined” to describe themselves. Even if someone is a lifestyle corseter, tightlacer or waist trainer, it doesn’t necessarily equate to that person going bananas after one day without their corset as a journalist may insinuate. Remember that more often than not, the media blows stories out of proportion as it’s easy clickbait.

 

Physiological Dependence on Corsets

 
It is, however, important to discuss the potential physical dependence on a corset, because it’s not impossible. If one constantly wears their corset and doesn’t make it a priority to tone their core with exercise, it is possible to experience muscle atrophy and experience a weak back or abdominal muscles. I’ve written at length about the corset’s effect on the core muscles before.

 

Ethel Granger without corset bare waist
Ethel Granger, who laced to just 13 inches in her corset over several decades, experienced weakness in her core but as shown here was still able stand without her corset.
Although core muscle weakness can lead to physical dependence on the corset, it’s my belief that in the vast majority of cases, this dependence is not permanent (as long as the affected person has the desire to do something about it). I have never found a medically documented case of someone taking off their corset and suddenly flopping over, snapping in half or breaking their spine from a lack of support.
Even Ethel Granger, who wore her corset for some 50 years and laced to 13 inches, was still able to support herself without the corset for short periods of time.
Cathie Jung, who currently laces to 15 inches, has also said that she removes the corset for bathing, although allegedly becomes a little lightheaded without the corset. News segments on Michèle Köbke have claimed that she was unable stand up without their corset, however there is evidence of Michèle standing up without a corset in the video footage, contradicting the information given. Michele explained that she did lose some strength in her torso and became winded when changing her corsets, but she could still stand up unassisted. Michèle has since stopped wearing corsets, and a newer video filmed nearly a year after the first shows that she has gained more strength in her torso and her waist measurement has now expanded to approximately 25 inches, similar to her starting waist measurement before corseting.
 

“You can’t stop wearing corsets…”

… otherwise you will lose your waist training progress and your waist may begin to expand again. This is a much more sensible interpretation of the statement.
  • If you get braces to change the position of your teeth: you can’t stop wearing your retainer, otherwise your teeth may shift slightly back to the way they were before.
  • If you build yourself up for a body building competition: after that competition is over you can’t stop lifting weights completely, otherwise your muscles will eventually shrink/ waste away, you’ll get soft, and you’ll lose your progress.
  • If you put yourself on a diet to lose weight: once you reach your goal, you can’t stop eating healthily and start eating all the junk food you want, otherwise you’ll gain weight again.
  • If you train your waist smaller with corsets: if you stop wearing your corset cold turkey once you reach your goal, your waist is likely to expand. Certainly, many waist trainers see a change in their natural, uncorseted waist over time; but a certain level of maintenance is required to keep any results you get.
 

Even if you train your ribcage to be more tapered, if you get pregnant, the baby can push out your ribcage again. This is why it’s said that corset training is “semi permanent” – but that is the topic of another article.

Read more about dependence on corsets on Contour Corsets, and also Staylace.

What do you think about corset dependency? Have you experienced a psychological, emotional or physical dependence on your own corset, to positive or negative results? Leave a comment.
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Xandriana Custom Tightlacing Underbust Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Xandriana Tightlacing Underbust Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

 

Fit, length This corset is custom fit (made to measure), so a corset for you may fit differently. Center front is about 12 inches high, and the side seam is 9 inches high, back is 15 inches high. Modern hourglass silhouette – rounded over the ribcage and rounded over the hips. Slightly longline.
Material Outer layer is pale pink satin (might be satin coutil). Lined in white herringbone coutil.
Construction 6 panel pattern. Panels are assembled using a topstitch. Bones are sandwiched between layers, double boned (one on the seam and one in the center of the panel).
Binding Matching strips of pale pink satin, machine stitched on the outside and hand finished on the inside.
Waist tape 1 inch wide waist tape, stitched invisibly between the layers.
Modesty panel Modesty panel is suspended on the laces and boned in a criss-cross fashion. A 1″ wide unstiffened placket in front.
Busk 11 inches long, standard width busk (half inch on each side) with 6 knobs and loops, the bottom two a little closer together. Reinforced flat bones on either side.
Boning 28 bones total (14 bones per side). Mostly 1/4″ wide spiral steels, single boned on the seams plus extra bones in the middle of the panels. There are two flat steels sandwiching the grommets as well, and two flats by the busk.
Grommets 28 two-part Prym eyelets, size #0, medium/large, held in strongly. Finished in silver and set a bit closer together at the waistline. Good wide washers, few splits but don’t catch on the laces.
Laces Laces are 1/2″ wide double-faced satin ribbon, finished in pale pink.
Price At the time I’m writing this, a custom underbust starts at $300 USD (suitable for tightlacing but not waist training). For a waist training custom corset, the price starts at $400.

Final Thoughts:

This corset was a bit of a serendipitous find. I had been meaning to try a corset from Xandriana for awhile, as one of my acquaintances (a previous client of Xandriana’s) had positive things to say about the craftsmanship.

So when I joined the Corsets On Sale group on Facebook and found another person who was selling their old Xandriana corset, with measurements very close to my own, I immediately jumped at the opportunity! The lovely pearlescent finish and the cheery flossing were even cuter in person, and I was pleased to see that the corset was not actually white, but actually the palest, most delicate shade of pink. I also liked the very high back of this corset as it provided excellent support while sitting at my desk, and it made muffin top virtually impossible. After uploading this video, I had the opportunity to talk with the corsetiere, and discovered that the flossing was actually done by the first owner of the corset.

Although this particular corset is not advertised for waist training, its construction is stronger than many other corsets out there that do claim waist-training-friendliness – one of my favourite features in this corset is the distribution of the boning. In corsets that are simply double boned on the seams, it can sometimes feel like the double bones make it “too rigid” in places, while there are vast spans of wrinkled, unsupported fabric between the bones. When you have one bone on the seam and one on the channel (as in this corset), the distribution is more even, which can help prevent pressure points on your body and prevent ugly wrinkling in the corset, resulting in a beautifully smooth and comfortable corset. The darker pink flossing in a clean V shape on the boning channels was also a nice visual touch, and highlighted the fact that this corset had quite even bone distribution.

This is a lovely little corset; the only changes I would make is to perhaps have the bones in the very back bow a little less – but as I am the 2nd owner of this corset, I know nothing of its previous treatment nor anything about the customer service from Xandriana.

Looking at the different  listings in Xandriana’s Etsy shop, it seems that the tightlacing underbust has only 1 layer of coutil, and a non-specific number of bones; while the waist training version has 2 layers of coutil and a guaranteed minimum of 26 bones, and more depending on the size and reduction. If you would like to learn more about the different options Xandriana offers, do visit her website here.

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Waist Training vs Tight Lacing – what’s the difference?

In a previous article, I mentioned that close to half the emails I receive are from people wanting to know what is the “best” corset for waist training or tight lacing – but today I want to touch on the topic of waist training vs tight lacing (or tightlacing or tight lacing) because it’s very important to know that they are not synonymous, and the definitions vary depending on the source.


Some corset companies use the terms interchangeably, which can be confusing or possibly even dangerous because saying that a corset is designed for “waist training”, a client may come along with an entirely different idea of what “waist training” really is, and may end up using the corset in a way that it was not designed for. So when a corset company (especially an OTR company) claims it to be appropriate for waist training, be very careful about how they define the terms waist training vs tight lacing before you decide to invest. Email them and ask them to get more specific, if possible.

I have talked about the book Corset Magic before (written by Ann Grogan, owner of Romantasy – you can find the book here). The book is primarily about waist training, but there is an entire chapter featuring different people’s arguments about what is and what is not considered proper “tight lacing”. After 3 years, I still refer beginners to this manual because it is a wealth of information.

It seems that many people find it difficult to come to a consensus about what “tight lacing” is and what “waist training” is. I’ve talked about this with other lacers, other trainers/trainees, other corseters/corsetees (as different people also define themselves by different terms) to try and come up with a definition that everyone can agree with. So far, this has been rather unsuccessful – but I will explain the definitions of tight lacing and waist training as I have come to understand them:

WHAT IS TIGHTLACING?

  • Some people say that tight lacing is anything beyond a 4 inch reduction. This may be challenging if you have a natural 24″ waist, but easy if you have a 40″ waist.

    This is my main waist training corset. I waist train to be able to achieve a certain tight laced reduction.
    This Contour corset is my main waist training corset. I waist train primarily to achieve a certain tight laced reduction.
  • Others say that tightlacing is anything more than 20% reduction, which would obviously be different if you are starting from a different size. This would be the equivalent of a person with a 24″ waist lacing down to about 19″, while the person with the 40″ natural waist being able to lace down to 32″.
  • Still others say that tight lacing is arbitrary and dependent on the individual’s personal squishiness, tolerance to restriction, etc. Therefore two people with the same starting waist may each cinch down to a different point, they may have a different apparent hip spring, etc. but as long as they are laced to the point where it is a ‘challenging’ (but not painful) reduction, each may be considered a tight lacer in their own right.

At the time that I’m writing this, own views of tightlacing hover somewhere between the second and third points. In my own experience, I can differentiate between “lightly laced” (feels like nothing) “moderately laced” (snug), “tight laced” (challenging but not painful) and then “over laced” (which is where you may begin to feel unwell or in pain – in this case, you have pushed yourself too hard and I’d advise not getting to this point for any reason, not even to “test yourself”).

Nevertheless, almost everyone I’ve talked to seem to agree that tightlacing is something that can be done “once in awhile” – for photo shoots, performances, special events etc. In the case of waist training, this is not something that can only be done “once in awhile”.

WHAT IS WAIST TRAINING?

Just like weight training, voice training or marathon training, waist training is something that you work at over time. It involves a certain intention, end goal, consistent work and dedication.

I can’t lace down by 4 inches. Can I still be called a waist trainer?

If you are just starting out with waist training and you cannot tolerate high reductions, then you can still call it waist training if you want. Some people wear their corsets all day, every day at a 2-3 inch reduction, which to most lacers would likely not be classified as “tightlacing”. But I know a few individuals who have actually noticed a difference in themselves while lightly laced if they consistently do this for 6 months or more. If you’re petite with a natural 22″ waist and you can’t lace down that much – or even if you’re larger but you just can’t tolerate a lot of pressure – but you are dedicated and try to wear your corset on a near-daily basis, don’t let anybody tell you “that’s not waist training”. Like I said, definitions vary depending on the source.

If you can tightlace, and you do so every day (even if you only do it because you enjoy it and don’t have particular goals), some might be consider this to be waist training as well. You can be a tightlacer without waist training, and you can waist train without being a tightlacer (to a point). But many people are both at the same time, if they can achieve high reductions for long durations on a daily basis.

Why do people waist train? (What are their goals?)

  • Some people waist train so that they will be able to tightlace to a certain reduction – so if I want to close my 20″ corsets, I have to train to get there.
  • Many other people waist train with the intention of making their natural waist smaller even when they’re not wearing the corset.

I would argue that the vast majority of people who contact me about waist training fall into this category, so lot of the time I use this definition of waist training (if only because it’s by popular vote):

Waist training (corset training): achieving moderate to high reductions in a corset for long durations (months or years) with the intention reducing one’s natural, uncorseted waist – whether by indirect means (e.g. weight loss), or by direct means (e.g. altering muscle, ribcage and/or fat-pad morphology).

 

Is it possible to “accidentally” waist train (reduce your natural waist without intention)?

Yes, it’s possible – I know some people who wear a corset every day for medical purposes (e.g. to relieve back spasms, or to provide bust support) and many have experienced that their natural waist measurement reduces over time. Some of these have been delighted at the “unexpected perk” to wearing corsets, but several others have been annoyed or upset by this development. Continually purchasing smaller and smaller corsets is not something everyone can afford, so sizing down can occasionally be unwanted. This individual may not consider this “waist training” as they used the corset for another reason entirely, but some others might consider it “accidental” waist training.

HOWEVER – other people may consider this a “happy accident” to train their natural waist down. In one sense, this is what happened to me. I used to have corseting goals of making my natural waist smaller – and getting back down to a natural waist somewhere around 24 inches, which was where I was at when I was around 20 – 21 years old (at that time, my waist was achieved with diet/ exercise, not with corsets). These days, I don’t have the same goal of having a natural 24″ waist. The main purpose for my waist training was to be able to close my size 20″ corsets – I was waist training to achieve a tightlacing goal, and as I got closer to that goal, my natural waist dropped from 28-29 inches down to about 26.5 – 27 inches – and it would stay that way for 24 hours or more after taking off my corset. (However, if I stopped maintaining that reduction for weeks, my waist would begin to expand again). Having a naturally smaller waist was a waist training bonus for me, even though it wasn’t my primary goal.

 What corset should I look for if I want to Tight Lace?

If someone asks me what kind of corset is appropriate for tightlacing, I presume they mean something that is:

  • strong enough that it’s not going to rip the first couple times you wear it
  • gives a noticeable waist reduction and shaping, because it’s not elastic,
  • has steel bones, not plastic bones that easily warp, and
  • has a hip spring and rib spring that is wide enough that the corset will effectively cinch in the waist without squishing or pinching everything else.
  • A tightlacing corset may be either custom fit or standard size.
  • I have two video on how to shop for a tightlacing corset, whether you’re shopping in person/ in store, or if you’re shopping online.

What corset should I look for if I want to Waist Train? 

This corset has coutil strength layer, a smooth floating liner, waist tape, and carefully dispersed bones.
This custom Puimond corset has a coutil strength layer, a smooth floating liner, waist tape, and carefully dispersed bones.

If someone asks me what corset is appropriate for waist training, I presume that they will be using the corset on a daily or almost daily basis, likely for long hours and eventually at high reductions. If you intend to waist train, GO CUSTOM FIT. Even if you have rather “standard” measurements, a custom fit piece is almost always more comfortable. Many corsetieres will construct specific “waist training” corsets. Some of the differences I’ve observed with “waist training” corsets vs regular or “tight lacing” corsets amongst corsetieres:

  • waist training corsets may have higher quality and stronger materials like coutil or special corsetry broche (whereas tightlacing corsets may be made only from twill)
  • waist training corsets may be constructed with stronger seams or they may feature triple or even quadruple stitching (tightlacing corsets may have double stitching but that’s it)
  • waist training corsets sometimes have more bones, but more importantly the boning may be interspersed in such a way that it helps avoid giving the wearer pressure points. (Please note that just because a corset is double boned on the seams, doesn’t automatically means that it is suitable for waist training.)
  • waist training corsets usually have a smooth interior to prevent wrinkling or abrasion (tightlacing corsets are sometimes constructed with internal boning channels, which I find least comfortable of all construction methods)
  • waist training corsets may feature a reinforced busk/ extra wide busk, modesty panel, stronger laces and other upgrades to make your lacing experience more comfortable (tightlacing corsets may or may not include these. Please note that even for waist training corsets, some of these features may need to be purchased or requested)

All this makes a waist training corset not only more comfortable, which means you will be able to lace tighter and longer in comfort, but it also lasts longer without falling apart and overall, it’s more effective at molding your body and will be a more positive experience. You save time, you save money, and you save yourself from discomfort and frustration by choosing a higher quality corset that is made for the job you’re giving it.

THE BIG QUESTION: is it possible to waist train in an OTR, tight lacing corset?

It’s possible. You may see progress, but it might not be as comfortable compared to a waist training corset. Depending on the brand, your corset may break or stretch significantly after a few months because it wasn’t designed to take daily rigorous use.

Like I’ve said in many Youtube videos and blog posts before, an OTR corset is something that you can test the waters with and see if corseting is for you. If you are tight lacing on an occasional basis or wearing it for temporary shaping and fashion, OTR corsets are fine. But after the first OTR corset, if you want to cinch down past the advised 4-6 inches and continue sizing down in corsets, it would be worth your while (and probably your wallet) to get a well-made, properly fit corset that will hold up to the tension you put on it and last you a long time. 

If you see an OTR corset company that boasts up to 6-8 inches reduction and says they’re appropriate for waist training, and especially if they make no distinction between tight lacing and waist training, proceed with caution. Educate yourself as much as possible before investing in a corset – your body deserves the best.

How do you define tight lacing vs waist training? What do you think are the features of a good tight lacing corset vs a waist training corset? Let me know in the comments below!

You may also want to read my related article: “What is the BEST Corset Brand for Tight Lacing/ Waist Training?”

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“Waffle Iron” Skeleton Corset

This is a summary of the video “Waffle Iron” Skeleton Corset Experiment. If you’d like more information on how this corset is made and more in-depth explanations, please watch the video available on Youtube here:

I called this corset my “Waffle Iron,” because of the way my skin and flesh pokes through the holes of this skeleton corset prototype, and the lines it leaves afterward. I was inspired to make this due to the recent warming weather and ventilated corsets such as this.

I wanted to push my limits and my knowledge of corsetry, and break down corsetry to its “bare bones” so to speak. To experiment with “corset minimalism” and to get to know the “architecture” of corsets better – to see where the most important lines are.

While I agree that mesh on the open areas would have been more flattering, that wasn’t really the point. Skeleton corsets have existed in the past (with no mesh) and women wore chemises underneath which helped prevent the “oozing”. I still intend to use liners under this corset if/when I wear it in the future.

How this corset was made (please see the video as I did record the steps as I made this):

  1. The “fabric” is the most-densely-weaved twill tape I could find  – this is the only textile I used, other than a bit of canvas to reinforce the grommet area.
  2. I started with a custom-drafted 6-panel corset pattern, then sewed a quick single-layer “corset” from a soft tear-away stabilizer.
  3. I centered the tape on the seams of the stabilizer “corset” and also laid tape on the top/bottom edges and across the waist. (I considered adding another horizontal strip at mid-rib height, but I wanted to see how little I could “get away with.”)
  4. Once I had the outline I wanted, I tore away the stabilizer, laid down another layer of vertical strips to create the bone casings/busk/grommet areas.
  5. I added boning to the channels, folded the top/bottom edges over double to cover the raw bone-casing edges, and added grommets.

Once I put on the corset, I noticed a bit of an “Easter Egg” – I was able to perfectly see and understand my problem areas and my body’s asymmetry within a corset. Only by using a “transparent” corset such as this one would I ever have started to understand these little complications and how they can best be fixed. Let’s see a few pictures:

 In this front view, you can see that my left iliac crest protrudes more than my right one, and also even one side of my body cinches more readily than the other side, which can be measured in hip-spring on each side vs. “rib spring.”

In the profile view,  the bone of the corset is right in front of my iliac crest and pushing back on it slightly. This wouldn’t normally happen in a regular corset, because the fabric would prevent my hip from freely jutting out behind it. Instead, the bone would rest directly on my hipbone and cause discomfort.

Here is a picture of the right side, by comparison. You can see that the right hip doesn’t protrude behind the corset bone in the same way. In the past I would try to alleviate the discomfort on my left hip by simply drafting the hips of my patterns larger and larger, but now I see that I have to completely change my drafting technique and move the panels and bones away from the problem area.

In the first picture of the 3/4 view, you can see the “waffle iron” visual effect. The way that fat pads are genetically distributed, many women (and some men) have a little pocket of fat directly under their navel, and it’s no different for me. This is likely why so many skeleton corsets in the past had a diamond-shaped belt (2nd photo, same angle) or waist tape to hold that flesh in. The diamond could be shallow and stop just around the natural waist, or continue up to the sternum.

While I do realize that the “flesh oozing” is undesirable to many people, I have discovered that seeing the bulges is actually useful. I see it as a topographical map telling me how much support/pressure is required in each “grid” of the body – the more oozing in one pocketed area, the more tension and support that area requires. This means I can take more care and attention in shaping those areas in my drafting, while other areas can simply gently cup or lay flat over the flesh without restriction. If I were to put mesh between the panels, I wouldn’t be able to see this “map” quite as well. 

In the future I will make this with coutil instead of twill, as the twill tape is fairly flimsy and makes for wobbly lines. I think I will have the same number of bones (or more) but instead of having “two bones on each seam” like I did here, I’ll likely have one bone on the “seam of the panel” and another bone in the “middle of the panel”. I will also likely add the mid-rib horizontal piece, and widen the area at the waist /make it a diamond shape to hold in more abdominal flesh. Lastly, I’ll make the top/bottom “binding” twice as wide so it will lay flat on the body without rolling and twisting funkily like it is here, and the bones may even extend (at least partway) through that width of the binding just to prevent twisting.

I’m quite excited about how much I’ve learned from this little project, and I’m looking forward to improving upon this first prototype. As they say, “Excelsior!”