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Addendum to “Corset Gaps”: troubleshooting more corset fitting issues

Many people have seen my “Shape of Your Corset Gap: What Does it Mean?” video and article, but several people have walked away with the wrong idea – they think that if you have anything BUT a straight, parallel gap down the back, that this means it’s going to break the corset.

This is actually incorrect. In this article, I will explain a bit more about what the gaps mean, and will also discuss some other fitting issues, like flaring, gaping, and problems with curviness/ lack of curves. If you’d like you can watch the video below instead of reading (it’s the same information):

Revisiting the V shape and A shape:

 

The V shape
The V shape

If your corset is making a V shape or A shape, the bones are not parallel but they’re still kept straight and they’re not bent per se. What it means is that the corset is not the best shape for you (I call it a corset-body mismatch). What may happen is that your corset may become seasoned in the V shape or A shape – but as your ribs and your hips are not going to dramatically change their natural measurements, there’s no reason that you should be worried about wearing the corset any other way. It is not likely to ruin the corset to wear it this way, as long as the bones in the back don’t bend or twist in their channels.

Some corsetieres and designers even deliberately draft a corset to have a V shape in the back. This is seen all the time on the backs of wedding dresses, and other formal wear and costumes. Some lacers and performers specifically request that their authentic corsets are drafted to have a V shape in the back. Also, Elizabethan stays/ payres of bodies were often made to have the V gap in the front, to show off the decorative stomacher. The “rules” of corset gaps are not universal throughout all fashion eras!

 

The A Shape
The A Shape

I also sometimes see people wearing a corset with the V shape or inverted V shape online (mostly Youtube and Tumblr), and people will tell the wearer that they’re wearing the corset incorrectly and the gap needs to be corrected so it’s parallel. This also isn’t true. If your corset is too small at the top, and you try to force the corset closed and reduce your own underbust measurement, you may find that it’s more difficult to take a deep breath and/or you’ll have flesh spilling over the top of the corset. In the opposite case, if your corset is too small at the bottom (A-shaped gap) and you try to force it closed and reduce the girth of your hips, you may feel some uncomfortable pinching or numbness in your hips, bum or legs; or you could even long-term nerve damage or bruising! Wearing a corset with an uneven gap doesn’t mean you’re wearing the corset incorrectly – it’s not the fault of the wearer, they are lacing it so that it’s comfortable and it’s not going to cause injury. However, this corset is simply not the right shape for the wearer’s body, and ideally the corset should be modified (one can add expandable hip ties or gores) or it should be returned/ exchanged for a curvier corset that will fit with a more even gap.

Revisiting the ( ) shape and )( shape:

The () shape
The () shape

The gap shapes you really need to worry about are the ones that look like parentheses. If you have the top and bottom of the corset touching and a big gap at the waistline (known as the “()” shape) or the opposite where the shape of the gap is echoing the hourglass shape of the corset (the “)(” shape), this means that the corset is the wrong size for your body, it’s either too curvy or not curvy enough for your experience level, and/or there may be something structurally wrong with the corset.

These gap shapes show that the bones are literally bending and twisting and not remaining straight and flat like they’re designed to do. What can happen to the corset in this situation is that the bone may permanently kink or bend, which weakens the bone and can dig into you uncomfortably. Not only that but because the bone has space to rub and twist in the channel, the fabric channel is being worn more (and less evenly) than a snug bone and this may cause a bone to pop out of its channel if there’s too much friction wearing away at the fabric. Also, the bones are there to support the grommets! If the bones are not doing their job, it can warp the fabric, putting uneven tension on the grommets and may make them more susceptible to eventually ripping out (think of those fashion corsets that are unsupported by bones in the back, and they crumple with any tension on the laces). The () and )( gap shapes are the ones that can really ruin the corset; not the V-shape.

The )( shape
The )( shape

Other fitting issues: Should my new corset flare away from my body or not?

I’ve been asked a lot lately about “flaring”, when people first try on a corset and it gapes away from your body. This is not only normal, it’s to be expected. In fact, if you’re seasoning your corset at a gentle reduction and you’re NOT getting some flaring (it’s snug around your ribs and hips, not loose or “big”), something might be wrong and the corset is probably not curvy enough for you.

Most people buy a corset that is curvier than their bodies (this is often the point of corseting). A well-fitting corset is supposed to have a smaller waist than your natural waist, but will have an underbust measurement the same as your natural underbust, and a hip measurement that is the same size as your natural hips.
This way, when you cinch down in the corset, it’s not trying to reduce the size of your underbust, waist and hips simultaneously, but will only reduce your waist while gently supporting the ribs and hips – when it’s not too big, it won’t flare, and when it’s not too small, you don’t get pinching or spillover.

My corset has a big gap in the back, but there’s no more room in the ribs or hips to cinch down further!

 

This corset cannot be laced down further due to the underbust and hips. I keep a parallel but wide | | gap down the back.
This corset cannot be laced down further due to the underbust and hips. I keep a parallel but wide | | gap down the back.

Many OTR corsets out there are not curvy enough for some people’s bodies. I have reviewed some corsets in the past that were not curvy enough to close all the way on me, because the ribcage and hip measurements of the corset are smaller than my own. You’ll notice that I don’t force the waist to be smaller to give the )( gap, I just leave it with a huge gap in the back because I want to show the true silhouette of the corset, and I also don’t want to ruin the corset.

My corset has a wide parallel gap in the back, but I’m seeing flaring.

This is the proper scenario: let’s say you have a very curvy corset but you’re not achieving large reductions in your waist yet. If the corset isn’t closed in the back, it is perfectly normal to have the top and bottom flare away from your body at this stage, because the corset is designed to fit when closed. You have to keep your eye on the end result, not on what the corset is doing at very gentle reductions.

In the meantime, does this mean that you should lace the top and bottom tighter, and keep the waist more loose so the back of the corset looks like () ? I personally wouldn’t. That is a good way to make the bones by the grommets bend and twist in the back, and potentially ruin the corset in the ways outlined above.

Click the photo to see my seasoning series, where I talk about flaring in more detail.
Click the photo to see my seasoning series, where I talk about flaring in more detail.

 

When I’m seasoning or training down in a corset that has a dramatic waist reduction, I just deal with the gaping or flaring at the ribs and hips. I don’t like the way the corset looks with the gaping, but it can be hidden by wearing sweaters or jeans under the corset to add bulk – or I’ll just wear the corset under my clothes so I don’t have to see it. It might feel wobbly, but I just remind myself that it’s a very temporary state until I’m able to train down further.

My corset is closed all the way in the back, but the top/ bottom are still flaring away from my body!

The corset is either too curvy for your body type, or it’s too big for you. If you feel that you’re able to cinch smaller and you want to train down further, then exchange the corset for a size smaller. If you have no interest in having a smaller waist, then see if you can get your corset exchanged for a less curvy one. Maybe a dramatic wasp-waist just isn’t for you, and you would prefer a more gentle hourglass or modern slim silhouette – there is nothing wrong with that! This is why different shapes of corsets exist for different people.

Hopefully this has helped clarify some points from my previous “Corset Gaps” video/article, and you’re able to troubleshoot your fitting issues more effectively. Do you have any other fitting issues that you’d like discussed in the future? Do you have anything to add, or do you disagree with anything said here? Do let me know in a comment.