Tag Archive: waist training

Dr. Oz Investigates Waist Training: My Response

On February 12, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz took on the topic of waist training for a second time in his show titled “Dr. Oz Investigates Waist Training – Is It Safe?”. I suspected this would happen, as in October you may remember that Dr. Hirschhausen (another celebrity doctor in Germany) performed the first known MRI scan on a tightlaced subject.

A month later in November, Oz’s producers contacted me about doing a second segment about waist training on the show (in which I declined to participate since I had seen his angle on it the first time).

Ann Grogan (Romantasy Exquisite Corsetry) has already responded to Dr. Oz in an open letter on her own blog, but I have also been asked by a dozen or so people to write my own response – make no mistake that I am not a medical expert, but I do believe that the results are worth talking about and sharing. I’d like this to become a conversation between the corsetry and medical industries, and for us to come to a mutual understanding that not all shapewear is the same and not all of them are suitable for all applications (including and especially waist training).

Oz’s segment can be viewed here, and I will address each concern in order.

 

First video: theoretical discussion and MRI results  

Corsets can theoretically squeeze your lungs, compress the ribs and reduce oxygen intake

This is true if the corset is not made to fit your body and deliberately tightened to reduce the size of the ribcage. It’s also more likely to be true with an overbust corset rather than an underbust, as it encases more of the ribcage. In my article about corsets, lungs and breathing, I address some common concerns and myths regarding corsets and respiratory infections. My response article to the “Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home” episode on corsets also showed that the maximum loss to the reporter’s vital capacity was about 10%, even after strapping on an overbust corset for the first time, lacing down several inches immediately (and over a bulky sweater) and then proceeding to sprint up and down a staircase repeatedly for several minutes – altogether a scenario that would have never happened in the Victorian era.

There are corsetieres who are dedicated to patterning their corsets to deliberately curve around the ribcage and accommodate the ribs instead of affecting their position, for those who find it more comfortable and prefer this silhouette. Now, it is possible to reduce the lung capacity slightly simply by the nature of pushing up the stomach and diaphragm slightly, but again this depends on the reduction held – and in many cases the temporary reduction in capacity is small enough that it would only be noticeable in situations of hard exertion, not tidal breathing (a normal breath while at rest only uses about 15% of the vital lung capacity, and many sedentary people very rarely use their full capacity).

Myself (Lucy) wearing a cupped-rib hourglass corset made by Sugarkitty, designed to compress only the waistline and not the rib cage.

Myself (Lucy) wearing a cupped-rib hourglass corset made by Sugarkitty, designed to compress only the waistline and not the rib cage.

 

Corsets can cause acid reflux

If the stomach is pushed up, heartburn is possible – especially if you eat a semi-large meal prior to lacing up (but who does that?). Corsets can exacerbate reflux in those people who already suffer from GERD (a condition caused by a loosened lower esophageal sphincter, production of too much stomach acid, hiatal hernia, abdominal obesity, etc).

Pregnancy can often cause heartburn, not only because the baby is competing for space and pushing up on the stomach, but also because the elevated hormones can cause the sphincter of the stomach to relax. Common tips given to pregnant women include eating small meals (and eating slowly), avoiding foods that are commonly known to bring on heartburn (like spicy food and caffeine), and keeping hydrated and drinking fluids throughout the day – all healthy tips that can be done anyway, and all tips that have helped corset wearers to avoid reflux as well. I eat small, regular meals by choice and I cannot remember one incident of heartburn I’ve experienced while wearing a corset.

Some may be interested to read Sarah Chrisman’s experience in how wearing a corset had helped to stop her GERD (which she previously believed was a chronic, hereditary condition that she’d have to deal with for life).

That said, if you know that you experience GERD, if you have a hernia or any other health condition, it’s always a good idea to speak with your trusted medical professional before trying a corset.

 

MRI results of a waist trainer

For contrast, I want to compare Dr. Oz’s methodology and subsequent results with the MRI results of a tightlacer on Dr. Hirschhausen’s show. On Hirschhausen’s show, Eden Berlin (the tightlacer and willing subject) wore a custom fit corset made by Tonia of Korsett Manufaktur Tomto, specially constructed with plastic synthetic whalebone instead of steel, and also nonferrous grommets so as not to react in the MRI machine. The results demonstrated how a well-fit corset does not seem to drastically affect the morphology or position of kidneys or lungs. Even her liver looked similar in shape and simply shifted upwards slightly. The only organ that got ‘trapped’ was her transverse colon, and Eden mentioned that she had been rushed in putting on the corset and lacing down 5 inches within mere minutes – she said that if she had more time to lace down slowly and properly, she may have been able to shift that colon down appropriately, as Fran Blanche describes in her tightlacing articles “The Cycle Method” and Divide and Conquer”.

 

Why corsets are not the same as stretch shapewear

I have several criticisms with the way Dr. Oz performed his version of the experiment, namely the fact that he used a rubber cincher instead of a corset. It’s understandable that they would opt for this, as 1) the rubber faja is gaining popularity as exercise gear these days, and 2) since it tends to contain no metal, it is a quick and easy ‘substitute’ for steel boned corsets.

I have been over the superficial differences between rubber cinchers and corsets before, as well as given my response regarding other types of shapewear, but this MRI experiment revealed something else to me: rubber cinchers create an even pressure over the whole torso instead of focusing the majority of the restriction at the waistline, meaning that the wearer has little control over what’s “squished” and what’s not.

Elastic latex/rubber waist cincher or faja

Lucy wearing a rubber waist cincher or faja. Although there is not as much compression as my usual corsets, what pressure IS there cannot be controlled or concentrated.

The way a stretchy rubber or neoprene faja is constructed, it is not custom-fit to the individual’s anatomy, and it’s designed to compress everywhere that it touches – from the ribcage to the hips. It will compress whatever gives the least resistance, whether that is the sides of the waistline or the front and back; whether that includes the floating ribs or not (Marianne has an article on The Lingerie Addict about different the compression feels between corsets and shapewear). Because each individual has a different amount of muscle tone or body fat percentage, because each person has very slight differences in position and size of their internal organs, because the exact amount of compression on the body is difficult to control because it fastens with hooks and not laces, it’s very difficult to predict how the outcome would look in each person. Only two days ago someone commented on my site asking if it’s normal to experience uncomfortable pressure on the back from rubber cinchers (to answer this quickly: pain is never normal; if you ever experience discomfort, the responsible thing to do is to loosen or remove the garment).

By contrast, a corset can be drafted to accommodate each person’s individual anatomy and we can control exactly where the compression is occurring and how much (0 inches, 2 inches, 4 inches) due to the adjustability of the laces.

In a custom-fit corset, there is a gradient of pressure that is maximized at the skeletal waistline (the squishy area below the ribs and above the pelvis), dissipating to zero compression up over the ribcage and down over the hips. The compression is also focused primarily laterally (on either side of the body, and not from front and back). In most cases, a strong front busk will prevent dishing or collapsing of the waistline in the front of the body, and a proper corset is also specially drafted to ensure no compression of the back, as it should support a healthy posture and maintain a proper lumbar curve. A well-fitting corset should be drafted in such a way that if the organs come into play, then the hollow membranous organs like the intestines flatten in response to the compression, and the corset should not affect the retroperitoneal organs such as the kidneys, as shown in Hirschhausen’s results.

 

Stand-up MRI imaging vs traditional reclining patient

Dr. Oz used a stand-up MRI facility to do the test, which may show a slightly different view of the organs compared to the conventional MRI scans where the patient is lying down. I believe that stand-up and positional diagnostic imaging is a fantastic tool, especially considering that most corset-wearers are standing or sitting for most of their day and not reclining – but this also means that Oz’s results cannot truly be accurately compared with Hirschhausen’s, since the position of the organs may shift slightly depending on the body’s position, with or without a corset.

My friend and fellow tightlacer Michael informed me that when internal diagnostic imaging was first discovered (e.g. X-rays where you could see the positions of solid organs like the heart and liver against less dense organs like the lungs), there were several unnecessary surgeries performed to “correct” the position of the organs. Before stand-up imaging, physicians’ only knowledge of organ positions in the human body came from examining corpses (who were obviously reclining) and from performing surgeries (where patients were also reclining), and they didn’t realize that the organs can and do slightly shift from standing to lying down.

I’m currently investigating this history further to verify the details – but it’s easy to imagine how, for instance, breasts can look incredibly different from standing to reclining even with the presence of Cooper’s ligaments keeping them relatively in place, so it’s not hard to believe that the position of the organs can also slightly shift from standing to reclining as well, despite ligaments and the visceral membrane keeping them relatively in place.

It’s not known whether Oz’s subject was scanned while standing up or lying down, as the brief video clip merely showed her “spinning” somewhat in the machine. Perhaps she wasn’t standing nor completely reclining but was at a slight incline. It is also unknown whether the angle of imaging with and without her rubber cincher had been performed at the same angle. If they had by chance been performed at different angles, this change in position may have skewed the results from the cincher.

 

Should we be scared by a grooved liver?

Dr. Oz expressed some shock upon discovering indentations in the woman’s liver caused by the ribcage – I was hoping that he would explain how such indentations would prove deleterious but unfortunately it was not mentioned (or the clip was cut short). However, indentations of the liver are not all that uncommon. Although the liver is one of the more solid organs, it is still described as pliable, and the shape and size naturally varies.

In a 1986 publication in the JPMA, the liver shapes of 500 live humans were studied via radio-colloid imaging. Over 15% of the subjects showed indentations of some kind on the liver, and these are from healthy individuals who were not wearing corsets. This is consistent with the indented livers I’ve seen in rat dissections in school. These slight variances in liver morphology are not necessarily tied with the health of the individual.

Another issue to bring to light is that organ crowding and indentations may also occur in those who are pregnant, those who have a high percentage of visceral (intra-abdominal) fat, and those who have skeletal issues like scoliosis, which shortens the torso and the amount of space for the organs within it – yet particularly in the last case, bracing a scoliosis patient often involves torso compression of a couple of inches, in the interest of stabilizing and correcting the spine – would this not further compress the organs of a person who is already experiencing compromised organ space? The history of the modern brace lies in corsetry, and research in the physiological effects of corsetry is not a vain apologist activity. More research into the functional effects of organ crowding may lead to new innovations in the medical field as well.

 

The Sforzesco brace for scoliosis

The Sforzesco brace for a scoliosis patient creates an hourglass silhouette similar to that of a corset. Click through to read more about this brace.

 

Video 2: Interview with Dr. Nicole Florence, bariatrician

Can Waist Training lead to Weight Loss?

Dr. Florence states that there is no clinical evidence that waist training can result in weight loss. That’s not for want of trying though, as a 2010 study by Wikstrand et al attempted a trial of wearing “soft corsets” for a period of 9 months to maintain weight loss – however, the results could not be properly evaluated due to low compliance (the subjects didn’t wear their corsets). I was as disappointed as the next person.

I tend to agree that weight loss is not necessarily guaranteed with the use of a corset, and the corset should not be treated as a substitute for diet or exercise (I’ve spoken at length about this before) – however, it can be seen as a non-surgical aid in many individuals. As mentioned above, I would personally be delighted to perform long-term studies on corset wearers, and rely on real data instead of anecdotes, given the funds and the opportunity. Universities and research centers may feel free to contact me if you’d like me to lead a proper trial in your facility. (I’m not kidding.)

Since Dr. Florence is a bariatrician, I would also like to study real quantifiable health risks associated with moderate corset wear as compared with gastric band surgery, where 10-20% of patients require a second procedure to correct complications, up to 30% of patients develop nutritional deficiencies / absorption disorders, and up to 33% of patients develop gallstones according to the Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, with a 53% chance of gaining the weight back within 15 years according to this 2013 study. If I were in the position to opt for either bariatric surgery or corsets, I’d personally try the corsets first, but that’s just my subjective stance.

 

Do corsets lead to eating disorders?

I have always tried to tread lightly on this subject as it is a sensitive topic for many. Dr. Florence believes that wearing corsets can create body dysmorphic disorder or distorted body image, and there was implication that the corset may become a gateway to eating disorders or more drastic body modification.

It’s my personal belief that body dysmorphia starts in the mind and then the body follows, not the other way around. Extreme weight loss associated with conditions like anorexia are the later symptoms – the physical manifestations of the psychological/ emotional struggle that has already existed in the person for months or years prior. Is it possible that some people who already have body dysmorphic disorder or eating disorders use corsets as a tool? Yes, I would say that it’s probable that some individuals use corsets for this reason, but it’s insulting to imply that all people who wear corsets are at risk of developing an eating disorder or are already there, especially as I have personally seen corsets used to help some of my friends overcome their personal body image issues and fall in love with their own body. I don’t believe that corsets cause body image issues any more than bra cutlets would contribute to delusions about one’s own natural breast size, or high heel shoes would create insecurity in one’s natural height.

 

Other health concerns mentioned

Dr. Florence says that corsets can cause pneumonia (again, I’ve written about pneumonia in this article), and that they can cause constipation (I’ve addressed this in my Corsets and Toilet Issues article, although more and more I’m hearing from viewers how abdominal compression has helped keep them regular, interestingly). She also wrote that corsets can cause chronic pain and bruising, to which I respond that if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong. Pain or bruising when wearing a corset is never ever ever ever normal – and if this is happening, then you are using a corset that is not the right shape for you, or you’re cinching too tight, too fast, or for too long a duration than your body is ready for.

She also mentioned that corsets can cause fainting – she erroneously stated that the origin of “fainting couches” had their origin in the Victorian era to catch women fainting from their corsets, which is known to be untrue. The Chaise Longue has existed for well over 2000 years. Corsets may have caused fainting in Victorian women if overtightened (which was not unheard of during balls and other special events), and yes corsets can affect blood pressure, but women also fainted from exhaustion, dehydration, low blood sugar, overheating and overexertion, just as many people faint today without a corset. Victorian ladies also faked fainting because it was the cool thing to do.

 

In summary, I don’t believe that Dr. Oz gave the last word or drove the nail in the coffin for waist training, but I do think it’s important to take all information into account. Recall that after Hirschhausen’s episode on corsets, I said, “I would love to repeat this MRI study with different tightlacers to see how the positions of organs change slightly depending on the individual, the silhouette of corset worn, the reduction of the corset, and how long they’ve been training.” My position hasn’t changed; on the contrary, Dr. Oz’s contribution has only strengthened my resolve.

If we’re to truly understand the physiological effects of corsetry, we need a sample size of more than 1, we need some consistency in the type of corset used (not simply *any* compression garment) and we need a consistent method of imaging.

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

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.

Do Corsets Carry any Health Risks?

corset_carrot

I can and have talked for hours on this subject, but writing a dedicated article on corset health risks is undoubtedly going to open a can of worms.

Not surprisingly, I get this question a lot. When I look at my site search term referrers for the past month alone, I see:

  • dangers of waist training
  • is waist cinching dangerous
  • risks of corset waist training
  • waist trainer dangers
  • the dangers of corsets
  • health risks corsets
  • waist training risks
  • is waist training bad for you

If you search for any of these terms and happen to click on an online newspaper column or a fitness blog, they will probably parrot the same horror stories and urban legends that have been repeated for the past century – ever evolving, like a game of broken telephone.

In a previous article responding to BBC’s “Hidden Dangers of the Victorian Home”, I explained how other clothing generally considered acceptable today, especially high heels, can pose risks in certain situations.

In the interest of keeping this post short, I won’t go into specifics about every single corset-related ailment ever uttered; if you are interested in learning how the corset may affect specific systems, the Physical Effects of Corseting series is there at your disposal. You’re welcome to watch the playlist on Youtube or read the corresponding articles in this section of my site. I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on the internet, but my biochemistry degree has  given me a fair understanding of how the body works, and taught me how to do proper research.

Any time someone asks me whether corseting is dangerous, I will always tell them the same thing: if you are already in good health, if you invest in a well-made corset that actually fits your body properly, and if you are responsible about how you use the corset, then danger can be minimized. But one time a reporter tried to get me to state that I believe corsets pose zero risk. No. Even as a regular lacer and a proponent of corsetry, I will never say that corsetry poses zero risk. There is a risk with everything. Let me explain:

Carrots pose a risk to your safety

I’m sure most dieticians would tell you that carrots are very healthy, but my aunt spontaneously developed a fatal allergy to them while pregnant with my cousin (she had been able to eat them all her life, then one day she went into anaphylaxis from them). One of my friends in university once accidentally inhaled a baby carrot and it lodged in his throat.  In both situations, they were home alone. Had they not been able to take proper action in time, carrots could have killed them.

When I was 10 or 11 years old, I was chopping a carrot into sticks, and it rolled out of place and I ended up slicing my finger open! I was lucky – had the knife been sharper, had the angle of the knife been different, or had I dropped the knife, I could have lost a finger or hit a larger blood vessel and bled profusely. Sounds ridiculous, but accidents happen every day.

Everything (even corsets and carrots) comes with risks, but it depends on what conditions you’re already predisposed to (e.g. my aunt’s allergy) and it depends on how responsibly you use it (e.g. in the case of my buddy who choked due to user error). And in the case of my slicing my finger open chopping carrots? Well, the slicing was really done by the knife, and caused by myself (also user error) – not the carrot. It didn’t stop the carrot for taking the blame, though. To this day I hate chopping carrots, although I’m fine with using a sharp knife to cut up other food. Both my friend and my aunt avoid carrots, for obvious reasons. Had carrots not been so ubiquitous, I might have thought that carrots were killers, as so many think of corsets today.

Exercise poses a risk to your safety

There are tales of CrossFit athletes developing rhabdomyolysis (this is the disintegration of muscle fibers causing an influx of myoglobin carried through the circulatory system), which can overload the kidneys, and in some situations cause kidney damage or failure and the need for emergency dialysis.

Weight lifting can cause hernias, it can cause uterine/vaginal prolapse in women, and with poor form it can lead to broken bones or ruptured tendons.

People who were otherwise completely fit and healthy have been known to suddenly die of heart failure in the middle of sports or running, due to a previously asymptomatic and undiagnosed congenital heart condition.

I am not saying this to vilify carrots or any type of exercise. I have always stressed that a healthy lifestyle is not without proper nutrition and exercise. But it would be irresponsible to say that anything in this world, no matter how common or how seemingly innocuous, comes without risk. Water has risks. Heat and cold have risks. Corsets have risks too.

When you use the right tools, when you go about it with proper form, when you are responsible and you accept your body’s limitations, that’s when your risks are minimized.

For almost everyone, the benefits of exercise outweigh the risks. And for many people, for instance Sasha who survived a motorcycle accident, corsetry becomes a necessary medical tool and increases one’s quality of life – and the benefits outweigh the risks.

What are some negative risks or dangers associated with corsetry?

Here are real stories that I have heard first person from modern corset wearers (not urban legends from long ago):

  • Some find that their blood pressure can become elevated while they’re wearing a corset (although those with chronically low blood pressure have found this to be beneficial for them)
  • Others find that if they have uterine prolapse, that the pressure from the corset makes it uncomfortable.
  • In my case, a corset that is not properly made to fit me can end up pressing on a superficial nerve on my hip and causing pain, tingling or numbness in the area (although this doesn’t happen with a custom corset designed to fit me; and other people who don’t have this asymmetry do not seem to have this issue).
  • Wearing a corset regularly (especially in the heat and without a liner underneath) can potentially cause skin problems which can become worse if you don’t treat it properly and take a break from the corset.
  • Some report slight constipation (although another chronically constipated person had reported becoming more regular since the use of corsets; results vary).
  • Other individuals have experienced headaches or acid reflux (although Sarah Chrisman reported reduction in her migraines and reflux, interestingly).
  • I have also legitimately opened my closet door and had a pile of corsets drop on me before.

What are some positive risks or benefits associated with corsetry?

There is an entire section of my website called Corset Benefits that is dedicated to collecting the positive stories and benefits people have experienced since they started using corsets. It’s three pages long; covering physical, mental, emotional, societal and economical factors.

Corsets are not made for everyone, just as certain types of shoes are not made for everyone. If you have certain health conditions (including but not limited to) hypertension, certain types of hernias, or conditions that cause gastrointestinal inflammation (irritable bowel, Crohn’s, colitis, etc), you may find that certain risks outweigh the benefits. This is why I will always say to talk to your doctor if you would like to use a corset for any reason, whether it’s for fun or aesthetic reasons, whether you are waist training, or whether you wear the corset for therapeutic purposes.

Talk to your doctor.

I put that in the largest font WordPress would let me, because it’s extremely important. My family doctor, my chiropractor, and even my dentist all know about my corsets. I have also had my chiropractor take an x-ray of me while wearing one of my corsets. I’ve also had the opportunity to show some of my corsets to a clinical psychologist, a psychotherapist, and several registered nurses to see what they think. Not one of these practitioners have told me to stop wearing corsets. Nevertheless, I still have my health monitored regularly because I want to do this responsibly.

I also invest in custom corsets that fit my body and accommodate my individual quirks (like the nerve that runs over my left hip) so they don’t cause me discomfort. I listen to my body: I put on a corset when I feel like it, and I loosen or remove the corset when I feel like it. There is nothing heroic about pushing yourself further than your body can handle.

So here I am, a corset cheerleader, telling you that wearing corsets does carry some risks. If you tell me that you plan to wear a corset or that you already wear corsets, I trust that you have already done extensive research on corsetry (from multiple sources), that you are aware of corset health risks or side effects of corsets (both good and bad), that you have talked to your trusted practitioner, that you have been given the thumbs up in your health (or that your health conditions merit the therapeutic use of a corset), that you are able to read and respond appropriately to your body’s signals and go about wearing corsets responsibly. If you haven’t, then you are putting the risk of user error into your own hands.

How to Waist Train: Comparing Corset Training Methods

In previous articles, I’ve talked quite a bit about waist training, but I’ve never actually focused on the different methods at length. Just as there is more than one path to physical fitness or other physical goals, there are also different methods of waist training. This article will outline the two most popular waist training methods, and their pros/ cons as I tried them for myself.

(Always check with your doctor before wearing corsets for any reason, and should you decide to take up waist training, remember to have your health monitored throughout your journey.) 

 

Romantasy “Roller Coaster Method”: 

My front-lacing Bezerk cincher - from my very first Youtube video.

In 2010, I went from wearing corsets occasionally to actually waist training. I started with the Roller Coaster Method.

In my very first waist training video, I mentioned that this is the method I started with. The “roller coaster” method was developed by Ann Grogan, president of Romantasy Exquisite Corsetry and waist training advisor for nearly 25 years.

Grogan outlines her roller coaster method of waist training in her manual, Corset Magic (you can watch my overview of the book here) but for those who need more guidance, she also offers personalized waist training plans and full 3-month waist training programs.

The roller coaster method can be a bit strict – it relies on you maintaining a specific waist reduction, for a certain duration of time, for a certain number of days. For instance, let’s say that your natural waist is 30” and you’re wearing the corset at 28 inches (a 2-inch reduction over the corset). You would start just by wearing your corset for a couple of hours each day, until your corset is seasoned.

  • Once you are ready, you can increase your wear by another couple of hours per day (so you’re wearing the corset for 4 hours each day instead of only 2) for several days or a week. Once you feel comfortable with that, you can once again increase your wear for several more hours per day – being mindful to always remain at 28 inches and slowly building up your tolerance for longer durations of time.
  • Once you’re able to wear your corset for over 8 hours or all day at that 28 inch measurement, you can tighten your corset just a little bit, but also drop your hours back down so you’re cinched in tighter, but wearing the corset for a shorter duration of time.
  • Just like before, over the course of days and weeks, you can slowly build up your tolerance for longer hours at that restriction. When you’re ready, tighten your corset just a tiny bit more but then drop your hours down again. Grogan has a sample outline of this method on her website on this page, for you to view freely.

This method of waist training requires you to watch the clock carefully, and to also monitor your reduction daily or multiple times a day, using a tape measure over the corset. If you need a really concrete instructional guide for waist training and you enjoy structure and discipline, you will probably appreciate the Roller Coaster method.

 

Contour Corsets “Cycle Method”: 

My Contour Corset was very close to being perfect - it just needed perhaps 1.5 - 2" more length in the underbust, and tweaking around the hips.

After a few hiatuses, I reached my waist training goal of 20″ in 2013 by using the Cycle Method.

This waist training method was first outlined by Fran Blanche, owner of Contour Corsets. The cycle method is less strict and scheduled compared to the roller coaster method, and is described as more intuitive and ‘zen’ by those who use it.

It takes into consideration the fact that your body is not always stable; it’s in a constant state of flux – your natural waist measurement can change by several inches over the course of a day just from water retention, what you eat, your menstrual cycle (if you have one), your stress levels and more. And these factors can all affect how much you’re able to comfortably lace down on a given day or even a given time of day. Because of this, it may feel more intuitive to lace down more on days and times that you’re able to tolerate this greater restriction, and lace down less on days and times that you need more space.

In other words, if the corset feels too loose, tighten it. If the corset feels too tight, loosen it. And some people may find that they need to loosen or tighten the corset many times throughout the day – there is nothing inherently wrong with this.

Fran says that with consistent wear (even when cycling your pressures), a waist trainer may find that over a long period of time, their ‘average’ waist measurement will reduce, even if it may not feel like it by having to vary the measurements slightly every day.

Here, the exact number of your waist to the half-inch is not as important as your overall comfort level – but the cycle method also somewhat implies that the trainer is wearing the corset for longer hours each day compared to the roller coaster method (which tends to aim for a duration of 2-8 hours a day).

 

How many hours a day is best when it comes to waist training?

This answer is different for everybody. Some people are able to see quick results in a corset with fewer hours put in, and some people have slower results even when wearing their corset all day. Of course, when we’re talking about “results”, not all of us waist train for the same reasons or have the same goals.

But many experienced waist trainers will agree that the length of time that you wear a corset is a bit more important than the actual reduction. If you are able to wear your corset at a 3-4 reduction comfortably all day, this will likely be more comfortable and more productive for your waist training compared to wearing a corset at a 6-7 inch reduction for only 1 hour and having to remove it to recuperate for the next couple of days (this is effectively overlacing). The latter scenario could set you up for discomfort, injury, it may lead to you having to take unwanted time off to regroup – and it also may lead to you associating the corset with pain and negative experiences, which is the exact opposite of what a waist trainer should experience.

Some people aim for wearing their corset for a specific number of hours each day. The Romantasy roller coaster method suggests 8 hours a day, 6 days a week as a good duration to strive for. In order to break my 22-inch plateau, I found I had to corset for about 12 hours a day.

Some people wear their corsets during waking hours (they put on their corsets when they get up in the morning, and take off their corset when getting ready for bed) – which may be in the range of 16 hours a day.

Others may do the opposite and only wear their corset during sleeping hours – they may not wear their corset during the day, but they cinch their waist when getting ready to sleep, and so they unconsciously get 8 hours in per day.

Some very dedicated trainers will wear their corset 23 hours a day – reserving one hour per day for bathing and exercising – often trainers will have to work their way up to this lifestyle over the course of months or years, because jumping into a 23/7 waist training regime can be a drastic change in lifestyle: all the things you did before without your corset, you would have to adjust to doing it with a corset, eliminate activities that are not compatible, or substitute some things that are more compatible. I do not recommend the 23/7 method for beginners, nor do I believe that a 23/7 lifestyle is really necessary for any waist trainer except under extenuating circumstances (like if they are going after the world record).

And it’s worth mentioning that sometimes the results from the 23/7 method are not worth the challenges that come with them. Heidi, aka Straight-Laced Dame/ Corset Athlete, has written a fantastic article which compares your enjoyment/ comfort level while wearing a corset, with the effectiveness of your training – and finding that “sweet spot” where you get your highest return on investment.

 

Which Method of Waist Training is Best?

I can’t tell you which waist training method is best for you, as I said before – we all have different bodies, different schedules and different goals. But myself, having tried both the Romantasy Roller Coaster method and the Contour Corsets Cycle method, I found that the Roller Coaster method gave me what I was looking for in the beginning, when I was still relatively new at corseting – back when I needed technical, straightforward, step-by-step guidance on wearing a corset.

Slowly building up my hours over many weeks and months at a time helped to teach me how my body is supposed to feel during the process of waist training, and how it’s not supposed to feel. I used the roller coaster method to successfully train down the first 5 or so inches of reduction.

Of course (as with most other forms of training!) I eventually reached a plateau. I had a hard time lacing past about 22″ comfortably for long periods of time. I sort of felt myself a failure at that point because I wasn’t advancing with the same speed I was before. Not wanting to risk pain or injury, after some time off and some research, I invested in a number of better fitting corsets and also found myself gravitating more to the Cycle method.

The Cycle method allowed me to be a bit less hard on myself if I didn’t meet a certain goal within a certain time, because I was no longer focusing on time. The method respected the limitations of my body and the signals it was giving me. It felt healthier – like I was allowed to be more gentle with myself, while still presenting enough of a challenge to see progress and advancement if I chose.

And I began enjoying wearing my corset again – it allowed me to take my eyes off the clock, to stop measuring my waist circumference every day, and to just enjoy the feeling of being in a corset – the posture support and the feeling of being hugged, my silhouette under a vintage gown, and the empowerment of wearing a form of armor. This method reminded me to enjoy the journey, as opposed to being unhealthily and impatiently focused on the destination.

In this article I touched on just a few different methods of waist training. I encourage you to do a little of your own research into waist training and to find the one that you find the one that feels most safe and comfortable for you. If you waist train, leave me a comment below and me know which method works best for you, or which methods you’ve tried in the past!

*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 physician. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset.*

WAIST TRAINING RESULTS: How long should it take?

 

Here’s a question I receive nearly every day:

“My natural waist is 30 inches, and I just started waist training. How long will it take to see real results, and obtain a natural 24 inch waist?”

 Of course, the exact wording, the numbers, and the goals all vary slightly from person to person. But I will tell you what I tell all of them – and you will not be happy:

I DON’T KNOW. And unfortunately, neither can anyone else. If someone claims that they CAN give you a specific duration of time that you will achieve your waist training goal, they are flat out lying.

If you look at these Before / After Waist Training examples, you will see that people have achieved all kinds of results, in all different durations. Some saw a marked difference in three months, while others achieved less dramatic results over two years. It’s different for everyone.

WHY is this?

The (semi)permanent results of waist training is dependent on a number of factors, including your body’s current state and your genetic pre-disposition, the quality of your corset and its compatibility with your body, and the way you train in your corset. Let’s break those down in further detail:

 

Factor #1: Your body type and current body stats

Abdominal body fat can be subcutaneous or visceral - and they affect your corset training differently.

Abdominal body fat can be subcutaneous or visceral – and they affect your corset training differently.

Your Body Fat

  • Adipose tissue can immediately compress down a lot more than muscle in a corset, but it also bounces back when you remove the corset. Some with a high body fat % are able to cinch down 10 inches in the waist, while someone with very low body fat may only be able to cinch down 2-3 inches.
  • Weight distribution also plays a role. Do you tend to carry more weight in your belly, or do you carry more weight on your hips and thighs? If you do carry weight in your belly, do you have a lot of visceral fat or subcutaneous fat? Subcutaneous fat sits under the skin but above the muscle, and makes your skin soft and malleable. Visceral fat is the more ‘dangerous’ fat that sits under your abdominal muscle, between your organs. Someone with more subcutaneous fat (even over their tummy) will probably have an easier time lacing down than someone with visceral body fat.

Your Muscle Tone

  • Very toned, dense muscles may be more difficult to cinch down compared to less toned muscles, BUT if you time your workouts well, you can actually use your resistance exercise regimen to your advantage in waist training to change the morphology of your oblique muscles and have them almost “grow” into the hourglass shape encouraged by the corset. Also, once you get to higher reductions, you have to “stretch” those side muscles, and also the tendons and ligaments. Some people’s bodies seem to more readily accommodate to this than other people’s bodies.

 Your Skeletal Frame

  • Do you have wider ribcage or smaller ribcage? Are your ribs flexible and are you able to accommodate corsets with a conical ribcage easily, or is your ribcage very inflexible and difficult to move? Those who are easily able to train their ribs are likely to see faster waist training results than those whose ribs are very rigid. My article on the corset’s effect on the skeleton goes into more detail about this.

Your Age

  • More mature waist trainers have bones that are not only less dense, but less malleable compared to younger trainers. For more information on how age can affect your corseting, see my article on waist training and age restrictions.

 Your Organs

  • When you look at human anatomy in a textbook, you’re seeing a general “average” of the size and orientation of organs. But not everyone’s organs look like that! Some people have larger organs, some have smaller organs. Even the position and orientation of organs can very slightly differ between individuals, and that small variation might make a huge difference in how well your body can accommodate the restriction of a corset. For further information, see my article on corsets and organs.

Your Water Retention

  • What’s your water content like? If you are often bloated or have water retention, either due to your lifestyle or because of a medical condition, you not only won’t be able to lace down as much or as readily, but you have more of that “temporary squish” to you as opposed to contributing to that “long term training”.

Whether You’ve Been Pregnant Before

  • Have you had a baby before or not? While this point is a bit more anecdotal, it seems that mothers are (on average) able to lace down more readily/ more comfortably/ to higher reductions compared to nulliparous women. Maybe this has to do with the fact that the baby had moved around a woman’s organs (especially in the final trimester), or the relaxin in your system during pregnancy had stretched out some tendons and ligaments already, or the woman was already accustomed to the feeling of restriction or breathing higher up in the chest, so she may be psychologically more comfortable with the feeling of being corseted. Read more about corsets after childbirth.

 

Factor #2: Your Corset

This corset has a conical ribcage, and will be more effective at training the ribcage.

This corset has a conical ribcage, and will be more effective at training the ribcage compared to a rounded ribcage.

Proper Fit

  • Is your corset comfortable? Does your corset fit you properly: when you lace down, does it reduce only the waist, and is it lying flat and gently supporting your upper ribcage and your hip area? Is your corset gap straight or uneven? Or is the corset overall not curvy enough: and is it giving you muffin top, pinching your hips or causing any lower tummy pooch to spill out underneath? A well-fitting corset is not only more effective at shaping, but it’s also much more comfortable, so you’ll be encouraged to wear it longer and more often.

 Strength

  • Is the corset strong? Does it hold up to the tension without buckling? Are the seams securely stitched? Are the bones creating a proper scaffold and not digging into your body? Are the grommets holding in? Having to put your training on hold – not because you want to, but because your corset breaks every 2 months and you have to replace it – is not cost effective and it’s not time-effective. If you’re in this for the long haul, invest in something strong and custom. See my article on Waist Training vs Tight Lacing, which also covers different requirements of a suitable corset for each.

Silhouette

  • Is the corset the right silhouette to do the right job? If you want to train your ribcage, you might need a conical ribcage corset, which gradually tapers down and increases the pressure on the lower ribcage. A corset with a mild silhouette or with a corset with a rounded ribcage will give you a different effect. Be sure that the corset you are using is designed to do for you what you want. You can’t force a round peg through a square hole and expect a triangle to come out.

 

Factor #3: Your Lifestyle Habits and Training Methods

I demonstrate a bicycle crunch, one of the staples of my daily core workout.

I demonstrate a bicycle crunch, one of the staples of my daily core workout.

 Supplementary Exercise

  • Are you exercising alongside your waist training? Adding or increasing core resistance training can help you see results faster by encouraging your muscles to “heal” in a certain way. Even if you have no intention of losing weight (you only use a corset to see a change in your silhouette), exercise is still important! If you don’t add some core resistance training, your torso may see some shaping from the corset, but it may be squishy and complacent, and not hold that hourglass shape as well as if you were combining it with resistance training.

 Eating

  • Are you eating clean? Are you getting enough fiber so that you stay regular when corseting? Are you avoiding foods that you know can cause bloating or discomfort in your corset? Are you having regular small balanced meals, or are you the type to fast and then feast? Corseting over a large meal can be uncomfortable and difficult, and the quality of that meal also counts. You don’t necessarily need a specific diet for waist training, but eating sensibly goes a long way.

Drinking

  • Are you staying hydrated? Are you getting a lot of clean water or tea? Are you keeping your electrolytes balanced (this ties in with water retention). Are you watching your blood pressure (which relates to your blood volume)? Do you take in a lot of caffeine or other diuretics, and are you making sure that your water intake balances that out?

Duration of your corset wear (and reduction)

  • To get the best results in a corset, you have to use it. What method of waist training are you using? There is Romantasy’s “Roller Coaster” method, and there is the Contour Corsets “Cycle” Method (see the differences between the two waist training methods). Some people use a combination of both, or they may try a different method altogether. Some people consider waist training as wearing their corset only 8 hours a day while they’re out working. Others waist train by only wearing a corset to bed at night. Some people wear their corsets 12 or 16 hours a day, and a few very dedicated ones wear their corset 23 hours a day.
  • The body responds best to consistency – for reasons I’ll explain in an upcoming article, you’ll probably see more results (and more comfortably!) if you wear a corset at a light or moderate reduction for long hours, as opposed to tightlacing or overlacing your corset for an hour and then not wearing it again for a few days.

Let’s use an infomercial exercise program as a metaphor for waist training expectations. Many exercise programs say that you CAN lose UP TO 20 lbs per month (as an example), but read the small print and you find that these results are not typical. Many of these programs are also backed up with a guarantee that with proper compliance to the program, you will see some kind of result (often within 60 or 90 days) or your money back.

But you will notice that they do not guarantee a certain number of inches lost, because people have different bodies, different fitness levels, different levels of compliance. It’s the same with a waist training program.

Ann Grogan (of Romantasy) offers the only corset training program I currently know of – in her some 25 years of working with waist trainers and 14 years officially coaching, she is able to confidently say that with her 3-month waist training program, you’re likely to see some noticable results in your natural waist with proper compliance to the program (the program covers a lot of factors: the type of corset you’re using, the reduction, the hours, the foods you eat, the exercises you do, etc). But since each program is personalized based on goals, each person’s compliance is different and each person’s body accommodates their corset differently, it’s still very difficult to precisely predict how many inches you’ll lose, or how fast.

What I have found is the highest indicator of success is whether you actually enjoy wearing your corset and find it completely comfortable. If you practice patience, and wear your corset consistently (and ironically, not be overly attached to your end goal), you are likely to see more results over time than someone who is less patient and is only corseting for the end result. But I will cover that in another article soon.

Do you currently waist train, or did you train in the past? How long did it take you to see results? Let me know in a comment below!

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!

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!

Where to buy Conical Corsets for Training the Ribs

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.

Christian Dior’s “New Look” (1947) required a tight wasp waist with a preferably conical ribcage.

Rather than an hourglass silhouette, some people prefer their corsets to give them a more conical, tapered ribcage like what was so popular around the 1950’s New Look era. A human’s floating ribs (the 11th and 12th ribs) often have flexible joints, and they’re designed to swing in and out like a hinge with each breath you take. It is also possible for some individuals to train their ribs to be pushed inward, so they have a slightly tapered ribcage with or without the corset on.  There are arguably over 100 different makers who can cater to the conical ribcage to give that 50’s “wasp waist” look, but I will just show some of my personal favourites, and some particularly impressive corsets that I’ve found to give this shape.

As mentioned before, different ‘schools’ of corsetry have different definitions for silhouettes. I was first introduced to this style as the “wasp waist” silhouette, as rib shaping is often more demanding to wear compared to more rounded hourglass silhouettes. Others may call this the conical silhouette, or the ice-cream cone silhouette – so when purchasing a corset, do clarify what kind of silhouette you’re looking for.

Read the rest of this entry »

Setting waist training goals – focusing on proportion

Back in 2010, I made a two-part video mini-series on waist training 101 – the basics that you should know before you start any corset training regimen. The very first thing I mentioned in those videos were setting goals for yourself – what waist size would you like to have, and why? Sometimes a beginner will tell me, “I want to have a 24 inch waist.” Well, do you want that to be your corseted measurement, or your natural measurement? One takes much more work than the other. (I had mentioned in a previous video that if you want a natural 24″ waist, you may have to lace down to 20″ or even less in the corset to be able to maintain that natural waist measurement.)

I also know women who have started out close to a 34″ waist, and want to be able to close an 18″ corset. While that’s certainly aiming for the stars and I don’t want to shoot down your dreams, it will likely take you several years and several corsets to properly train down to that point. Also, have you considered what an 18″ waist would like like on your frame? An 18″ waist may look out of place if you are 5’10” and 180 lbs. But for a petite woman who is 4’11” tall and weighs perhaps 100 lbs, an 18″ waist may not look out of place at all on this  woman. Instead of focusing on arbitrary numbers for your waist training goals, perhaps you should consider proportion instead as a way to determine your ultimate corseted goal. Below you’ll see a few examples (or you can just watch the video above to learn the same ratios):

Method A: The waist circumference = 0.7 x (hip circumference)

 

Excellent example of where to measure your waist and full hip to determine your ratio. Picture from HealthCentral.com

This equation has been touted by doctors and athletes for years as being the modern accepted “healthy” and “attractive” waist-to-hip proportion. Women with a natural waist below 0.7x(hip circumference) often have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, as it’s often a marker of carrying less visceral fat (the fat that physically chokes the organs in the peritoneal cavity, and is also metabolically more active than subcutaneous fat, releasing hormones that can lead to metabolic abnormalities). If a woman with a 40″ hip circumference were to calculate her goal waist based on this equation, then her goal waist circumference would be 0.7 *(40 inches) = 28 inches.

Method B: The waist circumference = your thigh circumference

Whether this goal is reasonable/ attainable often depends on your body shape. I have seen many pear-shaped women with shapely thighs (likely between 25-30 inches in circumference) because they gain their weight in their hips, thighs and bottom, often leaving the waist naturally small. In this situation, this method may be quite attainable. However if you are naturally an apple shape and you have a tendency to gain around your middle, while having thin legs and thighs (close to 16-20″ in circumference), this may not be the best goal for you.

Method C: The width of your hips = 1.618 x (your waist width)

This is likely the oldest equation. It’s based on phi, (aka the Golden Mean, formed from the Fibonacci sequence) and it is the ratio/ proportion that animals and humans alike are able to innately detect. This proportion is seen everywhere from the crest of waves and the form of a spiral galaxy, to the seeds in a sunflower and the honeycombs of bees. The closer that a person’s proportions adhere to the Golden Mean, the more attractive they appear and the healthier they seem to be overall. When it comes to setting your goals in this manner, you will need a stiff measuring tape, ruler or pair of calipers, and a mirror or someone to take your picture because this proportion is based on the planar measurement (the width of your hips while facing head-on) rather than the circumference. A woman whose hips are 14 inches wide will calculate their waist width as such:

Waist width = (14 inches)/ 1.618 = 8.7 inches.

With corsets, many of them pull the sides of the waist in primarily, bringing the waist in from an “oblong” shape more towards a proper circle. If you imagine that the waist is a perfect circle, then the width of the waist is also the diameter. From this, you can calculate your goal waist circumference if you wish = (8.7 inches)x 3.14 = 27 inches.

 In this situation, the waist measurement for methods A and C are actually pretty similar, but on you it may not be – method C would depend on how much of your hip circumference is distributed from side-to-side (i.e. hips or “saddlebags”), vs distributed front to back (in a full low-hanging tummy or a protruding bottom).

If you don’t like to crunch numbers, then you can simply invest in a “Fibonacci Gauge” or Golden Mean calipers, which are made with 3 “prongs” – no matter how wide or narrow you hold the calipers, the width of the larger gap in the prongs will always = (width of the smaller gap in the prongs x 1.618) so you will always be able to measure and mark out the Golden Mean. On any given day, no matter what your weight, you can use these calipers to mark out the width of your hips, and then compare that to the width of your waist using strictly proportion, but without having to focus on numbers. I personally love numbers, which is why I find the study of phi so fascinating, but I understand it’s not everyone’s thing. This Ebay store has the least expensive calipers I have found – I’ve already purchased 3 and given two to my friends. Do support a phi carpenter if you can.

So you can see, there are many ways that you can set waist training goals for yourself, using your own body’s shape and frame as a reference rather than using arbitrary numbers (which may or may not be realistic for you). It’s using what you already have to an advantage so you can know on a mathematical (and also a natural, almost subconscious) level, whether your waist is truly in proper balance and proportion with the rest of your body. You can also watch my video on waist-hip proportions and using the calipers in the video below.

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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