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Measuring your Internal (true) Corseted Waist

This article is a transcript of the video “How to Determine Your Internal Waist Measurement” on Youtube. You are free to watch that video (which shows a demonstration of the process):

Have you ever had a situation where you purchased an OTR corset of a specific size, say 24″ waist – but when you closed the corset completely in the back, you realized that your waist measures more like 25-26″ on the outside? Why do you suppose this is? Shouldn’t a size 24″ corset give you a final external circumference of 24 inches around the waist?

There are several reasons why the corset may be larger than its stated size: the corset materials may have stretched slightly over time (all fibers have a certain amount of stretch), the corset may have been mislabeled, but more than likely the corset itself is true to size on the inside, and it’s the bulk of the bones and fabric itself which is causing the larger external measurement.

How are Corset Sizes Determined?

The waist of a corset starts with the pattern drafted. A pattern is a 2 dimensional representation of the corset panels on paper, which you cut out and use to trace the fabric. If you were to measure the width of each pattern piece at the waistline of the corset pattern of this Morgana Femme Couture corset, you’ll see it has a total circumference of 22″ (11 inches on each side).
This means that the corset when laid out flat (and not taut around the body) determines the size at the waist.

If you purchase a new corset, lay it out flat and measure it at the level of the waist tape – it should reflect the size of the corset. If you have a well-used corset that measures larger than the tag size even when laid flat; this means the corset has stretched over time.

So why would a corset on the body be bigger than 22 inches on the outside?

The corset itself takes up bulk and volume. All matter will take up space. Even in a corset with both the fashion side and the lining side being 22 inches, the outside of the corset will have to stretch a little to account for the bulk on the inside. Some corsetieres will roll-pin, use turn-of-cloth, to make the outside of the corset a little larger so that it doesn’t stretch or cause wrinkles. I have a separate video explaining the science behind that.

How to find your internal waist measurement while corseted

To determine how to find the internal waist measurement or the true restriction on your waist, first wrap a flexible tape measure around your waist at the smallest point. (It helps to wear a slippery shirt for this as you will be adjusting it as we go along.) Hold the tape in place as you wrap the corset around your body and slip the measuring tape through the slit between the busk, then start tying up your corset.

*Please note that this method only works if you have a busk or front lacing in the front of your corset. If your corset has a closed front, a zipper, a stiffened modesty placket under the busk etc, then you will have to position the ends of the tape toward the back and have a friend read it for you (or take a picture).

As you’re tightening your corset, stop periodically to make sure that the tape measure is still positioned in the proper place at the smallest part of your waist, and that it’s not twisting or bunching up under the corset. Keep tightening little by little and pull the tape measure so it remains smooth. (This is where the slippery shirt or liner comes in handy.)

Once you have your corset closed  (or tightened to comfort), adjust the measuring tape so you can read it – don’t pull too hard otherwise you may change the reading, but move the tape to the side so the difference can be taken. You’ll see in the video that my 22″ corset has an internal reading of 22.25 inches, with a tiny gap at the back. When I measure the outside of my corset, it reads 23.5 inches which means the bulk of the corset itself adds about 1.25 inches to the circumference of my waist.

A way to calculate the bulk of a corset

There is a way to estimate the external vs internal circumferences of one’s waist  (thanks to Lexa, to Albert of Staylace, and to 1sdburns for pointing this out) – if you imagine that a corset is 5mm thick on average, this means that when the corset is wrapped around you, it adds about 5mm to the radius of your waist (from the center out to the edge), or 10mm to the diameter (from the outside of the corset on one side of your waist, to the outside of the corset on the other side). If you use the equation for relating radius to circumference:

5mm* 2(pi) = 31.4mm (which converts to about 1.24 inches)!

This method of calculating the thickness of a corset will be more accurate if you have a corset with sandwiched boning channels and a very regular thickness all around – if you have a corset with lots of external boning channels with areas of “thinner” corset in other places, this method may not be perfect.

What if you need a specific external waist measurement?

Experienced corsetieres will have an idea of how thick their corsets typically are, and so if you have a situation where you need a specific external corseted measurement (say you need to fit into a vintage dress that is no larger than 24″ in the waist) then the corsetiere may be able to create a corset that gives you that external measurement, drafting the internal measurement slightly smaller.

If you plan on buying an OTR corset to fit into that dress, then I would advise buying one size smaller than you think you need – so purchase a corset with a 22″ waist to go under that 24″ dress – but be sure that the ribcage and hips of the corset will be large enough to accommodate your natural measurements in those areas so you don’t experience pinching or discomfort.

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Enjoying the Corseting Journey and Adjusting Goals

This article is a summary of the video “Corset for YOURSELF: You must ENJOY the Process (+Screw the Naysayers)”. If you would like more complete information feel free to watch the video, available on Youtube here:

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Enjoying the Journey of Corseting

“How long will it take me to reach my goal waist, and can I stop corset training once I reach that goal?”

This is a question I receive with disturbing regularity. When I made my previous video, “Permanent Waist Reduction“, I said that once you reach your goal you have to maintain your new small waist by corseting occasionally. This isn’t unique to corsetry. If you go on a diet and lose weight, you still have to eat well and do maintenance exercise to keep your body at that goal weight. If you want to run a marathon, you have to train yourself up to that level – but once you can run one marathon, there’s no guarantee that you can continue to run marathons for the rest of your life if you never practice your running again. Usually, runners run because they enjoy it. Corseters wear corsets because they also enjoy it.

That is why I say that if you really hate the thought of putting on your corset each day, then waist training is probably not for you. This may sound harsh, but if you are honest with yourself about this, it can save you from wasted time, money, effort and tears.

If this is your case, try to think of why you don’t like wearing your corset:

  • Is your corset low quality? Do the bones poke at you; does it pinch your hips or “crush” your chest?
  • Are you trying to reduce your waist too small, and too quickly?
  • Do you generally have claustrophobia? Do you have a problem with having your mobility hindered, even just a little bit?

There are solution to all of these problems, IF you would like to continue corset training. In the first situation, you require a better quality corset, preferably custom fit. This can solve a multitude of issues, and transform your corseting experience from one of fidgeting in pain, to one of a pleasant and supportive hug.

In the second situation, this is obviously user error and you will enjoy wearing a corset much more if you simply slow down, practice some patience and go at a pace that allows your body to respond to the corset instead of resisting it.

In the third situation, you may find it useful to start with a much smaller cincher like the WKD Baby corset, or even start with a wide belt to get you used to having pressure on your waist before you move onto a full corset. There are also front-lacing corsets that you can use if your issue is not being able to reach the laces behind you. There are flexible sport-mesh corsets which allow more mobility than ones made from traditional coutil.

Again, this is only IF you would still like to try waist training again, even after your negative experience with it. Many people decide that corsets are not for them and give them up entirely – that doesn’t necessarily reflect a failure; it only shows that this world would not be so wonderful if we all liked the same thing. But before you say “never again”, do reflect a bit and ask yourself why.

When you enjoy the journey, the process of corset training simply for the sake of wearing a corset, then you find you’re able to wear the corset more often and for more hours each time – which will result in optimal progress toward your waist training goals. You also become less discouraged by fallbacks.

As a comparison – when you’re hiking, it’s a much more enjoyable experience to take your time and enjoy all the various views, learn about all the flora and fauna, and maybe sit by the creek and enjoy a picnic on your way to the top of the hill. Even if you don’t reach the top of the hill (your goals), you will have at least enjoyed your experience and made positive memories, compared to the person who tried to keep their head down and run to the top of the hill, instead twisting their ankle halfway up and never having enjoyed the process from the beginning.

For a more applicable example: when I was sick with a respiratory infection for 1.5 months, I could not corset at all for that time, as I needed my lower ribcage free to clear my airways when I cough. During that 1.5 months, I lost about 2 inches of progress in my corseting. I used to be able to cinch below 23″ and at this time I can only corset to a little under 25″. But I am fine with this. I corset because I like the “hug” of it, and it makes me feel good about myself regardless of a two inch difference. When I couldn’t corset, it was the feeling of it that I missed, more than the figure-shaping aspect itself.

It is also important to figure out a corseting schedule that fits your daily life. If you like to sleep in your corset, then go ahead and sleep in your corset! I personally don’t like to wear a corset to bed, so I don’t. Would I get more progress in waist reduction if I did sleep in a corset? Most likely, yes. However I didn’t need to do this in the past, so I don’t feel that I need to do this now. If you don’t enjoy wearing a corset at any time, don’t wear it. Simple as that. Taking a day off from corseting or not sleeping in your corset does not make you lazy, weak-willed or undisciplined. Remember that we’re talking about an article of clothing and it’s not the end of the world.

Goals:

While it is always good to set goals for ourselves, remember to be a) patient and b) realistic in these goals. If you are starting with a 40″ waist, it is not realistic to set a goal to achieve an 18″ waist within 6 months. You are not in a race with anyone, and you MUST take into consideration your body’s limits. I would not personally recommend reducing your waist more than one inch per month, and once you get to a certain reduction you may find that you are only able to cinch 1/2″ or 1/4″ per month.

You may also find that your goals change over time. About 18 months ago I mentioned that my goal waist was 20 inches, corseted. These days I think that a 20″ waist would be “nice to have” but it is not something I am fixated on. If my body is unable to ever achieve a 20″ waist, I wouldn’t be devastated and I wouldn’t stop corseting out of dejection. I simply love corseting for the sake of it. (Update April 2013: I did achieve the coveted 20″ waist, with the help of my Contour Corset and Puimond underbust – and once I did, I decided that I actually preferred how I look at 22″! Such is life).

Now I do realize that many people seem to think that corseting is a social activity, but I feel the need to remind some that it is not. Corseting and waist training is in fact a very personal activity – only the individual corseter really knows how it feels to be in their body, in that particular corset, at that particular time. If you feel at home wearing a corset and you come across someone who is trying to convince you that it must be the most excruciating thing in the world, simply dismiss that person. Conversely, if you feel that you only want to (or are only able to) corset to a certain size, and you come across someone who tries to bully you into cinching to a smaller size, avoid that person too. You are responsible for your own body, and when it really gets down to it, only you can truly control your laces.

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Corsets and Sleep

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

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

WHY WEAR A CORSET TO BED?

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

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

GENERAL NOTES ON SLEEPING IN A CORSET

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

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

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

BACK SLEEPERS

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

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

SIDE SLEEPERS

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

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

TUMMY SLEEPERS

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

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

 

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