I’m not sure. I think it’s cultural construct that gets in the way of people appreciating the silliness and truth in their humanity.
That’s why I made a shamelessly hungover, instructional vlog, demonstrating one of our simple, industry tips on corset care. Yet again I humble myself on the internet: for you. You’re welcome. And when better to demonstrate this particular corset care tip than after a ruckus night out?
…I probably could have done this better. Oh well, here goes:
For those of you who like contextual stories, read on (if not, skip to end).
There was once a girl in a stupid American Apparel dress. One day, she donned a corset an turned into a princess (kind of).
The princess wished very much to dance and be entertained, so she traveled to a far away land called Oakland, where the most zef minstrels in all of the world’s kingdoms were blowing fucking minds.
She danced and danced the night away, stomping around and having a blast at this strange festival of the celebration of large booty and …rats.
When the night was over and she had returned to her own dominion (studio apartment) she was very tired and extremely sweaty.
Her clothes smelled of all the wonders the Oakland had to offer, and so, the next day — though the princess had turned back into a normal, scrappy lady — she had to freshen her corset. Because adults take care of their nice things.
Caring for a sweaty, smelly, or even stained corset is easier than one might imagine. A simple brew of vodka and water (no, a cocktail spilled on you doesn’t count) will do wonders to freshen your garment and remove odor when dry cleaning is inconvenient. Watch the following video for details on how-to.
The underbust corset featured in this tale of an evening and it’s aftercare is Dark Garden’s black poplin corselette — of which I am a big fan. On long torso’d folk like myself, it acts like a wide waist belt: perfect to throw over any dress, jumpsuit, or pant/shirt outfit to amazing wasp-waist silhouette effects. Its smaller dimensions make it a great option for those with a shorter torso as well, for whom most underbust corsets are too long.
Simple tips like these can lengthen the life of your corset and make the experience of wearing them (for you and those smelling you) much more enjoyable. For more intensive (and sober) corset cleaning tips, refer to this article, written by Dark Garden pattern associate and stitcher, as well as very coherent corset blogger, Marianne. More for your bag of corset tricks — and happy (clean) corsetting!
Think you need a dresser, like the spoiled ladies of the yesteryear, to get in and out of a corset? I hear this sentiment repeated day after day, but let me tell you: it ain’t true!
Some of y’all just have to see it to believe it, so allow me to humble myself in front of a laptop camera for your benefit. Here is a detailed and very dorky tutorial rife with info and style tips on getting in and out of your corset.
It does take practice. I recommend practicing when you have no where to be, and no one waiting for you in the next room. Cozy up to a mirror, put on some music, treat your self to a delicious snack or some bubbly, and spend some time getting to know your corset. Lace in, lace out. Lace in, lace out. After about 10 times succession, you’ll be getting somewhere.
If performing fine motor activity behind your back is confounding you, it can help to put your corset on a pillow on your lap, so that you can practice lacing up facing it directly. If you can visualize what you are doing behind your back, it makes a world of difference, especially if it’s difficult for you to see over your shoulder in a mirror.
0:41 – About my corset, pants, and back panel
1:54 – Putting on the corset: closing the busk, assessing corset placement, finding the finger pulls, and lacing in (and when to stop)
7:53 – Tying off, tucking in
9:17 – Speed lacing
11:04 – Getting out of your corset
12:36 – Why it is important to loosen the laces every time
13:21 – Lacing in with a free standing back panel (modesty panel)
1. Don’t be competitive — with yourself or with others. Nobody likes a self righteous jerk, especially when it comes to body issues, and if you make yourself your worst enemy, then who will be left? Don’t focus too much on always besting previous measurements or you’ll drive yourself insane with angst. Remember that the body has natural cycles!
2. Take it easy — slow and steady integration of the corset into your lifestyle will make it more likely to be a long term fixture, as opposed to a temporary obsession. Easing into tight lacing slowly will be much better for the lifeline of the garment as well.
In the beginning of your training, wear the corset for a couple hours, not very tight, and increase gradually from there. Think to yourself: I have all the time in the world. The body accepts change much more gracefully when it’s relaxed, so stressing overlacing in the beginning will only do more harm than good — to both your body and the garment.
3. Take it off — I understand that there are people out there who love their corsets so much, they never want to part with them, even to sleep, but there are at least two daily occasions in which you absolutely must remove your corset: to shower, and to exercise. Yes, if one wears a corset everyday, think about it: it creates a midsection encased and supported in steel. Conditioning the core muscle group is necessary, lest it begin to atrophy over time. Though her extreme figure is lovely, I wouldn’t want to wind up as frail as this young lady, would you?
4. Be patient. Everybody’s different, and every body is different. Progress of reshaping the body with waist training is highly dependent on: core density of the individual, distance between the top of the pelvic bone and the rib cage, flexibility of the cartilage, quality and shape of the garments used, and consistency of wear. However, one might expect to train for six months before noticing any difference without a corset, in many cases more. Be patient with yourself and realize that non-surgical body modifications are a serious time commitment. Ask yourself: am I in it for the long-haul?
5. Prepare for attention. Whether you wear it loud and proud or layer it under clothes in a manner you think is stealth, it’s likely that at some point, you will be approached and point blank confronted about your corset. Sometimes friendly, sometimes sleazy, sometimes envious, and sometimes indignant — I’m sure I have not yet heard it all. My advice is to put your best foot forward and show ’em what a real lady is like. To me, that is curt, polite, and no nonsense.
A question to prepare for is: “Why do you wear a corset?” Whether you choose to answer the inquirer is your choice, but it’s an answer to a commonly asked question worth articulating in your mind, anyway.
6. Be discerning. The corset creates proportions and curves which awaken certain… instinctual desires in some. If you work in a professional environment, be careful to protect yourself against untoward advances, and be sure to make it clear when they are unwanted. Refresh yourself on harassment policies and collect evidence when you can. Harassment is terrible to bear, but difficult to prove.
7. Vodka water. A great way to freshen up your garments without investing the time and money in dry cleaning is to give them a quick mist with vodka-water (50/50) in a spray bottle! I wouldn’t recommend wetting silk, but cotton, or cotton-poly lining responds wonderfully to this treatment. Great for ridding of body odor, deodorant stains, or sweatiness. Make sure to let air dry completely (hang over a chair or a shower curtain rod, for example) before wearing or storing.
If your corset is leather, Lexol is a good brand of leather conditioner.
8. Invest in quality garments. As I mentioned earlier, one’s progress is in part determined by the quality, fit, and curvature of the corset applied. Corsets shaped like flared tubes: ) ( will only make one look tubular and not closer to attaining the coveted hourglass figure. Search for a well constructed under bust garment that fits well –in that it applies pressure evenly over the entirety of the torso, as opposed to rubbing or flaring at the ribs or the hips — that nips in at the waist. The goal of waist training is waist reduction, after all.
9. Develop a corset wardrobe. As Sparklewren put it on an Etsy listing: all regular-wear items sustain wear-and-tear eventually. In the Victorian era, if a corset lasted a year this was considered a wonderful selling point. Treat your corset well, and understand that as an item of use it will not remain pristine forever.
True fact. While we wish for our lovely investments to last forever, the simple fact is that a garment is simply a mere network of fibers, and under constant stress, can’t. However, we can extend the lifeline of our corsets by giving those networks of fibers and seams a break by alternating wear.
If you sleep in your corset, its a good practice to have a sleeper corset in a larger, broken in size (your first corset, perhaps). If you are primarily a day-wearer, having a variety of sizes, styles, and waist curves is a great way to extend the life of your garments and always have something you want to wear.
A corset wardrobe is something you can build over time. You don’t have to collect them all at once — though it’s difficult for some of us to restrain ourselves…
10. Enjoy the ride. Corset training truly is about the love of the journey. Remember above all else to listen to your body, have fun, and be good to yourself!
Fashion corsets are like Vampires: they are among us.
Often concealing their identity, fashion corsets keep their evil secrets of sweat shop origin and very limited functionality in the shadows and yes, they will suck you dry.
After futzing around with poorly made garments, having invested significant cash, a person may begin to think to themself: perhaps corsetry isn’t for me. Perhaps there is no answer to my issue, no holy grail at the end of my epic quest for fashion, support, and relief…
Be not swayed by these charming imposters, for they merely promise to be something they are not — the real deal is out there, and its addition to your wardrobe can be a total game changer.
Last night I was watching popular reality TV show Double Divas. I love that show, because it’s all the fun parts of being at work (you know, lingerie, boobs, interesting people) only I get to drink a bottle of wine while enjoying it. Also, it’s in the South, which is basically a parallel universe to a Californian. All of this, plus the antics of harmlessly insane middle aged boob-experts makes it a fun watch.
But last night they said a thing or two on a subject that I a happen to be an expert. And I have a thing or two to say back: never wear fashion corsets for back support.
In season 2, episode 2, they meet a professional horse racer lady (her official title, I’m sure. Right there on her business cards) who needed bra help. They did their altruistic duty of making a big sale on national television, and further suggested a customized waist cincher for back support while she is riding.
This actually is a great suggestion. In the 19th century, officers in The Cavalry would wear corsets for back support while horseback riding. A well patterned and constructed steel boned corset can be a suitable replacement for a back brace (under advisement from your physician, of course). During a high impact activity such as horseback riding, extra support can be beneficial to the spine and also help prevent immediate and long term back pain.
HOWEVER, what the divas came up with was not a proper cincher that should ever be expected to perform any sort of supportive or shaping duties. It was an elusively imposterous fashion corset.
This particular “corset” was made with what looks to be elasticized fabric, plastic boning, with hook and eye closures. For the layman: No strength, no shape, and no support.
Based on this, I speculate that their qualifications for knighting a garment a “corset” is that it sits on a belly and laces up the back. *shivers*
Does this look like back support to you?
Which silhouette would you prefer to rock, for equestrian purposes or otherwise?
Now you can see the folly of “fashion corsets”!
A corset that can be sucessfully applied for shape wear, waist training, back support, or erotic restriction will, by its very nature of functionality, have the following qualities:
– Non elastic fabrics (cotton-poly, silk, or leather, for example)
– Steel boning (which allows the garment its supportive architecture)
–A busk (steel “buttons” in the front: the strongest closure.) *in some cases a corset will have a flat front with no closure*
– A well-made pattern, curvaceously shaped to accomodate the bones and organs of a real human body …only dress forms are shaped like this ) (
That’s not to say that these fine garments can’t be fashionable, the distinction is that fashion is not their only purpose for being.
Anyway, I hope none of you watched Double Divas and then ran out to Victoria’s Secret to get your new super supportive back brace. Have fun with your clothes and be safe: I would hate to hear another horror story of poorly made corsets injuring fine folk due to false promises!
There is a lot of misinformation out there on the interwebs about spiral steels, so please allow me to clear the air: while a fantastic option in certain circumstances, they are not objectively better than flat steels.
Spiral steels are named such because they are literally comprised of tiny flattened spirals, as opposed to flat steels: a solid piece of steel. Spiral steels are very flexible, making them an excellent choice for fashionable burlesque dancers, trapeze artists, contortionists, and other performers for whom range of mobility is of upmost importance.
While the flexibility of spiral steels is a boon, the fact that they can’t support the form in the same way flats do is a bust. I have corsets for daily wear made with both and frankly, sometimes I prefer the structure and support of the flat steels. However, the spiral steels are more forgiving on my ribs as I drive on long commutes. There are definitely reasons to have both varieties in your corset wardrobe, but the fact that some corsetiers are purporting that one is infinitely better than the other for all occasions is absurd.
Unless you are a tiny acrobat person, spiral steels may not be for you. Corset size 26″ and up would need extra bones put in if they wanted spiral steels, simply due to the fact that the ultra bendy bones would eventually flare out of shape unless they had some back-up (it’s not you, darling. You are perfect the way you are. It’s the bones).
Another hazard is that the spirals get kinks in them all too easily. Bend over to tie your shoe too quickly? Pick up a lucky penny too excitedly? You’re fucked. Terror strikes in my heart whenever I carefully lean over in my spiral steeled corset for this reason.
I love my spiral steel corset! But it was definitely a considered choice when I had it made for me. So don’t get scooped up in the verbiage some corsetiers will feed you about the all-reaching superiority of spiral steels that they use exclusively in their fashions. Variety and options are better, right?
At least that’s what my love said last night in amazement after I took off my corset. “Your stomach looks incredible,” he added. He’s always loved my ever-increasingly curvaceous form, but this flat belly thing is an added benefit. It’s true, some ladies wear corsets after giving birth so that their tummy muscles will stitch back together nice and flat — and some women I see in the shop bemoan that they wish they had. It’s the opposite result of tight, low-rise jeans that give that pouchy muffin-top belly: the clothes you wear habitually will shape your body.
I don’t work out.
The most exercise I get is power-walking up San Francisco hills to my car (bad city parking makes for good glutes) and maintaining balance in heels on long evenings out. My liver is probably completely comprised of fat and scar tissue because I drink far too much (according to doctors, pfffft) and seeing as The Fatted Calf Charcuterie is right around the corner from Dark Garden, my diet is rich in rich delicacies such as rillettes and truffled cheeses — between the exquisite food and the handsome yet sensitive butchers breaking down whole animals right before my eyes with artful mercilessness, the total visceral package is too much to forgo. #viscerallunch
I really should work out.
Sure, exercise is good for the general population of humans, but even more so for waist trainers. Because a corset is a posture device, it holds you up and therefore it’s essential to get some exercise out of your corset for the preservation of your core muscle group. Jogging, swimming, and hiking are good: whole body exercises that activate all of the core muscles (and not just part of them, like sit ups). Pilates, yoga, whatever works for you! A few to several times a week is ideal.
So, maybe I’ll think twice before ordering a large Belgian fry and a beer, thinking I can just stuff it all into a corset instead of exercising. Remember, it’s not about getting skinny, it’s all about the curve, but we don’t want to get weak and floppy like a wet noodle in the process, do we? That’s no way to kick ass.