Category Archives: Rant

Do Not Take Waist Training Advice from Buzzfeed

Sure, I’m a participant in the internet’s distractify mindset. I follow various aggregate sites for interesting, amusing, or informative content — or at least that’s what I’m telling myself I’m doing as I’m killing time on Devour, Petapixel, and Buzzfeed. Following current events, such as terrorist massacres, shootings, and SF local tragedies, can severely mess me up. Sometimes a cute dog video or something silly can act as the spoonful of sugar I need to digest all the horror.

However, it’s important to remember that sites like Buzzfeed are *content hungry,* just as are its followers. Buzzfeed, and similar sites, create and share content about literally anything to promote likes, views, shares, and traffic in general. This content, even when presented as expert/experiential, is not always (or even remotely) accurate to all facets of what it is attempting to represent.

A perfect example of misleading “grab ’em” content is the unfortunately titled (and executed):

Girls Pretended To Be Kim Kardashian

And Wore A Waist Trainer For A Week

Ouch, right?

Any person who is actually a waist trainer or otherwise knowledgeable about corsetry and the body modification process will cringe at this pseudo “investigative report” by a handful of unwilling participants operating under ill-advice, served up as if it’s science. And tbh, If you’re trying to sculpt your life to resemble Kim K… you might want to think real hard for a second.

First things first: this is not a corset or appropriate for waist-training lifestyle. 

kimk
Photo from Buzzfeed, original credits not provided. 

“What makes this miserable device *not* a corset?” you may be asking.

This is an elastic compression garment. It bears more similarities to what one might wear after surgeries than a proper corset. A corset that’s appropriate for waist training generally:

  1. Does not include elastic as a material, as elastic is terribly uncomfortable and has extremely poor longevity. Cotton-poly blends are much more quality material, but even a strong silk or leather will do the job better than elastic.
  2. Features an architecture that provides a distinct curvature which allows for ribs, nips in the waist for shaping, and allows for hips. This general compression garment looks like a flared tube, which will inevitably press uncomfortably on the ribs and hips, while leaving the waist untrained.
  3. Does not rely on the flimsy lack-of-strength provided by hooks and eyes. This compression garment needs a hundred hooks and eyes and thick “bullet proof vest” like material to withstand any sort of wear whatsoever. A corset generally laces up the back and may or may not have a steel busk in front. Regardless, steel boning throughout the corset provides strength and architecture which allows the garment the ability to be very light, strong, and if constructed well, comfortable!
  4. Is not ridiculously uncomfortable or inhibiting. As aforementioned: a corset that is appropriate for daily wear and the waist training lifestyle can and should be comfortable, constructed with the proportions of your actual body in mind (in terms of length, waist reduction, ribcage size, etc). A daily wear corset should ideally make you feel *awesome* … it should definitely not make you feel terrible (because: why? There’s no need).

In a previous post, I addressed the show Double Diva’s and the miserable garment they tried to pass for a corset. In terms of construction, it was not dissimilar to the one featured in this Buzzfeed mess: it was largely elastic with a front hook-and eye closure.

Double Diva's "corset"
Double Diva’s “corset”

Now compare that unflattering mess to a corset by Dark Garden, which actually shapes the body comfortably:

A "proper" corset on a similar body type. Photo by Joel Aron
A “proper” corset on a similar body type. Photo by Joel Aron.

Yeah, no contest.

But even so, all corsets are not created equal. Once I tried to waist train with this thick, heavy, ill-shapen and much too long corset that I could only wear for a couple hours before I started to see red.

*EDIT* This corset came to me by way of the distributor Corset Heaven, though as can be seen below in the comments, fellow corset nerd Lucy (of Lucy’s Corsetry) postulates that the maker’s brand is Corset Story — an edit from previously credited Timeless Trends. Thanks, Lucy!

Whomever made it, it was a thumbs down for me for the purpose of waist training!

Corset with poor silhouette architecture: OUCH!
Corset with poor silhouette architecture: OUCH!

Then I learned the delicious joy of what a well made corset feels like. Over the period of a week or two, I found myself wanting to wear it more and more — until I never wanted to take it off!

Amazingly comfortable corset that inspired me to begin my waist training journey, by Dark Garden
Amazingly comfortable corset that inspired me to begin my waist training journey, by Dark Garden

And a new era of my life begun. I went from wearing a size 26″ corset to a size 18″ in about a year. I’ve since chilled out on it a bit, but before I relaxed my practice, I made sure to take some pics first.

Me, far right, in a Dark Garden couture fashion shoot by Joel Aron.
Me, far right, in a Dark Garden couture fashion shoot by Joel Aron.
Vintage cameras and lingerie, some favorite things. By Edward Saenz
Vintage cameras and lingerie, some favorite things. By Edward Saenz
Ahh! I'm disappearing!  ;) Photo by Edward Saenz, custom corset by Dark Garden.
Ahh! I’m disappearing! 😉
Photo by Edward Saenz, custom corset by Dark Garden.

Allow me to emphasize: body transformation does NOT happen overnight! Patience is your best friend when it comes to body mods.

The advice given by the “medical professional” has some merit, which I will address. While I am not a medical professional by any means, I am a seasoned corset wearer, which I doubt this “medical professional” has any experience or expertise in.

Feel free to consult your doctor when beginning waist training, however, it’s likely that inquiries will be met with judgement as many doctors won’t comment on things they know nothing about. For example, a doctor once told me not to drink Kombucha tea, because they didn’t know what Kombucha was. However, hormones and addictive Rx drugs? Sure those are totally safe except for <laundry list of harmful side effects>.  Ummm, yeah. I’m fine with my tea, thanks.

Anecdotal evidence aside, here are a few things the “expert” in the video addressed that I’d like to comment on:

  1. “One should only wear the compression garment for an hour or two a day.” What was left out of this sentence were the words: “In the BEGINNING.” As your body adjusts to the feeling, and it’s comfortable for the wearer, they can increase wear without damage incurred. It’s paramount, however, to be in tune with your body and listen when something doesn’t feel right. Feel free to refer to my posts: 10 Waist Training Tips and the FAQ for advice on how to get started.
  2. “if it’s too tight, it could put pressure on your intestines.” So… women shouldn’t give child birth either? Because a fetus definitely does that. In fact, our bodies have evolved to accommodate a changing waistline and migrating intestines for the very reason of pregnancy. Slowly adapting the body to a corset is not entirely dissimilar.
  3. “It’s definitely not going to alter the look of your waist, nor will it help you shed pounds.” FALSE and FALSE. Body modification through corsetry is no magic bullet, but it does have some magical side effects. Results do vary from person to person.
  4. “Definitely don’t wear your corset while exercising.” This, I agree with. As I’ve written about before, even though waist training can lend a figure that appears as if you’ve been hitting the gym, it is important to actually work out, unrestrained. Your core muscles run the risk of atrophy otherwise, and no one wants that.
  5. “Definitely don’t wear your corset while eating.” Wut?
LOL
LOL

Dude, you gotta eat. I’ve shoved entire meatball subs in there. I’ve made friends with the butchers. And yes, I drank carbonated things everyday. Once I did eat so much ice cream I had to loosen my corset, but seriously people, Smitten makes some some delicious ice cream. It’s almost too good. Like, that’s fucked up, why would you do this to me, Smitten?!?!

A majority of the women in the Buzzfeed experiment complained that putting it on was difficult. I can imagine, with all those hooks and eyes! Believe me, learning to lace up a corset is no big deal. Let me help, with my popular instructional video on the ins and outs of lacing yourself into a corset.

One thing I will give credit to Kim K for is the idea. Wearing a corset or a compression garment after pregnancy is in some cases very helpful for a distended belly to stitch itself back more firmly to core muscles and skin. I can definitely see where she’s going with this. Just, don’t let all this nonsense surrounding it discourage you from actually waist training if that what you’d like to do.

Finally, it takes longer than a week to see meaningful results. (Duh, Buzzfeed.)

Love,

Euphrates X

Photo by Edward Saenz, patent leather arch rival by Dark Garden
Photo by Edward Saenz, patent leather corset by Dark Garden
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Corsets and Argentine Tango

I have a few idiosyncratic interests… Middle Eastern percussion. German dance-theather (or tanztheater). Corsets. But I’ve also been actively courting a particular style of social dance since college: Argentine Tango.

Really, I was a victim of it. I couldn’t help but fall into the trap of the seductive style of kinesthetic communication between (often) strangers. One of the American masters of the art of this movement, well-known in this particular underground, happened to be an alum of my college and graciously taught clumsy undergrads how to communicate with each other in this unusually beautiful way with their bodies — in the form of a PE class, no less. Students were known to become obsessively addicted, and eventually, I fell into the venus fly trap that extended beyond our common areas and into Portland’s greater Argentine tango scene: one of the most extensive and authentically intense in Northern America.

Some lead. Others follow. (It’s not as gender binary as one might initially imagine, and some practice both roles with hunger). There are combative theories on which of the two main roles truly holds the greater control; but as a follow, to have any power at all, it is key to constantly have an engaged core. Core strength will give a follow the ability to maintain proper axis — to have his or her own balance to swivel on their own center (unless intentionally taken off it by the lead for a flourish), walk backwards in stilletos or dance shoes, and otherwise perform all the moves of tango — from basic to fancy — without hanging onto the lead (draining their energy!) The follow must be as quick and responsive to the leader’s guide as a jack rabbit, but as intentional with their movements as cement laying down on the dance floor, as if to be set forever.

That’s where core strength comes into play. The follow is always on one foot or the other, often in high stilletos, rotating about on the ball of their suede leather shoe. The guide of the movement starts in the arms, flows through the chest, down through the core, and the flourish or step ends in the legs and feet. With a flimsy core, there is no dance, there is only mush, stepping around aimlessly.

I have found that when I wear a corset out tango dancing, my dancing form has improved drastically, as a corseted figure mimics one with a tight, engaged core.

Cheating? Maybe. Whatever; all is fair in love and tango.

My boleos are sharp like a viper, able to hold my own on one foot while gently holding an embrace as light as a feather. Colgadas are executed near flawlessly (without terror stricken in my heart). And when the time comes for a dramatic volcada, an off-axis step, I am ready and in delight!

Now, I said my tango form has improved. I’m certainly no master, nor am I as devoted as I once was, or as the majority of the hardcore scenesters one can meet on the dance floor.

At my last milonga, the term for “a dance (event)” in the tango world, some talented leads took pity on me as I had FRESH MEAT written all over me — my first time at this particular venue. I’m not a terrible tango dancer, but I am terribly rusty. My background in dance, as well as the “fake it till you make it” philosophy can be quite convincing however.

One particular lead started in with conversation between songs. In his thick Columbian accent:

My dance calendar is turning out as such: Monday, I go <here>. Tuesday, I like <that club>. This is the best; you should go here. The level is very high. I can tell you dance, not really tango too long, but I can tell you dance a lot other from your legs.

Thanks, brother… He continues:

Wednesday I go Misson. Thursday, rest. Friday is for other things. Saturday is <blah> and Sunday I come here!

Awkward pause.

Yeah… cool! (Devoted).

He says:

What’s your dance calendar?

It wasn’t said then, but later, in the car ride home:

Whenever my persistent friend texts me: “tango tango tango” and I have shit else to do.

I love to tango. But it’s intimidating! I remember days when nobody would ask me to dance all night. I have to get over those memories, as I no longer have weird dreadlocks and have grown into my “dancer legs”.

The corset certainly helps. Make new memories, correct my axis balance, and improve my confidence in those stunnah tango outfits — honey draws the bees, as they say. Overall, for an amalgamation of reasons, I would like to postulate that corsets + tango = a recipe for dance floor success… at least in my experience.

TL;DR TANGO HACK – wear a corset.

LOVE,

Throwback Euphrates X: College tanguera
Throwback Euphrates X: College tanguera, too punk for tango

Euphrates X

Tightlacing Liaison | Expert Fitter

Dark Garden Unique Corsetry

Rant: Folsom Street Fair 2013

Leather harnesses: leather harnesses everywhere.

I ran into my good friend Jason, a gifted San Francisco stylist, at the end of my shift at the Dark Garden booth at the Folsom Street Fair, and so we took to the street arm in arm to enjoy the festivities.

A man in a cock ring and not much else struts by. “Those shoes are Balenciaga,” Jason whispers to me. “And that slutty secretary look over there,” pointing to a young girl in a pencil skirt and chrome slave collar: “designer.” I feel like I’m experiencing the directors commentary to the kinky fashion event of the year.

photo (18)
Photo by Bigguy, and featuring Anneka photo bombing.

We quip back and forth our praises and criticisms of the fashions of our Dionysian, hedonist, burner, political, and otherwise creatively empowered fellows. I feel free and comfortable in my G-string, thick knee high leather buckle boots, patent leather Dark Garden corset, thigh high stockings, spiked bra and collar. I rock a bun-hawk and the joke was that I was Miley Cyrus for the day (turns out that’s a fetish for some people).

Suddenly, jarringly, I hear a voice from the past ask if I went to <my high school>. To my awkward surprise, I turn to be face to face with one of my worst enemies …a square.

I detest those who show up to a party as if its a spectator sport. But there I was in full leather regalia suddenly faced with the awkward task of making small talk with some dude in khakis I had nothing in common with. What really gets my goat, in addition to the lack of effort, is the shameless admission of tourism: “I came from San Jose just to see the show!” Fuck. This. Noise.

I feel so blessed to live in San Francisco. Historically this city has enjoyed a critical mass of creatively empowered folk who love to party while making the world a better, more understanding place: from human rights activism to artist community communism. Unfortunately, just two days ago I heard the unsettling news that one of my favorite venues lost their lease. It seems that there has been a lot of changes in the SF subculture scene in the last decade, but I’d love to think the changes are evolution, not devolution. However, it seems that SF, with the influx of Googlers and tech-money, is running out of room for creatives; in fact pushing them out to make room. (Wouldn’t want to mar a glossy reputation with a little sin, now would we?)

This begs for a call to arms. Too many amazing spaces for creative expression have been compromised and shoved around in recent years to take it sitting down. There are those in a society who are consumers, and there are those who are movers and shakers: who step up to the plate and innovate experiences and environments for others to enjoy. There are many, many roles to aid this design into fruition, however. Legal, zoning, fire marshall issues, interior design, talent and/or volunteer coordination, contractor labor, fundraising, marketing outreach, branding… In order for these communities to stay alive and thriving, this is a crucial moment to ask: how can I contribute in an impactful and sustainable way?

What does this manifesto have to do with corsetry, some of you might be asking. Well, corsetry is different things to many people. Some are brides, looking for shape wear or a dress bodice. Some are scoliosis patients looking for pain relief. Some are endowed ladies looking for bust support. Some are fashionistas, making a statement through aesthetic and silhouette. But to me and my kind, it’s an expression, sensation, and signifier of leather subculture.

Mainstream fashion incorporated the corset for many centuries, up until the 1920’s, when empowered young women wanted boxy boyish figures and short locks. In presenting this image, they eschewed femininity and presumably likewise, the turn-of-the-century definition of lady-like behavior. Corseting came back into main stream fashion in the 1950’s with Dior’s “New Look”, a fit-and-flare style that featured a tiny waist and an extravagant amount of fabric in the skirt — in celebration of the abundance suddenly allowed at the end of the Second World War.

But subculture folk never stopped wearing corsets. Literally compelled by a force greater than the mind, corsetry means more than fashion and weddings. It’s not a trend, it’s an obsession spanning centuries, and in some cases a signifier of camaraderie.

I guess I’m calling forth the camaraderie.

photo
Photo by RJ Johnson.

XOXO,

Euphrates X

Tightlacing Liaison | Expert Fitter

Dark Garden Unique Corsetry

Open letter to the reality show “Double Divas”

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.

Even Molly looks displeased with the flimsy hook and eye closure...
Even Molly looks displeased with the flimsy hook and eye closure…

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?

Screen shot 2013-08-11 at 12.06.03 PM

Screen shot 2013-08-11 at 12.06.48 PM

Which silhouette would you prefer to rock, for equestrian purposes or otherwise?

Screen shot 2013-08-11 at 12.02.14 PM

Photo by Joel Aron
Photo by Joel Aron

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!

by Edward Saenz
by Edward Saenz

LOVE, Euphrates X

The Edwardian Silhouette

I used to know nothing about anything. I was as green as spring grass (and twice as fresh). I didn’t have a trained eye or focused vision; I just liked what I liked and wanted what I wanted.

At the time, I thought any steel-boned corset was the real deal. I was also broke and so even $150 for a garment sounded exorbitantly expensive. “Anything for love,” I thought, and bit the bullet. What I wished I knew back then is that investing in poor quality, uncomfortable garments isn’t worth the “half price” cost. I couldn’t wear it for more that a couple hours at a time before getting incredibly uncomfortable or cranky. I had sores on my skin from where it dug into my hips and ribs. Youch!

Once I started wearing well-made corsets, everything changed. I found that compared the terribly uncomfortable contraptions I had been trying to force myself into, a well made garment made me look and feel so good I never wanted to take it off again. Now I comfortably wear a corset for about 8-14 hours a day.

Here are some before and after pictures: before and after I knew any better about corsetry, evidenced in the silhouette:

timeless trends

Here I am in my first steel boned corset, which I ordered off the internet from “Corset Heaven” in the UK. I went for it because of the ridiculously cheap price and because the description said it was a waist training corset. Years later, as a corset professional, I can now say with assured authority that not much about this corset makes it appropriate for waist training. You can see that it is actually cutting into my hip, creating an unflattering (and  uncomfortable) line. The point in front comes down so low that one is constantly aware of the corset when one sits. Most  importantly, it does nothing to train the waist. Notice how it is shaped like inverted parentheses: ) ( as opposed to the ideal S shaped curve. Put bluntly: I look like a tube. A cute tube (this was in my youth), but a tube, none the less. I couldn’t wear this thing for more than a few hours max before I would bark: get this f*ckin thing off me! And this is also why I hate corsets with paracord. It looks tacky, callouses the fingers, and digs into the skin.

At Dicken's Faire

The fabric colors of my first Dark Garden corset was very similar to the one I ordered from Corset Heaven — it was as if I was trying to fulfill the vision. However, the two could not be more disimilar in terms of quality of construction or shape. You can see for yourself the difference between the two garments in resulting silhouette alone.

Whereas I was eager to start waist training around the time I ordered from Corset Heaven, I was discouraged at the bulky, poor fit — and a disconcerting lack of a waist! After being over $100 in the hole on the idea, it didn’t feel good to have a crap quality garment. And so I didn’t actually start my waist training journey until I got my hands on a Dark Garden waist cincher. This picture was taken on Day 1 of training, which happened to be at the Bay Area’s annual Dicken’s Faire.

At Dark Garden, we have an antique Edwardian dress form, which showcases what a lifetime of corsetry might achieve. It looks a little beat up, but hey, it’s literally 100 years old!dress form

People and adverts from the era: check out their silhouettes!

IMG_3307

IMG_3465

IMG_3459

Can you imagine being at that party, surrounded by gowned hourglasses? I think I would swoon.

IMG_3457

You may have noticed by now that I’m into historical research, but I’m not exactly a costumer. For me, it’s a lifestyle, a body mod, and a fashion statement. In the mainstream, it is also a nearly extinct Western feminine tradition to which I cling, to the point of idiosyncrasy. What does corsetry mean to you?

The Truth about Spiral Steels

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.

Image
A flat steel above a spiral steel bone.

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.

Image
Demonstrating flat vs. spiral steel boning supportive quality.

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?