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!
Though I may seem all Dark Garden, all the time, there are many corsetiers out there whose work I admire and point of view I respect. I hope to expand my corset wardrobe to include all my esteemed fashion-crushes, but for the moment, allow me to pay humble hommage to one of them.
Fran is a one-woman business who makes corsets especially for waist trainers and tight lacers (she uses the terms interchangeably, whereas I find the two to have uniquely specific meanings. A dedicated post on this controversial delicacy will come later). She is highly respected in the corset community, having tastemakers such as Lucy’s Corsetry cheerleading her awesome product. Understanding asymmetry on a personal level, she specializes in anatomical corsets, and in fact seems to eschew ready-to-wear sizing all together: from her corsets to her tank liners!
While putzing about on the blogosphere for corset nerdery, I came across this gem of particularly articulate sincerity in one of her vlogs, the topic of which is how to best communicate in the ordering process. I thought it was well worth a share:
For me, tight lacing is just sort of a part of my life, as it has been for a long time. Nothing really fantastic about it, or fetishistic about it, for me. It’s just part of me. And for tight lacers, that’s really what it is. Even if it does start out as a fascination or a fetish thing, if you do it every day, it becomes something more. Not necessarily just a ritual, but a part of you, like the food you like, and the car you drive, and the clothes you wear. Something that ends up defining you in a lot of ways.
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:
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.
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!
People and adverts from the era: check out their silhouettes!
Can you imagine being at that party, surrounded by gowned hourglasses? I think I would swoon.
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?
Apparently I’ve let some positive attention on my appearance go not only to my head, but to my ass. Yes, I’ve gained a few. Well, more than a “few,” like five. (Seven. A solid seven.)
Between boozing with my gentleman, eccentric friends feeding me late night Zuni chickens, and the discovery of salted carmel macaroons, in conjunction with my complete disregard for my own excellent advice in a previous post about the importance of corsetry and exercise, I’m not entirely surprised. To be fair, it’s fairly natural for weight to fluctuate a little throughout the course of a month’s cycle, but seven is a bit much to be water weight.
Lucky for me, I don’t feel particularly bad about it. It’s interesting for me to notice that my waist training has still been progressing at a steady crawl even whilst in this moment of abundance (that’s what we say, people: “moments of abundance” — the three letter “f-word” is never allowed when describing a body). My BMI is totally in the middle of the normal range at under 22 points; and being curvier is never a bad thing!
How much can you gain/lose and still wear the same size corset? The answer to this frequently asked question is dependent on a few factors: how the corset fit you at your baseline weight, where you tend to gain/lose weight, if you are waist training, and even how the corset is constructed.
HYPOTHETICALS: If your corset had at a solid three inch back gap and you lost 6-12% of your body weight (~10-20 lbs for a person whose baseline weight was 160 lbs, and ~7-14 lbs for a person whose baseline weight was 120 lbs), you could likely still wear it. But if you had that solid three inch gap and you gained that weight, that corset would not fit you properly anymore. You probably only have room to go up about 3-4% body weight before the bones in back start to bubble, which is terrible for the garment and your body.
A 1.25-3″ gap in back is ideal. If you are creeping up on 3.25″, that’s pushing it for the reason stated above. In addition to being bubbly and unsupportive, the curves of the corset and its bones will no longer be hitting you at the appropriate places in your body (read: uncomfortable). On the other hand, you don’t want the corset to be laced completely closed for daily/extended wear because the steel boning in back would rest on your spine, which I can say from experience in my rookie days, is also uncomfortable. The most comfortable corset will always be a corset that fits you right. If you are lacing tighter than a parallel 1″, time for a smaller corset!
But I love this corset! Can I get it altered? Dark Garden can take in their corsets by up to 3″ for a reasonable fee (note that they only alter their own work). I’ve heard that other reputable makers will reduce their corsets by a size as well, so it’s worth asking. Yet another reason not to buy mass-produced product off the internet!
If you can’t get it reduced and you are a waist trainer, you could always use your old, bigger corset as a “sleeper” corset to progress your training even faster. I would only do this with under busts personally, and only if the corset didn’t have fancy embellishments on it like beading, flossing, lace overlay, or crystals.
That’s the long and short of it. Comment below with anything I might have missed and don’t forget to follow my blog if you found this informational!
TOO LONG; DIDN’T READ I put on a few, but that’s ok. You can too, as long as your corset is still comfy to wear and you are happy.