1. Corset Basics

If you've followed my progress, you know that SheDaddy is on a mission to feminize me, body, soul, and mind. Today we focus on her latest plan to improve my body. Pay attention, because this could happen to you!

Step one was to put me on a strict diet and exercise regimen because, let's face it, I was fat. Over the past year, I've lost 12.7 kilos (about 28 lbs) and reduced my waist by 18 CM (about 7 in). I have about 7 kilos (15 lbs) more to go, and we will see what the effect on my waist is then. I used to look like a bulgy blob. Now I look like a column, with my waist roughly the same size as my hips and a natural, unenhanced chest. SheDaddy is pleased with my progress, but this is nowhere near good enough for her exacting standards. She wants her sissies to have that classic, feminine, "hourglass" shape, and as we all know, what SheDaddy wants, she gets. Dieting is not enough to achieve an hourglass waist. Waist training with a corset is the only solution.

I have been using corsets since beginning my feminization not only to pull in my errant waistline but also because they are beautiful. My most recent purchases (a bit less than a year old) now close completely in the back. Since SheDaddy wants me to have a smaller waist, I can't use these to get one. So it's time for a new corset, and with SheDaddy's new "Waist Training Mandate," I have been researching extensively and have learned much about this fascinating garment.

About Corsets

There is no more complex or controversial article of clothing in the history of fashion than the corset. I'll focus most of my attention on the practical aspects of corsetry, but the history is fascinating, and I want to share a bit about that with you. I recommend two books highly:

I'm a huge fan of author Valerie Steele. She's the director of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and writes with brilliance and a great love of all things fashion. She has written many wonderful books, and her new one (due to come out in September) is about Pammy's favorite color: PINK! Her Fetish book is great reading, with a chapter on corsetry. The Corset book is a vastly expanded discussion of its history, including chapters on medical issues, history, and contemporary corsetry. She has many other books, all of them fabulous.

Corsets have always been controversial, and the controversy continues. There are two reasons for this: one is medical, and the other is sexual (or textual). Historically, society and medical doctors blamed corsets for a variety of ills. Dr. Gottliebn Oelssner, a German MD from the 18th century, called corsets "the sleeping murderer." American doctors from that period didn't like them much either, describing them as "a slow and fashionable poison." In 1901, the French League of Mothers of Families called corsets "The Assassins of the Human Race." Since then, enemies of the corset have accused the corset of causing sterility, insanity, miscarriage, cancer, liver damage, giving birth to idiots, hysteria, overstimulated sexual appetite (not sure what the problem with this one is), and death. Steele and a medical doctor (Lynn Kutsche) have examined the anti-corsetry medical claims and have found that most claims of corset-induced disease are either invalid or greatly exaggerated. They also retire the persistent myth (often repeated by feminists today) that Victorian women had some of their ribs removed to make their waists smaller. Not to say that corsets can't be misused. Of course, they can, just like anything from hammers to scarves.

Feminists love to hate the corset. I was fascinated to learn from Steele's "Corsetry" book that this isn't just a modern-day phenomenon: 19th-century feminists loathed the corset and wrote about it in much the same way as our contemporary feminists. Feminists view the corset as just another way the patriarchy has of making women docile and "feminine." (The word "feminine," when used by a feminist, is rarely a compliment.) The historical sources feminists use to support this article are not credible (see Steele for more), but I won't dissect them here. Instead, I'll point to the fact that corsets have undeniable erotic appeal, and I would argue that far from being oppressed by corsets, 19th-century tight-lacers were the sexually liberated female fetishists of their day.

I may write more about this at some point. Still, the topics of corsetry (along with high heels and some other articles of clothing) and makeup are a bizarre intersection point where male misogynists and feminists, ordinarily mortal enemies, find themselves in total agreement. Corsets, high heels, and makeup will forever remain bashing fodder for men who fear the power that beauty gives to women and the feminists who envy the same. Because we are, at the bottom, sensual and sexual beings, a women's beauty will always triumph over those who seek to suppress it, whether these are the men who fear it or the women who can't compete with it.

Women, such as our SheDaddy, who understand this, will always rule. And in fact, power is not conveyed by the article of clothing but by the person who wears it. A powerful woman and a maid may both be wearing corsets, but no one ever has to ask which is the mistress or who is the servant.

Mugler 'Carapce' corset.

As for feminists, I prefer to admire women like Dita von Tease, Madonna, or our own SheDaddy, all of whom are strong, independent, and intelligent women who love corsets and celebrate their beauty. The images above are from my favorite fashion designer, Theirry Mugler, from his couture 1997 collection. Many of his most powerful designs feature corsets or corset-like elements. The lower picture is, of course, Madonna with her famous corset dress. Do these women look submissive to you?

Madonna's Corset Dress

Practical Corsetry

Enough philosophy. Let's get practical. Even among practitioners of corsetry, there are many diverse opinions on important matters. And, of course, since these are corsets, the opinions are passionate.

What is a Corset?

Even among corset fans, this is a hard question to answer. Here's my definition:

  1. A corset is a work of art.
  2. A method or technique for creating an illusion.
  3. A method of control

Corsets makers have fashioned a seemingly endless variety of fantastic creations worthy of inclusion among the best of all artistic fashion. And corsets allow us to achieve the illusion of a silhouette that nature rarely (or never) provides. But certainly, it is a method of control. The word "Corset" is a montage of two French words: "corps" (body) and "serrer" (set), which means to "tightly close" or "to encase."

This is a general definition, but I believe most corset fans would agree. Certainly, I believe everyone would agree that corsets are all about control, support, routine, and discipline. It is a brilliant stroke of Dom de Luxury to include corsetry in her training program for this very reason.

Generally speaking, the greater the control, the more impressive the illusion. To create the illusion of the perfect waist, the true corset must contain some solid parts, called "bones" (because these were originally pieces of bone, usually from whales). By this definition, spandex shapewear and fancy girdles, sometimes marketed as "corsets," are completely out of the picture. You often see "cinchers." Some cinchers have bones and are genuine corsets, and some are just fancy shapewear. And there are fashion accessories that have a lacing element but no control. These may be beautiful, but they are not corsets.

There is nothing wrong with any of these garments. You need to decide what you want from the garment. If you are born with the perfect figure, a 'fashion corset" which does no shaping is all you need. If you want only minimal shaping, purchase a latex "shaper" or "cincher." But if you want an hourglass or wasp waist but weren't born with one, the only way to get it is with a corset. Be warned; not everyone enjoys wearing a corset. You will probably enjoy wearing a corset if you like tight-fitting clothes like control top pantyhose, tights, spandex, and tight belts. If you avoid this kind of clothing because you don't like how it makes you feel, then corsets may not be for you.

The important thing is knowing what you want. Then you can purchase the clothing that will give that to you. There's nothing wrong with owning a 'non-corset' corset. But there's a lot wrong with somebody selling you something that promises the body shaping ability of a corset, only to find when you get it home that the shaping isn't going to happen because what you bought isn't a corset.

The Anatomy of a Corset

Corsets are marvels of engineering. To make an informed purchase, you need to understand their construction.

Anatomy of a Corset.

This is a drawing of a typical corset. The inside (light blue) is the part of the corset close to your skin. You typically wear a corset with a liner between the inside of your corset and skin. The liner protects the corset from body oils and sweat and may be as simple as a t-shirt or as fancy as a custom liner purchased from a corset shop. The outside is what everyone sees. The outside is always covered with fashion fabric and is often fabulously decorated. The inside of a real corset will have "strength" fabric, sometimes more than one layer of strength fabric. Coutil, a strong and unstrechable fabric, is a favorite. Unfortunately, coutil is very expensive in the U.S. because of import fees, but canvas, duck, or poplin can be substituted. Corsets usually include an extra piece of strong cloth along the waist for reinforcement. It's called the waist tape; it adds strength and prevents stretching. There is sometimes a lining placed on top of the strength layer to add visual appeal, or the corset maker can let the strength fabric and waist tape be the lining.

Busk: The busk is the center front of the corset. One side of the busk has metal hoops; the other has studs, both mounted on steel "bones" sewn inside the corset. The two halves of the corset are laced together in the back with a cord or ribbon, which goes through metal eyelets. The best eyelets are in two parts, with the main a shaft with a round flange and on the other side a flat washer.

The corset is comprised of several panels, which are cut to a specific shape to create the fit. Metal bones are placed inside vertical bone channels. These bone channels often (but not always) follow the seamlines of the corset. Bones do not create the shape (that is the job of the panels), but they support it and force the body to bend to its will. Most bones are either flat pieces of spring steel or spiral wound objects that look like flattened coils and are more flexible. Many corsets use both. Cheap corsets typically have weak plastic bones. An extra piece of fabric usually sits behind the laces (not shown). Called a back protector or modesty panel, it serves to cover the skin crease caused by tightening the corset and protect the skin from friction from the laces. In high-quality corsets, the modesty panel sometimes contains bones in an "X" shape. It's also desirable to have a front protector under the busk hooks, which is called a placket. Not every corset has a placket.

Buying a Corset

Corsets can be expensive, and like anything else, the price is no guarantee of quality. There are four levels of corsets, listed from most expensive to least:

  1. Custom made by an expert to your specifications. Custom work will involve multiple measurements, discussion of material selection, mood, artistic impact, and many other topics. These can be expensive, from $500 to $3000 or even more.
  2. Customized corsets. Many fine makers have basic designs they can modify to your measurements and needs. Not everyone has been happy with this option. Most of the unhappiness with customized corsets has been the fit. If you go this route, make sure that you and the corset maker are clear that you will get a corset with the measurements you want, and not just the type of cloth, colors, etc., that you specify.
  3. Off the Rack (OTR) Corsets. These are ready-made corsets that will (hopefully) fit you. The fit of OTR corsets, like OTR jeans, is rarely perfect. Clothes are more forgiving and the requirements less precise than a corset. A multitude of corset wearers think OTR corsets are not worth purchasing. Many other experts disagree and think they have a place. Certainly, if you are new to corsetting, you don't want to spend $1,000 to discover that you don't like corsetting. I have OTR corsets that have worked pretty well for me, so I would encourage any newbies to try these out first. Typical costs for a good quality OTR corset range from $70 to $100-$120.
  4. Cheap, non-corset corsets can be pretty but not shape your body. Prices for these are all over the map, but they can be anything from $20 to $100.

Before you purchase a corset, you need to decide what you want to do with it. The requirements for a corset for waist training, which I am interested in, will be much higher than one used for occasional tight lacing or light body contouring. And if you are one of those rare, lucky individuals born with the body shape of your dreams, don't waste a lot of money on a highly engineered corset. Buy the prettiest thing your heart desires and enjoy the envious glances from the rest of us.

How to Determine Quality in a Corset

While everyone agrees that the best corsets are custom-made, I assume you are new to corsetting and will be buying an OTR corset. Here are some things to look for in an OTR corset:

I should mention that some of these considerations don't apply to custom corsets. For example, some custom corsets don't need waist tapes because they use other construction techniques. Some custom corsets use expensive plastic bones that are as strong as steel. So $500+ on a corset from a reputable maker with plastic bones and no waist tape will buy you a fine corset. $70 on a corset with plastic bones and no waist tape, you aren't getting a corset; you are getting shapewear.

Getting the Right Corset Size

There are two types of corsets: overbust and underbust. Overbust corsets are just what they sound like: corsets that go from your hips to your bust. They can be gorgeous, but I recommend underbust corsets for beginners (especially waist trainers).

The corset itself must have a curve. A lot of cheap corsets are cylindrical tubes with no waist. If you buy one of these and cinch it up, you will not look like an hourglass. You will look like a narrower tube. The hip portion and upper portion of the corset should be wider than the waist portion. Don't buy a corset that is less curvy than you are. You can buy a curvier corset, but don't go too far. Here's the usual advice:

If your waist is 8 inches or larger
Get a corset 7-10 inches smaller than your waist.
If your waist is less than 8 inches
Get a corset 4-7 inches smaller than your natural waist.

This is good advice, but it's worth asking yourself how "squishy" your waistline is. Some people have 40-inch waists but very little body fat. Their waist is not very "squishy" or compressible. If you're one of them, buying a corset 10 inches smaller might be unrealistic. Similarly, you might have a smaller but squishy waist. Consider purchasing a corset smaller than the recommended 4-7 inches.

A critical measurement is the torso length. In my experience, many places that market cheap corsets don't ask for this measurement. I bought my first steel-boned corset online; the only measurement they accepted was the waist. When I got it, I noticed the corset pressed tightly against my legs and chest, right below my breasts, when I sat down. Aside from being uncomfortable, this pressure eventually forced one of the steel bones to rip the cloth and fall out of the channel. These corsets were extremely well made and inexpensive (about USD 35). You might be fine with these corsets if you are a casual wearer. If you wear them a lot or want to use them for tight lacing, my advice is not to purchase any corset from any source which doesn't ask for all measurements.

Measure yourself for a corset.

For all these measurements (except the torso length), ensure the measuring tape is parallel to the ground.

Using these four measurements, along with an honest appraisal of your own "squishy" factor, should give you a chance of getting a well-fitting corset. If you are lucky enough to live in a city with a corset shop (as I do), the easiest way is to walk in and ask them for a corset. If you want to waist train, make sure you mention that. The corset owner will take one look at you, and pull out the perfect corset, usually without even having to measure you. If not, try to locate a reputable online corset dealer. I purchased my most recent corset from Orchard Corsets at their retail location. Take advantage of their online sizing help options (email or chat) if you visit them.

Thanks for reading, and if you have something nice to say or a good idea or suggestion, you can always send me a message!