ALERT: If you have heart or breathing issues, skeletal problems or anything that might cause you some difficulty wearing corsets, please consult your physician before wearing corsets.
This is where we put on our corset. We'll talk about how to do it, some lacing issues and also make sure that beautiful new companion of yours fits you perfectly. In what follows, it's important to remember that wearing a corset should never be painful.
Seasoning a Corset
There are a lot of people who feel you need to "season" a corset. Seasoning is a process where you wear it only slightly tightened for a short time to "break it in." The argument is that the metal bones as well as the rigid cloth used to make the corset need some time to mold themselves to your body. If you don't season your corset, you can damage it. If you're a new corset wearer, then this is all the more reason to season the corset: you season the corset and yourself at the same time.
Of course, since this is a corset topic, it turns out that there are people on the other side of it. There some very experienced and knowledgeable corset wearers who think this whole seasoning idea is nonsense. They claim they have never seasoned a corset and have never had a problem with one.
Since most of the people on both sides of this argument have much more experience than I do, I have no idea who is correct. Speaking only for myself, I prefer to err on the side of safety. If there's a chance I can damage my new and pricey corset by not seasoning it, I prefer not to take this chance.
How to Season a Corset
There are various seasoning schedules that you can find on different corset makers/wearers websites, but the most common one is called the "2-2-2" system. You wear the corset for 2 hours a day, with a 2-inch waist reduction, for two weeks. After that, the corset is considered to be seasoned, and you may tighten it at will. During the seasoning process, the corset should be snug, but not overly tightened. The usual description is that it should feel like someone is hugging you. You should be able to insert your hand inside the corset.
How to Put On a Corset
You'll need your corset and a cloth tape measure (such as used for sewing). Before putting on your corset, lay it down and take a look at the lacing. You'll notice there is a straight line of cord across the top and bottom grommets, and then several "crossings" up to the waist where the "bunny ears" are. Remember how many crossings there are because you will have to tighten these X's one-by-one after you put the corset on.
1. Put it on right-side up.
OK, things are getting serious now. The first step is to put the corset on the right way. You would be surprised how many pictures there are of corset wearers who have them on upside down! There are two easy ways to identify the top of the corset:
- If the corset has garter straps (or loops to attach garter straps to it), those go on the bottom.
- Not all corsets have garter loops/straps. For these corsets, remember that when you fasten the corset, the studs should be on the left side, while the loops are on the right. If the loops are on the left, your corset is upside down.
2. Make sure it's loose enough.
Put the corset around your waist. It should be loose enough that you can fasten the busk easily, without any sucking in of your stomach or tugging on the corset. If it's even a little hard to get the hoops over the studs, take the corset off and loosen it. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging the busk fasteners.
To loosen the corset, pull some of the lengths from the bunny ears into the gap at the waist, then adjust the other "X's" in the gap, so it is evenly spaced from top to bottom.
3. Fasten the busk.
Once it is loose enough, fasten the busk. I prefer to start with the very top loop. Once that is fastened, the others fall into place easily. Make sure the loops are completely on the studs, not just hooking the tips!
4. Pull the bunny ears tight
If you have someone to help you, that's great. Otherwise, grab the bunny ears and pull them to the left and right. Don't pull them straight back. This will tighten the corset around the waist, but leave the loops at the top and bottom of the corset slack. Now there are three ways to finish lacing up the corset:
- Have someone help you. (This is the easiest way).
- Bring the loops around to the front of the corset and hold them in your non-dominant hand. Then with your free hand, starting at the bottom of the corset, tighten each crossing until you get to the waist, pulling the slack with your other hand. Repeat from the top of the corset down to the waist. The hand holding the loops doesn't have to hold it that tight, just enough to keep an even tension on the cord. (This is known as the hard way).
- Find a door and turn your back to it. Put the left bunny ear over the doorknob to the left and the right bunny ear over the doorknob to the right. Keep a gentle tension on the cords. You should not be straining at the door like a bull trying to get out of their pen! Just keep a gentle tension on the bunny ears to help take up the slack as you tighten the crossings. As with method 2, start at the bottom of the corset, and pull the crossings tight one-by-one, working your way up to the waist. Then repeat from the top down. (This is known as the easy way).
You will probably have to repeat this tightening step two or three times until you reach your desired waist size. After each step, bend to the left and right while pulling the corset down with your hands. Doing this helps the corset settle on your hips and waist. If you are seeking a definite size reduction, measure around the waist with the measuring tape.
When you have reached your desired tightness you can let the cords drop. Beginners always worry that the corset will instantly loosen when they let go of the cord, like a rubber band. That won't happen (if it does, something is wrong). The friction of the cords against each other keeps them from slipping as long as you don't move around too much. Now tie the corset with a shoelace knot. I recommend slightly over tightening the corset after you make the first crossing of the knot, to compensate for the slight looseness that always seems to happen after you tie the knot. It's best if you can tie it in the back. Tieing it in the front not only looks awful, but it rubs against the fashion fabric causing it to get thinner at those spots and shortening the life of your corset. You want the knot to be easy to undo, in case you have to get out of your corset quickly. Now that it's tied, I usually tuck the loose ends under the bottom of the corset to keep them out of the way.
I should mention that even the order of tightening the corset X's is controversial. Many people feel strongly that you should start from the bottom (as I suggest above). Many people feel just as strongly that you should start from the top then tighten the lower half of the corset. I don't have a strong opinion here. Starting from the bottom makes sense to me, but if you like doing it a different way, go for it.
Check the fit
Let's make sure this bad girl fits you right. The first thing to look at is the corset gap. For most contemporary style corsets, the corset gap should be parallel and vertical (straight up and down). If it isn't, then this indicates a problem. Here are some things to watch out for:
These two pictures are the most dangerous for your corset. The red corset has a bulge, outward, at the waist, while the black corset has the opposite, a narrowing at the waist. If your corset is doing this, it's not the best thing, since the metal bones are bending. If it's extreme enough, they could also be bowing outwards, away from your body.
The outward bowing (red corset) is usually caused by a corset whose waist is too small for you, at least for the moment. Corset bones which are too weak will also cause this. The inward bowing (black corset) is because your body is more of an hourglass shape than the corset is! You need a curvier corset.
This corset is too small for your hips, making an upside down "V" shape. It would be better to have a corset which fits you, but since the bones are straight (not curved, as in the previous example), this won't damage the corset. It's less than ideal, though, because it will probably dig into your hips and be uncomfortable. If it's not uncomfortable, and you like the corset, then keep wearing it this way.
This is a "V" shape. Some corsets are designed this way, but it's unlikely that a beginner would buy one like that. Assuming the corset is not designed to have this shape, it is caused by a corset which is too small for the ribcage or shoulders. As with the previous example, since the bones are straight, this is not damaging to the corset. As with the previous shape, if it's not uncomfortable, then keep wearing it this way.
In this photo, the corset edges are parallel (which is good), but they are not vertical. Instead, they are at an angle. This can indicate a problem with the corset. To check it, take three horizontal measurements on each side of the corset: top, waist, and bottom. They should be the same. If not, the corset has a manufacturing defect. Some corsets are made of twill, which is very strong, but can stretch more along one bias than the other, due to its asymmetric weave, so it might have been ok at first and become asymmetrical as you wore it.
It can also be caused by just putting your corset on crooked. Don't keep wearing it this way, as corsets can get "stuck" in a certain shape and you'll never get them to go back to the right one. I suggest always checking your corset fit in a mirror to make sure it's straight.
In some cases, this can be caused not by the corset, but by the wearer's body. Some people have bodies which are very asymmetrical. If you have scoliosis or have had a broken rib, or one leg is significantly longer than the other one (or some other thing), then a symmetric corset will look like this on you. As far as I know, the only way to get a correctly fitting corset in this situation is to order a custom one.
Now look for flare.
Yes, there's more. "Flare" is when the corset doesn't fit snugly at the top and bottom of the corset, leaving a gap between your body and the corset. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It depends. In a perfectly fitting corset, all these measurements (ribcage, waist, hips) match your body exactly. But many people (such as myself) buy corsets to get a smaller waist. I would purchase a corset with my current ribcage and hip measurements but with my desired (future) waist size. In this situation, flare is to be expected and even desirable. Down the road, when I achieve my new waist size, then the corset will rest gently on my ribs and hips, supporting them, and the corset fit will be perfect.
It's true that the flare doesn't look that great, but I wouldn't suggest lacing the top and bottom tighter. You run the risk of twisting the bones and damaging the corset. You would get a corset that looks like the bulging red corset in the picture above. Instead, try to deal with it using clothing or accessorize.
If your corset is completely closed in the back, or you are at your target waist measurement and are still experiencing flaring, then the corset is not properly fitted.
Taking Off the Corset
To remove the corset, undo the knot in the back, and then pull slack into the gap starting with the waist loops and moving up and down. Don't try to undo the busk if the corset still seems tight, as you can damage the busk. Once it is off, hang it on the back of a chair or a hanger to air.
For Further Information
That's it for today. I hope this very basic introduction to corsets and corset wearing was helpful. If you need more information, I highly recommend Lucy's Corsetry Lucy is an amazing woman, filled with knowledge and passion for corsets and corsetry. Most of the information in these last two articles (and some of the pictures) I got from her. I can't recommend her website and YouTube channel highly enough.
Thanks for reading and if you have something nice to say or a good idea or suggestion, you can always message me on Twitter