There are a few types of material used to make corset bones from and as a beginner learning to make a corset for the first time, you can be forgiven for opting for the plastic option. Using steel in a garment can seem a scary and uncomfortable prospect.
Steel bones are however, the most comfortable material you can use. Steel supports the body in a way that plastic bones can’t. Plastics will bend and then become weak at those points where they have bent. They can then snap after extended wear. They’re useless for corset training because of these traits and somewhat dangerous too. A broken bone can go through the lining of a corset and pierce the skin. If you want to make a corset suitable for waist training you will have to use steels.
Corset steels come in two types –
Sprung steel – which is a solid springy strip of steel normally covered in a white plastic coating.
Spiral steel – this is made of a steel wire. Two steel wires are wound into a tight strip of spirals. Check out the picture below for the plastic, sprung steel and spiral steel types. For corset training corsets you need to use steel, so plastics are only a viable option for stage costumes, lingerie or fancy dress.
In my next post I’ll talk about the properties of sprung and spiral steels to help you pick the right one for your corset.
So earlier we talked about zip closures, but can you make a corset with any other kinds besides the traditional busk?
Well, yes, there are several methods of front closure in use on corset training corsets.
Lacing – yes I know it seems obvious but it’s often overlooked, you can lace yourself in back and front. It looks ever so stunning to see a corset with several panels of lacing, often front back and sides. This works well for a dramatic evening ensemble but is as time consuming as lacing into a front closed corset.
Swing lock clasps – these have become so popular you can now buy them along side steel bones that have been drilled with holes for them. Exotic looking yet as strong as a normal busk they’re fast to get on and off but do require riveting.
Very steampunk, these can work but normally they’re teamed with another method, eg a zip. Used over a normal busk to disguise it you can enjoy the look of a buckled bodice with all the strength of the hidden busk. Ideal for corset training where you need a strong closure.
Continuing from yesterday’s discussion on outer corset fabrics, there are a number of heavyweight materials that add that feeling of quality you just don’t get from cheap ready mades.
Brocades are a very popular choice, the heavy ones of course, not the cheaper ones you can get. You should be able to tell from handling a fabric if it is of a decent thickness.
For corset training the heavy duty twills and cottons are a good choice as they add much needed strength. Corset making coutil comes in satin finishes which is ideal but very expensive. You can often buy it by the half or quarter meter however, so you only need pay for what you plan to use.
If your looking to make a corset on the cheap but still want too quality try recycling old cushions! This is a great little tip as the thick fabrics used to upholster cushions, sofas and curtains are made to take the wear,tear and body weight of an active family using them. Scan the local thrift shops for vintage drapes, heavyweight bed sheets and scatter cushions.
Have you ever noticed those cheap corsets you see for sale online, or on girls in adverts for premium *ahem* men’s lines. They’re normally covered in a lightweight satin fabric that wrinkles and puckers around the seams.
Using cheap or light weight material on a corset is the quickest way to make the corset -look- cheap! A corset training corset is a very small and highly curved garment that has to change shape with the different positions of the body. You need an outer material that will lay flat over the thick cotton lining.
If your more experienced at making a corset and really want to use lighter weight materials I suggest getting an iron on backing fabric for them. If your going to make a corset for the first time however, your best bet is to go for something heavyweight. Upholstery fabrics are the best, they lay flatter on account of their thickness and add strength for corset training purposes.
Your body will change shape instantly the moment you put on a proper corset training corset and tighten the laces. This is because the corset will displace the fat around your middle and hold your body in the shape of the constructed garment, so you can literally design your own body shape. However your body will return to its natural state once you take off the corset. Yes its a shame it can’t just stay put.
So what, if any are the permanent effects that can be achieved with a corset and how long do they take to make permanent?
The only permanent change you can make to your body using corset training is to the lower ribs, which will compress over time to follow the shape of your corset. For this you’ll need a conical corset rather than one with an hour glass shape as these types leave room for the ribcage. Click here for more details on corset training shapes. The above and below pictures are a little extreme as they are copies from historic drawings, but it gives you an idea of the corset training before and after effects. The bottom floating ribs are easily reshaped as they’re not attached at the front. But it will still take a good 6 months to make a significant difference.
If you plan on tight lacing to the extreme, your internal organs will be affected. The corset will restrict your waist, causing your organs to shift. This does place added pressure on your organs but this is similar to the pressure a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy. The female body is designed to take the added pressure and organ movement but if you plan on undertaking extreme tight lacing you should do so under your doctors supervision.
The fact that the corset training before and after effects are not permanent and your body shape is merely held in position until the corset is removed, does not mean that corset training won’t have some effect on your body shape over time. We are talking years though, rather than months. The ribs are a solid bone structure so are unlikely to fully revert back to their original position, soft tissue however, will tend to expand back to its original shape. You would be best advised to corset train as a way of maintaining a slender figure rather than obtaining it, ie someone who starts to tight lace as a young woman will keep her figure thin even as an older woman. Thats why in Victorian times women where corseted as children. The body would form around the corset shape allowing them to maintain the waist size of a young teen. If you do waist train down to a tiny size and maintain it for several years before stopping, you’ll probably remain a great deal thinner than you would have been for several years. However there are reports of it taking under a year for the body to return to its previous size as, just like after pregnancy, the torso seems to remember its natural state. This really does vary from one person to the next though. Corset training really is more a way of life than an alternative to the surgeons knife or a healthy lifestyle. It’s no quick fix and should be undertaken for the joy of tight lacing and with a ‘long term’ mindset.
Permanent Effects and Health
So we’re discusses how tight lacing won’t permanently change your shape in a matter of months -this is because it merely disperses the fat (moves it) and this will move back to its original location. Corset training can however have a permanent effect on your ribs, the lower ones in particular. This really does sound scarier than it is!
As it happens, your lower ribs are a fairly flexible set of bones as they’re attached at the back but the floating ones – as the name suggests – aren’t attached to anything at the front. So maintained pressure from a conical shaped corset will over time reshape them. Theres some debate over whether or not they eventually return to their normal shape if corset training is ceased completely, but as they’re bone this is unlikely unless there is a lot of internal pressure to push them back out. I don’t pretend to be a doctor so I can’t give you a ‘for sure’ answer.
As for the health issues associated with corset training, there is no substancial medical evidence to prove that even the extreme tight lacers of today like Cathie Jung, or those of the Victorian era,suffered negative health effects at the hands of the corsetier. A lot of the historic fatalities attributed to corsets were either laughable or can be put down to other health problems that the Victorians were unaware existed. I’m not saying you couldn’t crush yourself or do yourself a mischief if you tried hard enough, you can. And old or badly made corsets have been known to brake and cause steel bones to pierce the skin. But if your corset training responsibly you shouldn’t come to any harm. The internal organs are designed to be moved around to a degree in the woman’s body to accomodate a growing child, in fact they are put under similar or greater strain during a pregnancy.
How Long Should it be on?
Well, most dedicated tight-lacers will practice a 23/7 rule. This means only taking their training corset off for exercise and wahsing and only loosening it to sleep. However, this is an extreme thats built up to over years, don’t start at this level, you won’t keep it up! It really is up to you to decide how far your going to take it, so if your not enjoying it then ease up. To be effective however, it’s best to work up to at least 8 hours in your corset training corset each day. This should allow you to gradually progress to a smaller size, although it will be a lot slower. Wearing your corset all day and possibly wearing a maintaining waist corset of some kind at night should be your goal if you want to seriously tight lace to a tiny waist size. Otherwise you’ll find yourself fighting to get back into your corset each morning as you deal with the overnight expansion. If you feel like making a waist corset on your sewing machine, check out the bottom of the corset patterns page on this website for a free corset pattern.
You should never exercise in your corset, hopefully this is obvious, you should also make sure you do exercise! If you need convincing of why this is extra important to the waist trainer then read most post – Exercise – Combating the Negative Effects of Corset Training which should give you more than enough reason to sign up to the nearest gym!
It is all-important that you progress gradually with any waist reduction as a sudden extreme reduction can cause a large amount of discomfort to say the least!
I’d like to do away right now with the myth that corset training involves any kind of suffering, wearing a corset should feel comfortable, unrestrictive and it should be easy to almost forget you’re wearing it. So don’t force your body, work with it. It should feel supported and ‘hugged’ not like your fighting against a death grip!
Now as for time scale, a waist reduction can be affected by a lot of factors, the main one being fat mass which can mean after the initial inch loss (which will be substancial as fat is extremely squashy) you won’t be able to get down to those smaller sizes without difficulty. Also if your loosing weight and tight lacing, your weight loss and the speed at which you loose will mean a dramatically different inch reduction to say someone who remains the same overal weight. Muscle will also play a part as this doesn’t squash so easily. A lean person will progress slower as a result.
Generally the first 4 inches or so are the easiest to loose and can be done so in a matter of months, but it becomes increasingly difficult after that. Sometimes a half inch can take a year for example. If your going that small – 20 inches and below (this also depends on your frame) then it’s a good idea to let your doctor know what your doing so he can monitor your health.
A common misassumption it that corset training for just a few months can permanently reduce your waist size. Unless your using it as a weight loss aid then no, it can’t, sorry. However, if worn for a number of years yes the corset can keep you thinner than you naturally would have been, had you not worn a corset during this time. We all get bigger round the middle naturally as we age, unless somethings there to physically stop us. But even after waist training for years, you’ll find that just an hour uncorseted will result in some waist expansion.
To brake in a new corset you’ll need to find three different occasions on which to wear it around the house for at least 2 hours. Put your corset on and very gradually tighten it, wriggle around in it as you tighten it little by little until it feels snug. As a rule it should feel like a strong hug. It should also be comfortable at all times, discomfort is a sign that your corset is too tight. Wear it for a half hour or so or until it starts to feel loose, then do the same again, tightening it slowly and having a good wriggle. If you can do this a third time after another half hour or so then do so. Don’t go too far, it needs to feel comfortable and tightening too much now may lead to weakened seams or poped eyelets. Let the corset get used to your body shape, the areas under most pressure should start to stretch ever so slightly, allowing the tension in the fabric to ease leaves you with a more even overal pressure which will ultimately feel more comfortable. Don’t stay in it longer than 4-5 hours. Repeat this on two more occasion and your corset should be ready for corset training in.
By ‘settling in’ to your corset in this way you will avoid some of the pains and aches that have been associated with corset training, probably as a result of people going silly and jumping straight into an 8 hour stint in a new corset!
If your learning how to make a corset and your pattern doesn’t have enough boning channels, it can seem a bit daunting to just add in extra ones but it really is that simple. A corset training corset will often benefit from a few more bones as your going to be putting enormous pressure on the garment and the bones are what gives it strength and shape.
There are a couple of ways to sew in extra boning channels and it pretty much depends on the look your going for.
If your bones run down the side of your seams then you can just mirror them with a second set of channels down the other side of the seams. This will give you double boning at each seam and can be more comfortable than a single bone which doesn’t lay as flat against the skin.
If you want to add bones for decoration then you may want to place extra ones on the outside of the corset using boning tape (this is a tube of cotton that the bones slip into, you sew two lines of stitching just over 1mm in from each edge so the bone slips down between them). You can also use ribbon or bias binding if you can’t find the right color or want a satin material for these outer casings. Black satin bias looks striking on a red satin brocade fabric for example. These channels can go next to the seams or down the middle of pattern pieces to suit your own design needs.
When you waist train its important to exercise as your movement will be restricted and your core muscles (normally responsible for holding up your torso) will be relaxed and therefore weakened. You need to do a mixture of cardio and core strengthening exercises to avoid the less desirable effects of corset training.
It doesn’t matter how you get your heart rate up, I go for a jog in the mornings myself, but you should find some way that suits you to get your heart rate up for around 20 minutes at least three times a day. Get your heart beating fast and you breathing heavy in whatever way suits you best. The point is two-fold, it obviously keeps you fit but it also helps expand your lung capacity which will naturally diminish if you wear a corset as it will, at least in part, stop you fully using your lungs. If you don’t think you’ll stick to an exercise regime then going to a class or exercising with a friend to keep you motivated. It’s important you make the commitment as you can otherwise become less fit than before you started corset training and may even develop breathing problems.
Core muscle exercises again are also important to avoid the negative effects of tight lacing. Your core muscles reach all the way round your torso and include both the back muscles and the six pack muscles. Wearing a corset takes the strain off this muscle group which is great for back pain but if your taking up corset training to flatten your stomach you may find that when you take off your corset your rounder than before. You need to keep these muscles strong. There are some great core workout videos on the market but seeking the advice of a doctor, a personal trainer (who aren’t nearly as scary or expensive as you might think) or just the guy who works at the local gym is a great place to start.
So you’ve heard it a thousand times in every magazine, on every doctor’s bulletin board and every health related TV program, diet and exercise are key to weight loss and maintaining a healthy body. But diet means something sligtly different to a tight lacer.
Diet becomes extra important when corset training, you should not automatically start under eating, but eating sensibly! Wearing a tight corset also means eating differently. You can’t eat a big meal in a corset, you will feel ill! But we talked about that yesterday, you know you’re going to be eating much smaller meals and more often.
I also doubt I need to lecture you on eating your greens! But I am now going to warn you that you need to take in enough roughage. Theres no way to avoid the subject, squeezing your insides, especially your intestines makes your body’s ability to process food that much slower.
Healthy exercise is as you know, equally as important as a healthy diet and thats what we’re going to concentrate on tomorrow.
A few words on eating and drinking in your corset. You have to be careful how you ‘fill the tank’ while corset training. Those of you who’ve been tight lacing for a while now will no doubt have your own regimes but the less experienced would-be waist trainers will probably be unaware of just how much wearing this restrictive garment will affect your eating habits. I wanted to point out to you the problems you’ll encounter if you try to eat the same sized meals as before.
Wearing a corset while eating makes it easy to suddenly find yourself feeling bloated and uncomfortable with little warning. (If this happens then loosen yor corset a little but this shouldn’t become a common practice). With your stomach compressed you’ll feel comfortably full after only eating a little over half what you normally would. You should stop at this point, don’t eat until you feel bloated, its not good for your body. This is why corset training is associated with weight loss as, indeed, it is very similar to having a gastric band operation! So the best thing to do while corset training is to separate meals into smaller ones, try having four mini meals, which will also help you avoid snacking between meals. You also need to be weary of cold drinks as a cold beverage will fool your stomach into thinking its emptier than it is. The cold numbs your stomach and tricks it into feeling like you have more room to spare. Please try not to use this to finish meals as you really will regret it later when your innereds warm up! It’s fine to leave food on your plate, especially if your using corset training in conjunction with diet and exercise to loose weight. Would you rather it went in the bin or on your hips? However, don’t under eat either! Tightening your corset isn’t a substitute for lunch. You need to be more sensible rather than less when it comes to food intake and tight lacing.
If your planning on loosing weight by donning a corset and changing nothing else about your lifestyle then you will loose some weight, but its not the smartest move. Corset training will leave you unable to eat as much at mealtimes (unless you take the corset off but that defeats the object lol). Because you can’t eat as much its important that what you do put into your body is going to give you the nutrition you need. A healthy diet and exercise plan are key to any weight loss, but corset training can further improve your results. It becomes impossible to binge eat without feeling seriously sick and bloated so you’ll find wearing your corset a disincentive to eat large amounts. You’ll also feel less hungry on account of your stomach being compressed and you’ll feel full quicker and thus satisfied. Smaller meals will also lead to your stomach shrinking – yes it does this. If you eat large meals your stomach stretches over time to accomodate your eating habits. Thats why when you cut down your food intake you still feel hungry after you’ve eaten a sensible amount of food, you need to wait for your stomach to shrink to match your new meal size. This often triggers people to abandon their diet. Tight lacing will combat this feeling and allow you to cut down on your food without feeling unsatisfied.
Hallelujah! I hear you cry. But you still need to eat the right sorts of food and start exercising more regularly. Being in a corset may make you less inclined to be active if your not used to the restrictive nature of the garment. Remember you shouldn’t exercise in your corset, take it off when your doing anything overly energetic!
Tight-lacers love the individuality of customising the body, a lot of modern corset training is practised because the wearer wants to follow their own idea of beauty rather than the reasons of old when corset training was practised to conform to society in the Victorian era. This is by far the biggest change that has taken place within the practise of waist training. Today its about empowering women (and men) rather than constraining them! So I’d like to point out that you should be corset training for you and not your peers, boyfriend, job etc.
So beside customising your body what other uses does the humble corset have? There are actually medical benefits to a tight laced corset. Medical corsets are used for back pain and spine deformaties. If your looking into them for this reason you should ask your doctor to direct you to a specialist. But a much more likely reason for you my readers to be waist training is to loose weight. Corset training is great for helping to reduce your weight. Obviously it needs to be in addition to exercise and a sensible diet but you’ll find you physically can’t eat as much while wearing one. We’ll go into the ins and outs (yes I know, bad pun) of eating and diet in next weeks posts.
So we’re learning how to make a corset? Then why not have some fun with it and make yourself a corset you can’t get anywhere else?
That sounds difficult, I’m only a beginner Scarlet! Ah but I’m not talking about fancy lacework or intricate design features. You can start with a unique fabric!
If your thinking its going to be difficult or expensive to imprint your personality on your own corset then think again. If your having a corset training corset custom made it quickly becomes expensive, but when your sewing it yourself whats stopping you being more flamboyant? There really are so many beautiful fabrics out there, along with trims and iron on appliqués. When it comes to buying fabric you need so little for a corset that you can go for the expensive luxury stuff. If it doesn’t have a large and obvious pattern for you to match up then a half meter is plenty. I’ve gotten short underbusts out of a quarter meter before! This is about the only aspect of making such a small and somewhat fiddly garment that works in the seamstresses favour.
You really can pick literally anything when it comes to picking a material for the outside of your corset, I recommend you avoid Lycra’s, very thin fabrics and stretch fabrics however, as these can be difficult to sew. I love quilting fabrics myself, but they don’t sit as smoothly as brocades and luxury upholstery fabrics which are more commonly used in corsets and really are perfect for the beginner. If you do go for a light-weight material like quilting cottons, then use an iron on backing fabric for added strength and to stop the wrinkling that occurs with thinner fabrics when used for corsetry.
If your completely new to corsetry and need full instructions check out my Express Corsetry Course which includes illustrated step-by-step instructions, 10 corset patterns and a full video on how to make a corset – it costs about what you’d pay for 2-3 shop bought corset patterns!
You can easily use the ‘rabbit ears’ method of lacing your corset training corset to make getting into your corset unassisted supper easy. It involves lacing the corset in the traditional criss crossed method until you get to the waist line, then leaving two big loops of lace (the loops represent the rabbit ears) then continuing to the bottom where you tie them off and cut off the excess. You need to leave the loops long enough to completely loosen the corset to the point where you can put it on/take it off easily. You then pull the loops to tighten the corset and tie them in a bow. The knot at the bottom of the corset never gets untied, unless you want to change or replace the laces. Here’s a diagram of the lacing for rabbit ears, if you have a waist tape on your corset training corset make the loops at this point.
You can then easily loop the rabbit ears over a door handle if you need an extra hand while tight lacing. You then just walk away from the door, using your body weight to tighten the corset. I posted some photos of my friend using the door handle method back in 2011 – check out the post of her first corset training corset lacing here
Here’s one of the photos to illustrate how easy it is to loop the ‘rabbit ears’ over a pair of door handles.
Corset Bones – Corset bones come in three main materials which are plastic, sprung steel and spiral steel. They also come in different widths, 5mm and 7mm are most common but I have worked with 4mm and 9mm too. These are the most common sizes but I don’t doubt there are others readily available out there. The number of bones in the corset is also crucial, too few and your corset will not hold its shape and will probably rip easily. You should check your pattern for number of bones. If your making from a corset pattern that covers sizes 6 to 18 for example, and there are the same number of bones for all sizes, you may find the boning is inadequate for the size 18. You can sometimes remedy this by double boning the seams (sewing in a bone each side of the seam giving you twice the strength).
Eyelets – Your eyelets should be metal and set between two sprung steel bones, spiral doesn’t work so well as it bends in all directions. Eyelets come with or without washers (a metal disk with a hole in the middle) either are fine but a washer will make your seams less likely to pop. Spacing is also important, if they’re too far appart this places too much stress on each eyelet and the material around it. This can lead to poped eyelets. Check your pattern for eyelet spacing – I wouldn’t go further appart than an inch and a half for corset training purposes. Check also for boning channels either side of the eyelets, if they’re not present on the pattern you will need to modify it to include room for them.
Waist Tape – The presence of a waist tape on your pattern is not crucial you can add one anyway if you know how. You also don’t need to have one but it does provide support at the point on the corset that will be under most stress when your corset training with it. It also insures the waist area stays in place and does not stretch, this is aesthetically more pleasing as the corset keeps its dramatic curves and tiny waist line. Waist tape should be made of petersham ribbon, this is traditionally used as it doesn’t stretch.
Laces – You can use any non-stretch material but heavy duty laces are best, these don’t slip the way ribbon does so if your self lacing you can pull the laces tight at the top and they won’t slip before you can pull the slack through further down the corset. If you prefer to use ribbon or something else by all means do. I know hiding two or three meters of heavy-weight lacing under a tight fitting t shirt can be a real hassle! You can use the rabbit ear method of lacing and loop the rabbit ears over a door handle if you need an extra hand. I’ll explain this method of tight lacing in more detail in my next post.
Learning how to make a corset training corset is very different to learning how to make corset style lingerie or fashion wear. This is not a direct issue when looking for a corset pattern to work from, unless you plan on relying solely on the instructions that come with it to make your corset. (For a comprehensive corset making course check out my Express Corsetry Course for everything on how to make a corset for corset training purposes).
So what are the most important things to look for in the construction of a corset training corset?
Well your highest priority should be the material its made from, also the number of layers of fabric. The corset bones, width, material and the number of bones used are important too. Then there are the eyelets, waist tape and laces that all need considering. Lets look at each aspect in more detail.
Coutil – By far the best thing to make a corset from is coutil. This is a cotton fabric desgned speciafically to make corsets from. It has a herringbone weave to it and little to no stretch. You want to get 100% cotton where possible as this allows the skin to breathe but polycotton blends are available. This fabric is normally available in white and black, with nude/beige being less common but you can dye the fabric easily. Satin coutil is also available in a variety of colors and patterns but can often be three times the price and lacks the herringbone weave so is a little more prone to stretching. If you want a pretty outer fabric the most popular method is just to add a layer of ‘fashion fabric’ which can be any fabric of your choosing although stretch fabrics can be problematic. A heavy-weight or upholstery fabric is best as it lays flatter and smoother on the curves of the body and adds support to the coutil layer.
Number of Fabric Layers – Opinions on how many layers a corset training corset needs are divided. I used to believe myself that waist training corsets needed at least two layers, but I have since bought antique corsets from the Victorian era that were clearly worn on a daily basis for tight lacing, but that comprise of just a single layer of coutil. A corset should at the very least be made of one layer of strong coutil, in which case boning should be increased in my opinion, but a two layer corset with the outer layer made of a sturdy decorative material and the inner one being of coutil is fine in my opinion. Although it won’t last as long as with two coutil layers or two coutil and a third outer layer of fashion fabric. It really is down to you but make sure you use heavy duty thread and double stitch your seams to avoid seams ripping. If you don’t know how to make multiple layer corsets you’ll need to find a pattern with instructions on how to do this.
TBC in next post…
…Measuring a plus sized figure for a corset training corset may mean the usual sizing method – taking the waist size minus 4inches and picking the corset pattern size that matches – results in a corset too big at the bust and hips. instead go by the bust/hips measurements instead.
Measure the bust at the fullest part with a well fitting non-padded bra on. This measurement should also have 4inches removed to get the ideal fit. The hip measurement can be taken at either (or both) the hip bone or the fullest part of the hips (normally level with the fullest part of the bum). This will depend on the corset pattern – whether it’s an on the hips or over the hips style. The hips measurement should have 2inches removed from it.
So why 4inches off the bust and waist but only 2inches off the hips? Well 2inches should be taken off everywhere to allow a 2inch gap at the laces but the waist is being compressed further for the corseted shape so we remove another 2inches. The bust is also traditionally pushed in and upward so we also take an extra 2inches off this measurement. Thus giving us the classic corset training shape.