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.
There are even more corset pattern shapes to choose from than lengths (on hips, over hips etc, see last few posts for more details). Below are examples of the main ones, the top line shows those commonly used for corset training, the second row are the more exotic but also more problematic corset styles that I don’t recommend for waist training, they’re included for educational purposes.
The waist cincher has been covered in the previous posts – this is the same as a ‘waspie’ or short underbust and is for active wear. The two main types you’ll have to choose between are the hour glass and the conical shape.
The hour glass corset pattern is named after – you guessed it – the hour glass, the ones filled with sand, as its wide at both the top and bottom but goes in dramatically in the middle. The important thing to note here is that this pattern allows for the ribs, you should have little or n trouble taking full lung-fulls of air while waist training in this style. The conical corset however, squashes the ribs which are forced into an upside-down cone shape that tapers down to the waist. This style will restrict lung capacity and over time corset training with a conical corset is said to change the shape of the ribs permanently. A lot of tight-lacers consider this the proper corseted body shape.
When learning how to make a bodice or corset you will come across a number of corset patterns and knowing how to discern between a good shaped corset or bodice pattern is essential.
In a corset pattern the number of pattern pieces is a great way to tell if a corset is going to hug the body well, 4 pieces is a little low, 5 or more per side will give a good fit. Shape also plays a big part. If the pattern pieces are all very straight in shape the corset will not curve in at the waist enough. They should all look pinched in the middle.
For learning how to make a bodice – bodice pattern pieces will not ‘pinch’ in the middle as the Elizabethan bodice had straight sides. Instead make sure that all the edges of your pattern meet up from top to bottom.
We have a new article up on the articles page called How To Make A Bodice, Not A Corset. The point of which is to give you a bit more info on the difference between a bodice pattern and a corset pattern as well as the main differences between corset making and learning how to make a bodice.
All the skills needed are the same but there will still be some aspects of the bodice pattern not covered in basic corset design. Things like straps, tabs and the infamous fully boned panel.
Another thing to remember about the boned bodice or ‘stays’ is that the bodice pattern, by design, isn’t a good corset training choice due to its shape and lack of support below the waist line. That aside if you want a dramatic look for a period costume or fancy dress outfit and you don’t mind the odd gasp of admiration or jealous stare (who would) than an Elizabethan bodice pattern is the obvious choice for the corset maker.
The bodice pattern is taking shape finally. We’re nearly there – yay – I’ve just got the edges to finish off. Like with all my new corset patterns, I couldn’t resist trying it on before it’s finished, just to check the sizing is right of course! So here are some photos so you can see how its looking, the fit is just right and I can’t wait to see how the tabs look once I’ve cut them (they’re all stuck together still to avoid premature fraying) I’ll be carefully cutting them appart and edging them in a few days time. First I need a rest and some retail therapy! I think the sewing machine will appreciate a bit of a rest and some quiet time too! I’ve been filming each stage as I go, this printable corset pattern will have its own video guide and work book as its a specialist bodice pattern. So the filming has been making the whole process take a lot longer. I hate being on film too so my nerves are shot! Click on the pics for bigger versions and a closer look. The red fabric is looking amazing, its my first use of heavy weight material as I always opt for the light cottons with the colourful designs. This bodice pattern may have converted me though! The feel is so much more luxurious and the sheen it has is fantastic.
Learning how to make a corset with fully boned panels has been time consuming but worth it, I love the bone channels and the effect they give.
Today I started the filming for the exciting new Elizabethan bodice pattern! Yes filming! The next pattern in the printable patterns range will come with an optional workbook and video guide.
I’ve again been looking for a way to make my patterns easier to follow. The idea is that, like with the corset making DVD, nothing is more straightforward than seeing how its done. Having an instructional PDF workbook and MP4 video to download alongside the printable pattern is intended to make it possible for even the novice to complete this fully boned bodice pattern.
Defining the Corset Training Corset:
The difference between a regular corset and a corset training corset or tightlacing corset is in the structure and strength. It is used for ‘body modification’ which means it has to have the strength to physically alter the shape of your body for extended periods of time until this becomes permanent to some degree (when taking off a corset you can’t expect your waist to not expand to some degree even after years of corset training).
To take this kind of long term strain a tightlacing corset has to be made of coutil ideally, I won’t go into the other materials that have been debated over the years, for me it has to be coutil. This is a strong stretchless cotton with a ‘herringbone weave’. Heres an example:-
The smaller the herringbone weave the less give the fabric should have and the better it is for corset making.
You can get satin coutils that aren’t herringbone weave, these materials aren’t as a rule as strong as the above type but make an excellent outer layer when coupled with a herringbone coutil lining. Which brings me onto my next point which is the layering. You can sometimes get by with a single layer of coutil, I’ve definitely seen a number of historic corsets made of a single layer. But remember the women that wore them had been corset training from a very young age and had tiny waists to support. If you are learning how to make a corset to reduce your waist substantially over time (or a customers waist), especially if it is a large or plus sized corset pattern – use two layers of coutil! You can often find three layer waist training corsets available commercially that have an outer layer of fashion fabric and two coutil layers for strength.
My last point to make on corset training corsets is the number of bones. Lets establish firstly tho that they should be made of steel not plastic. Often referred to as ‘steels’ corset bones can be made of two types of steel, sprung steel and spiraled steel wire, as below:-
Sprung steel boning comes with the ends rounded and tipped with a plastic. You can buy a continuous reel that can be cut with tin snips, rounded with a metal file and dipped in a liquid tipping fluid. Spiral steels need to be cut and capped with small metal U tips.
In a corset training corset you should expect to find the seams double boned, ie two bones at each seam with the seam running in-between. Some corsets will have more, the more bones the more strength and comfort the corset should provide. And that concludes the basics you should look for in a corset training corset.
The Elizabethan corset pattern comes together…slowly. The use of fully boned panels is new to me and I’m learning how, to make a corset with side by side boning throughout takes time! (And lots of spiral steel!) But I think you’ll agree it’s
looking like it’ll be worth it! My boyfriend seems to think I’ll be bullet proof in this bodice pattern but I won’t be testing the theory! It certainly has a completely different quality and feel to a corset pattern with boning at the seams only.
…and after all that practise, my sewing has never been straighter!
I have some more juicy fabrics for the historic corsets I’m making this month. These are especially nice for the Elizabethan ones I’m designing currently. And I’ve managed to get some nice ‘off white’ lacing cord to go with.
This month is my Elizabethan Corset Pattern month for me but I should be calling it Bodice Pattern month really. The corsets from this period are rather different from the more familiar Victorian corset patterns as I’m finding out!
A fully boned bodice us not something in my comfort zone but I’m enjoying the conical shape of the period and of course – the challenge!
Yesterday I indulged my biggest obsession, fabric shopping! -Stands up- ‘good evening everyone, I’m Scarlet and I am a fabric addict, it has been less than a day since my last fabric purchase’. O yes!
But all is not lost – I had a reason to buy this fabric, (not a cast iron reason but it will do anyhoo). I have been acquiring historically accurate fabrics to use for my next few corsets. Yes 18th century bodice patterns! The bodice pattern I am currently working on designing is fully boned and Elizabethan so I wanted something that both looked the part and would hold up against the large quantity of steel boning that will be going into it. Here is my current stash of historic fabrics, including yesterdays haul:
Today has been one of many corset patterns and much sewing! I’ve been creating a 1700s historic corset pattern mock up for the next of the historic patterns. It’s going to be fully boned so I’ve ordered some tiny 5mm wide spiral boning. Here’s the first mock up:
Here it is after some alterations to the straps and front panel.
Now I’m just brushing up on my historic corset making skills and reading up on the best how to make a corset techniques for fully boned panels.
Are you making a bodice or a corset I ask?
Whats the difference?
I here you retort, well that’s the topic of this blog post, and the answer is actually quite a lot.
I used to think it was all in the layers, a corset had two or more while a bodice had just the one. But I have since seen bodices of more and corsets (my own vintage historical ones) with less. So I looked into it.
It turns out that (and this is still not definitive so if you have other evidence to offer up please do) a bodice is made to the exact measurments of the wearer while a corset is made smaller than the wearer! Yes if you want a corset to look right it should be at least two inches smaller at the waist (plus at least an extra inch smaller to allow for the gap at the laces if you want it).
There are lots of theories on the differences between the two so there is no way to say this is it definitively, but as the modern day ‘bodice block’ is made to the wearers exact measurements then ‘ease’ is added when the garment is made (more ease for a shirt and less for a fitted top) this does seem to fit as an explanation. Bodices were of course around first dating back to the 1600s, there are shape and style differences, cloth qualities and bodices are normally much more heavily boned than corsets, but this is the major factor that I’ve found makes the most sense.
So here’s a quick pic of what I’ve been up to today. Using the method my old corsetry tutor taught me I’ve been using a pin wheel to prick through one of my historic corsets to copy the pattern onto some pattern paper. It’s a lot fiddlier than it sounds as corsets don’t lay flat and this one seems to have a life of its own!
Heres a sneak peak at some material I’ve got for my next few corsets – they’re going to be historic corsets. But that aside I thought this was a good time to talk about fabric weights and what works best when making a corset…
So what do I mean by fabric ‘weight’, if your not familiar with the term it means the thickness, and it makes a big difference to the way the fabric moves, hangs and holds its shape under pressure.
I’m often asked what corsets can be made from and if your wondering the answer is anything…as long as its lined with coutil (a cotton with almost no give that is specially designed for corsets). But there is a difference between what a corset can be made of and what it should be made of to get the best results.
Now as long as you have your coutil lining your outer layer or ‘fashion fabric layer’ can be any material (although your making a rod for your own back with stretch fabrics). I myself love to use lightweight cottons, not for the material but for the patterns; all the best fabric designs are printed on quilters cottons from pin-up girls to palm trees. However its very hard to work with these fabrics when you make a corset as they wrinkle if you don’t get the tension between lining and outer layers just right and even then they wrinkle a little. I use fusible interfacing most of the time and this helps considerably but if your new to corset making and are just learning how to make a corset for the very first time I can’t recommend heavy weight fabrics enough.
These two in the photo above are upholstery fabrics I got from the curtain section of Rolls n Rems – my favourite fabric store in Lewisham, London, UK. They have an upstairs devoted to these beauties. So look for local curtain and upholstery shops for an easy to work fabric that will sit flat and smooth where others will pucker and wrinkle. Add to this an extra layer of strength to back up your coutil and you have a winner! When I find a method to make shirt cottons lay smooth and flat I’ll let you know as I’m not giving up on my palm trees and pin-up prints!
A book of high fashion by Dior this is hot off the press and a must have if your fashion obsessed like me. There are some nice corseted pieces as u can see here in this magazine article I came across. But the whole book is in French so if your not multilingual your buying it for the pictures only, which to be honest is enough in this case!
First let me explain to those new to corset making who don’t know; what bias binding is and where it goes. If your just learning how to make a corset you may not have come across it yet but bias binding is the stuff that goes along the top and bottom edge of your corset. It incloses the raw edge and finishes the corset – in short it makes the corset look professional.
Now, again, if your new to corsetry you may be forgiven for thinking that all binding is created equal, but any seasoned seamstress will set you straight on that. O no no, if you’ve ever seen a cheap website with those £20 – £50 corsets and wondered why the edging is rucked up and creases round the curves of the bust and under arm area, I can tell you now its because bias binding wasn’t used.
As the name suggests its strips of material cut on the bias. The edges are then folded in to the middle and the whole thing is folded in half again to inclose the raw edges. The important thing about cutting on the bias is the way the binding can stretch on the diagonal. This allows it to stretch round curved edges leaving a smooth wrinkle-less finish. So when you make a corset don’t finish off your edges without it – make sure you use bias binding.
Some of My Bias Binding in Satins and Cottons
I have just taken some lovely photos of a set of three historic corsets I have been acquiring over the last couple of years. They will be the next set of patterns in my printable corset patterns series and I couldn’t help but share a picture of one of them with you! It didn’t look quite right on a mannequin so I have carefully tried it on to get a proper idea of the shape. I will post a few more photos and some more details about the corsets in the coming weeks.
Ok, those of you who already know how to make a corset will probably know what coutil is, but for the newbies there’s probably some confusion. So if your a more advanced corset maker bare with us on this one.
Coutil is a specially designed type of fabric that has been deleloped just for corsetry. It is probably the least stretchy fabric available anywhere for corset making (yes that includes denim and twill). It’s also kind on the skin as it’s made from cotton to allow the skin to breathe. The lack of give in it means you can tight-lace down to tiny waist sizes and know your 20 inch waist, for example, won’t be 21inches by the time you take it off in the evening (if you take it off of an evening).
Are all coutils made equal? It would be nice but no. Some are a cotton polyester blend, I have one in my fabric cupboard and its nowhere near as nice as 100% cotton, it’s a little plastic feeling and won’t breathe as well. Get 100% cotton when you can. Also the strength of a coutil depends on the weave – it must be herringbone weave and the smaller the herringbone the stronger the fabric. If in doubt give the material a little tug and get a feel for the quality, if you’ve never bought it before or are just about to make a corset for the first time then try to find somewhere with a selection so you can compare. I have a course on how to make a corset with a few cheap places to get coutil online from, I’ve bought from them myself and know they’re good quality. But remember – any coutil is better than none and never buy a corset for corset training unless it’s lined with coutil (some places just call it cotton so check for the herringbone pattern in the weave).