Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to wear a corset - part III

After discussing how to find a high quality corset and the different types of corsets in the first two posts of this series, today let's discuss the most common mistakes when buying and lacing a corset. At first a general introduction into lacing:

How to lace a corset
If you want to lace a corset please follow the scheme below. In my eyes, it doesn't matter whether you lace criss-cross or the way they did it in the picture (maybe tightening the laces is easier this way, but criss-cross looks nicer). It also is not that important how you close the laces (either by connecting them at the lowest pair of eyelets or making two knots keeping the laces from slipping through said eyelets). But you should take care to have two loops of lace in the middle eyelets i.e. where your waist is the smallest/ the waist of the corset is. It's not suitable to pull all the excess lace to either the upper or the lower corset hem, in the style shown below it is easier to equally distribute the lace and the pressure while lacing!

When tightening the laces in your corset, you should move the excess of laces to the middle loops. If someone else is lacing you, you can help them by holding those two loops tight and readjusting them while you are laced. If you are alone, don't fear: I find it easiest to hook both loops on a door handle and walk away from the door while lacing myself, thus keeping the loops tight. In the end you should make a tight knot with the two loops and think about the excess laces. You can either hide them by pushing them under the side of the corset (though this might be uncomfortable), make some more knots to keep them from tangling into your legs or make a nice bow. Unless you want to make a fool out of yourself, please refrain from pulling them to the front and lacing them there! This will cause strain on the back of the corset and may damage your outer fabric is the laces shrub against it when the corset adapts to your body!

Common fitting mistakes
Now that you learned how to lace your corset properly, let's discuss common fitting errors. Beware that many sellers (i.e. Hot Topic or Xtra-X) who don't specialise in corsets also have very little knowledge about corset fitting. Of course you might find a corset lover and fitting guru there as well, but this is rather an exception than the rule... You should also keep in mind that these people want to sell you something and might tell you that "the fit isn't that bad" or "the pain will go away after the corset is worn in". This is absolutely wrong. A corset should never cause you pain!
After this little rant, let's check how a corset should fit in the back:
 This is how the back of the corset should look like. When you buy it, you should still have an opening of about 1-2 inches (3-5cm), because the corset will widen after several wears. Your body temperature and the pressure from lacing will increase the width a little, so you should take care of that. Notice how both sides are parallel?  This means that the corset fits equally well for all body parts it covers. Since both chest and hips contain bones, there is not much tissue you can pressure away while lacing (although the amount of tissue increases with larger sizes). A good corset accommodates that and only decreases your waist!
As I already told you, a corset you can lace shut when buying will eventually grow too big with wear (or might be already from the beginning). If you can lace a corset shut, go and buy a smaller size!
Despite the corset giving in from temperature and pressure, I don't advise you to buy a corset which you can't lace up to 1-2 inches. A large gap doesn't look nice and might harm you as the anatomy of a corset is destroyed. If you think the gap might be acceptable, please check the side seams: If they don't rest on your side (where a t-shirt side seam would), you might put strain on your back and chest, leading to pain!
Even if the gap is the right size, you might still encounter some fitting issues. Pictured above is a corset which is too big at the chest. You can see how the back is not parallel, this leads to not equally applied pressure. In this case, the pressure from lacing will be increased on your hip and stomach. Please don't buy corsets that don't fit right!
This corset has the opposite problem: It doesn't fit at the hips. Since it is too wide at the hips, the pressure from lacing will be increased at your stomach and chest. This might bruise your ribs and cause serious discomfort. Please don't buy ill fitting corsets!
If you get the so called "fish" (i.e. the part around the waist is bulging out) between the two back ends of the corset after lacing, I have bad news for you: It is highly unlikely that this corset will ever fit. You remember that dress from 2 years ago in the back of your closet? The one you bought because "you are going on a diet and in 5 pounds it will fit"? Same here. You would have to loose weight/ cm/inches right at your waist to fit this corset, otherwise it will be uncomfortable and might lead to problems with breathing or digestion if the laces are tightened. Just don't!
 This problem is a rather rare case, but I would not recommend buying a corset which fits like this. You might find corsets like this in the reduced bin or get large discounts on it, when the manufacturer noticed this mistakes, but if the corset was not sewn right there is no way it will ever fit a normally build person! you can see how the two sides are parallel, but skewed to one side? This means that something in the production of said corset went wrong. Maybe someone switched a piece or left something out, but there is no way you can make this corset fit. Since the fit is off, it will restrain your breath and might bruise the lesser upholstered parts like hips or ribs.
If you experience this fit on several corsets, it might mean that you yourself are more asymmetrical than average Joe. Most people are slightly asymmetrical (my left side is a little longer), but this can lead to back pains or even headaches. I recommend getting checked up at a doctor's in case you didn't know about this issue before. While a corset can help with asymmetry and back problems, I advise you to only buy custom made corsets from a maker who knows about your issues and offers fitting sessions.


Alexandriaweb said...

A corset should be seen and not hurt :)

kakuidori said...

oh started reading at part 3 instead of 1 *lol*
people tell me i look like a strange 'dancing' person when i tighten my corset but thats what works best for me ^^

and atm most of my corsets are on their way to be too big ;_; i dont want to throw them away though! and i usually have a problem with my hip bones (getting blisters from my most loved corset but hey, nothing a plaster cant fix and since they are not too bad i am ok with that - it still feels great and i love how it looks... so XD)

MindLess said...

@Alexandriaweb: Thumps up!

@kakuidori: I use our long hallway, hang my laces over the door handle and walk awy from the door while tightening...

And it sounds like your corset might be a bit too wide around the hips, if it can move too much the fabric can scrap hyour skin open!

AlexaFaie said...

Important to remember that the amount of gap at the back isn't so much an indication of whether the corset fits "right" but rather the level of lacing and comfort. Whilst seasoning a corset it is common to have a much larger gap at the back. One shouldn't feel pressured to try to lace straight down to a 1-2" gap.

Similarly, just because a corset is fully closed at the back, it doesn't mean that it is too big. I personally find that wearing a corset fully closed is more comfortable than wearing one with a 1-2" gap at back and so order all my custom corsets to be made so that they are the right size at underbust and hips when worn fully shut. It would be different if it were an off the rack corset (or even a custom I suppose) if it could be worn fully shut and still feels loose at the waist. Or if its fully shut and loose everywhere. But there are quite a few corsetieres who prefer to design their corsets to be worn closed (more common amongst the ones offering true tightlacing corsets - suitable for 23/7 wear at a high level of reduction).

MindLess said...

@ AlexaFaie: Yes, you are right: Soem designers (or seamstresses at home) design corsets without a gap. I do so for ballrobes because I do not like a gap disrupting a smooth design! But for most commercial corsets, the corset is designed with a gap!

On the other hand, you can of course decide to wear a corset with a larger gap, but most of the designers (again commercial ones) design for gaps of 1-2 inches. If you wear your corset with largers gaps, the panels will not align with your body - or at least you should keep in mind to watch out for this potential problem...