Drafting an Underbust Corset:
Wearing Your Corset
Now that your corset is made and laced, you are ready to wear it. I think you will be surprised when you find that wearing a corset is easier than you think. A correctly made corset will hold your back straight and your shoulders back, so you will have great posture and less stress on your lower back muscles. A lot of corset wearers also report that a corset gives them a certain confidence, so they feel better and more beautiful when wearing one.
The first step in putting on a corset is to go to the bathroom. No, really. Go now. Lacing is going to put stress on your bladder, so even if you don’t have to go now, you probably will halfway through the process. Next, put on your shoes. This is because unless you are a major contortionist you won’t be able to reach your feet after you’re laced in. Think about these things first, and do anything else you can think of that may involve touching your feet or legs.
When you are ready to put on your corset, loosen all the ties as far as they will go. If the corset has a front-fastening closure, undo it. If there’s not one, wriggle into the corset from the bottom with it laced up as much as possible. If there is a front closure, then pull the corset around your body. Put the lacing panel in place under the loosened laces if there is one, and fasten the busk or front closure. My favorite way to fasten the busk is starting in the center, then alternating one-down-one-up until it is closed. I think it’s harder to start at one end and work my way to the other, but go with what works for you. The corset should not be tight at all at this point. Any kind of stress on the busk can snap off a post, wrecking your busk and all your lovely work. Next, pull on the laces loosely until it is loose, but held in place. Then reach up above your head and try to touch the ceiling. This repositions your breasts so that they shelf on the corset and create good cleavage. The old-fashioned way of holding onto a post does this, too. If necessary, some breasts need manual manipulation, so don’t be afraid to reach in there and move them to where they need to be – up, down, more to the front, etc. When they are reasonably in place, start tightening the laces. If you are doing this yourself using self-lacing or a variation of it, try hooking the loops over a stair rail or doorknob and walking away. If you are using another lacing variation and are trying to lace alone, then do your best. Sometimes a mirror helps, and sometimes it hurts. Growing a third arm or learning to be double-jointed may help, too. You may have to stop during the process and re-position the breasts again, because they move as you do.
For your first lacing, don’t tighten the corset too much. You want to give the fabric and stitches time to move and adjust to the heavy stresses you are putting on them. Try lacing loosely, with little stress, for a half hour, then letting the corset sit, without you in it, for an hour. The wearing will start to stress the fabric and re-distribute the stresses, and the heat from your body will start to stretch and mold the fabric. The time sitting on it’s own will help the corset to cool off and ‘set’ the molding you just did. After it has been cool for a while, try again, this time a little tighter. You should not try to get the corset to the planned reduction for the first four or so wearings. You are much more likely to bust a seam or pop a stud off your busk if you stress the corset so soon. If this is your first time wearing a corset, you also need to give your body time to get used to the constrictions involved in wearing a corset. Finally, you should never just lace your corset to a large restriction. Lace it to where it feels snug to tight, and then wear it for a half-hour or so. Your body will adapt to the feeling of being corseted, and you will find that after 30 min you can tighten more without being uncomfortable. If you plan a large reduction for a night, keep this in mind and plan hours ahead to wear your corset and work into the reduction. When you are finished wearing your corset, take it off in the same method you put it on. Be sure to loosen the laces before you try to unsnap the busk, or you are stressing a few studs and may break one off.
Many first time corset wearers are concerned about the health risks involved. In reality, there are very few dangers in proper corseting. The body adapts to the reduced waistline by shifting and squishing. Over long periods of corseting, organs will shift to make way for the reduction. There is nothing wrong with this, if organs could not shift and move without harm it would be incredibly dangerous to get pregnant, and a baby will shift organs much more than a corset ever will. The key is in time. A baby takes months and months to grow and gradually reshape the body. Corsetting should take at least that long. A corset should never be tightened to the point where it is painful or the wearer cannot breathe. More signs that a corset has been tightened too much: back pain, numbness or tingling in the legs, nausea, dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath, and chest pains. All these things are warning signs that you have overdone your lacing and should cut back and work more slowly into the reduction you want. Most of the other things you hear about corsets – back damamge, liver and intestinal damage, broken ribs – are either rumors or memories of corsets at the beginning of the 20th century – the S-curve corsets. S-curve corsets brought on many health and physical problems, and should only be worn after a doctor has been consulted, for they are the one kind of corset that can be damaging to the body when worn properly.
There are a few changes you should consider making to your daily habits when you are wearing a corset. The constriction on your waist and stomach will mean you are hungry less often and eat less when you do eat. Try to stick to lean meats and veggies to get the most nutrition from the fewer foods you are eating. Remember to drink a lot of water. Because of the constriction on the stomach even a little gas can cause acute pains, so consider staying away from carbonated beverages and other foods that cause you to have gas. Processed sugars and complex carbs also take a long time to digest, so try to avoid them at these times when you are compressing the organs that need to work hard in digestion. Finally, alcohol is not recommended while you corset, but some people only wear corsets to parties and other drinking functions. Corseting can be good in these cases, for the reduced digestion means less absorption into your bloodstream. Remember, though, that doesn’t mean the alcohol just disappears, it is just waiting in your digestive system to be absorbed. Drink plenty of water, and try to wait a few hours after your last drink to open the corset, because as you unlace and take the pressure off your stomach and intestine, all the alcohol that was not absorbed before will flood the suddenly-working system and hit you even harder.
Another common health risk with corsetry is dry skin. The skin under a corset can’t breathe and sweat like skin that is under looser clothing, so it dries out more frequently. One of the first signs of this is itching. Some more serious symptoms are pinching or pulling sensations, especially at the sides and more elastic parts, and dry scales or short, regular cuts and breaks. If you get an itch while you are corseted, try not to scratch it. Scratching will only damage the fashion fabric, not give you relief. Instead, remove the corset as soon as you can and rub lotion into the skin underneath it. In the future, apply lotion to the skin about a half hour before you plan to put on your corset, then put talcum powder on the skin. Another good preventative is to wear a corset liner. These can be purchased from corsetiers or made by sewing bathing suit lining into a tube. The liner is put on over powdered skin and under the corset, with the seam up the back spine, and is washed with each wearing. It also keeps the sweat and oils from the skin away from the corset, so it is a good idea to get a few corset liners if you plan to corset every day or want to keep your new corset in the best possible condition over many wearings. Historical corsets are usually worn with a historical chemise, which served the same purpose. When you are making or picking a liner or chemise, remember to try to keep the seams to a minimum and keep your seam finishes neat and small. Large, bulky seams create hot spots for the skin to rub against and pinch or blister. Another good idea for those wanting to wear a corset every day: get two or more corsets and alternate their wearings. This gives the corsets time to rest, dry, and breathe.
After a few wearings you will probably want to wash your corset. It is not advisable to wash any boned object in the washer, however. The agitation is too rough on the fabrics. Additionally, if you used spiral boning or metal pieces that were not coated in paint or another coating, they will rust when exposed to water. First consider dry-cleaning. Try to find a reputable dry-cleaner, and see if you can speak to a tech, not a desk clerk. Be sure to mention specifically that you are bringing in a piece that was boned with metal (or plastic). It would be best if they do the cleaning on site. I have heard horror stories where cleaners are confused or send there things to another site where the cleaners have cut open the boning channels to remove the boning prior to cleaning. Be sure to get enough information from the cleaner that you can trust them with your piece. If your corset is all coated metal and/or plastic, then you can wash it yourself at home. Fill your sink or bathtub with cold water, and add a capful of woolite or lingerie soap. Submerge the corset and swish it around some, then drain and fill with clean water. Swish the corset in clean water baths until no more suds come out, then place it on a towel and use the towel to squeeze the water out. Do not roll or wring a wet corset. When it is toweled dry, re-lace it. Hang it over a coat hanger, laces up. Be sure the coat hanger is plastic or wood, not metal, because metal can rust and stain your corset. Do not hang the corset in direct sunlight because it will fade the fabrics and make them brittle. After the corset is dry it may be a little wrinkly. Just wear it for a while and the wrinkles will smooth out. Never iron a corset, the heat will concentrate in the bones and damage the casings.
Over time your corset will get more comfortable to wear. It will stretch
slightly and mold to your body using heat and the stress you are putting
on it. For this reason you should never lend a corset to someone else
to wear. Their body is shaped differently than yours, and your corset
will stress in different ways. Eventually your corset would be out-of-shape
and uncomfortable for you, since it has molded to someone else’s
body. You will have to take time to re-train it to your shape, and the
more the corset has to re-train the weaker the fabrics will get.
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