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[READ ONLY PAGE. Updated 4/9/15]

Q.1. I've read that corsets can hurt and I can't breath very well. Is it true??

A. Custom corsets don't hurt for three main reasons.

First, the pattern is drafted to fit your individual body's hills and valleys; readymade corsets may hurt since they are made from standardized patterns. Second, you can open up any corset at the back lacings to provide a more comfortable fit. Third, you will go about lacing down in a common-sense and slow manner, that is, seasoning your corset slowly and gradually wearing it longer hours at a looser level before you lace tighter. This will accustom your body to restriction, and protect the integrity of your fine corset.

Q. My new custom corset doesn't seem to fit? How could that be?

You might be amazed to learn that we have heard the above statement at least five times, only to learn that the client put the corset on -- upside down!!
Of course then it did not fit. Also, a number of other clients put the corset on above her waistline, not at it, and thus felt a lot of uncomfortable rib pressure plus observed a protruding belly. All they had to do was pull the corset down about 1/2 inch to achieve a good fit. Further, a new corset may feel very stiff and unyeilding. If you properly season it and keep wearing it for short periods of time, building up to longer hours before you lace down (virtually the same process as waist training), the corset will begin to become much more comfortable and your body will become more used to restrictive clothing and corsetry.

Please view corsets worn upside down, and two more worn too high on the body. Turned around, or re-donned at the waistline, all four clients were perfectly satisfied as we knew they would be!

Another issue is, how should the back gap look when you first put on a new corset? It will likely look similar to that pictured here in the ivory corset, closer together at the top and bottom, further apart at the waistline. However, at first you should not close up the top and bottom and leave a wide gap at the waistline. That might cause your flesh to squish up and over the top or out the bottom. Open up the corset and bear up with a less-than-perfect initial fit, during the seasoning period.
As you lace down slowly you will note that you become more comfortable lacing the waistline tighter. This results in the gap in the back become more parallel top to bottom, which should be your goal. You need never close the gap completely; that is your decision to make.

Q.3. There's a big gap in the top edge of my corset around my torso, so I wonder if it was made too big?

A. You may usually send your corsetiere photos to help you evaluate this situation which may or may not constitute a fit issue.

Sometimes we have found a client raised their elbows to demonstrate the gap, but we don't normally walk around with our arms and elbows raised now, do we? Testing the proper fit requires you to remain relaxed and keep your arms down and reasonably close to your body even as you do when conducting most activities of daily living.

For underbust styles, you should be able to somewhat easily place eight fingers inside the top edge, and the same under the bottom edge. If not, then you run the risk of a corset too tight that will or may squish out flesh and at the top create what some women call "back boobies", or toothpaste.
At the bottom edge, this flesh may lump and bump at the leg connection and appear quite unsightly. The proper squeeze of a corset occurs solely in the middle area of the corset starting a few inches down from the top and up from the bottom edges.

For overbust styles, note that if a client attempts to create cleavage by sending us too tight of a top edge measurement under the armpits called the "high bust measurement," the corset will or may then also create toothpaste. It is far better to enhance cleavage by adding a half "cookie" or silicon pad under each bosom to elevate it inside the cup.

One final word about two other clients who were convinced that her corsetiere had made a mistake and their overbust styles did not fit in the bodice. One arrived wearing her 18th Century style, complaining rather bitterly that the corset made her look "flat" and disappeared her ample bosom. The other sent a photo showing a large gap between the bodice top and her bosoms, which you can see in the ivory corset pictured, both before and after I corrected the fitting. In both cases I advised the client to simply lean over as when fitting a bra, reach inside each cup and lift each bosom up and forward, then stand up. Lo! The errant lovelies had properly appeared in their intended position in the corset , and both ladies ended by being fully satisfied with the fit!

One final note on fitting the bosom cup or bodice top. Even full-figured women sometimes are well advised to add a light pad inside their bodice cup, not to add bulk, but to add stability. Depending on the bosom size, the weight of the fabric and boning used, the bosom may or may not tend to move to the sides of the cup, or sag a bit. An overall shell will add firmness to the cup and enhance the appearance of one's cleavage. Sometimes this cannot be anticipated or advised even at a muslin fitting, because it is truly the final garment that will be worn and will shape the body and the reverse. Easy modifications are usually possible, and patience must be shown during the final fitting process.

Q.4. Because a corset is somewhat thick, I know that the outside measurement is a bit larger than my actual waistline under the corset. But how much does my corset add?

A. There are several ways to determine this with some precision, but the rule of thumb is that a three-quarter to one-and-a-quarter inch difference will exist for most corsets.

Initially, please understand that measuring a corset in the same style for the same person but produced by different corsetieres, can result in a difference. That is because corsetieres use various weights and styles of boning, busks, fabric, and layers of material, interfacing or bonding, causing variations in thickness of the completed corset.

You may determine this matter more precisely, by using two methods we know about. The first one is to locate a non-stretchy tape measure, place it around your waist, then tie it loosely in front of your waist. Put on your corset and clip it, and let the edges of the tape measure come out from between the front busk split. Untie the tape measure and let the loose edges dangle downward. Then tighten your corset as usual, occasionally gently pulling the tape forward. Try not to stretch the tape. Once you are laced down, read the tape measure and write the results down. Then take another tape measure and measure over the corset at the same location, and find the difference. That should give you the thickness of Sharon's corset.

The second method is to take a rigid dress form and measure the waistline. Then lace your corset over it, and measure the waistline, then take the difference.

Q.5. I ordered a corset to close at a 24" waist when laced shut. But I measured 1/2 of my new corset at the waistline and I get 12.5". Twice that is 25" not 24". Did my corsetiere make a mistake?

A. As with every single question on this page - it depends! But, most likely not.

Some corsets if made in lighter-weight fabrics or only in one layer versus two or four layers, may tend to ease or stretch a bit as you wear it or lace tighter, even on the first few wearings. Thus a corset originally and correctly made to close at 24" may in fact grow to close at 24.25" 24.5," or even slightly more. Also, how you measure the waistline may cause the measurement to differ slightly. If you place a corset right-side out flat on the bed and measure only one side, you may tend to get one measurement. Then if you turn the corset over, or put it on and lace it closed in back then measure, the results can vary.

Over the years we have encountered a few clients who demand "absolute perfection" when they measure the corset waistline, no matter how they do that. However, perfection in corset making is simply not possible. Fabrics ease and stretch over time, bodies swell and shrink, bloat and slim down. Waistlines become more or less toned or "squishy." If you want perfection, perhaps you best not order a corset made of fabric and by human hands. A corset made to close at 24" when worn closed in back, should measure 25" or more even up to 26" over the corset, because as noted above, a corset is always one inch (more or less) tighter under the corset and because it is difficult to get a corset absolutely closed at the waistline. Steel and fabric layers add girth. Thus, it's always wise to expect the waistline measurement to be close -- but not spot on-- to the measurement you wanted it to close in back when laced shut. Variation is a necessary part of the imperfect art and science of corset construction.

Q.6. It seems that my corset does not come down far enough on my torso? Could I have mis-measured or it be made wrong?

A. Likely not (especially if you have had a muslin fitting).

Since a new corset is usually stiff, even extremely stiff, it will tend to "ride up" on the torso and end by being above the natural waistline.

You may then find that your tummy is not well covered. The corrective technique is to lean to one side, grasp the opposite edge of the corset and as you stretch gently your ribs, pull downward on the corset. Reverse the process. Then grasp the very center bottom of the corset and gently pull downward a bit. This will tend to seat the corset at your proper waistline, cover the lower tummy, and improve the fit considerably. We call this the "lean-pull" or "lean-forward" process. You will likely need to repeat this process several times during a full day's wear, as any corset and especially a new one, will tend to creep upward on the torso.

Q.7. As I lace my new corset on, the bottom edge in front kind of "pops" out away from my body. I wanted to know if this is normal during the breaking in period?

A. Yes and no. There are at least four primary reasons that this issue might surface as you wear your corset.

First, each corset maker chooses different strengths of fabric, interfacing and boning, and utilizes different patterning and construction preferences that result in more of a straight-front corset (typical of the Edwardian corset in the early 1990s), or more of a curved-all-around-the- body shape (typical of the classic Victorian corset in the late 1800s). Second, the corset style chosen also results in different body curvature. Third, the tighter you lace down, the more you move waistline flesh in, up and down. Thus, over time if you don't lose weight, you will increase the flesh below your waistline as you lace tighter and it might push the lower edge outward. Fourth, full-figure clients may note this issue sooner than slim figure clients.

Specifically toning the transverse muscle (across the lower belly under the belly button) will effectively address this issue. You might consider purchasing and reading Chapter 8 from our Corset Magic book, or our recommended 2016 updated book, our exercise chapter that addresses effective exercises to tone the transverse ($15). Seasoning your corset may also help reduce its initial stiffness as fabric eases and boning molds to your body. Also. you will be able to draw the bottom back edge closer together over time, pulling the front busk inward and moving the tummy flesh inward as well. There are a few other tips in our books on how to address this issue during the seasoning process, including wearing a body briefer over the corset to push the lower busk edge in closer to the body underneath clothing.

Q.8. In general how long will one corset last if you wear it 5-6 days a week for long periods of time?

A. The rule of thumb is: Wear a well-made custom corset in suitable fabric for waist-training, 24/7 at a 4" reduction and it will wear out in 1-1.5 yrs. Other than that general rule, it is impossible to say with certainty.

The answer depends on the following factors, among others: (1) how well you take care of your corset; (2) how little or much you wash or dry clean it (wear it over a tube top to protect it from body oils); (3) whether you season it properly when you first receive it; (4) whether you rotate it with other corsets in your wardrobe, thus reducing stress on any given corset; (5) how much you lace down from your normal waistline and how long you wear it at that level; (6) whether you tie the ribbons in front (that rubs the fabric) or in back; (7) the nature and quality of the fabric both outer and lining; (8) whether the corset has waist tape or not; (9) whether the corset fabric is bonded, or the corset is interfaced; (10) the nature of the thread and the seaming used; (11) the number and thickness of bone casings (single?, double?, triple?, and quadruple? Bones laid side-by-side, or even one bone on top of another, will strengthen the corset); (12) standard 5/8"-wide busk made of spring steel? or 1"-wide busk, spoon busk, or wedge busk made of stiff stainless steel, which adds to quality and durability?

Q.9. I've been wearing my corset full-time for some months, and note that a bone has poked through the bottom edge in front. Can you repair it for me? I also notice that the edges of the shoelace lacing cord has slightly frayed. What does this mean regarding quality?

A. I'm not too sure what you mean by "full time wear" or precisely how many months you have been wearing your corset. The more days you wear your corset and the longer hours each day, the more stress will be placed on the garment, fabric, and stitching. Some evidence of wear will appear once you begin to lace down four or more inches and wear it six or more hours at a time, for days or months on end.

Moreover, over time the bones will begin to push down and up in their casing as they bend inward at the waist to conform to your body. Additionally, the fabric will tend to want to move or "bunch" a little bit toward the waistline. Eventually, the bone although plastic tipped, may cut through some stitches securing the binding, or the binding fabric itself, and work its way out. You are correct as soon as you notice this matter, to have it repaired, which is quite simple and very inexpensive to do. We observe from the image you sent, substantial bending of the bones at your waistline, and can see that you have well seasoned the corset by now, thus, the bone matter is not that unusual to expect.

Please note as to bone length, that there is a judgment call to be made. If bones are cut too long, they may soon cut binding stitches. If too short, the bottom binding of the corset will tend to turn up and wrinkle. Neither is a good result, however some compromise must be made. Your corset maker has many years of experience and undoubtedly used her best professional judgment in selecting your corset's bone lengths.

Sometime clients report that bones cut through the actual fabric of the binding, and not the stitching. Binding is easily replaced, and Sheri and Ann will only recommend and use suitable fabrics for durable corsets. As for the lacing cord, each maker chooses the kind of lacing she desires to use. Sheri uses the sturdy poly shoelace=like cording. We find that most all types of lacing are strong and except in rare cases, provide no problems.

Sheri uses double-sided grommets that are smooth both front and back, and we use the best quality of shoelace-like lacing cord, please check grommets to ensure that one side has not come off or loose and may be cutting the cord. Also, over time, wearing a corset underneath clothing can rub fabric around the grommets and the cord to fray both, but this should not happen until after substantial wear. Changing to a new lacing cord is a minor expense and inconvenience; you may order lacing cords or ribbons here.

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