Just how much waistline restriction to order in a new corset presents a challenge to be sure! What I’m talking about is, how many inches or half-inches below your snug natural waist size, should the corset close down to once you get it entirely laced closed top to bottom?
Without doubt parts of that answer have to do with your experience in corseting, how much discomfort you can bear, your waist measurement, the style of the corset and more. However, based on 23 years in this speciality business fitting custom corsetry on most likely over 8000 clients more or less, some wonder why it is that there is no precise answer as to how tightly they can ultimately lace in a corset they have ordered?
There’s simply no easy answer and the ubiqutous “four inches” you read about on many websites is not even a good “rule of thumb”–not even for corset newbies. It’s far better to discuss your needs with a knowledgeable corsetiere or educator who will take your individual situation, measurements, and goals into consideration in coming up with advice.
If I advise too much restriction when the corset closes down in back after a period of seasoning and getting used to wearing it, then the problem seen below will or may likely result: bowing out at the waistline of the boning in the center back. Ouch! I’ve even made that mistake in one of my personal corsets, a favored pink broche corset by Ruth Johnson, still one of my treasures! Sadly I chose to wear that one when brand new, to a Bridal Faire where ROMANTASY had a display. Since I had to staff the booth all day and could not leave to change corsets or clothes, I had to bear up as those pesky bones torqued and began a day of digging in. I had not practiced enough, I had chosen a corset with too much of a back gap, I had eaten too much breakfast, I had plumped up in the recent past — whatever reason it was and even tho I was an experienced corset wearer, I had a huge problem! It was a sad lesson learned.
Recently a client who is a tight lacer and received a sterling, well-made new corset, wrote about the same problem, pictured here. When I told her about my own experience and suggested this might be the cause of the problem, she replied:
Here are the pictures of the back of the corset. Based on what you said below I think I figured out the issue. First, my corset is an 18″ isn’t it? I had it closed to about 21.5″ and there’s still 2-2.5″ gap in the back. I vaguely recall a debate between getting the 20″ or 18″…the 18’s I have at home were from a period when I was over-thin, a good 10-15 lbs lighter. That’s probably why I was able to wear them without this issue cropping up. I hadn’t actually trained down to 20″ then on to 18″, which I’m guessing is the better way to do it in this case to preserve the boning and fabric. As you should be able to see, the boning lies flat at top and bottom, only bowing in the middle. I’ll see if I can find a comfortable middle ground that leaves the top and bottom edges more open until I get the waist whittled down a bit. Is my assessment about right, or completely off?”
As an aside, I’m not quite sure why my client wasn’t wearing the smooth, boned back protector in this picture, because that pads the back and makes corset-wearing more comfortable, and I see that perhaps to show off the problem, she pulled the lacing cords around front. However, we advise not to tie a corset in front as the cording will eventually wear away the surface fabric.
Of course she was right. I had had a similar client, absolutely sure that he could tolerate five inches when laced closed in back of his new corset, who once he put on and wore his corset for a few times, called me in evident and great distress. He was convinced that I had mis-advised him and he excoriated me roundly. Perhaps I should have put my foot down when he ordered, but I didn’t in face of his protests. At least he couldn’t say I hadn’t warned him, since at that time of order, I had advised a maximum close of four inches.
The best advice I can give is trust your experienced corsetmaker to use his or her best judgment on your behalf, and if you must err, err on the side of caution and perhaps 1/2″ to 1″ less tight than you might think. It’s a matter of not wanting your eyes to be bigger than your tummy — so to speak! I’ll always attempt to give you my best opinion based on my 23 years in business, neither exaggerating the possibilities but also not promising perfection. Corset and corset-wearing is a living, breathing (so to speak) work-in-process and results are always highly individual.