Beware of branding – a trap for the unwary readymade (“OTC”) corset purchaser

My New York Times Magazine from 5/21 has a terrific section called “First Words.” Normally I go first to that article because I like words. I believe they should be carefully crafted in writing, and also carefully and deliberately spoken. Those two beliefs are likely why I don’t cotton much to social media with its rapid-fire modality…but I do like blogs, that permit more thoughtful comments.

This weeks  NYT’s article is about branding, storytelling, commercialism, and the “scam economy”. The author says, “More and more, we fully expect things to fall short of their advertising,” says the author—and more’s the pity! We’ve become accustomed to hype, super-branding, and false claims.

I believe that some reasons these negatives run rampant include our own failure to exercise caution, think for ourselves, and embrace patience. We don’t often bother to ask “on what do you base your conclusion?” or “how do you know that?” It’s not always a pretty habit to others. Sometimes I drive my partner crazy. He  is one talented man who can fix anything and understands machines the way I understand corsets and corset waist training. So I am inclined to ask that question more times than not when a machine has broken down or is giving me fits and I’ve asked for his help.

We must look behind every commercial claim if we want to avoid being victimized. I hate to think that we have to be suspicious under every circumstance, but perhaps we should start out that way, or at least, start out with great caution before we purchase any product or service.

I’m particularly peeved with the way “wannabe” readymade (“OTC”) corsets are flooding our US marketplace, and how they are advertised. Somehow calling something  a “waist trainer” or “for waist training” makes it so in some folks’ minds. As the NYT article says, “We are now expected to favor the story over reality, to accept that saying a thing makes it so.”

That’s why it pays to look behind the story on every website, and behind the claims of every corset maker. I’ve known some corset makers who aren’t willing to pay their dues, or put in their journeyperson time to hone their skills and up their quality before they overprice their products or enter the marketplace or sub marketplace. You never know how a web advertised and pictured corset holds up over time — unless the corset maker has paid her dues, has countless recommendations of those who wear their corset in the manner you intend to wear yours, and who can recommend the quality of the product as tested over time. You don’t know if you can properly or easily train in the corset you are buying–unless you talk to someone experienced, and one who won’t “oversell” the product or sell you a style that just won’t work for your purposes.

Take a look at the ‘eye candy’ pink corset pictured here. It’s cute, perhaps. But look at the strange shape of the waistline on this model, the wrinkling of fabric  at the midriff (that will or can uncomfortably pinch over time with tighter lacing or long wear), and the overbust embellished style that is tough to train in because it limits body flexibility (compared to the recommended underbust style). Furthermore, the ruffles are hard to disguise underneath clothing if the corset is for foundation wear on a daily basis. Your belly might be squished out from under a too-short readymade corset, or you may encounter muffin top. The too-short bottom pictured here on the model wearing a custom muslin (interim corset) was corrected and lowered in the final fully custom corset. Those problem issues can be avoided in the main when you order a custom corset.

Talking directly to some customers is always a good bet. Taking time to examine the length of experience in business making corsets, and the number of corsets made in that particular style by your chosen corset maker, is always wise. Just because some burlesque queen on the web looks stunning in a gorgeously-embellished corset, isn’t sufficient information when it comes to purchasing a quality, durable and comfortable training corset.

As a related matter, I’m saddened when I learn that some custom corset maker has gone out of business, or gone overseas to find a sweat shop to make readymade corsets to sell. I’m gobsmacked every time someone emails me and rather than purchase a ROMANTASY custom corset, tells me they have already found a readymade corset and want to start waist training now. The reason usually has to do with being penny wise and pound foolish: making a quick purchase according to brief social media recommendations or buying a particular “brand” or unthinkingly believing a claim that the corset is “for waist training,” or because the maker has quick shipping practices so that the corset enthusiast can quick! — start to lose weight before he loses motivation.

But corseting and waist training are marathons, not sprints. You don’t get anywhere rushing around before you do your homework, especially when it comes to ordering a training corset. A Halloween corset for maybe two hours of continuous costume wear? Well now, 0k! Go for the OTC cheap “wannabe” corset!

I’m even more saddened and frankly, disappointed, when I learn that some qualified custom corset maker has agreed to assist an overseas readymade manufacturer “improve” his corset product. To my mind, that is extremely detrimental to the art and craft of custom corset making, and it jeopardizes the existence of same. I’m aware that not everyone shares my opinion, even among otherwise responsible corset enthusiasts. Still, I know many accomplished corset enthusiasts who share my opinion.

If you are new to the corset and waist-training scene, you’ll have to make up your own mind about the issue, but I fervently hope you will come down on the side most times of supporting custom corsetry.


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Good posture and corsets–initial thoughts on what the Alexander Technique might add to your comfort during waist training

I believe that the most immediate, and perhaps most beneficial, result of wearing corsets and corset waist training, is improved posture. So is the result of the Alexander Technique–the topic of today’s blog.

It is only after some months of dedicated corset wearing, coupled with corset-friendly nutrition practices and waist-targeted exercises, that temporary figure improvement can be converted into permanent figure improvement — if you then don’t pig out on Krispy Kreme donuts and revert to dubious nutritional practices. After all, we have to use common sense when it comes to corseting, as in  all other matters of life!

Recently I’ve started learning about and pursuing lessons in the Alexander Technique (“AT”). My immediate motivation relates to a lingering whiplash cervical injury given to me by a particularly incompetent Chinese wife of my Chinese acupunturist, sad to say. In a moment of pain and depression from a lingering low back muscle spasm, last November I allowed her to manipulate my spine and neck before acupuncture– and three days later, just as with a car accident, the neck injury appeared. I should have known better, but I was too vulnerable. I’m still seeking relief and recovery, which is coming all too slowly for my taste.

Raven, my great friend and web mistress, only a few weeks ago found a video on the Alexander Technique, and “felt” it was for me. I’ve considered cold laser threatment, Feldenkrais, and other. I’ve pursued competent physical therapy, and started swimming three times a week at my warm rehab pool (such a blessing to have the Pomeroy Center in San Francisco!). I’m still not 100% and my neck causes me from mild to serious pain or discomfort every day.

When I viewed the video on the AT that Raven sent a link to, and a few others on the technique, I was gobsmacked. Something seemed to resonate with me about AT theory and practice. I particularly loved it when a local San Francisco AT therapist, in describing the technique and practice, called it: “the thinking person’s physical therapy.”

Like the AT, corset waist training, to be both effective and safe, requires advance thinking and understanding of the whys and hows of what you are doing. That’s why I wrote my initial (600 page equivalent) book in 2003 Corset Waist Training, and updated it substantially with new information, in my Primer book from 2016 (300 pages). But in some ways, the corset and corset waist training, does not go far enough — and there’s where the AT comes in.

The corset, much akin to how a physical therapist or gym trainer works, changes the form of the body, but there’s not too much advance thinking involved, and usually, not much discussion or study from those who jump right in. Sure, there is the “right form” advisable for physical exercises so that we don’t injure ourselves inadvertently. I talk a lot about that in my exercise chapter from the new 2016 corset waist-training book. Starting with the “TVA” squeeze or “set” of that important waistline muscle, minimized injury risks in many exercises. My own wonderful Kaiser PT Matt Sheehy, made sure to teach me the “right” form for my back rehab exercises, however those sessions were only 30 min. long (curse the state of the US health care system) and there was limited time to be sure I knew what I was doing. There was almost never the time to find out “why” I was being asked to do what. Had there been more discussion, then I could have gone off and reflected deeply about those reasons. For me, that’s the way I cement new learning into my body, mind and soul, otherwise it is too easy to just slip away outside of my PT’s office.

If you wear corsets to protect your back from further or new injury, to improve your posture and fit of clothing, and/or to waist train, you might want to look into the Alexander Technique which I believe can be practiced effectively and beneficially in tandem with corseting. Check out this post based on the the AT, and an important mid-page photo showing improper and proper sitting posture.

“Posture isn’t just physical.  It’s a psychophysical (mind/body) state that we get into in response to our environment, technology, emotions, furniture, and people with whom we interact.  It’s easy to get stuck in these habits and then metaphorically spin in circles trying to get out of them.   We can make things worse by trying to fix them in away that intensifies the exact habits that we are trying to change (i.e. The lifting the chest and pulling the shoulders back phenomenon.)”

I was gobsmacked to learn from my talented, amazing local AT therapist. Elyse Shafarman, that unless we think about posture and take ameliorative steps to re-learn correct, non-stressful body habits, we merely take on and reflect, the poor posture of others. “We are social animals,” Elyse says, and we unconsciously pick up on not only the energy and spirit of others–but also how they look and move throughout their day.

I was also gobsmacked to learn form Elyse, that good posture does not mean throwing our shoulders and head up and back! It’s almost the opposite in the AT: the top of the head is “thought” to rise up a wee bit, the chin slightly (ever so slightly) down and the head almost “bobbles” easily on the neck, gently stretching out the cervical spine and elevating the entire spine. At the same time, the shoulder blades are “thought” to expand outward, and I have to learn not to squeeze my scapula, AKA “chicken wings”, backward.

But of course, there’s more — much more to AT, and for me to learn. After all, two lessons does not an AT expert make!

As I’ve been practicing these techniques and new thoughts for the past two weeks during my twice-daily walks, I’ve noticed that as soon as I think of spreading out or widening my shoulder blades, I always notice that my shoulders have automatically hunched up! While my cincher or corset worn on some days, tends to keep my midriff erect and protected, it does nothing to protect or alleviate discomfort in my shoulders and neck.

Even my high-backed corset (there are two or mine pictured, first the  white corset mesh with green and blue patterned bone casings, and above, the hot pink denim corset; the green high-backed corsets is modeled by corsetiere Sue Nice’s sister), at 10″ and 9″ from waist up to top in the back, can only do so much to alleviate neck discomfort and improve posture. Lingerie-style support bodices that promise to hold back the shoulders, also seem to “cut” under my armpits in the most uncomfy of ways.

I’ll post more on what I learn and observe over the coming weeks. If you have studied the AT, I’d love to hear from you as to what you noted, and the results of your practice.

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Success by one student in working the corset waist-training process!

Yesterday, Sunday, was the last day of a three-month dedicated corset waist-training effort by my coaching program student, Ms. K.

I am exceedingly proud of her perseverance despite her grave doubts that she could “toe the line”, lace the corset on, and give up a few guilty pleasures that had likely added on a few pounds she decided she wanted to drop. And yes, I heard a bit of mild complaining along the way, especially when I asked her to forgoe her guilty pleasure of milk chocolate! She subbed in 70 percent dark chocolate and found it not too too tough to do. She doubted she could give up chips — but after reading The Dorito Effect (highly recommended reading!), I think she gave up and gave in to the author’s and my point that this manufactured food as well as most processed foods, contain additives that are truly not good for us or our figure-shaping efforts.

Here are Ms. K’s concluding stats:

Waist line inch loss from 34.5 to 32.25, a 2.25″ loss
Ribs from 37.5 to 37.25, a 1/4″ loss
Derriere from 40.5 to 38.5, a 2″ loss
Weight from 184 to 171 lbs, a 13 lb loss

Compare these stats to her initial goals of:

Weight loss goal:  lose from 190 lbs (by the time she started training, on Feb 7 she was, by herself, down to 184, not 190) to 180; she lost to 171!
Waistline inch loss goal: lose from 34.5″ to 32.5″ or two inches, thus, she reached her goal plus 1/4″ more!

As for her written evaluation the following 10 items were rank ordered in terms of importance in reaching her goals:

  1. Regular exercise
  2.  Contact with Coach
  3. Changing eating habits: manner of eating and food choices
  4.  Specific exercise routine
  5. Cutting way back or out fried foods,, sugars and fats
  6. Monday reports to Coach
  7. Increasing water and juices (NB cut with 1/2 water)
  8. Cutting back portions
  9. Small presents from Coach
  10. Tiny increments of tighter and longer corset wear every three days; going slowly.

The process works — if you work it!  I’ll be back soon to post Ms. K’s ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures … and I can’t wait to see the results!




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What if you don’t like corsets? (Or will I like them?)

Ms. Kiska, my present waist training student who is just about to conclude her three-month experiment and coaching in figure shaping, just wrote: “Unfortunately my corset feels like more of a nuisance than not.”

This is after almost 12 weeks of daily wearing her custom training corset, less one day per week, and after building up slowly in hours and tightness in lacing down so the process is comfy in general. She chose a well-fitting and extremely comfy training corset by Sheri, who patterns out over the rib cage more than others might, in order to allow for easier breathing and flexibility of movement. That’s why we recommend Sheri for waist training students who will have to work up to long hours of wear, and also for a second corset when you have dropped some fat and inches off your torso and waist to leave mainly muscle, and need to go more slowly and make sure it is comfy when you lace down to the next level. Sheri’s corsets are perfect for either person!

You’ll see Ms. K. in her underbust cotton corset by Sheri, pictured before she began waist training, so this corset doesn’t fit “the best”. That’s because she had to lace loosely and wear it loosely to begin training, to enhance her own comfort and let the corset gradually ‘breathe’ and accustom itself to her torso in return. In that manner you minimize the risk that you might damage your corset, altho with Sheri’s sturdy creations that is highly unlikely to begin with.

Of course to me, a 100 percent corset enthusiast, Ms. K’s message initially made me feel a bit sad. I had kept hope that over three months as she seasoned her new corset and got used to longer hours wearing it six days a week, it would become more comfortable and she would take a shine to it as well as to her shrinking waistline and improved posture.

Regarding the last two items, a shrinking waistline and improved posture, she did take a shine! But regarding the actual corset, and corset wear, she clearly did not.

Still, Ms. K. intends after formal training to keep up better nutrition choices she has learned, and some new exercises that target her waistline muscles to keep them toned and under control, but plans only occasionally to wear her training corset. We’ll soon share her simple but sound Maintenance Plan and final training results in the next blog.

As I thought about her reactions to a corset, I reflected on the incredible range of reasons that anyone might choose to wear a corset. I thought back on thousands and thousands of corsets clients I’ve served over my 27 years in the corset education and purveying/designing business. I also reflected on the 100 stories of why and how people who wrote to Lucy Williams, the young corset enthusiast from Canada, wore their corsets. Check out Lucy’s fascinating book collecting these stories, “Solaced,” available for Kindle on amazon.

If I have learned one thing in my 27 years focusing on this magical garment, it is that every individual reacts differently to wearing corsets (and to waist training). It is simply impossible to know how a specific person  will “take” to wearing a corset, and how one will find a corset useful in one’s life, if they take to corsets at all. Not everyone loves the garment!

Yesterday I tried corsets and corset muslins on my BFF Letha, pictured here wearing a muslin  of an overbust Victorian corset underneath her black outfit. She has decided she wants an overbust foundation corset to improve her posture and figure, plus  improve the fit of her clothing as she, like me, ages gracefully into her 70s. Letha loved the look and feel!

Within a few try-ons of a corset (her first ever!) and maybe 10 total minutes, she was strutting around the living room admiring herself in the mirror, laced down 5.5″ from her natural waist measurement. Yup. In about ten minutes! It stunned us both.

Obviously Letha is the type of client who is relatively plastic (“squishy”) in her midriff and can easily lace down. More importantly, she has no aversion to a relatively new feeling for her of wearing a body-fitting, closely structured garment on her torso. That was a bit surprising to me because her typical way of dressing is to wear flowing, artistic clothing.

Letha reminds me a bit of “Frankie” in the wonderful tv series “Frankie and Grace” if you have seen it? She’s experimental, adventurous, and cheerful, just the kind of personality I like and resonate with. I think she expected to like corsets–and she did! (If you haven’t seen the show, run, don’t walk, to rent the series. It’s a pure hoot, with wonderful actors Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda and a terrifically funny and heartwarming story line to boot).

So how will you know if you will ‘take’ to corsets? You won’t know for sure if you have never worn them or tried them on. But if you tend to like tight belts, panty hose, boned shapewear, fitted clothing like princess seams and well-fitted waistlines in pants and dresses, and tight jeans, you will likely take to corsets and to waist training as well. But then this guideline doesn’t explain Letha’s positive reaction, since she had never tried on a formal corset!

So keep your mind open to corsets, expect to like them, and if you can do so, try a fit sample corset on and lace it snugly (but not quickly!) to see if you like the feeling.

If you don’t have access to a try-on corset, then get a wide belt and belt down snugly or tightly. Try to keep the corset or belt on for more than five minutes! The more minutes you can wear a structured garment, the better you will be able to tell how you will react to the real thing. Stand up, sit down, walk around and if you can, eat a light meal to see how your stomach will feel while corseted.

Hopefully the real thing you finally choose, will be a well-fitting custom corset made especially for you, and not a dubiously-fitting readymade or over-the-counter OTC corset. You usually  can’t go wrong with custom, whereas you can easily go wrong with an uncomfy, non-individually fitted OTC choice.

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You’re in good company: “corsets are making a comeback” — yet they never left us since 1989!

I’m often asked, “can I wear my corset outside my dress?”, and how do I do that?

You can wear a corset and showcase it in any way that you like to dress! I just made a  collage of only a few of our thousands of ROMANTASY clients since 1990 who have chosen to showcase their corset. You can see hundreds more by clicking on our 27 theme galleries at under “Galleries” at the top! Consider just wearing a cute top with jeans and tossing on a custom cincher! Or how about a “hot look” with a corset over leather pants?

Remember: even if you are only ordering and wearing a corset for waist training, and even if it is a simple underbust style vs. a glam overbust style, you too, can showcase your corset.

The more ways you find to wear your training corset — the better your investment will pay off over time (not to mention, the more comfy your corset will become when worn!)

I was surprised and motivated to prepare this collage, by a web article saying that it’s difficult to “style a corset,” not to mention that once more (every few months it seems), “corsets are making a comeback.”

Actually, since about 1989 thanks to Madonna and Gaultier–they never went away!

When you purchase a custom corset–you support this comeback and cement it as a dressing option, so that we don’t ever again lose this wonderful crafting ability of our custom corsetieres! Even now some are leaving their trade and years of experience are disappearing. Why? Read on….

We recommend you skip those imported “wannabe” “OTC” or readymade cheap corsets sadly flooding the world and US marketplace (eye candy at best), and go for the Gold Standard: fully custom made.

Custom corsets are not that expensive considering — the years and years of very comfy wear and the pounds of pressure you want your investment to endure when lacing down with regular wear! In fact fully custom corsets are de rigueur for waist training purposes. We don’t want you to be penny wise and pound foolish.

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How to jazz up boring food–check out online Savory Spice Shop!

My present waist-training student Ms. K, has a big challenge on her hands regarding food.

First, she doesn’t eat a lot to begin with, nor is she beset with hunger pangs for the most part — so weight loss is not her goal for corset training. Shaping her waistline more in the hourglass manner is her goal Thus, the moderate to small amount of  food she normally eats, needs to count.

Second, for several reasons, she has limited time that is available to shop, stand, and cook. Food choices and dishes have to be made fast, or she has to rely on her partner to carry out her better nutrition plan for her corset training period. Lately she is considering participating in amazon’s home delivery fresh food program, just $15 per month plus Prime membership of $99 a year. That seems like one perfect solution for her.

Third, Ms. K reports being bored by food. Imagine that! How can that be, what with the wealth of fresh fruits and veggies that California enjoys year round not to mention beef, poultry, fresh fish, pork and eggs, organic or not, that are available in the stores, especially in urban areas like San Francisco–and from Safeway to Whole Foods and Trader Joes. Everyone is getting on the organic free-range band wagon, and more’s the better to my mind.

Fourth, she loves donuts and Doritos. Who among us doesn’t? Gratefully I have calmed those desires down by getting her to read The Dorito Effect! It’s an amazing,highly recommended book that will put you off eating flavored anything, esp. chips and dips. Eating natural foods is best of all, grilling and not frying, and of course, portion control (not Ms. K’s challenge, as said).

I found one solution for “boring” that I hope she will soon try!

Two weekends ago my partner and I enjoyed a leisurely long weekend away in Sonoma, a lovely small touristy town an hour from San Francisco. It’s a town that thrives on history, touristing, wine tasting, and shopping. One of the hotel guests where we stayed, recommended that we walk across the street next to Whole Foods (which is one block from the square) and visit the Savory Spice Shop. She raved about their Truffle Salt, so we decided to follow her recommendations.

We were stunned!

There you can both smell and sample each bottle of freshly ground single and mixed spices before you purchase. You can buy two sizes of bottles, but we opted for the larger, normal size you get for McCormicks at Safeway et al., and walked away with five new spices I had never tried before in my life. Sadly, there are not many of these retail stores, and none in San Francisco, but of course they are online!

We must have spent an hour smelling both familiar and mysterious spices. There are for example, at least five different cinnamons to enjoy and I still don’t know which is my favorite. No more huge bottles of generic Costco “cinnamon” for us!

They grind and mix each spice fresh each week. I used two of the ones we purchased, put a perfect sear on fresh salmon (Gordon Ramsey would be proud!) and made the best salmon ever last night, and a few days ago, made the best round pot roast. I use one spice on my scrambled egg in the morning for more flavor and am making a buffalo meatloaf using a few of the new spices for this evening’s dinner.

I never knew how wonderful fresh spices make foods taste, even “boring” steamed veggies or grilled veggies or pot roasts! Wow. Check them out!

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The words we use count — for a lot!

“The TVA (transverse abdominus) exercise is ok, but my real exercise comes from the gym and PT when I sweat.”

So opines my present coaching student, Ms. K.

I reminded her again as I have before, that words count.

If she sees the TVA as a minor, unimportant form of exercise, compared to her regular gym routine, then she will be likely to skip it, or not give it 100 percent effort to see if it helps pull in the lower belly, improve posture, and contribute to her reaching her figure-trimming goals. The TVA will do all of the above, when employed in a  comprehensive waist-training program.

You’ll see where the TVA is located in the two diagrams in this blog. It goes across the front of the lower torso, above and below the belly button. There are several exercises that involve this important muscle and they are simple, fast and effective, do-able while lying down (easier to locate the muscle) or standing up while in line at the post office, bank or elsewhere.

Words count for a lot in order to adjust your mindset so that you have the very best chance possible, to reach your figure-reshaping goals during formal waist training. How you think about your overall training, or any element of it including exercise, choosing more corset-friendly foods, changing some of your eating habits and patterns, trying new things, learning to endure longer hours of corseting in a more and more comfortable manner — all these elements can be influenced to a greater or less extent, by how and what you think about each one.

A positive mindset, even using “self talk” with positive words, can:

  • create positive expectations that you will reach your goals
  • make it easier to “stomach” the modest changes that are required during corset training
  • push you gently in the right direction, and
  • counter any negative old habits or negative comments you might receive from others who learn of your corseting efforts.

It’s unimportant if my student or reader agrees with me about words setting positive expectations and making their adventure easier and them more likely to reach their goals — so long as they go ahead, follow my advice, and incorporate positivity and positive self talk into their three-month program no matter their belief.

I’m experimenting now with tapping. It’s a process you can learn about online or on Dr. Mercola’s website. I’m uncertain, even dubious, about its efficacy.  It’s said to help with everything from work stress, to personal relationships, to physical challenges and pain. However I decided to give it a one month, consistent try to find out. It can’t hurt me, and it has the possibility in my mind, of helping my particular issue at hand.

My BFF Jeanette suggested that one thing I say to myself during the three or four rounds of tapping each day (twice a day), is: “I’m unsure if this will work or not, but I have an open mind and will give it a good try…” and then continue as the procedure proscribes. Because I believe in the effectiveness of positivity, I will try it. That’s the least I can do to help myself in every way possible with my present goal.

How about you? Will you try positivity, and the TVA? You can read more about it online or in my new waist training book.


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