Waist Training Part One: What, Why, How?

First off. Before you even look at my current before and afters, know something. It's not some simple trick to lose weight. In fact, it won't make you lose weight at all. It takes serious dedication, and can cost serious money.

 

 This is 6 months of 23/7 wear with my own custom overbusts! I'm 7 pounds heavier in my current shots.

This is 6 months of 23/7 wear with my own custom overbusts! I'm 7 pounds heavier in my current shots.

So what is waist training? Waist training is the discipline of wearing a waist training quality corset on a regular basis, often as a body modification to change the shape of the natural body. I also want to point out that when I talk about waist training, I'm NOT talking about those latex cincher things. Those are not corsets, and they are not suitable for waist training. 

 One of these things is not like the other...

One of these things is not like the other...

Is that safe? I can't even tell you how many times people assume it's terrible for you. It's absolutely safe, as long as you do it in a safe way with quality corsets and listen to your body. Please, for the love of cats, listen to your body. If it hurts, it doesn't fit right. If you can't breathe, it doesn't fit right.

 

 People still like to use this photo to scare people about corsets! This was created before MRI or Xray technology was invented. It was literally made up, and people still reference it! Silly humans!

People still like to use this photo to scare people about corsets! This was created before MRI or Xray technology was invented. It was literally made up, and people still reference it! Silly humans!

Why would anyone even want to waist train, you may ask? Well. A lot of people automatically assume it's for vanity, or fetish reasons, or assume it's some internalized misogyny crap. Let me put that last part to bed right now. I got lucky that my fiance likes corsets. A vast majority of people think they're unnatural, or creepy, gross, or torture devices. Most men who see me in a visible corset assume those things too, and often make rude remarks about it. Hopefully you, dear reader, don't think that too. There's many reasons to wear corsets, and though vanity and fetish are a couple of them, and valid ones, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Many waist trainers wear them for medical reasons, including me. A properly fitting corset can be absolute magic for those with spine or joint issues, and act as a pretty version of a medical brace. Some people wear them to ease anxiety, as it's a similar feeling to being wrapped in a weighted blanket. Some wear them to fix their posture. Some people love the structured feeling of being wrapped in a tight hug through the day. Some people wear them to complete their vintage styling. Some people love the artistry that goes into each one, and collect them like others collect designer shoes. Some people aim to reshape their natural body curvier. Some people wear them like armor to boost their self confidence. And yes, some people just feel prettier when they wear them. Often, it's several of these reasons. The medical reasons make it nearly necessary for me, but damn do I not mind wearing pretty things every day, or losing inches from my waist and still eating chocolate.

People often like to assume we've "evolved" beyond corsets. But now, instead of putting on a supportive garment that protects your spine, supports your bust, evenly distributes the weight of your clothing, and that instantly creates the right silhouette for the era, we're merely expected to be perfect all the time. Think about it. In modern society, we're expected to have certain shapes, work out tirelessly, shave, diet regularly, and often still feel that isn't enough, and have cosmetic surgery. Does that really sound so much more enlightened than just putting on an article of clothing each day that supports much like a bra? Just to be clear, I'm not trying to hate on diet or exercise or cosmetic surgery, please do what works for you and makes you happy. Just let others treat their bodies in the way that makes them happy. And for period clothing, I can't imagine trying to support a full Victorian dress without a corset, it sounds so uncomfortable!

Oh, right. I'm getting distracted. Waist training. Now that we've talked about why, let's talk about how!

First off, let's talk about the shape of the corset you should start with. You absolutely don't want to start with something shaped like ) (. If you can't immediately tell where the waist is, you won't want to wear it for more than a few hours. Why? Because of how anatomy works. Your skeletal system is only designed to flex and move for part of the ribcage, ribs 8-10, the false ribs, and 11 & 12, the floating ribs. Ribs 1-7 house your lungs and aren't supposed to move. You shouldn't be putting long term pressure on them. Same with your hips, except they don't house your lungs, just some pretty important nerves in there you really don't want to pinch.

 You can see here how the false ribs have much more of a "hinge" than the true ribs. Don't put pressure on the true ones, that's a bad time!

You can see here how the false ribs have much more of a "hinge" than the true ribs. Don't put pressure on the true ones, that's a bad time!

So how does this relate back to what I call the "Squished tube of sausage" silhouette? That shape doesn't account for your underlying bone structure, and so, when you try to take in the waist of a ) ( shaped corset, you're putting a lot of bad pressure on your upper ribs and hips. It should NEVER be hard to breathe in a corset. NEVER. It should NEVER make parts of you go numb. It should never hurt.  The picture below shows just how dramatic the skeletal corset waist is, and if you ignore it, you'll most likely have the waist of the corset sitting on top of your ribs instead of under them, and there will be undue pressure on the true ribs and hips in order to get any reduction on the waist. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but I promise you a more dramatic look corset will be more comfortable than a gentle look one!

 Used with permission from King of The Dandies, who has an excellent blog post getting more into corsets vs. anatomy I'll link at the bottom! This shows the natural waist vs the skeletal waist!

Used with permission from King of The Dandies, who has an excellent blog post getting more into corsets vs. anatomy I'll link at the bottom! This shows the natural waist vs the skeletal waist!

I will say there are things that don't get along with corset wearing well. If you have the claustrophobic side of anxiety, a corset could actually make it worse. If you have bad heartburn or ulcers, it can make it worse. If you are prone to uterine prolapse, corsets aren't a good idea. I'm sure I'm missing things, there are plenty of digestive disorders that corsets may not get along with, or may help, so it's important to do some research if you have medical concerns!

Look! You learned a thing!

So, now that we've learned what not to look for, you're ready to look for something that will fit you beautifully and hopefully be comfortable. There are a world of choices available right now, and it can be a little overwhelming.  I'll start by saying that almost all legit corsets (there are exceptions to every rule) are sized based on the measurement of the corset's waist.  The size you fit into will vary depending on the brand and how curvy the corset is patterned.  The curviness in relation to the waist is referred to as "springs."  For example, a corset with a rib cage measurement of 34", waist of 24", and hip measurement of 34" would have a 10" rib spring and 10" hip spring.  It's actually far more important to get a corset that suits your rib and hip measurements,  your natural waist is the least important measurement to take into account. For more information, check out Lucy's Corsetry's Corset Database, which I've linked at the bottom. Actually, literally everything from Lucy is gold and I regularly get lost on her YouTube channel for hours. You can also join The Tightlacing Society and/or The Corset Society on Facebook for sizing help, reviews, and lots of knowledge. As a maker, I don't have a ton of experience with off the rack corsets, because I wear my own work.

 The evolution of my daily wear corsets! All by me, Crimson Rose Corsetry.

The evolution of my daily wear corsets! All by me, Crimson Rose Corsetry.

There are two main silhouettes to choose between, conical and cupped. There's stuff on a scale in between the two, I like to call the mid ground hourglass. Deciding which one will be more appropriate for you will depend on both your goals and your body. If you want to rib train, then conical will lead you down that path, and if you like pressure on your ribs, you'll be more comfortable in conical. However, if you have relatively inflexible ribs, cupped may be far more comfortable. Aesthetically, they're very different looks, too! I do recommend starting with an off the rack corset, unless you have medical concerns. Why? Because if you start and find it isn't your thing, you aren't out hundreds of dollars for something you won't use, and if you start and you find you absolutely love it, you'll size out of your first corset very quickly. Don't worry, your first corset won't go to waste (waist?) and you can still use it on lazy days or to sleep in if you decide to go that route!

 This is the Gemini by Timeless Trends, designed by Lucy. You can see very clearly the difference in the silhouette! It's fascinating to me that the Cupped (Or Round Rib) appears far more dramatic, even though these two corsets are the same size!

This is the Gemini by Timeless Trends, designed by Lucy. You can see very clearly the difference in the silhouette! It's fascinating to me that the Cupped (Or Round Rib) appears far more dramatic, even though these two corsets are the same size!

Which brings me to my next point! How does waist training work and what does it do? Well, there are 3 layers of progress. None of them are absolutely permanent, but they are semi permanent, and if you hit a point where you don't want to actively waist train anymore, but still keep the physical results, you can switch to maintenance wear with much less frequency, much like working out.

First layer is fat. Fat is very easy to displace, the more you have, the higher a reduction will be comfortable immediately. When you put on a corset, the fat around your waist will squish in, and up and down. I personally squish up way more, but others are the opposite. When you take off the corset, the fat goes back to its original position within the first couple hours after taking it off, unless you wear it often enough that the fat cells stop forming at your waist. In which case, they'll generally move to the next most prone spot on your body where it doesn't meet resistance. You know how if you wear a tight bra every day, the marks will kinda become permanent? Like the band line will start to sink in, or the shoulders, or like tight underwear or pants with a tight belt that always hit the same spot? It's the same thing as that, just on your waist. This will last longer after removing the corset, though how long depends on how long you've been waist training and how well your body maintains those sorts of things. For me, personally, after 6 months of 23/7 waist training, I would probably lose my fat displacement within a month.

 AlyCat in her Crimson Rose Corsetry piece and Jen H in her Timeless Trends Gemini. Both are at a comfortable reduction, but AlyCat's slim build dictates a much gentler shape than Jen's curvy build!

AlyCat in her Crimson Rose Corsetry piece and Jen H in her Timeless Trends Gemini. Both are at a comfortable reduction, but AlyCat's slim build dictates a much gentler shape than Jen's curvy build!

Second layer is muscle. Sorry buff people, those obliques make it way harder to waist train, but there is a bright side! It will take a lot longer than fat to start seeing changes on your body without the corset, but when you do, they will last much longer without the corset than fat will. You can speed up the process though! If you do hard core workouts and put on a corset within an hour after finishing, the micro tears from the workout will heal in the shape of the corset. One of my favorite tricks. For me, personally, I would probably lose my muscle shaping in about 3 months of no corsets.

The last layer is bone, and it's a two parter. After a few months, you may find the bottom edge of your ribcage doesn't flare out as much, and it may be a little harder to see that edge. This is the false ribs shifting inward at the connection points. Some people's ribs are more prone to this than others, and some people's ribs are extremely inflexible. If you want to feel for yourself, put your hands on your waist and push inwards. See just how flexible those ribs are! This may also dictate what silhouette of corset you find most comfortable. You may not want to, or ever get to more shaping than the false ribs. Actual rib reshaping takes years of dedication and work. However, it is the most permanent out of the three. Still not completely permanent, as bone is a living thing, but depending on just how much body modification you want to get into, this is the closest. (For a truly fascinating look at how these sorts of skeletal changes impacted lifespan, check out this video by Lucy's Corsetry)

I think I might be remiss if I doing at least sorta bring up organ displacement, but I always tell people the same thing when they pull the "But your organs!" B.s. Check out this corseted MRI study by Lucy's Corsetry. It's less traumatic to the body than pregnancy. Someday when I'm rich and powerful, I really want to delve more into medical corsetry research and do my own MRI in a corset.

 Not to mention..... This is what pregnancy does. Waaaaaay more displacement than a corset. 

Not to mention..... This is what pregnancy does. Waaaaaay more displacement than a corset. 

Ok, so, how do you do it? How fast will you get results? What's seasoning and how do you do that? The how is pretty easy. Wear a corset you you find comfortable, for as long as you want as often as you want. It's actually that simple. Your results will seriously vary based on duration, reduction, and your body type. Duration is far more important for long term results than the reduction. You will get faster results wearing a corset with a comfortable reduction for longer periods of time than wearing one at an extreme reduction for shorter spurts. I find that the lighter reduction for a longer period of time is more sustainable long term also, a lot of those who try to go extreme right off the bat burn out and give up. Be aware that if you commit to daily wear, you will most likely size out of your first corset quickly.

 This shows my month to month progress, and you can see that first month was the most immediate change!

This shows my month to month progress, and you can see that first month was the most immediate change!

As for seasoning? Well. There's a lot of different camps in regards to seasoning. It refers to a period of time where you gently wear the corset for shorter periods of time at a minimal reduction and slowly work up to long periods of time with a higher reduction. Some people say that slowly breaking in the corset will make it last longer or fit your body better. I used to believe in seasoning this way, but I've since changed my tune and don't season any of my personal corsets.  It absolutely will not make a corset that fits your body badly fit it well magically. It will soften up a stiff corset, but really, seasoning is for your body more than the corset. The idea is to wear the corset at a snug-but-not-tight level each day, and as you get used to it, that snug point will become smaller and smaller. Take it slow if you're relatively inflexible, brand new to corsets, or just sized down and can't manage the extra reduction yet. It's ok for it to have a bit of gapping at the top and bottom, and a wide lacing gap while your body learns the new corset; it will dissipate as you become accustomed.  Listen to your body, you don't want to wind up stopping because you pushed too hard too fast. 

 This shows the first time putting on a corset, vs 33 hours of wear into it. The corset is by Mystic City Corsets, and you can see the overall shape of the corset doesn't change, but her body more accommodating to that shape!

This shows the first time putting on a corset, vs 33 hours of wear into it. The corset is by Mystic City Corsets, and you can see the overall shape of the corset doesn't change, but her body more accommodating to that shape!

I've mentioned sizing down or sizing out a couple times now. So let's talk about that! Your first corset will probably close pretty fast as your body gets accustomed to the sensation. The same thing won't be true of your second corset. Also, you'll have a better idea of things you want and need from your second corset! That means you may find you need a new corset with a more dramatic shape! You'll want to make sure the hip and ribcage measurements are the same, unless you've lost weight. Make sure only the waist is smaller. In fact, you may even find that you need a higher measurement on your ribcage and/or hips if your semi permanent fat displacement has started! Now may be time to diversify, or invest in a custom piece. You may decide you like rotating between a few corsets that each do different things, or you really want one corset you can get to know extremely well. I have two corsets I rotate between the most, and then a bunch of art pieces I wear for different occasions. Depending on your overall goal, this may be a good place to hang out for a while, or if you want to push smaller, get something utilitarian to push through until you hit a comfortable corset size you want to stay around. Where you stop is entirely up to you and your aesthetics, and you may find your goals and aesthetic tastes in corsets shift as you become accustomed to seeing yourself in one, and that's ok! This whole thing is just for you and whoever you want to share it with.

I hope you've enjoyed part one! Part two will cover tips and tricks, pushing past plateaus, and some info about 23/7 training! Please let me know if you have any questions, or suggestions for other topics to delve into in part 2!

Also, if you'd like to learn more, here are some of my favorite blog posts! (I really hope these links work, I haven't figured out this system 100%)

Anatomy-

https://kingofthedandies.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/corsets-and-anatomy/

Myths-

http://www.thelingerieaddict.com/2015/03/corset-waist-training-myths.html

https://www.foundationsrevealed.com/index-of-articles/extras/562-busting-corset-myths

Waist Training Info/Resources

https://lucycorsetry.com/before-after/

https://lucycorsetry.com/2018/01/16/introducing-the-new-corset-sizing-tool/

http://corsetdatabase.com/

The Depressing Reality of Being a Professional Corsetmaker

Don't get me wrong guys. I love what I do. Love it. Not quite so much that I would do it for free, but I'm not all that far off.

Short version? I live in Denver, where the cost of living puts a reasonable living wage around 50k/year. About how many corsets do you guys think (mostly) one person can make per year? I average about 50. I only get to keep about a third of what I charge, the rest goes to materials, studio space, equipment, and those assistants I mentioned earlier. That is some depressing math. In order to make 50k, my cut for each of the 50 corsets would need to average $1000. And remember how I only get to keep a third? That means we have to multiply the cost per corset by 3. So now, to make a living wage in Denver, I have to charge, on average, $3000 per corset.

Which very few people will pay. In fact, if I'm charging that much, each corset will be expected to take months of my toil. Which means I won't have time to make 50 pieces, and we have to start the sad math all over again.

Still with me? Because I want to get into this. That was the short version. Are you ready for the long version?

Let's look at my actual numbers from last year. Actually, this is great incentive to get my shit together for taxes.

In 2017, my pricing started at $300 for a basic black underbust, and horribly undercharged for bridal starting at $1200. My prices have since gone up. I actually made 21 corset commissions including several bridal, and charged $10,755 for them total before tax.

Truth be told, this number isn't really indicative of the amount of work I did, since I spent January remodeling my store and studio, February and March making one of my best friend's wedding dresses, and August making five and a half Hamilton costumes for friends for trade. I had an injury in October that kept me from working until this January. So really, this last year was pretty rough on the wallet, but sometimes that happens. Realistically, without the injury, those numbers could easily have been double. But that didn't happen, so we're gonna work with the reality instead of what could have been.

 Zero regrets. This dress would run something like 20,000 retail, and took thousands in materials and hundreds of hours in labor. Worth it 5000000%.

Zero regrets. This dress would run something like 20,000 retail, and took thousands in materials and hundreds of hours in labor. Worth it 5000000%.

 So many regrets, but dayum do we look amazing.  Aaron Burr, Maria, Alexander, Eliza (me!), and Angelica made by me, and Peggy made with my patterns and instruction. Maybe worth it? I skipped way too much sleep though.

So many regrets, but dayum do we look amazing.  Aaron Burr, Maria, Alexander, Eliza (me!), and Angelica made by me, and Peggy made with my patterns and instruction. Maybe worth it? I skipped way too much sleep though.



Anywho, that averages out to $896.25/month.

Let's take a look at my expenses now.

For materials, I spent-

$752.23 on coutil
$1277.52 on boning, busks, and grommets
$863.47in silk (Silk Baron probably knows me by name now)
$632.17 on other fabrics and laces
$113.74 in sewing equipment (no big purchases last year, just thread, paper, pattern hangers, needles, machine feet, and throat plates)
$40 on photography to promote my work (My incredible photographer was also paid in an Aaron Burr costume, so this number would be way higher normally)
$35.85 on business cards

For a grand total of $3714.98 last year. There's probably some hidden expenses I'm not counting, too.

So my take home after those expenses? $7040.02. Or $586.67 per month.

But wait! There's more!

My studio space is inside my store, which runs $1250/month, kinda a steal in Denver. I use about a quarter of the space for studio, so we'll divide that accordingly. $312.50 a month for that, or $3,750 per year.

Now we're down to $3290.02 I get to keep per year. And we still aren't done.

My amazing assistant averages $168 a week for her two days work cutting, grommeting, and some hand work; before employer taxes. These are things I cannot physically do long term, and sometimes I can't do them at all. I really wish I could afford to pay her more, she really really deserves it. Anyway, that's $8,763 per year. She does split that time between doing corsetry work and working the shop, I'd guesstimate it's about a third of her hours that directly go into corsetry, so we'll adjust that number accordingly. So $2921. However, if we don't count the 6 months I was either too injured to get her help sewing, or working on projects I wasn't being paid for, we can cut that number in half for the purposes of this post. So $1460.50.

Notice how my margins are pretty much gone? I very literally made $1829.52 last year off my work. Granted, this is 6 months of paid work, but that's still under 5 thousand a year. And yet, I'm constantly getting comments about how my work is too expensive, and such a rip off. Please, enjoy some comments that make my blood boil!
 

29136146_1702765203095928_2800948052909621248_o.jpg
29187066_1702765313095917_7789411138235531264_o.jpg
 These were all from just one corset, too. 

These were all from just one corset, too. 

So! How can I even afford to keep running this business? Luckily, I have other income. My Masquerade shop brings in some decent business, and my fiance helps me through rough patches, which is way too often for my tastes.

That was depressing, right? Are you guys ready for a little optimism?

Let's talk about my options! This isn't going to be a one miracle fix thing. It's going to take several things to put me actually in the black and sustainable long term.

First thing- I've raised my prices. This was kinda a duh, especially since I'm booking over 6 months out at the moment. As of this publish date, my work starts at $400 for a basic underbust, and my bridal work starts at $3000 for a whole ensemble

I'm thinking of other things I can create to supplement my income too. I plan to teach corsetry classes locally, which will boost my income. There's some prep work that needs to go into that, which I won't get paid for. I also plan to start making corset sleep pillows and storage bags, and have ideas for a couple of cool clothing pieces that would be simpler to make.
One of my current dilemmas is that I sometimes spend 15 hours a week just answering messages asking for quotes, so I hear got a basic website set up with a price guide to refer people to, and maybe start charging a nominal consultation fee that can be put toward the final price if they go through with it. That should save some time so I can spend more actually making stuff.

Which leads me to my next point. Quantity. If I can quadruple my output things would be a lot easier. How, you ask? I could work more hours, but unfortunately that's not really a option with my chronic pain issues and insanely busy life. So how can I work smarter? Well, it's a larger initial investment, but I do finally have a line of standard size patterns that seem to fit most people well. And making standard sizes is much easier because you can batch them! In fact, I can probably make 10 basic corsets in the time one big bespoke piece will take, between fittings, searching for the exact right materials, shipping time for mock ups, waiting for clients to get back with measurements, etc. So if I can make 10 $400 corsets in between bespoke clients, I may do ok.

My other option to increase output is to outsource. Which I'm very seriously considering. I have a line of patterns that work well. I could, and may, find an ethical factory overseas and have them produced for probably less than I spend in materials per corset. However, the initial investment on such a thing is gigantic. It's flying overseas, interviewing factories, teaching them how to make my product in a way that I'm proud to put my name on, checking samples, and having things remade until they suit my standards. And then, they will doubtless have minimums, but that doesn't really matter anyways, because there are 13 size of corsets I make, and I don't want to be that asshole excluding larger sizes. So we're probably talking at least 10k between travel, r&d, and product minimums. And I tend to estimate on the optimistic side because of who I am as a person. So.... It won't help immediately. But maybe for next year.

Luckily, you guys don't have to worry about me going anywhere. I'm too stubborn to give up and I love what I do. Hopefully though, the next time you look at the price tag for handmade corsetry from a country with a high cost of living, you won't be a dick about it.

Why Corsets are Better Than Bras

Ok. This may not actually be true for you. Everyone has different bodies and different experiences. But as a person with 3.25lbs (each) boobs, it's been a little life changing switching to corsets daily instead of bras.

 And I get to feel pretty every day too.

And I get to feel pretty every day too.

You don't know how much I love lingerie and bras, so let me start there. I own dozens of beautiful bras that range from a couple hundred each to about 30. I've been professionally fitted multiple times, as well as fitting myself. I was wearing high end super supportive bras in my proper size, and I thought that was as good as it got. I mean, it was infinitely better than going without.

 A crappy picture of.... most of my bra collection. 

A crappy picture of.... most of my bra collection. 

How, you ask, did I discover that a good overbust corset is boobie magic? Sadly, by tragedy, with a not so fun injury. I have EDS (Ehler-Danlos Syndrome), which in layman's terms, means I'm held together with stretched out rubber bands. There's more to it than that, but that's the important part for this story. Well. I dislocated my sternum. I got a dress caught over my chest and couldn't get it off, hit the bottom of my breath, tried to breathe in, and the wind was knocked out of me instead. Taking my sternum, collarbones, and ribs with. I tore the cartilage attaching most of my ribs. It was possibly one of the most painful things I've ever gone through. Not just because of then, but that the pain pretty much didn't stop for a month. And only then did it start giving me occasional days off.

 ...I have zero clue what happened to the quality of this image, but as you can see, I was super crooked. Those two ribs are supposed to match.

...I have zero clue what happened to the quality of this image, but as you can see, I was super crooked. Those two ribs are supposed to match.

 

Anyways, after I realized what had happened, and had my bones put back where they were supposed to be, my doctor recommended I wear one of my corsets 24/7 as a brace for my ribs, until they healed back how they were supposed to be. She told me to put moderate pressure on my ribs, but to be careful not to put any pressure on my sternum. So my beloved bras were out. But I couldn't leave my boobs all loose and willy nilly either, since they pulled on my ribs and it hurt massively. I could get away with an underbust and no bra only if I lay very still. So I started wearing an overbust corset. It held my boobs in place without pushing them into my sternum, applied pressure to my ribs, and genuinely felt awesome for relieving the pain.

 

As I started to wear it more, I realized a couple weird things. I didn't have a hot spot on my back between my shoulder blades anymore. My neck started hurting less. My shoulders weren't straining against straps. And finally, the permanent line where the band hit began to disappear. I felt like I wasn't even carrying the weight of my chest anymore, since they were being supported from underneath.

 We all know this feel.

We all know this feel.

 

Seriously, it's like walking around with someone else carrying your boobs for you. (Magic)

 

I don't think I can ever go back. I'll still wear bras for photoshoots with underbust corsets, but may never be anything more permanent than that. It's kinda like wearing crappy shoes all through your early twenties and then discovering that Clarks exist. I'll miss all my beautiful pieces, but it's hard to miss the back, shoulder, and neck pain. Not to mention the deep painful marks they could leave, or the permanent shaping.

 

So tell me, fellow heavy boob havers, what do you think? Would you try it out?