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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%)
Waist Training Info/Resources