Today I’m having a late spring clean. Getting the sewing room straightened out for the marathon of corset making I have planned for the next few weeks. I’m also reluctantly getting rid of the ‘extra sewing supplies’ in my tin -
So for all those curious about my little corsetry and dressmaking room here’s my spring (summer) clean before and after -
Layla likes to lounge around in the sewing room when I’m in there, getting covered in bits of thread and trying to sit on my feet when I’m operating the sewing machine. If she had thumbs I’d put her to work but as it stands her job is largely supervisory. (She has her own facebook page too – Vampire Dog on account of her big crocodile mouth!)
There are numerous approaches to lacing a corset but for corset training, sticking to a criss-cross technique from top to bottom is the most hassle free option. If you use the rabbit ears technique (also often called bunny ears), this makes tight-lacing even more practical and makes the whole process easier, especially if you put on your corset unaided.
The criss-cross corset lacing pattern is very like lacing a shoe, with one distinct difference – One of the laces doesn’t enter the hole from above on one side, then across and down one to enter again from above on the other side and so on, entering each hole from above to be brought across from beneath.
When lacing a corset, if the lace goes in from above the hole and is then brought across from underneath to the next hole on the opposite side, it then enters that hole from UNDERNEATH, and vice versa – if a lace is entering a hole from below it will come out on top and must then enter the next hole from on top. The other side should then be laced symmetrically to make a column of crosses sitting on top of the corset. Tightening up your corset is thus made much easier as you can now put a finger under each cross, hook on to it round its middle and pull on it to narrow the gap. The slack is then taken up by pulling the next cross down and so on till you reach the bottom and tie the laces.
Bunny ears are huge loops of lace left in the middle of the line of crosses on both sides at the level of the waist line (the waist is the thinnest part of the corset). The lace is brought up through the hole as normal, but rather than reaching across to the other side it goes down into the hole below it on the same side. Rather than pull the lace all the way through, you leave an excess of a foot or more so theres a large loop. This is your rabbit ear, after which lacing continues as normal down to the bottom, the same is repeated on the other side so your ‘ears’ match. Make sure the ears are long enough to loosen the corset just enough to put it on, then tie the laces together at the bottom of the corset and cut off the excess if you wish.
When you put on your corset use the slack in the ears to get it loose enough to do up the busk at the front, then tighten your corset by pulling at the crosses from top to middle and bottom to middle, pulling the slack into the rabbit ear loops and then tie the rabbit ear loops together in a knot or bow. If your wearing a corset training corset and require a tight fit, you may want to make several passes from top/bottom to waist to pull in the corset enough before you tie the loops.
There are various other pretty lacing techniques devised by corset designers, but if your a corset pattern designer, or just make corsets for friends who waist train, your clients will probably thank you for sticking to this style of lacing as nothing really beats it for ease of use.
What’s in it? The curve of a corset? Is it just luck that some girls turn into walking hourglasses when they don a corset, while others tend to get a straight up straight down effect? Or is it a case of how long you’ve been corset training?
Well take it from me that while the smallest waists take years to achieve, the curvy corseted effect should be instant the moment you tighten a good quality corset. The emphasis is definitely on ‘good quality’ though. Bad quality corsets are easy and cheap to pick up, they may even look the part with fancy frills and detailing. But the moment you put them on you’ll know they’re low quality. It’s all down to the corset pattern they’re made from.
A cheap corset won’t bring you in at the waist like a professionally made one will, they’re designed to fit a standard figure and to fit as many people as possible, so the curves (if it has any) will be a lot less dramatic. It takes skill to make a corset that fits properly and you pay for that skill.
When you start to corset train one of the things you don’t realize is how much of an effect it will have on your skin and its overal condition. Its not until you start to tight lace on a daily basis for 8 hours or more, that you start to get skin problems. Corset training puts a lot of pressure on your skin and inhibits it breathing properly. This can cause everything from dry skin to pressure sores. There are several things you can do to minimize discomfort.
Firstly make sure you get a well fitting corset, if you can (and if you waist train seriously you should) have the corset pattern custom fitted to your measurements, it will ensure an even level of pressure all over so your less likely to get sore spots.
Your corset should also be made of, or at least lined with, cotton. A cotton lining will ideally be 100% cotton coutil (a non-stretch heavy weightcotton with a herringbone weave). Cotton allows the skin to breathe so is a must if you’ll be wearing it 8 hours or more every day. You should also get some cotton corset liners, tight fitting vest tops are ideal. These will absorb the salts and perspiration from your skin and can be changed and washed each day, keeping your skin clean and prolonging the life of your corset.
The proper treatment of skin is under some debate. Some people don’t moisturise at all claiming that the skin toughens up and becomes more resistant to sores, they will often use talc powder to keep the skin dry, before putting on their corset. I personally go the moisturiser route as I have naturally dry sensitive skin. This involves lathering your skin in cream anytime you can. So whenever you take your corset off grab the moisturiser! But make sure to let it soak in and the skin dry before you put on your corset. You can also add a little talc after the cream has been absorbed if you sweat a lot.
If you can afford to, get a second corset – make sure its made using the exact same corset pattern if you can – and alternate between the two from day to day. They’ll last longer and therefore be more comfortable. It also allows them to air out between wears and prevent bacteria growth and that musky smell you get from material thats been damp for too long.
Lastly if you get sores while corset training consult a doctor and apply creams as directed but loosen your corset for a few days until they clear up properly – look after your skin and your body!
There can be some confusion about the difference between a corset and a costume, theatre or plain old fancy dress outfit with a corset-like appearance. Having made a lot of corsets I can tell if the quality is lacking, but some people new to corsetry are still buying fancy dress outfits with ‘corsets’ or fancy dress sewing patterns for corsets, that fail to hold the body in shape and are sometimes made from stuff as insubstantial as Lycra! O yes, it happens.
If your looking to find a corset pattern that’s authentic or will be appropriate for tight lacing, stick to the laughing moon range or the simplicity historic pattern range which are drafted from real museum examples of Victorian and Edwardian era dress.
The other thing to look at when buying pattern or outfit is the material, if a corset pattern doesn’t have a lining of stiff material or say to use steel bones it’s not for a proper corset. The same thing goes for buying ready mades, if there isn’t a steel bone running along next to the eyelets it won’t stand being tightened properly. If it stretches or isn’t cotton lined its no good as a functional corset. Use a bit of common sense and you can’t go far wrong.