I Want to Start Waist Training. Help!
This request, and variations on it, is the most common one that I receive. Don’t worry, you are not alone. There are many like you interested in getting started with waist training with a steel-boned corset, and many more who are willing to offer guidance and support. Here I’ve complied an overview of some of the most important aspects on getting started in waist training. Other, more general information, may be found in the FAQ section.
What is waist training?
Before reading on, let’s make sure that we are all on the same page when using the term “waist training”. In the context of my writings, this included, and the majority of the online corset community at large, waist training is the use of a quality steel-boned corset for the purpose of modifying the shape of one’s body physically in either a permanent or semi-permanent manner. This can include a reduction in the waist circumference, an increase in the flexibility of one’s lower ribs, a redistribution of body mass, or the ability to tolerate greater reductions in a corset. An elastic or latex waist cincher, faja, or any compression that is not lined with steel bones is unacceptable for waist training.
You can still use a corset for the sake of enjoyment or comfort without trying to achieve a certain visible result when the corset is removed, but waist training differs from regular corset wear or occasional tight-lacing in that it is a form body modification. Because of this, waist training must be approached carefully to be able to experience results in the safest, most effective way possible. Waist training with a steel-boned corset takes patience and commitment. Do not try this if you are unwilling to invest effort, time, and financial resources. This is not a low-cost hobby. Functional waist training corsets can range from affordable to very expensive, but useful corsets for this application are never “cheap”.
How does waist training work?
The mechanics of waist training are sometimes glossed over when the topic arises. Often, it is easier to point to success stories than provide explanations as to why waist training with a steel-boned corset works. Here we will touch on some of the more likely reasons that you might see a change in your body when waist training. Keep in mind that this is a very basic, very watered-down overview of the mechanics of waist training.
Links to videos produced by Lucy’s Corsetry are provided below, if you would like to hear more about the physical effects of waist training. All of these videos contain well-articulated, easily-digestible information, and are just a few minutes each.
Rib Recontouring/Flexibility. A corset should not be compressing any other bones than those in your ribcage. If undue pressure is being placed on your spine or hips, then the corset being used is of either poor quality or fit. Even when compressing the ribs, only the “false ribs”, those connected to the spine and/or sternum by soft, flexible cartilage are usually affected. These bones already expand and contract with each breath, and they can easily accept reduction with a well-fitted corset. With time and consistency in waist training, these lower ribs (usually the lower 5 pairs) can become increasingly more flexible, thus allowing you to cinch tighter without any discomfort.
Lucy’s Corsetry: Corsets and your Bones
Muscle Morphology. Since your muscles are comprised of living, growing, constantly-regenerating tissues, they have the potential to grow longer and more flexible with time and physical training. The effect of waist training on the core muscles can be similar, generally encouraging the muscles, most notably the obliques, to stretch slightly in order to curve with the shape of the corset. With long-term waist training, these changes in muscle shape can become more persistent when the corset is removed.
Lucy’s Corsetry: Corsets and Your Muscles
Adipose Tissue Movement. Much like lean tissue, body fat is living, and even in a person who maintains their weight, it can fluctuate in microscopic ways. There are theories that compression placed on the waist can discourage the fat cells in that area from absorbing fatty acids, glucose, or amino acids, thereby leaving the individual fat cells smaller, or, “more empty”; and allowing those molecules to be absorbed by cells elsewhere in the body. However, I have found little evidence, beyond anecdotal cases, to support this hypothesis. You may or may not find that something like this happens in your own case.
Reduced Stomach Capacity. A corset really does act somewhat like an external “lap band”, compressing your stomach just enough to prevent you from overeating without discomfort. This means that, if you leave your corset on while eating, you will feel fuller sooner. It’s entirely possible to maintain weight while wearing a corset, but waist training can also assist with creating a calorie deficit by limiting your intake of food. Of course, taking a corset off mid-meal to make room for more will eliminate this potential benefit!
Internal organ repositioning. We are so quick to forget the sort of rigors that human body is designed to withstand, most notably, pregnancy. While this example is more relevant for females than males, it’s important to understand that internal organs are made to be at least slightly flexible in all humans. For women, this is clear in how a developing fetus can trigger the movement of the organs in the abdominal. When engaging in waist training with a steel-boned corset, there is some very minor movement, mostly in the lower digestive tract (the intestines). Lucy of Lucy’s Corsetry also points out that the stomach, liver, and spleen are affected. These organs, too, are well-adapted to modest repositioning within the human body. As you progress in waist training, you may notice that a corset begins to feel slightly looser after a few hours of wear. This is generally due to the stomach or intestines settling either above or below the corseted waist, thus reducing the internal pressure at the waistline. It is not at all harmful, when a proper corset is used, but is a great demonstration of the internal flexibility of the body.
Lucy’s Corsetry: Corsets and your Organs
Fluid reduction (temporary). The reduction of fluid in any part of the body, when compression is applied, is a well-documented occurrence. The retention of water or other fluids in an area of the body is called “edema”, a generally benign condition that is often manifested in bloating or mild swelling of the soft tissue, like that in the torso. Applying pressure, such as with a well-made corset, encourages the release of these fluids from the tissues, thus temporarily reducing the size of the waist. Be careful not to mistake this as a long-term effect of corsetry. When the corset is removed, fluids are likely to move back into the site from which they were just ushered away.
Choosing Your First Corset: Quality
When choosing your first waist training corset (or any corset after that) you need to consider the quality of the overall garment. A corset made for waist training must meet a few minimum criteria to be suitable for daily use at even a moderate reduction. Search through the specifications shared by a corset maker or corset seller to determine if it meets these standards. If it is not listed, ask before purchasing.
- Steel bones at each seam. These rigid pieces of metal may be either flexible spiral steel or flat steel “bones”. Verify with the seller or maker that the bones are tipped or dipped to prevent them from damaging the fabric or coming through the boning channels in the corset. Plastic boning of any kind is unacceptable for waist training.
- Waist tape. A piece of herringbone tape (or “ribbon”) should be sewn into the corset at the smallest part of the waist, spanning the entire circumference of the garment. This keeps the corset from stretching out over time. The waist tape may be sewn into a corset between layers of fabric so that you cannot see it.
- At least two layers of fabric. A corset should be made up of, at a minimum, two layers of fabric tightly stitched together. Stretchy fabric of any kind is unacceptable.
- A strength layer of fabric. For a corset to hold up to the rigors of waist training, it must be made with a sturdy, non-stretch, tightly-woven fabric for at least one of its layers. Herringbone coutil is the most commonly-used strength layer in corsets.
- Metal grommets. These should be located on either side of the corset in the back at the lacing gap. These should be evenly spaced from one another and ideally no further apart than one inch. Each set of grommets should be reinforced by steel bones on both sides to prevent the lacing gap from buckling or curving when the corset is tightened. If the corset is “tightened” without using a grommet-and-lacing system, such as with hook and eye closure(s), it is unsuitable for waist training. Also, be skeptical of any corset which is shown with a lacing gap that is not parallel on the model or dress form in photographs; this shows a lack of rigidity in the back boning.
- Silhouette. While not a tangible material itself, the overall shape of a corset must be made with a pattern that comfortably contours the body. There is no single silhouette (examples: hourglass, conical, s-curve) of corset that is best for everyone. However, there are some shapes that should be avoided by anyone attempting to waist train. Stay clear of any corset which appears “tubular” in shape. Corsets like this will not provide any real reduction to your waist, and you are unlikely to get any lasting waist training results. Poorly patterned corsets are also often indicators of a lack of quality in other aspects of their design or construction.
The following criteria are optional, but may enhance your waist training experience or provide a great convenience.
- A front busk closure. A busk is a two-piece metal closure, with hoops on one side and posts on the other, made to be put together to close the front of a corset. A front busk is not necessary in a waist training corset, but it is an incredible convenience. Without a corset, you would need to slip a corset on over your head or step into it and pull it up to your waist. A busk allows you to loosen a corset, position it around your waist, secure the busk in front, and quickly tighten the corset. If you choose to purchase a corset without a front busk, be sure that the middle front of the corset is stiffened with steel bones so that the garment will still give proper support to the tummy.
- A stiffened modesty panel. While not necessary for waist training, a stiffened rectangular panel positioned between the corset laces and your back is highly recommended for your comfort. Tightening a corset can cause the skin on your back to be pinched if the laces are directly against it. A modesty panel (also called a “lacing panel”, “lacing guard”, or “back panel”) will prevent chafing or discomfort from the laces on your flesh. Without being stiffened, though, this modesty panel may wrinkle or further irritate your skin.
Keep in mind that it is also recommended that you use an underbust, not an overbust, corset as your first waist training corset. An underbust corset will not rise past your breasts or pectorals. It will maintain the necessary pressure on your torso for effective waist training without limiting your lung capacity any more than necessary. An overbust corset not only presents a respiratory limitation to first-time waist trainers, but it also will inhibit your range of motion. The longer a corset, the less flexibility you will have in your midsection; and a corset which rises past your chest can present quite the challenge in simple things like just bending over to pick something up off of the floor. Overbust corsets are not intrinsically bad, but they are not an ideal choice for your first waist training corset. Try an underbust first for the most comfortable introduction to waist training.
Choosing Your First Corset: OTR or Custom?
The options available to first-time corset wearers are seemingly endless, but one very important distinction to make is in regards to how the corset is constructed. Do you want to purchase a corset in a standard size, often called “off the rack” (OTR) or “ready to wear” (RTW); or do you want a corset that is custom-made for your body? Let’s discuss just a few of the differences.
Keep in mind that these are generalities – they may not hold true in all circumstances. Some OTR corsets may be considered luxury models, and there are some custom corset lines which are not fit for waist training. Be sure to examine the construction materials and methods in addition to other potential differences.
- Custom: Often in small studio settings, by entrepreneurs/designers
- OTR: Often in minimally-regulated factory conditions
- Custom: Higher expense for the designer's time, attention to detail, and smaller scale of business
- OTR: Lower cost due to mass manufacturing, sometimes using budget materials
- Custom: More quality control over and customizeability of the materials used, consistent quality. Quality improves with customer loyalty.
- OTR: Reduced quality control to keep costs down, quality ranging from model to model and lot to lot.
- Custom: You are guaranteed a personal fit, based on the actual measurements that you provide.
- OTR: Limited to standard sizes, meaning that any variation in your body from the corset’s measurements will result in a less-than-perfect fit.
Why buy one as your first corset?
- Custom: Your corset will be made to your exact specifications, with advice and guidance offered by the corset maker. This means that you will have the right information to get started with waist training, and the corset is guaranteed to fit you well (so long as you provided accurate measurements).
- OTR: These corsets are a budget option for those with "standard-sized bodies" to try out corsets. You will usually receive your OTR corset much more quickly and with a lesser financial investment.
The final choice between custom and OTR corsets is yours to make, but it’s important to remember that this doesn’t have to be your last corset! If you would prefer to try one now and another later, you are able to do just that.
Choosing Your First Corset: Size
Regardless of your choice between a custom and OTR corset, and even if a corset exceeds all of the suggested criteria for quality, if it doesn’t fit your unique figure it will not be suitable for your waist training goals. Some of us are taller or shorter, some of us are more or less curvy, and even then, not everyone’s curves are in the same place! There are more measurements to consider than just your waist size when picking out the best-fitting corset. Since a corset is such a close-fitting garment, it's important to remember that a corset that might fit one person well may not be ideal for another. It is vital for you to consult the corset maker or corset seller to verify that the corset you choose will fit you in all the right places.
Start with these basic measurements for standard-sized OTR corsets, using a flexible measuring tape to take them. You can provide more if requested by your corset maker or seller.
- Underbust. Measure around your torso right beneath your breasts or pectorals, keeping the measuring tape parallel to the floor. For those who wear a brassiere, this will be about where the band wraps around your body. This measurement might also be referred to as the “ribcage” circumference.
- Waist. In reference to corsetry, the “waist” is the smallest part of your midsection, often called the “natural waist”. For most, this is one to two inches above the navel. To find your natural waist, gently wrap the measuring tape around your torso and try to seat it into the narrowest part of your waist by bending slightly from side to side. If you have trouble finding your natural waist, simply take your circumferential measurement at the point one inch above your navel.
- High Hip. Palpate the side of your hips with your hands to try and locate your pelvis. Take note of where the top of your pelvis is. This is where the “high hip” or “iliac crest” measurement is taken. For the most part, this is where a waist training corset will end. Wrap the measuring tape around your torso overtop of where you located the top edge of your pelvis, keeping the tape parallel to the floor.
When choosing a waist training corset, it’s also important to consider how long of a torso you have. While some have shorter midsections that would be squeezed uncomfortably in anything but a cincher, others can fit into a longline corset without any trouble. Compare your vertical measurements to those of the corset seller before purchasing an OTR corset, or discuss this with your corset maker if ordering a custom corset.
- Underbust to waist. After you have identified where your underbust and natural waist measurements are (discussed above), while standing, find the vertical distance between the two. This will determine how high a corset can rise from the waist before it is likely to pinch the flesh of your breasts or pectorals. If a corset rises too high from the waist, it can also interfere with your underwire, if you wear a bra. If it does not rise high enough from the waist, you may experience some “flesh spill-over”, the result of not enough support or simply a poor fit.
- Waist to hip. After you have found where your high hip and natural waist measurements are (discussed above), while standing, find the vertical distance between the two. You can use this measurement to judge whether a corset will extend too low or not low enough below your waist. If a corset ends too far below your waist, it can pinch your hips uncomfortably, potentially even pinching a nerve or temporarily cutting off circulation in your legs. A corset that does not extend below the wait far enough will likely not give you enough tummy support in the side or front, which can result in a bumpy silhouette.
- Waist to lap. Sit down for this measurement. Use your measuring tape to find the distance between your natural waist and the top of your thigh, or your hip crease (this is where the skin between your thigh and torso folds when seated). When searching for a corset, look to see that the front-side of the corset will not extend so low as to pinch into your thigh. If a corset is too long in the front-side, you may find it very uncomfortable to sit, and you risk temporarily losing circulation in your legs due to a poor fit. Look for soft upward curves on the bottom edge of a corset in the side-front, designed to give the legs a bit more room when the corset is worn while in a seated position.
But what about your corseted waist? What size should you choose to start? This is a subject of much contention in the corset community, and for good reason: there is on universal answer that is appropriate for everyone. There are quite a few factors which play into how much you can reduce your waist to begin with, the most prominent of which are body composition and overall size.
A very lean person will have a much harder time cinching a corset of any type, as bone and muscle have fairly little “give”, especially without waist training. However, an individual with more adipose tissue will likely be able to lace up a corset more tightly without feeling that it is too restrictive, as this type of body mass moves with much more ease than lean tissue.
If two individuals have the same body composition, but one has a natural waist of 22” and the other of 42”, the latter likely to be able to accept a larger corseted reduction to start. Again, this simply has to do with the amount of tissue that can be temporarily displaced with ease by a corset.
A good rule of thumb to start with, though, is to reduce your waist by about 15% with your first waist training corset. If you are particularly lean, you may wish to reduce by less; if you have a bit more fluff you may be able to comfortably reduce by more. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
- A woman with an average body composition and a waist of 33” could easily start waist training with a corset that provides a 15% reduction to her waist.
33 inches x 0.15 = 4.95
Rounding to a reduction of 5”, this suggests that a corset sized to close at 28” may offer the best fit to start with.
- A lean male with a natural waist of 27” may be most comfortable starting waist training with a corset that reduces his waist by only 10%.
27 inches x 0.10 = 2.7 inches
If we round this to the nearest inch, that suggests that a good corset for him to start with would be sized to 24” when closed.
- A woman with a bit more fluff and a waist of 50” could probably cinch a corset much more than either of the examples above – likely by as much as 20% to start.
50 inches x 0.20 = 10 inches
For this individual, a corset sized to close with a waist of 40” would probably be a good choice as a first-time waist training corset.
Now that you have gathered these first, most basic measurements, you can either submit them to your corset maker for your custom corset (along with any additional measurements requested by the corset maker), or you can start comparing your body to the size charts provided by OTR corset sellers. Take your time in this step. Being patient and thorough when review size charts will pay off with a well-fitting waist training corset. If you are unsure of how to read a size chart, or if you don’t believe that the company has provided enough points of measurement for you to make an accurate judgment of fit, contact the corset seller or maker for more information.
How to Break In Your Corset (Seasoning)
Once you have received your corset and inspected it to ensure that it is what you ordered, you are ready to start breaking it in! Breaking in your corset, often called “seasoning”, is an incredibly important stage in your corset’s (and your) life. Tightening a corset completely when it is brand new, and especially when you have just started waist training, can be devastating. You may warp bones in your corset, or you may hurt yourself. The corset and your body both need time to get to know one another. It is vital to take this slowly. There will be plenty of time to lace more tightly later, as you progress in your waist training.
There are a few different approaches to seasoning a new corset, and it can depend further on the type of corset. Allow more time to break in your corset if:
- You are entirely new to steel-boned corsetry
- It is not custom to your measurements
- It contains flat steel bones around the entire body (not just near the back lacing system)
- It is built with more than 3 layers of material
- The reduction is greater than 6 inches
- The silhouette is particularly challenging, such as stem-waisted or conical in the ribs (not recommended for first-time waist trainers)
However, the fact remains that we must spend some time seasoning a corset before it is ready to be put into regular, daily use. There are a couple standard models, either of which you might wish to try. You may find that one feels better to you, but both are effective.
Romantasy’s “roller coaster” method suggests a breaking in process which increases reduction and time spent in the corset gradually, though not at the same time. For example: wear the corset at a 1” reduction for 2 hours on the first 3 days, 4 hours for the next 3 days, and then so on until you have worked up to a 1” reduction for 8 hours. Then begin again with another half inch of reduction. Spend 3 days with a reduction of 1.5” for 2 hours, and again work up to spending 8 hours in the corset at a 1.5” reduction. Use this pattern to continue to slowly work up toward cinching your corset for longer periods of time. If you are interested in receiving a customized waist training plan, just for you, you may wish to purchase one from Romantasy proprietress Ann Grogan herself.
The “2-2-2” guideline is also widely touted as a great way to season your corset. With this method, you follow a very straight-forward and easy-to-remember process: Lace your new corset to a 2” reduction for 2 hours each day for 2 weeks. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Remember that not all corsets are made the same way, so this might not be enough time to break in your corset if it surpasses any of the criteria discussed above. If you find that your corset still feels stiff after this timeframe, continue to be patient as you keep working to completely season it. Your corset and your body will thank you!
There is so much to learn about waist training and corsets, and you will come to know much more with time. Most of it is learned through practice, but it is always helpful to have resources at your disposal when questions arise. Feel free to contact me personally at Heidi@straitlaceddame.com.
A Final Note Regarding this Article
The advice offered above is not meant to satisfy the needs and questions of every single person who has considered starting waist training. There are always unique cases where “generalized” information like this does not fit one’s needs. My aim was to provide a basic guide for the majority of people interested in how to get started with waist training using steel-boned corsets. If you feel that I have not offered you the best information for starting off, please don’t hesitate to contact me by email. Your feedback helps me to offer the best information possible.