Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tighten Up, Part II: Your First Corset

It's important for every pinup to feel confident and sexy, and achieving a perfectly hourglass-shaped silhouette just isn't possible for most of us without at least a little help. This is where your corset comes in, and while buying your first one can be a little intimidating, if you do your homework, you're in for a load of fun.

The first question you should ask yourself is, what do you want from this contraption? You have to know this, since the decisions surrounding your first corset should have mostly to do with the kind of tightlacing you plan on doing. When I made the decision to purchase a corset, it was made with the intention of wearing the corset for 23 hours a day and seven days a week--meaning the only time I took it off was when I showered, and so 23 hours a day is generous. I wore it all day every day and even slept in it (though I did loosen it a bit for bedtime). With this in mind, I purchased a light pink satin underbust corset from Shane Aaron, figuring I could wear the light-colored garment under my light-colored clothing. There were two issues with my first corset, with the first being that satin is not the most durable fabric. Since your corset rubs against your clothing with every move you make, you need a fabric that will withstand the friction which, over time, can cause considerable damage to the corset. Once I figured this out, I decided to wear my corset only under clothes that fit fairly loosely so as to minimize damage to the garment.

The second thing to keep in mind is the kind of look and
styling you want. Underbust designs are generally recommended for every day wear as they'll cinch your waist but they allow a little more movement in your upper body than an overbust design. There are also varying lengths of corsets, from what looks like a very wide belt (often referred to simply as a waist cincher) to full-length dresses that run from your shoulder to your knees. And there's everything in between--low hip, high hip, long busk, short busk...there are just about as many corset types as there are body types. The length and shape you choose all depends on what fits you and your needs. Just as there are many corset shapes, corsets also come in a plethora of materials, including satin, silk, cotton, wool, leather, latex and more. Whatever kind of fabric you choose, however, you should wear a corset liner between your corset and your skin. This will help protect your skin from chafing, and will help extend the life of the corset by shielding it from sweat and body oils.

When buying a corset, you also need to pay close attention to who made it. Make no mistake that corsetieres are artists. As such, every corset designer makes his or her corsets a little differently, so it's important to try on one of their corsets before you take the step of buying one. If you buy a custom job, try one on from the rack first. I've ordered corsets online with success (try Lace Embrace) but I wouldn't recommend an online purchase for your first corset. Most shops that sell corsets can also submit custom orders for you. Stop in, try on a bunch of different things, and have them take the necessary measurements. Some corsetieres may even make a muslin mock-up first for you to try on before they craft the real thing.

Another thing to note for when you first try on corsets is that the given size of the corset is the size the corset makes your waist when the corset is closed. You don't want your corset to close entirely--there should be a little gap. Measure your natural waist, then look for a corset that, when closed, is about four inches smaller than your natural waist. For example: My natural waist is about 26 inches. Most of my corsets are 22 inches when closed, and my corseted waist is 22.5 inches.

Eventually, you'll own a variety of corsets which you'll use in a variety of situations. My favorite daily corset is entirely lacking in glamour. It's a nude-colored twill underbust model made by Amy Crowder of Wasp Creations, but the beauty of it is that I can wear it under anything. With exception to the shape it provides, it's entirely unattractive only because it's so heavily worn and it wasn't constructed to be aesthetically pleasing in and of itself. It's useful, but it isn't what I wear if I want to make an impression on my man. In that case, I wear something in a more tantalizing brocade, maybe with some more elaborate detailing or in an offbeat design (I have one that looks like a tuxedo jacket). I tend to save the creative pieces when I know they will be appreciated, but I still certainly wear them as my own little secret whenever I can.

Ideally you can own at least one utility corset and another for "special occasions." It will take you some time to collect a respectable collection of corsets, since after all they are expensive (expect to pay between $250-350 for a basic corset). Not to get too mushy, but just remember that all things worth doing take some time. Whether you call it waist training, corset training, staylacing, tightlacing or anything else, taking the time and making the effort to cut the figure you want is absolutely worth it.


whitlynn said...

Hi there,
I wear a corset every day for work. I love it but unfortunately I've ran into a problem I was hoping you could help me with. The boning on my corset will bend and leave me with a lump in front. The lump makes it look like a I have a pregnant stomach. I've tried to iron the lump out of the boning but i have been unsuccessful and I end up having to buy a new corset every couple of weeks. Is there any alternative boning that won't bend like that so quickly or something more durable. PLease help! :)
Thanks Whit'nee

Kitty du Vert said...

Hi Whitlynn,

Apologies for taking so long to get back to you. What is the boning made out of in your corsets? You definitely shouldn't have to be replacing your corset every two weeks. Know that there are some designers that are better than others when it comes to building corsets that lie totally flat, but that may also have to do with how high or low the hip is on the corset compared with the length of the busk. As for boning type, I believe my corsets have a titanium boning. You have inspired me, though, to do some more research on boning and stays, and devote a whole post to it, so stay tuned.

keep tight,

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