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Current list of articles on this page:
Like An Astronaut: Body Fluid Volume Management For Tightlacers
Inexpensive Corsets and the Mathematics of Tightlacing Timescales
Youth and Tightlacing
Tightlacing Fetish and Tightlacing Reality
Tightlacing Corset Design: not rocket science, but close...
Permanent Curves or Temporary Beauty? Realities of the Long Term Effects of Tightlacing
Airport Travel for the Wasp Waisted
The Spiritual Aspects of Tightlacing
Does waist size really matter?
Medieval Medical Hubbub and Modern Tightlacing
My Three Simple Rules of Tightlacing
The Victorian Corset Myths
Fran's Tightlacing Tips and Techniques:
Up a Contour Corset
Using the Contour Hidden Zipper Closure
Using a Busk Closure
Putting On and Adjusting the Corset Liner
Blood Pressure, Hypertension, and Hydration During Tightlacing
Sport Corsets and Exercising for Tightlacers
Breathing and Sleeping In Your Corset
Surgical Rib Removal
The Shape of Modern Tightlacing: Defining the Iliac Crest
The Cycle Method
The Hard Part - Recontouring Your Costal Cartilage and Floating Ribs
Advanced Cycle Method – Divide and Conquer
The Ins and Outs of Tightlacing
Ready! Set! Sit!
Body Fluid Volume Management For Tightlacers
I have written in the past about how important it is to keep properly hydrated when tightlacing, and that keeping the fluids going is essential. But why? The answer comes from the loads of research conducted for our Human Spaceflight Programs.
It is a reality that if you do not keep up with fluid intake that you will get dehydrated when you wear a corset for long periods of time, and if you are a daily tightlacer it becomes very important to be aware of maintaining a constant volume of body fluids and consistently lacing at moderate pressures.
The human body is mostly water, and the first effect of wearing a corset is that it displaces fluids in the abdomen, which is why for most people waist shaping can be so easy with the right corset. I encourage The Cycle Method as a way of managing these effects by controlling pressures, because high lacing pressures will cause more displacement of the abdominal fluids, and this increases blood volume and diastolic pressure in the upper body and extremities. Daily tightlacers can have this increased upper body blood volume to some extent most of the time, particularly if they are trying to achieve high reductions in the waist, and the increased blood volume in the brain causes large brain vessels to dilate, which over weeks and months triggers a systemic response in the autonomic systems that signals the body to dump fluids and produce less blood. This is why I encourage lots of water to offset otherwise inevitable dehydration.
Removing the corset after a long period of compression then causes a situation where if you are dehydrated the overall body blood volume changes abruptly as vessels in the abdomen which are now no longer compressed will fill with fluid once more, causing the blood volume in the extremities and the brain to decrease too much. If you have not kept up with your fluid intake you can now have low body blood volume, which then can trigger other autonomic responses such as increased heart rate or drop in blood pressure.
Astronauts in the ISS suffer from this same low blood volume phenomenon because Zero G causes this same high brain blood volume situation as that which daily tightlacers can experience. Astronauts return to earth with much less blood in their bodies - up to 25% less overall blood volume. If anyone at NASA is reading I suggest that a training corset would be ideal for gradually re-acclimating Astronauts to the 1-G environment when they return to earth. Compression would allow the Astronauts to overcome the weakness that they otherwise experience due to their low blood volume. It would work – and it would be stylish. A win-win as far as I am concerned.
Drinking some electrolyte infused water is a good way to help retain water in your body when tightlacing, and I can never stress enough the importance of self monitoring, proper diet, exercise, and regular physical check ups for everyone - not just Astronauts - whether you tightlace or not. :-)
I get a lot of emails these days from people who are considering tightlacing about the various brands of off-the-rack ready-to-wear corsets that are found all over the web, and which of them I would recommend for waist training. To be truthful I can never recommend any inexpensive ready to wear fashion corset for the purpose of real waist training, and the reasons for this are pretty simple.
It is important for me to point out first that any true daily wear tightlacing corset is completely bespoke by definition. If a corset is not designed specifically for your own unique body then it will be at the very least uncomfortable to wear, and probably impossible to wear for any great length of time.
Secondly, if you want a daily wear corset for waist training it has to serve you for a very long time without failure. An inexpensive mass produced ready to wear corset may look very pretty on the rack, but how many hours of use will it really endure? Your average ready to wear corset is made with a minimum of materials, reinforcements, and steel, and is not constructed to last for more than a few hundred hours of wear. But hey – a few hundred hours - that is a lot of time, right? Well, if you wear a corset a few times a year then yes – but if you waist train you will need to wear your corset every day, and preferably for most of the day. So, let's do the math. Say you average around 15 hours a day in your corset. That is about 100 hours every week, or 400 hours every month, so how long do you want your corset to last? If you decide to waist train as a lifestyle and become a dedicated daily tightlacer you will spend about 6,000 to 8,000 hours per year cinched in your corset. It takes a great deal of engineering and skill to create a corset that will endure the rigors of daily tightlacing on these time scales. Believe me, I know!
It is not my intention for people to think that I am exclusive of other manufacturers because of ego or competitiveness, but rather the fact that I started making corsets myself for the sole reason that I was perpetually frustrated with the corsets I bought – many of them very well made by the best Corsetieres – but all with fit and wear issues that the corset makers I depended upon just could not solve. I really felt that somehow I could do it better, and I set out to make corsets for myself that would meet my own very high standards and expectations, fit my own strange asymmetrical body, and with construction that would withstand my own rigorous tightlacing regimen.
So, my best advice is that if you want a good tightlacing corset then buy from someone who wears their own work. If you use the proper math to figure out how much time you get out of a corset, then designs such as the ones that I offer are actually much more affordable, and the paradox here being that no one would ever really want to spend 8,000 hours in a cheap corset that was never made for their body anyway.
The last word on cheap corsets is that you only get what you pay for, and now too you can see why a truly bespoke corset is really a good value after all.
I am getting more and more requests for bespoke corset work from teens and young adults these days, which has prompted me to write this short essay about the subject of tightlacing among younger people.
It has always been my policy that I will only make corsets for adults, and I always caution young people who are considering tightlacing. My cautions come from the reality that young people today are still maturing physically throughout their late teens and early 20's. The real documented histories of the health and experiences of tightlacers in the 20th century are all of individuals who began the practice well into adulthood, many in middle age even, and the truth is that the long term effects of continuous compression on the physical development of young people is completely unknown.
People in the fetish world are familiar with the ancient traditions of foot binding, where the feet are prevented from growing by the confinement of constant compression, and as an individual's body grows and matures this results in a fully grown adult with child's feet. A corset confines the body in an identical way, and at 16 or 19 years of age most women are not of their full adult height, weight, and internal development. Imposing restrictions and compressing the ribs, organs, and muscles on a daily basis through tightlacing would by definition limit their maturation. It is for this reason that I do not make tightlacing corsets for people under the age of 21, and even then I dissuade against high reduction or radically shaped designs for women under 25 years of age.
This is not to say that tightlacing is dangerous, any more than foot binding is dangerous, but it does lead to changes in the body. The effects of these changes are well known in adults, but not in young people. Also, tightlacing is a commitment. When one practices the art and discipline of tightlacing the physiological changes that come about create a lifestyle that requires an immense degree of dedication, devotion, and self control.
So, please understand that if you are quite young but thinking about a nipped wasp waist, that perhaps you should think about waist training in the same way you do your 401K. Exactly.
When I began tightlacing years ago I wanted to make sure that I got some good advice about how to do it first, so I spent a lot of time scouring the internet for information. What I found then is what you find now just in greater volume – a mixture of fantasy and reality from sources that are sometimes dubious and sometimes very credible. The biggest hurtle for a budding tightlacer is sifting through the muck of misinformation to find truthful advice.
Basically, if you want to
learn how to tightlace you need to listen to a radical tightlacer.
And by that I mean a person who has reduced their waist size by more than
30%. The reason is that if a person has had the self discipline to
reach this level of radical reduction at some point in their life then
they will really understand the daily realities of true tightlacing, and
as such they will be able to give you good advice if they choose to.
The 30% rule applies also because it is only at this level of reduction
that complete repositioning of the internal organs takes place. Without
experiencing this a person will not have the ability to advise you truthfully
about how you should go about doing the same. There is after all
a very big difference between real tightlacing and simply having the experience
of wearing a corset.
Corset Belts – A belt for shaping is a big part of fetish mythology but it is not at all healthy to try. If you have achieved radical reduction and decide to substitute your well designed corset for a very tightly cinched belt around your waist the results will be unpleasant. The body tolerates compression when it is graduated by the corset, which in addition to shaping the waist is also supporting the vital organs and compressing the lower digestive tract. Simply cinching the waist tightly without support to the organs above and below the waist causes fluid to pool in the abdomen over hours and the digestive tract will become bloated, irritable, and crampy. The body does not like this arrangement for very long and you certainly get no benefit of comfort from this substitute. A corset belt is really for going around your corset as a nice accessory. Wear it that way.
Instant Reduction – Another storytime fetish scene is the fantasy where a young woman or naughty husband is subjected to being laced into a very tiny waisted corset and drawn in to become instantly wasp waisted. Surprisingly I get requests from people for completely fantastic shapes and reductions who have never worn a corset because of this myth, but of course it is just a fantasy. The truth is that even with the strongest corset there are real biological and physiological barriers to reduction. Some people are more malleable than others but no matter how soft and pliable you are a great many changes and adaptations have to occur in one's body to achieve any radical shaping. It takes time. Generally I will make a first corset with no more than 5 or 6 inches of reduction on the waist and it usually takes a few months for the customer to get the first corset closed. Anything more than that is just not realistically feasible.
Cheap Tightlacing Corsets - This is an interesting one only because it is so common a question. By definition any tightlacing corset is bespoke, and expertly hand crafted specifically for you by an experienced Corsetiere from the finest materials. If you google 'corsets' you will get an absolute cornucopia of companies selling 'tight lacing' and 'custom' corsets but be wise. A cheap tightlacing corset is like an inexpensive defense attorney. In most cases you will get just what you pay for.
Permanent Tightlacing – I wrote an article about this very widely contemplated subject, and the short story on permanent tightlacing is that there is no such thing. The body is very malleable, and just as you can reduce your waist and shape over time, if you stop the practice and stay out of the corset your body gradually returns to its unaltered state. The longer you tightlace the longer your body keeps the shape, but this persistence is really measured in hours or days, not years.
Forced Tightlacing – Also a big part of mythology and perhaps the single greatest corset fetish. But truthfully, in any real civilization this just does not happen. Tightlacing cannot be forced on anyone, it is a complex array of self actuated disciplines and heightened self awareness. Forced tightlacing is as realistic as forced yoga, and about as possible. What is true is that locking corsets, tightlacing diaries, goal charts, and having a partner control the laces are all real facets of tightlacing relationships. Corsetry and tightlacing are deeply intertwined in the BDSM lifestyle, and many tightlacing couples share the experience, with one being the tightlacer and the other the overseer. But even so it is always an agreed relationship, and a partnership to a common goal.
Smallest Waist Size –
Another big myth. I have written about this a lot as well, and I
can only reiterate what I have said so many times – Waist
Size Is Meaningless. The measure of a tightlacer is not the measured
inches but the shape and the amount of reduction. A very small person
with a natural underbust/waist/hip size of 22-20-26" who puts on a 17"
corset is not the latest most achieved tightlacer, they are just a very
small person in a lightly reducing corset. It is a battle of
numbers that so many play into but truthfully what attracts anyone to the
corset is not the measurement but the shape, particularly of the hip shelf.
It is that awe inspiring curve scooping into the waistline and swooping
out over the hip that drives one to ogle that classic corset shape.
So, forget about the inches – If you want to know how accomplished a tightlacer
is just ask them to rest a drinking glass on their hip shelf.
Rest – I advise to never wear the corset when you are stressed or upset, and that this is an important component to keeping tightlacing as a positive self affirming practice. When you feel that you have had enough for the day then take it off. Take a break, and when you are ready to get back it do so. You are in control.
Diet – Diet is another big part of tightlacing. Plenty of fiber, low carbs, high nutrition, and plenty of protein are necessities. Some myths of diet revolve around stomach-expanding foods and soda, but none of this is really true. Contrary to myth your stomach cannot enlarge beyond what you put in it. You will have to burp a lot more if you eat in the corset, getting rid of air pockets to accommodate food and drink, but remember that you can always take the corset off. I recommend doing so for large meals and getting back in after a few hours when your food has passed into the small intestine.
Hydration – It is so easy to become dehydrated in the corset. Keeping tabs on your water intake is very important, and keeping the water flowing is crucial. A good 6-8 glasses of water a day is necessary.
Illness – When you are sick you need to take a break from tightlacing. The corset is an impedance that is usually welcomed for any tightlacer, but it acts against you when you are not well and need to bolster your strengths, drink lots of fluids, and battle fever or pain.
Exercise – Tightlacing or not you need to exercise. I have written on this subject also, and I recommend to most everyone to get out of the corset to exercise. Lacing while working out is possible, but it is hard core stuff and not for the inexperienced.
Patience – The greatest
virtue of all for a tightlacer is patience. Time and the corset will
do the rest.
Tightlacing is a real practice that is often sensationalized by fanciers who would dream it to be many things that it is not. The important thing for you is to be able to tell the difference. Use your common sense and do not blindly believe anything that you read. Like George Carlin said, "Question everything". But most of all - Enjoy Wearing Your Corset!
not rocket science, but close...
Designing a true tightlacing corset is hard work, and I often say to those who would choose to believe otherwise that a good experiment would be for them to just try making their own and get back to me on the results. Probably only second to custom made shoes, a well fitted true tightlacing corset is the most difficult human garment to design and produce. I have spent years refining my own processes of corset design and manufacture, constantly incorporating new materials, techniques, and refinements to the process that are sometimes broad, but often subtle and significant. Designing and drafting a well fitted corset is one set of skills, fabric preparation is another, and of course sewing skills are needed that are beyond those you might use in the local sewing circle. Challenging enough to make a good looking design, and many times more difficult to make it last for 3,000 hours or more of constant use without failure. It is an arduous labor of love that produces results with every satisfied customer.
There are some functional realities to any daily tightlacing corset, and I have added a few rules of my own that create the distinctive appearance of my designs. For example, all of my corsets are fully lined, which is necessary for comfortable daily wear, so I never place the stays on the inside as others often do for stylistic reasons. Each corset also incorporates a heavy steel reinforced front closure, and a smooth lacing guard is in place that covers the inside of the lacing system in the back. These features are standard in all my designs.
When designing a corset for a customer there is much to consider. All of the forces that the corset places on the body have to be calculated, and the contours are designed to place these evenly on the customer's unique structure. I take into consideration their body type, the activities they do, their level of physical fitness, and general lifestyle. I consider how their body shape will change over the course of months as they lace down, and the shifting of their proportions in all dimensions. It is a mixture of art and science that takes many years to develop, and even so I am constantly learning and improving.
My background in engineering has played a big part in how I approach corsetry, both in designing the corsets and in practicing the lifestyle. For me, it is all one continuum of disciplines, and my design sensibilities are based foremost on my own tightlacing experience. My biggest outside influence in design has always been the work of my long time partner, the late Amy Crowder. I still try to incorporate many of her traditions in my own designs today, and although our work diverged years ago I do think that some of her numerous well proven innovations cannot be much improved upon by anyone. She really was that good. She and I believed in many of the same design philosophies, some of which I have outlined here, and it is this set of rules that dictates much of the overall look and shape of the corsets that any corset designer produces.
But even with all of this a corset is still a corset, and like the aforementioned shoe, there are some prerequisite realities to designing one that will fit and do its job well that are unavoidable. Fetish play designs do not necessarily follow all of these rules, but my daily wear corsets tend to be either female or male underbust or male redresseur models. As a rule I do not make female overbust models for daily wear due to the inevitable functionality issues they produce with fit, mobility, and hygiene. I discovered long ago that a combination of underbust corset and separate bra allow the female torso to rotate and move with the most ease, and so this is the way that I do it. I do not use fashion over form, and so anatomy plays the largest role in dictating my designs. Due to all of these reasons the overall look of my corsets is probably much more consistent than with many other designers. I am fine with that, as the result of all this is to assure that my corsets are the longest lasting, best fitting, and most comfortable to wear that you can get anywhere at any price. Even so, I still try to put improvements in every corset I make.
The process of design in corsetry is the same as in all other realms of invention. Repetition breeds improvement like evolution itself. When you reinvent the wheel often enough there are always changes to the product, which are usually so small or subtle as to not be noticed by anyone but the designer. In a hands-on profession like custom corsetry the process tends to yield gradual change over years, rather than the kind of great leap innovation that is prized by large conglomerates and corporations. One always strives for the exception to that rule, but this is usually how it goes. And with good reason...
I always use myself as the test subject for introducing any radically new design idea. If it can withstand my own personal use for five or six months then it is going to be good enough for my clients. If the concept fails on me, then depending on my own judgment it may get refined to success or scrapped. But this behind the scenes process of brainstorming and testing is what brings about improvement in the overall product. It is a process that is reflected throughout the design world.
One issue that any garment maker has to contend with is the ever changing quality and availability of the materials we depend upon. The garment industry has been going through abrupt shifts over the past 20 years, mainly from US based textile mills to Asian companies. Most people already know that, but what has also changed are the kinds of materials and fabrics that the industry produces. These days stretch fabrics are all the rage and the classic high thread count cotton twills that have always been the staple of the Corsetiere are now increasingly scarce. Traditional Coutil can now cost up to $75 a yard, so I have had to innovate to continue to produce a very high quality fabric corset at a reasonable cost. Other materials that are used in the internal parts of the corset suffer the same fluctuations of availability and quality, and keeping on one's toes to stay ahead of the process is a very challenging part of being a custom corset maker.
In addition to the demands of design and corset construction I also design and maintain my own website, which does take a considerable amount of time on its own. I started writing HTML in 1995 and I still prefer using it today. In a world where CSS, XML, MMS, and scripts abound, I still like a light and quick loading HTML page. More work in site maintenance, and old fashioned, like the code your great-grandparents wrote centuries ago. I also use a typewriter and a rotary phone, but that is just the way I am.
Anyway, like I said, it's not rocket science, but close. I am always happy to answer any questions people have about corsetry, and if you do have questions you would like to have answered by me in my upcoming weekly Vlog then please email them to me. I will be glad to hear from you.
Realities of the Long Term Effects of Tightlacing
I often get asked by people who are considering the tightlacing lifestyle for themselves just how permanent the reshaping from tightlacing is. Many may hope that the physiological alterations can be permanent, that you could possibly wear a corset religiously for a period of time, then stop and keep your hourglass shape for life. Sadly this is just not the case. There are some interesting realities to long term tightlacing, and some disappointments as well. I will do my best to outline these concisely without being too medical or statistical.
There is nothing truly permanent about a tightlacers body shape without a corset, but instead I will be using the word 'persistence', because this is the accurate description of what is happening in reality. The physical effects of tightlacing can have varying degrees of persistence, but nothing approaching permanence, that is at least not for all but a few very exceptional and noted tightlacers in the world who wear a corset through their entire lives. It is a complex equation that determines the persistence of shaping for tightlacers which consists of numerous factors, among them are the age, body type, and body mass index of the individual, as well as their dedication to a consistent diet, level of physical fitness, and the specific habits of their tightlacing regimen.
The greatest factor for persistence is the amount of reduction from the natural starting waist size. As a rule, radical reduction requires an established dedication of time and lifestyle that does create the greatest persistence of the body shape without the corset. Daily dedicated tightlacers that achieve and maintain a reduction of 30% or more off their natural beginning waist size will be given a higher degree of persistence when out of the corset. This is all part of what my Cycle Method is all about.
The corset recontours and holds your shape, and when out of the corset there is a 'snap back' effect where the body will try to spring back to its unsupported starting position. How much or little snap back that you get is dependent on all of these factors, but generally the more completely that you are waist trained and the longer you are in the corset, the less the snap back that will occur.
All but a few of the highest reduction tightlacers I have personally known, including myself, go through seasons in their tightlacing life. There are really only a few notable exceptions to this in the history of corsetry, that being only the very highest reduction and most radically shaped lifetime daily tightlacers, all of whom maintained their religious dedication to the corset through a very specific relationship with a strong overseeing partner. Those who self lace such as myself have no such commitments, and as such we are best described as being 'seasonal'. Sometimes we are smaller waisted and prefer to stay in our corsets most of the time, other times we go through periods of relaxing the regimen, or even pausing for periods of weeks or months depending on the circumstances. The seasons come and go as they do, and during times of greater dedication to the corset there is greater and greater persistence of the shape as this period goes on. By the basic rule of high reduction you have to spend a lot more time in the corset and keep a much more consistent size for a much longer time, and this is what causes the persistence of shape.
What is really happening when your body keeps its shape? When you are a daily dedicated tightlacer you relocate your internal organs, a process which I describe in the essay Divide and Conquer, and you reposition your floating ribs, which I describe in The Hard Part. But the third major change is the resizing and recontouring of your abdominal musculature. A tightlacer who maintains a good amount of physical activity while wearing the corset will not lose as much muscle mass in the mid section because they still use those muscles for lifting, walking, and every other physical motion. The muscle wall will get leaner, but it will also get denser, and become smaller over time to meet the internal shape of the corset. If you are in the corset every day for many months at a consistently small size, when you remove the corset you are then dependent on the 'biological corset', and that is your reformed abdominal wall. The leaner you are, that is, with a BMI (body mass index) of between 18 and 22, and particularly if you are very fit, the reshaped abdominal musculature will hold your internal structure much more closely to the corset shape, meaning that the snap back effect is lessened, and you also can reenter the corset more easily to return to the corseted size.
As an example of this, I began my tightlacing life with a natural waist size of 31". After 6 years I had reduced my waist size inside of the corset to a constant 20", a reduction of 11" or 36% off my starting natural waist size. During the period when my corseted size was 20" I had a natural waist size of 25" when out of the corset, even for days on end. For this example my snap back effect was 5", less than half of my original starting waist size. When life issues demanded a long pause to my tightlacing I spent many months out of the corset for days or up to a week at a time and returned to a natural waist size of 27". During that period I would try to wear a 22" corset about three times a week for about 8 to 14 hours or so, and this I found was all that was needed to keep my organ positions and maintain the basic shape. Returning to daily tightlacing I was able to get back to a comfortable 21" waist size after about a week.
Without moderate occasional lacing for maintenance, that is if I were to just stop tightlacing altogether, then after several weeks the internal organs would begin to reposition to their unsupported locations and shapes. If a long time tightlacer decides to retire from the practice it is natural during this process to have varying degrees of discomfort and digestive distress as the body reorganizes itself, and in my opinion it is not a good idea to allow this to happen if you intend on ever getting back into the corset. Consistency is the key to healthy living, and small waisted or not your body likes consistency. If you reposition your organs to tightlace then your body will prefer that you keep them there. This is why if you take a break from daily tightlacing for any reason you should try to do what I did and spend at least some time every week in the corset to maintain the overall shape, even if this is just sleeping in the corset a few nights a week. It really does work, and it really does help keep your digestion running smoothly.
Conversely to these examples, if your BMI is over 25, or if you never wear the corset more than 60 hours per week, or if your overall reduction is modest, then the amount of persistence you experience may be small, or negligible. The reality remains that if you want your body to maintain a particular desired shape it is necessary to really enforce it. If you like the idea of a small waist without a corset, as I sometimes do myself, then you have to train down to a much smaller size to have that natural nipped waist appear, and you must still maintain that shape with a corset to a great extent. Many of the classic bombshell beauties of the mid 20th century, among them Bettie Page, Marilyn Monroe, and Gina Lollobrigida obtained and maintained their legendary hourglass shapes in this way.
If you do spend a lot of time out of your corset the effects of breathing, eating, exercising, and otherwise living on the unsupported body will force everything back to its natural shape and configuration over time. Using your abdominal muscles, and particularly high stress exercises like sit ups and crunches, will pull your lower coastals back outward and expand your floating ribs once again. If you have gone through the trials of recontouring and repositioning them and prefer the shape it gives you then it is an investment to consider if you are contemplating to retire from the corset for good.
Which leads to the last part of this essay, and that has to do with the very long term effects of tightlacing. If you have worn a corset daily (either consistently or seasonally) and maintained a fairly high waist reduction for a decade or more then you are part of a very small and exclusive club of very dedicated individuals. These are the lifetime tightlacers, and if you become one of them then you will be, to the truest extent, dependent on the corset. For most of us it is for the entirety of our lives. After decades of constant lacing it becomes hard to retire from the corset. Not impossible, but hard. For most who dedicate their lives to corsetry it becomes an everlasting part of their existence. Some of these dependencies are psychological, such as I have described in The Spiritual Aspects of Tightlacing, but others are purely biological. As I mentioned earlier in the article the body loves consistency, and if for you the greatest constant in your life has been the loving embrace of the corset then it is unlikely that you will tolerate being without it for long. The smallest waisted people in the annals of tightlacing never really retire from it. Usually with age we all become much more casual about it, but seldom does a lifetimer ever really hang up their laces for good.
My customers tend to be long time tightlacers. They are the most dedicated of all fetishists, and a very special group of completely different individuals. There is no one aspect that creates a tightlacer, we each have our own reasons and motivations for why we do it. For some it is an essential part of their relationship with their partner. For others it is about the relationship they have with themselves. The only thing that we all share is our love of the corset, and those that live out their lives laced lead the front of a very long lineage; the most prestigious club of lifetime tightlacers. Every day I am honored to be making the corsets that they rely on and adore. It is a responsibility and a privilege that I take very seriously, and I have dedicated my life to furthering, supporting, and educating the tightlacing world. In ending this article I want to thank all of you who read my writings and give me feedback. It is all I can hope for that we all do our best to live by truth and understanding, and I certainly will do what I can to encourage people to be skeptical, learn, experience life, and think for themselves. So, enjoy wearing your corsets, and my thanks to all of you, my wonderful tightlacing friends.
I like to travel in my corset when I can, and I love to fly. Years ago I began to ponder the dilemma of the new airport security measures on tightlacers and designed a true tightlacing corset that contained no steel so that it would presumably pass through airport metal detectors. The idea was to allow the wearer to be discrete and avoid the security hassles if they wanted to wear a corset on the plane, but the newer security measures ended up precluding the garment.
I found instead a pretty simple method for air travel that I have used to much success. I make sure to wear a simple dress or pantsuit when I travel, and before entering the security line I just go to the rest room and remove the corset. I get in line, put the corset in the x-ray with everything else, go through security, and on the other side I go to the rest room again and put the corset back on. It is really the easiest solution with the least chance of any problems. Unless of course you forget to go to the rest room and take off the corset, which did happen to me on one occasion.
It was one of those Kodak moments.... I was running late through the baggage check-in and had been in a long security line to get to the gate. By the time I got to the front of the line I realized that I was still wearing my corset. Oh crap. Well, at that moment I thought ‘what the hell’ and just took off my 21" belt, pulled up my shirt, and unlaced the corset. The spectacle brought every wide eye within sight directly upon me as I did so, but it did not stall my trip through security one second. Everyone on duty wanted to talk to me, but I wasn’t hanging around for chit chat! On the other side I performed the second half of the normally fail proof plan and put the corset back on in the rest room. On the way out a woman who saw me at security asked about the corset, and I did decide to have a chat about it then.
So if you remember to remove your corset before security, you should have no problems with airport travel. Except for the high cost, constant gate changes, delays, lost luggage, and flight cancellations of course. Happy traveling!
Tightlacing is a discipline that has many facets. It alters the body in very obvious ways that are pleasing to the wearer and observers in creating classically feminine curves. But what you would not expect from an inexperienced perspective is that when done as a daily practice the rituals of wearing a corset and tending to your own body create a new intimacy with one’s own self. I have often called this the spiritual aspect of tightlacing, and it can have very positive emotional and psychological effects.
I made my first corset when I was 23, and I wore corsets my entire adult life because I greatly enjoy the feeling of compression, but I had never attempted to wear them daily until my mid 30’s. When I did begin tightlacing it was originally to fight the new threat of the otherwise inevitable and unavoidable family shape, the old ‘spare tire’. By the time I was 35 my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage was coming to the forefront and there was just not enough Nordictrac in the world that could stop my body from putting all the fat that it would ever store right around my mid section. I took my best corset that I had at that time and put it on every day for increasingly longer periods of time. After a couple weeks of getting used to doing all that one does in a day while in the corset I became aware of other things. I found that when I wore the corset I was calmer, and as the days went by I wanted to keep the corset on for longer periods. When I was out of the corset I felt like a turtle out of it’s shell.... the corset had become a like armor, a part of me that I really did not want to be without. Late in the day when I would relax in the corset I began to feel a new sense of wellbeing that is difficult to describe. It feels like being nurtured perhaps, a feeling of solace, of belonging more wholly to one’s own self. This experience is what I have come to define as the ‘spiritual aspect of tightlacing’.
This spiritual aspect of tightlacing has lead to a good rule that I follow for myself that I recommend for others to follow as well, which is that I never wear the corset when I am upset, sad, or ill. If you are feeling bad for any reason I suggest that you get out of the corset. The reason being that it is important to never associate the experience of tightlacing with negative feelings or situations. When you have to deal with the heavy stuff of life it is best to take a break from waist training and wait for the clouds to clear.
Also, it is very important to feel good about yourself, so please be proud to show off your new shape. Many people who begin to tightlace find that although they love what they see in the mirror that they are afraid of what their friends, neighbors, or family may think about their wearing a corset. It is true that this is a practice that is not well understood by those outside of the corset community, but fear not. You have a new topic of conversation, and your tales of tightlacing will not only educate those around you, but you can feel better about yourself for your accomplishments by making it a part of who you are.
Most of all, enjoy the journey. Remember that this is your path, and you are the captain of your own vessel. Steer it well, and it will give you joy in return.
(Updated from July 2008)
People say that size matters,
and if you're talking about corsets the words on nearly everyone's lips
are "how small is her waist?" The truth is that waist size in corseting
is so very deceptive that it is completely irrelevant. Why? The photo below
taken of me at Laguna Beach in March of 2010 makes me seem quite small
waisted, does it not?
The true story here is that just after this photo was taken a few young people approached and asked if I had "been on Oprah"... I said "No, I have not been on Oprah". They paused for a second and looked at each other, then one blurted out "Yes you were!" I still stick to my claim that as of yet I have not been on Oprah, but Cathie Jung was.
Make your own best guess.... How small is my waist? Is it 18"? Maybe a close rival for Cathie Jung's 16" nipped waistline? Were those young people on the beach just crazy from the heat? Well, in this photo I am actually cinched down to about 21" measured around the outside of my clothes. What? That can't be right! Well, this is what I mean about waist size. The truth is that unless you are a professional tailor or seamstress you can't tell how small a 23", 16" or 30" waist is. So why does everyone care about the numbers?
I have seen many claims about
some contemporary tightlacers and their reputed sizes, such as a celebrity
achieving a 16" waist as example, but let us be mathematically clear and
say that a 16" circle viewed edge-on is just 5" across, or about the size
of a coffee tin. An average person can produce a 16" circle by touching
the tips of their two thumbs and middle fingers together, like this.....
The purpose of this essay
is to explain why waist size is irrelevant, and to do so I have to emphasize
that the entire allure of the corset to begin with is not the waist size
but the pleasing proportion of waist to hip size. Therefore the best way
to describe how 'small' a tightlacer is would be to define their shape
as a ratio of waist to hip measurement. Historically the ideal is a ratio
of 1:2, or having a waist size one half that of hip size. At the time of
writing this my waist is about 23" and my hips 40",* giving me a pleasing
1:1.74 ratio. Cathie I would estimate has a ratio of at least 1:2.8 if
not more, which gives her that very dramatic shape, but you could have
an equally dramatic effect with a larger waist by having a similar ratio
yourself. For example, a woman with a 20" waist and 56" hips would have
the same shape, just as dramatic, and identical proportions. So let's just
agree that size just does not matter. Beauty is all in the SHAPE. After
all, as Francis Bacon had written, "There is no excellent beauty that
hath not some strangeness in the proportion."
* In July of 2008 I had
an average waist measurement of 22", which was 23" around the outside of
the corset. After some weight loss and new corset shape I had reduced
down to 19" by April of 2009 inside the corset, which gave me 20" outside.
In the summer of 2010 I had relaxed my lacing again to be more physically
active, and have since varied my lacing between 21" and 22".
In my sewing room in Brooklyn,
24" waist, Sept. 2004
So you're fascinated with tightlacing and think that you want to give it a try. Great, but being responsible you would of course hit the internet and Google it first to find out the facts. You might even Wikipedia tightlacing to get the straight poop. But jeeze... what's all this? Drawings of organs, antique photos of livers, and reprinted 19th century medical texts and websites about the dangers of tightlacing are all over the place to turn your stomach before you even have a chance to compress it a little. Yes, you have discovered the world that corset fanciers have made for themselves; a Pandora's box of ancient articles and tomes of text written by modern day corset 'experts' telling you what you have to do, must do, and must never do, all based on their own encyclopedic knowledge of corsets, even though they themselves have never been tightlacers, and may have never even worn a real corset in their life. Do yourself a favor and be a sceptic. Don't believe everything that you read.... especially on the internet, and especially about tightlacing.
This is the reason I founded The Tightlacing Society as an organization with a completely restricted membership to be a forum for those who DO tightlace, and to relate both my own personal experience in the subject as well as those of individuals that share my lifestyle. Only people who have real world experience in this practice can tell you what it is really all about, and only a tightlacer can give you educated, good, and proper advice about corsets and tightlacing. Ignore the Victorian tripe. I am a modern tightlacer, and to be honest I really do not think there is much in my own experience for me to relate to the way people could have done it 130 years ago. My reasons for wearing a corset are different, and I live in a different age in a different way. I do not wear a corset 24/7, and I would not recommend that anyone do so, although some do for their own reasons. I myself am not only a tightlacer with modest reduction, but I am also very active and physically fit. I know that a proper nutritional diet and exercise are necessary to life and health, and I am very health conscious. In my experience, modern tightlacers take health and nutrition very seriously, and are as a group more in touch with their bodies than most. Therefore I can say in my own experience that tightlacing can be very fulfilling and rewarding on many physical and psychological levels, and when done correctly and moderately is not at all unhealthy or dangerous.
"But what about the medical
stuff? I mean, doctors know more than you do, right?"
"But wearing a corset moves
your organs all around... that just cannot be healthy, right?"
There are just a few simple guidelines that I have established for advising those who wish to begin tightlacing or already wear a corset but want to reduce their size. They are:
1. Invest in a true heavy duty tightlacing corset. Forget Ebay or Amazon, you will not find them there. There are only a few people in the world that can still make you a real tightlacing corset and they are all completely custom made. A real tightlacing corset can be very expensive, but it is well worth the cost if you intend to wear it a lot or really reduce.
2. Take your time and listen to your body. It takes a very long time to get significant reduction, so do it slowly. You cannot just put on a corset and dramatically reduce your waist size. It takes time to get used to breathing in a corset, eating in a corset, and doing everyday things as well. To get significant reduction requires several corsets over many months and years, each with a slightly more dramatic shape than the last. After you get so accustomed to one you graduate to the next with a little more reduction in the waist and a little more radical contour. Over time this new shape can become more persistent as your body adjusts, very gradually, to the space it is given. In the beginning there can be discomfort as your body protests and it is important to regulate the time you spend wearing the corset. Repositioning the floating ribs at the bottom of your ribcage, for example, is a particularly trying part of the process, but this discomfort is temporary, and given your will to enforce the new shape your body will comply. The key here is to be sensible and moderate your reduction. Do it slowly, and the discomfort will be minimal, even nonexistent for some. Your body will thank you if you give it the time it needs to adjust to a new life in the corset.
3. Know your limits. Not everyone can be any shape. It depends a lot on your anatomy, your level of activity, your age, your skeletal structure, your body type, and of course your level of commitment. The key is to get to a shape that you find very pleasing and that feels right for you as well. After many years I realized that I was at the size I should be, and so I stopped reducing. You should do the same. Dream of course, but also be realistic. If your life becomes less fulfilling because of the corset, then it is time to take it off for a while. Remember that you are in charge, so do be responsible and know when it is time to ease up.
One common myth is that corseted women in the late 19th century were so much smaller waisted than modern tightlacers, which is not true. It is most likely that the smallest waisted women of all time are those of the latter 20th century and today, mainly due to the superior construction of modern tightlacing corsets and a greater understanding of diet and nutrition. The shape of corsets in the Victorian era were subject to the dictates of fashion rather than anatomy, and were for the most part also cheaply constructed and inferior by contemporary standards. I will make it clear that there were some magnificent corsets made at that time by a few great corset makers that catered to the very wealthy and privileged few, but the vast majority of corsets made and worn during this period were mass produced, inexpensive, and generically sized. These everyday corsets were by the nature of their construction often uncomfortable to wear and did not produce the dramatic shapes we think of from that time. Which leads back to the Victorian corset myth of size. It is believed by many to this day that women of the Victorian era were so tightly laced that unfortunate young women succumb to "death by corset", meeting their untimely fates from exploded stomachs, ruptured livers, and impaled by broken ribs. None of these stories really seem plausible, but the perception of danger was heightened by the notion of the extremely small sizes of the corsets.
Photographic retouching was a very common and often necessary art in the 19th century. Many portrait photographers were also painters, and these skills were required to correct and enhance the portraits for the demands of their customers. Before photography, a portrait was subject to the artistic eye of the painter and the demands of the subject. Photography offered new realism to portraiture that was very often a bane to the vanity of those wishing a stunning portrait. In this regard there was no greater desire for the proper lady than to be seen as the smallest in waist that one could possibly be, Polaire being no exception.
The process was simple. First a photographic negative of the subject was taken on a glass plate. A particularly skilled retouch artist could alter this original negative by applying translucent inks. Another method involved creating a silver positive printed on paper from the original negative, then painting over the image with an oil based paint to make the corrections. Then a second photographic negative was taken of the altered print, and a second silver positive print made of that negative.
Below is another altered
corset photo, probably from the 1930's.
The photograph below shows this same woman in an unaltered image from the same series, you can see her actual shape (also please note the fantastic shoes she's wearing!):
Using the Contour Hidden Zipper Closure
Using a Busk Closure
The busk has rows of lock pins and loops that interconnect and hold the corset closed. To put the corset on by yourself bring the opened corset around your waist and latch the pin in the loop that is second from the bottom first. This allows you to hold the corset in place while bringing the upper parts of the busk closer together. Now latch the third pin, fourth, and so on, upwards to the top of the corset. Lastly, latch the bottom pin.
Lacing Up a Contour Corset
Wriggle around in the corset as you tighten it, this will help adjust your body in the corset as it is drawn in. Repeat as needed, pulling upward and downward on the lace loops until the corset is tightened to the desired size. If the corset is fairly new then you may have to assist in drawing the laces by grabbing them midway between the waistline and the top and bottom, then pulling the slack through at the waist loops. As the corset 'breaks in' and conforms to your body the lacing system will become much more fluid and easy to pull.
It is important to allow time for the new corset to adjust to your natural shape. Do not try to close a brand new corset immediately. Increase the tension on the corset gradually, and you can steadily increase the tightness of the corset over the first few days of wear as it conforms to your shape and becomes more form fitting.
Making Adjustments to the Corset Steels:
As you wear the corset over the first hundred hours or so it will be conforming to your body. This process is called "breaking in", and it is during this time that both you and the corset become acquainted. My corsets have a very rigid busk and this is intended to keep the front of the corset from distorting or 'caving' into the abdomen. If you find however that the steel is contacting your breast plate or lower abdomen in any uncomfortable way or with too much pressure, then you can bend the front steel to a more suitable contour. All of the steels in the corset can be adjusted, and although the steels in the closure and lacing system are very strong they can be shaped by slightly over-bending in the desired curve and then relaxing. It is important not to bend the steels too much, as you will find that the rigid support they provide is needed over time.
Putting On and Adjusting a Contour Corset Liner
You may want to moisturize before putting the liner on if you typically have dryness or itching after the liner is removed.
Step into the liner and pull the liner up over the hips, keeping the seams of the liner to the front and back. It is best to avoid having the seams on the sides as this is the place where the most pressure is applied by the corset.
Pull the liner taught and place the corset around. As you lace the corset to about half way, stretch the top of the liner up and the bottom of the liner down. The idea is to remove any wrinkles that may be in the liner under the corset. It is much easier to do this at this point then after the corset is fully tightened. When the corset is tightened and you are securing the knot, here is a tip – try to make the knot loops even length with the loose ends, then tuck the hanging laces up under the corset between the liner and corset. Then you can roll the lower band of the liner inside out and up over the bottom of the corset. Do the same with the top of the liner, and you are done.
People have asked me about the effects of tightlacing and blood pressure. Curiously, I developed my Cycle Method largely as a result of my research in monitoring my own blood pressure over the course of two years while I tightlaced, in 2006 and 2007.
The ideal average at-rest blood pressure for an adult is 120/80. I found that when at rest in the corset at average laced pressures that my blood pressure reading taken on my arm at heart level while standing or lying down was average, and while sitting upright was around 125/90. The systolic pressure was average, and the diastolic slightly increased when seated, due largely to the increased upward pressure on the ribcage when in a seated position. When I felt agitated while in the corset my systolic increased on the average to 135 and the diastolic to 95 or 100. As a result I learned that when I would be aggravated or stressed that it was important to take off the corset until I calmed down. As a result I developed the rule to never tightlace while upset or distressed, as it does exacerbate hypertension.
Trying to reduce your waist size too quickly can create issues due to the pressures involved, and if you are not careful in keeping those pressures in balance you can become hypertensive. Because of this it is important to practice moderate pressures, particularly when you are active, to prevent hypertension.
I have written about developing respiratory efficiency in order to be more active in the corset, and this is also a component in keeping the diastolic low. The diastolic is the measured arterial pressure when the heart is at rest, between beats. I always advise to new eager tightlacers to take their rib recontouring slowly, and this is for many reasons, the most important from a health standpoint being the reduced space in which the heart and lungs must operate. Also as a rule too, the leaner you are the more critical this becomes. Without respiratory efficiency the wearer breathes much deeper, and if you are lacing too tightly, and also if you are eating too much at one sitting, the deeper breathing and fuller stomach puts added pressure against the heart and larger arteries and increases blood pressure. So, often when you eat you have to let out the corset, or if you are more active you should take the corset off. Very small waisted people who have achieved a high reduction safely do so slowly and with a balance of pressures, moderate eating, and considerations to their respiration to keep their blood pressures low. It is because of all these reasons I do believe that following the Cycle Method is so important.
Keeping properly hydrated is also important to maintaining good blood pressure. Having adequate blood volume is critical to good health in general, but if you tightlace then you need to be especially careful to maintain adequate hydration, regardless of how thirsty you may or may not be. You can become very dehydrated when laced and not know it, because of the decreased body volume that the corset creates. But if you are dehydrated in the corset, when you remove the corset you can experience sudden low blood pressure. I think that the legendary fainting spells in Victorian lore could be attributed to this. You could experience the same if you are not careful! Drinking a good 8 glasses of water per day is a good goal, and drink even more if it is a hot day. Also be careful with salt, because too much will cause you to retain fluids which will also effect your blood pressure.
So, as always, slow and steady is the best philosophy. Listen to your body and if you are concerned about blood pressure then do what I did and get a monitor. Knowledge is power, and with the feedback of a blood pressure monitor you can get a good sense of how your own body reacts to all the various situations and make the best decisions for your own comfort and health as you tightlace.
I often get asked by athletic people if wearing a corset while exercising will help them contour their upper body and ribcage. The answer is not a simple one. Exercise in a tight corset is advanced tightlacing, and there are in fact few people who really ever do it. I have been one of them, so I know the realities of this experience and this essay is to convey to you honestly what the practice of tightlacing athleticism entails.
I have written in the past that you really cannot do everything in a corset, and I still believe that to be thoroughly true, but for those rare birds who are really hard core about the lifestyle and radical reduction it is possible to be physically fit while lacing by maintaining an exercise regimen and donning a specially designed sport corset.
But to do real exercise and exertion in a corset without stress requires developing a sufficient level of abdominal shaping and respiratory efficiency first. In my essay Permanent Curves or Temporary Beauty I discuss the recontouring of the abdominal wall and how the muscles around the waist become smaller, denser, and leaner through long term tightlacing. I found that this was one of the necessary things for being able to exercise in the corset. Normally, during exercise the physical exertion is continuous with certain muscle groups, which causes the active muscles to become engorged as blood pressure and blood flow increase, and blood vessels dilate within the muscle, and the muscle swells. In a tightlacer the muscles under the corset become slowly acclimated to compression over a long period of time. The result of this is what I described in the Curves essay. In the waistline of a fully trained tightlacer the muscles become accustomed to doing their work in a very limited space, while expanding very little. If you do not reach a certain level of acclamation to compression then physical exertion causes pain and cramping as the muscles struggle to enlarge. This is the main reason why using a corset for exercise is extremely stressful if you are not already a dedicated tightlacer.
The other requirement for exercise is the development of respiratory efficiency. I have found that this is a necessary and usually invisible part of waist training. Athletes have known for centuries that if they train at higher altitudes, where the level of oxygen is far less than at sea level, that over time they develop greater overall endurance as their body slowly becomes more efficient with the limited oxygen it can intake. This process takes time, but it has long lasting effects for the athlete, and allows them to have greater stamina because their body has learned to do more with less. Tightlacers do this also, but usually unknowingly. I describe the necessary process of developing proper breathing in the essay Breathing and Sleeping in Your Corset. For a dedicated tightlacer the deep breathing that an athlete depends on is no longer possible, and what occurs over time for them is the same as that of the high altitude runner. Because of the limitation of how much air one can take in with a single fully laced breath, the process of developing respiratory efficiency occurs as the body learns to do more with less. For anyone who decides to cinch down for exercise without achieving this efficiency first, the result will be pretty obvious. It would be for them like their very first hike on a high mountain; they would be stalled, panting, and out of breath.
Because of these two very important reasons, unless you are already fully waist trained then any attempt to do real exercise in a corset will meet with undesirable results. For dedicated tightlacers I can make sport corsets that allow them to exert themselves and sweat it out, for biking, hiking, or weight training. But for those who desire the curves without spending the time in the corset to develop these needed changes in their body first the experience of the sport corset will be a torturous one. Because of this I no longer advertise sport corsets on my site. I did not want to convey the idea that they are really for everyone. I can still make a sport corset for any dedicated tightlacer that needs one, but for those body conscious and fit people who are considering wearing a corset, not as a lifestyle, but just for exercise, be advised – I do not recommend it.
One of the best ways to shape with the least impact on lifestyle is to develop the habit of wearing your corset in bed. Sleeping in the corset will do a lot for shaping, and even if you have to be out of your corset for daytime activities you can still hold your ground and keep your shape by taking tightlacing to bed with you.
One of the keys to comfortable sleep in the corset is to follow my Cycle Method and gradually bring in the laces just where it is conformable. If you typically wake at night for a bathroom visit you will find that you can take it in a little more then. Keep the routine going nightly and as the evenings go by you will find the laces getting a little closer to closed every night.
There are some pointers for keeping this routine, and first on my list is to avoid eating late. A couple hours before you plan to retire it is best to not eat solid foods, and this will allow you to lace down with the least impediment. Another tip is to get into the corset more than an hour before bed, which allows you to settle in and get comfortable, and in doing this you can have the laces adjusted to where you want them before you sleep. As a habit, I keep a full glass of water at my bedside and if I am up for any reason I take a drink so that I stay hydrated too.
The one thing that is essential to sleeping soundly in the corset is proper breathing. "I can't breathe!" some say when they first wear a tight corset, but of course they are breathing, it is just an impulse from the compression that people can experience when they first start lacing.
By nature, all of us breathe with the diaphragm - it is the large muscle that separates the abdominal and chest cavities. The feeling of 'not being able to breathe' is a natural reflex of restricting the motion of the diaphragm, but of course you are still breathing in the corset, and in order to breath 'naturally' when laced you have to learn to do it differently. Breathing is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, along with heartbeat, digestion and peristalsis, and blinking. But like blinking, breathing is not completely automatic. Breathing has selective override which allows you to take over control as you wish, or to just forget about it and it will go on automatically. But another aspect of breathing that is controllable is not just when, but how you breathe, and making this change in your natural responses is one of the keys to tightlacing as a discipline.
Changing the way in which you breathe, from the natural low position of the diaphragm to high in the chest is key to living and sleeping well in the corset. Chest breathing is the norm for tightlacers, and with time and patience the body does adjust to adopting this new breathing method. Usually the greatest impedance to sleeping in the corset is that the individual is not yet trained, and as such they are still naturally trying to breathe from the diaphragm. When you sleep you will breathe of course, but it is necessary to have developed autonomic chest breathing to sleep through the night. If not, then you will wake frequently with that feeling I described earlier. If you train for chest breathing during the day and make it a natural part of you then sleeping will be a lot easier to adjust to. It can take several weeks or months to reprogram your body's life-long tendency to breathe low in favor of high chest breathing, but it does happen.
After years of tightlacing I found that whether I was in or out of the corset that breathing high was always automatic for me. Believe it or not, the body does adapt. This is after all what tightlacing is all about – changing the body, having it adapt to what we impose, and making a new natural state of being. That is the relationship between you and the corset, and it is your dedication and discipline that brings about these changes which transform your body - not just how it looks, but also how it functions and reacts to the world.
Sleep tight everyone!
I became aware of a dangerous trend in the tightlacing forums that some are beginning to promote surgical removal of a person's floating ribs as part of tightlacing. It is not. I do need to state very firmly that I will not make a corset for anyone who has removed their ribs for the reason of shaping. Why? Because your lower sets of ribs are necessary! They are an integral part of your abdominal musculature and spine, and they play a part in protecting your vital organs. Removing the 'false' ribs exposes the kidneys and liver and it will cause unknown issues as a result. I could not in good conscience create a garment that would place pressure on these now exposed areas or create shapes that are not anatomically sound to unknown consequences.
In short, don't do it. Real tightlacers do not use surgery, they use a very good corset and time to reshape. Tightlacing is a discipline. Surgical alteration is not part of its traditions, no matter how much some fetishists or surgeons would like to believe so. Time, patience, self discipline, diet... these are words that have implications to some in our culture that seem abhorrent. Perhaps this pseudo Victorian trend for a mythological outpatient wasp waist will go away, and I hope it will.
Question everything and always think for yourself. Do not take anything you hear or read at face value, not even what I write. Put everything through your own filter..... Does this information that I am reading or hearing seem right? Is it logical or reasonable? If your better judgement says no, then forget it. Pick it up and give it a good whiff. If it smells like bullshit, it probably is.
Defining the Iliac Crest
Asymmetry of the pelvis and hip are common, and this often causes one iliac crest to be more prominent in some way than the other. The result is usually soreness on the pelvis on the side that is highest, and I have come to create specially patterned asymmetrical corsets that compensate for this and evenly distribute the pressures to alleviate the pain or soreness that a symmetrical design would otherwise cause.
Sets of nerves run over and through the iliac crest at various points, and anatomical variations in every individual mean that the exact locations and proximity of the nerve pathways in relation to the iliac bone will be different for everyone. The more body fat that is present on the pelvis then the more cushioning will be in place to prevent pressing on any of these nerves by the corset, and this will allow for more comfort and fewer issues as the wearer reduces their waistline. If you are relatively lean as I am however, then it stands to reason that the amount of cushioning between the corset and your iliac crest is slight. This means that the shape, contour, and design of your corset will become more critical if you wish to have higher reduction. As you bring in your waist, the location of your greatest reduction (the corseted waistline) will also tend to become lower on your torso as you reduce. Also as a rule, the higher the reduction of the corset and the more rib recontouring that you achieve, the greater the downward force that is applied to the waist area as it is drawn in. The corset shape must rest this downward force somewhere, and that downward force must be evenly dampened by the corset shape by its specific design to avoid putting too much of that pressure directly on the top of the iliac crests.
Some issues that can arise from nerve pressure on the iliac crests are soreness or pain on the top or side of the hip bone, or numbness that begins on the hip, then with more time or pressure will radiate downward over the outer thigh towards the knee. If the pressure is being applied to nerves around the back edge of the pelvis nearer the spine then lower back pain can develop, or numbness over the rump. The simple remedy for this issue is to remove the corset. Sensation is generally restored within minutes, or in the case of extended applied pressure, it may take several hours or even days for the effected areas to become normally sensitized. If you do press a nerve it is not an emergency issue, but certainly one that you do not want to continuously repeat. When a nerve issue arises it is very important to tell your corset maker. A real tightlacing corset designer knows anatomy, and they can create a very specific shape that will compensate for your issue and redistribute the pressures to avoid the nerve.
Also, as always, use common sense and moderation. Listen to your body and do not ignore problems. Understanding the causes of problems and making changes to solve them is definitely the right decision every time.
Enjoy wearing your corset, and appreciate your wonderful iliac crests!
Recontouring Your Costal Cartilage and Floating Ribs
I often have to address the rumors that some like to perpetuate that tightlacers have their ribs removed, and this is just not true. I can say that all of the smallest waisted people on record that I am aware of, including myself, have done their reduction with the old-fashioned practice of tightlacing. The simple reason that rib removal is not done by tightlacters to achieve a small waist size is that it is not necessary. Time, patience, diet, and a very good corset do it all.
For most tightlacers the most difficult and uncomfortable part of achieving their shape comes from the recontouring of their costal cartilage. The costals are hard cartilages that connect the sternum (or breast plate) to the ends of the ribs and they allow you to breath and move your upper body. They are most prominent at the lower right and left frontal corners of the ribcage and are easily found by touch there. They feel like bone, but they are actually thick cartilage. The lower costals attach to what are sometimes called the ‘false ribs’ because these five lower sets of ribs do not directly connect to the sternum. It is because of this loose attachment that the form and position of these ribs can be changed over time through tightlacing. Most active people will develop prominent lower costals that seem to poke out and are easily felt or seen as two bumps at the bottom of the rib cage just above the waist, and this can make wearing a tight corset for long periods initially difficult.
If you read about my Cycle Method then you know that I always recommend moderation when shaping, and this definitely applies to rib recontouring. The costal cartilage will slowly bend down to meet the contour of your corset if the corset is specifically designed for this, and it takes time. It is important to do this very slowly and the rate of this recontouring is dependent on many factors including your body weight, level of physical fitness, gender, and age. Typically it does take many months or even years to get the desired rib contour.
The other part of this troublesome twosome are the bottom two sets of false ribs that are also known as the ‘floating’ ribs. You can feel the tips of these two sets of ribs on the sides just above the waist. These ribs are bone and so they will not alter their shape, but because they are only attached at one point to the spine they can be greatly repositioned and brought in over time. In a tightlacer these ribs end up being pulled downward, and from their anchor point high on the spine they rotate inward, drawing in on the sides.
If you experience pain or soreness then you have to take a break from compressing. Remember that this all takes time. Given your patience and determination, your body will comply to the new shape, and your recontoured ribs will be one of the most prominent features that your new body shape will carry for years to come.
One of the most useful techniques that I have developed in my years as a tightlacer is something I call The Cycle Method. Basically it has to do with self monitoring and regulation of where you set the corset over the course of a day. Most people make the mistake of thinking that in order to reduce that you have to ‘set it and forget it’, but this is not a good idea.
It is very important that you listen to your body, especially when you are wearing a corset. If you have cramping, or indigestion, or soreness, or pain, then you have to let it out. Reduction is gained over time, and over the course of any day you should get used to the habit tightening when you feel you can, and letting it out when you feel pressures or strains. If you get that ‘bloated’ feeling, where your sense of pressure in the corset in increasing, or you are feeling agitated, then let the corset out an inch or two. The female body goes through cycles of course, and when your body is retaining fluids you need to be mindful and let out the corset when this happens. Get used to how ‘normal’ feels in the corset and do your best to maintain that level of pressure. If it feels too tight, regardless of where it is actually set, then let it out. You will find that when cycling the laces like this that over weeks and months your average waist size will still steadily reduce. I would make the analogy that it is like the weather; some days in the week are hotter, some colder, but the seasons come and go just the same. This is what The Cycle Method is all about.
The heart of The Cycle Method is to wear the corset very tight during the times of day that you can, and then taking a rest by letting it out when you need to. I find that for myself I lace the tightest in the morning through early afternoon, then loosen as the day goes on. I usually wear it medium to tighter in bed because I find that when I am at rest by body accepts the higher pressures better. The rest of the cycling revolves around my eating and toilet schedules – more on that in a different essay. You need to have this same relationship with your own body, and listen to what it tells you. It will let you know when you can keep it tight and when to give it break.
Another reason for The Cycle Method is to assure the easy transition of your digestive tract to the new position. If you wear a corset every day and are trying to achieve high waist reduction then it is very important to employ techniques that prevent you from trapping your bowel in the waistline. The colon's natural shape is that of a cursive 'r', or sort of a bowed square. The position of the upper part of the colon rests its right and left corners near the ribcage, and the top section of the colon transverses the abdomen, dipping down in the middle. In a person who tightlaces the colon is entirely below the waist and has a more rounded shape overall. If you tighten the corset too much and try to reduce too fast, you tend to pinch the colon in the middle so that the bowel is actually running up through the waist on one side and down through the waist on the other. This makes reducing difficult and will most likely cause cramping, as your colon will not like having to do it's job this way. Cycling the pressures helps to gradually work the colon down below the waist completely and you will avoid all of the issues associated with trapping your bowel in your corseted waistline.
Remember that if you take the corset off for any reason you can always get back in it later, and keep in mind that reduction is gradual over time. Your desired waist size is the goal, the corset is the enforcer, and you are the diplomat and negotiator. You win your goals with waist size over weeks, months, and years. Daily or weekly fluctuations in your lacing are all part of your listening and responding to your body’s fluctuations, and with constant attention you will reach your goals in a healthy manner. Your body will be as happy as your mind when you achieve your shape in this way.
Divide and Conquer
If you have decided that you desire a very small waist then you are venturing into the realm of radical reduction, and there are some definite realities that you will have to encounter on that journey. The main goals from a physiological perspective are to redirect your lower digestive tract below the waistline and move your vital organs to a supported position above the waistline. I call this goal “divide and conquer", as it is this relocation that makes it possible to have a very small waist.
To achieve this goal in a healthy manner requires a properly designed corset, of course, and a fair amount of time. It is vital to not force the process along, but to allow your body to gradually adjust itself.
What defines a proper corset for this is exactly the way I make my own corsets. My corsets have a very sturdy front and rear that not only allow for the proper function of lacing but have very high stiffness and the correct shape all around. Complete rigidity in the busk is necessary to prevent the corset from ‘caving in’ or scooping into the abdomen and putting pressure on the vital organs. My corsets bring in the sides, support the back, and help redirect the colon in a proper fashion. If my Cycle Method is followed and you listen to your body, maintain proper hygiene, have proper diet and follow my other suggestions then you will have success in achieving high reduction in your waist size.
There are other aspects to this process that I will cover in other writings, and of course if any of you have any questions you are always invited to email me and ask.
When you wear a corset every day it is so very important that you tend to your skin to prevent problems that can occur from having inadequate hygiene.
First, you need to wear a properly fitted spandex liner under the corset, and this needs to be changed daily for a clean one. The liner will do a great deal to protect your skin from chaffing, as it allows you to adjust the position of your skin under the corset, and it protects your corset from the oils and dander that your skin gives off which will also help extend the life of your corset as well.
Secondly, you need to keep your skin clean and exfoliate every day. I use a loofa in the shower to exfoliate all around with an anti bacterial soap. It is a good habit to rub the antibacterial soap into your belly button and thoroughly clean it out each time you wash. Doing so will prevent the otherwise problematic tendency of rashes in and around the navel which occur due to the proliferation of bacteria trapped there in the warm, moist conditions. If you do get an itchy red rash it is smart to take a break from the corset until it disappears, and treat these rashes with an antimicrobial ointment twice daily until they are gone.
Thirdly, you need to moisturize. The liner and corset will constantly wick away the moisture from your skin and so you may tend to experience dryness and itching over time. After washing it is often necessary to apply a good skin lotion to the area before putting your liner and corset back on.
Lastly, you need to be mindful of any folding or pinching of the skin when you lace in and go through your day. The smooth spandex liner will perform its function by relieving a lot of friction as you adjust the corset by allowing the corset to slide along your shape without snagging your soft skin. Still, as the day goes on and you move around inside the corset, your skin can develop small pinching folds, particularly in the back under the lacing system and around the sides of the waist where the contours are the most pronounced. Most pinching is easily alleviated by pulling up on the top of the liner and down on the bottom of the liner to stretch out the liner under the corset and remove the wrinkling. This is usually sufficient for any pinching, but for those with really high reduction and more radical curves there is another trick that I found solves this problem. I keep a long ½” smooth flat steel stay for this that I put a slight bend in one side. (If anyone needs this little tool please contact me and I will send you one) I slide it down under the tightened corset between the liner and my skin, and like a shoe horn I slip it down to the trouble spot, and by gently sliding the rounded end of the stay up and down over the pinched skin, I relax and smooth out the skin there deep in the corset and remove the pinch. If you do not manage pinch points or reposition the corset when you feel them then the result will be sore red marks on the skin when you remove the corset. These tiny contusions can swell up and they take time to heal, so it is best not to accumulate them at all.
Tending to your skin is a part of the great responsibility that you have to your body as a tightlacer. Maintaining healthy skin and preventing infections, rashes, and small contusions not only make you feel better as you tightlace, but it also assures that you can put hours in your corset unabated, and thus you will reach your goals more quickly and maintain your shape in a healthy way.
Eating, Drinking, and Bowel Movements.
Caution: potty talk ahead!
It is important as a tightlacer to be mindful to control your daily intake of food, salt, and water. The pressures of the corset will often hinder the urges of hunger and thirst, so regardless of whether or not you are thirsty or hungry you have to make sure that you still eat regularly and drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water a day. You also need to avoid salty foods and snacks, because higher salt will make you retain fluids, and you want to avoid that for the reasons I mentioned before.
When you eat, don’t be afraid to let it out a bit on the top. It is important to allow room to accommodate your food and your digestion will be more complete. Too much pressure on the stomach can accelerate the passing on of the food to the small intestine and it is not good to have that going on all the time. If you get heartburn, or develop a bitter taste in your mouth after you eat then you have stomach acid getting past your esophagus and you need to take the corset off for a bit. Your stomach will get used to functioning normally while compressed, but it takes time for that to happen, and even very experienced tightlacers have to take off the corset if they intend to eat a large meal, so don’t be reluctant to take the corset off during the time of day that you have your larger meals.
It is very important to maintain regular bowel movements when you tightlace, and you must never allow yourself to become constipated. You need to get your body trained into a cycle of no longer than 24 hours from eating to passing it out, so you develop habits that will keep things moving right along. Staying regular is essential, and the biggest factors are drinking plenty of water, restricting your carbohydrates, emphasizing a higher protein and low fat diet, and eating plenty of vegetables and fiber. I find that having a cup of yogurt each day helps maintain the necessary fauna in the digestive tract, and this assures better digestion too.
Wearing the corset while going to the bathroom is a fundamental tool in repositioning the digestive tract in a healthy and natural way. Your bowel is made up of a system of muscles and chambers. As peristalsis moves your waste along, the rhythmic contractions of the large intestine also move the colon around. In this way the colon will change its shape by itself over time to acclimate into the space and location you are giving it in the corset. All the more reason that your corset must be made in a way that takes this process into consideration in providing you with the proper shape for this to happen safely.
You will find in a regular daily schedule that you will be most comfortable lacing down the tightest after your bowel movements. Conversely, you will have the corset let out the most when your food is in transit to the colon. As a tightlacer you will be more in touch with these processes than most people, but with good reason. Tightlacing is all about control and self discipline. Control of your body functions is an essential part of your lifestyle as a tightlacer. The more you establish control, the sooner you will reach your goals, and the healthier and more content you will be.
The first thing a tightlacer discovers when they embark upon this unusual journey is the challenge of determining where and how to take a load off on the way. Figuring out how to sit down comfortably in a tight corset can take some planning and some getting used to, particularly when you are sitting in a car for a while, but I have some simple pointers for you.
First, if at all possible choose a tall chair with a straight upright back. Having to lean back in a well cinched corset can be very uncomfortable and stress the back of the wearer, so do sit up straight. If your seat is low enough that your knees are higher than your hips you will probably suffer for it, so I recommend that if there is no good tall seat it is usually better to fashionably stand.
Learning to drive your car in a corset can take some practice, especially when you have a clutch to contend with, but again it is really just a matter of relaxing. If you are new to the corset remember that you can always loosen it up to do tasks that require you to use your back such as when driving. If you have a long way to drive and want to arrive looking your best, by all means wear the corset, but wear it open a bit. This will give your back muscles more room to enlarge and you will not get cramps as a result of over tightening. When you get where you are going plan a discrete trip to the powder room where you can tighten up to your heart's content and make your appearance looking your absolute whittled best and no one will be the wiser.
If you sleep in your corset as I usually do then you may find that sleeping on your side will be more comfortable than laying on your back, particularly when you have a lot of reduction in your waist. I find that sleeping in the corset is the best way to maintain your shape when you have to be out of the corset for long periods during the day for doing very physical tasks. Despite what people like to write about it is really not possible to do everything in a corset. To do real exercise or labor of any kind it is best to leave the corset off unless you are very used to doing so while cinched or are otherwise required to wear the garment for medical reasons, such as a hernia or scoliosis.
I find that relaxing in a very well made corset is one of the most sublime experiences in life. So to all of you I wish happy lacing and comfortable resting. And if you can't find a seat anywhere just remember what Fernando always used to say.... "It is always better to look good than to feel good. You know what I am saying darling...."
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