Would you like to have a 16 inch waist? When my fiancé told me about a mutual friend of ours that had been corset training and had gotten down to 16 inches I wanted to try it, too!. I do not even want a 16 inch waist. I’d be happy with maybe 20 inches. Which should be easy, tight? Little did I know, corset training is no joke. It’s not comfortable and not very much fun. But then, I’ve always felt that sometimes, looking good involves a little pain. But how much pain?
Maybe it’s best to begin with a little history on corsets: They’ve been around since the 1500’s. Women of the French Court wore them as undergarments, to support their breasts rather than a bra. They were made with iron and velvet. By the 1600’s Europeans were wearing them, and the iron was replaced by wood and whalebone, a slightly more comfortable option. Iron corsets were typically fastened at the front. For more serious shaping abilities, it became the norm for someone else to help a lady into one and cinch it up for dear life by lacing it.
By the 1800’s the corset went through a little transition where it was used mainly for breast support, with an added bonus of slimming the torso. The empire waist look was in at that time, so no one really cared all that much went all below the boob area.
However, with the invention of the bra around 1900, corsets soon began being used mainly for taking in waists. Oddly, it was around this time that the victorian corset took over and people went crazy lacing their waists. This is when tightlacing began. We’re talking hardcore women, throwing themselves into corsets, and lacing it up as tightly as possible. Doing so, incidentally, could cause some kind of moderate damage and numbing to internal organs – especially the liver.
Luckily the liver is a magical thing which can regenerate itself fairly quickly, especially when it comes to binge drinking and with corset wearing. Here is a link with everything you want to know about tightlacing, and some things that you probably do not.
Tightlacing was the key to successful (yet really painfully uncomfortable) results with waist training. According to articles dating back to the late 1800’s Girls as young as eight years old would start “training”. They would never remove their “stays”, as they called them, unless had to bathe.
If you judge from the picture, that is true commitment at an awfully young age. Thank God Empire waists came back in style, and women could literally take a deep breath and not feel confined in a steel cage around their bodies.
In spite of that, I want a dainty waist, preferably without exercising or changing my eating habits, so I made some meager attempts with this. VERY meager. I bought a Flexee’s Maidenform Shaper from Macy’s.
I slept horribly and woke up with such pain that I went to the doctor and was given antibiotics for a urinary tract infection. Coincidence?
I don’t know, but I certainly looked skinnier! It might have been because I was in pain and that interfered with eating.
That’s when I decided to call an expert for advice. While I did want to whittle my waist, I didn’t want to hurt myself or cause anymore internal damage.
I contacted shapewear expert, Ruben Soto, of HourGlassAngel.com. Their website has every single kind of body shaper out there known to man (or in this case woman).
Ruben informed me that a traditional steel-boned corset (unlike my Flexee) has 25 inflexible stays, which create much stronger compression than other supportive devices such as shapewear or waist cinchers. The boning is stronger than regular cinchers and will support the spine better than other items. There’s also the added benefit of using the corset as lingerie or a fashion piece.
Yeah, there was no way I’d be rockin’ out my Flexee for a fashion statement. He also suggested the obvious. Do NOT sleep in them (even if it seems like such an easy time to wear one). Ruben explained:
It is not recommended to sleep in a corset due to the constraint on the stomach and lungs. Wearing a corset reduces breathing capacity. When sleeping, our breathing patterns change. Wearing a corset may cause disrupted breathing, which will result in a poor night’s sleep. Additionally, a corset should be worn when fully awake so that it can be loosened if it becomes uncomfortable.
For serious corset training, a steel-boned underbust corset is ideal since the waistline can be targeted better.
Note with the underbust, it has lacing in the back for training. The overbust is for more of a fashionable look without lacing. It will still cinch you in, but not with the same severity and results as the underbust.
In the beginning stages of corset training, the corset should be worn for brief periods of time so that the wearer can get accustomed to its shaping abilities. It’s best to start with 20-30 minutes the first time wearing it, and then working up to 4 hours. After the wearer is comfortable with the corset for 4 hour periods, then it can be worn for longer periods of time. To achieve longer term results, it is advised to wear the corset for 8-10 hours a day.
Typically, a 1-2” reduction in the waistline can be seen after wearing a corset for 8-10 hours a day for 30 days. For more dramatic results, it will take months and possibly years of regular use. Results, however, will vary between people, the length of use, and how tight the corset is laced.
After the desired results are achieved, they can be maintained with regular waist training. However, it is not necessary to waist train every day to maintain the results. 3-4 days of use should be sufficient. It is also suggested to accompany waist training with a healthy diet and exercise to keep the results. When not wearing a corset, a waist cincher or shapewear can be worn to comfortably maintain compression on the midsection.
Can you get hurt during corset training? Would my organs get shifted? Are those old wives tales true?
There is some truth to those stories, however, it is generally considered safe. Organs are shifted throughout the day depending on posture and the activity. There are varying degrees of organ movement. Organs, for example, are shifted during yoga and especially during pregnancy. Corset training can shift organs as much as advanced levels of yoga, but not as much as pregnancy. The organs that shift are located in the abdominal cavity, which include the stomach, intestine, liver and spleen. The position of these organs is somewhat flexible, which is why they move depending on posture and midsection compression. There are known health effects of tight lacing such as 10-25% reduction in stomach and breathing capacity.
Changes in the body occur after a corset adjusts the lower 4 flexible ribs overtime, also known as ‘floating ribs’. When you waist train, your body adjusts to the shape of the corset and the ribs shift more easily to accommodate greater waist reduction. However, when corsets are used temporarily, or for certain occasions, the changes are reversible.
It’s a process that calls for patience and proper wear. Trying to achieve extreme results in a short period of time is certainly not safe. Wearing a corset for shorter periods of time such as 4 hours then increasing to 8-10 hours as you get comfortable is ideal. Of course, one must always consult a doctor before undergoing any activity that will affect the body.
Look at these pictures of X-Rays of die hard corset wearers!
But for now, I think I’ll stick to hitting the gym. Even after learning how to do it properly, I don’t think I’m ready to fully commit to corset training. However, the good thing about HourGlassAngel’s site is that they offer all kinds of alternatives for shapewear. For now I’m just sticking to a workout slimmer by Ann Cherry. It helps you look slim at the gym as you sweat it out, and I’ve slept in it before with no repercussions other than looking and feeling slimmer in the AM.
A very special thanks to Ruben and staff from www.HourGlassAngel.com.
(Seriously, check out their site for just about every shapewear product in the world. They are more than happy to answer questions.)
Randi Newton resides between New York and Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter: WorldOfRandi, and check out her blog www.WorldofRandi.com.