Why I love altering my shape with corsetting

March 10 2015 | Guest post by Ava Strange
Real steel boned underbust underwear corset from
Corsettery

I’m very proud of the shape I’ve been able to achieve over the years. But, unless I’m going to a special event where I feel it will be appreciated, I tend to somewhat hide it — I just don’t want to get stared at with those confused looks. While my company is incredibly accepting of all types of people, I fear my shape will be perceived in a negative way. There tends to be an assumption that corseting is a ridiculous way to look thinner. But that’s really not what it’s about at all. It’s about a lot of things, but that is definitely not one of them.

Really, corseting is about curves. And if you lace quite tightly, it’s about unnatural curves. On purpose.

For me and many other responsible tightlacers, this is a form of body modification not unlike ear stretching, involving gorgeous and unique creations by highly skilled artists. It takes time, and while some people will choose to go to a certain point and no further, others choose to see how far their bodies will allow them to go.

It’s in this way that corsets really get you acquainted and connected with your body that virtually nothing else can. You’ll become hyper-aware of your body inside the corset, and discover things about yourself such as asymmetries, how malleable you are, what sensations you enjoy and don’t enjoy, how your organs function, and many other things. Most of all, wearing a corset on a regular basis teaches you how very unique we all are, and that this is beautiful in itself. There’s something very earthy and zen about all this.

But “zen” only begins to cover it. Corsets are capable of performing a version of deep pressure therapy, and can be extremely comforting, especially to those with anxiety issues. You’re wrapped in a hug for as long as you want to be, and you feel protected. It’s comforting and calming.

I also especially love the fact that this takes dedication. It’s something to be proud of — not just the shape itself, but the time that it took to achieve it. Not to mention all the learning that goes into responsible corseting. It’s the fact that I’ve been disciplined enough to make it this far, that I’ve really earned this sense of pride.

It’s about the journey. Even when I don’t find a tightlacer’s shape aesthetically pleasing to me, I still deeply respect the dedication it took to get there, as much as I admire their strength in doing something they love, even while it goes so far against the norm. Because even as far as body modification goes, this is a minority interest. You need to really be comfortable with yourself and your decisions go against the grain like that, because there’s nothing quite like hearing a stranger tell you that you’re killing yourself and you look disgusting.

I love this enough, and I’m secure enough with my choice to do it, that I feel a lot more sorry for the person being negative than I feel for myself. They’re missing out on what could be a very positive experience for them.

While it’s obvious that wearing corsets is not for everyone, I can’t help but feel that many people should at least look into it, because so many people have found this to be such a positive influence in their lives.

And, hey, if more people did try it, maybe I wouldn’t be so uncomfortable getting stared at!

  1. …Just one of the reasons I love the Offbeat Empire so much! I had NO IDEA this was even a thing, and now I'm fascinated. Thanks for the article, Ava!

  2. So, I'm really curious about corsetting, because it's something I know zero about. My initial response is to worry that it's dangerous, but of course people do this and have been doing this for literally centuries. Do you have a favorite intro-level site about it that you'd like to point people to, especially one that covers some of the health and safety aspects?

    (It's OK if you don't. I'm perfectly capable of Googling. But I'll always take a recommendation from someone knowledgeable before I put myself in Google's hands. ;))

  3. It is awesome that corseting now falls under body modification and isn't something that is expected of women.

  4. Random question:

    Are there men/persons who self identify as men who also enjoy corset wearing and shape modification? Do they go for the hourglass curves or a more masculine shape alteration?

    • Oh there TOTALLY are:

      • HA! Thanks Ariel! We have many male corset clients for various reasons. Everything from back support "braces" (as some prefer me to call it), corsets as armour, for a more industrial look, formal cool stuff, as Ariel has shown above, and crossdressing.

    • I'd really like to write a whole article about this at some point! While I don't have any experience related to corseting for a man's body, I do have a few morsels of info. Corseting for men is definitely a thing, and Timeless Trends, one of the top off-the-rack corset companies sells men's corsets. Dracula Clothing also has some really sharp-looking ones that look like waistcoats. Shapes can vary a lot no matter what a person's gender depending on their body shape and aesthetic preferences, but most corset-makers should have the ability to make corsets for men within the parameters of their signature style(s). And just for fun, here's a pic of Fakir Musafar http://www.fakir.org/images/GentlemanW.jpg

      • Off the rack mens corsets are very tricky, as mens bone structures require almost individual attention to get the proper rib to hip space fitting correctly and comfortably. Most (Starkers included) will provide any styles for mens bodies, although some are far better suited for specific purposes.

        • Thats right, men require fully custom corsets according to body measurements. Timeless Trends offer just selection of waist, thats pretty useless. For men corsets are used best as undergarment since we have no need to show off waist reduction (only some who want to appear as female) and corset on the outside is very difficult to get look right. Also men don't crave for the tiny waists women do.

      • Tiny waists like that of Fakir or Mr. Pearl look wrong. I don't see a reason any man would like a waist like that, even transgender. It just looks too bad. Corsets are to men more interesting as undergarment rather than outerwear. There is no need to show waist reduction with tight clothing, it serves for waist training and make the corset carry weight. I wear a custom conical overbust with A cups under clothing, its a fantastic back support and invisible except to other corset wearers.

    • I'm a straight man, no cross dressing and enjoy wearing corsets. The problem with male corset designs is they are meant to be worn on the outside and they do very little waist reduction (since it would look funny otherwise). Its very difficult to get a male corset look good on the outside – person must be slim, correct age for the type of corset (late 20s-30s for underbust, for olders some corset vest) and it can be worn on occasions only. I meet all conditions but why get something that makes sense to wear only rarely. So a corset as underwear as it was originally used is more interesting for men, we feel no need to make them visible. As underwear female corset designs work better – cover more fatty tissue, more waist reduction. Waist reduction is quite important as without it corset only restricts and enforces good posture but doesn't carry weight. Of course female corset design is adjusted for male proportions (ribcage, hips, wider waist) – a fully custom corset is needed. Corset made for a man will not have those fancy female colors, black works best. For me corsets are interesting for waist training – to get about 31-32" real waist, as a back support and for posture. My corset is conical overbust with flat steel bones and A cups (since we have small breasts). For men overbusts are easier to hide under clothing than for women and they offer superior back support to underbusts. Not visible under T-shirt, only other corset wearers could tell. Since used as underwear, a man doesn't need 10s corsets like a woman, 1-2 will suffice.

  5. That's so interesting to me that it could be helpful with anxiety. For me, I get very anxious when I am overly restricted in my movement, whether it's because of clothing or because someone is attempting to give me a bear hug. So even my clothing that looks to be tight, restrictive, and "body conscious," has lots of stretch or slits in the appropriate places to allow for freedom of movement. So obviously, I wouldn't don a corset if you paid me because I would have a panic attack (anything that potentially restricts my ability to breathe deeply can set me on the verge of one, even something like a kiss that is lasting too long when I have a stuffy nose). But! I think it's really cool that other people who deal with anxiety could find corseting to be very calming. 🙂

    • I was going to comment almost the same thing– one of my big anxiety triggers is feeling trapped or constrained, and even for renaissance faires or costuming, I have to lace a decorative corset very loosely so I don't panic about the feeling of asphyxiation. Interesting that it can have such varying effects!

    • This is really interesting to me! Sometimes when I'm in the midst of an anxiety attack or having an off day I experience much the same thing as you do. However, post anxiety attack I will a) lay on a hard floor and pushes my body into as hard as I can b) have my husband squeeze me really tight or c) have my husband lay on me. I find the deep pressure helps immensely to rid the feelings following an attack and helps my body return to a calm-ish or relaxed-ish state faster.

    • I have claustrophobia and wear corsets. Worse thing ever to do is have a panic attack while wearing one. Bruised my rib cage when the liqueur wore off at a rave.

    • My first thought was it's a similar concept to those things for dogs called Thunder Blankets or Thundershirts, which are a sort of dog coat that fit tightly enough they exert pressure over the dog's body. The idea is that the pressure feels like the dog's getting an all-over hug and it reassures them during scary situations like thunder. It sounds like for some humans the same principle can apply regarding corsets, although clearly it's not for everyone (I'm also not keen on overly-restrictive clothing).

  6. Jen over at epbot.com has written how wearing a corset helps (a whole lot) with menstrual cramps, which she discovered when she got out of her corset after a Con. That's the part of corseting that I would be really interested in – anything to make me forget about my Uterus of Terror…

    • This doesn't entirely surprise me. Masturbation is also said to help relieve menstrual cramps, and both the compression from corset-wearing and jacking off often causes blood to flow downstream and give off a pleasant feeling (so to speak). Not to mention the connection between corsets and sex has a long history.

    • It's true! From LucyCorsetry.com, "Corsets are helpful in minimizing menstrual cramps in women. Many women temporarily relieve their dysmenorrhea by lying in the fetal position, which exerts pressure on the peritoneal organs and somewhat diminishes the painful uterine contractions. Corsets can mimic this position by exerting pressure on these same organs, reducing uterine contractions (and thus cramping) while her posture remains erect."

  7. This might seem like a strange question, but how do you deal with doctor visits? I imagine that it would be difficult to find a primary care physician or a gynecologist who is open minded and accepting of waist training, or at least nonjudgmental when confronted by the "shock" (for lack of a better word) of seeing an extreme waistline. How do you handle that discussion? I think I would find myself becoming defensive, but then I've had to deal with doctor presuppositions from both sides of the weight issue (I've been both morbidly obese and anorexic), so I get my back up (pun intended) whenever body shape comes up in a doctor's office.

    • I have never worn one while visiting a doctor with the exception of my psychiatrist, and he has no issues with it at all. He's actually pretty fascinated by the benefits and wondered if it might be something he would enjoy as well 🙂

    • More specifically, I was wondering about the doctor's response to the body's shape rather than physically wearing a corset to the appointment. Do doctor's react (positively or negatively) to the altered physical shape of the body itself. I know that for waist trainers, the shape of the body is quite different naked as well as corseted.

  8. I don't tight lace or wear corsets daily, but I own three corsets and one steel boned bodice that I wouldn't really call a corset because the construction is not corset-level. I LOVE THEM.

    The first time I put on a corset I was amazed at how comfortable it was for me. I think in large part, for me, it's because I have disproportionately large breasts, and having them supported externally took an immense amount of pressure off my back. I also have a pretty messed up back (mostly because of the melons attached to my front), and wearing a corset helps align my spine and readjust my posture. When I have a Real Adult Job, I'm probably going to commission one or two custom pieces to use in my daily undergarment rotation.

    • Dude… wearing a corset is my favorite thing for my back and my boobies. It's the only thing that keeps my posture upright and takes the back pain away. But I feel like they're not "every day wear." Like Ava mentioned, I'd be uncomfortable with the stares I feel like wearing a corset would illicit, outside of a convention or costume party. Let me know what you come up with for daily rotation!

      • I've been wearing corsets for living history purposes since I was 13 (so about 12 years) When I herniated my disc I wore my corset for 2 months straight because it was just the best support I could get! I still know that spending a weekend in my 1860's corset means that I will be able to spend more time on my feet because of the support.
        I have worn mine under normal clothes but most people don't notice (unless they hug you). In this instance its for support rather than shape and I only lace it until I feel the pressure in my back release. I suggest getting one that is supportive, comfortable and one where the boning is reenforced (you think under wire bras poking you is uncomfortable wait until a corset bone pops out!) Unless you go in expecting to alter your shape significantly, it's not as noticeable as you might think.

      • Like Amelia, I have found that you can wear them under clothes without most people noticing, but it depends on the corset. I prefer wearing them under pretty baggy stuff, like men's sweaters.

        Ideally I'd like some bastard hybrid of an 1890s style corset and Regency style (1810-1830ish). Something with a lot of bust gores where the lower half is mostly meant as a support structure for the bust, not a cinching or shaping aid. I just want my titties hoisted up and off me.

        This is the most comfortable corset I've ever worn (hello fifteen year old me, god you were skinny): http://www.knowlesville.com/vintage/1890-corset.html and it's from the 1890s. It was a wee bit big for me, so laced all the closed it didn't actually shape my waist.

        Another 1890 corset: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/158015

        These are examples of Regency/early Victorian corsets that are kind of what I mean: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/86424
        http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/82063
        http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/82066

        So yeah, some kind of hybrid of the two. Ideally one in nude and one in black. Arguably it would just be, like, a really longline bra or an extra supportive basque or something (can you tell I love lingerie? I REALLY LOVE LINGERIE). I can't wait to have money.

  9. Thanks for the insight into the interesting topic! I do find the look interesting, though reading about the effects on breathing/lung capacity was enough for me to say "nope nope nope!" (I'm a swimmer and hopefully eventual triathlete and already struggle some with lung capacity.)

    • With a properly fitted corset (especially one custom-made for your individual measurements), you should be able to breathe normally.

    • You are right, corsets are not for you if you are very active and need big lung capacity. Corsets reduce lung capacity over time, since you can't take deep breaths in them.

  10. I love my corsets 🙂 I don't wear them on a regular basis, and not at all for the past few months (I'm super preggers right now). There is an event called the Grand Corset Ball taking place in NYC at the end of March that looks AMAZING. If I weren't going to be just super ridiculous preggers at that point, I would totally be going! It benefits the antique corset museum

  11. I just bought my first and second corsets! They're cheap things off Amazon but I decided I needed to put a very small amount of money into this before I decided if I was really going to keep up with it. The first is an overbust and well my bust is too small for it so I don't think it'll get much use. The second hasn't arrived yet but it's a black underbust and I cannot wait to put it on! Thank you, Ava, for sharing! I'll definitely be checking out your website!

    • If you're well-endowed like me, save some money for a great quality custom-made overbust. It'll be worth the investment, I promise. 😉

      • I'm the OPPOSITE of well endowed. 🙂 I'm just a little bit shy of quite filling my A cups for the better part of the month. If I do like the idea and I do use the cheapo one that I bought, I'll be buying better down the road. But I can't see spending a hundred bucks or more on something to try it out.

  12. While I don't personally wear corsets regularly or do body modification (I'm glad people have found a way to do so safely though!), I'm a mezzo and I often get surprised by how freaked out other singers are by corsets, and the general ideal that corsets are inherently evil. I ended up getting one made tailored specifically to my body by an professional costumer/seamstress, and a well-made corset made to fit you is great. I had to wear one as part of a costume for a show, and found I was able to breathe in it perfectly fine, I just didn't tighten it to the point where I felt my breathing was restricted or my ribs compressed. I was able to sing, dance, and stay on my feet in comfort. I ended up loaning it to a company as a costume piece in another show I was in, and it totally made the costume. Of course, one time, someone helping the other singer into it totally messed up the laces, after which point I am now the only one I allow to lace someone else into the thing! Also my corset is this really great, almost teal blue color, I love it, even though it's usually underneath clothes when I wear it.

  13. So, does anyone out there have any experience using a regular corset for post-partem waist (re)training? I'm considering with this, my second pregnancy, going the corset route but when I look at the ones designed for this purpose, I kind of hate them. I don't see any reason a normal corset wouldn't do the job, but does anyone else have any real info?

  14. Don't be afraid to show your shape off! You earned it! I was hesitant at first and wary of getting looks but eventually I got over it. I'm proud of my shape and what tight-lacing has done for me!

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.