Today’s guest post is by Tristan Risk, aka Little Miss Risk, a burlesque artist for Sweet Soul Burlesque and corsetiere with Lace Embrace Atelier. I had the pleasure of meeting her a few months ago during a weekend jaunt to Vancouver, and I am super excited to publish her guest about tightlacing and waist training with corsets. If you like what you read here, you can keep up with Tristan Risk on her blog.
I’ve heard it all: that’s unhealthy, that’s disgusting, why would you do that to yourself, and so on. At first you may think that people are having an adverse reaction to some kind of crazy surgery or mega tattoo, but the hubbub is actually about a classic piece of lingerie: the corset. As both a corsetiere for Lace Embrace Atelier and a waist trainer I have had everyone give me their opinion on my lifestyle choices until I thought my ears were set to bleed. However, I’d like to take this opportunity to dispel a few urban myths about wearing a corset, and to share my passion for corsetry with you.
1. You’ve had ribs removed.
I hear this a great deal. People who look at me and the Guinness Book Record holder, Cathy Jung, often times will blurt this out. I take it with a grain of salt, as it’s ridiculous as well as being untrue. Thank goodness for my background in biology so I can educate people who believe this to be true.
The human ribcage has four ‘atypical’ ribs. While they are connected to the vertebrae, they are not connected to the sternum or the cartilage that’s attached to the sternum. They are commonly referred to as ‘floating’ ribs. When you waist train, your body adjusts to the shape of the corset over time and the ribs shift more easily to accommodate a greater waist reduction. This is done over time and doesn’t just happen right away.
People who waist train for any length of time can develop a more extreme shape with their shifted ribs, which can give the illusion that they’ve been removed. But such a surgery doesn’t exist, at least not that I’ve ever heard of.
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2. Can you hold yourself up without it?
Yes. I have very strong core strength as a dancer. A common misconception that is held by a lot of people I talk to is that if I take off my corset I’ll flop around like a squid. Where this false impression comes from has a historical basis in fashion. In the Victorian era, it was commonplace to have children wear corsets at an early age. They would play with dolls that had corsets in order to get them used to the idea that this was a regular occurrence.
However, when little girls first started getting laced in, they would often times try to loosen them. In order that they would sleep though the night without untying them, it was standard for them to have their hands bound to the bed. With fires started in homes from gaslights and candles, there were often sad consequences if a blaze occurred.
Because their bodies were still developing, they grew with the tight lacing. They never got the chance to develop their abdominal muscles, and so they would need the support of their corsets, but they never were jelly-spined. In modern times we don’t start children in corsets, much less tight lace them for the same reason you don’t get a child breast implants. They are still growing. I have as much core strength with my corset as without, and as a dancer who uses her body as an instrument, that does say quite a bit. I’ve yet to be unable to hold myself up without my corset.
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3. Can you breathe?
Yes, this is actually a question that I get with startling regularity. Yes, I can breathe, eat, drink and do most activities I perform in a day. Will I go for an eight kilometre jog in my corset? No, I won’t. Will I sit at the computer, or eat a meal, or go to work in my corsets? Yes, I will. While doing yogic belly breathing is more difficult, you instead draw breath from the chest.
Two clients of ours at our shop — one an operatic soprano and the other a torch singer in a Vancouver jazz club — sing while wearing their corsets and tell me that diaphragm breathing is still possible, it just takes practice. I also find this a pretty amusing question since when it’s posed to me, I’m obviously not holding my breath or hyperventilating.
4. Does someone help you get dressed/undressed?
If I play my cards right, I can get someone to help me get undressed, but it has nothing to do with getting in or out of the corset. That just depends on how well my dinner date was that night. But aside from amorous assistance, I don’t require help.
One of the first things I learned was how to lace myself in and out of my corset. I teach all my clients how to do this and make them practice. The reason behind this is if you do need to loosen yourself off, or get changed, or any other myriad of reasons you want to adjust yourself, you have got to know how to do it yourself.
While awkward at first, I can assure you, like anything else, ease comes with practice. I struggled for 20 minutes the first time I put my corset on. Now, I can get in and out with the same ease of dressing with my bra. I even do a burlesque routine where I am handcuffed and blindfolded and strip out of my corset. So I tell people if I can do that then there’s no reason why they can’t dress or undress themselves.
One of the greatest myths too with waist training is that it happens overnight. I’ll use Cathy Jung as an example again: she started wearing corsets in her early forties. She has gotten to her current waist size over a twenty-five year period. She is very active and has staved off spinal compression over the years with the aid of her corsets. She has a seven inch reduction from her natural waist and that was something that happened over the years. She didn’t set out to break the record, it just happened.
Waist training is not a competition. Like anything else, if you listen to your body, and take things slowly and progressively, you are at less of a risk. It is also not for everyone. It does remind me of the first time I had sex or got a tattoo: I didn’t know what to expect at first, but over time I enjoyed each encounter more and more. I look forward to continuing my love affair with this garment for a good many years to come.