Book Review: Waist Training by Kim Fox
Disclosure: I borrowed this book through the Amazon Prime lending library with my personal account. All opinions are my own.
The full title of this book is, “Waist Training: Corset Training with Tight-Lacing Corsets to Trim Your Waist and Cinchers to Cinch the Inches,” and it appears to be the only work by author Kim Fox, who apparently self-published this volume after a modicum of light research and personal experience. It’s exciting that waist training has become mainstream enough to have books written about it, but unfortunately I found this take to be poorly researched and poorly edited, wandering from confusingly phrased to self-contradictory and downright wrong.
On the positive side, the author doesn’t discriminate based on gender, repeatedly making references to men’s shapers and waist training. The book is short, with a comprehensive table of contents, and can easily be read in under an hour. Ms. Fox counsels some basic common sense rules — pace yourself when lacing and breaking in your corset, consult with a doctor if you are under the age of 18 or have a medical condition, if trying to lose weight pair your corset with diet and exercise. It almost seems more along the lines of the so-called “Corset Diet” rather than true waist training.
So that’s the good. Now for the bad, which is unfortunately rather more extensive. When I first started reading, I have to admit I was already not expecting very much. The corset shown on the cover has the classic inverted parentheses shape of a mass-produced corset with only a mild reduction, and the first one shown inside is even worse (see above). As I read, it became clear that the author knows very little about corsetmaking and its relationship to effective waist training. Ms. Fox apparently isn’t even familiar with the word “corsetiere,” which means “corset maker.” A layperson may not know this word, and that’s fine, but one who purports to be anything of an authority on waist training should be familiar with it. If you’re a regular reader, you know I write about corsets and waist training quite often, and Ms. Fox did find one of my posts: my original list of 8 Corsetieres to Follow on Instagram. She describes it as as a list of “cool waist training folks,” which I think hardly does credit to a list of highly skilled artisans who are reviving a niche art of fitting and designing beautiful shapewear.
In the introduction, she talks about “waist trainers and corsets” without clarifying the distinction. I think the former is meant to be those elastic shaper things? (Here’s my take on stretch vs structured shapewear, though I’ve never tried Spanx or fajas.) According to Ms. Fox, one “graduates” to “the kind that not only have hooks [and] that allow you to tighten it more with laces in the back.” Only about halfway through does she emphasize the need for “traditional steel-boned corsets,” and according to her, it’s obligatory to start with an underbust rather than a “full corset,” an overbust. Generally speaking, underbusts are preferred and more versatile, but they’re not mandatory, nor are they any less corset-y than overbusts, which is part of why I’ve never cared for that particular description of the distinction between styles.
Ms. Fox talks about the age you should be for training before saying anything much about the corsets themselves. In her words, steel boned corsets “can obtain a cinch of 3 to 5 inches of serious waist training, [sic]” and, “Custom made corset might be great, and run about $139 or more. [sic]” (You can see what I mean about the lack of proper editing; confusing sentences like this abound.) In my experience as a corsetrix, a corset can cinch two to ten inches off the bat (depending on both you and the corset), and a decent custom should cost a bare minimum of $300 — ideally more in the $500-$1500 range. After all, you get what you pay for.
Ms. Fox considers the terms waist training and tightlacing to be interchangeable, though she barely touches upon true tightlacers at all. She does make some sort of vague cautionary tale of one Nerina Orton with an alleged 15.7″ waist. I hadn’t previously heard of Ms. Orton, but a quick Google showed more dramatics from the media, likely filled with skewed, hyperbolized, and out of context information. (Needless to say, I am tired of those stories; even if they were true, they are hardly representative.) She states that one “should” wear corsets laced fully closed; while this is a matter of preference, it is actually standard practice for corsets to be worn with a 2″ gap in the back lacing.
It’s possible that she is avoiding using technical language to keep it easy for the reader; she’s clearly targeting a mainstream market here, using examples of typical “hot” celebrities with naturally curvy hip to waist ratios. Instead, though, I find it even more confusing and it mostly just seems like she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. For example, she recommends corsets with “a strong exposed tape,” but a hidden waist tape generally is more comfortable and implies a higher end construction — it’s small things like this that continually undermine her credibility, and with it, the subject itself. She also refers to “full lacing cord” (what?), describing it as superior to ribbon, which is, “not made for tightlacing,” even though it’s actually used by the majority of high-end corsetieres today. A far better approach would be to break down the jargon for the layperson, as Sarah Chrisman did fairly well in her book, Victorian Secrets.
Ms. Fox contradicts herself on numerous occasions. Early in the book, she specifically states that you shouldn’t sleep in a steel boned corset (no mention of why); close to the end, she changes her mind and says, “you can even sleep in your corset.” In another paragraph, she says something about, “Instead of always popping your corset in and out of the washer and dryer…” and only several paragraphs later gets around to saying that, actually, you should never wash your corset in the washing machine (which is true). If I were a corseting newbie, I would find myself extremely confused by her advice, and constantly wanting more detail and explanation for it.
Arguably the worst advice in the book is casually contained within a single sentence. “When you want to take it off, you can loosen the laces and unsnap the front — or just try to unsnap the front closures first.” Actually, the first rule of corseting — yes, even before “Boots, then corset!” — is to always unlace before loosening your busk.
As far as I can tell, this book is only available as a Kindle book from Amazon. You can read Kindle books on your smart phone or computer as well as Kindle devices, so don’t feel left out if you don’t have an e-reader. If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can borrow the book for free (which is how I read it). However, I would not recommend this book to those interested in waist training. There are better resources available on the internet for free; more information could be garnered from watching an hour of videos on Lucy’s Corsetry or reading through my previous posts here on The Lingerie Addict or the archive of knowledge that is the Long Island Staylace Association (LISA). I’ve also been compiling good blog posts about corsets from a variety of sources onto a Pinterest board.
What are your favorite resources for waist training advice? What tips would you give to someone interested in waist training?