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Corsetry 101: How to Put On (and Break-In) Your Corset

A corset’s prime feature is its waist cinching capability. Unlike girdles or waist cinchers or corselettes, a real corset will take your waist in by at least 2-4 inches. Curvy women may find that a corset can take their waist in six inches or more. In other words, a woman with a 34″ waist could go down to a 28″ waist with good corsetiere and proper waist training.

But before you start dreaming of itty bitty wasp waists, I have to stress the importance of breaking in your corset. I can’t tell you how much it distresses me to see someone abuse a corset. I just don’t understand why you spend a couple hundred dollars, if not more, on a garment and then not take care of it. So, before one of you makes me cry with a tale of a broken busk, let me share with you the best way to break in a corset.

Actually, before I start that, I should say that you want to have a empty stomach and an empty bladder before you put on a corset. Eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom are very…adventurous enterprises when you’re all cinched up.

So…the first thing you want to do when you get your corset is loosen it all the way. If you’ve ordered a corset that’s 4″ smaller than your waist, you will not be able to get it on if it’s laced up tightly. If your corset has a front closure, like a busk, you also want to undo that. Make sure your corset is right side up (sometimes indicated by the presence of garter loops; if uncertain, e-mail the manufacturer), then bring it around your body, making sure the modesty panel is flat if you have one.

Hooking the eyes is where I have the most trouble, and I find that starting from the middle works best. If you start from the ends, the single hooked closure you manage to fasten acts like a hinge, keeping all the other closures well out reach. Exhale, sucking in your tummy, and fasten the rest.

At this point, it’s helpful if you have someone there with you, but if not, no worries. Reaching behind, grab the lacing loops (sometimes called rabbit ears), and pull them away from your body. Now, since you’re breaking the corset in, you don’t want to pull too tightly. Now is not the time to see how small you make your waist. Pull until you have a little bit of cinch and a little bit of tension, then stop, tie your laces and go do something else. I’ve embedded a video from What Katie Did if you’re a visual learner.

If you feel like it, you can tighten again later, but it’s very important not to rush things. Being overeager can result in broken busks, warped ribs, snapped laces, torn grommets, and any number of expensive, hard-to-repair nasties. Never tighten until it’s painful or you’re having a trouble breathing.

I didn’t mention this before, but you may want to have a undershirt or tube top on under the corset. That way, your body oils won’t stain the corset.

When taking the corset off, do not, I repeat–Do Not–unfasten the busk first. You have to loosen the laces and then, when your corset is loose enough to wiggle around a bit, then unhook the busk. Unhooking the busk first could break your corset, and we don’t want that happening.

After you’re done wearing your corset, hang it up to air out (with the laces over the hanger). You can leave it there until your next wear or fold it up for later. Never wash a corset (other than perhaps a damp cloth on the outside). For more cleaning instructions, you want to contact the manufacturer.

Well, this post went a bit longer than I planned. For the next post, I’m going to talk about choices in picking (or designing!) a corset: underbust vs. overbust, satin vs. brocade, custom vs. off-the rack, etc.

*Images courtesy of Wasp Creations and Boobie Trap Corsets. Video courtesy of What Katie Did.*

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

4 Comments on this post

  1. Barbara says:

    Thank you for the information! I just purchased my first corset…it was an extravagant expense, and now I know what to do to make it last as long as possible.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Very helpful, thank you for putting this up. :)

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