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Corset Care 101: What to Do While Wearing a Corset

Photo: Sam Guss, Corset: Dark Garden, Model: Victoria Dagger

So you want to wear a corset, and make sure you take good care of it to prolong its life. There are a few steps you can take during and immediately after wearing your corset to minimize wear and the need for costly cleanings.

One of the most basic pieces of corset care advice is to wear your corset with another layer between it and your skin. The reason for this is that your sweat and the natural oils in your skin rub off onto the lining. Ultimately it's less wear on the corset to avoid both the sweat and oils, and the frequent cleanings it'll lead to.

A camisole like this makes a good corset liner. To wear with an overbust, tuck the straps in. Trousers are optional. Photo: Antonio Abadia, Corset: Electra Designs, Model: Victoria Dagger

How practical wearing a lining is will depend heavily on your outfit: if it's a waist cincher or underbust, you may already be wearing it as an outerwear piece and therefore ahead of the game. (Know that the garment underneath will get creased from the compression.) A sweetheart corset can be worn as a top by itself. If you're wearing your corset as a foundation piece, the weather may not permit an additional layer between it and your skin.

Originally a “chemise” would've been worn next to the skin under the corset; today, you can wear a simple camisole or tshirt. Your corsetiere may even sell tube tops fitted to be worn under the corset with no straps or sleeves to interfere with your styling choices. The fabric should be lightweight, breathable, and easy to wash: a t-shirt jersey-type fabric (cotton or a cotton-spandex blend) is a safe bet. A rayon-type fabric (rayon, modal, bamboo rayon, etc) would also be very comfortable, though more difficult to care for.

To keep laces secure and out of the way, tuck the ends into the bottom of your corset. Photo: Joel Aron, Corset: Dark Garden, Model: Kristin.

One mistake many corset wearers make is wearing their laces tied around their waist. This actually abrades the fabric of the corset. If you don't like to leave your laces danging, separate the “bunny ears” bow at the waist in two and tuck the lace ends under the bottom of your corset. On a related note, when it's time to take your corset off, always remember to loosen the laces before unfastening the busk.

If you find yourself needing to replace the lacing itself, polyester ribbon can be purchased from any fabric or craft store. Even if your corset wasn't originally laced with ribbon, the polyester actually makes for very strong lacing. Measure how long the original laces were, and adjust if you felt they were too long or too short. It's always easier to cut them shorter, though, so it's safer to err on the side of “too long,” otherwise it may become difficult to put your corset on. Buy ribbon that is at least 1/4” wide; 5/8” or wider ribbon creates a more sumptuous look but also adds considerable bulk.

Drape your corset over the back of a chair to air out after wearings.

After you take your corset off, let it air out, breathe, and relax. Drape it over a hanger or the back of a chair. The fibers will relax back into shape, and, well, the fresh air will do it good, scent-wise. If you're waist training or participating in an event that calls for several consecutive days of  corset wearing, try to alternate corsets. Like your bras or shoes, your corset will break down noticeably faster if you don't give it any time off. The fabric, boning, and laces are all under a considerable amount of physical stress while you're wearing it, after all. You can also delicately wipe down the lining of your corset with a damp cloth after you take it off, to help gently remove any oils or sweat that are on the surface.

Photo: Chris Gaede, Corset & Ensemble: Dark Garden, Model: Victoria Dagger

Stay tuned for future installments on storing and cleaning your corsets!  Let me know in the comments if you have other corset maintenance questions or ideas you'd like to see addressed in future posts.

Marianne Faulkner

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

8 Comments on this post

  1. Sarah says:

    I was wondering (because I can barely afford one corset for training at the moment, let alone another for changing them out) if I wear something under my corset, and let it air out every night, will I be able to wear it every day for 12 hour periods at a time?

  2. Tora says:

    I wear a form of a corset at the renaissance faires and I only have my one for now and I wear it for 2 days at the most in a row, Airing it out over night be just as good so in time I can save up for my next bodice?

    • Marianne says:

      2 days in a row is fine, it’s mostly an issue when someone wears the same corset literally every day for all their daily activities without giving it a break. Airing it out overnight is still a good idea, though.

  3. I don’t like using ribbon for lacing, as I find it too difficult to adjust to fit correctly, especially without someone to help you. If you do want to use ribbon for lacing, though, you MUST buy double satin ribbon, the higher quality the better. Most ribbon is not strong enough for lacing and will not last very long at all. My favorite laces are parachute cord that you can order in large quantities very cheaply. It’s strong, durable, cheap, and laces like a dream. Burn the ends with a lighter to prevent fraying and cut it to size yourself.

    Also, when you take a corset off, lay it flat with the inside facing up so that it dries quickly and any odor dissipates. For longer term storage, I fold them a bit and put in a drawer. Hanging seems too likely to distort the fit and undo some of the shaping a corset gets from breaking in.

  4. Ina says:

    What’s the best method of storing your corset? Right now I have one hanging in the closet on a hanger with the weight on the tied laces and another one rolled up in a drawer.

    • Marianne says:

      I don’t think there’s a single best solution; it depends on what’s feasible in your living space and the particulars of your corset collection. Both the methods you mentioned are great, I actually have corsets stored using both methods right now. The “storage” installment will include some other options and variations.

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