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Corset Care 101: 3 Reasons to Unlace Before Unbusking Your Corset

Shien Lee in an Electra Designs corset, as photographed by Christopher Mc Lallen, via Electra Designs on Facebook

All corset wearers know (or should know, anyway) that they need to loosen their corset laces before unfastening their busk, but it's rarely explained why, beyond the basic "it's bad for the corset." I mentioned this in passing in the first post of this series, How to Care for a Corset, Part 1: What to Do While Wearing Your Corset, but saved the full rationale because I think it's important enough to merit its own post. If you're like me, those kind of tips stick much better if I understand the reasoning behind them. So without further ado, here are my top three reasons to unlace first.

Victoria Dagger in a Blooddrop corset, as photographed by IGP Photo

1) The Immediate
It's going to be a lot easier to take your corset off if the laces are loosened. Actually, unless your corset is too big for you, it'll be virtually impossible to unfasten all the busk studs. If your corset has a swing hook closure or a zipper, you can still take it off, but be careful that you don't catch your skin in the zipper.

Kali in a Dark Garden corset, as photographed by Marianne Faulkner

Victoria Dagger in a Pop Antique corset, as photographed by Samantha Guss

2) The Pragmatic
You're going to need those laces loose next time you want to put your corset on anyway, right? Many corset neophytes ask if, once adjusted, they can just leave the laces tied for subsequent wearings. The lacing process may seem arduous the first time around, but just like learning to tie your shoe laces you'll find it soon enough becomes simple and automatic. The tightening of the laces is what gives a corset its superb shaping ability, so skimping on lacing-in is out of the question.

Victoria Dagger in a Dark Garden corset, as photographed by Thomas Landon

3) The Critical
The number one reason to loosen your laces is because you risk irreparably damaging the busk. With each busk stud you unhook, you are putting that much more pressure on the remaining studs. Eventually, the studs may pop off from the metal bone on which they're anchored.
Most corsets are constructed from the center front out, which means any damage along that seam line is the hardest to repair (if it's even possible at all). It's not a case of just restoring the missing stud; the entire busk (the single most expensive hardware component) will need to be replaced, which involves reconstructing either the front panel or literally the entire corset. So while you may still be able to wear your corset as long as you're only missing one busk stud, you've created damage that is both easy to avoid and very difficult, if not impossible, to repair.

Sara Cecil in a Pop Antique corset as photographed by Jesse Alford

If you've been given another explanation for why unlacing is so important or have any firsthand accounts of busk damage, I'd love to hear in the comments.

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.

14 Comments on this post

  1. Jekku says:

    So excited – just ordered my first corset ever (from Amazon of all places) and it should arrive in a few days. Been wanting a corset for years, so it’ll be interesting to see how things transpire. I got it for waist training but if it helps with my posture (thanks technology!) and helps my clothes fit better, so much the better. Just hope the laces don’t make me want to pull my hair out!

  2. Alice says:

    Loosening my laces before taking my corset off has always been second nature to me but it is good to have more incentive to do so because I know the potential risks.
    Great article! :)

  3. Tessa says:

    Removing a corset without unlacing is a guarantee of future failure. The length of the busk creates a lever action which dramatically increases pressure on the entire corset. Eventually, the weakest point will fail.

  4. Thursday says:

    Loosening before unbusking was one of the first things I learnt about wearing a corset, and I am glad! I have seen guides on how to lace-in, however, that advise tightening the laces as far as they go and then doing up the busk, which must be just as bad for the corset.

  5. Cheri says:

    I’ll be passing this info on to my customers, thank you for the great explanation!

  6. Jorun Åkerblom says:

    Could you show a video of how to tie the corset on yourself?
    It´s a serious problem.

  7. Angel says:

    I’ve seen people tear their busk completely out of the corset, by not unlacing to remove. The strain on the busk that had not yet been unfastened was so great the fabric gave and that part of the busk was torn out. [while I cannot attest to the number of layers of fabric in the corset, or the fabric it was made out of the center front seam holding the busk was ripped out, wish I had taken photos.]

    • Marianne says:

      Wow, that’s crazy! I imagine it was probably cheap fabric and thread, but it still sounds like a pretty epic illustration of this lesson.

  8. Natasha says:

    It’s nice to know these things officially, and good corset care is a time and money saver! Another reason I’ve come across with friends is that it’s healthier for the wearers back. To unlace first takes the pressure off any sensative points whilst unhooking first will reduce surface area at the back of the corset putting pressure on the spine. x Thank you for writing this!

  9. Claire says:

    You’re right about the lacing process. It took so much effort the first time but now I don’t even have to think about it!

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