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Corset Talk: It's Hip to Be Squishy

© Thomas Landon
Model: Victoria Dagger
Corset: Dark Garden

When discussing corsets, the word "squishy" inevitably comes up. Though outside the corseting community, the word is used as as a euphemism for being full-figured (or as a reference to Finding Nemo…), when talking corsets it has a rather different connotation. "Squishy," or, "compressible," if one wishes to be delicate about it, refers to the body's natural ability to be reshaped by a corset. In other words, when it comes to corsets, squishy is unequivocally a very good thing. Knowing how and where you are squishy is a valuable facet to corset wearing --- and shopping.

©Joel Aron Model: Nicole Simone Corset: Dark Garden

© Joel Aron
Model: Nicole Simone
Corset: Dark Garden

It's a common misconception that "squish" is directly and consistently related to size. While there is certainly a trend along those lines, I have fit plenty of folks who defied the rule. Some slim people can be very squishy; some large people are very firm. As always with corsets, each body is different. The broadest generalization I would make is that anyone particularly fit, with well developed core muscles and very low body fat on their stomach, will probably be rather un-squishy and more likely to find even a mild waist reduction uncomfortable.

Generally speaking, of course, a petite figure has less innate ability to squish --- there is less mass, and much of it is fairly fixed: bones and muscles. A 4" reduction on a 24" waist may be comparable to a 8" reduction on a 40" waist, though it is both empirically and proportionately significantly smaller. On the 40" waist, there's a greater proportion of compressible tissue (fat) to non-compressible (bones). Organs, as we learned previously, are highly mobile by biological design.

© Sam Guss Model: Victoria Dagger Corset: Sparklewren, with conical rib shaping, excellent for those with compressible ribs or a natural conical shape.

© Sam Guss
Model: Victoria Dagger
Corset: Sparklewren, with conical rib shaping, excellent for those with compressible ribs or a natural conical shape.

The level of compression (reduction) possible will vary not only on the body being compressed, but also on the fit of the corset. By understanding how you are squishy, you get a much better idea of the type of fit appropriate to your body --- conical versus hourglass silhouettes and where the waist reduction can come from, etc.

© Karolina Marek Model: Victoria Dagger Corset: Pop Antique, with signature cupped rib silhouette, well suited to non-compressing rib cages.

© Karolina Marek
Model: Victoria Dagger
Corset: Pop Antique, with signature cupped rib silhouette, well suited to non-compressing rib cages.

So how do you know if you are squishy? In my experience, there are three factors, easy to test in just a minute or two with nothing but your own hands. From top to bottom…

1. Rib compression. Place your hands on the side of your rib cage and squeeze. How easily do your ribs flex, and how much discomfort do you feel in the process? Now press your hands to the front of your rib cage --- how much do your ribs protrude, and do they compress at that angle? (If your ribs are fairly inflexible, as mine are, you may want to consider spiral steels so your bones don't get in an argument with the corset bones and end up bruised.)

2. Waist compression. Move your hands down to your waistline and squeeze. This is the most straightforward test of squish, but it is only one part of the equation.

3. Waist length. Feel the space between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your hip bones. If they are very close (in approximate measure, less than an inch), it means you are short waisted. Someone who is long waisted has more room to compress since there is more space with a minimum amount of skeleton in the way.

Model: Ulorin Vex Ensemble: Pop Antique

Model: Ulorin Vex
Ensemble: Pop Antique

Chances are, you are squishy in at least one of these ways. Of course, the ability to squish doesn't always translate to aesthetic or physical pleasure, and pressure points (distribution of compression) and construction style also make a huge difference in comfort. A certain amount of additional squish can be imparted by waist training, or even less-focused regular corseting. Ultimately, how much compression you go for is between your body, your mind, and your corsetiere, particularly when it comes to custom corsetry.

Has this expanded your understanding of corset fitting? Do you like to lace down as much as you can squish or do you just enjoy the structured and streamlined corset look? What other "Corset Talk" topics would you like to hear about in the future?

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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.

9 Comments on this post

  1. Terry says:

    Being a cross dresser Squishy is exactly what I need, infact I need all the help I can get :)

  2. Henzo says:

    Hello, very good read! I was just wondering, is there any chance to know where the knickers (hearts-print) from the first picture are available from ( ) ?

  3. Avigayil says:

    I am very un-squishy! My ribs refuse to bend and I have a very short waist it seems… if I am identifying the end of my ribs and my hip bone right. Human anatomy has never been my forte! However, that little gap does have a bit of squish to it I guess, but not all to much. I guess it is good I already have around a 45/6 – 33 – 41 shape. Any ideas on the best corset type for those un-squishy? Oddly enough most the reduction in my waist is not from the front and is only a bit from the sides… it is mainly from the back where I have a mean dip. I wonder if custom is the only way to go. :/

  4. Emily says:

    really great article! :)

  5. Lucy says:

    Fantastic read, Marianne. When beginners ask me what size of corset to start with or how much they ‘should’ train down (of course, I try to avoid the word ‘should’ in aesthetic situations), I consider not only their natural proportions but also their ‘squishiness’, considering adipose, muscle and bone. I’ve never looked at squishiness in a negative light; bodies are remarkably soft/adaptable/resilient. :)

  6. Missy says:

    Great article! I love corsets and own a few but I don’t pull them out often because of some fit issues. When I bought them I had no idea what I should be looking for. I’m going to set aside some time to sit down and read more of your posts and see if I can figure this out :)

  7. Meg says:

    What an interesting article! I’ve never heard about the concept of “squishy”, but I’m also new to the world of corsets (all I have are fashion corsets worn as outerwear). You’ve given me all sorts of new things to consider.

    I liked your explanation of short-waistedness, which is something that always confuses me. Maybe you could do a longer post on short/long and high/low waist/torsos.

    • Marianne says:

      Glad you enjoyed it!
      Oooh, short/long-waistedness is a tricky one, as it definitely depends on the context. Depending on who is talking, it can mean being short through the ribs (from shoulder to waist) OR through the hips (waist to bottom of pelvis). I will keep pondering this specific fit issue and see if I can come up with something more solid, as it definitely makes a difference in buying any product that involves the natural waistline, such as retro-cut panties. I did touch a bit on torso length in a previous post:

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