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Corset Talk: All About Lacing & the Back Gap


© Mask Photo | Model: Victoria Dagger | Corset: Dark Garden

As promised to a certain reader, here is a follow-up to last month's All About Lacing: Part 1, which explained the hardware and materials of corset lacing. Today's installment focuses on the back gap and its angles of pressure. The back gap, as an expression of fit, has a surprising amount of impact on the comfort of a corset.


Photo © Charles Chan Casela | Model: Victoria Dagger | Corset: Electra Designs

If you're new to corsets, particularly high-end corsetry, you may not be aware that corsets are generally intended to be worn with a narrow gap between the lacing panels in the back. The width of the gap has been modernly standardized at 2", but it ranges proportionately to the wearer. When I am fitting larger clients (perhaps a 30" corset or more) at Dark Garden, for example, I find a 3" gap or larger is better proportioned to the scale of the corset and more flexible for that clientele which tends to take more quickly to larger rates of compression. Conversely, in my pre-relationship 18" corset days, I would often wear my corsets with a 1" gap.


Photo © Mariah Carle | Model: Victoria Dagger | Corset: Dark Garden

But why do we wear the gap? What purpose does it serve? Part of it is an aesthetic choice, as it reveals more of the lacing and gives a peek-a-boo effect with the skin, garment, or modesty panel beneath. As an aesthetic decision, some (particularly tightlacers) may instead choose to wear their corsets laced closed. Beyond aesthetics, though, having a lacing gap greatly increases the versatility of any given corset by allowing the wearer to fluctuate in size. A corset designed to be worn with a gap can be loosened and tightened as needed throughout the day, month, or even years. As most women know, our measurements are highly variable based on, say, what (let alone how much!) we had for lunch, where we are in our cycle, and our activity and stress levels for any given period of time.


Photo © Marianne Faulkner | Model: Kelsey Sailors | Corset: Pop Antique

Angles of Pressure in Relation to Gap Symmetry
Ideally, the lacing gap of a corset will be parallel down its length. However, it's possible to have a corset that fits well without having a parallel gap. If the corset lays flush against the body and is comfortable, a gap variation of an inch or two down the length is not a big deal. That said, the distribution of that variation makes a big difference as the angles of the corset's waistline (and waist tape) creates variance in pressure.


Photo © Marianne Faulkner | Model: Sarafina Herself | Corset: Pop Antique

A corset that is laced tighter on top with a wide gap at the bottom will probably be more comfortable than one that has a wide gap at the ribs and is laced tights at the hips. The former, laced wide at the hips, angles the center back waistline further down the spine and toward the softer tissue between the bottom of your ribs and the top of your pelvis, which can feel pleasantly supportive. The latter, laced wide at the ribs, angles the waistline up the spine and onto the bottom of the ribs, and can create more of a pinched sensation of pressure. So if you're corset shopping and you have the choice between a corset that is too small at the ribs and another that is too small at the hips, go with the latter! But perhaps worst of all is a corset that laces wider at the waist than at top or bottom --- this twists the bones within their channels, and is both uncomfortable for you and bad for the corset.

© Marianne Faulkner

© Marianne Faulkner

That's it for this time! There's still more to talk about with lacing, including some common lacing/fit mistakes, but that's for another day...

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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.

2 Comments on this post

  1. MichelleED. says:

    I recently started a journey into corset wearing (I’ve been wanting to do so for many years now). I’ve always heard that the back gap should always be perfectly parallel for the comfort and longevity of the corset… The problem is that I have very wide hips (in comparison to my upper torso) and a petite rib cage and bust, and the overbust corsets I have don’t really accommodate this difference if I keep the gap parallel. To keep it parallel,I either have to make the hip area uncomfortably tight for the bust to look right, or make the hip area comfortably fitted but deal with a gaping, ill-fitted looking bust… If I understand this article correctly, then it’s okay for the hips to be looser and the chest/bust to be a bit tighter… Without damaging my corsets? I don’t want to send my corsets back to the company, and I can’t afford custom fitted ones either… Is having a tapered back gap (tighter at the bust and looser at the hips) really okay? Please advise at your earliest convenience. I would really appreciate any help and tips you might have.
    Also, I’m not interested in tight-lacing (my corsets come with lovely modesty panels), and the max waist reduction if ever go to is 3 inches (at a much later date)… Idk if this info will make a difference in your advice, but there it is if it helps. Thank you for your time.

  2. Evija says:

    Oh this was so worth waiting for :)

    + I really love the new image formatting!

    But, more on topic: I tend to wear what’s remaining of my corset collection (I just can’t be bothered by those too much) with 0″ gap. It’s odd, and it’s a rather cheap (still steel boned) Edwardian style longline, and I don’t really feel like sizing down, as I *really* don’t want to attract more unwanted attention than as is now.

    So, actually there is such a thing like “too curvy”. Until I’m invited to a gala in the president’s palace (I don’t see that happening in the next 50 years), I’m the creep that wears her corsets laced shut and with all the extra modesty.

    Not that it’s always helping. I don’t mind staring but here in Europe people think it’s alright to get touchy :/

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