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3 Corset "Rules" Most Often Broken by Corsetmakers

Ladies and gentlemen, I come here today to confess to you. Of the corset-related advice that I dispense and the standards set by the corseting community, some of it I do not follow myself. And I know I'm not alone. To say that all corsetmakers ignore these guidelines all the time would, of course, be quite hyperbolic, so I don't want to claim to speak for all of my colleagues. Even so, these are the so-called rules that I have noticed are less often adhered to.... So, when you lace down, don't forget to loosen up -- it's only fashion!

Pop Antique jersey corset dress | Victoria Dagger | © Max Johnson

Pop Antique jersey corset dress | Victoria Dagger | © Max Johnson

"Rule" #1: Wear a liner to keep your corset from touching your skin directly
The reason for this is that your body's oils, sweat, and shed skin cells will degrade the fabric over time.  Actually, even in my original Corset Care 101: What to Do While Wearing a Corset, I mentioned that the weather may make wearing a liner impractical. I generally wear my corsets outside my clothes, but on the occasions I don't, I'll put the corset directly against my skin. My personal corsets are constructed to have a very smooth interior construction, which I find much more comfortable than crumpled fabric, and I have very average skin (neither oily nor dry, not prone to sweating -- in fact, I'm more often cold than warm), as well as several corsets I rotate between. Less bulk makes for tighter reductions and a sleeker line. If you only have one treasured corset and/or are prone to sweaty or oily skin, I would recommend not skimping on the liner.

Pop Antique custom corset | Victoria Dagger | © John Carey

Pop Antique custom corset | Victoria Dagger | © John Carey

"Rule" #2: Wear a modesty panel behind your corset's laces
I think I'm a bit unusual in my disdain for modesty panels, to be fair. I find the bulk of the extra fabric and boning to be distracting and downright uncomfortable. Since I primarily wear underbusts, my skin is always covered by another layer of clothing anyway. If you have particularly sensitive skin, however, a modesty panel is super helpful in protecting your skin from chafing as you lace down, AKA lacing burn.

Pop Antique "Vamp" corset | Victoria Dagger | © John Carey

Pop Antique "Vamp" corset | Victoria Dagger | © John Carey

"Rule" #3: Break in your new corsets in a careful regimen
This seems to be the big one; many of the more successful online corset communities swear by and speak incessantly of "seasoning" new corsets, usually with what's called the "2-2-2 method." I have actually never tried to break in a corset with any such specific plan; I tend to go by the more organic "wear it as often as is practical, as tight as is comfortable, for as long as you like." Breaking in a corset is a two-way street; your body is also adjusting to the new corset while the corset molds around your body. Since my personal corsets are constructed in a way that softly grazes the body, using flexible spiral steels and minimal rib compression, I think they tend to require less breaking in time. So the amount of breaking in required for any given corset can vary, and sometimes it's more effective to season a corset at a larger waist reduction than 2" (if it is shaped for one) to avoid creating pressure points and chafing where the ribs and hips aren't flush with the body. I am looking forward to trying the 2-2-2 method as a scientific experiment, which of course I shall write up here.

From a practical standpoint, have you heard the proverb, "The shoemaker's children go barefoot?" Most corsetieres are busy with client orders and/or a day job, so personal corsets are often made as a rush for a particular event. (Don't ask how many corsets I'm trying to squeeze out before next weekend's Oxford Conference of Corsetry!) We may even skimp on mockups while we wouldn't for a client corset. If a corset is finished the same day as, or even the week before, a big event, there's no time to carefully break it in.

Pop Antique t-shirt corset & vintage fur stole | Victoria Dagger | © John Carey

Pop Antique t-shirt corset & vintage fur stole | Victoria Dagger | © John Carey

As ever, of course, it's important to know why rules and standards exist so you can decide if they apply to or work for you.  Don't get too concerned that you're not "doing it right."  (Unless you're trying to undo the busk without unlacing -- that one is never a good idea!) Whether waist training or only occasionally wearing a corset, do your research to avoid causing damage to either the corset or your body.

Which corset rules do you always follow, and which do you ignore?

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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.

Comment on this post

  1. Lucy says:

    I don’t sweat much either, so in the case of mesh corsets that I usually wear under clothing (and when I travel and forget to bring corset liners), I will occasionally forgo liners. But I much prefer the feel of a liner compared to the corset on my bare skin.
    Being in a privileged position to review different corsets on a regular basis, I appreciate the systematic approach to seasoning as I (at least attempt to) ensure that each corset is getting the same testing/treatment/wear. While some corsets break in faster than others, if any corset breaks *down* before the schedule is through, I take it as a sign of inferior quality/construction flaw.

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