Can I Wear a Corset? | The Lingerie Addict: Intimates & Lingerie Magazine
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Can I Wear a Corset?

There's an unfortunate misconception that corsets can only be worn by certain body types. Often when I am working an event (as opposed to in front of a sewing machine), I will hear the following sentence: "They won't have a corset that fits me, I'm too..." But let me be clear. Just as there's no such thing as a "bikini body," there's no requirement for any dimension or proportion for you to wear a corset.

Dark Garden "Corselette" | Model: Nicole Simone | Photo © Max Johnson

Dark Garden "Corselette" | Model: Nicole Simone | Photo © Max Johnson

Often, the concern is based on purely on size. "Too thin" and "too big" to wear a corset are both common concerns. Most corsetmakers, however, are very preoccupied with fit. To us, the far limits of the size spectrum may offer certain challenges, but addressing those fit needs and being accepting of different sizes, body types, and personal identities is part and parcel of being a corsetmaker.

The next, more specific complaint may be that one is either "too busty" or "too flat chested." One of my very first posts for The Lingerie Addict was actually about corsets for various body types. It is generally true that a different style of corset will suit a small bust than a large bust, particularly when looking at off the rack corsets. However, even if you can't find an overbust that works for you, an underbust corset should do the trick. An underbust corset will shape your waist and support your back while leaving you free to wear the bra of your choice, or go braless if that is your wont.

Pop Antique "Vixen" ribbon corset | Model: Nicole Simone | Photo © Chris Gaede

Pop Antique "Vixen" ribbon corset | Model: Nicole Simone | Photo © Chris Gaede

Similar to the above, it may also be posited that one is "too curvy" or "too boxy" for a corset. Here there are two easy options: explore other brands, or break away from standard fit. Just like jeans, shoes, or bras, each brand will have a different fit. This applies to the general proportion, posture, and fine-tuning of the shape. Every corsetmaker is different. Generally speaking, mass-manufactured corsets are less shapely than those that are handmade. However, even factory made brands are catching on to the need for shapelier corsets.

Even if you can't find a brand that works for your aesthetic taste as well as your proportion, you still have the option to have a fit personalized to your needs. When a corset is being handmade to order, it's fairly simple to simple have the proportions tweaked to match your measurements. This may mean adding to the hip spring, or relaxing the waist reduction, for example. It can also mean lengthening or shortening the vertical measurements --- so "too short" and "too tall" also don't apply.

Dark Garden "Sweetheart" corset | Model: Autumn Adamme | Photo © John Carey

Dark Garden "Sweetheart" corset | Model: Autumn Adamme | Photo © John Carey

The last common concern is age related --- usually, when someone thinks they are "too old" for a corset. I've had the pleasure of working with women of all ages. At Dark Garden, we once styled a photo event wherein one of our sessions was with three generations of women, including a grandma in fishnets. Another recent Dark Garden client is "embracing [her] inner cougar," and it wasn't that long ago that my genteel landlady (who is easily as old as my parents) commissioned a Pop Antique corset from me to support her posture and improve the hang of her clothing.

As for corseting as a minor, that's a much more complex subject. Some corsetmakers will only sell a corset to a minor with parental permission, others not at all. Some may opt to only create corsets with the mildest of waist reductions. It's generally not considered ethical practice to sell tightlacing corsets to minors for the same reasons other body modifications (such as tattoos and piercings) are refused without parental permission.

Dark Garden "Dita" underbust corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden "Dita" underbust corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Joel Aron

With all that said, it is possible that either your budget doesn't correspond with your needs in a corset, or you have have an underlying medical condition that prevents you from wearing one. (Conversely, for some conditions, corsets can be very medically supportive.) If, however, your uncertainty is based purely on the shape or size of your body, I encourage you to give it a shot, especially if it's within your corset budget to buy a custom corset.

Wearing corsets should be an empowering experience. More often than I hear the hesitancy, I hear that corsets put their wearer in touch with their body. Corsets offer control and connection with your body through an unique wearing experience that heightens body awareness, and with it, acceptance.

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.

3 Comments on this post

  1. Soma Carr says:

    I have read positive and negative comments about corsets for people with spine injuries. I need another opinion. Where did you get your information as far as it helping someone with back problems? I am worried it would push on my already compromised discs.

    • Dennis says:

      Soma Carr I would personally ask your doctor over viewing anything a person can say. especially since you said you have a compromised disc or two, this is one of those cases its best to be safe then sorry. Now as a male I find that the cinch belt that I have made for myself not only helps suck my gut in but it does actually help support my back a bit. But I do make these out of 100% real leather so I do not need to bone these as the leather is thick enough not to need the support of boning.

  2. Thursday says:

    Being relatively small-busted, corsetry initially felt off-putting because no off-the-rack would work for my shape, I thought. Then I tried and underbust – which got around the fit issue and allowed me to try a decent corset without paying for custom-made straight up. Having then had an overbust custom made for me, I find I prefer the look and feel of an underbust anyway…even just a few years down the track, it is much easier to find more affordable corset styles that will fit a wider variety of shapes. I think it can be a real “conversion factor” to be able to try a more affordable “almost” corset before committing to a full custom make.

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