Corsets 101 Part 6: Sizing

Before I did this series of posts, I posted this question on facebook and instagram:

Corsets FAQ

And I was surprised when about 90% of the responses were questions to do with sizing!  As well as kind of pleased – because that’s a subject I feel that I’ve really got a handle on!

My Story

I’ve been selling made to measure clothing online since 2006 – but it was in March of 2013 that I started specializing in corset costumes.  And as always, the first thing I did is put my proverbial mad scientist hat on – and I did a ton of experimentation!  I trolled facebook groups and volunteered to supply costumes to local collaborative photoshoots.  I took measurements for all the models, and made notes of which size they wore in my corsets.  And I did the same thing with friends and family – until I had a big database of measurements, along with the size that each person wore in my hourglass corsets.

And I used that data to come up with a sizing strategy for my corsets.  It’s very different from the way most other stores out there do it… but it works!  Here’s what I have learned.

Tip 1: Don’t size by waist.

Most stores recommend to size your corset according to your waist.  But very often, this won’t work.  The reason why is simple: Your waist squishes when you wear a corset, but your rib cage and hips can’t squish.  So the most important measurements to determine your size are actually bust (or underbust for an underbust corset) and high hips.

Tip 2: Don’t lace a corset closed

Corsets aren’t supposed to lace closed.  If you have purchased one that laces down to less than a 2” gap in the back, return that sucker and get a smaller size.  Part of what makes them work is some heavy duty steel boning beside the grommets in back.  And that boning should rest on top of the muscles on either side of your spine – and never too close to your spine.  A corset that laces too close together is bad for your back.

Note: I have read conflicting information to this statement – there are a lot of tightlacers who lace  their corsets closed.  I think that there may be exceptions to this rule when a corset is custom made to your form (with a mockup and a test fitting) that makes it possible to lace shut without back pain.  I can tell you – for me personally – If I lace a 26” corset (in any style, overbust or underbust, any shape, and any level of curve) all the way shut, I will experience back pain in 5-15 minutes time.  But it I don a 22 or a 24 in the same style, and lace it to a 4 inch or a 2 inch gap, I’m perfectly comfortable.

Tip 3: Underbust Corset Sizing

Are you tall, or long waisted?  If so, then yes, you can most likely wear an off-the-rack underbust corset.  If you are short waisted, well endowed, or any number of things that could mean you have a short torso (particularly a short waist-to-underbust measurement) then underbust corsets very often won’t fit you!  I’ve bought several from my wholesalers, and although I am average height, I’ve found that I need a shorter corset.  A “Waspie” is a term used to describe a very short underbust corset.  If you find that standard underbust corsets are too tall for you, try searching for a waspie.

Tip 4: Lacing Cheats

Corsets are made to have average bust-to-hip ratio – but if you have a bigger bust, or bigger hips, it’s okay to lace your corset in either of these ways to get it to fit:

…But!  After you lace up the corset like this, feel the flat steel bones by the grommets, and make sure they are flat.  If they are trying to twist on you, that means your corset does not fit – and you need one that is customized to your natural shape.

Tip 5: Wear a bra

Yes, it’s perfectly okay to wear a bra underneath your corset.  In fact, if your cup size is below C, I recommend wearing a push up bra beneath your corset.  But you’ll need a very specific style of bra to get it not to show.  You want a half cup or Demi cup bra – as shown in my sketch below. If your bra has non-removable straps, tuck them inside the corset before lacing down all the way.

If your cup size is DDD or above, you probably can’t wear a bra underneath your corset.  No worries, however, a real steel boned corset provides amazing support (much better than your best fitting bra!)  If you aren’t wearing a bra underneath your corset, lace up partially, then reach down the front and scoop – make sure both ladies are exactly where they are supposed to be!  This will help your corset lace down better, and your chest fill the corset’s chest area better.

Those are my best tips for how to get a corset to fit you perfectly.  Next week, I’m going to talk about how to be comfortable (yes you can be comfortable) while wearing a corset.