I first discovered corsets when I worked at Skin Two Clothing in 1995. I loved the way they immediately changed the figure and emphasized the waist. Today I wear a corset nearly every day and love the accentuated shape it gives me.
Purchasing your first corset is a big step and you need to take some time to research and decide what corset is best for you. This guide will hopefully answer most of your questions.
I developed the first corset line for What Katie Did in 2004, and over the years, have built up a range of designs to suit a variety of different body shapes.
Over the years we have tried to make fully bespoke (custom) corsets but have now reached the conclusion that there are just too many margins for error working with a factory that is not on site, and from measurements that aren't taken in person. From trialling bespoke corsets over the years, I've discovered that the custom fit is little better than our standard corset fit - and of course with one of our standard corsets you can return if you decide you don't like it. This is why we have far more shapes of corset than other corset manufacturers, ideally you should be able to find a corset that suits your body shape, and if you have already started corset training, a curvier corset that will take you to the next stage.
Our Corsets are sized by 'reduced waist size'. This means the size of the corset when fully closed. For example, a size 24" corset will measure 24" when fully closed. To determine your corset size you need to measure your waist ('1') firmly and deduct a number of inches. Please note that your jean size is not your waist measurement! You need to measure the narrowest part of your torso which is a lot higher up. The amount of inches you take off will depend on a variety of factors, including the corset style, but is generally between 3 and 5 inches (precise details are included for by corset style).
Please be aware that you need to check your measurements before ordering. For our Underbust Corsets we supply both the vertical lengths (waist to top '4', and waist to bottom '5') and circumference (around the rib '3' and hip '2'). Please compare your measurements to ours to determine which corset will be right for your figure type.
Note: Your underbust and hip measurements are nearly as important as your waist measurement when it comes to corsets. It is vital that you take these into account when choosing a corset. As some of our corsets finish below your underbust and above your hip we tell you exactly where the measurement should be taken (ie, 4" up from your waist). Finally, be aware that the top and bottom corset measurement we provide are for the corset being entirely closed at the back. It is pretty standard to aim for a gap of 2".
Our corsets come in reduced waist sizes 18" to 34" which roughly equals UK dress sizes 8-19, US dress sizes 4 to 14.
If you are a UK dress size 8 (US 8) you will have less body fat than if you are a UK dress size 18 (US 14), so it will be harder for you to immediately get a dramatic corseted shape. We recommend you stick with the sizing recommendations for each of our corsets, which can be seen by clicking the sizing tab at the top of each product description.
If you are a UK dress size 12-14 (US 8-10) you should be able to get a great corseted shape, without too much effort and without worrying too much about flub at the top and bottom of the corset. Again, you need to go by our sizing recommendations. The only thing that might cause you difficultly is if you are very athletic and have a high muscle to fat ratio. Then, like your more slender friends, you will find it harder to waist train as muscle is far less squishy than fat.
If you are a UK dress size 16 (US 12) or above, then you're in luck as fat is squishy and you'll be able to quickly tight lace yourself to create hourglass curves. You might want to go for a size smaller than stated as it's common for curvier girls to be able to reduce their waist by 6 or even 7 inches with one of our curvier corsets! However, please check the rib and hip measurements of our corsets before doing this as if they are too small for you, they will result in what can only be called, rather unglamorously, flub.
(Of course, there are a lot more than 3, but let's try and keep things relatively simple.)
Hip ratio of less than 9" (ie, 26" waist, less than 35" hip).
Over the last 20 years the modern figure has taken over from the hourglass and pear. The modern figure can be found on both slender and curvy girls.
If you have a straight up and down figure then you need to go for the gentle curves of our Zita Corset as it fits closely to the hips and ribcage while neatly nipping in your waist.
Hip ratio than 10-12" (ie, 26" waist, 36-38" hip) with bust in proportion: the classic pin up 36-26-36
The Hourglass Figure was the commonest figure in the 1950s, and as our designs are inspired by the 1950s it's the figure type we specialise in, with the exception of Zita all of our corsets suit and hourglass figure.
Hip ratio over 12" (ie, 26" waist, 39+" hip) with bust small in proportion
The Pear Figure is quite a common figure type in the UK, with a small bust and defined waist in relation to the hips. The British Pear was around well before Kim Kardashian!
If you are looking for a waist training corset then you need to be looking at an underbust corset. Underbust corsets start just beneath the bust and finish at various points on the hip, so only cinch your mid-section. Generally it's far easier to get a dramatic hourglass shape with an underbust corset, plus they're easier to stealth under clothing, and allow your body to move more freely. While we don't recommend our corsets for 23/7 waist training, they are suitable for day training, where you wear your corset for between 8 and 12 hours a day.
Congratulations! Now you can close your corset and wear it closed, comfortably, all day you need to decide what to do next. Are you happy with the shape your corset gives you? If so, you've reached your goal! If not, then you need to start thinking about your next, smaller, corset.
But, hold on a minute. Say you've been wearing our Morticia Nouveau in a size 26", it's now fully closed and fits your curves perfectly. Common sense would lead you to think you now need the same corset in a 24" - but this is wrong as although the new corset will be 2" smaller on your waist, it will also be 2" smaller around your ribcage and hips which will make it too small at the top and bottom. In this case you need to go for one of our curvier Corsets which have more room in the ribcage and hip area. The obvious choice would be too choose our Extreme Morticia Nouveau in a size 24", as this corset has the ribcage and hip measurement of our Morticia Nouveauin a 26" but has an extra 2" skimmed from the waist.
Do I Need a Custom Corset?
You will need to look at investing in a custom corset if:
1. Your measurements do not match those of ready to wear corsets
2. You have been waist training for a while and now find that 'ready to wear' corsets don't offer the measurements you require
3. If you have been day training for a while and now plan to wear your corset for more than 16 hours per day
4. You have any medical condition that may be affected by wearing a ready to wear corset (ie, asymmetric hipbones)
When you receive your corset, you’ll find the strings are tied in a knot. Undo the knot carefully, then work the two sides apart (do not unlace your corset!) You’ll need a gap of several inches at the back.
Once you’ve loosened it up enough, undo the busk at the front. Put the corset on like a belt. All What Katie Did corsets all have a modesty panel at the back.
At this stage you should have a gap of several inches at the back of your corset.
Fasten the busk at the front. You can start at the top or the bottom - whichever is easiest for you.
Take a moment to ensure that the busk is completely fastened, as it's not uncommon to find you’ve missed one hook!
Please note that as this is your first time you are not trying to close the corset. You need to check for size, before ‘seasoning’ (see below).
Pull gently but firmly on the centre strings (or bunny ears). If you are wearing a narrow underbust corset this might be all you have to do!
If, however, you’re wearing a longer corset, pulling the bunny ears will only tighten the centre of the corset. So, keeping the strings taught, hook your thumb under the looser strings towards the top, allowing the taut centre strings in your other hand to pull up the slack.
Repeat on the bottom half, and keep going until you’ve tightened the corset to a comfortable fit.
You're nearly there.
Now all you have to do is tie the strings in a bow at the back. If you aren't sure about having a 'tail' then you can either tuck the excess lacing under the corset for a smooth finish, or finish with a double bow instead.
The first time you try your corset on, it shouldn't close completely: if it does, it means it is too big for you. Your new corset might feel a little stiff, but should be comfortable and should fit well. While a corset will soften and mold to your curves after time (often called 'seasoning' or 'breaking in'), it will not completely change shape! While the top and bottom of the corset will pull in a little as you tighten the corset this is a slow process and you shouldn't have a lot of space at the rib and hip. You need to check at this early stage that the fit is good for you. You really should not have a gap at the back of more than 4 inches, even at the beginning, as waist training is a long and slow process.
Some corset companies insist on 'seasoning' saying that stitches can break if a period of seasoning is not observed. We would see stitches breaking as a manufacturing issue and is not an issue with seasoning.
Always loosen the laces before undoing the busk. You can damage the busk of your corset if you try to take it off without loosening the laces. Tip: Never be tempted to tie the corset laces around your waist as this will cause a lot of wear and tear on the outer fabric of your corset and can damage the internal boning.
1. Wear a liner. If you plan to wear your corset frequently then you can prolong it’s life by wearing a corset liner. We advise wearing a close fitting stretch cotton camisole with little spaghetti straps that can be tucked inside the corset or snipped off if required. We don't sell corset liners as cotton camisoles are so cheap and easy to pick up.
2. Hang up to air over the back of a chair or draped over a clothes hanger. Always air your corset before storing.
3. Although we advise professional dry cleaning it is possible to sponge clean (check lighter colours as this might result in water marks). If you air your corset and use a corset liner then you should be able to go a long time without full cleaning.
What Katie Did corsets are designed for people who want to wears a corset for an evening out once a month, right up to someone who wears one on a daily basis day. They are ideal if you want to start day corset training. If you are looking to train for over 16 hours per day, up to 23/7 you will need a made to measure corset, preferably fitted in person, by a very experienced corsetier. With 25 years experience in corsets, I do not recommend any OTR (off the rail, ready to wear) corset, by any company, for waist training over 16 hours per day.
Beginner's Guide: The 'Dita Von Teese' Corset Shape
If you are looking at trying a corset for the first time, please remember that your current figure will effect the outcome. Whilst you might think that Dita Von Teese has the most famous trained waist in the world today in reality most of it is down to her fabulous genetics. While she waist trained at the beginning of her career, which no doubt helps considerably when she tight laces today, her naturally hourglass figure is ideal for corsets.
Dita is in the enviable position of having a classic hourglass figure with an unnaturally small waist. She also has access to the finest bespoke corsetiers in the world and if you look closely you'll see that the majority of the waist reduction is confined to a small section around her waist. This allows her waist to be clearly defined without undue pressure on her ribs enabling her to wear a corset with dramatic results, whilst not waist training on a daily basis.
To achieve similar results to Dita when wearing a steel boned corset you will need to have, what we call, a Vintage Figure: one where the waist is a good 10 inches (or more) smaller than the hips. Figures like this do exist but they are becoming less common. I have a friend who is lucky enough to have an extreme vintage figure: 19" waist, 35" hips. She wears a 17" corset daily which, although looks extreme, really isn't much of a reduction. If you have a more modern figure (with a waist less than 10 inches smaller than the hips) then it will be hard for you to gain such dramatic results, especially if you only want to wear a corset on the odd occasion. Harsh words I know.
That's my personal opinion anyway. Women in our boutiques are always seem thrilled at their corseted shape! Talking of which, always allow at least half an hour for a corset fitting as although you might have decided which corset you'd like in advance, a different style might be more suitable.
If you decide to wear a steel boned corset for an evening out it's really not going to have any effect on your torso, apart from giving you a delicious waistline of course!
With anything new it's always best to have a trial run and this is especially important when wearing a corset for the first time. Please 'practice' wearing it before your big event, wearing it at the reduction you'd like, for the amount of time you are likely to be wearing it. While it might have felt comfortable for the few minutes you initially tried it on for, it might start to become uncomfortable after a couple of hours.
By having a trial run, your body will have time to get used to the feel of being corseted and you'll know how tightly you can comfortably lace making amendments if necessary (for example, if you think you will become uncomfortable then don't lace your corset tightly until you arrive at the event - and remember you can always loosen the laces later in the evening as long as your dress allows it!)
If you would like to define your waistline a little then this is possible by wearing a corset on a regular daily basis. How long it will take to see a noticable difference depends on your body and how long you wear your corset for but you're probably looking at about 3 months. Please remember that all results are temporary.
When you first start waist training you really need to listen to your body. It is normal to lace tighter or looser from one day to the next, or to have to make adjustments throughout the day especially in the first few months. If you are sitting for a long period of time your corset might start to pinch, in which case it will help to walk around, stretch, and if required, loosen the corset a little. Wearing a corset should not be painful: if it is, your corset is too tight for that particular moment so please loosen it!
In an ideal world you should be wearing your corset for at least 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. Personally I take things easier at the weekends and only wear for a few hours, sometimes at a lighter reduction: wearing a corset for a couple of hours once or twice a week is not going to get you anywhere when it comes to waist training. Consistency is the key.
We recommend underbust corsets for waist training, as they restrict the torso less than overbust styles and allow for the movement needed for a modern lifestyle!
Read more about Katie's waist training journey here.
All corsets will put some pressure on the lower ribs and there are some rather extreme diagrams from the 19th century showing how the rib cage can be distorted. Whilst this is not a myth (modern day tight lacer Cathie Jung has been x-rayed in her corset and yes, her ribs are distorted) you have to tight lace seriously and over time for your lower ribs to be effected.
It is also worth remembering that the skeletal system is very adaptable. If you take a deep breath in and out you should feel your lower ribcage expand and contract. Wearing a corset will keep your lower ribs at the contracted level for the duration of time you're wearing the corset. You should be able to breath normally when wearing a corset as most of your lungs will be above corset level, and during normal activities we only use a small amount of our lung capacity.
Corsets support your back. If you have a back injury it is common to wear some kind of back brace or corset and quite a high number of corset wearers, wear a corset simply to support their back.
If you are waist training and wearing a corset on a daily basis you need to think about your core muscles in as long time wear, without exercise, can result in muscle atrophy. Please note that I'm talking long term daily wear, not once or twice a week! You will need to do regular exercise to keep your core and back muscles strong, this is non-negotiable if you want your body to stay strong and healthy.
A lot of gym routines are geared towards men and getting the perfect six pack and while it is important to have strong, flexible muscles, the last thing you want is to build muscle on your mid section - particularly your obliques at the side of your waist - as muscle is difficult to shape. Yoga and pilates are particularly popular with waist trainers as they result in strength and flexibility, not bulk.
If you do not have a gym/yoga/pilates instructor and are considering body modification (which is what regular corset training is) then you should think seriously about finding one.
To achieve the most dramatic result takes time and discipline. We're talking wearing a corset 23 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the dedication required to attain a waistline like that of Mr Pearl and Cathie Jung (both present day tight lacers, although Mr Pearl no longer trains). Serious corset training is not to be taken lightly and OTR (off the rail, ready to wear) corsets by any brand are most definitely not suitable for 23/7 training.
If you are even considering serious waist training you need to seek out others who have tight laced and read about their experiences. A made to measure corset is a must for 23/7 waist training. Do not even consider using an 'off the peg' corset for 23/7 waist training as you need one tailored to your exact measurements made by someone who is experienced in working with serious body modification.
Celebrities are currently in a waist training frenzy. They're 'waist training' by wearing fajas (renamed waist trainers) while working out, sleeping or during the day. Fajas were originally designed to be worn after pregnancy to gently compress and support the torso and coax everything back into place. It has been common in many cultures, for hundreds of years, to bind the torso after pregnancy and fajas are useful in this case.
However, fajas put an equal amount of pressure on the whole torso, so they will not help attain a defined waist. Any weight lost will be temporary water weight (I'm old enough to remember 'sauna suits' in the 1980s and really can't believe that we haven't moved on very much since then). Many faja manufactures make wild promises 'lose 2" in 2 weeks!' - if you wear a faja while working out, or overnight and then measure yourself straight after using it you might (unlikely but might...) find you've lost an inch or two, but in a matter of minutes your body will return to normal.
Even if you waist train for several months, daily, in a steel boned corset designed to cinch the waist, the results will be temporary - we're talking hours, days or weeks depending on your body and how long you've been training for.
As always, if something seems to good to be true, it normally is. Just don't!
Thanks to the internet we now have more corset information at our fingertips than ever before.
Check out Lucy's Corsetry for reviews and indepth corset and waist training information. Lucy is also the author of corset book SoLaced (link on her site) which we highly recommend reading as it has so many interesting real life stories from people who wear corsets.
Find out more about Dita Von Teese and her love of corsets in her book: Burlesque and the Art of the Teese / Fetish and the Art of the Teese which is packed with fabulous pictures and advice.
For more serious reading check out The Corset: A Cultural History by Valerie Steele. There might not be as many pretty pictures as in Dita's book, but you'll find out everything you ever wanted to know about corsets.