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DIARY EXTRACT: (My 2006 Diary with my thoughts on fashion, weddings & other related topics can be accessed from my Biography page)

13 May 2006 ~

Subject: Victorian Corsets & tightlacing.


I was talking to a bridal designer friend of mine on the phone today & we got on to the subject of Dita Von Teese’s book & then corsets & tightlacing.


I was telling her that recently I’d read Dita’s comments in her book on her tightlacing & a piece about the ‘waist’ in this months Vogue that used Dita as it’s source.


Of tightlacing, Dita says in her book:


“I love the challenge of tightlacing. I love the extreme feminine curves that result, the sense of discipline I have in wearing it. Best of all I like taking it off. Sometimes I’ll get bruising from my corsets – I even have little tiny scars on my back from the laces – but it’s worth it. Like any good bondage, a tightlaced corset is not comfortable in the average person’s sense of the word, but it is exhilarating.”


Having seen how tiny in comparison to her hips, Dita’s waist can look bruising & scarring are hardly surprising but what was really shocking to me was that Dita only laces her waist in by 4” for stage shows. She will lace her waist in by 6” for photo shoots but I imagine a waist of 16” must be too restrictive to perform in. Dita is also quoted in Vogue as saying “corset experts say my waist is very pliable”.


In the 21st century I believe it’s only the serious tightlacers that are disiplined enough to train their waists & can expect to achieve dramatic waist reductions.


My friend (who is far more clued up about history than myself) added that Victorians used to start training their waists from when girls were just two.


When it comes to a Bride’s expectations of these types of corsets, I have always disapproved of the Victorian shape corsets being sold to brides promising miracle waist reductions of 8” or more. Having discovered that Dita only normally laces her waist down by 4 inches it only confirms my thoughts that for ordinary women to try & reduce their waists by more than a few inches with the aim of wearing them throughout their wedding day is unrealistic & unhealthy. One could compare it with running a marathon with no preparation. For the less firm, I can believe if a person has more fat, you can lace a little tighter but the trouble with over lacing fat is it tends to get bunched up somewhere else or spills out from the edge of the corset somewhere.


See this article from the New York Medical Journal 1887:

The multiple illustrations of the re-shaping of the body & displacement of organs are quite disturbing:
































This image does also explain why when I see images of women wearing tight victorian shape corsets in photographs with straight skirts, their bellies & hip area sometimes look drum like.



My advice to Brides:


Brides who will be in a corset all day (as apposed to wearing it for a hour’s photo shoot), should choose your corset according to the shape you like & have it fitted or laced so it is tight against your body & you feel held but it does not feel over tight. It is my advice that brides should not be tempted to tightlace if they are not used to it (unless you are very serious & can invest the hours of training nesersary - I personally am uncomfortable with this level of body modification). A good corset will create the illusion of a greater waist reduction & a Victorian one with promote the hour glass shape whilst an 18th century corset is more about the heaving bosom. I should also point  out (with reference to Dita's comments on tightlacing) that my laces don’t pass through eyelets & run next to the skin so they can’t draw blood & I won’t cut corsets so tight they’ll bruise the wearer. Tightlacing is a form of fetish & if a bride truly wants to physically loose 8” off her waist she will either have to start training her waist over a long enough period to achieve her goal or as close to her goal as her body will allow or take the healthy diet, exercise & toning option. As Dita says in Vogue “a corset is nice for making an instant hourglass figure, but is no substitute for exercise & eating well”. Vogue says that Dita also swims for an hour a day, 5 days a week & does Pilates.


I quote from the very informative website: (content by Theresa Overon who is definitly more of an expert on these styles than myself):

"Training into a corset for a special event, such as a wedding, should start several months before the event, so that when the dress is made, the proper size is available. Otherwise stay with a 2" reduction. With planning on the other hand, a 4" reduction is a reasonable goal and even further reduction can be achieved, provided sufficient time is allowed for." & "Over the past two years I have maintained an ongoing email exchange with a number of brides-to-be. Most of them achieved very comfortable 4" reductions and some achieved more, with only 3 months of training. Most succesful were those that kept the corset on for more than twelve hours per day ."


How I see the role of corsets in my bridal / eveningwear designs:


I specialise in corsets & of course recognise what an incredible addition they make to an outfit but it’s as much about the perfect cut & fit & a design that takes into account a client's complete body shape as it is body modification (I am not an advocate of extreme body modification).


Done well the cut should bring out the best of every part of you, hide or seek to control the worst & work in combination to create one complete head to toe illusion of a more beautiful you. As crazy as it sounds this is achievable, where as unless we are the Dita Von Teeses of this world the 8” + waist reduction is probably not & is definitely not worth the pain.


My corsets create a waist but are far more focused on the bust (which can be manipulated without training regimes & without inflicting pain or discomfort). When I have laced a bride into one of my corsets the waistband of the skirt (which was a comfortable fit when fastened) will have about 2" of slack at centre back by time the corset is laced - this is a comfortable fit for clients especially as there is sitting to consider because a) most of us don't enjoy the punishment of high heels for any length of time b) you may be called upon to sit or worse kneel in church / during the ceremony & c) you will want to sit down & eat your celebration meal.