V362: Corset Training – Week 1 Report

It’s been a week of daily corset wearing, and it’s time to report on all my findings!  Here goes…

Simplicity 9769 Is Not Your Friend
I started the week with a cheap eBay corset I bought for $15, but by day 2 I had sliced open the sidse and added two triangular gores to flare the hips, making the corset a bajillion times more comfortable.  Why?

Cheap eBay corset with added hip gores at the side, allowing that additional flare over the hips

When you squeeze your waist, that volume has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is down.  I found that rather huge hip flares are necessary, even when reducing a little, to keep the corset from cutting into the hips, and to easily and comfortably displace the waist.

This brings me to Simplicity 9769, and really ANY modern-made commercial corset pattern (with few exceptions).


After a few days of wearing my cheap eBay corset + hip gores, I put on my ole pink n’ black standby, a corset I made years ago, using Simplicity 9769.  I intended to wear this mid-bust to an upcoming event, so I tried it on with the dress bodice, and quickly discovered how HORRIBLY UNCOMFORTABLE it had suddenly become.  I’ve been wearing this corset for years – what changed?

My willingness to be in pain.  That is, in all the years I wore this Simplicity corset, I unconsciously allowed myself to be in pain the whole day in costume, but after wearing a corset all day for just a couple days, suddenly I was quite unwilling to go there, especially after achieving the same results in a far more comfortable way with just a cheap eBay underbust.

What is missing from the modern commercial corset patterns is shaping.  If you want to reduce your waist even a little bit, you need some mega hip gores.  I don’t mean just a gentle flare over the hips – I mean, like, these:

Symington  Corset, 1875

So that was the end of my pink n’ black Simplicity corset.  Luckily I had Chrissy’s mid-bust corset pattern, complete with nice hip flare, so I ripped the busk out of my old one, and set to work putting together this new one:

I didn’t do a particularly good job, but it fits much better, and currently reduces comfortably down to 26.5 inches, with the capability of going to 24.5 inches.

*When you are looking for a corset pattern, look for one with hip gores, such as these: Ageless Patterns, Past Patterns, even Simplicity 2890.  Cut the hip gores the largest size you can, even larger than you think you will need – you will be surprised how quickly they fill out.

This week I wore the corset about 7+ hours per day, lacing it the tightest in the morning, and letting it out throughout the day, especially after meals.

I have eaten less in general, and my random, rampant snacking has gone down considerably.  I did eat a 1 lb. Qdoba burrito in a corset, but in general it’s not a good idea to ingest big, heavy, salty, bean-filled food, or carbonated drinks.

I have had no trouble breathing, have been able to bend to tie my shoes, and even put air in my tires at the gas station.  Driving a car was no problem at all – I just needed to straighten my seat up.

Stand up straight! via

I am always aware of the corset being there, but I am just as aware of it being off, and not in a “relief” sort of way.  While wearing the corset, my posture is much improved, to be expected, but what wasn’t expected is that when I take it off, I continue to hold myself upright instead of immediately slouching down into my “normal” super-slumpy position.  Just by standing more upright, my waist un-corseted looks a helluva lot slimmer, even at the same girth it was prior to beginning this experiment.

At the end of week one I am far more used to how the corset feels than when I started, even if I am still aware of its presence.  However, I recall what it was like when I started wearing a bra, or certain types of undies – holy moly, get these things off of me!!  Yet over time, and in getting bras and undies that actually fit and are made in a way that is comfortable for me (I prefer underwires, for instance, and find soft-cup bras extremely uncomfortable), I got used to these underpinnings, and now feel rather exposed when not wearing them.

The back lacing on my new corset – my bust is small, but my rib cage need more room. 

I expect the same will happen with the corset, assuming it fits as it should.  Already I want to make other styles to see how they fit and feel, and to find the right one for me.  I’ve learned that I need large hip gores and spiral steel bones, I’m small in the bust, but I need more room in the rib cage, and that when I get all of these things right, reducing comfortably and easily to 25 inches will be no big deal at all.


  • Sassy Countess

    January 28, 2013 at 9:10 PM

    This is interesting because I have problems with corsets. I am large busted and large ribcage, yet have a relatively small waist. The pre-made corsets are about five inches apart at the ribcage, yet overlapping in the waist. I've never made a corset, and am quite afraid of undertaking that!

    • Lydia Price

      February 7, 2013 at 6:55 PM

      Making corsets is actually quite easy. The hard part is cutting out all of the tedious little pieces. You are pretty much sewing straight lines the whole time. They are intimidating but after I did my senior research project in college I had to make 13 of them! All different styles and shapes. Just make sure you label all of your pieces properly so you don't sew any upside down!

  • Mojuko

    January 28, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    Wonderful insights.
    I do believe that gores are not the only way to provide proper flair in the hip. I use Past Patterns #213 corset as a base draft for many of my corsets, and have always corrected the hip to measure at my natural shape without reduction, the problem is that the Simplicity corset, which I believe to be loosely based on the same pattern, doesn't explain this.
    I have never intentionally corset trained, however, my performance schedule will have me in a corset as often as 5 times a week for up to 10 hrs a day…the end results have been similar. my waist is 10 inches smaller then my hips/bust out of a corset and without effort I can reduce 4-5 inches in a corset.
    On a side note, it is important to remember the curve created by a corset is also created by an illusion…the natural shape of the waist (if we were cut in half) is oval, flatter in the front and back, wider side to side. When we put a corset on, long before we reduce our inches, we employ even pressure causing this oval to go round. The same inches round will appear smaller from front to back, causing an illusion of reduction. Hope that made some sense, it is a bit hard to explain.

    • Lauren Stowell

      January 28, 2013 at 9:36 PM

      You're right – gores are not the only method. A large flare in the seams is just as evident in the period examples, and is easier to construct. Chrissy's pattern that I am currently wearing (the new brocade corset in this post) has large hip flares in the seams.

    • Lauren Stowell

      January 28, 2013 at 9:37 PM

      I shortened the front to fit the busk I had, so it doesn't have that nice graceful line like yours…oh, and it's not made by an expert, from perfect materials, lol. I'm SO thankful for your pattern, I can't even tell you. I've learned SO much from putting it together, already!

    • The Laced Angel

      January 29, 2013 at 6:35 PM

      It's probably better with the shorter front for you, since I think I'm even more longwaisted than you and the front would probably poke when you sat down! You did a fabulous job and should be proud. Any time you want to work on corsets together, come on down 🙂

  • Unknown

    January 28, 2013 at 9:24 PM

    I would like to recommend PeriodCorsets.com to all of you. You can check them out on FB. They have many periods, many sizes, and they also have sales! And they even have a clearance section,which is a great place to get lucky, if they happen to have your size. I use them all the time for period shows. They are VERY well-made corsets. They always have a booth at the USITT convention where you can get fitted and try on different period styles.
    I'm a professional costume designer, and a well-fitted corset is a thing of wonder. A corset that doesn't fit serves no one well. If you do sew well enough to make your own and have someone to fit you, then go for it. But if you don't, it can be a lot of work for a lot of heartache. Happy lacing to all.

  • Los Gatos Girl

    January 28, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    I have two corsets from CorsetConnection.com and they're really wonderful…but I can't stay in them long. I like your comment about how you like underwire and therefore, the corsets give you that cozy hug feeling. I went braless for years & can only stand soft with no underwire…maybe that's why I never succeed at corset training.

  • Lauren Stowell

    January 28, 2013 at 10:32 PM

    On behalf of my mother, she writes:

    wanted to post warning about Butterick B4254 corset – the short one with no bust cups that was my favorite. It's too short with no gussets at the sides and was really digging into my hips day before yesterday. coincidence?
    unsightly bulge, too. good think you made me the lovely long line Edwardian

  • chemspin

    January 28, 2013 at 11:22 PM

    I made the Laughing Moon #100 Dore Victorian corset several years ago. I would highly recommend it and their instructional DVD on fitting. They have a lovely range of sizes and help with altering the patterns so your hips have room. I actually made the top of my corset one size smaller than the bottom. I would also second the comment that having someone help you fit your corset is helpful.

  • Caroline

    January 29, 2013 at 12:04 AM

    Those are interesting things you have noticed. I have a corset made from the simplicity pattern, which I like, but as with all "off the rack" patterns I have used, I altered it quite a bit until it fit properly.

    I agree with the huggy snugness of corsets, much like wearing a nice fitting bra. When I've been pattern fitting or whatever and have been wearing my corset for hours and sometimes all day, when I take it off I feel kinda loose and blah and floppy.

    And definitely metal bones! Plastic bones hurt like crazy!

  • Kiyotea

    January 29, 2013 at 12:27 AM

    All of these things, they make sene!
    I have one corset, made up from the Laughing moon siverado pattern.
    It's not the best ('twas my first) but it's confortable enough.
    The only thing is, that I made it in my given size, but it runs large, so my hips and bust area close almost completely in the back. I intend, in the next year or so, to make two newer ones for daywear and evening.
    I'll need to remember to add in some nice hip gores, and should I be able to, I'm hoping to make them pretty, with a fashion fabric in silk.
    Oh, and I need to invest in some better fake boobs.

  • Thread-Head

    January 29, 2013 at 4:07 AM

    I am so jazzed that you are doing this. I occasionally wear an under-bust corset under my clothing, especially on days that my lower back hurts. Sometimes I do it in anticipation of a costumed event to build tolerance. I've always been interested in the idea of gentle waist reduction and your experiment is giving me all kinds of inspiration! If you are inclined to buy another "off the rack" corset, try OrchardCorset.com. They have sales and coupons too (though not very often) and everything I've ever ordered has been well made.

  • Sanna K

    January 29, 2013 at 4:33 AM

    I've heard that you can actually loose weight more easily during waist training because you can't eat so much and that's why your body might actually change even during a short period of waist training. I bet you have probably noticed that if you eat too much, you'll feel terrible afterwards because of the corset. To me, this seems like a pretty easy way of loosing a little weight.

    Ps. I totally hate how straight some commercial corset patterns can be thesedays…

    • Lauren Stowell

      February 4, 2013 at 11:27 PM

      Yes, absolutely. You definitely eat less, feel less hungry less often. For ladies looking to diet, this would be a good way to do it.

  • Sanna K

    January 29, 2013 at 7:08 AM

    Oh, and by the way! It seems you never realize how uncomfortable your earlier corset was before you wear a corset that fits you perfectly. My first 18th century stays were too long so they pushed my waist down but I didn't realize it was uncomfortable until I made a new pair of stays with a higher waist level.

  • Unknown

    January 29, 2013 at 8:02 AM

    The more I am reading about your corset training the more I believe I actually want to do it. I have to ask though, where do you get your steel bones? I can't find any where I live, all they have is featherlight plastic.

    • Lauren Stowell

      February 4, 2013 at 11:26 PM

      I've never tried the WKD corsets. I'm big into making my own, but if anyone is looking for a ready-to-wear, I would recommend WKD as well, for general craftsmanship and quality

  • Jeni B

    January 29, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    I have been following this with interest as I am a costumier who has also been researching the corset and the perfect fit for many years. I have made corsets to go with almost all of my costumes, so from all different eras, and I have to say I find the late Victorian style most comfortable. I draft a new pattern for each one based on my exact measurements and also taught the method in workshops and the formula works for everyone and every shape. The only difference is usually the construction method required to give support where needed. I also agree that hip flare is equally as effective as hip gores, and easier to construct too.
    I did my dissertation for my degree on corsets and the mass production, innovations, medical myths and facts circulated at the end of the 19th Century, which unfortunately have remained in the minds of most people. It is good to see however that most of the comments left here are from those of us who know better. Bit by bit we will educate the world, and you are doing a great job here, keep it up!
    Love your work!

    • Lauren Stowell

      February 4, 2013 at 11:22 PM

      I'm very happy to see that the comments are overall positive, too. I know there are those who disagree, but they're not commenting here. At the very least, I'm glad people are talking about it!

  • Rose

    January 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    Great update! I have found that the Simplicity corset patterns are not great overall. I recently worked on a waist cincher corset and the pattern was downright awful. Major sizing issues and the whole concept of the flare over the waist lost making waist reduction more difficult.

    • Lauren Stowell

      February 4, 2013 at 11:21 PM

      I totally agree! I think with plenty of alteration it can work – it is based on period examples – but just straight out of the envelope, nooooo…

  • Lizzy

    October 28, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    I have just recently found your blog and have to say you have inspired me to make a few new costumes. It has been far too long.

    I tried corset training about 12 yrs ago.I lasted 6months,through the season. I don't remember the pattern maker (one of the historical ones) I made a quicky for training and a "pretty" one for my Victorian costumes.
    This has brought back great memories of all the fun my husband and I had in our day.

    So it's Halloween. I decide to get out the a few of my dresses and to my surprise, I couldn't close them. "What"?? I say. I'm thinner than I was 15 yrs ago, what happened? One thing, I'm wearing a back brace more often at work,which pushes the chub up. OK, I'll try a little corset training I tell myself. Well I made it one night.
    Since I'm not currently in the costume wearing scene, there is no need to put my body through this.

    Has anyone used a Duct Tape Dummy to drape their corset patterns on? I wish I had.

    I never did. I used a straight pattern. My ribcage and waist is so caddywhompus my busk is 1" 1/2 to the right boob and the bottom ,just the opposite.

    Thank you ,so much for the time to share with us!


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