Sunday, July 24, 2016

Why Corsets?

Before I began wearing corsets, they were a complete mystery to me. Sturdy, pragmatic undergarments of antiquity, now romanticized as intimate apparel. I couldn't understand how a person could put one on by themselves. And yet, people did.

When I asked at lingerie shops, they actually didn't always know the answer. The first shop I asked, the salesperson said she didn't know, but that she had one client, an older cowgirl, who loved them and could lace them up herself. The next shop I asked at, I was actually buying my first one, a Frederick's Dream Corset in white. It was acrylic boned and purely for looks, not functionality. And the sales clerk cautioned me never to untie it once we had it where it was good. This was actually not correct advice. It's fine to untie the corset and to loosen/tighten with every re-use.

Slowly I began to learn more about them. There are countless styles with countless uses. People who use them for body shaping, sexy time, regular day wear, formal wear, you name it. I learned words like "modesty panel" and the difference between steel (flat or spiral?) and acrylic boning.

Because volumes could be written and years spent blogging about the various aspects of corsets, I'm going to devote this post to those interested in starting out with corsets for sexy time appeal. Be warned, though, once you start, it's easy to get hooked, and a person could easily go through hundreds of dollars just to start a beginner's collection with a handful of colors and styles. At this point I've purchased about a dozen true corsets. This is not counting "Merry Widows" or corselets that I own. A corselet is usually made of lighter material, and can be flexible. It may or may not lace up in the back, but usually it will have one closure which will use a hook-and-eye style line of fasteners. Here are two of my Merry Widows. One laces in back (the teal one that's closed), the other uses hook-and-eye style fasteners (the white and blue one that's open). If I were to place a hand under the fabric of either of these pieces, you would still be able to see my hand--they are thin lace, comfortable, and easy to flex and move around in.

Corsets, on the other hand, are made of thick, sturdy material, that may seem more like heavy curtain or upholstery fabric. They aren't generally see-through, and they're intentionally thick to hold the "boning" and your shape under more stress than normal lingerie. Boning consists of thin strips of acrylic or steel that give the corset it's shape. It's the same shape you'll have once you put it on and lace it up. Above, you can see boning in the Merry Widow in white, running from top to bottom. However, boning in an actual corset is much sturdier.

Pictured here are two corsets laid flat and upright. The open ends would wrap around the front and be fastened. Note that they actually tie in the middle back. This is how they minimize the waist. Lacing a corset is very specific. It's laced from top to bottom, however there is a special type of lacing you use for just the loops that cover the narrowest part of your waist area. You don't criss-cross those like normal lacing. You create loops with them. Later, after the laces are tied at the bottom, you go back and pull the looped laces in order to get slack enough to tie the laces in the center.

Note above how the knot is in the middle of the corset. The two shown above were purchased as fashion corsets. That is, they usually come with acrylic, rather than steel bones, and they rarely come with a modesty panel. The top corset in this image has a modesty panel, the lower corset does not. A modesty panel is a panel of material that covers the center of the back of the corset, under the corset halves, so that you don't have a gap in the material visually. See how the laces in the blue sample have no material behind them. When you wear it--since a corset should have 2 inches of space between the two halves once closed and secured--this panel covers the gap in the back so that you don't show bare skin. Depending on your preferences, you may or may not want the panel. If you plan to wear the corset as part of an outfit outside the bedroom, the panel is recommended for a more finished and refined look.

Usually a corset with a modesty panel also features steel boning, which is preferable to acrylic, but also generally more costly. And corsets with panels and steel boning are more likely to come with actual corset lacing, and not ribbon lacing. Ribbon lacing will not last. And you have the option to buy corset lacing--which you may have to order online--or, you can go out and find a shop that sells long (72-inch) boot laces. The boot lacing is a work-around if you don't mind breaking with corset protocol and just want something better than ribbon holding your piece together. You would start one pair of laces at the top, and one at the bottom so that the open ends meet in the middle (instead of the special loop lacing) where you'd then pull them all together to form the tie/knot at the waist loops. So, begin lacing from the bottom up to the middle, and from the top down to the middle. I will likely do another post at some point to demonstrate, because most fashion corsets come with ribbon, which simply isn't going to last. And if you're just looking for something that looks hot in the bedroom, this makeshift fix will do the trick.

I personally have learned to love them. Putting them on by myself is a challenge, I won't lie. I usually loosen the lacing and fasten the front and then redo the lacing, but it can still be a chore. What I find works best for me is to bring my sexy wear to my date night and get dressed in front of my partner. It can be very erotic to be pulling up stockings, and putting on heels and a choker for him. My movements are often exaggerated to accentuate aspects he finds most attractive. Then when I get to the corset, I put it on loosely, and he tightens the laces for me, usually as tight as he can get it.

Visually, the results are amazing, and for people who do waist training, even dramatic. In fact, there is some debate about potential health risks of extreme training. But if you're just using a corset for sexy time, it's good to still be cautious, because you can actually tighten it to the point you have difficulty breathing. Additionally be prepared for your movements to be restricted. I learned almost immediately that driving a car in a corset requires some skill. And simple maneuvers in bed are suddenly unavailable. I've found I often need to communicate with my partner to help adjust my position sometimes. But I think it adds to the fun and intimacy if the dynamic is good. And a final warning about lacing tightly: You can actually ruin the shape of the piece if you go too tight and bend the boning. I don't wear mine for very long or very frequently, but the more you wear it and the longer you wear it, the more you want to avoid potentially damaging your piece.

In the end, if you think you might like to try a corset, a good vendor I've used is Corset Story online. They have a sale page that lets you select the lowest pricing. I've actually purchased from them for as little as $8 when they're clearing out their stock. But that's becoming more rare these days. Still, their pricing isn't bad. And their size chart is actually pretty reliable as well--which is a huge concern of mine. I do support one of my city's local lingerie shops, but there's no way I could afford to purchase a dozen corsets from a local boutique. Pricing online simply makes them more affordable. Once you find your size at Corset Story, the upshot is that you can always use that size to order later as well, because their sizing is standard. You can buy all your corsets at different online storefronts, but they will all size a bit differently, and not necessarily consistently even at the same shop. At Corset Story I run between their size 6 and 8. But those same corsets from other vendors will be listed using another seller's sizing. I'm sure Corset Story isn't the only outlet to offer this advantage, they just happen to be a shop I have had good experiences with and feel comfortable recommending. I can't be sure I'm ordering the same size elsewhere, even for the same corset. For me, this is an important issue, because I don't like exchanging online purchases. I have done it, and have had good results from vendors generally, but I still prefer to know when I buy a size 6, what that means.

21-Aug-2016 - Update note about Corset Story: Since writing this post I have seen some die hard corset fans denouncing the quality of the CS corsets. I defer to their more experienced opinions. Since I do not wear corsets as regular wear or engage in waist training, I cannot recommend anything for those purposes. I wear them purely for sexy time, and for that these are just fine. But if the reactions online are to be heeded, CS corsets may not suit your needs if you're looking for something more than that. I can't say and don't presume to know.

You'll also want to look into cleaning, care and storage of your corsets. But again, that's another set of blog posts. My advice? Don't get it dirty!

So, why would I go to all this trouble for a piece of lingerie? Why do I love my corsets so much? Because they give me a perfect figure every time. Here are a few pics of me in my corsets. Compare to the pic of me used in the wax play post, and you'll see what I mean.

- MK

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