I like to keep things simple. I have a lot of corset Q&A type stuff on here, but if you really want to do this, from start to finish, this is going to make more sense to you as a beginner than going through all those articles. Go pee first, this might take a while to read.
Prepare to corset. Learn everything you can, make sure you have no medical issues that will be aggravated by the corset, and turn at least 18, generally the legal age for body modification and so you know your skeleton is mostly done growing. Yes, mods can be done at an earlier age with parental consent, and this is not something you get done in a studio that requires you to sign a contract so who’s to stop you? My sense of responsibility, that’s what. I started at 20, and for me it was the perfect age. Young enough to be pliable, but old enough to be responsible and no longer really developing. As far as how old you can be? I won’t put a number on that, even Cathie Jung was about 45, but just make sure you’re healthy. As long as your body can handle it I don’t care if you’re old enough to have seen them the first time around. People enjoy things they remember.
Learning everything you can refers to, well, everything. Go nuts with this and have fun. Learn about how corsets are constructed, how they affect your body, how to wear corsets responsibly, all the different types of corsets out there, and just take the opportunity to appreciate some cultural and fashion history. Saving up for a proper corset takes time, and wearing one is something to be taken seriously, so you really shouldn’t jump into it right away, and you’ll need something to do while you save up anyway. For financial reasons I waited years before getting my first one, and read anything I could get my hands on in the meantime. If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford one right NOW, at least give yourself a good couple weeks of study in the most important parts, such as the physiological aspects, how to care for your body and your corset, and how to know you’re getting a proper one.
Select your corset. If you’re a lady I really recommend buying from a place like this, which is excellent. They’re especially affordable, and if you’re going to be tightlacing you don’t want to spend a ton of money on something you’ll only be wearing for a few months. All you really need is something sturdy that does its job and doesn’t hurt. These corsets have a lot more curve to them than Timeless Trends, too. These will also help you to get used to wearing a corset and prepare your body for the next step, if you decide to take it. I’ve worn many like this, and I give you my seal of approval.
As for design, get a black underbust if you have any intention of wearing it over your clothes. Something like this one to the left over here.
Corset from Aether Angels
If you don’t like black and/or you’ll only be wearing it under your clothes, consider something like this on the right.
Josephine Underbust by Isabella Corsetry
If you are a gentleman or biologically male, don’t wear a corset designed for a biologically female body. For off-the-rack corsets, check out Timeless Trends (link) and Dracula Clothing (link). Both have them for men wanting to maintain a masculine shape. It’s not much yet, but it’s a start!
The other option is to order one custom from a corsetiere who knows how to create corsets suited for male body types, whether you are trying to maintain a masculine or feminine physique. And you may want to let them know which one it is that you’re after, because getting it wrong would be pretty unfortunate. They should be able to do both. In particular I recommend Contour Corsets. They really know what they’re doing and used to have a separate site just for men called The Dandy Corset Company. That site doesn’t seem to be around anymore, but Contour Corsets still is.
Be patient. An off the rack corset can take a few weeks to arrive, custom can be easily over 2 months. Maybe you should study some more.
Make sure it’s properly laced. A corset should not be laced like a shoe. NOT be laced like a shoe, you hear me? Why do I keep seeing corsets laced like shoes! The laces should not cross between the panels but create a series of Xs completely over and completely under the panels. This lessens the friction and allows the panels to meet at the back when that’s finally ready to happen. Most corsets unfortunately will come improperly laced, and you should fix this. The very best way involves a tip where instead of creating your bunny ears from top to bottom, you cross them over and make them go from bottom to top before continuing down the back of the corset. This gives you more laces at the waist instead of a gap, which greatly helps keep the tension in the waist. Here’s a video, because I’m sure that reading that just didn’t make any sense.
It’s also helpful to take the very bottom of each end of the laces and cross it over to the grommet on the other side as the final step, so that they cross over each other. This also helps you to keep the tension.
Prepare your body. Go do your thing in the bathroom, it will get a bit tricky later and you don’t want anything bulking up your insides. Then moisturize well and put on a liner. In the beginning at least, a liner doesn’t have to be much more than a tank top. The best ones I’ve bought feel like a bathing suit. They’re super smooth and stretchy and awesome. Some people also buy bathing suit material and make their own. That’s not really necessary. Just tuck the straps of the tank top in or cut them off. But you need something. I always see girls with skin showing from behind their laces and I know they’re not wearing a liner, and that’s gross. You really can’t put a corset in the washing machine, so this is how you keep it clean. It also makes it slide along your skin much more comfortably. I can’t imagine not wearing a liner. A corset worn without one is pretty uncomfortable.
Prepare the corset. Undo the busk, and loosen the laces enough that it’s very easy to put around your body. Most people find doing up the busk to be very tricky and I get asked to help a lot. But the biggest tip is to start from the second or third prong, work down, and then come back and do the top. This prevents the top from acting like a hinge and swinging the rest of it wide open out of reach. It also tends to keep coming undone if you do it that way.
Lace yourself up. It’s very important to be gentle here. When you hit that wall of resistance, stop, even if you feel you could go smaller. Generally this has to do with breaking it in, described below. But if this is your first corset you also need to train your body. If it hurts you’re doing it wrong. It’s completely normal to only be able to wear it for about 20-30 minutes the first time. Your body isn’t used to it yet. Take it off, take a break, and try again later.
The way to actually lace it up is to pull the bunny ears (those big loops at the waist) until you hit that wall of resistance. You can go past if it you and your corset are both more experienced. I can’t tell you how much, when you get there you’ll know. Then grab the over-Xs taking out the slack from top to middle and then bottom to middle. Pull the bunny ears again. Repeat if necessary. Tie the bunny ears in a bow. Then you can you can tuck the dangly bits under the bottom of the corset under your Xs to keep them out of the way. A lot of experienced girls will hook their laces around a doorknob in order to keep the tension while they work the laces. It’s funny to watch but it works. In the old days some people even had a hook in the wall for this purpose.
It’s important to make sure that the grommets in the back are as parallel as possible otherwise you’re not only putting uneven pressure on the corset, but you’ll actually condition it to sit crooked. Stop to lift your arms up and wiggle a couple times while you lace to stretch your torso out and keep your body properly positioned inside the corset. Also take a few moments to tug at the bottom of the liner to make sure it stays smooth under there, because any wrinkles can be uncomfortable or painful. Don’t get discouraged if all this is hard at first. It’s like learning to put on a bra. It’s tricky as hell for a few days or a week and then it becomes second nature. And believe me when I say it will take less time to do than to read.
Break it in: Being patient again. I hate this part. I’m really bad at it. But it’s very important not just to give your body time to adjust, but to give your corset time to adjust as well so you don’t put excessive stress on it and weaken or even damage it. If I was not terrible at this I would go by the rule of 2. Two inches of reduction, twice a day, two hours each time, for two weeks. This is just easy for me to remember. Everybody will tell you a different way to break it in, but what it all comes down to is GO SLOW, be kind to the corset, and wait until it feels like it’s really part of you before you go and start trying to see how tight you can go. Even if you can lace like Scarlet O’Hara, the corset needs to get to know you a bit first. Come on, it’s a lady.
Dress to hide it, or dress to show it off. This depends on where you’ll be going, and how brave you are. The office is not the most appropriate place to be donning what your boss might incorrectly assume is fetish wear. That is of course unless you work in a fetish shop or something of the like, in which case you might get yourself a nice promotion. Generally, things that hide tummys are things that hide tiny waists. Empire waist tops and dresses are the best, things like roomier sweaters are great too. If you don’t have a huge reduction you should be fine with something a little more form-fitting and/or adding a wide belt. It will be enough to show off your figure without scaring anybody.
I wore this to work today. The corset is very small, but you can barely tell. Vintage clothes of the New Look era are perfectly suited to corsets.
If you want to show it off, there aren’t a lot of rules. If you’re keeping it underneath your clothing then a wiggle dress is going to be about the hottest thing you can put on. You can also put it on top of just about anything, it does wonders pulling an outfit together. Just make sure that whatever you’re putting it over doesn’t have a lot of bulk. No excessive fabric, no folds, no beads, no zippers or buttons, you get the idea. You want this area to be smooth. if it’s not smooth you’re gonna have a bad time. I also recommend wearing heels. Not super high ones, but heels in general will correct the change of posture the corset creates, making you stand more naturally and keeping you a bit more comfortable.
Live: Eating, sitting, pooping, getting drunk, and the cycle method. You can still eat plenty, but you may have to make some slight adjustments. Eat less food more often, and avoid carbs and gassy things. They’ll suck.
You can also still sit in a corset, I’m doing that right now, but because you’re not able to bend at the waist you’ll be more comfortable with a higher chair, and you’ll probably find yourself standing and leaning on things a lot more than you used to. Even without a higher chair you’ll actually feel taller as your torso is being propped right up. It’s important to note here that if you have painful shoes you’ll want to sit, but the corset will make you want to stand, and once again it will suck. Dress like a responsible person unless you’re a masochist or otherwise going to be attending a fetish ball.
Now, they say that the rumor that if you drink a lot and then take the corset off that you’ll get suddenly drunk is a myth. It’s not, at least not for everyone. If you want to drink don’t keep it so tight (and try to avoid carbonated drinks or that air will have a tendency to get trapped in your chest). That alcohol will stay higher in your digestive system, not accomplishing much, and then you’ll get hammered when you take it off before bed and it all suddenly goes down. Of course, you may decide this is fine with you.
Pooping is a challenge when you’re in a corset too. Wow, it sounds like I’m describing a whole lot of unpleasantness! Don’t let this scare you, none of it is that bad. It’s just a series of small adjustments. First things first – make sure your laces don’t dangle into the toilet. Tuck them up under the corset or hold them in front of you. Because you can’t bend at the waist, you’ll find yourself wishing you had longer arms when you’re about done. If you just can’t manoever enough, push from the front instead of pulling from the back. You know what I mean. You may also find that your…routine is a touch different than what it used to be, if you lace quite tightly. Just make sure you’re not constipated, because this could indicate a pinched colon. Ease up on that shit, it will all work itself out.
The cycle method is something I’ve been doing from day one, but I didn’t know it was actually a thing. A lot of corset wearers intend to lace it and leave it. I’ve been made fun of for tampering with my laces on a pretty much constant basis. But your body changes throughout the day and throughout the month. It doesn’t actually make a lot of sense to ignore this and keep the same level of tightness all the time. For example when you eat it’s going to feel a lot more tight if you’re eating a regular meal instead of a very small one. So the cycle method allows for this, and all you have to know is that you should be comfortable all the time. If it starts to feel tight, loosen it. If it starts to feel loose, tighten it. Do what you need to do. The time spent in the corset is more important than how tight it is, and this will keep you comfortable allowing you to wear it for longer periods. It’s also just plain nature. As Fran from Contour Corsets described in her article (I think she’s the one who formally invented the cycle method. You can read more about it here.), it’s like the seasons. Some days are colder and some days are warmer, but in the end it will still become summer. It’s physically healthy and mentally zen.
Tightlacing: Even more patience. By following the cycle method, wearing your corset every day or other day, and not forcing anything, you will find that over time the same comfort level will translate to a smaller and smaller corseted waist. You don’t even actually have to do this too consciously. Just be wrapped in that firm hug as often as you can and it will happen. For me it took 3 months to close a 20 inch corset from a natural waist of 26 inches, and it’s been years now trying to get actually comfortable with that all day, due to a huge ton of long-term inconsistency on my part (I blame many things). So I am actually still training. Consistency and loving it are key. Don’t think about the number, just do what feels good and chill. If you don’t want to tightlace, don’t. You don’t have to wear it every day, and you don’t have to wear it any tighter than it takes to get rid of the big gaps on the top and bottom. If you do, keep in mind that the smaller you go the longer things will take, and the more time you’ll have to wear it. Every day or other day for 8-12 hours at a time is fine for about 6 inches. If you want to get to 10+ you may find you have to sleep in it, and so forth.
Start all over again! It’s been a few months and now you can close your corset. Now here’s the fun part. Time for custom, baby! You may be hesitant because of the cost, as I was. But you just don’t move backward in the corset world. Steel people never wear plastic again, and custom people never wear off the rack again, generally speaking. This corset may be a lot more expensive than your last one, but it’s going to feel amazing to wear, you get to design it yourself, and it’s going to take you to body proportions you’ve never imagined you could achieve.
And now you’re addicted. Happy lacing!