How do I tie a corset?
A true Corset will always have the laces tightened at the natural waist (usually this is the bottom of the ribcage, for an hourglass corset). If yours has laces pulled tight at the top or bottom, it is a basque, or other designed top. The function of a corset is to make the waist smaller, and this cannot be achieved by straight lacing up or down. It makes no difference if your corset opens at the front or not.
If your corset is unlaced for whatever reason, and you are unsure of how to re-lace, then follow these instructions.
Lacing a corset is not like lacing a shoe; such lacing pattern gives uneven and potentially damaging tension, so be careful! You can start at either top or bottom.
A good standard lace length is 4 metres (about 12 feet); but if you have two laces, you can start one at the bottom and one at the top, and have them meet in the middle. Tying them together can work, but there is always the possibility of the knot coming undone or loosening, which can compromise the snugness of the initial lacing.
- Unless the corset is lined with a modesty panel, make sure the corset-wearer has something beneath the corset, to prevent the laces pinching.
- Start by threading the lace through the top- or bottom-most pair of holes. At this time, the ends should come UP from the holes. Pull the laces even, and pull them slightly snug, but not tight.
- Put the ends of the laces DOWN into the next pair of holes.
- Put the ends of the laces UP into the next pair of holes.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4. You should end up with X's, not V's.
- You can lace all the way to the top/bottom (do not tighten yet!), and tie a double-knotted bow or a square knot.
- Go back to the X that is positioned over the natural waist, usually the bottom of the ribcage.
- Take hold of the loops and pull, letting your wearer 'settle' as the corset tightens. Settling refers to positioning the ribcage correctly (i.e. the contour of the ribs follows the contour of the corset) in the stays, and in the case of those who have them, adjusting the breasts.
- Once 'settling' is done, tighten the corset. Tie a square knot with the loops when you are done. If you are into tight-lacing, you may let the wearer grow used to the initial tightness, before tightening more. However, the corset should not be painful at any time. A snug and dominating embrace of canvas and boning, is what a corset should generally feel like.
- While expensive, better results are always achieved with a custom-fitted corset. However, lacing any corset properly will ensure a better fit than the off-the-rack shoe-lacing.
- If the wearer has large breasts and wishes the corset to replace a brassiere, an over-bust corset with substantial boning should be used. As well, usually a back-lacing corset works better for those with larger chests.
- If one can bend the boning easily, it will probably not withstand the rigours of regular use. Likewise, the corset should be made of canvas or material of similar strength (many reputable corsetières use a layer of canvas between layers of more decorative fabrics such as silk brocade).