Thursday, February 4, 2010

Reactions to Tightlacing

This commentary is copied directly from the Romantasy site. I'm including it, because I think it does a good job of covering the variety of reactions that tight-lacing can elicit. The reactions that Ann Grogan outlines here are much the same as the ones I have to tight-lacing (that is, extreme reduction).

To most observers, and for most standard American body sizes from dress size 8 to 14, corseting elicits certain interest if not commentary, when the natural waist is reduced by five or more inches. If the drama of that reduction is noteworthy, then six to ten inches surely elicits neck-craning and gasps of disbelief.

But are these gasps of admiration, or horror? Is such extreme reduction considered by most people to be beautiful, or ugly? Examining the paradoxes inherent in extreme waists seems most appropriately to begin at home, with my own ambivalence and confusion over the issue.

And what the heck is "tight lacing" anyway?

Don't let anyone tell you they have "the" definitive definition, because truly there isn't one. David Kunzle, Ph.D., Professor of Art History at UCLA and author of the seminal book on corsetry, /Fashion and Fetishism: Corsets, Tight-lacing and Other Forms of Body-Sculpture/, Sutton Publishing Ltd., 2004, says: “The only workable definition of tight-lacing as opposed to ‘normal’ lacing, is as the conscious and visible process of artificial constriction of the waist, whereby the very artifice becomes an attraction (or repellent).” After some thought on the matter, I came up with our definition at ROMANTASY:

Tight-lacing is the process of wearing a corset that is considerably smaller than the natural waist size, typically a corset that constricts the waist at least four inches or more, where the corset is of such quality, comfort, and seasoning that it can be worn every day for six or more continuous hours, and where the ultimate restriction coupled with the period of wear is perceived as very challenging to the wearer, rather than easy.

On a more practical matter, you will most likely be able to declare that you know it when you see it! Do send us your definition if you have one. So now let's examine what we feel about "tight lacing."

Eight responses sum up my feelings about it, and I hope my readers will send in their responses as well. I offer them with the certain knowledge that my opinions may be controversial, but controversy has never been something that this legally-trained corset aficionado has avoided!

First, extreme waists are not normal. Hardly anyone could argue that they are. Extreme waists are not only out of the range of experience of 99% of the populace who are unaccustomed to seeing a two inch, much less five or more inch waist reduction, and certainly out of the norm of regular corseting practice and reduction achievement, as well.

Second, I personally admire to the max, those who accomplish such restriction, especially my personal acquaintances, colleagues and famous friends, Cathie J. and M. Lourdes, the latter featured on the cover of the last True Grace Corset Catalog.

I compare extreme waist reduction to running the marathon: those who accomplish it are in my opinion, slightly or possibly, completely daft, but nonetheless admirable for their tenacity, commitment, obvious pain in the doing, and actual success of their dedicated efforts!

Those who accomplish it deserve even more applause when they accomplish it from internal motivation and drive, without the benefit of a partner to provide dedicated, daily encouragement.

Third, I think extreme waists are not particularly aesthetic or attractive. I think that most people, when they reduce their waists by 10 or more inches more or less, looks deformed, transformed into a caricature, somewhat in the way drag queens characterizes women. True, the simile is not a totally apt one, since drag queens can remove makeup and easily re-enter their male role in society, while tight-lacers cannot. Their commitment is total and entire, even if the result takes them to the outer edges of their art.

Fourth, what is considered aesthetic or ugly is not only personal to the viewer, but is a matter of degree. Where do I draw the line about what turns from enhancing the female figure in a pleasing way, into a displeasing way? Probably a maximum reduction of seven inches will do it for me.

Why? Because the body looks like it will break in two pieces, and that psychically hurts! I imagine at a deep level that MY body will break in two pieces. Since I have struggled for over 30 years with occasionally excruciatingly painful back problems, the thought agonizes me more than perhaps for other people.

Fifth, I also admit the possibility that at a subconscious level, I am jealous.

And sixth, I get discouraged when I spend too much time thinking about or viewing such waists; I know I will never get there, whether I want to or not. Or, at least, I know I will likely not make the personal commitment it takes.

When others focus intently on such extreme waists and lavish praise on them, it makes me feel like chopped meat.

Seventh, extreme waists unfortunately often contribute to, rather than dissuade from, the popular opinion that corseting is painful. Nothing could be further from the truth when a custom corset is constructed to follow individual body contours and is moderately laced. Countless hours are spent by those of us who love corseting, in convincing doubting Tomases and Tomasinas that corsets can be comfortable!

Eighth, I believe extreme waists run contrary to my personal and professional goal of spreading the good word about modern-day custom corsetry. I want to increase the desire of both women and men to wear corsets, yet extremism sometimes frightens those new to their own desires to lace. It fetishizes the corset, and without any further action on the part of the wearer, may send an unintended message or tap subconscious feelings that extreme waists must be the goal of anyone who wears corsets.

Why this is true has always been a curiosity to me. At least to Americans, I have observed that to see an extreme thing, is to automatically imagine oneself in that extreme position. I will leave it to psychologists to tell me why.

As a purveyor of corsetry, I want to remove barriers to a love affair with the corset. Perhaps for some, extreme waists promote corsetry. But for the majority of our customers at ROMANTASY Exquisite Corsetry, we encourage moderation and realistic expectations in terms of either temporary or permanent waist reduction.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

To Train Or Not To Train...?

First off, I guess this requires a couple of definitions (from

"Waist training" , when done with proper diet and exercise, is a practice whereas one can gradually achieve realistic, non-harmful waist reduction or waist shaping by moderately lacing and wearing a corset on a regular basis.

"Tightlacing" is the practice of applying corsetry to its extreme to achieve the smallest possible waist. A tight-lacer typically wears their corset night and day, and consistently pulls the laces tighter. When a tight-lacer achieves a 2-4 inch reduction, they graduate to a smaller corset to continue their figure training until they've reach their "ultimate waist".

Even though it was only 2 or 3 weeks ago, I have no idea how I came upon the decision to add corset training to the process. It seems like a very drastic thing to do to lower your waist size, as a true training program requires time and dedication, along with a lot of patience. There are, however, different levels of training that don't involve striving to achieve an 18" corseted waist like Lady Annalai.

Lady Annalai is a 23/7 tight-lacer (23 hours a day, 7 days a week), but waist training may also be undertaken over a period of months, in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise, to permanently trim the waist down several inches. During the course of training, the corset is worn for long hours (sometimes during sleep) for roughly 6 days per week, with one day of rest. The constriction of the corset almost acts like an external lap-band (used in gastric bypass surgery)... it reduces the amount of food you can fit in your stomach, providing automatic portion control. Because you cannot eat huge meals, a corset requires you to eat more, smaller meals per day, which is a healthier way to eat anyway, and this helps combat unhealthy snacking caused by between-meal hunger. Once the training period and desired waist size has been achieved, the corset can then be worn for maintenance several days a week thereafter, to serve as a reminder of posture and portion control.

I did quite a bit of research on waist training and tight-lacing, and found Romantasy, a custom corset site employing the services of several top notch custom-corsetiers. They also offer training services and advice, with an approach that is less terrifying than traditional tight-lacing. They encourage a healthy diet and best of all, exercise to keep up muscle strength. When wearing a corset 23/7 and engaging in extreme reductions, ones muscles, especially in the core and back, will atrophy and the corset will eventually be required for support. I play roller derby, and as an athlete I'm not particularly interested in the sounds of that, and will need to keep up my muscle tone so that I can continue to play my sport safely. Romantasy has had hundreds of customers who have achieved a "2 to 5" waistline reduction, and from 3 to 50 pounds of weight loss in only three months of six-days-per-week waist training", and most gain very little of the weight back, when following their training with maintenance corset wear and the continuation of a healthy-lifestyle.

I have always loved the look of corsets, and the promise of a large tax return this year, has led me to seriously consider combining a waist-training program with a healthier diet and increased exercise, in order to achieve some permanent change in my shape. For the past 2 weeks or so, I have been shopping corsets on the Romantasy site, since they offer the largest array of styles and options for true tight-lacing and waist training. I had a wonderful conversation yesterday with Ann Grogan, the owner, who provided me with some helpful recommendations and useful information.

In the past, corset wear did change the shape of a lady's ribcage over time, usually because of the long hours of wear (including during sleep), the extreme tight-lacing and reduction, and the early age at which girls started corset wear, often while their bones were still soft and moldable. Modern tight-lacing may change the shape of one's ribcage (small reductions have been recorded), although it is unlikely unless a corset of the proper shape and quality is worn for a year or more, for long hours every day. I've accepted that I may never be able to permanently affect the shape of my ribcage, but I also know that the right corset will at least visually narrow the appearance of my torso and waist. There is, after all, a limit to what one can do to change what nature gave them... unless extremely large sums of money are involved!

The Inevitable Question

Those who know me ask "why the need to lose? You look fine!"

There is one answer for that: my mother.

My mother is overweight. She overeats, she stress eats, she's inactive and she complains about everything, but is unwilling to follow any goal through to the end.

These are habits that I've noticed I'm prone to, unless I really push myself. I've also never really learned how to set goals or how to achieve them. Losing weight and size are the ultimate exercise in goal-achievement and self-restraint, and doing them in a healthy way involves establishing healthy habits that will hopefully last a lifetime.

In addition, my thyroid is slowing down, and I accept the near inevitability that I will one day end up with a hypothyroid condition like my mother's, which will prompt weight gain. I hope that when that day comes, I am already living a lifestyle that allows me to combat it...

Call me shallow and self-centered, but my fear, my ultimate greatest fear in life is not bees, not poverty, not death, but being fat...being obese like my mother, without the will to do anything about it.

A Personal Historical Note

Ever since I was little, I've been built like a swimmer, with a strong, square-shaped ribcage. No matter how small you are, no matter what your perfect hourglass measurements are, when the bottom of your ribcage is visually the widest part of your upper body (wider than your bust even) and you are so short-waisted that your ribs dip into your waistline, it makes you slightly unhappy when looking in the mirror... especially when you're wearing a 1950's dress with a nipped waist that's made for one of those gorgeous ladies with a tapered torso in all of those vintage photos that you love.

When I started collecting and wearing vintage from the 1940s and 1950s several years ago, I never thought about it - until I went through a bad breakup, lost a bunch of weight, and ended up with the smallest waist measurement of my adult life. Everywhere I went, people told me I looked great, and I was really happy with my self-image...except for that stupid square ribcage that I thought made my body look odd.

And then I quit smoking and gained back 20 lbs. I felt better in some ways (physical), and worse in others (both physical and mental). Now dieting is not something that I ever want to have to do. I'm OK with the concept of a healthy, balanced diet and exercise, but I'm not OK with "Diets". I think calling it a "diet" sets yourself up for self-denial, guilt, self-hatred and ultimate failure.

Next, United Airlines lost all of my favorite clothes, which also happened to be the clothes that fit me. That was nearly 2 months ago and I'm unlikely to see those items again. What's left in my closet, unfortunately, is mostly too small for me.

So where does that leave me?

It leaves me wanting to lose the weight so that I can wear the clothes that I have, so that I have more energy, so that my quads don't feel like bricks when I rollerskate, and so I can once again love that fit and healthy figure I see in the mirror.