Q: I personally find the tapered chest of the wasp-waisted figure more attractive than the rounded chest of the hourglass. The degree of compression of the lower ribcage and diaphragm appears more severe in the former.

In your opinion, is it ill-advised for a modern-day woman who may have started lacing later in her early adult life, to attempt to attain a wasp waisted figure rather than the hourglass model? ---TJB-Overtone (3/8/97).

A: I fully agree that the corset-induced tapered chest is much more attractive than the pure hour-glass figure, which gives a quite artificial, strained impression, with the body cruelly and abruptly cut into two halves. The difference is still more obvious when you are fully dressed over your corset. In an hour-glass corset everybody can easily see that you are lacing tightly, whereas a higher corset of wasp-wasp or semi-stem type gives you a long, tapered floating waistline, which will greatly add to your femininity. Based on my own experience, you don't look laced up (that isn't the true purpose!) in the same way with a long tapered waistline. Even if you are more tightly laced in a long, small waist, this will never look as "mechanical" as the hourglass and, moreover, will be much more feminine. The elegantly tapered waist will be even more attractive when you are fully used to its constraint and, after a few years, manage to move naturally inside your corset. Personally, I also prefer the fuller support and firmer grip around the chest of the higher corset.

There is no doubt that its long-standing compression of the lower ribcage and diaphragm is more severe, but as usual when it comes to corsetting: Don't try to achieve everything over a few weeks or months. The adaptation and transformation of the body takes time, particularly when it comes to the ribs. You should not suffer acute discomfort and pain. Age, of course, plays a role in figure training. With increasing age you certainly become less soft and pliable. However, even if you are middle-aged and not used to corsets, time will do the trick, and you will see how your body will eventually approach the form of your corset. Lace moderately to start with, become a good friend with to your corset, and stay with your friend ardently. Although you never will reach a Guinness record dimension, your reshaped waist will give you great pleasure and be the envy of other women.

Protracted, firm and permanent corseting has granted me such a satisfactory figure.  By happenstance, due to back problems, I got used to corsets at a very early age and my soft waist and chest had ample time for gradual transformation. Now always firmly, but not too tightly laced, I can easily reduce my chest and waist a few more inches for my evening dresses—certainly not by pulling the laces on my day-corset, but by changing to a more small-waisted and, of course, differently cut evening corset. Needless to say, after many years of constriction, my naked body, and particularly its crimped-in ribs, now reflects the cone-form of my corset. The advantage is that due to this definitive reshaping I can easily, in the morning, lace myself into my "normal" day-shape. I feel very comfortable, enjoy the support and certainly don't want to be without my hard shell, even on hot days. I have advised several friends to corset themselves, but admittedly a middle-aged woman who wants to attain a cone waist must prepare herself for a long and tough procedure in squeezing her ribs and waist. The key words are: slow, gradual, patient and enduring.  She will be rewarded! The serious cone-shaping of the chest and waist calls for a carefully selected corset. The human skeleton has 12 ribs to work on, and the corset must slope absolutely straight inwards from the middle of the chest, with no distention. The constriction should start from at least at the 6th rib and then increase downwards to minimize the waist. The lowest 4 ribs are the main target for the compression necessary to create a nicely sloped cone. It has to be emphasized that heavy boning throughout the corset, broad side steels, and a steady busk are musts.  In fact, a high, firm and very rigid corset more easily immobilizes the forcibly displaced and cramped ribs, and thereby lessens the discomfort and tenderness to be endured for some time by a possibly repentant novice. Eventually, a definite cone is achieved: the lower ribs are permanently squeezed into their new position and shape and do not resist and induce pain anymore. The lady now enjoys her new beautifully slender figure and might even, due to her permanent figure, change to a more lightly boned corset. However, my own experience says that she will, at this stage, feel quite comfortable with her heavier garment.

At the front, the typical cone corset starts just a few inches below the bust. At the back it must reach at least the lower part of the shoulder blades to efficiently grip the chest. The rear, upper edge of the corset must not be too tight—it should stay close to the body, but only to give a smooth, ridge-less contour in the back and a good erect stance. A woman with a beautiful, long, graceful, more-or-less stem-like waist, however artificial, must never look laced under her dress! Even the most tapered and extreme wasp waist should look natural and not strained—seemingly you should look as if moving freely inside your corset. Thus, my dear novice: don't over-lace—it just looks awkward. What you really want is, of course, a smashing feminine shape. For smooth contours, the waist-cone corset should have no wrinkles or bulges. It must be perfectly well designed, custom-made and, as said, very heavily boned, with numerous flat and thin steels—if too few, broad and thick, they are easily seen through the overlying dress. A carefully fitted, heavy, silky corset cover definitely helps to further smooth the contour and conceal the back lacing, as well as the upper edge of the corset. The smallest circumference of the waist should be low down to maximally lengthen the cone. The transition to the wide hips must not be too abrupt, to give a nicely rounded hip line. Below the small waist, the corset should have enough gussets to give ample space for the hips, still under firm control by the steels spreading out from the waist. The belly is, of course, curbed by the busk but must anyhow be carefully laced, to be in command of the organs pushed down from the waist.

The cut of the corset, together with the shape and direction of the busk, plays a definite role if you want to achieve a "straight front" figure, which means a very elegant, statuesque, typically S-formed body, with emphasized bosom and bottom. Such a figure calls for drastic corseting, which easily might be too exaggerated. The corset pushes in the spine above the small of the back and forces the wearer into permanent sway-back, with an utterly artificial carriage. To keep the body in its awkward position day in and day out, a strong scaffolding of the body is indispensable  and once used to that kind of highly unnatural support for only a few months, the lady's back soon starts to hurt when her corset is removed, and she becomes highly dependent on the scaffold: a corset addict. I myself love the S-bend, although in a modified form, particularly because it tightens the waist mostly from behind and leaves the stomach less compressed, simultaneously creating a very elegant cone waist.

A few details of importance: Always use a glossy not-too-thin, silky piece of linen under your corset, allowing it to adjust better to the body—it decreases friction and saves your skin. Stay active during the lacing procedure, whether you are lacing yourself (not recommended for starters), or your husband or lady friend pulls the strings! The lengthening and tapering of the waist can also be facilitated during the lacing procedure by twisting your chest and wriggling your waist into position inside the corset. By swishing your hips firmly with your hands and pulling the torso up from the corset, simultaneous with the final snatching of the laces, your cone waist will lengthen more easily.

Again: the shape of your desired waist is one thing, the smallness of it is a different matter. The degree of lacing is of course individual, but I say again: Never exaggerate. A small waist either, of hourglass or cone type, has an optimal size appropriate to the individual figure that balances the height, bust and hips. The lacing should optimize the figure, not exaggerate it. An elegant form, not that easy to attain, is more important than the utter minimization of the lower chest and waist. Unfortunately, to attain an elegant figure, some women have to endure harder work at the laces than others. GOOD LUCK!


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