Mind the Gap: How to Size a Corset

Corsets are uniquely refined, structured garments. Everything has to be just right, measured thrice and reinforced to ensure a good fit, solid support and lasting strength. There’s a lot of math involved, and the people who make them have to be engineers as much as artists.

Conversely, the people who wear corsets don’t want to worry about anything. A good corset shouldn’t feel like a device, like hardware, but a beautiful and even delicate work of wearable art which expresses something perhaps integral to one’s identity. Ideally, they should just fit, with no faffing about.

But at least one part of the way a corset fits your body is entirely up to you.

corset-large-gap
Venus fold sold separately.

Some people prefer a gap between the laces, while others want their corset to seal up all neat and proper. Many are proud to show off their Venus folds—that crease running down the center of the back when everything’s pulled in tight—but others want to hide it away (which can be done with or without a gap, actually, but more on that later).

What all of this means is that your corset size can be, in part, an arbitrary choice, and that idea is a wee bit intimidating for novice wearers. Finding an ideal fit is critically important, but more variables create greater confusion, especially when one of those variables abandons structure and asks you to simply choose.

How Corsets Are Measured

Most of the corsets we sell are underbusts and waspies, so we’re going to stick with those for the time being to simplify things a touch. Overbusts throw two more variables into the mix, and breasts can be quite complicated on their best days, so we’re going to ignore them outright and focus on the waistline.

The first thing one needs to know is that the waist of a corset is a measurement of its length when laid flat, end to end, with no gaps and no consideration for cinching.

corset-measured-flat

Which seems like a pretty reasonable way to measure something, but if you bought a corset matching your natural waist measurement it wouldn’t fit very well at all. These are articles of clothing designed with a specific shape in mind, and since not everyone has the same natural shape we can only get there by pulling everything in tight.

If you did buy a corset matching your natural waist, you might end up looking something like this:

corset-too-large

Hey, if that’s your style, congratulations. You can stop reading here and return to your life as a paragon of fashion. I certainly can’t help you.

For the rest of you, it’s important to buy a corset at least a couple inches smaller than your natural waist, so it can cinch you in and hug your body tightly. Wearing a corset loose at the top or bottom is probably not a look you should try to pull off. That’s why we list the sizes for our own corsets with both a technical waistline and a suggested natural waist, which I hope makes things easier for some.

But even then, it’s really only a suggestion, and there is one more super important factor to consider.

The Corset Lacing Gap

If you buy a corset three inches smaller than your natural waist, and then proceed to cinch yourself in by three inches, you may end up with a corset that is completely closed at the laces. Some people want that, but many would prefer the aesthetic and flexibility of a gap at the back.

Also, when you’re buying online it’s probably best to err on the side of a gap, rather than risk any resemblance to our fashion-forward friend from earlier.

Our default suggested sizes always factor in a gap at the back, so if you want to look something like the example on the right you can probably just go with our recommendations and come out of it looking dead sexy.

If you like the gap, but you’re not so keen on showing your bare skin all squished together in the middle, we also offer modesty panels as an option for every corset we sell, which should cover you up nicely. Do note that this is much less important if you plan to wear your corset over another article of clothing, but hey, options are nice!

No matter what look you’re after, the time has come to measure yourself for a corset.

Corset Size Calculator

Being industrious sorts, we have created a corset size calculator to help you find your ideal fit. In order to use it you only have to answer a couple of questions, and you have to come equipped with your natural waist measurement.

To measure your natural waist, wrap measuring tape around the narrowest part of your waist while you are relaxed. Don’t pull it tight, but don’t let it go slack either. As an alternative to measuring tape, you can always use a length of (non-stretchy) string or ribbon and then measure that with a ruler. Easy peasy!

Note: The Calculator was removed from this post, but you can still find it available on the product page for every corset we sell.

With only your natural waist measurement, it’s definitely possible to buy a well-fitting corset online. If you have a shorter torso we might recommend a waspie instead of an underbust, and we do list busk measurements in the details for each of our corsets, but if your torso is relatively standard in terms of height you’re good to go.

If you’d rather do the math on your own, the formula is dead simple.

Natural Waist Desired Cinching Gap = Hurrah!

The ideal size of the gap and the amount of recommended cinching varies with squishiness a bit, and the calculator takes that into account. Whether you use the calculator or work it out yourself, also keep in mind that if you are likely to gain weight in the near future your gap will increase, and if you’re likely to lose weight then starting out with a larger gap will give you much more flexibility.

Corset Size Matters

Differences of opinion can make buying off-the-rack corsets slightly more difficult than it should be. Somebody with experience, having laced themselves into all kinds of contraptions, can buy corsets online without much fear. However, if you’re newer to the world of corsetry, you could end up paying a pretty penny for a garment that just doesn’t fit you at all.

At least where our corsets are concerned, we’ve taken the time to make things clear and accessible, so that no matter what look you’re after, and even if you’re buying your very first corset today, you can say with some confidence that you know what you’re looking for.

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