Caring for Your Corset

Corsets are specialist garments and as such, have a few different ‘rules’ for caring for them. What you choose to do with your corset is entirely up to you, of course, but if you want to keep your corset in good shape for as long as possible, these guidelines should help you.

This information is specifically written with authentic steel boned corsets in mind, but is applicable to other corsets too.


WEARING

  • ideally, you should wear your corset over clothing, or over a liner such as a thin vest. Specialist liners are available. This protects your skin from the corset, as cinching it will naturally cause friction. It will also protect the corset from your skin – oils and sweat from your body can damage the corset over time, and shorten its lifespan.
  • you should ‘season’ your corset before attempting to wear it for long periods of time/daily or fully closed. This process is like breaking in a pair of shoes before you wear them outside – wear the corset loosely laced for a few hours a day to allow the materials to settle and mould themselves to your body. Many serious corset wearers use the 2-2-2 method – cinch down by about 2 inches, for 2 hours a day, for 2 weeks.
  • do not ever tie your laces around your waist! This is something a lot of people do as it seems easier to tie. However, the friction from the laces can wear away the fabric and cause wear, and even cause holes. This sort of wear can be very difficult and often impossible to fix, as the primary areas of wear are the bone channels, which need to be strong. To prolong the life of your corset, always tie your corset at the back.
  • Additionally, if you wear your corset under clothes and belt the waist, don’t over-tighten your belt for the same reason.
  • When you take your corset off, always be sure to undo the lacing first. Never attempt to unfasten the busk without first releasing the lacing at the back – since you must undo a busk one loop at a time, all of the tension of the corset will gradually be moved onto one or two busk loops, which can snap the pegs. If your corset has swing hooks or a zip, the same applies. Additionally, if you can unfasten the busk easily without unlacing, the corset may be too large for you.
  • HOWEVER – a corset with a zip front or a hidden zip elsewhere on the garment can be great for a number of reasons. If you will be wearing your corset for something like a burlesque routine, a zip can make a quick exit easier. The same applies if you think you may ever need to get out of your corset quickly for medical reasons or something similar. Just remember that a corset can be under lots of pressure so you will want one with a high quality metal-toothed zip to make it as sturdy as possible, and you should open it in one smooth, fluid movement to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on any one part of the zip.

STORING & CLEANING

  • if you can, store you corset as flat as possible. This avoids warping any bones. If you cant store it flat, open it at the busk and hang it through a clothes hanger in your wardrobe. If you think that your other clothes may damage it (or its embellishment may damage your other clothes) you can place it on the hanger with its lining facing out. You may want to cover it with fabric, as well.
  • As with all clothes, store your corset out of direct heat and light to discourage fading.
  • If you can avoid it, NEVER submerge a corset in water, as this can cause the bones to rust. Spot clean it only. If you absolutely MUST submerge it fully to wash it, do so gently, and as rarely as possible. My preferred method of cleaning a corset if I absolutely must submerge it in water is to remove the laces and wash it in the bathtub – the extra space allows the pieces to be washed whilst remaining as flat as possible. NEVER machine wash a corset as you risk damaging the bones, warping the fabric, and even damaging the machine.

MAINTENANCE

  • You may need to replace your corset laces during the life of your corset. The laces are under enormous stress and receive lots of wear from friction, but should last a while. However, when they need to be replaced, take note of how the corset is laced before you remove them. Buy a fresh lace or length of ribbon and re-lace your corset. I generally use around 5 metres for underbusts, 7 for overbusts, and 9 for very longline overbusts.
  • If the laces have decorative aglets – metal tips that are too large to fit through the eyelet holes – you will need to remove them before you remove the laces. Remove them carefully and keep them safe. You can then sew (or, in the case of some, glue or even screw) them back onto the ends of the new laces.
  • Though rare, it is possible for the grommets (eyelets) to need replacing eventually – they are, after all, under a lot of stress. If they do become damaged, rusted, or otherwise, they can easily be replaced. You can do this yourself by carefully removing the damaged eyelets with pliers and inserting new ones, which can be purchased complete with setting tool from a haberdashery.

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