My first steel boned corset was a black What Katie Did Morticia. My partner bought it for me, and was keen for me to wear it out, including to the office. We didn’t know much about corsetry back then, all we knew was that we loved them. I wore my brand new corset for the first time, to work almost immediately after purchasing it. I remember sitting at my desk at around midday, thinking that my corset was making my back and ribs ache. Shortly after, I removed the corset. I did this many more times, and after a few weeks, the ache got less and less.
I’ve since learned that this was a very stupid thing to do, and that before wearing a corset for extended periods of time, it is extremely important to ‘season’ it. It is both important for the corset itself, but also for the wearer’s body. I wish I had known this back when I started wearing my Morticia.
Why you need to season your corset
Good quality corsets are boned with either flat steel boning or spiral steel bones. I personally prefer flat steel as they feel stronger, and I find that it gives me a nicer shape.
Flat steel bones can be purchased as pre-cut straight individual bones, or as a roll to be cut to length. The human body is of course, anything but straight. When wearing a corset, the boning, whether it’s sprung or spiral will compress your body. The corset will bend and mold itself to the shape of your compressed body. Once removed however, the boning should more or less go back to its original form. If the bones do not do this, it is likely that the bones are made of plastic, rather than steel.
The busk, which is the front closure, consisting of a row of loops on the right side and a row of nobs on the left side, is also made of steel. This will also bend slightly when the corset is being worn.
Corsets are generally quite stiff when they are brand new, this is mostly down to the fabric. Many corsets are made of coutil, which is a strong non-stretch fabric. Coutil is, in my experience, very much like cardboard! It is important that fabric used to make a corset contains zero stretch, as the whole point of a corset is to cinch the body. Stretch fabric would of course be an ineffective in this regard (take note Kim Kardashian!). The more a corset is seasoned, the more the fabric will soften up, but will always remain non-stretch.
Corsets are made up of many panels, which are of course sewn together using thread. Corset makers will usually double stitch each seam, using two different length stitches to reinforce and strengthen the garment. If the corset is not gradually and slowly seasoned, the panels and seams may have varying levels of stress put on them. Wearing the corset for short periods of time, loosely laced will enable it to gradually mold itself to the shape of your body, and enable it to find the correct tension throughout. Forcing the corset closed more than one or two inches when first wearing it, can weaken the garment and cause it to tear.
Going back to the busk, if the thread is not well seasoned, the two parts of the busk can actually pop out of the front two panels. This is very difficult to fix, and can easily be avoided. Again, the front seams should be double stitched.
Ann Grogan of Romantasy writes; “When corsets are damaged, it is almost always through excessive force applied too soon. During the early stages of breaking in a corset, if laced too tightly, even a sneeze may destroy the front busk stitching.”
Not only is it important to season the corset, but it is also important to familiarise your body with this new restrictive shape. Forcing a new, stiff corset onto your body, and lacing it up tightly will be uncomfortable and will cause your body to feel sore. Ease yourself gently into the corset, and you should feel as though you are being hugged! It should certainly not hurt.
How to season your new corset
Seasoning your corset is a very easy process, but it can take as little as one week or as long as a year, depending on how often you choose to do it.
Although it is exciting to receive a new corset, and you may wish to put it on and lace it closed immediately, try to resist the temptation to do so. The ideal way of starting the breaking in process, is to lace yourself in and reduce the corset by between one and two inches (on the outside). Although different people choose to season their corset in different ways, the general consensus seems to be that starting the seasoning process by wearing the corset lightly laced, as I have just mentioned for up to two hours at a time is ideal.
You should wear the corset laced in the same way for maybe three or four sessions of two hours, then reduce the waist by another inch, then wear it for another two to four hours. Increase the length of wear, combined tightening the corset an extra half an inch to an inch as you go. Continue this pattern until you reach the desired tightness, and the corset feels comfortable enough to wear for longer periods of time. If you do this every day, you can break in your corset in one or two weeks.
Most importantly, listen to your body. If you start to ache, or itch or experience any other kind of discomfort, simply take the corset off and wait until you are fully recovered before resuming your corset seasoning.
If you want to speed up the entire process, you can split the sessions up throughout a day. For example, rather than wearing the corset for only two hours each day, wear it for two hours in the morning, and then two hours in the afternoon or evening.
I tend to season my corsets around the house, over a t-shirt, when I’m writing or watching a movie for example.
If you have spent your money on a corset, you want to make sure that it lasts as long as possible by treating it well. I get the feeling that many people who complain about corsets feeling uncomfortable do not season their own corset properly, resulting in aches and pains.
Although I didn’t know about seasoning back when I got my Morticia, and could have done a disservice both the corset and myself, I am lucky to still have a full functioning (and now well seasoned!) corset. Make sure you look after your beautiful new corset and take your time seasoning it.