We here at Gothic Renaissance are very happy to help you with any and all of your corset problems, questions and concerns! As the only boutique selling off the rack corsets in NYC sans appointment, we pride ourselves in our knowledge and expertise. Here are some common questions we get!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a corset?
A: A corset is an undergarment designed to support the torso, cinch the waist and maintain perfect posture. It is made of two separate panels of fabric that encase steel “bones”, which then usually hook together in the front with metal hardware called “busks”, and then are laced in the back through reinforced hoops, tightening the garment and pulling the waist in. Some corsets use zippers or hooks instead of busks, and some don't have one at all, requiring the wearer to pull it over their head before tightening.
Q: How many types of corsets are there?
A: Corsets are distinguished by the shape they are made to encourage and their suitability for the wearer. Here we'll primarily cover steel boned corsets, which are what we sell in-store.
There are overbust corsets, which cover the bust, and underbust corsets, which do not, allowing the wearer to choose their own undergarments up top or forgo them entirely. All corsets are one or the other, in addition to or in lieu of other descriptors!
There are longline corsets, which are designed to cover or cup the hips to promote a smoother silhouette or accommodate wearers with long torsos. In that vein, there are also cinchers, which are corsets that only go over the waist, leaving the ribs and hips unaffected. These tend to work best for people with short torsos or those who desire more mobility, as they tend to be very comfortable and only cinch the waist. Cincher corsets are always underbusts.
"Curvy cut" or wasp waist corsets have bigger disparities in their rib and hip sizes to their waist size. These are for wearers who are either unusually curvy in their proportions or longtime corset wearers. You cannot wear one comfortably or safely unless you are already very hourglass shaped!
We recommend coming in and getting fitted in person whenever possible to find what shape will work best for you, but we're also happy to answer questions whenever!
Q: Is *this* a corset?
A: Maybe! A better question might be to see if it's a steel boned corset. Let's run through a checklist:
- Does it have (steel) boning? A handy rule of thumb is to check the price. Unless you're purchasing a corset at a heavy discount from a reputable corset retailer (and even then, they'll rarely be found in this price range!), paying less than $60-90 for a corset is a red flag that it does not have steel bones and will not reduce your waist measurement.
- Does it have a busk in the front? There can be clasps, hooks, or even a zipper, but there needs to be a way to maintain tension on the garment as it's tightened in the back. The exception to this rule are corsets that are meant to go over your head because they deliberately lack a busk. This is usually done when the corset has an elaborate design in the front.
- Does it lace up in the back? Corsets have laces in the back that are meant to control the tension of the entire garment. The "laces" are simply one very, very long lace, usually 6 or more yards in length, that go through the eyelets in the back and come out in the center to cinch the waist in two loops. Here's a visual guide.
Q: Why is it important for a corset to have steel boning? Can't I just order a cheap corset with plastic boning elsewhere?
A: If you want to visibly and safely change your shape with a corset, that corset MUST have steel boning. Plastic boning does not conform to your shape- when it it put under stress, it will score, bend, and break, possibly jabbing you and hurting you with sharp plastic! Steel boning is made to emulate the whalebone that corsets used to be made with- they are plastic-encased steel "bones" or ribs that take on your body's shape with repeated use, "seasoning" to further reduce your waist measurements.
Q: What do you mean by "seasoning" a corset?
A: Great question! The seasoning of a corset is simply the breaking in process. Much like a new pair of leather shoes, corsets become more comfortable with repeated wear as they mold to your body.
When you purchase a new corset, season it by wearing it for increasingly long periods of time over the course of several days, laced firmly but not too tightly. This can look like wearing a corset for an hour on Monday, two hours on Tuesday, and so on until you can comfortably wear the corset for the whole day. The goal is to make the corset's rib spring and hip spring fit you comfortably so that you can further take in your waist, something that cannot be done straight off the bat.
By the end of the process, the corset should hug your curves and will fit you and you only! You can then begin to tighten the corset further down if you wish to achieve a bigger reduction in your waist size.
Q: How should I wear a corset?
A: However you like! Hidden under clothes for shaping purposes, over your clothes as an accent, with or without other clothes, as a bold statement or as part of an outfit- there's no wrong way to style a corset.
Q: Do I need to be put into a corset by another person each time?
A: Not at all! With just a little practice, and maybe the help of a mirror, anyone can put most corsets on without assistance.
Q: How do I find my corset size?
A: Corsets are sized by taking your waist measurement snugly (on bare skin, if possible) using a fabric measuring tape and removing 4-6 inches from the resulting number. For example, someone with a 30 inch waist would probably be most comfortable wearing a size 26 corset.
You cannot wear a corset the same size as your waist- It will be too large! Corsets must be smaller than your waist measurement to be able to cinch- the gap in the back is part of the look!
Tightlacers or longtime corset wearers may be able to size further down, but unless you can count yourself amongst their numbers, odds are you'll only find yourself in an uncomfortably small corset! Heed the rule of thumb, it's there for a reason.
Q: How do I lace myself into a corset?
A: Before you get started, make sure you’re wearing something underneath your corset- this will protect the garment from your sweat and keep you more comfortable! A cami or longer tube top is ideal.
Take all the slack out of the laces so that the sides of the back are parallel. The pull tabs/ loops at the waist should be completely pulled into the rest of the laces. Undo the front busks. Make sure the corset is right side up- many corsets will have garter tabs at the bottom edge, if you need help determining which side is which.
Put the entirely slack corset around yourself, laces on the back side, and fasten the busk in the front. Using your fingers, and perhaps a mirror, find the “pull” part of the laces- these will be two loops, one on each side of the corset, at your waist. These are the laces you will pull out to tighten your corset.
With one loop in each hand, cinch your waist by pulling outward. Keep the sides of your corset parallel or as close as possible by reaching up and pulling any slack at the top of your corset towards the center ties. This will tighten the top and loosen your waist. Pull the slack out of your waist and repeat the process on the bottom half of the corset.
Repeat until you find yourself laced in to a satisfactory tightness, and then tie off the back with a double knot and tuck underneath the other laces or edge of the corset, as needed. This is all easier than it sounds, we promise! Here's a video guide to help you along.
Q: How do I remove my corset?
A: Corsets are garments that work by putting tension on your body, and therefore that tension must be released before the corset can be taken off. Simply put, unlace your corset by reversing the process of lacing yourself into a corset!
Undo the knot or bow you have used to tie the corset off, and then find where the laces cross your back to form an "x" shape nearest to the corset ties. Pull these crossed laces outwards from your body, starting at your waist and moving outwards, until the corset goes slack on your body. Then, and only then, should you release the locking mechanism on the front of your corset. Depending on the style of corset, this can be a corset busk, a zipper or hook and eye closures.
You MUST loosen a corset before you remove it! Failure to do so can damage or even break your corset!
We cannot stress enough that corsets are very durable items of clothing, but due to the amount of tension they handle, they are vulnerable to warping or breaking if they are removed incorrectly. When a corset is properly laced, that tension is evenly distributed around a person's body. If you don't unlace a corset before it is opened, that tension will be unevenly distributed, putting unnecessary wear on the fasteners and drastically reducing its lifespan!
Also, it is much faster, comfortable and easier to undo a corset that has been loosened beforehand. We strongly advise against unhooking or unzipping a tightly laced corset. A good rule of thumb is that if the corset has gone slack on your body, it is loose enough to unhook. Don't break your corset!
Q: My corset became unlaced! How do I relace my corset properly?
A: A corset lace is a single lace, several yards in length, tied off to make a closed loop. If your corset has become unlaced, that usually means that knot became undone. Don’t panic! If you can relace a shoe, you can relace a corset!
MYTH: Wearing a corset is painful and unhealthy- a barbaric, misogynist holdover from the Victorian era!
TRUTH: Corsets were a solution for what to do with breasts before the bra was invented. If you wear a bra today, you would’ve worn a corset historically. Now they are primarily worn for aesthetic purposes, or to achieve a particular look. They are also occasionally worn for medical purposes.
MYTH: Corsets make you thinner/are for making you look slimmer.
TRUTH: Corsets work by moving around your ‘squish’, therefore reducing your waist measurement temporarily. They achieve an optical illusion from the front by pushing your bulk around your torso, but they do not make you smaller. Most of your organs up front are hollow (stomach, intestines, etc) and can be squeezed by a corset without causing any harm.
MYTH: I’m too big to wear a corset!
TRUTH: Corsets are sized/measured by taking anywhere from 2 to 6 inches off your waist measurement. We carry corsets up to size 50/6X in many colors and styles! Larger people can actually be taken in further (there’s more of a “squish”) so its very likely we can fit you into a corset, regardless of your size! If you’re concerned or looking for something very specific, please contact us at email@example.com or call us at (212) 780-9558 for more clarification- we’d be happy to help you!
MYTH: Corsets are only for women!
TRUTH: Corsets are for everyone and anyone willing to put one on!
MYTH: Corsets are only for fetish purposes/ are sexy!
TRUTH: We agree that corsets definitely have a sexy side to them- they are technically, a form of vintage lingerie! However, they are very commonly worn for completely non-sexual aesthetic purposes, such as for cosplay, photoshoots, renaissance faires, goth fashion purposes and historical dress! Our corsets can be worn alone, under or over clothing, with or without other items! But if you’re determined to make them sexy, please be our guest.
Make your way over to 110 4th Ave and let our stylists get you fitted for your corset today!