I have heard that it’s foolish to buy clothes to “slim into”, but I did just that recently as someone was selling some lovely jods cheap online which looked to be just one size too small for me at present fitness.
It transpires they do actually fit they just don’t fit. Yet.
Whilst nearly the entire garment is stretchy and comfortable to the point of chilling-on-the-sofa-cosy-ness, the waistband has been made to be thick and unyielding. Anyone who has ever worn jeans a size or two too small will know how that feels. The very localised pressure is not pleasant. Sometimes trousers like that can even threaten to restrict blood flow, causing numbness in your legs. Not ideal. For those sorts of reasons, these jods, though they go on and fasten and look okay, are not yet my size.
The connection to corsetry comes in discussing this issue of comfort.
Some readers may be new to corsets entirely, and be hesitant about them for reasons of comfort. Corsetry can certainly be a physical effort of sorts (for example, in dramatic figure modification or occasional tightlacing) and plenty of people enjoy corsets for that reason. But they are often more comfortable than many other garments that you stoically squeeze into when fit is slightly off but you just really want to wear the thing.
Jods or jeans or skirts that are too tight at the waistband might (depending upon your body) pinch you in by a few inches, with your extra heft being forced to bulge hither and thither. You may spend the entire day lamenting your discomfort, feeling fat (which, by the way, is just a descriptive word, not a reflection on your character or value as a human being), feeling demoralised or even nauseous. A good corset may take off the same number of inches (or more, or less) with none of those unpleasant side-effects and plenty of positive ones instead.
The reason? Broader distribution of pressure across a larger surface area.
Any good corset does this, though for my part it’s why I personally love a lot of steel and particular approaches to patterning. To make the restriction through the waist comfortable we need to make it like an embrace, not like a jab. A localised pressure is something you want to get away from. A diffuse pressure is comforting. I believe Lucy (of Lucy’s Corsetry on youtube) has even spoken about the connection between corsetry and relief of autistic symptoms in some cases.
A good corset embraces your torso and let’s the pressure of the reduced waistline be dissipated up and down its length and all around the body. Thus, when it fits, it becomes comfortable for most people. The too-small jeans, thin bra straps, and ill-fitting stilettos that can be seen on many a night out in the UK would be, by far, less comfortable than any half-decent corset.
So if you are new to trying corsetry, do not be put off by comfort concerns. Corsets are not for everyone but I can almost guarantee that, as a human being in our current world, you’ve frequently worn things far more painful with far less worry. I would recommend popping to a shop such as What Katie Did (who have many different styles and silhouettes) and trying on a few pieces to see what you like. Your comfort preferences will depend largely on your body composition and shape. And here’s a really crucial point… just because you could lace tighter doesn’t mean you should. Historically, we think that corsets were worn with only an inch or two of cinch. They were to provide smooth shape and support rather than noticeable figure modification. There’s no shame in lacing to a comfortable and pretty point and then staying there, even if you feel your body could take more.
Have a play, see if you like the feeling of a corset, maybe you will maybe you won’t. But don’t be made afraid by stories of pain or discomfort! More often than not, those stories are either not from first hand experience or they’ve come about because the corsets in question were poorly made, a poor fit, or mis-used by the wearer.