This entry will hopefully explain different ways of corset lacing and tips for you to get the best cinch and extend the life of your corset.
First of all, let's talk about laces. The laces of a corset can be double-faced satin ribbon or flat cotton laces as a standard. The choice mainly depends on aesthetics and the maker's preference, as they both are commonly strong and durable. You can see the difference in between these kinds of laces on the image above. The green Electra Designs corset on the left features satin ribbon laces, while the 19th century blue corset in the middle is laced with flat cotton cord and the Madame Sher pink corset on the right features a rat tail lacing.
The kind of laces shall not be confused with the style of lacing. The style might also depend on the maker's preferences, but laces can be easily changed by the wearer to meet his/her needs. Despite of this, historical corsetry should be laced according to its era. A pair of 17th century stays won't be laced the same way as a victorian/edwardian corset, for instance. Anyway, the lacing styles we're now discussing are the ones used for actual corsetry.
1st. One of the most commonly used styles of lacing is clearly explained in Evening Arwen's webpage. The style this link will direct you to is the classic victorian way of lacing, for wich you start lacing at the top edge of the back panels and place bunny ears (loops) at the waist area (these loops will help the wearer lace his/herself into the corset by pulling them, and will easily put the most pressure on the waist area for a perfect cinch).
2nd. Another common lacing type is the one explained by Electra Designs. This one also starts at the top and places loops or bunny ears on the waist area, though those loops invert the laces creating an extra cross. These inverted bunny ears actually help the lacing not to slide while cinching and are extra secure.
3rd. The last type we'll see is also very common, but I personally think is the less appropiate for corsetry. This corset by Bibian Blue shows this kind of lacing that starts either at the top or the bottom (the example is started at the bottom and ties the edges at the top). There are no bunny ears on the waist area and the ribbons look more like a shoe.
I would recommend lacings 1 or 2, as the bunny ears help pulling the waist in which is actually the corseting aim.
Now we know a bit more about laces and lacing, how do we put our corset on?
1- First of all, make sure your laces are loose enough to wrap yourself with the garment without any pulling or pressure. This will prevent the front closure from damage (it doesn't matter if it's a zip, a busk, swing hooks... If the front closure is also a lacing system, you may need to loosen this up as well). When your corset features no front closure at all, back laces should still be loose enough to get inside (as you would put on a top or T-shirt); if laces are too short to get in, then you'll need to undo part of the lacing so you get comfortably in. Then, relace your corset before starting the next step. After wraping the corset around, close the front. If it's a busk, make sure you start closing the second or third hook first to avoid extra pressure on the piece, and then fasten up the other hooks.
2- You've got your corset loose around your body: now it's time to pull the laces. You can make this on your own (a mirror will help) or get it done by somebody else. In any case, the way of doing it is pretty much the same. Start by pulling the bunny ears at your waist as long as the surrounding laces tighten a bit. Now, start pulling from the top to the middle, and then from the bottom to the middle as you would do with a shoe, making sure the extra ribbon goes to the middle section increasing the lenght of the bunny ears. Repeat this until you feel pressed by the corset, making sure you pull more or less the same way at the top and bottom so the back bones don't suffer and keep as straight as possible. The pressure must be comfortable and allow breathing normally. If you feel any pain or discomfort, loosen the laces a bit until you feel like huged and well. Warning!! Make sure you lace yourself in slow and gently, there's no need to rush. Too much pressure may cause injuries if you don't listen to your body's needs. Feel free to bend and accomodate yourself inside of the corset while lacing so you get comfortable.
3- Pull the bunny ears to get a perfect cinch around your waist and tie the rabbit ears into a simple bow. I recommend to leave the free edges slightly longer than the looped laces to ease unmaking the bow: it's not the first time I pull the bow wrong and make a knot, which is not a desireable thing to happen when you need to loosen yourself up quickly.
Tip: Half an hour after you put your corset on, your body has
accostumed to the cinch, so you can gently pull a little bit more. Be
aware of what your body says to you: if you don't feel like pulling in anymore as you know this will be uncomfortable or even painful, stop and
skip this readjustment. Comfort and patience are essential when
Here's a video by Lucy/Bishonenrancher cinching herself into a "1st type lacing" (bunny ears) corset to clear these steps up, and this is another video of hers closing a "2nd type lacing" corset (inverted bunny ears). If your corset is laced in the 3rd way (no rabbit ears) then check this video by Lucy/Bishonenrancher, it will help a lot!
How do we get out of our corset now? Simply follow the same steps as before but starting from the end: so you undo the bow, loosen a bit at the top and a bit at the bottom as many times as needed to keep the back bones straight, and when you're loose enough unfasten the front closure if there's one (remember, the second/third hook of the busk is the last one to be unfastened).