Tight Lacing and the Origin of the Corset

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If you were born with the world's most perfect hourglass figure, well congratulations! Don't go leaving yet, this post is still for you, because corsets were designed to enhance the natural female form. Quite frankly, all body types can still use a little "something extra" for special occasions.

Now, for the rest of us who may not have been born with perfect curves or have some serious desires to grab attention with a tiny waist, there is hope for us yet. Over the last few years, tight lacing has seen a popular resurgence. But, what is tight lacing, exactly?


The method reduces your waist by 4 inches or more, or about 20%. Please keep in mind everyone and every body type is different, meaning this number may change.

This may not be something you choose to do every day. Let me clarify that.  Tight lacing has its place. If you are not looking to train your waist semi-permanently, you can still see some pretty cool results.  Burlesque, cosplay, and special occasions are all times when you may want to tight lace. 

Wait A Minute, So Is It The Same As Waist Training?

This is a great question. The term waist training usually refers to the process of trying to semi-permanently or permanently change the shape of your waist. It involves a very strong, well-fitting corset worn over many hours each day. Sometimes it is even worn while sleeping and in some cases while exercising.

Most popularly an underbust style corset, (such as thing one below,) would be chosen if looking for these types of results.

To achieve the desired effect, the lacing would be pulled tightly. However just because all waist training uses tightly laced corsets, does not mean all tightly laced corsets are training your waist.  That was a tongue twister!

Choose a corset that can be repurposed for everyday, like in this example:

So, How Do I Tightly Lace My Corset?

To achieve proper form, first, you need a strong foundation in terms of which corset you decide to choose. Choose a strong corset that is well made and will not rip.  A corset that can be tight laced may have acrylic bones; but try and limit to this type of boning when you are only intending on being laced for a short amount of time (i.e. a special evening, or photo shoot). For long-term wear, choose a corset with steel bones so the shape stays in place and there is no worrying about the bones warping over time.  Just as when choosing any type of corset, making sure to purchase the correct size is essential. Here in this example, we can see all of the ideal elements: well made, steel boning and beautiful!

Now this one here is acrylic boned, but it has hard wearing material so there is no creasing when pulled tight. 


Examples of In Modern Times

Dita Von Teese, burlesque dancer / entertainer extraordinaire is known for her hourglass-laced figure. If you are not familiar with Dita's art, here is a short bio from her website Dita.net:

"Taking audiences on a journey into fantasy and spectacle, Dita is renowned for her ornate sets and dazzling haute-couture performance costumes...""


 "Dita Von Teese at Cannes 2007" by Mireille Ampilhac - originally posted to Flickr as Cannes 2007. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The quote goes on to list her as a "Burlesque Superheroine". That's pretty awesome.

Corset History Lesson Time!

The actual term “tight lacing”, comes from the laces that are pulled through the holes, going up the back of a corset. Here is another element of a well-made piece; thick, strong laces and metal eyelets, or grommets, to reinforce the holes. This dress has both. You won't have any pulling at the site due to the extra stitching and steel ringlets.

The word corset comes from a French term meaning, "a kind of laced bodice". They really gained traction during Victorian fashion, but they were by no means a new invention. The first one known to be documented was spotted back in 2000BC, so this is some serious vintage fashion we are talking about! Thanks to how fabulous wearing one looks and feels there is now a much larger selection available and women are not limited to only one style

If you take a day to browse around your local museum, chances are you will see many ladies wearing corsets back in the 16th century. Original corsets were meant to flatten the torso while also raising the bust. They were worn under garments. The added benefit of a tiny waist had not yet been discovered.

The corset stayed around for a few hundred more years. During this  time, the big shoulder was really in.  Think 80s shoulder pad x10.  By the time the Victorian period hit, though, the shoulder was out  and it was finally time to get that cinched waist going. Eyelets were not added until around 1828 and 2 years later the front  faster eyelets came into existence. 

This made putting them on a  whole lot easier because women no longer had to get completely  unlaced to get in and out; saving time and effort.

"...the best gift of all: you will love the way you look."

The Modern Everyday Corset

 The corset of today does not require the time and effort commitment  of corsets past nor does it ever need to be done up tightly (unless that is the look you are going for).

These pieces can be worn under blazers or cardigans and paired with skirts or pants. The sexy, fun and vintage element they bring to an outfit will bring compliments and the best gift of all: you will love the way you look.

Ouch! My Corset Hurts

There is one very important rule to remember when attempting to get that perfect waist.  If while wearing your bustier, you are gravely uncomfortable or your corset is painful, then something is wrong. That old saying; "it hurts to be beautiful", should not take a literal form in this scenario. Possible reasons for why a piece might cause discomfort might be quite easy to fix.  

You might be wearing the wrong size. Another problem might be the way you are lacing your corset. We have a whole post coming soon on how to lace your corset, so stay tuned for that if you think this might be where your problem is coming from. In the meantime, do not be afraid to reach out to Atomic Jane Clothing with questions you might be having with comfort or fit.

You can email support@atomicjaneclothing.com if you are not sure about which size to start with, and if that feels a bit too formal, leave a comment and I will get back to you in whatever way is easiest for you. We want you to look good, but more importantly we want you to feel just as good!


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  1. Roxanne January 18, 2016

    I wore a corset once. I love the look, but not the feel of wearing them or trying to lace myself in. lol

  2. Jessica@AtomicJane December 12, 2015

    @Melanie Tips on how to lace your corset? Absolutely! Check back in a few weeks- we will have just what you are looking for!

  3. Jessica@AtomicJane December 12, 2015

    Awesome Lisa. I hope they enjoy it.

  4. Melanie December 12, 2015

    I love corsets. I wear them all the time when I go clubbing. My biggest complaint is that it’s hard to breathe while wearing one. Also very hard to lace up myself. I’d love to see some tips for that ?

  5. Jessica December 12, 2015

    Super gorgeous!!

  6. Tess December 12, 2015

    Great read! We learned about corsets when I went to school and even had a woman come in and demonstrate how to wear them and some girls got to try them on!

  7. Caroline December 12, 2015

    Great topic. Corsets are being so popular once again and some girls don’t know the practical beauty is pain doesn’t count that way anymore

  8. Lisa lambert December 12, 2015

    Great article and read my friends wears corsets will be sure to show her this x

  9. Jessica@AtomicJane December 07, 2015

    Hi Ladies! I’m so happy you enjoyed the read.

    LaNeshe-No way to pain! We want you to enjoy wearing your corset. If you are ever thinking of trying one of ours out-shoot us an email at support@atomicjaneclothing.com and we can help you choose th perfect size.

  10. Brita Long December 07, 2015

    When I was a Girl Scout cadet, my troop spent a long weekend in Savannah and visited Juliette Low’s house. Our history lesson included learning about women’s clothing, and we all got to try on modern reproductions of corsets. I did shrink my waist by 4 inches!

    I had no idea the earliest corset dated back so far. This was an interesting history lesson!

  11. Michelle December 07, 2015

    Very interesting read! Thanks for sharing :)

    xo – Michelle

  12. Tracy December 06, 2015

    I enjoyed reading the history behind the corset. The things we women do for beauty.

  13. LaNeshe December 06, 2015

    Thanks for sharing that it SHOULDN’T be painful!