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13 Things You're Dying to Know About Waist Training

An expert corset maker explains why waist training offers more than just a trimmed-down torso.

Women in a black latex corset, viewed from behind Photo: Shutterstock

Women (and men) have been wearing corsets for hundreds of years, but when the Kardashians do it? Boom! Waist training becomes a hot topic.

As fashion returns to its love affair with the hourglass shape, more people have questions about how waist training works. We turned to San Francisco's Autumn Adamme — she's the owner of Dark Garden Corsetry & Couture and one of the world's leading corset makers — for answers about the binding trend.

Waist training is a popular topic right now. Is that the same as corseting?

I'd say that they're related, but not at all the same thing. Waist training is about gradually reducing one's natural waist size through the consistent wearing of corsets. Corsets can be worn for fun, fashion, costuming, foundation, and even medical and back support

How did waist training originate?

That is a rather involved question. The first waist trainers we know anything at all about were warriors in ancient Crete. (It was apparently a sign of athletic prowess to have a significantly small waist.) Throughout history, there have been famous waist trainers — often royalty, or, like today, celebrity "royalty." In the past, having a small waist meant that you were a lady of leisure, or a gentleman with enough free time to look after your figure.

Why do you think waist training has become popular again?

There has been a gradual return to celebrating the feminine form over the last decade, and several celebrities have contributed to this shift in "ideal body type." This started with Dita Von Teese, and now Christina Hendricks, Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, and Nicki Minaj are also capturing lots of public attention, not only for their talents, but their figures: voluptuous and very small-waisted.

What's involved in the process?

To genuinely reduce your waist, it's necessary to wear a corset on a fairly regular basis. Daily is ideal, but even a few times a week will affect your waist's flexibility.

How do you get started?

I recommend starting by finding a reputable corset maker, ideally one where you can try on corsets to find out if it's even something you'll enjoy. Fit is key here! Once you've found a corset that you like wearing, wear it frequently, laced to a comfortable point. The more often you wear it, the better your progress will be. Don't leap into the deep end by wearing it all day and all night at first. Work up to it slowly. Listen to your body, and if you're uncomfortable, loosen or remove the corset. It's not a race; the journey is just as important as the goal.

What are the benefits/results of waist training?

Speaking for myself, I notice that the more often I wear a corset, the easier it is to pull my waist in, and the longer I wear it regularly, the more dramatic the results. One of the benefits I've seen from corset-wearing, not just waist training specifically, is that people see themselves in a different light, often seeing a shapely waist in the mirror, maybe for the first time ever. Since, as a society, we value slenderness, it can be very empowering to simply lace on a waist as it were.

Is that just a shortcut for people who don't want to put in the the work of diet and exercise?

No amount of Pilates or yoga will create the drama that a corset can create in just a few minutes. Don't get me wrong! I highly recommend healthy diet and exercise, as well as corset-wearing, for a slender waistline. In addition, I find that there's a psychological benefit from corset-wearing that is a little unexpected and certainly underrated. One's posture is improved, and this doesn't only mean that you stand and sit up straighter: Upright posture is the shape of confidence. If you're standing up straight, you genuinely feel more confident, and you appear that way as well. It's kind of a positive feedback loop. Also, if you happen to have scoliosis or a weak back, a well-made, comfortable corset will feel fantastic!

How long does it take to see results?

Some bodies take to waist training very easily, while others are a little more resistant. One of the things that contributes to ease of corset-wearing is how pliable the muscles in your core are. If you have a lot of side-to-side flexibility — even if you have a very strong core — you'll corset more quickly than someone who is very solid. The same goes for the firmness of your body composition. Softer people reduce quickly and compress more easily than do people whose composition is a little more dense.

Once you start waist training, do you have to keep it up to maintain results?

One thing that isn't easy to explain about waist training is that until you've reduced your corseted waist by quite a bit, you won't see tremendous results outside of the corset.

Again, speaking from my personal experience, I've been wearing corsets off and on for over two decades — I believe my natural waist is smaller than it would be if I hadn't ever worn corsets. When I wear my corset frequently, I notice a difference in my waistline within a day or two, but this is right after I've taken off my corset. It doesn't last for days on end.

How quickly does the body shift back to its pre-waist training shape?

It's kind of like anything else that alters your body: You go on a diet and lose 20 pounds. How long do those results stick after you quit the diet? Or you sculpt your body through exercise: How long can you maintain fitness if you stop the exercise? Any kind of fitness requires maintenance.

Do you need a custom corset, or is it okay to buy off-the-rack?

I highly recommend starting with quality off-the-rack. The first few inches are the fastest, so it's almost silly to start with custom unless your body is far enough outside of average that you can't find something comfortable to fit you off-the-rack.

How do you pick the right corset?

You need to be comfortable in the garment that you choose to begin your journey with, otherwise it will be too difficult to stick with it. There are a lot of products out there that claim to be waist-shaping. Make sure that you're getting something that you actually like the feeling of. You need your body to relax into being held by the corset; you don't want to be fighting it every step of the way. In addition, if you wear something that doesn't narrow your waist but binds everything else as well, you're not going to be shaping your waist very effectively.

Any words of wisdom for people who want to try waist training?

I can go on for days about corset quality and what the difference is between a corset and bustier, but I'll conclude by saying that if you genuinely wish to shape your waist, you should work with an experienced corset maker. Fit is everything as far as comfort is concerned. Above all, don't let anyone tell you that breathing freely is overrated! Only bad corsets restrict your breathing.

This article first appeared on Racked San Francisco.