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Making Cosplay a Cinch

As a lover of dress up, styling and fashion, lingerie and fetish wear, corsets very definitely have a place in my heart. An expansive, palatial ballroom sized place.

So naturally, my many social media feeds are partially dedicated to posts made from related pages that I like and people whom I follow who are also into corsets.

And being on the cusp of thirty, I have also started to follow a lot of health and fitness related social media outlets; assuming that if I have enough healthy-living posts popping up that eventually something will absorb into my psyche and I can somehow hypnotise myself into effortlessly shaking off the extra pounds that my recently changing metabolism has gifted me with.

Me enjoying a Kiku Corset in the ‘Most Haunted’ Albert Hall in Manchester UK, as photographed by Sara Wolvin

I’ve noticed however, that in the last twelve months or so there seem to have been a lot of misinformed articles springing up on the web and in women’s magazines about corsets and fitness. The link between the two subjects may not be immediately apparent, but the general jist is that there is an epidemic of people (I have no idea which people exactly) being duped into thinking that waist training is a substitute for a healthy diet and exercise and are permanently damaging their bodies by squeezing them into corsets or waist cinchers. These articles are usually punctuated with links to the authors’ expensive diet plans or miracle shakes, and very rarely contain any reference at all to genuine, scientific health resources.

Of course about 80% of this anti-corsetry waffle is utter nonsense. (The other 20% being that corseting is no substitute for a diet and exercise; it isn’t!)

If you’re looking to know more about corsets, for waist training or for costuming and generally looking beautiful, then take your advice from someone in the know.

I spoke to corset-clad cosplayer and model Ava Castle, and Lynn McKay of Kiku Corset Boutique about some corset myths and the reality of wearing them.

The beautiful Ava Castle wearing all Kiku Boutique

Lynn: The most common misconceptions are that it’s going to permanently move your organs, weaken your spine and muscles, make it difficult to breathe or move freely.

According to lingerie expert, The Lingerie Addict, corseting compresses the organs far less than pregnancy does.

Well-fitted corsets will support good posture and reduce back pain, contrary to some recent net-chatter. And the reduction of lung capacity whilst wearing a corset is so mild it’s hardly worth mentioning.

Lynn: I think some people may be put off by [these myths], but I think every woman (or man) should try a corset on at least once in their life. It can be very empowering for a woman to try on a corset. The way your posture changes and your shape alters can be a very uplifting experience.

Ava: I most like the way that corsets make me feel. When wearing one I feel feminine, confident, sexy and strong. Which is mainly because of the good posture that corsets can provide.

Ava wearing another Kiku Corset, photographed by Colin Grist

Wearing a corset is definitely an experience that can be enjoyed. Maybe it isn’t something the average person would want to do every day; but the exaggeration of the human body’s natural curves can be very beautiful. And feeling beautiful (even if it’s only for yourself) can make you feel fantastic on the inside too.

Those curves are also characteristic of some of our favourite heroes and villains, and if you’re cosplaying for accuracy then a corset can be an integral part of your costume.

Ava Castle wearing Kiku Boutique as Poison Ivy.
Photo by Vivacious Imagery

Ava: I tend to cosplay more comic book or fantasy styled characters, many of which have very exaggerated figures which a corset can emphasise. So for me it’s about making my cosplays a little more authentic and getting my outfit as close to the real thing as possible.

Corsets are generally still perceived as an item of lingerie or underwear so on a day-to-day basis i.e for work, I’ll wear them mainly as an under garment. But I do like wearing them as an outer garment whenever the opportunity to [cosplay] arises.

Lynn: We love working with people to create burlesque or cosplay outfits, although each comes with it’s own design challenges. It’s very rewarding when an outfit is complete.

Burlesque performer Sukki Singapora, wearing Kiku Corset Boutique, photographed by Charles Farrah

With burlesque and cosplay seeing a surge in popularity in the last decade or so, it does appear that corsets are slinking into the public eye a lot more often. This is not to say that they ever went away, they have ALWAYS been around (despite what many recent articles tell you about corsets popping up briefly in the Victorian era and then resurfacing today, they were around long before and after the Victorians.)

But recently we have seen celebrities like the Kardashians and Sin City and The Fantastic Four star Jessica Alba wearing corsets.

As ever, you shouldn’t ever do something just because you see a celebrity doing it. For one, those corsets the Kardashians are boasting are pretty vile (and, am I right in thinking they wear them to the gym? Or do they just really like wearing them with fitness gear?) and poor Jessica Alba seems to have been misinformed completely.

In an interview with Net-a-Porter, Alba said she

“wore a double corset day and night for three months. It was sweaty, but worth it.”

She wore a what? Does she mean two corsets? This was apparently to lose weight after her pregnancy, but of course we know that corsets to not = weight loss.

The interview has since been removed from the Net-a-Porter site because ERROR 404; SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE NOT FOUND.

You can still read about it, HERE.

This is the other myth about corsets and waist training; localising weight loss just isn’t a thing. You can’t lose belly fat any quicker than you can loose it anywhere else, and wearing something that moulds your body shape does not magically remove the fat underneath the garment.

That is crazy talk, and probably the reason so many of these corset-bashing articles have cropped up in the first place. But this does not mean by any means that a well-fitting corset is bad for your health, or that it can’t change your body shape.

Me wearing my own Kiku corset, photographed by Chris W Parker

I love to wear this corset, both as a lingerie item and as an outer garment.

It doesn’t make me any look any skinner per se, but it does make my waistline smaller whilst I’m wearing it and exaggerates the difference between my waist and my hips, which I love. Because I don’t wear them all the time, unlacing myself out of my corset sometimes feels difficult. The trick is to have a willing counterpart who doesn’t taking you out of your corset, until lacing it yourself becomes second nature.

I have never had any trouble breathing whilst wearing a corset, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend working out or doing anything strenuous while wearing one. Moving around is for the most part very easy, and I always find that it corrects my posture and makes me walk much taller and straighter. Bending over to tie your shoes is usually what makes you remember that you’re wearing a corset, but it’s certainly not impossible.

I have worn cheaper mass produced corsets and expertly made corsets, and depending on the situation I am happy to wear either really. I do find that the mass produced ones don’t have much of an effect on my body shape while I’m wearing it, the eyelets or grommets in the lacing sometimes rip and the boning (in cheaper corsets, usually plastic or sometimes what looks like aluminium) often ends up snapping, bending or popping out through the fabric and spearing you in the armpit/groin if you wear or wash them too much. Yeah.

In my experience, there just isn’t a substitute for quality. If you want something you can wear for a quick photo shoot that doesn’t focus too much on the low quality of a cheaper corset, then it doesn’t really matter. But you can’t beat the comfort, durability, shape and opulence of the real deal.

Ava Castle, Kiku Corsets, Colin Grist

Lynn: I can’t stress enough how important it is to be fitted properly into a corset. Buying something online can often be disastrous; wrong size, wrong shape, poor materials and boning can often lead to an extremely uncomfortable corset which I also think leads to some myths that all corsets are bad for you.

Ava: I would actually advise avoiding most off the rail corsets, especially for waist training. Don’t get me wrong, those type of corsets are great for fashion and costume but if you’re looking at corsets from a body modification point of view, it’s very unlikely that you’ll find an off the rail corset that will fit your unique shape comfortably and create the shape that you want.

I recommend investing in a custom made corset as soon as you can, it is definitely worth it. Especially if you’re looking for an every day corset, this will ensure that you get the best reduction possible in the safest way as ill-fitting corsets can cause a great deal discomfort. If you’re buying a corset for the first time I would advise looking for one that’s comfortable to get you used to wearing them.

Go for a corset with about a 4 inch reduction from your natural waist and start off slow. Tighten them until they’re snug but comfortable and your body will naturally get used to reducing into that shape. Your body will let you know when you need to go tighter.

Ava Castle, Kiku Corsets, Colin Grist

Lynn: Finding a reputable corsetiere is step number one, make sure you find out about the company. It’s the little details that add up to a well made corset, so ask questions like ‘What kind of boning is in this corset?’ ‘Where is the boning from?’ ‘What fabrics and linings do you use?’ ‘Do you use a two part grommet?’

Always try and have a fitting, this way you can get advice on what shape and size would work for you and if you need something custom made.

Tight-lacing is completely different to waist training. Someone who wears a corset occasionally but has a 4 inch or more reduction tight-laces. A person who wears a corset on a daily basis to alter the size of their waist is a waist trainer. It takes dedication and commitment to waist train some people wear them 24/7 but some will wear from 8 hours upwards it depends on the individual wearer.

Ava: I wear [a corset] pretty much every time I leave my house but I always have at least one rest day without them during a typical week. I don’t sleep in them just to clear that up, as most people seem to presume that I do!

For me, a corset kind of IS my look. I’m rarely seen without one and I do actually view it as a form of prolonged body modification. Not only does a corset accentuate the curves of the female form, I feel that it is an add-on to my personality aesthetically.

I find lacing myself up really easy, but I have had a lot of practise! My tip is always pull the corset strings to the side of you to tighten them as that works with the mechanism of the corset as opposed to getting someone to pull the strings straight back and away from your body which is actually a lot harder.

There are examples of corsets everywhere, and you may have started noticing them more recently because of the media attention the subject has had. But do the research before letting a TV talk show host talk you out of wearing them completely, or a celebrity talk you into wearing them for the wrong reasons. People who wear them are probably your best source of information on what it feels like and how it affects their bodies. Corsetieres are the best folks to ask about what kind of corset suits your needs. If you’re more interested in dropping weight loss and muscle toning, then you should probably speak to a doctor, nutritionist or a personal trainer instead.


Don’t be conned into thinking the latest celebrity endorsed fad is going to make you thin. Do use what you have to highlight or exaggerate your favourite features.

Little Sofi and Integra Fairbrook wearing Kiku Corset Boutique, photographed by Sara Wolvin.
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