CHAPTER VII
THE LACING CORSET

ITS adjustability–The different types–Individual fitting essential–Right and wrong uses of lacing–How to lace–Fitting front lace corset with busk; front lacing with side hooks; back lacing; back lacing with inner belt–How to check the fit–How to test in bending–How to take corset off.

THERE will always be a place in the store for lacing corsets, for they are firm favourites with women of all ages and have a world-wide acceptance. Their particular advantage is their adjustability. A woman can put on a lacing corset and pull the laces up to the degree of firmness she feels she wants at that time.

There are, roughly, five types of lacing corset to be considered–The front-lacing corset with busk fastening.

The front-lacing corset with hook side fastening.

The strong back-lacing corset with busk front and often an inner belt.

The short sports model with back lacing.

The maternity belt, lacing at each side, with an elastic panel in the front.

Lacing corsets are chiefly designed for figures needing considerable support, and all such corsets are well boned, often very strongly boned.

The back-lacing type is, in general, most suitable for very big women, especially those big in the abdomen and thighs and very heavy around the hips. Very stout women who are considerably over-developed in the abdomen, and particularly if the abdomen is pendulous, need an inner belt in the corset, and this feature can be a very useful additional support in a back-lacing corset.

The short back-lacing models are meant for slight to average figures needing good support for reasons due to weakness or poor health.

The advantage of the front-lacing types is that they are more easily adjusted when on the figure, and give a smoother line at the back.

Lacing Corsets must be Fitted

Important as fitting to the individual figure is in all corsetry, nowhere is it more so than in selling lacing corsets, in which there is little, if any, elastic to "give" to individual figure needs. This above all is the type of corset which should never be sold over the counter.

Great importance must be attached to selecting the right garment for the customer–the garment which is the correct figure type for her particular figure. This is necessary, of course, in selecting any type of corset, but it is fundamental in the case of lacing corsets that the garment should conform to the customer's natural proportions.

A Wrong Use of Lacing

It must here be impressed upon the saleswoman, and she must impress upon her customers, that to use the lacing of the corset as an adjustment to figure proportions which it does not truly match is a wrong use of the lacing and will never give satisfactory results.

Designers, when working on this type of corsetry, make a special feature of gradations of sizing and shaping, to ensure that the various models for different figure types exert the right measure of control and give a shapely, well-proportioned body-line. It is not necessary, therefore, to rely on the lacing to get a perfect fit for any figure.

Keep the Lacing Even

It is extremely important to tell the customer, when fitting her with a lacing corset, that the lacing must always be evenly open all the way down, and never less or more close at the top than at the bottom. Women are apt to think it convenient to let out the lacing where they are biggest, at the hips, for instance; but if they do so, they make it impossible for the garment to give them correct support. If the garment does not fit them when the lacing is even from top to bottom, then they are wearing the wrong type of garment for their figure. But it is the fitter's job to see that this mistake is not made and that the customer leaves the store with a corset she can wear correctly with the maximum advantage.

The Right Size

Almost all manufacturers of lacing corsets mark the garments with their actual waist size. The customer should, however, be fitted with a garment which is two inches less than her actual waist measurement, and then, when the garment is on her figure, it should be adjusted so that the lacing is open to the extent of those two inches.

Master the Lacing


FIG. 29. HOOKSIDE FRONT-LACING CORSET

The first thing a saleswoman must make sure of before she ever comes near a customer is that she has mastered the tricky little job of lacing a corset. It is one of those jobs that are easy when you know how. And the saleswoman must know how, because, although most good corsets are sent into stock by the manufacturers with the laces already in, there is always the possibility that a customer will bring back her lacing belt and say she took the lace out when she was washing the garment, or because the lace broke, and now she cannot get it in again.

Manufacturers have slightly different ideas on the method of lacing, but a tried and satisfactory method is to start lacing at the top and allow for a length of loose lace for tying at suitable points. In front-lacing corsets this should be at the waistline (Fig. 29) and is usually between the second and third, or third and fourth holes. In back-lacing corsets there should be two ties, one at the waist, and the other at the fullest part of the seat, say about 4 in. from the lower edge of the garment (Fig. 19).

If this lower pull in the back lace is kept in line with the bottom of the busk (or, in hookside back-lacing models, in line with the bottom of the bones) the rigid bone will be held in line with the body, without slackness.

In maternity belts, the single lace at each side of the controlling front panel should finish at the top.

Give the Lace a Rest

Customers should always be told that it is wise to undo the lacing at night and do it up afresh every time they put the corset on. This freshens up the lace, gives it a rest, and allows it to recover from the strain to which it has been subjected while the garment was being worn. Then it can be done up again to the proper tightness, instead of starting in the morning where it had finished at night! If it is not redone each morning in this way, the lace will not perform its function.

Another tip on the care of the lacing corset which should be passed on to the customer is that such corsets, in spite of all their bones, should be washed as regularly and frequently as any other kind of corsets. The laces should be taken out, or at any rate loosened, before the garment is washed.

Rules on Lacing

Fitting a lacing corset can sometimes be an awkward and difficult job, but there are rules to observe which not only simplify it for the fitter but help to ensure correctness of fit.

The fitter should first, of course, as in the case of any other kind of corset, have measured the customer, and classified her as short, medium, or long in the trunk, writing down the measurements and noting mentally the way in which the customer carries her weight–whether heavily below the waistline, or above it, or evenly all over. Then she should have selected a garment in the correct figure type, and in a size, as explained earlier, two inches smaller than the actual waist measurement.

Now, back in the fitting room with the customer, she is ready to start, and the following procedure should serve as a good basis on which to work. The instructions vary slightly, it will be noticed, according to whether the garment is back-lacing, front-lacing with busk fastener, or front-lacing with side hook fastening.

Front Lacing with Busk Fastener

1. Unlace the garment evenly from top to bottom to a width of at least five inches across the lacing. The process of unlacing can be simplified by holding the unclasped corset in the left hand and unlacing with the right, allowing the weight of the corset, pulling on the laces, to assist.

2. Sitting behind the customer, hold the back of the garment towards you and cup the corset by clasping one side in each hand, the bottom of the garment resting on your knees. Flex the hipbones towards you and the top of the corset away from you.

3. Now place the corset around the customer. Hold it low on the body and see that it is exactly centred. Ask the customer to hold the corset in position while you fasten the back suspenders, which serve as an anchor while the fitting and fastening proceed.

Front-lacing corset
FIG. 30. ADJUSTING THE LACES OF A FRONT-LACING CORSET
Start at the bottom and pull out the lacing sideways with firm even movements up to tie at waistline.

4. Turn the customer to face you, and fasten the top stud. Place the back of the right hand flat against the abdomen of the customer, holding the clasp section at the bottom with the right thumb. Place the left thumb under the busk and two fingers over the top of it. Bring the clasp section forward with one firm movement, fastening the third stud. The remainder of the busk fastening will then automatically fall into position. Fasten the hooks and eyes below the busk and attach the remaining suspenders to the stockings. (Fuller details on fastening busk fasteners are given in Chapter X).

5. Now adjust the laces, starting at the bottom and levering upwards as far as the waistline, and pulling out the lacing sideways with firm, even movements (Fig. 30). Take up, at the waist, any slack lace and make sure that the lacing is an even two inches apart from top to bottom. Tie the laces with at least three twists at the top, rolling the free ends round the fingers. Tuck in the ends at either side to give a smooth finish, with even distribution.

Front Lacing with Side Hook Fastening

1. Open the lacing as already instructed.

2. Sit with the customer facing you. Place the garment around the body and fasten the top hook. Then fasten the rest of the hooks from the bottom upwards, releasing the top hook when within a short distance of it. (More detailed instructions for fastening side-hooking garments are given in Chapter VIII.)

3. Fasten all the suspenders, first making sure that the garment is in the correct position on the body, and well centred, because with a lacing corset, which has no full panel of elastic, there can be no pulling down after the lacing is done up.

4. Proceed with the lacing as in the case of the busk-front model.

Back Lacing

1. Open the laces out to an even width of at least five inches.

2. Sit with the customer's back to you. Place the garment around the body and ask the customer to hold it in position while you do up the back suspenders.

3. Turn the customer to face you and fasten the busk as directed for the front-lacing corset.

4. Fasten the rest of the suspenders, and turn the customer away from you again.

5. As already described, there are two lots of loose lace in a backlacing type, one at the waist and the other at the hip, about four inches from the bottom. Adjust the lace to an even two inches' width up to the lower draw-lace, and tie the lower draw-lace.

6. Pull up the slack lace above the lower draw-lace until the laces are even up to the top, then tie the top draw-lace with at least three twists, rolling the spare lace round the fingers and distributing it evenly under the corset.

7. Undo the lower draw-lace and adjust the lacing again till it is absolutely even from top to bottom, and tie it again by twisting four or five times. This tie needs to be stronger because of the extra strain put upon it when the wearer sits down. Distribute the ends evenly under the corset.

Back-lacing Corset with Inner Belt

1. Fit the inner belt and fasten it, making sure that it is firmly in position across the abdomen and not pulled down too far. (Full instructions for fitting inner belt garments are given in Chapter XII.)

2. Sitting with the customer's back to you, see that the garment is quite straight on the body. Do up the back suspenders.

3. Turn the customer to face you and do up the fastening. (Inner belt garments are usually made to fasten with hooks at the side.) Do up the remaining suspenders.

4. Turn the customer round again and do up the laces as for an ordinary back-lacing corset.

How to Check the Fit of all Types of Corsets

1. See that the garment comes 1½-2 in. below the gluteal fold.

2. Ask the customer to sit.

3. See that the corset is roomy enough at the groin. There should be one clear crease across the top of the thighs when the customer is sitting. If the corset is too tight through the groin, it will cause discomfort and throw the garment out of line on the body, giving it a tendency to "ride up."

4. Test for thigh space by placing the fingers under the lower edge of the garment. There should be no bulge of flesh. The centre elastic gusset (if there is one) should not be over-stretched.

5. Test the front boning by placing the fingers inside the top of the garment to ensure that the rib cage has room for expansion. Place the finger tips underneath the lower edge of the boning to make sure the bones do not push down into the thighs. There should be a quarter of an inch free. If the boning is too long it will bow; if too short, it will stick out and quickly wear through the material.

6. Is there enough room at the waistline? Ask the customer whether she can breathe comfortably–and remember that breathing does not only involve movement of the upper ribs at the chest, but of the lower ribs and the diaphragm also. Hold your palm on her upper abdomen where the corset encloses it and feel for yourself that the customer is breathing comfortably right down to that extent.

7. Does the corset stand away from the waistline at the back? Or press too hard at the front? Perhaps the garment is too low on the body at the back and needs pulling up slightly, and down at the front.

8. Are there any wrinkles in the corset?   If so, it may be only a matter of adjustment–a slight pulling down of the garment here or there.

9. Is there a roll of flesh above the corset? Perhaps the waistline is too tight, or perhaps a higher corset is necessary. Perhaps a deep brassiere should be fitted to take in the excess of flesh.

10. Now test the garment in bending. Ask the customer to pick up a pin from the floor, and watch the behaviour of the garment as she does so. Does it "ride up"? The back suspenders may need tightening. It is essential, especially for heavy-bodied women, to keep a secure anchorage with the suspenders at the back. Explain this to the customer–for back suspenders are not always popular, and women have been known even to cut them off!

The cause of riding up may be, however, not too slack suspenders but too small a garment. Perhaps a bigger size should be tried. The figure spreads in bending, and if the corset is made of rigid cloth, without elastic to stretch, there must be enough room in it to allow for that spread in bending.

11. Does the corset cup the figure too closely in bending? If so, it may not be long enough. The corset should be long enough to retain a smooth curve, when bending, over the buttocks and down on to the thighs, without cutting in under the buttocks.

In any case the corset should fit without strain round the buttocks when the wearer is standing. There is a considerable spread of the tissues around the thighs and buttocks in sitting or bending, and there must be enough room in the corset to provide for this.

How to Take the Corset Off

Now instruct the customer how to take off her corset, as to do this correctly will add to its life and help to retain its good line.

1. Release the twist and extend the lacing at the top. Loosen the lace from the tie at the top to the bottom of the corset by picking up the lace at the centre where crossed and pulling it out to its entire length. Use each hand alternately. Leave enough slack between each pull so that the gap will be five inches wide when the lacing is released.

2. Unfasten all suspenders, using the two hands simultaneously so as to release both sides of the garment at the same time.

3. Unfasten the hooks and eyes at the bottom of the garment. Release the bottom clasp, turning the stud section inwards towards the body and the loop section outwards.

CHAPTER VIII