My Day* in a Waist Trainer

Waist trainers seem to be everywhere these days. Celebrities are spouting them all over social media (hello, Kim Kardashian) and when I first heard about it, my first thought was “You guys realize you’re bringing back corsets, right?”

For me, growing up I only ever heard negative opinions about corsets. Things like “they made ladies faint” (a la Gone with the Wind), “ladies couldn’t breathe while wearing them” (a la Meet me in St. Louis), and “ladies removed their ribs to be able to squeeze into them” [which is debunked quite nicely here].

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gif from saturdaynightmovie.tumblr.com

It wasn’t until I started studying history and historical clothing and actually wore a corset that I realized just how untrue all of these things are. I’m not trying to delve to get into the stigma around them or the reality of a properly-fitting corset them in this post – that’s a topic for another day.

Today I’m talking about waist trainers. After seeing image after image of women wearing them and singing their praises come across my instagram feed, I cut to the chase and actually ordered one for myself. This one, to be exact:

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It features four steel bones and measures almost 10″ high. I bought a size XL, which is suggested for 31.5 to 33.8 inches. My natural waist measurement is 34″.

My first thought when I picked it out was that it reminded me of various “ventilated” or “summer” corsets that I’ve come across over the years. See? Another reference to corsetry!

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Such as this one. V&A Museum.

When it arrived I tried it on right away. It was late at night and, at first, it felt really tight and uncomfortable (and was hard to get on – I ended up fastening it and stepping into it). So I took it right back off and set it aside for a few days until I had decided to actually give it a proper try.

 

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You can’t even really tell I’m wearing a waist trainer.

I put it on when I got dressed at 8 am and my initial plan was to wear it to work for my entire 10-hour shift and record how I felt and looked throughout the day (through a series of unabashed bathroom-mirror selfies).

In that plan, I decided that I would consider the experiment a success if the waist trainer provided a smooth waistline while remaining comfortable. And if it helped support my lower back (I stand all day), that would be a major plus.

L: waist trainer on.        R: waist trainer off.

I had breakfast, drove to work, and got my day started. Sitting in my car was a little weird at first, but not uncomfortable. Nothing pinched or was too tight and it made my torso significantly less rigid than in a corset. It did smooth out my waistline and decrease the circumference by almost one inch. The weirdest part, at first, was how it made me feel like I was made of rubber.

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Kind of like this guy. Source.

Whenever I bent at the waist, the elasticity made me feel like I should immediately spring back straight up. Very different than wearing a corset, which makes you bend at the hips, but not uncomfortable, per se.

L: waist trainer on.        R: waist trainer off.

Unlike some other peoples’ experiences that I read briefly before doing this (x, x), I had no trouble breathing, I never felt light-headed, I wasn’t overheating, and eating was no problem. I was feeling good!

But by 9:30 I wasn’t so sure anymore.

On my notes I jotted down that I was “iffy,” but then an hour later it was back to “totally fine.” After a little more back and forth, I started to get a headache and was unsure whether or not it was from the waist trainer.

Then around 11:30 it started to slip, and by noon it was digging into my sides.

It settled in right at my waistline, bunching up and becoming supremely uncomfortable. I tried to readjust it but nothing short of taking it completely off and then putting it back on would fix the problem.

So off it came and I spent my lunch break lounging comfortably with the waist trainer stashed in my purse. I haven’t put it back on since.

What I found super interesting, though, was that the waist trainer started to collapse in on me in exactly the same way that my Edwardian corset did a few months ago. This definitely warrants more research. The garments are so different that I wonder if the root of the situation might lie in the shape of my actual body. Hmmm…

So, in all I wore it the waist trainer for four hours. I’m not opposed to wearing it again, for a shorter length of time, but I think I’ll stick to support garments with more inherent shape and structure.

My experience had nothing to do with how the actual garment was manufactured, though. It was well-constructed and pretty good quality, especially for its price.

Have you ever tried a waist trainer? What was your experience?

*by day I mean morning. Haha.