The Wasp Waisted
Before vanity sizing threw off industry standards and hiphuggers confused everyone about the exact location of a waistline, a woman's waist measurement was a good indicator of her particular size. A woman would use her waist measurement as a tool to determine her size in almost any garment, be it a skirt, a pair of pants, a dress or half slip. Certain sizing norms meant that if a woman had a well proportioned figure and a waist of 28 inches she could bank on being a pattern size 14, a dress size 36, and, more generally speaking, a standard medium. This is because unlike bust or hip measurement, the waist is typically a consistent and accurate representation of a woman's overall size.
Sizing today is so much more complicated! You may be a size 6 in dresses, a 29 in designer jeans, perhaps a 9 in other pants and anywhere between a small and large in tops and jackets. Not to mention the difference is sizing from one brand to the next. Yikes! This makes finding the right fit difficult especially when shopping without the opportunity to try things on, as in online. Familiarizing yourself with your personal measurements can help you navigate the uncertain seas of size.
Lets look at a few garments where finding your size is based primarily on your waist measurement. Corsets and powernet waist cinchers are a good place to start, since they specifically target the waistline. Remember, all sizing is relative! Take into consideration the shape, fiber content and design of the garment as well as your body type and proportions. When you select the size of a close fitting compression garment like a corset or cincher, being armed with your measurements is crucial.
First get out your handy measuring tape, or download this printable version. Standing straight with your feet shoulder width apart measure your natural waist. If you're unsure where your waist is, stand in front of a mirror and bend sideways. You should see a fold in the skin where you are bending, this is a good place to target on a first attempt. For most people the natural waist is about 1-2 inches above the belly button. Pull the tape snug around yourself, but be honest, no need to suck in or flub your results, you'll only be cheating yourself out of a good fit.
See the chart below to get an idea of how your waist measurement relates to our foundation garments' sizes.
Fitting a Waist Cincher With Stretch
For a woman with a classic hourglass shape, when choosing a cincher made with stretchy powernet fabric you'll want to pick the size that corresponds directly with your natural waist measurement. This type of foundation garment is designed to fit snugly but not be bone crushing. They are usually cut about 8-10 inches smaller in total circumference than the size they are intended to fit. In other words, a med/28 waist cincher will have an un-stretched measurement of about 20 inches, and will stretch to a maximum of 30 inches. If the cincher is already 8 inches smaller than you are, trust us when we say you will need those extra 2 inches of ease in order to achieve a perfect fit. You need to be able to move comfortably in the garment, you also want it to fit smoothly, and to last for a good amount of time. Wearing a stretch cincher that is too tight will not only shorten the life of the garment, but will likely dig in at the waist creating ripples, and ride up at the hip line creating a bulge. Not Pretty. A good fitting waist cincher will take 1 to 1.5 inches off your waistline right away, and still be comfortable enough to wear all day. The Rago 21 powernet cincher is an excellent choice if you've never worn one before, and really can be a staple item in your lingerie wardrobe.
Fitting a Corset Without Stretch
Corsets are made with rigid non-stretch materials and are designed to significantly reduce your waistline by up to 4 inches over time, and usually about 2 inches instantly. Most good quality corsets are made with what is called a modesty panel. This is a layer of material that is 4 inches wide, and attached to one side of the back edge of the corset. It can be worn folded open across your back to cover up your skin, or folded to the inside of the corset so your back is exposed. If you plan on wearing a corset with the modesty panel open, select a size that is 4-6 inches smaller than your natural waist. By going down in size 4-6 inches, the modesty panel will completely cover the exposed skin without excess bulked up fabric under the lacing. You'll still have 2 inches of reduction and the fabric of the modesty panel will be smooth and elegant. If you are going to wear a corset with the modesty panel folded to the inside of the corset, then select a size 4 inches smaller than your waist. This will give you 2 inches of reduction and 2 inches of bare skin.
Note that for those of you who've been tightlacing, you're already experienced with your best corset size and may be reducing significantly more than the amounts we're talking about here. The recommendations above are intended for the novice or woman who only wears a corset for special occasions.
Different Body Types
The guidelines above are a good starting point for women with a classic hourglass shape, whose bust is 8-12 inches larger than her waist and whose waist is 8-14 inches smaller than her hip. If you have a different body type or if your hip is more than 14 inches bigger than your waist, then other rules of fit may apply. When trying to determine your best size be conscious of your own figure type and the function of the garment you're interested in.
So what if you're not a hourglass shape? Here are a few solutions for other common figure types. For garments like waist cinchers with four way stretch, a woman with a rectangular or willowy body may find different fit standards apply. Because the powernet stretches up and down, and side to side, your proportion can sometimes require choosing a size other than your waist measurement.
Think about the waist cincher as if it were a pair of pantyhose. When you put on a pair of hose, what doesn't get stretched in girth (how big around you are) will get stretched in length, right? If a pair of hose is too big for you, you can stretch them all the way up to your armpits sometimes. Waist cinchers made from stretch fabric will act in a similar way (not the armpits part).
~What you don't stretch in girth you will stretch in length - and vice versa~
So, let's say you are very long waisted and the curve of your hip is lower than most other women. You might find that even though your waist is 28 that a 28 cincher is too big for you. This is because the fullness of your hip is farther below your waist than average. You can wear foot wide belts and probably don't need a waist cincher! Anyway, go down one size. Even though you're in a size 26, remember that this item has four way stretch so the waist will accommodate with a little extra give.
Information is your best resource when it comes to shopping for foundation garments. Learn to love your tape measure. Knowing your body type will help you find the most flattering garments and make shopping online a breeze! If you're ready to get started have a look at some of the different cinchers and corsets we offer, and get ready to wow them with your svelte new wasp waistline.