Corset class – The masculine side of corsetry

Grommets for lacing on a couture, custom-made corset.

Grommets for lacing with nylon cord

One question I’ve been asked that there doesn’t seem to be a lot (or perhaps just enough) information on is corsetry for men.  I have found that these inquiries generally fall into four  different categories:

  • Men looking to change their figure to a more curvy, hourglass (stereotypical feminine) figure (either for cross-dressing, female illusionists, or female impersonation performances).
  • Men looking to wear corsets but maintain a fairly straight or v-shaped (stereotypical masculine) silhouette.  (Taming that pot-belly for instance, or supporting their backs.)
  • Men looking for the fashionable aspect of corsets. (Popular amongst  goth, emo, steampunk, cyberpunk, or fetish sub-culture fashions.)
  • Men who enjoy the restrained feeling of being in a corset – like bondage you can wear under your clothes.

This, to me, comes down to two different styles of corsets – one that tries to imitate a desired ‘feminine’ figure for the male dresser; one with curves, and one that tries to enforce a more straight or v-shaped ‘masculine’ figure.  Those looking for fashion or restraint may go either way, depending on their own figure, their interests, and indeed, their own self-confidence!

One thing to note, although I use the phrases ‘stereotypical feminine figure’ or ‘stereotypical masculine figure’ this in no way means that there is one way for men and women (or those who don’t subscribe to a gender binary either for that matter!) should look…

All about the curves!

For men wanting to create the illusion of a curvy figure through corsetry, consider your body type first.  If you are slim, slender, or have ever been compared to a ‘bean-pole’, you won’t have a lot of body to ‘squish’ around.  (Much like your slim, slender female counterparts).  You may find that you need to add padding to fill out the curves you’re aiming for.  By adding padding to the hipline and bustline, you can create the illusion of an hourglass figure around your already slender waist.

For the gentleman with a more ample figure, you might have more body to ‘squish’ into place.  (I know… it’s not a really delicate way of putting it, but roll with me!)  Just like more amply endowed women, you may find that you can cinch in your waist more easily, and use support garments for the bustline.  (I will count electrical tape as a support garment here!) If you have narrow hips (proportionately to the waistline you desire), you may still find that you need to pad your hip area to create a curvier figure.

The kind of corset you might want to look for (or make!) will be determined by your body type and the overall look you’re going for, along with the garments you want to wear with your corset.  I’ve seen many female illusionists wear bust-support garments, an underbust hourglass (Victorian) corset, hip pads and a long v-necked dress to excellent effect.  Likewise, I’ve seen cross-dressing men wearing an elegant evening overbust corset with a long evening skirt with equal success.  Generally I’ve seen Victorian-style corsets, but that doesn’t mean you can’t shake things up and go for a style that suits you, your body, and your needs better.  (A Regency-style corset might work especially well for a gentleman with a very straight figure!)

Close up on the silk and sheer lace overlay on the purple silk corset

Close up on the silk and sheer lace overlay on the purple silk corset

When it comes to making your own corset – you can go wild with fabrics… do you want a corset as a support garment – which won’t be seen?  (Thus colours and fabrics that will blend in with the rest of your wardrobe would be preferable.)  Do you want an elegant evening corset? (Gorgeous silks and brocades perhaps!) Or maybe you want something fashionable, trendy, or fetish-focused?  Since your corset won’t necessarily be hidden, you can go wild!

Generally speaking you will not be able to just go into a lingerie store and find what you are looking for – the proportions between bust, waist, and hip will likely be wrong for you, and the body length may also be an issue (as it is for most women).  Although I won’t be able to give a lot of specific advice on pattern-fitting for gentlemen looking to create a curvier figure through corsetry, most of the tools, tips, and techniques I’ll explore through the corset class will easily apply if you wish to make your own corset.

Straight laced!

For gentlemen who want to maintain a straighter, less curvy figure, while still enjoying the benefits of corsetry, you’ll want to work with your figure more, rather than adjusting against it.  Most corset patterns that are commercially available will not work right out of the package for you.  (With the notable exception of the Laughing Moon men’s corset.) Generally speaking you’ll be looking more for underbust corsets rather than overbust corsets, though there are some gorgeous corset-vests being made that take the corset up to the shoulders, maintaining a smooth, straight line.

For gentlemen with slim, slender figures, most corsets designed for men will be appropriate.  You can get the ‘cinched’ in feeling from a corset with straight seams, much like a very wide belt or tight-fitting garment.  For gentlemen wanting to tame a pot belly, a more engineered corset might be necessary to avoid pushing your body upwards or downwards outside of the corset.

Black and brown pinstripes with a quarter for scale.

Black and brown pinstripes with a quarter for scale.

When it comes to making your own corset, you’ll very possibly want to stay neutral in colour and fabric if you are looking to wear a corset as a support garment.  Something that will blend in under your dress shirts or other regular garments will be important.  Corset-vests can be made in traditional suiting fabrics to imitate a three-piece suit – but keep in mind that the lacing and back of the corset will show if you take off your jacket.

Again, although I won’t be able to give a lot of specific advice on pattern-fitting for gentlemen looking to create a curvier figure through corsetry, most of the tools, tips, and techniques I’ll explore through the corset class will easily apply if you wish to make your own corset.

Just for the fashion!

For men who just want to wear corsets for the look (and perhaps feel), the world is your oyster.  You’re already making a statement about your individuality and interest in standing out from the norm by wearing a corset – the kind of corset you wear is limited only by your imagination and self-confidence.

Snakeskin PVC from the grandmother's fabric sale. This will make an amazing bag or corset

snakeskin pvc

Colour, fabric, notions and trim are all possible since you’ll be liking wearing the corset exposed.  Consider pvc, vinyl, leather, or other fabrics that work with the overall look you want to create.  I’ve seen great suiting material used to make fashionable male corsets, and interesting quilting cotton prints too.  Just as an aside, I would highly recommend checking out the modeling work of UK musician and model “Markabre” (previously known online as Imaginary Boy) if you’re interested in seeing some beautiful photos of a gentleman looking GOOD in a corset.

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