Vilified and celebrated, no single garment has created such intense and long-lived controversy nor engendered such devoted followers as the corset. Hardly anyone is neutral about corsets. On the topic, someone in every discussion finds a way to inject humor or derision, gentle or disguised as it may be, concerning those who corset and their love affair with the garment. Yet those who deride sometimes barely veil their own begrudging admiration, even jealousy toward the wearer.

Others circle warily around opportunities to try on or actually purchase a corset, fingering ready-to-wear boned bustiers or paging through volumes of details on custom-ordered long-lines and cinchers. They hesitate, blaming imperfect bodies that "need first to be in shape" (yet the corset assists with permanent waist reduction and good posture programs). They bemoan generous bodies (yet the corset looks bet when curves are voluptuous and visible). Men steadfastly reject internal desires to corset which they mistakenly believe appropriate only for women (yet local corsetiers sell 40% or more of their custom orders to men!)

It is these very facts of controversy, indecision and conflict that render corsets so compelling a subject of debate and desire. After all, differences create tension, and tension creates excitement.

Corsets both symbolize tension and make it real: the natural push of the waist outward into the resistance and inward pull of steel stays and stretched satin. Early on, the novice corset wearer may suffer a great deal from this conflict, even give up, because he or she does not understand the most effective psychological and logistical ways to approach the garment and convert its threat into exquisite pleasure.

From over ten years of personal experience with my 50-plus different corsets, and following many discussions with other corset wearers, I've concluded that there is a zen to the art of corset wearing and enjoyment. It requires both positive attitude and physical preparation.

I insure that my attitude is a positive one primarily by never corseting to excess. That is, I try never to dress faster, lace tighter or keep my corset on for a longer time than brings me actual feelings of pleasure. Approaching a corset with moderation and self-imposed restraint in some way internalizes the physical restraint that is to come, and thereby integrates it more fully into one's being. I want to live long, corset well, and prosper...not go out in a five-minute blaze of 14" glory!

Successful corseting be it daily or monthly, starts when the wearer establishes and maintains a personalized ritual before corseting. it matters little how simple or elaborate that ritual may be, merely that the ritual is consistently followed, and appropriate to enhance individual pleasure. Some agree that on the morning or even day before you intend to corset, the wearer should carefully chose the corset, accessories and outfit to be worn. I arrange my entire outfit on the bed, then enjoy looking at it several times before I leave for my day's work. During the day, I like to visualize in detail how good I will look and feel once I am dressed.

The second step occurs closer to the actual time of corseting. The mind must be cleared of the day's clutter and one's thoughts should be focused on the exquisite feelings that are possible in both body and soul as one corsets. To clear and focus, I usually plan time to luxuriate in a candle-lit bubble bath, attending carefully to each minor detail of preparation as for any special event. Even if I am dressing for and attending an event by myself, I approach wearing my corset with the care I use in planning for a rendezvous with a lower. Indeed, I do feel a bit as if the corset is my lover: warm hands pressing inwards, enveloping me in a tender, firm embrace, bidding my body to change, wooing and coaxing into view the curves that lie surprisingly close to the surface of my rather uninspiringly slender physique. One European corset model, Pandora, claims that the embrace of fabric and steel is even more intimate than that of a lover. It can certainly be more constant and available!

As part of the evening's final preparation, I insure that my appetite is curbed and my body feels svelt by munching lightly on fruits and juices, never imbibing carbonation or heavy protein or fatty foods. I snap the corset in front and initially do not tighten it, then wear it while I complete my makeup. During preparation for going out, I gradually pull the laces tighter in half-inch increments over the longest possible time.

Two hours is not an unreasonable period to comfortably and safely reach one's minimum waist size, which may well differ from day to day, depending on mood, stress or contentment level, or even phase of the moon. It is of utmost importance during this process of lacing down to not resist the stays, but to let them envelop the body easily and do all the work. Resistance or stiffening of the body will only make the process more difficult and unsatisfying. Of course, willing assistance from an appreciative lover who encourages gentle progress, never hurts!

For the curious reader, ten years is a desirable period to reach the outer extreme possible for most people--a 10-inch waist reduction.

Whether one chooses to pursue extreme and permanent torso sculpting in a 24-hour a day life style, or take a more casual, exploratory and sensual approach to corseting, moderation and focus seem to be two keys to experiencing abiding comfort and pleasure.
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