putting boning in a binder
July 4, 2018 10:49 AM   Subscribe

THINGS I NEED TO FUCKING KNOW: Why every fuckin trans man or nb person I know who binds is like “oh binders are the worst, you can’t breathe in them, I know someone who broke a rib once”. And meanwhile over in historical costuming, we are fucking eating, sleeping, swordfighting, riding horses, and feeling great in smooth-bodiced corsets. What if the secret to making a better binder is to add boning? What might be possible?
posted by sciatrix (32 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
This is relevant to my interests.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:04 AM on July 4, 2018

I will state for the record that I do not know anyone who has broken a rib binding. (Heard tell of it happening? Yes. Known someone personally? No.)

(I do worry that this person knows nothing about binders and is going to reinvent the wheel. See the discussion of "you need a tightly woven fabric" in the DW post, but perhaps they knew that.)
posted by hoyland at 11:05 AM on July 4, 2018

I know someone (knew we fell out of touch) who has really deformed ribs from binding. I have scoliosis and was warned to never bind so I don’t. If boning is the secret so I can have a flat chest without surgery I’m all for it.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:07 AM on July 4, 2018

I have just messaged a trans friend with this link, and they messaged me back to say they've had their eye on a pattern for a boned binder on Etsy for a while.
posted by Vortisaur at 11:12 AM on July 4, 2018

Back in the day, some people used neoprene back braces, some of which have boning. I can't remember any advice mentioning boning one way or another (i.e. prefer or avoid), but that doesn't mean there wasn't a consensus I don't remember. I think the general consensus was that purpose-made binders were better, but that doesn't really speak much to the boning question.
posted by hoyland at 11:13 AM on July 4, 2018

Did they say why no boning for scoliosis?
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:25 AM on July 4, 2018

Also interesting post, thanks much.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:29 AM on July 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also, since the seems the world has coalesced around GC2B, it's worth mentioning that there are adjustable binders out there if you look into the Taiwanese manufacturers.
posted by hoyland at 11:30 AM on July 4, 2018

Because of how scoliosis works- (curvy sideways spine making the ribs uneven) (more complicated than that of course) I am not symmetrical and therefore binding would put uneven pressure on already uneven ribs. I would get one side (most likely my right side that’s the area that hurts just like normally sometimes) with much more pressure than the other. It’s the sort of thing I might be able to get away with for a while but that inevitably would lead to bad outcomes.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:31 AM on July 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oooo nice
posted by odinsdream at 11:39 AM on July 4, 2018

Did they say why no boning for scoliosis?

Not "no boning," but "no binding" - with the warning probably meaning "don't use any of the binders that are currently common, and don't use any alternatives without first having a long, complex talk with a doctor who understands both scoliosis and your particular version of it," with a hint of, "and the advice is probably still 'just don't,' because that doctor is not likely to have also made a study of shape-changing undergarments and their effects on spinal curvature."

It is possible that a binder can be safely used with scoliosis, but that's not going to be a binder off the rack; it'd need to be one that spreads the required tension in a way that doesn't make the condition worse. And there is very little medical research on binders in general, much less on how to use them safely with specific body shapes or medical conditions.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:46 AM on July 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

Judging from the ongoing tag, I suspect she's reaching out to pretty much everyone she can think of for ideas and input as the project coalesces down to trying to share knowledge in a way accessible to people who might not have much in the way of sewing skills right now and who also might not have a lot of money to experiment with. Hopefully reinventing the wheel isn't too much of a risk.
posted by sciatrix at 11:48 AM on July 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

What ErisLordFreedom said. That’s why I’m interested in a hypothetical boned corset type binder- I’ve had doctors recommend medical corsets- theoretically this is a binder I could wear.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:03 PM on July 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I hope so. Something in the first post pushed my "cis person decides to help trans people, but forgot to talk to any" button and, well, that's hard to unpush. It's hard for me back up to taking it as "I was messing about and wonder if this can really work", even if that's the intent, I'd that makes sense.
posted by hoyland at 12:05 PM on July 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree, holyland, the wording of the original post is..offputting (why don't trans people know anything??? Why do i know more about binding than they do??) but I am ni love with this idea, and i think the main goal - using known techniques to make binding accessible via diy and common materials, is really, really good
posted by FirstMateKate at 12:15 PM on July 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

It's Renaissance shapewear that most people don't know anything about, I took that as saying, and I have a jumps/pair of bodies. (Which I definitely don't want to fence or ride in -- comfort in stays seems to be variable among persons even if not tightlacing.)
posted by clew at 12:21 PM on July 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

The thing with binders is that they always say "never bind for more than eight hours and never wear them to be physically active" and I feel like how the fuck am I supposed to use one, then? Do I go to work, wait an hour and then wrestle into one in the bathroom? Am I supposed to feel super great about not being able to wear one at the gym, a place where the body is a very big issue? If the things she's talking about can be worn all day and for moderate physical activity, I will be glad to send a large check to anyone who can provide me with one.

(I mean, obviously some folks bind for more than eight hours and I assume some folks work out in binders, but the messaging about that is pretty much "you will deform yourself and/or pass out from lack of breathing" and it just sounds like a lot could go wrong, which on top of the whole sudden-radical-alterations-to-the-old-figure-will-lead-to-obnoxious-questions bit has made me just grit my teeth and stick to non-clingy button-fronts.)
posted by Frowner at 12:52 PM on July 4, 2018 [7 favorites]

Thanks, I have mild scoliosis and didn’t want to ask about it so appreciate the info
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:55 PM on July 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you have the equipment to slice (1/16th"?) Lexan into 1/4" strips this makes a very good modern replacement for whale bone. You have to sand the edges and round the ends so they don't poke through the fabric. An extra strip of fabric top and bottom will also help prevent this. We used this to make a pretty good set of reproduction late 18th century half-boned stays.
posted by Botanizer at 1:37 PM on July 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

Some day we will be able to trade body parts like so many cool clothes, or even better, just the whole body.

Then again, #BlackMirror.

Anyone want a really furry pelt, naturally cut pecs and some really boss shoulders? Great forearms! High mileage but very reliable and remarkably sturdy vintage model suitable for a variety of RL cosplay including Severus Snape, lumberjacks or shambling, affable nerd archetypes. Rollerblade-ready and dance ready, perfect for 1990s Hackers/Sneakers cosplay parties. Looking to trade for similar, somewhere between Daria, Liz Lemon and Xena. Bonus points if you already bike a lot and have a butt callous.
posted by loquacious at 1:51 PM on July 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

This is fascinating and also promising. I feel like in the past few years there have been multiple instances of people rediscovering lost methods of clothing and style - specifically the excellent work of Janet Stephens comes to mind. But also I've found myself living multiple years of my life mostly associating with a cross section of historical reenactors, queer theater people, cosplayers, trans folks, drag kings, anthropologists and big ol' nerds and the synergy here is really obvious to me.

Back in college when I was a mere F cup and not my current K cup, a friend and local drag king taught me how to bind safely for short term. All I could think was that my renfair bodice, which I had just sized out of, was a lot faster to get into and distributed my breast tissue about as effectively. That doesn't mean I didn't occasionally bind, of course, but it was only ever for fun and never for survival, thank god.

These days I have two sports bras which are freaking torturous and lift and hold my boobs so high and far out from my chest I can't do a lot of yoga poses when wearing one. But hey, I can jump on a trampoline without smacking myself in the face with my own boobs. Ugh. The idea of a boning-assisted binder is super appealing to me on a functional level. But I also think there is a huge stigma to overcome considering how deeply associated with femininity any and all corsetry stuff is these days. Large chested trans dudes are already functioning on extra extra extra hard. If we can get a combination of enough open minded and skilled people to share knowledge and talk to each other I feel like there are a lot of things this could be great for.
posted by Mizu at 2:00 PM on July 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

The thing with binders is that they always say "never bind for more than eight hours and never wear them to be physically active" and I feel like how the fuck am I supposed to use one, then?

One thing that's fascinating to me is that I swear this refrain is "new" and I don't know if it's that a) my memory is correct and the binding caution used to amount to "don't use ace bandages [but people did] and listen to your body" and became much more earnest, b) the words of caution were always there and I needed to not hear them or c) my memory is correct and it's because we were all wildly cavalier (don't ask me how (a) and (c) are distinct--in my head there are two ways my memory could be faulty).

Two options that have largely disappeared from the conversation a bit are the (mostly Taiwanese) binders with velcro closure alluded to above (when I was commenting way too much) and the Title 9 Frog bra (back after like 10 years of being discontinued), though both options work better for people with smaller chests (and the Taiwanese sizing tends to favor people who are smaller overall). I did some bike commuting in a binder with velcro closure and would duck into a bathroom when I got to campus and make it tighter. However, I was generally in the sports bra/can't be bothered camp, and going to the gym was out of the question in any case.
posted by hoyland at 2:57 PM on July 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Binding a large chest is such a problem. As a baby trans I did all the wrong things (multiple ever shrinking bras, sports bra over it, then ace bandage(s) - with scoliosis. hey, this was the late 90s and I was in Texas). I could never get into a frog bra. Binders for my size and shape were difficult to find and harder to order effectively. I would love if boning can help this.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 4:07 PM on July 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Great post thanks! Love the diy aspect of this. Anything that helps level the playing field for transgender or gender non-conforming people is so needed. Also reading the 8 hour rule made my nurse brain switch on and go but why 8 hours? And now I have gone down the rabbit hole with learning about binders. First off I had no idea they’re just like a cross between a tank top and a sports bra, like I thought they would be much more complicated with straps or laces or something. Maybe I was subconsciously imagining old style corsets? Here are some useful links I found during my googling:

All The Questions You Had About Chest Binding, But Were Afraid To Ask


Inside the Landmark, Long Overdue Study on Chest Binding
posted by supercrayon at 4:44 PM on July 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

Big zipties or heavy cotton laundry line also work as cheap boning while you're learning.
posted by clew at 8:41 PM on July 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I do wish my brain could read boning as meaning something other that fucking.

Great post, thanks.
posted by medusa at 10:00 PM on July 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Speaking as someone who has worn (and made) both a binder and a corset, I think the difficulty here might be what happens when you layer clothing over them. With a corset you wear garments designed to account for or conceal its presence, and likewise the unboned binder does a pretty good job being invisible under a t-shirt. The sports bra plus boning direction does seem hopeful, but can you wear it under modern clothes? (what I'd really like is either an underarm zip or corset style hooks to get into the things easier)
posted by velebita at 7:49 AM on July 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Also reading the 8 hour rule made my nurse brain switch on and go but why 8 hours?

Because most jobs are set for 8 hours (...officially, although a great many are 8.5 or 9 hours with an unpaid lunch in the middle), and they wanted a rule about "can you wear this for your whole workday?" The answer was, "yes, but take it off when you get home." (Plz ignore the part where the answer is actually, "almost; take it off during your break at 3:30 - you have time for that, right?") This entirely ignores the issue of, "... so what do I do with the part of my day where I want to feel like my truest self?"

The study said most people wear them for an average of 10 hours a day - that lines up neatly with "work/school + transit time."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:38 PM on July 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think it'd be better for makers of binders to say "don't wear 24/7, generally safe for an average work day" otherwise it seems like they're saying that 8 hours is an absolute.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 4:02 PM on July 5, 2018

Keeping in mind that I last bought a binder at least seven years ago, probably longer, I don't recall the manufacturers saying this. (There are at least two significantly popular binder sources that did not exist at the time, and, while I've been on various sites since to check things for people, it's not like I read them in detail.) It's more about how "conventional wisdom" moves through the community. (See also what I said above about my potentially faulty memory.)
posted by hoyland at 5:14 PM on July 5, 2018

In particular, absolute advice in terms of how long it is safe for an individual to bind is somewhat irresponsible. It's a function of the interaction of a particular body with a particular binder.
posted by hoyland at 5:17 PM on July 5, 2018

huh, I have severe scoliosis and don't ever remember reading that I shouldn't wear a binder. I didn't, though, because by the grace of god I rarely needed one. My chest was small enough to be invisible if I could wear something thicker than a t-shirt. If I wanted to wear a t-shirt, then I wore a sports bra. I had surgery last year so it's all a moot point.

I have friends who wear binders 12+ hours a day. It's hard to understand why you'd take that risk unless you've been that dysphoric.
posted by AFABulous at 8:59 PM on July 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

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