Posts by Marianne

Why Corsets Are Expensive

Corset: Morúa Corsetry & Couture | Model & Styling: Victoria Dagger | Photo: Sparklewren

Corset: Morúa Corsetry & Couture | Model & Styling: Victoria Dagger | Photo: Sparklewren

This post is partially a follow-up to something I wrote a long time ago, a post called, “What Is “Reasonable” Pricing?”  Even shapeless, off-shore factory produced, polyester fabric and plastic boned corsets are often considered “expensive” by corsetry neophytes in this fast fashion world of Forever 21 and H&M.  Well-established corsetieres who have been handcrafting a product for years or decades must deal with scrutiny from fans and customers as they raise their prices to match costs and inflation.  The short answer, of course, is that corsets require specialized skill, equipment, and materials to produce, and as a niche market are done so in low quantities.  (If it were upscale food, we’d call it “small batch!”)  Ready for more information?  Read on.

To briefly recap from that previous post:

…when “cost” of a garment is mentioned it only covers the labor and materials to make that exact item and nothing that comes before or after.  From there you get the wholesale markup which must cover all the overheads for making any and all garments, including not just space for production and storage of materials but also prototyping and the staff for design, production, and sales reps to retail outlets, fit models, etc.  Then the retail markup has to cover all the costs of getting the product to the consumer: the retail sales staff, their shop space, the difference on garments that will eventually be marked down, a margin for damaged or stolen goods, etc.

Corset: Sparklewren | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo: Sparklewren

Corset: Sparklewren | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo: Sparklewren

Skill
I’ve heard it before, “A friend of a friend is a costumer, she can sew a corset in an hour!” That’s great! It’s probably a corset with really streamlined shape and construction (appropriate for professional costuming), and, more importantly,  I bet he or she has sewn a lot of them.  As you get better and faster at your job, do you take a pay cut? Of course not – in fact, probably the opposite! For a basic curvaceous 12 panel construction, even a very good corsetmaker/seamstress probably can’t make more than two corsets in a day on average, and that leaves off design details and finishing. (Ballpark figures here, as every corsetiere’s process is different and how time consuming it is will vary accordingly.) Corsetmaking specifically requires unique, specialized, or refined skills for various parts of the corsetmaking process.  It’s also in fact a form of manual labor that can be taxing on the body. A good fit is vital, and fitting a corset is unlike fitting other garments. And of course, design is both a skill and a talent, for which corsetmakers deserve to be fairly compensated just as architects, interior decorators, graphic designers, illustrators and even fine artists do. Corsetmakers spend years developing their aesthetic of shape, color, texture, embellishment, and line.  Some details, such as flossing, might have low materials cost but be very time consuming or require a lot of focus, making them very expensive in terms of labor. Even getting those skills is expensive. As I mentioned in my last post on pricing, I have two degrees in fashion design that need to be paid off – the sum total is the equivalent of the down payment on a house. A nice one. For those that didn’t go to design school, they may have taken corseting classes, which might have hefty travel costs involved, or at the very least have gone through a lot of materials and man hours hammering out their technique through trial, error, and research.

Corset & Styling: Pop Antique | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo: Sparklewren

Corset & Styling: Pop Antique | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo: Sparklewren

Equipment
Sewing any lingerie might require a variety of sewing machines. While most corsets can be constructed with a simple straight stitch sewing machine, to finish the garment requires more industrial equipment. From cutting and tipping bones to setting in eyelets, with that amount of metal hardware, it’s very challenging to have any sort of reasonable production process without the speed and flexibility that hand lever shears and a hand or kick press allow. This equipment also takes up a fair amount of space in either a home or off-site studio, so the price for a corset has to cover the overheads for the space (and electricity and so forth) as well.

Corset: Dark Garden | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo: Joel Aron

Corset: Dark Garden | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo: Joel Aron

Materials
First and foremost, the fabric for making corsets must be very high-quality, with a minimum of stretch in the strength layer and a straight grainline so the corset doesn’t twist or warp. Though I don’t personally obsess over coutil for my standard strength layer (I like my corsets to be a little more mobile and also source organic fabrics where possible), English or German coutil is preferred by most corsetieres and is easily $25 or more per meter. Thread should also be high quality lest the corset fall apart from the seams. The hardware costs stack up; the busk is easily the most expensive single component but bones and lacing can add up quite quickly as well. The hard cost for materials alone, without labor or any overheads, can run easily from $30-$50 for a basic style; considerably more if it is made with multiple layers of coutil or at the large end of the size run. (Incidentally, most corsetmakers do not charge extra for plus sizes, though they may recommend certain upgrades to increase comfort as the panels increase in width.) For better prices, of course, corsetmakers order in bulk or semi-bulk, but they then need storage space for this excess of raw materials. You can see, then, why a handmade corset could never sell for the same price that a factory made one does – $50 or $80 barely covers the raw materials for a quality corset, let alone labor, overheads, and (heaven forbid!) profit margin.

Corset: Pop Antique | Model: Elisa Berlin| Photo: Araya Diaz

Corset: Pop Antique | Model: Elisa Berlin| Photo: Araya Diaz

Hidden Overheads
I mentioned above that sewing can be quite hard on the body. With that comes the associated care – ergonomic workstation, days off, doctor, chiropractic, and massage visits. Carpal tunnel is a serious risk. Like any business, there are fees to maintaining business and resale licenses, and if one is successful enough to have employees, those have their own bevvy of associated expenses. In America, we don’t have a single payer health care system, so health insurance is another monthly expense incurred by freelancers and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs do not have any sort of paid time off – for sick leave or vacation – or pension fund unless it’s built into their pricing. In short, the entire benefits package you get from your job is a luxury by the standards of your average corsetmaker.

Corset: Dark Garden | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo: Ryan Chua

Corset: Dark Garden | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo: Ryan Chua

It’s a curious society we live in. Though there’s a growing interest in handcrafts and DIY, the overall mood seems to be that that sewing = crafting = hobby, as if enjoying the work magically means that a designer has no bills or living expenses that need paying.  Craftsperson labor has been outsourced and thereby devalued – which seems ironic to me, because their rarity locally should make the skills more valuable. Telling a corsetmaker that their prices are too high is basically the equivalent of if someone walked up to you in your place of business and told you to your face that you deserve a pay cut. (Maybe to something below minimum wage.) No matter how expensive a corset is, chances are the corsetmaker is not living some sort of diamonds and champagne high life. Even when a one-woman business sells direct to consumer, markup is vitally important in covering both R&D costs (such as sampling and photoshoots) and the “retail” aspect of finding and communicating with customers, from website design and maintenance to lengthy email consultations. Whether you’re looking for a fashion corset for a costume, a serious waist trainer, or a special occasion corset, there’s a reason why they cost so much. Stay tuned for a future installment on how much you “should” spend on a corset!

Marianne

Marianne

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

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Oxford Conference of Corsetry 2014: This Year’s Special Guests

Disclosure: I have been a speaker at the Oxford Conference of Corsetry since its inception last year. I am also an employee at Dark Garden Unique Corsetry, whose proprietress, Autumn Adamme, was our keynote speaker this year. All opinions are my own and were not solicited by the parties discussed.

Special guests of the Oxford Conference of Corsetry: keynote speaker Autumn Adamme and sponsor Cathy Hay stand with delegates Lucy (of Lucy's Corsetry) and Lowana O'Shea (of Vanyanis). Photo © Laurie Tavan.     Special guests of the Oxford Conference of Corsetry: keynote speaker Autumn Adamme and sponsor Cathy Hay stand with delegates Lucy (of Lucy's Corsetry) and Lowana O'Shea (of Vanyanis). Photo © Laurie Tavan.

Special guests of the Oxford Conference of Corsetry: keynote speaker Autumn Adamme and sponsor Cathy Hay stand with delegates Lucy (of Lucy’s Corsetry) and Lowana O’Shea (of Vanyanis). Photo © Laurie Tavan.

The Oxford Conference of Corsetry is an annual event for corset makers in – where else? – Oxford, England. This is the second year of the conference and the excitement, and headcount, have grown. With tighter scheduling and even more workshops, there was still plenty of time for networking throughout the weekend.  We were graced with three amazing special guests who contributed their expertise with insights regarding construction, history, and business: Cathy Hay, Ian Frazer Wallace, and corsetry legend (A.K.A. my boss), Autumn Adamme of Dark Garden Unique Corsetry.

Ian Frazer Wallace of The Whitechapel Workhouse

Ian Frazer Wallace of The Whitechapel Workhouse

Ian Frazer Wallace, now of The Whitechapel Workhouse, was our keynote speaker last year and his speech then was incredibly inspiring, discussing his personal journey as a corset maker and vision for modern corsetry.  The latter resonated strongly with me and inspired me to pursue more concepts of what I call “integrated corsetry,” wherein corsets are camouflaged as or incorporated into other garments. This year his model was clad in a gorgeous Chanel inspired corset, skirt, and bolero ensemble: a collaboration with OCOC headmistress Julia Bremble. Last year’s outfit, which had adorned Polly Fey, was displayed on a mannequin in our workshop room, though the 16″ waist a bit too much of a squeeze even for such a shapely display model.  On Sunday, he could be find in the JCR, talking with any who came up to him and demonstrating some of the couture sewing techniques he uses when creating corsets for London fashion week designers.

Cathy Hay having a chat with Julia Bremble. Photo © Laurie Tavan

Cathy Hay having a chat with Julia Bremble. Photo © Laurie Tavan

Cathy Hay is well known to corset makers as the visionary behind Foundations Revealed, a subscription-based how-to website for the creation of period undergarments. Naturally, there is quite the focus on corsetry! Of the OCOC team, known amongst ourselves as the Corset Fellows, three of us are regular contributors to Foundations Revealed (myself included).  Foundations was also one of our wonderful sponsors for OCOC this year, supplying us with lovely branded tote bags. Cathy’s workshop/discussion on Sunday was about business and life goals, sparking much thought from attendees.  Soon all were drawn in, listening in and participating in the discussion. Even Autumn hovered around the door to the crowded room and offered advice and a couple of book suggestions for the avidly listening room of entrepreneurs.  The workshop was open to all skill and business levels, from hobbyists to those who make corsets full time.  Cathy looked quite dapper in androgynous menswear inspired looks during the day, but made quite an entrance with her incredible gown and curled wig at Saturday’s drinks reception and formal dinner.

2014 OCOC keynote speaker Autumn Adamme chatting with 2013 keynote speaker Ian Frazer Wallis. Photo by Steph Selmayr.

2014 OCOC keynote speaker Autumn Adamme chatting with 2013 keynote speaker Ian Frazer Wallace. Photo by Steph Selmayr.

Dark Garden’s Autumn Adamme was the one who wowed me the most, which is only appropriate for our keynote speaker! Yes, Autumn is my boss, but day to day she doesn’t really talk about how she was on the forefront of the modern corsetry revolution.  I actually had very little idea of the level of prestige of Dark Garden until she and I both attended the same corset museum trip three years ago.  Autumn’s speech was incredibly in-depth, detailing her inspiration, company history/history of modern corsetry, elements of the production process and so forth.  These are the kind of insights that one can’t get outside of an event like OCOC – and as it stands, OCOC is a quite singular event!  Certain techniques that we regard as completely standard were pioneered by Dark Garden in its early years.  In an age before the commoditization of internet, corset makers such as Dark Garden, Velda Lauder, and Bizarre Designs were facing similar challenges and independently working through to solutions.  As such, it’s hard to say who “invented” such things, but the fact remains that Dark Garden was on the leading edge of a few touchstone innovations.

Autumn Adamme in the midst of her keynote speech. Photo © Laurie Tavan

Autumn Adamme in the midst of her keynote speech. Photo © Laurie Tavan

Notably, there were three things in particular that have had an enormous impact on modern corsetry which I had no idea started with Dark Garden. First, there is a particular construction technique that is currently so widespread “that [we] all talk about as if it’s nothing” but it is so ideally suited to corsetry that’s it’s hard to manage corset makers ever did without it. As someone who made her first corset less than ten years ago, I had the benefit of a variety of online tutorials, including the then-thriving LiveJournal community, providing me with such construction touchstones, as did most contemporary corset makers, but Autumn had to work through the concept from scratch.

Dark Garden owner Autumn Adamme shows off the lacing on her corset. Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden owner Autumn Adamme shows off the lacing on her corset. Photo © Joel Aron

Secondly, the crossed waist-loop lacing style – which is pretty much the most important part of lacing a modern corset – also was an early Dark Garden standard. (This lacing technique has many names, such as inversion lacing, inverse bunny, reverse bunny, double bunny, etc.) Autumn was frustrated by the bulge of skin created by the gap where the waist loops laced, and thought it odd that the area under most tension would have the least support from the lacing. Though I’ve parroted the patter about the crossed loops to clients innumerable times, at no point was I told that Dark Garden arrived at this conclusion on its own well before it became standard practice!  Dark Garden was also amongst the first to begin using sleek satin ribbon to lace their corsets, although there’s still a camp that prefers the additional friction of shoelace style lacing.

    Dark Garden proprietress Autumn Adamme in a "Risqué" sheer Sweetheart corset. Autumn made her first sheer corset in 2000. Photo © Joel Aron.

Dark Garden proprietress Autumn Adamme in a “Risqué” sheer Sweetheart corset. Autumn made her first sheer corset in 2000. Photo © Joel Aron.

Lastly, as we all know, sheer construction is a huge trend for modern corsets. Though I remember when the custom sheer “Adelaide” was first officially added to the Dark Garden line sheet, alongside its ready-to-wear sibling, the Risqué line, Autumn actually made her first sheer corset way back in 2000. One thing I love about sheer corsets is the lighter construction and increased mobility; when I started making corsets, the usual thought was to reinforce with layer upon layer of coutil, which doesn’t suit my style at all. Sheer corsetry has been huge because it’s helped corset makers see that they can winnow down and soften the construction and still have a very functional, beautiful, sturdy, and curvaceous corset.

Regarding the main workshops, this year we took attendees from start to finish with the corset making process.  In the morning, Alison Campbell of Crikey Aphrodite hosted an interactive workshop on inspiration and mood boards, and Julia Bremble of Sew Curvy/Clessidra Couture discussed standard sizing and the creation of a “block,” which is the basic pattern from which other styles are derived. After lunch, I picked up where Julia left off, going into more depth with standard sizing (including how I arrived at my sizing for Pop Antique) and grading patterns across a size run. Sparklewren’s Jenni Hampshire revealed the fascinating and “bonkers” process behind her signature Bird’s Wing corsets, and Morúa Designs’ Gerry Quintón wrapped with another hands-on workshop on embellishment.  Each of us made a corset inspired by our venue, Jesus College, which also related to our workshop topic.

"Corset Fellows" of the Oxford Conference of Corsetry: Alison Campbell and Marianne Faulkner (me) sorting lace samples.

“Corset Fellows” of the Oxford Conference of Corsetry: Alison Campbell and Marianne Faulkner (me) sorting lace samples. Via the OCOC Facebook page.

All told, it was another very full year with something for everyone. Our special guests really helped take this year’s OCOC to a new level, and we look forward to continuing the trend next year.  Discussions for Oxford Conference of Corsetry 2015 are underway, but you’ll have to hang tight until about October for any official news on that front!  Keep an eye on the OCOC Facebook page as well as the blog.

Marianne

Marianne

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

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Dress Up Day in Corset Paradise

Sparklewren Oxford corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Sparklewren Oxford corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

With the Oxford Conference of Corsetry coming up this weekend, England is flooded with corset makers and enthusiasts. Today I spent the day in Sparklewren‘s studio, aka Corset Paradise, with Jenni “Wren” Hampshire, Lucy of Lucy’s Corsetry, and Lowana of VanyanísInaGlo Photography was also present to shoot a few styles for Vanyanís, and Sparklewren’s Jenni Hampshire got behind the camera for several impromptu photoshoots with me as I tried on a slew of Sparklewren samples.

Sparklewren "Lovebird" corset | Photo © Morgan Marcani

Sparklewren “Lovebird” corset | Photo © Morgan Marcani

When I arrived at Corset Paradise, shooting was already underway.  Lowana had brought several samples which she was shooting on a model and on herself with InaGlo.  Lucy shot her Cranberry Butterfly corset by Sparklewren, as well as a curvaceous sample.  My services as “model wrangler” were volunteered for me, so I assisted a bit in posing the ladies as I’ve so often done at Dark Garden‘s Corset Boudoir photography evenings.

Sparklewren "Rose Gold" corset | Photo © Morgan Marcani

Sparklewren “Rose Gold” corset | Photo © Morgan Marcani

As Lowana and Lucy shot with Glo, I tried on several Sparklewren samples.  Being a variety of sizes and shapes, many of them ended up with hilariously oversize lacing gaps, but the beauty of Sparklewren’s detailing was exquisite regardless, and her signature Bird’s Wing construction molds around the body in a unique flexible manner.  My particular favorite was the Rose Gold corset, in a deep blush satin, which miraculously smoothed my rectangular ribs into a conical shape.  I also got a peek at an amazing pearl-encrusted corset body being worked on by Jenni’s intern, Alycia, aka Emiah Couture.

Emiah Couture pearl encrusted corset body in progress

Emiah Couture pearl encrusted corset body in progress

Admittedly, we all indulged in some last minute sewing to prepare for the conference (and will continue to do so tomorrow).  Always as an artist, there are far more ideas than there are time, so I ended up with a bag half full of corsets needing only a peplum or binding. Later in the day, I finished the binding on my newest personal corset with a bit of hand sewing, and Jenni got behind the camera to shoot a set of it and also my “Minx” mini-ribbon corset.

Pop Antique custom corset | Photo © Sparklewren

Pop Antique custom corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Corset Paradise will soon be available to rent as a shoot location, so we had fun testing out the various screens and corners as well as pushing Jenni’s lighting rig to its limits.  At the end of the night, we shot Sparklewren’s Oxford corset, made especially for the conference and inspired by our venue, Jesus College.  As a spur of the moment decision, Jenni created pearl eyebrows, which we taped onto my face (first as eyebrows, then, as a parting shot, as a mustache – naturally).

Sparklewren's pearl eyebrows repurposed into a mustache. | Photo © Sparklewren

Sparklewren’s pearl eyebrows repurposed into a mustache. | Photo © Sparklewren

Marianne

Marianne

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

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3 Corset “Rules” Most Broken by Corsetmakers

Ladies and gentlemen, I come here today to confess to you.  Of the corset-related advice which I dispense and the standards set by the corseting community, some of it I do not follow myself.  And I know I’m not alone.  To say that all corsetmakers ignore these guidelines all of the time would, of course, be quite hyperbolic, so I don’t want to claim to speak for all of my colleagues.  Even so, these are the so-called rules that I have noticed are less often adhered to… So, when you lace down, don’t forget to loosen up – it’s only fashion!

Pop Antique jersey corset dress | Victoria Dagger | © Max Johnson

Pop Antique jersey corset dress | Victoria Dagger | © Max Johnson

“Rule” #1: Wear a liner to keep your corset from touching your skin directly
The reason for this is that your body’s oils, sweat, and shed skin cells will degrade the fabric over time.  Actually, even in my original Corset Care 101: What to Do While Wearing a Corset, I mentioned that the weather may make wearing a liner impractical.  I generally wear my corsets outside my clothes, but on the occasions where I don’t, I’ll put the corset directly against my skin.  My personal corsets are constructed to have a very smooth interior construction, which I find much more comfortable than crumpled fabric, and I have very average skin (neither oily nor dry, not prone to sweating – in fact, I’m more often cold than warm), as well as several corsets I rotate between.  Less bulk makes for tighter reductions and a sleeker line.  If you only have one, treasured corset and/or are prone to sweaty or oily skin, I would recommend not skimping on the liner.

Pop Antique custom corset | Victoria Dagger | © John Carey

Pop Antique custom corset | Victoria Dagger | © John Carey

“Rule” #2: Wear a modesty panel behind your corset’s laces
I think I’m a bit unusual in my disdain for modesty panels, to be fair.  I find the bulk of the extra fabric and boning to be distracting and downright uncomfortable.  Since I primarily wear underbusts, my skin is always covered by another layer of clothing anyway.  If you have particularly sensitive skin, however, a modesty panel is super helpful in protecting your skin from chafing as you lace down, A.K.A. lacing burn.

Pop Antique "Vamp" corset | Victoria Dagger | © John Carey

Pop Antique “Vamp” corset | Victoria Dagger | © John Carey

“Rule” #3: Break in your new corsets in a careful regimen
This seems to be the big one; many of the more successful online corset communities swear by and speak incessantly of “seasoning” new corsets, usually with what’s called the “2-2-2 method.”  I have actually never tried to break in a corset with any such specific plan; I tend to go by the more organic “wear it as often as is practical, as tight as is comfortable, for as long as you like.”  Breaking in a corset is a two-way street; your body is also adjusting to the new corset while the corset molds around your body.  Since my personal corsets are constructed in a way that softly grazes the body, using flexible spiral steels and minimal rib compression, I think they tend to require less breaking in time.  So the amount of breaking in required for any given corset can vary, and sometimes it’s more effective to season a corset at a larger waist reduction than 2″ (if it is shaped for one) to avoid creating pressure points and chafing where the ribs and hips aren’t flush with the body.  I am looking forward to trying the 2-2-2 method as a scientific experiment, which of course I shall write up here.

From a practical standpoint, have you heard the proverb, “The shoemaker’s children go barefoot?” Most corsetieres are busy with client orders and/or a day job, so personal corsets are often made as a rush for a particular event.  (Don’t ask how many corsets I’m trying to squeeze out before next weekend’s Oxford Conference of Corsetry!)  We may even skimp on mockups where we wouldn’t for a client corset.  If a corset is finished the same day as, or even the week before, a big event, there’s no time to carefully break it in.

Pop Antique t-shirt corset & vintage fur stole | Victoria Dagger | © John Carey

Pop Antique t-shirt corset & vintage fur stole | Victoria Dagger | © John Carey

As ever, of course, it’s important to know why rules and standards exist so you can decide if they apply to or work for you.  Don’t get too concerned that you’re not “doing it right.”  (Unless you’re trying to undo the busk without unlacing – that one is never a good idea!) Whether waist training or only occasionally wearing a corset, do your research to avoid causing damage to either the corset or your body.

Which corset rules do you always follow, and which do you ignore?

Marianne

Marianne

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

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3 Most Common Corset Lacing Mistakes

Dark Garden "Valentine" corset | Model: Nicole Simone | Photo: Joel Aron

Dark Garden “Valentine” corset | Model: Nicole Simone | Photo: Joel Aron

Part three in the corset lacing series will discuss the most common mistakes made in lacing the corset onto the body.  Part 1 covered the structure and hardware, part 2 explained the back gap.  As I mentioned in my original introduction, fit and comfort are deeply tied into how your corset is laced, but did you know that how you tie yourself up can also make an appreciable difference in the lifespan of your corset?

Pop Antique custom corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo: John Carey

Pop Antique custom corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo: John Carey

Mistake #1: Corsets not worn on the anatomical waistline
Wearing your corsets properly adjusted on your waistline can make a huge impact on how they feel.  Your apparent natural waist is often higher than your skeletal waist.  Furthermore, corsets sometimes have a tendency to creep upwards during the lacing process, which compounds the problem.  To keep the corset anchored in place while someone else laces you in, hold the bottom of your corset firmly with both hands.  (Note that lacing should always be pulled out to the sides, never straight back towards the lacer – whether the laces then angle up or down is a matter of your personal taste.)  If you find that, once already laced, your corset seems to be riding high, grasp the bottom of the corset, and inhale deeply high in your lungs to lift your rib cage upwards.  I often adjust my corsets slightly throughout the day to correspond with the subtle shift of both my organs and the corset itself, pulling the whole corset down or occasionally shifting the front waist up.

Dark Garden "Valentine" | Model: Allie Major | Photo: Joel Aron

Dark Garden “Valentine” corset | Model: Allie Major | Photo: Joel Aron

On a fleshier body, it may be hard to tell where the waistline sits and there may indeed be a lot of wiggle room with where the corset can be placed, as the reduction is dispersed into fleshy tissue, putting less pressure on the bones and organs of the torso.  You can use the fit of the bust, back, and hips as a guide for placing the corset vertically if your natural waist is hard to find.  Some may find that their corsets are more comfortable when situated higher on the waist (shortening their waist to underbust measurement), so just play around until you find the spot that’s most comfortable for you.

Pop Antique "Vamp" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo: Karolina Marek

Notice how the hips expand when seated | Pop Antique “Vamp” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo: Karolina Marek

Mistake #2: Corsets laced too tight at the hips

This is an issue I see most often in tightlacers, and it’s a tricky one.  Though some appreciate or even need the additional compression at the hips, your hips actually need a surprising amount of room to expand when you walk and sit and so forth. However, just as a corset laced too tight at the bust will create the quad-boob effect, or too tight at the waist or ribs will be uncomfortable, a corset that is too tight at the hips can actually damage the corset.  None of these is desirable, but the last is hardest to spot from inside the corset.  Even though a corset is expected to be tight and constricting, it’s important to leave a bit of wearing ease at your hips.  A corset that has no ease when you are standing strains its hardware and fabric to accommodate a sudden increase in your hip measurement when you sit down.  The bones that frame the grommets have nowhere to which which to distribute the additional pressure and instead crumple, kinking the steel and cracking its protective coating.  For those who appreciate or even need the additional compression at the hips, talk to your corsetiere about perhaps an expanding hip gusset or extra-sturdy boning and other reinforcements around the grommets.

Personally, I like to be able to get the flat of my (admittedly tiny) hand into the bottom edge of my corset.  Having just measured it, my hips expand more than a full inch when I go from standing to seated.  Not only do I like a high range of mobility in my personal corsets, I also prefer the look of slightly looser hips: it creates a more dramatic hourglass, and when I sit down, I don’t end up with a little “corset muffin.”

Pop Antique "Vamp" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo: Karolina Marek

Pop Antique “Vamp” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo: Karolina Marek

Mistake #3: Laces tied around waistline
This mistake is particularly common with corset neophytes – it feels so natural!  And in truth, I have seen experienced corsetieres and corset wearers do this as well, presumably intentionally for personal reasons. The main problem is that the lacing will chafe the outer fabric of  your corset – you’re just creating additional friction for both the lacing and the body of the corset.  Brocades and embroidery won’t last as long when subjected to this sort of abrasion.  As a lesser concern, tying the laces around the waist actually breaks up the silhouette and adds a bit of bulk, so it’s particularly not recommended for those who are drawn to a tightlaced aesthetic.  To keep your laces out of the way, try tucking them into the bottom of your corset.  With that wearing ease for your hips, there should be a comfortable amount of room for them in there.  If you want to draw attention to your waistline, talk to your corsetiere about stitched in ribbon detail or other waistline accent.

As you can see, there are exceptions for each of these lacing mistakes!  Like anything, though, it’s always a good idea to know the rules before you break them.  Lace safely, everyone!

Marianne

Marianne

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

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About Custom & Made-to-Measure Corsets

Custom corset by Pop Antique | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

Custom corset by Pop Antique | Model: Victoria Dagger | © John Carey

In corsetry, custom, bespoke, and made-to-measure all mean essentially the same thing, just as ready-to-wear, off-the-rack, and made-to-order have similar or overlapping definitions, depending on the maker.  Which means they should all follow a similar process, right?  Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.  All too often, I hear sad tales of made-to-measure corsets that don’t fit because an essential step was skipped.  Here’s what you should expect when ordering a custom corset, made to fit your body.  (When and why you should spring for a custom will be a topic for another day.)

Made to Order vs. Custom Fit
First, let’s talk about how custom corsets fit in with made-to-order/personalized corsets.  A corset that is made to order is generally based on a standard size pattern, with your choice of fabric and detailing, and possible small tweaks to the fit (for example, an adjustment of length for your torso, increased hip spring, or a variant on the neckline shape).  Even when the fit has been personalized, this type of corset is closer to off-the-rack than custom (/bespoke/made-to-measure), but is sometimes called semi-custom.  Depending on the corsetiere, custom and ready-to-wear/MTO corsets may have different construction standards, including the number of panels.  A custom corset should have a fit that is completely customized for your body.  Some corsetieres only do custom and some only do ready-to-wear; some do both but specialize in one or the other.

Dark Garden custom "Grable" corset body | Model: Victoria Dagger | © Mask Photo

Dark Garden custom “Grable” corset body | Model: Victoria Dagger | © Mask Photo

Custom Design & Fit
A custom corset should always have a custom fit; additionally, it may also have a custom design not seen in that maker’s ready-to-wear line.  How this is handled will vary from maker to maker.  At Dark Garden, there are separate sections in the line sheet for ready-to-wear and custom styles, and of course unique and hybrid custom styles beyond those listed are often ordered.  Electra Designs‘ website lists made-to-measure prices for (almost) all of her standard styles, as does Pop Antique (my line).  Sparklewren prefers to craft bespoke visions from scratch for each client.  Also bear in mind that certain designs are only possible with a custom fit, such as stunning corset bodies.

Step 1: Measurements and Pattern
Creating a custom fit corset starts with complete and accurate measurements for each unique client.  The number of measurements required will vary based on the particular maker’s patterning process and the style of corset ordered.  If you are being asked merely for a bust (and/or underbust), waist, and hip measurement, know that those dimensions aren’t sufficient for a truly custom fit, though it could be considered semi-custom.  A variety of vertical measurements are also required at a minimum; additional measurements can also help your corsetiere cross-reference and confirm the most vital measurements.  For example, knowing the client’s height may validate or rule out an unlikely waist to lap measurement.  Once measurements have been taken, the pattern is plotted out according to careful rules about ease (adding to the measurements) and negative ease (reduction) for each part of the body.

Elisa Berlin in a mockup fitting for a semi-custom "Ingenue" corset by Pop Antique

Elisa Berlin in a mockup fitting for a semi-custom “Ingenue” corset by Pop Antique

Step 2: Mock-Up
The mockup is arguably the most important step in this process.  No matter how experienced your corsetiere, without a mockup, the fit is just educated guesswork (emphasis on educated, but still…).  Even ready-to-wear corsets get tested in their development and through other clients, so why would you not test the fit of a custom corset?  Measurements only tell half the story when it comes to the shape of the body.  Then, each body compresses and redistributes that mass in a unique way, so even the best corsetieres in the world can’t always predict what will happen.  Just as each body is unique, the way the handle corseted compression is unique as well!  “Made to measure” corsets (versus those described as “bespoke” or “custom”) are most likely to leave out this step; if it is not included by default, I highly recommend upgrading to include it.  If an upgrade to a mockup isn’t an option, you might want to consider looking elsewhere – and let the designer know why you’re doing so, so they have the opportunity to improve their business model and design process.  The mockup fitting can take place in person or remotely.  While I wouldn’t recommend choosing a corsetiere based solely on proximity, I will say that an in-person fitting is generally preferable if you can arrange it.

Step 3: Refinements
After your mockup fitting, your pattern will be corrected.  Whether or not a second mockup is made at this point will be based on both how many changes are required and your corsetiere’s standard process.  This process may need to repeated several times, and some styles are inherently more finicky than others.

Dark Garden "Adelaide" custom corset with cups | Model: Autumn Adamme | © Joel Aron

Dark Garden “Adelaide” custom corset with cups | Model: Autumn Adamme | © Joel Aron

Step 4: Corset!
Once your pattern has been finalized, your corset gets in line behind your corsetiere’s other clients for production.  When it’s your turn, your fabric is cut out with meticulous attention to the grainline and, ideally, how the fabric’s pattern flows across the panels (particularly the center front).  Your corset is stitched with highly accurate seam allowance and a proprietary combination of construction techniques.  It is neatly grommeted and laced and ready to go home with you!

Pop Antique semi-custom "Demoiselle" underbust corset with flossing

Pop Antique semi-custom “Demoiselle” underbust corset with flossing

Turnaround Times
As you can see, creating a custom corset is an involved and time-consuming process.  One individual custom corset may not take three months, but it has to be considered in conjunction with all the other corsets in the maker’s queue.  Certain steps may be performed in batches – for example, several corsets cut or grommeted in the same day, possibly by a specially trained staff member who only comes in on certain days.  Your participation and cooperation is a key component: be timely in providing measurements and payment, and scheduling and showing up for fittings.

Corset: Neon Duchess | Model: Victoria Dagger | © Matthew Kadi

Corset: Neon Duchess | Model: Victoria Dagger | © Matthew Kadi

Communication
Also key to a happy you is remembering that your corsetiere is not magic.  This is an interaction, so your communication is essential.  Explain what you want and what you notice during your fittings.  Certain styles are more prone to a diagonal dimple along the hips, for example. so if super-smooth is what you are aiming for, your fit changes may play out differently.  If you want angled seams, less rib compression, more hip compression, communicate those thoughts.  A corsetiere can only go off of what they see and are told; we don’t know what you’re feeling or visualizing.

Managing Expectations
The best custom corsets are created through an ongoing relationship with your corsetiere
.  As I mentioned in In Defense of Ready-to-Wear Corsets, you may have corseting preferences that aren’t knowable until you’ve worn your corset for a while.  Some education within the corset-wearing community has backfired into impossible standards, which results in disappointed clients and stressed out corsetieres.  Pay attention to your designer’s portfolio and get an eye for their strengths, then let them know what you want that you aren’t seeing and see if it can be accommodated.  It’s okay to be inspired by a variety of makers as long as you realize we all have a different vision and priorities with our craft.  With a handmade product, a bit of natural variance is to be expected – we’re not magic and we’re not machines, we’re just people: people who tend to take their work quite personally as well as seriously. If you have any issues with or questions your custom corset, be polite when you talk to your corsetiere about your options.

Corset dress by Pop Antique | Model: Victoria Dagger | © Max Johnson

Corset dress by Pop Antique | Model: Victoria Dagger | © Max Johnson

There are a lot of advantages to custom corsets and even more to consider than for an-off the rack process.  The process is longer and more complex but it pays off in the end.  With better understanding of the process, you will be better equipped to communicate with your corsetiere and use standardized vocabulary to describe your needs.

Marianne

Marianne

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

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Waist Training 101

Waist training, sometimes known as corset training, is increasing in popularity seemingly by the day.  I’ve written about it a lot, but what is waist training, anyway?  Today, I’ll cut through to the basics: what is waist training, why do people do it, and how do they do it.

Elisa Berlin in a waist training corset by Pop Antique.  Photo © Jon Bean Hastings

Elisa Berlin in a 17″ waist training corset by Pop Antique. Photo © Jon Bean Hastings

Waist Training & Tightlacing
The words waist training and tightlacing are often used interchangeably, and each person will have their own definitions and distinctions.  There is a certain amount of overlap between the two.  In general, waist training is a lifestyle choice, whereas tightlacing can be either taken as a lifestyle or only done occasionally.  Waist training is the process of habitually wearing a corset to reduce your natural waist size, corseted and/or uncorseted.  Yes, that does mean it will eventually shrink your natural waist size, but this is a very slow process and isn’t entirely permanent.  The desired reduction and shape can be mild or dramatic.  I tend to think of tightlacing as the process of wearing corsets with a sizeable waist reduction; often, the feeling of all-over compression is more desirable.  Full time tightlacing (up to and including 23/7 wear) is generally more the realm of the fetish community.  A waist trainer may also tightlace daily or occasionally.  As for what a “sizeable” waist reduction is, it will vary from person to person based on their natural compressibility.

Custom 17" Underbust Victorian corset for a Dark Garden waist training client.  via @MissDarkGarden on Instagram.

Custom 17″ Underbust Victorian corset for a Dark Garden waist training client. via @MissDarkGarden on Instagram.

Why Waist Train
People wear corsets for a lot of reasons, and the same goes for the waist trainers.
Some don’t even waist train intentionally, but subconsciously adopt corset wearing into their daily routine simply because they like the look and feeling, and then find they naturally need to size down or begin to feel odd without it.
Many new mothers are interested in waist training to help remold their post-pregnancy body, knitting stretched muscles back together and compressing the expanded rib cage. Pregnancy increases the amount of relaxin in the body, which relaxes muscles, joints, and ligaments, so new mothers may also find waist training comes more easily at this time.
Those who don’t have a natural hourglass shape may take to waist training in hopes of sculpting one with a corset; those who are already prone to curvaceousness might want to exaggerate it further.

Chrysalis Rose trying on Victoria Dagger's custom Pop Antique trainer.  Photo via @chrysarose on Instagram.

Chrysalis Rose trying on Victoria Dagger’s custom Pop Antique trainer. Photo via @chrysarose on Instagram.

Waist Training Goals
A goal is not necessary for waist training.  Trainers of the inadvertent type may not consider themselves as such specifically because they don’t have a goal (a couple of my friends fall into this category), but they are still intrigued by the prospect of tighter and curvier corsets.  For those who do have a goal, they may have a specific target waist size (corseted or uncorseted), hip to waist ratio, or inch reduction in mind.  The goal may change over time; having met the first goal, a new one can be set, or training may happily plateau and switch primarily to maintenance.

Nicole Simone in a Dark Garden Valentine corset.  Photo © Joel Aron

Nicole Simone in a Dark Garden Valentine corset. Photo © Joel Aron

Beginning to Waist Train
I’ve written a separate piece specifically on beginning a waist training journey.  In general, you will want to start with the best corset you can afford and wear it as long, tight, and often as is comfortable.  Get a corset that is shapely and has steel bones – not a faja or a girdle. A garment that is shaped like a tube cannot create an hourglass shape, and elastic shapers might actually feel more uncomfortable (as well as less effective) because the fit isn’t balanced.  I’ve also written about identifying quality corsetry.  Unless you have unusual proportions, I would not recommend jumping straight to a custom corset, but rather get a high-quality ready-to-wear piece from an experienced and trusted corsetiere – you may find you don’t like waist training, or you may quickly size out of your first corset, and custom corsets are sizeable investments.

Victoria Dagger in custom waist training corset by Pop Antique.  Photo © John Carey

Victoria Dagger in custom waist training corset by Pop Antique. Photo © John Carey

Sizing Down
Generally, it is time to size down when you are consistently closing your corset(s) at the waist.  Most corsets are intended to be worn with a 2″ gap.  You may find that you need to size down completely because your rib and high hip measurements have shrunk as well as your waist, or you may find that your measurements are otherwise the same but you need additional reduction at the waist only.  Your options for the latter are to a) switch to a curvier style or maker, b) see if your corsetiere can use the same pattern but modify the waist measurement only, or c) upgrade to a fully-custom corset. If they still fit reasonably well, keep those older corsets for maintenance, lazy days, or sleeping.

Victoria Dagger in a Dollymop for Dark Garden corset.  Photo © Joel Aron

Victoria Dagger in a Dollymop for Dark Garden corset. Photo © Joel Aron

How Long Does It Take?
Everyone will tell you this, because it’s true: how long it takes to see a difference/size down will vary from person to person. It varies based on your body’s natural compression, it varies based on the quality of corsets you wear, it varies based on your personal commitment.  There is no formula.  Personally, I found myself seeing subtle changes in the first few months.  I missed wearing my corset on days I went without it.  My blocky ribs had taken on a slight taper.  My stomach was flatter.  My posture was definitely better.  My natural waist measurement has yet to change, but I’ve also been a bit lax for the past few months.  But that was just my experience - the only way to find out for yourself is to dive in!

Marianne

Marianne

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

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Not All Corsets Are Created Equal

    Custom corset by Pop Antique; model Victoria Dagger; photo © John Carey

Custom corset by Pop Antique; model Victoria Dagger; photo © John Carey

People have some strongly held convictions about corsets, and along with the many outright myths and misconceptions, I see a lot of sweeping generalizations. Most of these tend to fall under the categories of hearsay or limited experience applied across the entire craft.  It’s unfair to judge the diverse range of handmade corsets based on poor experiences at, say, the Renaissance Fair, or if you’re already on the handmade bandwagon, a disservice to ignore the fine details that distinguish one corsetiere’s work from another’s. Personally, I love to support my corsetmaking colleagues, and to experience other ways of executing fit, design, and construction.  The modern maxim for corsetmaking has become that there is no “one, right way.”  Each corsetiere and each client has their own goals for each piece.  So why do people assume all corsets are the same, or even should or would be so?

Illustration for Pop Antique "Ingenue" corset, ©Marianne Faulkner/Pop Antique

Illustration for Pop Antique “Ingenue” corset, ©Marianne Faulkner/Pop Antique

Since updating the Pop Antique website a couple months ago, I have had the pleasure of seeing where my visitors have been coming from (which is fascinating and addicting). I noticed a rash of hits via Tumblr, and upon clicking through I found someone had compiled all of my technical drawings into a single post and it had an impressive number of reblogs. Few people had added a comment, but those who did were generally making an ignorant assumption about corsets – my corsets – with no foundation whatsoever (pun slightly intended), and I will confess that I let it get under my skin. “[B]ut no matter which one you choose it will f[***] your ribs up proper,” said one user.  Another, “While I admire the detail went into making this post, I don’t see names – just the word ‘pain’ scrawled in blood across each one.”  Of course, it’s possible that I am making an assumption, maybe the second user has a medical condition that does make wearing a corset painful, but the opinion is very widespread. These particular statements chafed because I take great pains to craft a fit that is comfortable and anatomically conscientious, especially around the rib cage. The irony is that a dramatic rib and hip spring is the recipient of the most negative attention even though it is generally a more comfortable shape.  Though the waist appears sharply nipped, that shape actually leaves more room for the wearer’s organs and bones, minimizing compression except where the tissues of the body are softest.

Sparklewren underbust corset; model Victoria Dagger; photo © Mariah Carle

Sparklewren underbust corset; model Victoria Dagger; photo © Mariah Carle

Every corsetiere has their own ideas about what a good fit entails and how much waist reduction that includes. Their client bases fall across different demographics with different trends in body shape. Every corsetiere puts their corsets together in slightly (or widely) different ways, with slightly or widely different combinations of boning and other materials. Every corsetiere has a different level of historical inspiration and reference points. How long a corset lasts will depend both on the level of quality and how you care for it. No conscientious corsetiere will advocate for an uncomfortable fit. It’s unfair to assume any one corset stands for all other corsets just as you couldn’t use a single pair of shoes as your guideline for all shoes ever, from boots to flats to stilettos, from Payless to Louboutin.  It’s particularly unfair and nonsensical when shapeless factory-made corsets or historic pieces/reproductions are used as a representation of the breadth of high-end corsets currently available for modern bodies. Every time I work an event with Dark Garden, I tell clients that even if they’ve worn other corsets, they should experience our fit to see the difference, and every time, they notice a difference.

Dollymop for Dark Garden pinstripe corset; model Victoria Dagger; photo © Joel Aron

Dollymop for Dark Garden pinstripe corset; model Victoria Dagger; photo © Joel Aron

Your corset size may well be different for different makers or even different styles from the same maker. Your level of comfort will be different based largely on the shape of the pattern (highly distinctive for each maker) as well as the type of boning and layers of fabric used. The shape of your waist, hips, and bust can vary dramatically between corsets even if they are both the same size and fit well. If you are interested in corsets, I highly encourage you to be curious. When you’re ready to buy a corset, ask your corsetiere what makes their work special and different (please note that this is not necessarily the same as “better”), and analyze whether that will work for you. Describe your needs. As ever, the more experienced the corsetiere, the better they will be able to serve you. Remember that it’s not just about ready to wear versus custom when it comes to fit.

Electra Designs waspie corset; model Victoria Dagger; photo © Antonio Abadia

Electra Designs waspie corset; model Victoria Dagger; photo © Antonio Abadia

Marianne

Marianne

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

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Christine Wickham In Memorium

Christine Wickham in a corset by Lovely Rat.  Photo by Tony Lin.

Christine Wickham in a corset by Lovely Rat. Photo by Tony Lin.

Last week, the only corset community went into a state of shock as it received news of the untimely passing of Christine Wickham.  Christine Wickham was the designer for Ariadne’s Thread Corsetry: Elegant Creations by a Girl from Down Under, and her reach throughout corset world stretched far beyond her personal brand. She was a very active member throughout the corset community, bringing a thoughtful scientific perspective as well as a sense of humor and passion for the craft, and incredible kindness and generosity.  Christine would have turned 22 at the end of this month.

Underbust corset by Ariadne's Thread.

Underbust corset by Ariadne’s Thread.

Christine leaves behind her a legacy that will be remembered.  She spearheaded the wildly successful fundraiser to bring Lucy, of Lucy’s Corsetry, to the Oxford Conference of Corsetry this year, donating custom corset patterns amongst other products and a wealth of her time to organizing the campaign and its various donations.  Much of the graphic work seen throughout Foundations Revealed was her doing (also a donation).  In the Learn How to Make Corsets Like a Pro group on Facebook, of which she was an Admin, she created and donated a free corset pattern (for non-commercial use only). Christine was a singularly generous person.

Personally, I can’t say I knew Christine exceptionally well, but we were connected, posting in the same places, occasionally commenting on each others’ posts or those of mutual friends. It was a shock to me when I heard the news, and I kept rereading the post, looking for a way for it to mean something different.  Christine was five years younger than I, and only a day or two before we had been talking about Sailor Moon via a post of Lucy’s. The entire situation seemed implausible, but it was undeniable, particularly with the outpouring of grief that followed from our mutual friends.

In-progress corset for Penny Underbust by Ariadne's Thread.

In-progress corset for Penny Underbust by Ariadne’s Thread.

The loss of Christine is still resounding through the corset community on Facebook, YouTube, and Tumblr. Lucy, Vanyanis, Sidney Eileen, and Foundations Revealed have posted their own tributes to her, and we will be signing a book of condolences for her family at the Oxford Conference of Corsetry this year.  Christine’s own YouTube channel, with videos about waist training and corsetmaking can be perused here, and her Tumblr here.  Christine’s family are reading the posts left on her Facebook wall in tribute.  I’d like to end my post today on a slightly happier note.  For your viewing pleasure, I encourage you to watch one of the short videos she made with Penny Underbust, No Longer a Loose Woman.

Marianne

Marianne

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

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Lingerie As Outerwear: 9 Chic Longline Bras & Bustiers for Summer

Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links.

Sometimes you just have to pretend your bra is a top, and your cat is an accessory.  Photo: Lauren Luck | Model: Victoria Dagger | Bra: What Katie Did

Sometimes you just have to pretend your bra is a top, and your cat is an accessory. Photo: Lauren Luck | Model: Victoria Dagger | Bra: What Katie Did

The 90s are definitely back, in all their denim-y, midriff-baring glory.  Fear not, this isn’t a post about denim lingerie (although if that’s your thing, more power to you, let me know in the comments and I can make that post happen).  However, with crop tops appearing everywhere these days, up to and including the Met Gala, why not mix the look with a touch of lingerie?  It may be too late to order a longline bra or a bustier for the Fourth of July and its slew of barbecues, but there are still plenty of weekends left for you to put together a picnic-perfect ensemble.

Picnic perfect: Vamp corset by Pop Antique with high-waisted jeans. Top with polka dots and gingham for all the Americana you can stomach.

Picnic perfect: Vamp corset by Pop Antique with high-waisted jeans. Top with polka dots and gingham for all the retro Americana you can handle. | Photo © John Carey; Model: Victoria Dagger

Here’s a selection of 8 longline(ish) bra styles that I think would work well as outerwear.  For the full 90s effect, you could wear them with jeans that hit just below your belly button, and fondly recall that singing belly button. My preference is to go the I Dream of Jeannie route, balancing the crop with a high-waisted style (I’m obsessed with these jeans from ModCloth, which hit high on my natural waist and have enough lycra to contour to even a corseted waistline, as shown above). My girlfriend rocks the cropped look with a short, A-line skirt that also sits directly on her natural waist.

For a classic retro look, this layered lace bustier would make an excellent and versatile choice.  It could be paired with denim or retro style skirts, or worn as a foundation piece as originally intended.  Like the other bustier from ModCloth below, it also has a super-low cut back.

This bra (or its peacock printed sister) would look amazing if worn as a bustier.  The floral satin and strap detail are contrasted with layered mesh, and the coverage of both band and cup is relatively modest.

This longline style looks to hit all the way to the natural waist, and so would pair well with a mid- or low-rise jean. ModCloth has a few bustiers available in plus sizes right now, but I love the low back on this one.

Evollove Twilight Dream Longline Bra on ASOS

Evollove Twilight Dream Longline Bra on ASOS

I have a long-standing love affair with polka dots, and it thrills my heart that the rest of the world is on board with that love for the time being. Look closely for the tiny bird silhouettes interspersed with the dots.

If the other styles shown here are a little too sweet for your tastes, check out the delightful vampiness of Dita Von Teese’s Madam X.  I reviewed the soft bra from this set and I absolutely love it, but be prepared to shield your nipples as the lace cup on the longline is probably unlined.

Also from Dita Von Teese’s lingerie line is the Her Sexcellency bra.  (I also reviewed the dress from this set.)  There is a longline version of this bra, with even more lace detailing, however, it seems to be sold out online.  Dark Garden in San Francisco does still have it in stock, in both red and black.

Setting aside the fact that this is a bustier, not a corset, and embroidered, not appliqued, this orange and white floral style is super picnic-y, with its fresh and simple daisy motif.

This bra isn’t really much of a longline, but it was so on point for my 90s girlpower inspiration (okay, mostly Selena) that I had to include it.  “It’s not a bra, it’s a BUSTIER!”  Bonus: it’s on sale, and most of the sizes are still available.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t include at least one handmade item on this list.  The Cotillion Crop Top by Honey Cooler handmade is so beautiful and perfectly summery in its crisp, white, swiss dotted glory.  (Yes, it’s slightly sheer, so if you want to wear it out you may want to consider pasties or a nude strapless bra.  This piece would make a versatile choice for day, lounge, or sleep.

Are you comfortable wearing lingerie as outerwear? How would you style a longline bra into a daywear look and where would you wear it? Give us your take in the comments below!

Marianne

Marianne

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

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