Posts by Marianne

A Corset Family Tree, Abridged

Sparklewren "Rose Gold" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Sparklewren “Rose Gold” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Corsets have an amazing breadth of variety, though I often simplify it for neophytes to the two basic types, overbust and underbust, at least as a starting point. When corset shopping, the range of options and, importantly, the nomenclature around them can be quite daunting.  The following is a simplified and streamlined guide to corset styles for modern corset wearers.  Those interested in learning about historical corsetry in greater detail are encouraged to check out some of the wonderful books about corsetry (I particularly recommend Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines), as I am not personally a fashion historian.

A Corset Family Tree, Abridged. Illustrations © Pop Antique.

A Corset Family Tree, Abridged. Illustrations © Pop Antique.

Overbusts

Dark Garden "Baroque" corset | Model: Anneka | Photo © Betsy Kershner

Dark Garden “Baroque” corset | Model: Anneka | Photo © Betsy Kershner

Stays/Bodice – stops around the natural waist, has straps, may have tabs, as shown above..

Dark Garden "Victorian" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Thomas Landon

Dark Garden “Victorian” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Thomas Landon

Midbust/Flat Front – the modern simplification of a “Victorian” corset, this is a very cleavage-friendly style with a straight-across neckline.

Sparklewren "Soft Dove" corset | Model: Tingyn | Photo © Sparklewren

Sparklewren “Soft Dove” corset | Model: Tingyn | Photo © Sparklewren

Edwardian/S-Curve – characterized by swooping seam lines, a flat front and outtrust derriere (the “S-Curve”), and a longline hip.

Pop Antique "Valentine" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Pop Antique “Valentine” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Sweetheart/Contoured bust – the modern standard, the bust is supported and rounded with a defined underbust and, of course, sweetheart neckline.

Dark Garden "Adelaide" corset | Model: Autumn Adamme | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden “Adelaide” corset | Model: Autumn Adamme | Photo © Joel Aron

Cupped Corset – Similar to a sweetheart, but the cups are actually seamed in at the underbust and more fitted, and may have any level of coverage available in a bra (demi, full, etc). Cupped corsets, ideally, should be custom-fit with a mockup.

Underbusts

Classic Underbust – covers from the underbust (bra band level) to the lap

Pop Antique "Ingenue" corset | Model: Elisa Berlin | Photo © Jon Bean Hastings

Pop Antique “Ingenue” corset | Model: Elisa Berlin | Photo © Jon Bean Hastings

Longline/Edwardian – hip shaping that is low at front and side hip but scoops up over the lap. Edwardian corsets were often underbusts or low midbusts, though modern longline styles are popular with waist trainers and plus-sizes bfor their hip shaping.

Sparklewren "Swiss Cincher" | Model: Samio Olowu | Photo © Vincent Abbey

Sparklewren “Swiss Cincher” | Model: Samio Olowu | Photo © Vincent Abbey

Pointed – similar to a classic underbust but shorter at the side hip, with points at the top and bottom.  The top line roughly echoes the line of an underwire, coming up between the breasts about an inch or so.

Pop Antique "Vixen" corset | Model: Nicole Simone | Photo © Max Johnson

Pop Antique “Vixen” corset | Model: Nicole Simone | Photo © Max Johnson

Ribbon Corset – a pointed underbust whose shaping is achieved by the careful laying of ribbons horizontally around the body, seamed into two to four vertical panels.

Exquisitely Waisted Designs corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Exquisitely Waisted Designs

Exquisitely Waisted Designs corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Exquisitely Waisted Designs

Cincher – a shorter underbust, covering the lower rib cage with a short hip.

Pop Antique "Bombshell" corset | Model: Olivia Campbell | Photo © Pop Antique

Pop Antique “Bombshell” corset | Model: Olivia Campbell | Photo © Pop Antique

Waspie – even shorter than a cincher, if only by a couple inches, the corseting equivalent of a wide belt. Great for styling with outerwear but more prone to creating a fold of skin at the back.  Cinchers and waspies can often be worn by full-busted women as standard underbusts.

As you can see, even with just the basic styles there are many corset options available. Each designer is going to have their own interpretations and completely new styles, so you can be sure to find a corset that suits both your silhouette and intended purpose.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTube

Corset Quick Tips: How to Adjust Uneven Laces

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

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

Uneven corset laces are a problem many corset wearers encounter. Though it’s not a huge issue, it can be a minor annoyance, making laces harder to tuck in and generally creating a messier appearance. Often, the laces will end up uneven because the wearer tends to pull on one side more firmly during the lacing and/or unlacing process. Or, the corset may simply have been laced up unevenly by the maker. Luckily it’s something that can be easily and quickly fixed in just a minute or two. If you lace yourself into your corsets, start by putting your corset on a pillow. If you have the assistance of a partner or lady’s maid, they can make the adjustment at the beginning of lacing you in, just after the busk is fastened but before tightening at all.

how to adjust corset laces pop antique 1

Adjusting uneven corset laces. Corset by Pop Antique.

First, identify which side is longer… if the difference is slight, just loop a hand or finger through both “bunny ears”/waist loops and slowly move back until one side is taut and the other is slack.  I’ve made it pretty exaggerated for purposes of this demonstration.

how to adjust corset laces pop antique 2

Adjusting uneven corset laces. Corset by Pop Antique.

From the longer side, start moving the slack upwards. A properly laced corset should have an inverted waist loop, so the bottom of the loop leads into the top portion of the lacing.  Take all the slack up to the next cross over until your waist loops are the same length.

how to adjust corset laces pop antique 2b

Adjusting uneven corset laces. Corset by Pop Antique.

Follow the path of the lacing on that side all the way up to the top.  You’ll notice that the lacing is tied off at the bottom; the knot there keeps the bottom half of the lacing fairly stable, which is why we are only messing with the top lacing.  You can generally skip about every other grommet, which makes it easy to keep an eye on which piece of ribbon to pull. For example, with this lacing pattern, I am always grabbing the ribbon on the outside of the corset that angles up to the left.

how to adjust corset laces pop antique 3

Adjusting uneven corset laces. Corset by Pop Antique.

Eventually, all the slack is collected at the top of the corset. You can distribute all the waist loop slack from both sides up if you find it easier to track the symmetry that way.

how to adjust corset laces pop antique 4

Adjusting uneven corset laces. Corset by Pop Antique.

Then start distributing the excess lacing back down towards the waist on both sides.  You’ve taken all the extra up to the top, and are now splitting the difference.

how to adjust corset laces pop antique 5

Adjusting uneven corset laces. Corset by Pop Antique.

If you notice that you’ve acquired an asymmetry as you work your way down, pause a moment…

how to adjust corset laces pop antique 6

Adjusting uneven corset laces. Corset by Pop Antique.

Distribute the extra from the one side back up to the top…

how to adjust corset laces pop antique 7

Adjusting uneven corset laces. Corset by Pop Antique.

…then distribute it back down on both sides.

how to adjust corset laces pop antique 8

Adjusting uneven corset laces. Corset by Pop Antique.

Continue until all the extra lacing is back in the waist loops, which should now be even in length.

how to adjust corset laces pop antique 9

Adjusting uneven corset laces. Corset by Pop Antique.

And voila! You’re now ready to lace up as tightly as you like.

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

Custom corset by Pop Antique | Model: Victoria Dagger | 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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTube

Style Watch: Strappy Bralettes from $20 to $150

Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links.

Dita Von Teese Von Follies Madam X Wireless Bra Victoria Dagger Max Johnson

Dita Von Teese Madam X lingerie set | Model: Victoria Dagger; photo © Max Johnson

I’ve made no secret of my undying love for bralettes.  Though there are a few fairly basic bralette styles that show little distinction across brands, there are also some great playful designs that make use of soft fabrics and forgo the underwire.  Today I’ve done a roundup of several bralettes that bring in a structural element in the form of strappy detailing. I especially love the look of letting the extra straps show and play with the lines of outerwear, with a scoop neck, v-neck, or low-back shirt or dress, which is a look I’ve done a few times with my Dita Von Teese Madam X set.

Dita Von Teese Madam X Wireless Bra: $70

Dita Von Teese Madam X Wireless Bra: $70 | Model: Victoria Dagger; photo © Max Johnson

Karolina Laskowska Ela Lace Soft Cup Bra in Ivory: £85

Karolina Laskowska Ela Lace Soft Cup Bra in Ivory: £85

Lonely Zip Front Longline Bra: $120

Lonely Zip Front Longline Bra: $120

Lonely Hearts Sabel Cut Out Bra: $99

Lonely Hearts Sabel Cut Out Bra: $99

Nasty Gal Wrapped In Love Lace Bralette: $30

Nasty Gal Wrapped In Love Lace Bralette: $30

LuvaHuva Odile Bra: $82

LuvaHuva Odile Bra: $82

Hopeless Lingerie Lucy Bralette: $110

Hopeless Lingerie Lucy Bralette: $110

Hopeless Lingerie Suzy Bralette: $100

Hopeless Lingerie Suzy Bralette: $100

Playful Promises Opulence Gold Chain Bra

Playful Promises Opulence Gold Chain Bra: £30

Toru and Naoko Cora Strappy Soft Bra and Panty Set: $76

Toru and Naoko Cora Strappy Soft Bra and Panty Set: $76

Toru and Naoko Elle Strappy Floral Bra: $45

Toru and Naoko Elle Strappy Floral Bra: $45

Free People Strappy Front Bra: $58

Free People Strappy Front Bra: $58

Free People Strappy Back Bra: $20

Free People Strappy Back Bra: $20

ASOS Sienna Strappy Mesh Triangle Bra

ASOS Sienna Strappy Mesh Triangle Bra: $30

Bones Lingerie Black Beauty Bra: $29

Bones Lingerie Black Beauty Bra: $29

Which strappy bralette is your favorite? Do you have another favorite not shown here?  Share 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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTube

Why Do Men Wear Corsets?

Trio of men's corsets by Dark Garden | Photo © Joel Aron

Trio of men’s corsets by Dark Garden | Photo © Joel Aron

Here in San Francisco, we just wrapped up the Folsom Street Fair, an annual leather/fetish event. It’s one of many events I work for Dark Garden and it has… well, it has a lot of distinctions, but in particular, it’s the one day of the year where I get to talk to and work with many men (or those who were assigned as such at birth) who want to try on corsets.  The rest of the year, I am often met with a giggle and surprise when I say, yes, we really do make corsets for men, yes, men wear corsets, lots of different kinds of men. I wrote a previous piece about why people in general (still) wear corsets, but men have their own niche reasons and variations on the themes that they merited their own post.

Left: Corselette by Dark Garden - short cinchers like this can often be worn interchangeably by men and women. | Photo © Joel Aron

Left: Corselette by Dark Garden – short cinchers like this can often be worn interchangeably by men and women. | Photo © Joel Aron

Of course, the general purpose of a corset is to mold the silhouette into a more desired form.  Lacking a natural hourglass, one might think that men’s bodies don’t compress well… but just like women, the rate of compression varies from person to person.  Generally speaking, however, slender men tend to be even more compressible than women. As with women’s corsets, the effectiveness of the corset will rely on the quality of the fit. Men’s torsos have different proportions and subtly different shape, so most corset styles aren’t necessarily interchangeable. The major exception is short cincher styles, which barely graze the bottom of the ribs and top of the pelvis and so aren’t affected by the shape of these bony masses. (Incidentally, athletically bodied women or those who prefer a milder reduction may be more comfortable in a men’s fit corset, which may additionally be turned upside down to invert the rib and hip spring proportion.)

1893 ad for the "Invicorator Belt," a men's corset marketed as being for back support.

1893 ad for the “Invicorator Belt,” a men’s corset marketed as being for back support.

For men as for women, a well-made corset can be excellent back support, a tradition which goes back at least to the 1800s. (If you want more men’s corset history, you can check out Lucy’s “On Men and Corsets” video.)  A corset is sturdier and more comfortable – to say nothing of more attractive! – than a generic back brace/support belt, for either occasional or day-to-day wear. Just as female scoliosis sufferers may find relief with corsets, men with chronic back issues may find corsets a boon. Andy Warhol and John F. Kennedy both wore corsets for back support.

The Edward is a variation on the Beau Brummell, a tailored vest corset by Dark Garden. | Photo © Joel Aron

The Edward is a variation on the Beau Brummell, a tailored vest corset by Dark Garden. | Photo © Joel Aron

Of course many men do wear corsets for purely aesthetic purposes, just as women wear smoothing shapewear.  For men, wearing corsets accentuates the V-shape from shoulders to waist, rather than the hourglass of waist to hips, as well as smoothing the line of the stomach. Corsets can be worn as a foundation piece under formalwear – tuxedos – but modern corsetmakers have taken to blending the two in custom waistcoat corsets.

Cross-dressers may use corsets for feminization, with an exaggerated waistline compared to a more “masculine” corset.  Hips and breasts will likely be padded out, the trappings of femininity pushed further with wigs and heavy makeup. For a drag performer, corsets can be worn discreetly underneath clothing or, as a burlesque performer might, as part of the costume.

The Sweetheart Mid-Hip Corset by Contour Corsets. Specifically designed to fit a masculine body yet create a feminine line.

The Sweetheart Mid-Hip Corset by Contour Corsets. Specifically designed to fit a masculine body yet create a feminine line.

It’s important to note the distinction between gender-bending for fun and performance and having a transgender or fluid gender identity. Though corsets can be worn to feminize in either instance, the latter may wear a corset and even waist train as part of their transformation. Any corset can help feminize simply by reducing the waist, but unsurprisingly, the best results will be found with custom corsetry.

"Ambrose" vest-inspired underbust corset by Dark Garden | Photo © Joel Aron

“Ambrose” vest-inspired underbust corset by Dark Garden | Photo © Joel Aron

Along with these less-common takes on corsets, men might still wear corsets for any of the non-gender specific reasons a woman might, mentioned in my previous post, Why Do People Wear Corsets?  Compression therapy for anxiety or fetish appeal are just as valid across gender lines. I think wearing a corset is an experience that most everyone should try, at least once… you never know how it’ll make you feel, and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised!

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTube

How Much Should You Spend on a Corset?

Corset: Crikey Aphrodite | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren
Corset: Crikey Aphrodite | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

As covered last week, corsets are (justifiably) expensive.  A friend of mine joked that I could’ve summed that whole article up as “corsets are hard” – touché, James.  Still, corsets come in a huge range of price points.  What’s “reasonable”?  What should you expect when spending that much money on a garment?  How much should you even think about spending in the first place?  Well, the answer depends entirely on the corset’s intended purpose, and your priorities as a consumer. Below I have broken down basic price tiers for corsets.  Please note that these prices and categories are loosely defined, and guidelines only, and may have a natural variance based on the cost of living in the country where each designer is based.  As I write this, it is early fall, 2014 – if you are reading this from the future, things may have changed!  Additionally, these are the prices for new corsets – you can often get better deals by buying pre-owned or sample corsets.

"Hollywood Dream Halter Corset" by Frederick's of Hollywood

“Hollywood Dream Halter Corset” by Frederick’s of Hollywood

$30-$100: Costume Corsets

This is the amount of money you should spend if you are looking for a fashion corset for a costume piece or bedroom garment with no longevity or actual waist reduction.  At this price point, you will be purchasing a garment likely mass-manufactured with low-quality components without regard to ethical labor or sourcing, and may be a knock-off of another corsetiere’s design.  It may be sized by bust, band size, or even small/medium large.  Even if sized by waist, it’s unlikely you will get even a 2″ waist reduction and the gap may have to be laced very unevenly to accommodate bust and hips even without waist compression. It may or may not have plastic or very cheap steel in it, and some of the panels may be stretch fabric.  Depending on your purposes, of course (especially with Halloween around the corner), all of that may be just fine for you. These are the sorts of corsets you often see on Ebay or websites with generic-sounding names.  Frederick’s of Hollywood‘s corset selection falls into this category, as would other corsets you might find in the mall (such as Lip Service via Hot Topic).

Orchard Corset CS-426 Longline Underbust

Orchard Corset CS-426 Longline Underbust

$70-$200: Starter Corsets

By doubling the above budget, you can get a corset that has at least a 2″ reduction and higher quality components.  In particular, Orchard Corset (which sells a couple styles for as little as $69) is a popular “starter corset” for those who aren’t sure if they really like corsets (or just think they do), or are just beginning to waist trainMystic City Corsets is similarly priced and also popular for starter corsets; both of these brands are more what I would consider factory-made than handmade, but with higher attention to quality and better reputations overall.  Isabella Corsetry is another popular “starter” corset brand, which states on their website that they are handmade in the USA, with headquarters in Sacramento.  At this price range, you might also purchase an individually handmade corset from a newer corsetiere (perhaps on Etsy) who is still refining their production processes, costing, and fit.  I wouldn’t recommend trying to tightlace on this budget.  Though Vollers and Timeless Trends are both close to Orchard and Mystic City in price – or even higher – their shaping is very minimal and/or inconsistent by comparison and so I wouldn’t recommend them as anything but a fashion corset.  But then, I always recommend going handmade if possible…  Incidentally, Corset Story/Corsets UK/Punk 69 hovers in this price range, but are notorious for their terrible quality, from lack of shaping to bones that are essentially scrap metal with random holes and unfiled edges.  Do avoid.

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

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

$200-$500: Handmade/Designer Corsets

This would be my recommended starting budget for someone who wants a real, shapely corset, especially if they are planning to waist train.  This can get you a high-quality ready-to-wear corset from an independent designer who creates a handmade product.  Yes, it is possible to waist train and/or tightlace in a ready-to-wear corset… if the construction quality is good and the fit appropriate for your body.  The quality of materials here will be higher quality, the attention to detail more finessed, the labor conditions ethical, etc.  I find the overall look of corsets at this price point to be much more refined and polished, with greater attention to finishing details such as grainline, neatness of topstitching, and treatment of fabric. RetroFolie is a brand which has recently launched in this price range with a unique product and high quality.  Other examples of brands with starting prices in this category include Pop Antique, Dark Garden, Puimond, Morúa, Lovely Rat, etc.  What Katie Did is also at this price tier; though their corsets are produced off-site India, they maintain a close relationship with the factory to assure ethical production and high quality standards. Angela Friedman likewise features off-site production, though her manufacturing is in New York.

Dollymop for Dark Garden "Hussar" corset | Model: Khadijah | Photo © Joel Aron

Dollymop for Dark Garden “Hussar” corset | Model: Khadijah | Photo © Joel Aron

$500-$1000: Custom Corsets and Fancy Handmade Ready-to-Wear

If you’re looking to get a fancy ready to wear or a custom corset, budget on a minimum of $500.  Gone are the days when $300 was the average price for a handmade custom corset – as we learned last week, that really doesn’t cover the cost of materials, labor, and experience that go into making such a thing.  Depending on the type of detailing, fabric, and embellishment, it’s easy to hit $700 or $800 even in a ready-to-wear fit; Dark Garden’s Dollymop line and my own Pop Antique Knit Corsets are excellent illustrations of this. Serious waist training and tightlacing corsets can also be found at this price, with custom or personalized fit and the appropriate structure and reinforcements.  Some designers who don’t have or don’t often sell ready-to-wear corsets sell custom corsetry in this range, such as Royal Black and Crikey Aphrodite.

Sparklewren "Bird of Prey" corset | Model: Cassie Rae Wardle | Photo © InaGlo

Sparklewren “Bird of Prey” corset | Model: Cassie Rae Wardle | Photo © InaGlo

$1000+: Custom Couture Corsetry by the Experts

If you are looking for a custom-fit corset made by an industry leader with extensive experience in fit and a strong design aesthetic, this is it.  At this price point you can have couture level embellishment, unique style, and quality construction, from an independent designer that is respected and loved by both their clients and their peers.  Depending on the degree of complication, the price could easily run to $2,000 or even $4,000 or more, as with Dark Garden’s Catherine D’Lish “Peacock Corset” collaboration, or Sparklewren’s fine art corsetry. Corsets like this are art/display pieces as much as garments and will likely only see occasional wear for the rare special event. Their structure may be sturdy but the detailing is less hardy.  Since you can’t commission Mr. Pearl, a corset by a maker in this category is the next best thing.

Dark Garden corset gown | Model: Dwoira Galilea | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden corset gown | Model: Dwoira Galilea | Photo © Joel Aron

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTube

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTube

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTube

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTube

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTube

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTube