Posts by Marianne

How It Hurts Designers When You Don’t Credit Shared Images

Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links.

L1000623 Pop Antique Demoiselle corset Victoria Dagger Alyxander Ryan Havyn

Pop Antique “Demoiselle” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Alyxander Ryan

(Just so we’re clear, it also hurts models and photographers… but the title was long enough already.)

We’ve all been there. You’re on Facebook and a killer photo shows up in your feed. The styling, pose, lighting, location, and composition are all on-point. You click, “Share,” or maybe on Instagram you take a screencap or use a regram app. You reblog, or repin, or whatever. Your friends can now admire the amazing photographic art you’ve stumbled on, but all that shows up, at best, is the page you found it… and that page had nothing to do with making that image.

Pop Antique "Gibson Girl" waist training corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

Pop Antique “Gibson Girl” waist training corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

Recently, a page with over 2.5 million likes on Facebook shared one of my images. They didn’t credit my photographer, John Carey, they didn’t credit Victoria Dagger as a model, and they certainly didn’t credit Pop Antique as designer/stylist/art director, or Vanessa Joy of Vim and Vigor for the amazing hair. Just so we’re clear, if you don’t have permission from a photographer to use their shot, it’s technically stealing to be posting it. That doesn’t mean all creatives want you to never ever ever share their images… just do it politely, with some awareness.

Pop Antique "Valentine" corset, hat & skirt | Model: Lauren Luck | Photo © Edson Carlos

Pop Antique “Valentine” corset, hat & skirt | Model: Lauren Luck | Photo © Edson Carlos

With independent designers, most photoshoots are “TFP” – trade for pics. No money changes hands, everyone gets new portfolio shots and the promise to post credits whenever they post the image. Wardrobe might be loaned out to a model or photographer or the designer might be art directing the shoot. Ideally, hair and makeup professionals are also on hand. Photographers often watermark their work, and as the copyright owners, are the most likely to receive credit. Models are fairly easily recognized. Designers, wardrobe stylists, makeup artists, and hair stylists often get the short end of the stick. Certain designers have very distinctive work or a passionate fanbase that will recognize their work, but what if a particular shot doesn’t show their work with enough clarity for them to be identified? It’s harder and more frustrating to book and coordinate TFP shoots when you and your team know hours or days of hard work is just going into the Tumblr void… and even more annoying if you spent good money to make the shoot happen instead of buying more fabric or equipment. You had a chance to garner new fans/clients, but not if they don’t know who you are. If money is changing hands, designers are the least likely to be paid.

Pop Antique "Minx" ribbon corset | Model: Neon Lolita | Photo © Lauren Luck

Pop Antique “Minx” ribbon corset | Model: Neon Lolita | Photo © Lauren Luck

Uncredited images also turn into a timesuck for the team. Even if a team member has made their peace with this reality and adopted a zen attitude, that well-meaning, passionate fan base will probably still tag them when they find transgressions. Do we engage, not engage? How far do we go? Time spent trying to convince people to edit their captions is time not spent designing and making.

Dita Von Teese "Madam X" soft bra and brief set | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

Dita Von Teese “Madam X” soft bra and brief set | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

On the other side of the fence, how often do you see an amazing design in a photo, and frantically comment, “Where can I get that bra??” Then you desperately attempt to work some Google-fu to find the original post, or search based on a description that is in large part a wild guess.

Neon Duchess mesh cincher | Model & Styling: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Matthew Kadi

Neon Duchess mesh cincher | Model & Styling: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Matthew Kadi | Fur shown is vintage.

My episode in December of having my image shared by the other page with the huge fan base had another frustrating downside. I am comfortable with my platform, the polite, open-minded, and reasonable audience here on The Lingerie Addict, the educated and enthusiastic fans of my own brand, Pop Antique. Having that image shared on a platform with a much wider audience meant being subject to negative statements about the model’s body and the art of corsetry. Some were appreciative, some supportive, but others were derogatory, rude, objectifying, alarmist… and since the page didn’t credit my work, my only hope was that any prospective new fans would read the comments where some of my colleagues had recognized my work and tagged me, and where I had jumped to my own defense.

Pop Antique "Vixen" ribbon corset | Model: Olivia Campbell | Photo © Marianne Faulkner

Pop Antique “Vixen” ribbon corset | Model: Olivia Campbell | Photo © Marianne Faulkner

So what can you do? I’m not asking you not to share – please share. If you recognize someone’s work, tag/link/mention their professional page in the reshare, or in the comments of someone else’s share. If you’re pinning from a site to Pinterest, copy and paste the credits into the caption. Don’t delete them when repinning. If a designer, model, or photographer comments on something you’ve shared with a request for credit, please just edit the original caption. It’s not enough to have it hidden in the comments. Don’t make excuses – we get it, it’s fine, please just fix it. Instagram now allows you to edit the main caption under an image. Tumblr can only be controlled so much, but you can help future reblogs if not those that have already happened. If you’re playing credits watchdog, remember to tag or mention the professional page rather than the individual’s personal page. Don’t snark or condone snark when sharing. Remember that everyone who contributed to make that photo is a real person.

Had you ever considered the ripple effect that comes of sharing images on the internet? Are you more likely to add or comment with credits now? If you’re a model, photographer, or designer, how has this social media issue affected you?

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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Corset Basics: Silhouette Styles Defined

In “A Corset Family Tree, Abridged,” I defined the various common styles of corsets, both historic and modern. Another important ingredient to corset style is the overall silhouette shaping, primarily through the rib cage. It’s particularly important when corset shopping to know the silhouette you are targeting so you can identify the corsetieres who cater to that style.

Sparklewren "Rose Gold" corset with conical rib. Model: Victoria Dagger. Photo © Sparklewren.

Sparklewren “Rose Gold” corset with conical rib. Model: Victoria Dagger. Photo © Sparklewren.

Conical
Sometimes called “ice cream cone,” a conically shaped corset transitions from the bust/underbust to the waist with a smooth straight line. Sparklewren‘s work often features a classic conical rib. This style is often perceived as the mildest-looking, which is probably why it tends to have the broadest appeal. Ironically, it actually tends to be the most uncomfortable rib shape, unless a) one has narrow and/or compressible ribs, b) one has trained their ribs as part of their waist training, and/or c) the corset is achieving only a mild reduction. A conical corset could also have “conical hips” that flare smoothly out or rounded hips, depending on your definition.

Dollymop for Dark Garden "Antoinette" corset with classic hourglass shaping. Photo © Joel Aron.

Dollymop for Dark Garden “Antoinette” corset with classic hourglass shaping. Photo © Joel Aron.

Hourglass
An hourglass corset looks very much like the timekeeping device for which it is named. The sides of the ribs and hips are rounded and the waist is well-defined. Dark Garden‘s ready-to-wear line is a classic hourglass shape. This shape suits a slightly larger reduction and is easier on the ribs for new corset wearers or prolonged wear.

Pop Antique "Valentine" corset. The Pop Antique ready-to-wear line features a cupped rib as part of its engineered fit. Model: Victoria Dagger. Photo © John Carey.

Pop Antique “Valentine” corset. The Pop Antique ready-to-wear line features a cupped rib as part of its engineered fit. Model: Victoria Dagger. Photo © John Carey.

Cupped Rib
Similar to an hourglass, a cupped rib takes it one steps farther: the ribs are rounded and have minimal compression at both the side and front of the rib cage. Hourglass corsets generally still compress the front of the rib cage. A cupped rib is one of the signatures of my line, Pop Antique. Those with stiff, non-compressing ribs and costal cartilage or front-protruding ribs will find a cupped rib most comfortable, particularly if they are slim and therefore have little cushioning to protect their ribs. This shape is generally perceived as the most extreme, and it does tend to afford the greatest reduction, but it still leaves the most room for the underlying anatomy. Aesthetically, some find it to be too “squared” looking.

Dark Garden "Pearl" corset, modeled by proprietress Autumn Adamme. This bespoke piece was created by Autumn under the tutelage of corsetry legend Mr. Pearl, and features a short pipe-stem waist. | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden “Pearl” corset, modeled by proprietress Autumn Adamme. This bespoke piece was created by Autumn while working with corsetry legend Mr. Pearl, and features a short pipe-stem waist. | Photo © Joel Aron

Pipestem
A pipestem is definitely an extreme shape, usually only found in custom/bespoke corsets for serious tightlacers/waist trainers. A pipestem waist is a vertically extended waist, realistically usually in the 1-2″ range, below what is by necessity a cupped rib shape. Since it is limited to a custom fit, not many brands “specialize” in a pipestem (or stem waist), but tightlacer Spook‘s 2″ pipestem corsets were made by C&S Constructions. The pipestem silhouette seems to predate the popularity of a cupped rib without an elongated waist.

Sparklewren "Soft Dove" corset with mild U-Shape. Modeled by Tingyn. Photo © Sparklewren.

Sparklewren “Soft Dove” corset with mild U-Shape. Modeled by Tingyn. Photo © Sparklewren.

U-Shape
This mild shape is a less common one, and could be considered either a marker for a cheap corset or the mildest version of a conical rib. A U-Shape corset transitions with smooth lines from the ribs to a shallow curve at the waist and another smooth line down the hip. This style therefore works best with very mild reductions and is usually seen on short-hip styles. Budget corsets are often U-Shaped but make big claims about waist reductions (sometimes based on the number of steels they use), whereas a fine corsetiere could use the U-shape as a basis for a textural piece or to satisfy a client who likes the idea of a corset but wants very light compression and shaping.

What is a wasp waist anyway? Anterior view of wasp. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

What is a wasp waist anyway? Anterior view of wasp. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Wasp Waist?
A “wasp waist” has become a very muddied concept, meaning different things to different people, and thus it is probably best avoided. Personally, I had previously considered it a more extreme version of an hourglass, with a sharply nipped and extremely defined waist. A variation of this is to consider a wasp waist and cupped rib as the same. Some think of it as falling on the other side of hourglass, between hourglass and conical… or a conical rib with a full hourglass hip. Is it also partially a matter of proportion, more so than shape alone. Suffice to say, a wasp waist means something different depending on whom you speak to, even amongst corsetry experts. I would caution against using this description when communicating with corsetieres about shape unless you provide accompanying images.

Vanyanís Alecto underbust corset featuring smooth waist shaping. Modeled by Vanyanís designer, Lowana O'Shea.

Vanyanís Alecto underbust corset featuring smooth waist shaping. Modeled by Vanyanís designer, Lowana O’Shea.

Waist and Hip Shaping
Generally speaking, the above silhouettes primarily describe the rib cage. The hip shaping is somewhat variable and interchangeable between styles
, as with conical and hourglass ribs/hips in any combination. The degree of waist definition can also vary… an hourglass corset can feature a languid or dramatically nipped waist and still be an hourglass. Generally speaking, the more panels a corset has, the smoother and subtler any of these shapes tend to be, as the degree of change is split amongst many seams rather than forced into just two or three key seams. While it is possible to sculpt and pad to create a desired silhouette on any individual body (mostly), each person will have a corset style that is literally a better fit for the natural shape of their anatomy.

Corset silhouettes, illustrated by Pop Antique. Conical, hourglass, cupped rib, and pipestem.

Corset silhouettes, illustrated by Pop Antique. Conical, hourglass, cupped rib, and pipestem.

Which is your favorite corset silhouette?

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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5 Corset Trend Predictions for 2015

Each year, the modern crop of corsetieres continues to blaze new trails, revisit forgotten Victorian concepts, and refine their individual signature aesthetics. The increasing sense of community and accessibility of corsetry training via such educational efforts as Foundations Revealed and the Oxford Conference of Corsetry certainly have had a hand in this reinvigoration. Here are my theories for what we have in store for 2015.

Corset, Skirt, Styling: Pop Antique | Model: Neon Lolita | Photo © Lauren Luck

Corset, Skirt, Styling: Pop Antique | Model: Neon Lolita | Photo © Lauren Luck

Waist Training has been steadily picking up momentum over the past year, and I think that trend is only going to continue. Hopefully, with more waist trainers out there, there’ll be an increase of good information. Which, in turn, would create a shift away from attempting to train with girdle-like latex shapers/fajas and a return to properly structured corsetry, which tends to be more beautiful, stronger, more effective, and probably actually more comfortable to boot.

Purdy beaded cage corset.

Purdy beaded cage corset.

As far as trims and embellishments go, lace, sheer, and hip fins have proven they’re here to stay. Rhinestones have long been a mainstay, especially in the burlesque community. What I think is next for corset embellishment is beading. Not just occasional beaded accents but full-blown, crazy beading. For example, this skeleton corset by Purdy took about 160 hours of hand-sewing to attach the “oil slick” inspired beading. Vanyanís is another designer pushing couture-level beadwork as a design detail.

Sparklewren "Phoenix" corset | Model: Karolina Laskowska | Photo © Sparklewren

Sparklewren “Phoenix” corset | Model/Lingerie: Karolina Laskowska | Photo © Sparklewren

This next trend comes from The Lingerie Addict’s Best Corsetry Brand of 2014, Sparklewren: many paneled corsetry. Sparklewren takes many cues from antique corsets, dissecting and reinterpreting them. Her signature birdswing construction has sparked an increase in the number of panels used to fit and support across other makers. The “standard” number of panels is generally six per side, or 12 total. Birdswing corsets can have easily twice that many panels. Of course, the trend goes beyond just one concept from one designer, and I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more corsets from all over the world with seven, 10, 11, or more panels per side in the coming year.

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

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

Pantone’s color of the year is Marsala, and with this winy berry hue I have a feeling we’re going to see more corsets in fashionably edible pinks and reds, as well as hints of muted mauve and rust. Last year, coral was a big color, and I think it’ll be subtly transforming into a brighter, less-orangey version of the hue. Black is a perennial favorite, so if you’re not ready to plunge headfirst into vivid hues, why not try touches of these fashion colors via detailing such as lace appliqué or flossing?

Pantone's Color of the Year 2015: Marsala

Pantone’s Color of the Year 2015: Marsala

Lastly, natural hourglass figures and seasoned tightlacers can rejoice: we’re already starting to see curvier corsets. Even factory-made brands are starting to release curvier models, whereas the younger crop of corsetmakers are increasing the curve factor in their ready-to-wear corsets or creating tiers of curviness in their line up. For example, Tighter Corsets has a four-tier system specifically targeting (guess who?) waist trainers. Earlier this year, I released my own personal custom corset as a special edition style with a dramatic hip spring.

Pop Antique "Gibson Girl" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

Pop Antique “Gibson Girl” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

What do you think is up next for corsetry? If you’re a maker, what are you looking to create this year? Personally, I want to focus more on my integrated corsetry concepts, building corsets into other garments with varying degrees of discretion.

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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Corset Basics: A Beginner’s Guide

I’ve said quite a bit about corsets over the three and a half years (!!) that I’ve been writing for The Lingerie Addict, but it recently occurred to me that I’ve never written a simple introduction to the world of corsets. Whether you’re here because you’re thinking of buying a first corset (maybe for waist training) or perhaps wandered in because you might be looking to get one for a friend or a partner, here’s some basic stuff you’ll need to know.

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

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

What is a corset?
I go into this in much greater detail in “What Is a “Real” Corset, Anyway?” but here’s a quick overview of my personal definition, describing both historic and modern corsets. A corset is a strongly structured (under)garment used to create a desired silhouette, fitted by means of lacing which controls compression and re-shaping of the torso. So if it’s stretchy and only has bra-style hooks or rolls on, it’s not a corset, but rather more of a girdle.

There are two main types of corset: overbust and underbust. An underbust will stop anywhere below the bust, at or below bra band level. It does not support or shape the breasts and should be worn with a bra (if you usually wear bras). An overbust corset covers and supports the breasts, though different cup sizes may prefer different styles of overbust. Underbusts tend to be more versatile and can be worn either under or or clothing; they are generally easy to style with a variety of outfits. Overbusts are often perceived as more of a statement piece.

Dark Garden "Cincher" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden “Cincher” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Joel Aron

Corsets should be sized according to the closed waist measurement. Generally, with standard fit (ready to wear/off the rack) corsets, most sizing runs in 2″ even-numbered intervals. 4″ smaller than the natural waist is the most common formula for basic sizing, but the shape of the corset and the wearer’s personal compressibility will affect the level of reduction possible. Speaking of the reduction, rest at ease – well-fitted corsets are neither painful nor dangerous. Most standard-fit corsets are also intended to be worn with approximately a 2″ gap in the back lacing.

Pop Antique corset | Model: Sara Cecil | Photo © Jesse Alford

Pop Antique corset | Model: Sara Cecil | Photo © Jesse Alford

One of the most common questions I hear when fitting corset neophytes is, “So I only have to adjust the back lacing once and then I just put it on from the front?” Stop right there! It’s really important to loosen the laces before you take off your corset. To do its job properly, the corset needs to have its laces tightened each time you put it on. If it’s loose enough to put on and take off without touching the lacing, it’s too big. A properly-laced corset should have its lacing adjusted via two loops at the waist line, which should ideally be inverted so the bottom of the loop tightens the top (ribs) of the corset and the top of the loop controls the bottom (hips).

The front closure of a corset is called the “busk.” A busk is a specialized piece of metal hardware, consisting of two spring steel bones with flat metal loops/hooks protruding from one side and buttons or studs sticking out from the other. The bones are hidden inside the body of the corset with only the hook and stud peeking out from the fabric. When I say “bones” I don’t mean literal bones. The name comes from whalebone… which is itself a misnomer for baleen… which replaced cane and reed before itself being replaced by steel… which is what bones are currently made from. Bones can also be called boning or stays. Steel bones are either “flats” or “spirals.” The number of bones doesn’t necessarily have a direct relationship with the shape or strength of a corset – they serve to preserve the vertical tension. Bones are held snug in vertical channels. If the channels are accented/reinforced with strips of fabric, those are bone casings.

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

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

A waist tape, sometimes called a waist stay, is a sturdy ribbon that reinforces the waist to minimize stretching. Depending on the construction style, the waist tape may be visible on the interior of the corset or hidden inside. Occasionally it may be omitted entirely if the fabric of the corset is particularly stable and will not be under excessive stress (e.g., on a corset intended for occasional wear), but in many cases a skipped or low quality waist tape is an indicator of a cheaper corset. (In other words – on an $80 corset, no waist tape is a bad sign; on a $500 corset, there may have been a legitimate reason to omit it.)

Dark Garden "Risqué Cincher" | Model: Elisa Berlin | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden “Risqué Cincher” | Model: Elisa Berlin | Photo © Joel Aron

Most corsets have at least two layers. The exterior is called the “fashion fabric” and the interior is the “stength layer,” which should be sturdy with minimal stretch. Linings, interlinings, and interfacing may also be present. Each corsetmaker will have their preferences and different fashion fabrics have different needs regarding additional reinforcement. The most popular strength layer fabric is coutil, which is fabric designed specifically for corsetry, but other fabrics can be quite serviceable and may present other advantages. Of course, it is possible to make a single layer corset. The most popular type of single layer corset is a mesh corset. Single layer corsets make excellent underwear and summer corsets.

Pop Antique corset | Model: Neon Lolita | Photo © Lauren Luck

Pop Antique corset | Model: Neon Lolita | Photo © Lauren Luck

The highest quality of corset is handmade by a small-business working from an on-site atelier. Often, this may be a single “corsetiere” working from a home studio. These corsets may have several levels of purchase. Off-the-rack refers to in-stock corsets, standard sized and ready to take home immediately. Made-to-order are standard-sized corsets that aren’t made until they’re ordered, usually in the client’s choice of fabric and detailing. Ready-to-wear can be a synonym for off-the-rack or refer to all standard-size corsets (thus including both OTR and MTO). Made-to-order corsets may also have small fit personalizations, not to be confused with a fully custom or bespoke corset. If that hasn’t overwhelmed you, you should now think about how much you want to spend (and the related topic of Why Corsets Are Expensive), and maybe do a little more digging to make sure you are investing in a quality corset.

Happy holidays, and I’ll see you in 2015!

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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Corsets Are Not Self-Hatred

Dollymop for Dark Garden corset gown | Model: Tuesday Blues | Photo © Aaron Fagerstrom

Dollymop for Dark Garden corset gown | Model: Tuesday Blues | Photo © Aaron Fagerstrom

There seems to be a common misconception that women who wear corsets must “hate themselves” or “hate their bodies.” This is patently untrue and leads to endless concern trolling from those who think they know from vague hearsay more than those who have actually researched, invested in, and chosen to wear these unusual garments. Never mind that if someone really does hate their body, shaming them about it is probably the least effective thing you could do.

Pop Antique "Bombshell" waspie corset with peplum and ribbon detail | Model: Olivia Campbell | Photo © Pop Antique

Pop Antique “Bombshell” waspie corset with peplum and ribbon detail | Model: Olivia Campbell | Photo © Pop Antique

There are three main varieties on this theme that I hear most often…

No, women who wear corsets don’t inherently hate their (uncorseted) body or themselves. Whether an occasional wearer, serious tightlacer, or devoted waist trainer, I haven’t found corset fans to be any more insecure than those who don’t wear corsets. Actually, the corset community tends to be very body-positive and some find that wearing their corsets increases their awareness and appreciation of their own body, even uncorseted. Why are corsets so stigmatized? (Mostly because they are so uncommon, I suspect. The adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” definitely does not apply to corsets.) Do we think that women wear high heels because they hate their body? Push up bras? Makeup? Fake eyelashes? What about tweezing our eyebrows, dyeing and curling or straightening our hair? Of course not.  To make the same assumption about diet or exercise would be laughable, though of course cosmetic surgery often faces similar criticism and assumptions as corsetry. This concern can come from any direction, but it’s particularly ironic when coming from a self-proclaimed feminist, because modern day feminism is ostensibly about having choices.

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

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

No, women don’t wear corsets in a misguided attempt to make themselves more attractive to men. Those who wear corsets tend to do so primarily for themselves. They may have varying degrees of support and encouragement from their partners, but it’s my experience that most men either don’t care or are a little weirded out by serious corsets. An occasional corset may be intriguing in the bedroom or at a fancy occasion, but dramatic tightlacing or daily waist training is liable to be met with some amount of suspicion. Bonus irony points (see above) because there is a modern association between corsets and the patriarchy, when historically men have a long history of being suspicious of corsets.

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

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

No, women who wear corsets aren’t “torturing” themselves because of the above specious allegations. Because corsets aren’t torture. When a corset fits well, it should feel supportive, if not jammies-and-a-t-shirt level comfy. The vast majority of corset wearers aren’t doing any damage to their bodies. There’s a small percentage of people who find any level of compression physically uncomfortable or anxiety-inducing, of course, but I have found them to be outnumbered by the percentage of people who derive physical or emotional benefit from corsets.

Dark Garden "Risqué Cincher" | Model: Khadijah | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden “Risqué Cincher” | Model: Khadijah | Photo © Joel Aron

If you’re already involved in the corset community, chances are such assumptions and body snark are anathema to your personal experiences and beliefs. Even if you’re new to corsets, or haven’t yet dipped your toes in the water, I encourage you to speak out when you hear these myths propagated. No, corsets are not self-hatred. Check out #realcorsetsrealpeople and of course feel free to make your own contributions to the tag.

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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How to Order Handmade Lingerie & Corsets

Buying handmade is awesome. As an independent, one-woman business, I not only create a handmade product but I try to support other indie handmade designers as well.  Sometimes, when trying to order from other designers, I even find myself falling into the same pitfalls that can cause me frustration when coming from my own clients! Today I’m going to talk about the process of communicating with a designer who creates a handmade/made-to-order product.

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

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

Have an Idea of What You Want

Let’s say you know what you want, but not from whom you’re ordering it. Figure out your unique needs then find the designer who serves them. For example, if you’re looking for a conical rib corset, you probably wouldn’t jump straight to Pop Antique, because I specialize in my signature “cupped rib” shape. (By the way, if you are looking for specialty corsets, definitely check out last week’s post of 10 Specialty Corsetieres.)

Do Your Research on the Specific Maker

So you’ve settled on The Thing you want. What Thing that already exists in the designer’s made-to-order line or custom portfolio is most like The Thing you want? It’s okay if it’s a hybrid of multiple styles! Have a clear concept of which parts of each style you are drawn to and which don’t work for you. Don’t muddy the waters by saying you want seven conflicting concepts. Real example: a latex designer getting a request for a “diaper romper thong and ruffled shirt that can be worn discreetly under the clothes.” It’s OK to not have the whole concept figured out, of course – the consultation is a back and forth process, and you have to trust a designer’s aesthetic expertise at a certain point. A designer is not just an assembly line for your vision.

Neon Duchess silver mesh cincher | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Matthew Kadi

Neon Duchess silver mesh cincher | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Matthew Kadi

Also do your research on that maker’s website. Read their FAQ and shipping policies. Don’t expect them to repeat basic information that is readily available on their site during the course of your consultation. They probably will, or at least link you to the relevant pages, but time spent on the consultation repeating readily available information is probably added into the price at some point. If you don’t see certain information on the site, mention that in your correspondence: “I couldn’t find this info on the site, [insert question here]?” That way, we’ll know if we need to change the way the information is found or displayed.

Dark Garden "Risqué Sweetheart" | Model: Autumn Adamme | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden “Risqué Sweetheart” | Model: Autumn Adamme | Photo © Joel Aron

Communicating During Consultation Emails

Know what you want. Be clear and succinct. Double check the size chart and if you have any questions, ask the maker – exchanges are rarely possible on made-to-order goods. For me to get started on a corset order, I need the following information: Style, size, and fabric. I will also need a shipping address and a deposit. Sometimes I get emails that aren’t for immediate orders, which is OK, too. But if you know you’re not ready to order right away, let the designer know that you’re just doing your research and putting out feelers. If you are ready to put down a deposit or pay in full immediately, make that clear as well.

Don’t haggle over the price or tell the designer they are “too expensive” or “overpriced.” It is okay to ask if the designer ever does sales, if you ask politely and don’t demand/feel entitled to a discount. Also, for corsets in particular (other high-ticket and/or long turnaround may also fall into this category), most designers will do installment plans. Don’t worry about coming up with the whole sum right away, a deposit of 1/2 or 1/3 will get you officially in the queue, and the balance just needs to be paid off by the time your order is picked up or shipped. If you’re working with an international designer, you will be the one responsible for customs fees, as decided by your local government. If you’re working with a local designer, you’ll have to pay sales tax. (In the USA, you’ll have to pay state tax if you’re in the same state, city tax if picking up locally. Out-of-state clients don’t pay sales tax.)

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

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

If a designer has a process outlined on the site or asks certain things of your communication, try to follow those policies. It minimizes confusion and wasted time on the designer’s end. (Remember, time spent not making stuff still has to be accounted for in the price of a product!)

Try not to change your mind seven times, but if you do change your mind about something, let us know ASAP before work has started and it’s too late. Changes may be possible but are likely to incur an additional fee. Fit adjustments for bespoke work should not fall into this category, unless you have changed size/shape – for example, lost a lot of weight, taken up waist training, or gotten pregnant.

Dark Garden "Cincher" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

Dark Garden “Cincher” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

Get a feel for how often the designer responds to email. If you haven’t heard back for a few days or a week, especially from an initial contact, it’s okay to give a little nudge. If you’ve been corresponding already, keep it in the same thread to bump it to the top of their inbox. If it’s a first contact, you might’ve gotten stuck in a spam folder or buried by mistake – try again. Trying to stay on top of emails and also actually make the products you’re emailing about can be one of the biggest struggles a designer faces!

Turnaround

Every designer has a different turnaround, and it may vary based on the product. Certainly full bespoke will take longer than a standard-fit made to order. If you have a particular due date (say, for a special occasion or a trip), be straightforward about that immediately. Rush turnarounds may cost extra. If your order is supposed to be completed in four weeks, don’t email at two weeks to ask how it’s going. Chances are, it’s not that it takes four weeks to make your order – it’s that it takes three and a half weeks to work through the orders that came in before yours.

Sparklewren "Jesus" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Sparklewren “Jesus” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Indie Designers Are People, Not Machines

There’s a little discrepancy in each product. A certain level of QC, or quality control, is absolutely to be expected, but there are a lot of variables that go into place. And the level of QC you should expect is directly proportionate to price point. Just because a product is “expensive” for your wallet doesn’t mean it’s overpriced for the level of work that goes into it. You can’t have a butter smooth custom corset with a 7″ waist reduction for $200. Sometimes the overzealous standards of the community can be really offputting to designers – a good corsetiere is inherently detail oriented and a perfectionist. Jenni of Sparklewren once quipped the following to me, regarding corsetmaking and client expectations:

“It needs to fit, it needs to not fall apart, and it needs to be pretty.”

-Jenni Hampshire, Sparklewren

In other words, manage your expectations. We want to make you happy, but don’t expect the sky on a plate.

Dark Garden "Victorian" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden “Victorian” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Joel Aron

If there is a real problem with your order, let us know! But please keep it polite and professional. I once got an email with the most jarring subject line: “Am I being ripped off??” The problem with this client’s order was primarily that she was skeptical of the spiral steels in her corset – she thought I had cheated her and used plastic boning instead.

If there’s an issue, you can start by responding in the same thread where you’ve been communicating, rather than starting a fresh one. Try to take out subjective terms and instead use objective, quantifiable phrasing so we can really get to the root of the issue and process how to fix it. For example, use specific, directional vocabulary and measurements/reference points on the garment. If you are rude and aggressive, it takes up that much more of our mental energy just to respond, let alone do anything about it. Most of the indie designers making handmade lingerie and corsets are one woman businesses or little more. We are our brands, and we take them seriously and personally. We get that you’re unhappy and we want to fix it, but we’re only human and sometimes a harsh email can feel like a blow to the face that just makes us want to hang up our fabric shears and cry under our blankets. Despite what you may have heard about squeaky wheels, a polite and friendly tone is actually more likely to expedite your service.

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

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

So go forth and shop small this holiday season! Just remember that the “hand” in “handmade” is attached to a real person… one you’ve probably chosen to work with for their unique talents and point of view. Your designer, in turn, is grateful that you’re enabling them to do this unconventional thing that they love and be an independent designer.

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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10 Specialty Corsetieres

While it goes without saying that many of us are gift shopping for our friends, family, and general loved ones, it’s also a fun time of year to get yourself a little treat. As you accumulate corset-y dreams to take with you into the new year, here’s a list of ten specialty corsetieres whom I think exemplify a particular niche. Some of these talented designers (all of them crafting a handmade product) are extremely versatile, but I’ve selected the categories in which I think they really shine amongst the competition.

Sparklewren Oyster corset gown InaGlo Samio

Sparklewren “Oyster” corset gown | Model: Samio | Photo © InaGlo Photography

Decadently Feminine Couture: Sparklewren
Sparklewren’s exquisitely layered embellishments have been an inspiration to contemporary corsetieres since she came onto the scene five years ago. If you’re looking for a impeccably impractical one-of-a-kind couture corset, let Sparklewren’s imagination run wild and you are sure to delight in the ensuing confection.

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

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

Plus Size / Full Figure: Dark Garden
Dark Garden has been an industry leader in the corset niche for 25 years. Originally only making bespoke corsets, their RTW line is based on an average of thousands of custom measurements taken over the years. If your “hourglass runeth over,” look no farther than the Valentine. If your budget extends to bespoke, trust Dark Garden to support and enhance your curves with panache.  Attention is lavished on the angle of each and every seam so it best fits your body with both grace and comfort.

Crikey Aphrodite "Queenie" corset | Model: Evie Wolfe | Photo © Scott Chalmers

Crikey Aphrodite “Queenie” corset | Model: Evie Wolfe | Photo © Scott Chalmers

Full Bust: Crikey Aphrodite
Alison Campbell of Crikey Aphrodite works as an expert bra fitter by day, so it’s no wonder she is exceptionally conscious of good bust fit and support in her corsets.  She particularly wowed me at this year’s Oxford Conference of Corsetry when she created a sample corset for the extremely buxom Evie Wolfe… without a mockup fitting. The support and shaping of the bust fit was truly remarkable! (Especially under the circumstances.)

Blue and silver corset trio by Laurie Tavan

Blue and silver corset trio by Laurie Tavan

Historical Fusion: Laurie Tavan (formerly Daze of Laur)
Laurie Tavan has an incredibly unique and fun spin on classic historic silhouettes. Using color blocking and graphic bias stripes, Laurie breathes fresh life into antique-inspired styles, reminding us that not all historic corsets need be simple, undyed, underwear corsets. Like any good corsetmaker, Laurie also has a keen eye for detail and fit.

Feminizing Men's Corset by Contour Corsets

Feminizing Men’s Corset by Contour Corsets

Transgender: Contour Corsets
Fran Blanche’s Contour Corsets have received attention as medical and waist training corsets, but where she really shines is in serving the transgender community. As a transgendered woman, Fran is very conscious of both the personal and the fit concerns trans* individuals have regarding corsetry.

Wilde Hunt "Zafirah" leather corset dress

Wilde Hunt “Zafirah” leather corset dress

Leather: Wilde Hunt
For about as long as I’ve been making corsets, I’ve been aware of the exquisite leather work of Wilde Hunte. Though her shaping tends to run to the more mild, it serves as a beautiful foundation to the complex scenes appliqued onto her work.

Custom embellished corset by Flo Foxworthy

Custom embellished corset by Flo Foxworthy

Burlesque: Flo Foxworthy
While many performers may choose to buy a plain corset from any number of makers and embellish it themselves, why not go to an expert and have a perfect costume created just for you? As a showgirl herself, Flo Foxworthy knows just what you need to maximize your va-va-voom potential under those stage lights.

Pop Antique "Valentine" corset in contrasting organic cotton sateens | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

Pop Antique “Valentine” corset in contrasting organic cotton sateens | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

Eco-Conscious / Organic: Pop Antique
Pop Antique is my line, and though I have a selection of traditional silks and coutil available, I do my best to source organic cotton and hemp and use it wherever possible. My standard strength layer fabric is a strong, smooth, and supple organic cotton canvas, and I have a lovely selection of organic cotton sateen fashion fabrics which are both strong and beautiful in their subtle luminosity.

Royal Black couture corset "Mystique Lillies"

Royal Black couture corset “Mystique Lillies”

Opulently Gothic: Royal Black
Royal Black is another continual crowd-pleaser, with their beautiful laser-cut designs, distinctive point of view, and unique detailing. Collection pieces may feature bright colors, metallics, and even pastels, but the result aesthetic is always touched with the essence of a fairy tale evil queen, in the most awesome way possible.

Bizarre Design tightlacing corset

Bizarre Design tightlacing corset

Tightlacing: Bizarre Design
This was arguably the hardest category to choose for, but I simply couldn’t create this list without showcasing the amazing work of Bizarre Design by Jeroen van der Klis. Bizarre Design has been making exemplary corsets since the late ’80s. The lines of his work showcase a classic fetish aesthetic that’s so refined as to continually appeal to the modern-day corset audience.

Who’s your favorite specialty corsetiere?

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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What Is a “Real” Corset, Anyway?

Disclosure: This blog post contains an affiliate link.

In online corset communities, there’s a lot of talk about “real” corsets. The current latex shaper craze has definitely exacerbated this. (Spoiler: Those aren’t corsets.) But what is a “real”/”authentic”/”true” corset anyway? I find this sort of denomination to be muddying rather than clarifying, personally. Partially because, while I may not like them, even bad corsets are still corsets. There are also some really good corsets that break the Rules. But there are definitely some garments thought of or even sold as corsets that are plainly something different.  So where’s the line?

Pop Antique "Gibson Girl" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

Pop Antique “Gibson Girl” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

(Oh, and don’t get me wrong.  While I say “bad corsets” and “good corsets,” I don’t actually think these descriptions are much better than “real” and “fake” corsets. First of all, they are far too subjective, but also I’d love to find categorizations that sound less judgey!)

What a Corset Is and Does

So let’s start with what a corset actually is.  This is my personal definition, which I feel encompasses the key commonalities between both historic and modern corsets. A corset is a strongly structured (under)garment used to create a desired silhouette, fitted by means of lacing which controls compression and re-shaping of the torso.

Morua corset in bobbinet | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Morua corset in bobbinet | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Let’s break that down. I say “strongly structured” where others might say “steel boned” and “has no stretch.” I think stretch is going to be the next frontier of corset rule breaking in this contemporary corsetry renaissance we’re experiencing. (Well, it seems like a renaissance from here! More on that another day.) Sian Hoffman already blurs the line between “corset” and “girdle” with her powermesh longline, and some of the mesh being used for sheer/summer corsets has give even if it doesn’t have any lycra content. Sparklewren has also been making (to great success) single layer corsets without a waist tape.

Sparklewren "Rose Gold" single layer silk/cotton sateen corset, sans waist tape | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Sparklewren “Rose Gold” single layer silk/cotton sateen corset, sans waist tape | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

As for boning, while steel is the standard, there’s at least one corsetiere out there using a high quality plastic with wonderful results (the types of plastic bones that are widely available are still mostly crap which will warp instantly, though). Cane/reed is still used for historic recreations. Home corsetieres often use cable ties for their personal corsets. Cording can even replace boning. On the flip side, there are plenty of cheap, shapeless, corset-like garments with steel bones slapped inside.  Steel bones alone are not enough to define a corset.

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

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

I say “desired silhouette” because stays, which are included in the corset family, had more to do with shaping upper torso, including bust and shoulders, than just the waistline. Hip shaping for a lot of periods was more determined by skirts and underskirts than the corset itself. Modern corsets focus on the lower ribs, waistline, and hips, but their antecedents are still relevant.

Lacing. I have written so. many. articles. on. lacing, and you know what, I bet I am still going to write more.  Functional lacing is so important for creating controlled and variable compression. I cannot think of a single exception to this part of my definition, though I am open to the possibility.

Pop Antique corset featuring upcycled tshirt, styled with a vintage fur wrap and tulle skirt | Model: Victoria Dagger  |Photo © John Carey

Pop Antique corset featuring upcycled tshirt, styled with a vintage fur wrap and tulle skirt | Model: Victoria Dagger
|Photo © John Carey

Lastly, compression/reshaping of the form. Throughout history there have been plenty of foundation pieces and garment add-ons that structure and build up the form, from bum rolls to shoulder pads. A corset sculpts the body by carefully compressing and redistributing the existing flesh.

The Grey Area

So, my definition does, unfortunately, include bad corsets, at least a little. Poorly made corsets with little shape, cheap boning, cheap polyester fabric cut off grain, grommets spaced 2″ apart… They may do a poor job of  it, but in a way that requires more finesse to spot.  These are the sorts of corset a teenager might wear to a Rocky Horror midnight showing, which is probably the best use for them. They’re sometimes called “fashion corsets”, but as modern corsetry is moving in an increasingly fashionable direction (a trend which I personally am committed to furthering), I find this moniker inadequate. Those godawful eBay knockoffs are in this category.

Pop Antique Valentine corset with fashion-conscious details and styling | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

Pop Antique Valentine corset with fashion-conscious details and styling | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

For a starting point in identifying quality in corsetry, check out What (You Didn’t Know) to Look for in a Corset. Some will try to say that a good corset or a corset fit for waist training must have a certain number of bones or layers of coutil. My definition is much more fluid. The materials and reinforcement appropriate to a corset will depend on the goals for wear, and even waist trainers will have varying needs and desires for their training corsets. As ever, I strongly advocate for handmade corsetry – I find the fit and finishing to be superior, and the designers of handmade corsetry are usually those leading the way in innovative techniques  and design. There’s also a flexibility of design in made-to-order and bespoke corsets that is currently literally impossible in a mass-produced, factory-made piece. Yes, handmade corsets are more expensive, but justifiably so.

That still leaves us with a couple things commonly called “corsets” which are, in fact, a different type of garment.

Not corsets:

-Latex waist shapers/fajas. These are more like girdles than corsets as they have only a hook closure and seem to be entirely stretchy with very little stability and structure. Personally I find the fine-tuned fit of a corset to be much more comfortable than the squeeze of a stretch shapewear.

Latex waist shaper (girdle) by Leonisa. Not a corset.

Latex waist shaper (girdle) by Leonisa. Not a corset.

-Fashion corset tops, which are essentially boned bodices with no waist shaping and a zip closure. They may have a decorative lacing detail but no functional lacing.

What do you think of as a real corset? Have you found your stance on real corsets changing as time goes on? What terminology do you use to distinguish between good and bad corsets, or corsets and other shapewear?

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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How to Lace a Corset: V Method + Bunny Ears

Dollymop for Dark Garden pinstripe corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Joel Aron

Dollymop for Dark Garden pinstripe corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Joel Aron

Knowing how to relace your corsets is a valuable skill. You may find the lacing too short, or want to replace it with a different type or color. Heaven forbid, you may one day end up being cut out of your corset! You can probably take it back to the maker to be relaced, but you could also learn how to do it yourself. Though this is a step-by-step how to, I’ve previously written several other pieces on corset lacing (part 1, the back gap, modesty panels, lacing mistakes, adjusting uneven laces).

As a general guideline, you’ll want about 5-8 yards of lacing for underbust corsets, and 7-10 yards for overbusts. How much will depend on how long the back of the corset is, how closely set the grommets are, how much reduction you achieve, and the overall size of the corset.  As discussed in those prior articles, I tend to use ribbon for lacing. I cut the ends at a 45º angle and singe them to keep them from fraying, which can be really frustrating as you try to lace up. I also like to go down with one length of ribbon and then come back up for the other side – I find it faster, and in a weird way, less confusing than constantly switching back and forth.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

corset lacing by pop antique 0b

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Hook the front of the corset, putting one busk loop towards the middle behind. This will maintain the tension and keep it securely fastened. You may find it helpful to mark the waistline with a straight pin or safety pin (don’t do this if you’re lacing a leather corset). Just feel for the waist tape, if there is one.  You’ll need to know where the waist is to make the “bunny ears.”

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Pull one end of the lacing through each of the top grommets (coming up from below, on the interior of the corset), then pull the length from both sides through together (use one hand to brace the corset and one to pull) so that they are the same length and you have a bit of a space between the edges of center back – just an inch or two.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Take one side of ribbon. I like to start with the left, right where it comes out of the grommet, then pull it through my finger and thumb, flat, until I reach the end. This minimizes the amount of twisting in the ribbon.
Coming up from the bottom of the grommet, go to the next hole on the right side.
Go back to the left, skip one, come up from the bottom.
Go back to the right, skip one, come up from the bottom.
I find it fastest to pull just the end of the ribbon through about three grommets, then catch up and pull the length through those three, and then move onto the next.  So I’ll lace: right, left, right, pull. Left, right, left, pull.  This is a technique I developed in a production environment, you can go one grommet at a time instead, but I find it takes a lot longer and makes my arms more tired.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Keep going in this pattern until you are at the waist level. If the waist level is even with a grommet, that grommet and the one below it will be the pair for the bunny ears. If there are grommets framing the waist tape, then that’s your pair.
When you get to your grommets of choice, you will skip twogrommets as you go across, going from directly above the waist on one side to the lower of the pair on the other side. Come up from the bottom. Pull all the slack through.
Go straight up, do not skip a grommet, do not switch sides (also do not pass go or collect $200). From above, insert the lacing into that grommet. Pull out a bit of slack, but not much – this will see you to the bottom of the corset. Most of the slack lives in the waist loop. You’ll only need a couple feet for most corset styles.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Going back across, skip two grommets (the waist loop for the other side), lace from above. Go across, skip one, lace from above. Below the waist, I find it’s sometimes easier to go in pairs rather than threes before pulling through.  Continue all the way down to the last grommet.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Go back to the top of the corset now. On the way, scope out your waist loop. As it angles down, which side of the lacing is on top? In this example, it’s the right-to-left which features the overhand lacing. The lacing looks a lot tidier if you make this a consistent pattern. I make this my mantra as I go back down with the other side of lacing.
Again, I pull the length of the lacing through my finger and thumb to eliminate twisting.
Coming up from the bottom of the grommet, go to the empty grommet (skip none) on the left side. I’m going over the bit of lacing that I cross.
Coming up from the bottom of the grommet, I go under the existing piece of ribbon to the next grommet.
Again, I work in threes. I repeat to myself, “Over, under, over.” (Pull.) “Under, over, under.” (Pull.)
You can do one or two grommets at a time if you find it easier.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Once you get to waist level, there will be your two open grommets. Go through the lower one from beneath (maintain your over-under pattern here), then into the higher one from above. Pull out a couple feet – this is your home stretch! Don’t forget your over-under pattern. You should create a parallel line from the original cross over.
At this point in particular I will switch to paired grommets to better keep track of the over-under pattern. If I’m going to mess up anywhere, it’s often around here. Remember that you’re now inserting the ribbon from above.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

When you get to the last grommet, pull through. Take the two ribbon ends together and treat them as one. Make a loop and pull a tiny tail through. Make sure it’s snug by separating above the knot and giving a good tug.

At this point in particular I will switch to paired grommets to better keep track of the over-under pattern. If I'm going to mess up anywhere, it's often around here. Remember that you're now inserting the ribbon from above.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

At this point in particular I will switch to paired grommets to better keep track of the over-under pattern. If I'm going to mess up anywhere, it's often around here. Remember that you're now inserting the ribbon from above.

Corset lacing tutorial. Corset by Pop Antique.

Then, to make it extra tidy, just distribute all the slack up to the waist loops from the bottom, then down to the waist loops from the top. You can skip about every other pair of grommets as you’re doing this. Tie the loops in a giant bow. Ta-da!

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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Medical & Support Corsetry

This article is intended as a starting point. I am not a doctor and TLA is not a medical blog. This post is not intended in any way to replace a trained healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor if you think medical corsetry may be right for you.

The relentless stream of anti-corset propaganda, which often takes place in the form of concern trolling, can be especially frustrating to me because over the years I have seen far more cases of corsets providing medical support than causing any damage to the body.  Even one of the comments on one of my last articles was from a woman who wears her corset for largely medical reasons, spanning a variety of issues from scoliosis to asthma (!!).  (Scroll to Deanna’s comment at the bottom.) But the myths persist, based on improbable risks that have more to do with ill-fitting corsetry and the miniscule percentage of extreme corset enthusiasts than 99% of modern and historic corset wearers.  The following is a short list of just some of the medical benefits of corsetry which I’ve witnessed in my years making and fitting corsets.

Pop Antique jersey corset dress | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

Pop Antique jersey corset dress | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

If you are intrigued by the prospect of medical corsetry, please consult with your doctor and don’t forget that you get what you pay for. Medical corsets in particular should be purchased from an expert corsetiere and custom fitting is often integral to their functionality.  The angle and placement of seamlines is vital to a perfect fit, and the level of boning (both number of bones, flat vs spiral, and rigidity of the boning) should be tailored to your needs and preferences.

Back Support
It’s especially ironic that one of the most pervasive myths about corsets is that they are inherently “bad for your back,” or, “horrible for your skeleton.” Often, when I lace someone in for the first time (especially men), they let out a sigh of relief and comment on the amazing back support. I’ve even repeatedly heard that the corsets are far more comfortable and effective than a typical back support belt, not to mention significantly more attractive!  The associated risk is that IF you wear a corset ALL the time (save for bathing) and do not do any core exercises, you may experience a slight weakening in your abdominal muscles. In all but the most extremist corset wearers, it’s unlikely that this weakening would be pronounced enough to affect day to day activities.

Clessidra corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Clessidra corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Posture Improvement
Putting on a corset will immediately improve posture through the lower back (though, unless the corset has straps, shoulders are usually still free to slump).  Consistently wearing a corset will help the body retain good posture even when uncorseted, an affect I’ve definitely appreciated since I started waist training at the beginning of the year.  The taller the corset, the more of your spine it can support in an upright position. Maintaining upright posture can reduce aches and digestive problems (more info available from Lucy, naturally)… Proper posture can not only improve the hang of your clothing, it can also improve confidence, both real and perceived, as Sarah Chrisman discovered for herself. Make sure the fit of your corset suits the natural curvature of your spine; if you suffer from lordosis it may take some experimenting with boning types and bending to get the right shape. As ever, be communicative and clear when consulting with your corsetiere.

I am fortunate that my scoliosis is fairly mild, but Dark Garden still made asymmetric pattern adjustments to this made-to-order Alexandra accommodate it. Dark Garden "Alexandra" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Scott Taylor

I am fortunate that my scoliosis is fairly mild, but Dark Garden still made asymmetric pattern adjustments to this made-to-order Alexandra accommodate it.
Dark Garden “Alexandra” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Scott Taylor

Scoliosis
Many of the clients I’ve worked with at Dark Garden are seeking corsetry to replace the back brace that gave them much-needed support in earlier years. Corsets can even be made that can aid in correcting scoliosis over time.  (Lucy has a short article on this subject.) A master corsetiere should be commissioned for a scoliosis support corset, as the degree of asymmetry can be very pronounced. Those with scoliosis often like their corsets to be particularly tight throughout, with less ease through the ribs and hips.

Hypermobile Joints
Some people have naturally loose joints, and some – notably circus performers such as contortionists – loosen and stretch their joints over time. A corset can serve as an exo-skeleton, holding the body together, provide (once again) support, and bracing it from being jarred. Dark Garden even made a pregnancy corset for a long-time custom client with hypermobile joints, who was concerned about the further impact the pregnancy could have on her joint issues. As with scoliosis, if hypermobility is a concern, you may find yourself wanting a tighter and more rigid bind to lock in your rib cage and hip joints.  A longline, high back corset would be my recommendation.

Dark Garden custom High Back Pointed Victorian corset with straps | Photo © Perry Galagher

Dark Garden custom High Back Pointed Victorian corset with straps | Photo © Perry Galagher

Osteoporosis
This is something I don’t see as often, but I worked a few times with a lovely client who turned to corsetry after being diagnosed with osteoporosis. (Joyce, we miss you, come back and visit us!)  It’s been a while since I worked with her, but basically I believe the corset served to stabilize and support her spine, and assisted with pain management. After just a few weeks in a ready-to-wear, she noticed improvement and upgraded to a fully custom piece with a high back and straps.

Diastasis Recti
Though diastasis recti is commonly associated with postpartum women, it can happen to men as well, as was the case with the gent whom I helped at this past weekend’s Dickens Fair workshops.  He was under medical advisement to wear a binder to help rejoin his separated abdominal muscles, but found that it had too much give; the stretch wasn’t providing enough resistance.  9 months ago he started wearing a corset day and night and he’s now noticed improvement in his condition, lost weight (also medically advised), and dropped two corset sizes from a 39 to 35. For women wearing corsets after pregnancy, the corset will help ease down the expanded rib cage as well as holding together the abdominal muscles.

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

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

Compression Therapy
Compression therapy can be used to treat anxiety. Corset fans have long described the feeling of being laced in (to a well-made, well-fitted corset, of course) as being like that of an all day hug.  As it turns out, you also get some of the therapeutic benefits of being hugged by your corset as well! Compression therapy can help manage anxiety levels throughout the day. The primary challenge is that those with anxiety issues may also have difficulty with feelings of confinement, so knowing how to get out of your corset quickly in a pinch is important. Though there has yet to be particular study on the effects of corsets and autism, deep pressure therapy is sometimes used to calm and help focus individuals with autism-spectrum disorders.

Dark Garden Cincher in black leather | Model: Anuka Mendbayar | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden Cincher in black leather | Model: Anuka Mendbayar | Photo © Joel Aron

Menstrual Cramps
Your mileage may vary, of course – personally I can’t stand being corseted at the beginning of my cycle. However, if you are the sort who likes to curl into the fetal position to ease your cramps, a snug corset can exert the same sort of pressure on your lower abdomen and thus enable you to go about your day, far more functional than you would have been otherwise. I had a coworker who tended to tightlace during her period for this very reason.

So the next time someone tries to tell you corsets are bad for you, just try spouting off a few of these wonderful medical advantages to wearing a corset!  Do you wear a corset for your health? What style of corset have you found best for your particular health 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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