Posts by Marianne

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTube

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTube

Review + DIY: Velvet Heart Lace Socks

Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own.

"Lithe Is But a Dream" lace socks from Velvet Heart via ModCloth

“Lithe Is But a Dream” lace socks from Velvet Heart via ModCloth

I’m not much of a fancy sock person – San Francisco is a leggings and tights kind of city. But it’s definitely been getting warmer, summer’s been getting longer, and I’ve been trying to mix up my wardrobe in general, so I fell in love with the idea of these lace socks.  Unfortunately, the reality fell far short. The issue is definitely one of quality rather than design – I still think the socks are adorable and am hoping to at least squeeze a photoshoot out of them before they fall apart.

"Lithe Is But a Dream" lace socks from Velvet Heart via ModCloth

“Lithe Is But a Dream” lace socks from Velvet Heart via ModCloth

I bought the socks from ModCloth, knowing full well they were a final sale/no returns item. When they arrived, I admired the cute cardstock packaging, wrapped with a grosgrain ribbon, detailing care instructions (machine wash cold, tumble dry low), and of course, the original brand name: Velvet Heart. Luckily I saved the label otherwise I completely would’ve forgotten that information for this review, as ModCloth always conceals original brand names.  Velvet Heart still has the socks available in a handful of colors.  (Don’t be confused by their product image: it’s a technical drawing, not an actual photograph of the sock or even the same lace.)

I slipped them on to pop down the block to run an errand at work. Even just trying them on they seemed awfully snug. I have small feet, size 6, standard width, so that was a bit surprising.  Baring my knees, I wore them with a simple dress and black pumps.  My work is literally a block down the street from me, so I walked a total of two short blocks. By the time I got back, my toes had already popped through!  I was shocked… I had just paid $10 for socks that I wasn’t even able to wear for a full hour before they developed holes!

The problem lies in the construction. The sock is seamed together from a lace fabric, which on its own might be fine. It’s held together with a narrow overlock and matching wooly nylon thread. I wear the seam along the outside edge of my foot, twisting it to a back seam at the heel.  My toes popped through the fabric at the seam, which leads me to believe that A) the seam allowance is too narrow, and/or B) it was stitched with a “sharp” needle rather than “ballpoint.” A sharp literally punctures the fabric for each stitch and is used for woven fabrics, whereas a ballpoint rolls the individual threads aside and is used for knits. Upon closer inspection, it seems the fabric was cut on the wrong grainline, with the stretch running vertically rather than around the foot.  No wonder they felt so snug when I tried them on!

DIY pattern for lace socks. Print to fill a standard letter size sheet of paper.

DIY pattern for lace socks. Print to fill a standard letter size sheet of paper.

As I said, I think they can be salvaged for a photoshoot, but I certainly won’t be able to wear them out, especially with heels.  Still, I think the simple construction would make for a fun and easy DIY project.  Attached is a pattern I’ve drafted for this style of sock.  To put it together, remember to pay attention to the direction of stretch and use a ballpoint needle. Even if you don’t have an overlock machine, you could try using a faux-verlock stitch on a home sewing machine, or combining a straight stitch with a zig zag to finish the edge. Remember to test your tension settings on scraps of your fabric.  I would use a double pass zig zag to add an elastic trim like the one on the Velvet Heart socks, but you could fold under 1/2″ and do a simple zig zag if you’re using stretch lace fabric yardage. (These are DIY/home-sewing options, not production standards, FYI.) Alternatively, you could buy a a fixed width stretch lace, which is often used for making lace mitts and bralettes, and tailor the sock height to match its width, using the scalloped edge to avoid finishing the top of the sock altogether.  You’ll need a lace that’s a minimum of 9″ wide – I think ideal would be about 12″. If you want a taller sock, you’ll have to add width to the top to create a calf shape.

What do you think of lace socks? Is there a particular brand that makes a style you like? Are you going to try to DIY your own lace socks now?

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

Corsets Are Not Consent

Corset: Pop Antique | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Lauren Luck

Corset: Pop Antique | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Lauren Luck

Corsets are inherently an attention-getting garment. First, there’s their rarity: you just don’t see a woman (or man) in a corset very often, especially not “real” corsets. They’re unusual, uncommon. Not only are they uncommon, but they create an instant and noticeable change to the wearer’s body, unlike many outlandish or eye-catching styles which may build upon or exaggerate the form but don’t change it. A corseted woman has dramatized proportions and fits into her clothes differently. Her stance, posture, and gait can all be changed by lacing into a corset. Perhaps most importantly, we have a lot of societal expectations, judgments, and questions pressed into ourselves about corsets above and beyond other shapewear garments. So it’s natural that we do a double take or strike up a conversation with a corseted person. However, just because something is “different” doesn’t mean the rules of polite society cease to exist, and that is where the problem lies. A person in a corset is often objectified – not exclusively in a sexual way, but literally treated as an object.

This hasn’t been a huge problem for me, personally. Living in San Francisco as I do, it takes a lot to catch the attention of passers-by, and the questions I face are more often curious than rude. Or maybe it’s my resting bitch face, because I tend to suffer very little street harassment in general (or if it occurs, I don’t seem to notice it).

Ensemble: Dollymop for Dark Garden | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Lydia Chen

Ensemble: Dollymop for Dark Garden | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Lydia Chen

I wish the same were the case for the rest of the corseted community. The fact of the matter is that many find themselves subject to not only rude lines of conversation but uninvited touching when they wear their corsets. You’d think we would have all learned to keep our hands to ourselves in kindergarten – I well remember the day I got in trouble for “boing-ing” a classmate’s curly tendril during a game of Duck, Duck, Goose! The problem with touching isn’t specific to corseted women, of course. Women with unusual hair are often faced with it. Exceptionally long, short, or brightly colored hair is often a target for space bubble invasion. It is a symptom of our society’s confusion over ownership of women’s bodies. Women of color with natural hair are particularly vulnerable to this failure of common courtesy, and the societal entitlement issues around their bodies run even deeper. (There’s a lot more that can be said about entitlement and microaggressions and race, which is discussed elsewhere by others far more qualified to speak on it. The dialogue is thought provoking and worth the time should you decide to research it further.) Even if the intent behind touching isn’t intended as sexual, it still constitutes a violation of personal space.

Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

Even when strangers aren’t grabbing corseted waistlines left and right, a corseted woman might be more prone to flirtation/harassment, even, or perhaps especially, in the workplace. An hourglass waistline (and, in an overbust corset, uplifted breasts) is appealing on a subconscious level, but as sentient beings we do have a choice about how we choose to engage with other people. The same rules about polite behavior apply in public spaces, the workplace, and events/parties/cons. Though corsets are enticing, a corseted person is not necessarily actively trying to entice, particularly if they are wearing their corset in public on a day-to-day basis. You can pretty much take it as a given that an article of clothing is never a substitute for clear and direct verbal communication, whether at a club, on the street, or at work. Of course models who post portfolio images featuring lingerie and corsets on Facebook and the like are expecting attention – but they aren’t asking for lewd remarks. For models, their social media presence is their workplace. This sort of behavior isn’t just a problem from men; women may also automatically sexualize corsets on other women, even if it’s not situationally appropriate.

Ensemble: Dark Garden | Model: Elisa Berlin | Photo © Joel Aron

Ensemble: Dark Garden | Model: Elisa Berlin | Photo © Joel Aron

Corsets are not consent. A woman who wears a corset is not automatically consenting to be ogled, flirted with, touched without permission, or otherwise sexualized. Remember that even if your intent isn’t sexual, it can still feel objectifying or unwanted. If you are curious about another person’s corset, please be polite with your line of inquiry. A person who does not wish to engage with you isn’t automatically a “snob.” If you ask politely, most corsetwearers would be happy to extoll the virtues and benefits of corsetry to you until your eyes glaze over (but do remember that you are essentially asking personal questions about their underwear, and that you are never “owed” an answer regardless). If you care to express your admiration, a compliment respectfully delivered is more likely to be responded to in kind.

Have you ever been harassed or received unwelcome forms of attention from wearing a corset? How did you handle the situation? How do you think you would handle it if it came up (again)?

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

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