Posts by Marianne

“20 Bones,” Broken Ribs, and Other Myths about Corset Waist Training

Whether you’re waist training, thinking of waist training, horrified by waist training, or perversely fascinated by it, there are a lot of myths, misconceptions, and outright lies to wade through. In no particular order, I’d like to cut through a bunch of the bull.

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

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

The Myth: A corset needs at least 20 bones to be suitable for waist training.
The Truth: Boning maintains vertical tension in a corset, otherwise it would slip down and crumple around your waist like a tube top in the 90s. It does not create shape. The number and type of bones needs to support the shape of the corset. The shape of the fabric panels creates the fit, which will determine how effective and comfortable the corset is. As I said in my review of the Waist Training 101 book, you could put 20 bones in a pillowcase and it wouldn’t magically become effective shapewear. There is no magic number for bones.

Not counting the busk, the Vixen by Pop Antique has 12 bones, but it still creates a dramatic, beautiful, and comfortable hourglass silhouette. | Model: Olivia Campbell. | Photo © Marianne Faulkner

Not counting the busk, the Vixen by Pop Antique has “only” 12 bones, but it still creates a dramatic, beautiful, and comfortable hourglass silhouette. | Model: Olivia Campbell. | Photo © Marianne Faulkner

The Myth: Waist training, or even occasional corset wearing, is not only uncomfortable but damaging to your skeleton and your internal organs.
The Truth: Cinderella or Dr. Oz got you worried? Lucy has a great in-depth response here, and I also wrote a piece when those corseted x-rays were going around. Corseting compresses the organs far less than pregnancy does, and even simple actions like sitting and eating create internal compression. The reduction of lung capacity is mild to the point of virtual irrelevancy in a modern sedentary lifestyle. Well-fit corsets support good posture and reduce back pain and can out-perform a medical brace for the same purposes. Compare to high heels, which throw off your posture, hinder movement and balance, and can permanently shorten the Achilles tendon if worn daily. Unless you have a preexisting health issue, it’s impossible for a corset to exert enough force to break a bone, and (unlike pregnancy) any reshaping of the rib cage will revert once the corset is no longer being worn.

Famous tightlacer Polaire. Public domain image.

Famous tightlacer Polaire. Public domain image.

The Myth: Waist training is a disgusting form of self-torture women inflict on themselves to be considered attractive to men.
The Truth: I generally read this remark directed at severe tightlacers, and it’s simply untrue. Waist training is a body modification and actually tends to improve the self-confidence and body awareness of its practitioners. In my experience, men are more likely to be disturbed by a tightlaced figure. Also, per the above, corsets aren’t torturous – not if they fit right.

Dark Garden "Alyscia" corset | Photo © Chris Mackessy

Dark Garden “Alyscia” corset | Photo © Chris Mackessy

The Myth: Waist training is an easy way out for those who are too lazy and indulgent for diet and exercise.
The Truth: Waist training is not easy – it requires patience and devotion as well as a financial commitment. It also creates a different result from diet and exercise: the goal of waist training is not weight loss/thinness, but a change in silhouette. Furthermore, waist training and diet/exercise are not mutually exclusive! Waist training can encourage healthier eating habits (smaller meals, fewer empty carbs and sugary carbonated beverages) and it’s often recommended that an exercise regimen also be added to one’s routine to keep up core strength while waist training.

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

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

The Myth: The process of waist training involves constantly chasing ever-smaller corsets laced fully closed.
The Truth: Waist training doesn’t work by constantly sizing down to smaller and smaller versions of the exact same corset. To graduate to a smaller size, unless the training is accompanied by weight loss, one needs to go to a curvier corset, smaller in the waist only. This could involve changing to a different standard-fit style or maker, or having personalized or bespoke fit corsets made. The size of the lacing gap is a personal preference; 2″ is standard but 0-4″ are all acceptable based on the wearer’s size and comfort.

Pop Antique "Gibson Girl" with minimal rib compression and rounded hip spring | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

Pop Antique “Gibson Girl” with minimal rib compression and rounded hip spring | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

Myth: Waist training with a faja and waist training with a corset have the same effects on your body.
The Truth: Because a corset has a much more controlled fit, the results can be much more controlled, especially if a change to the rib shaping/silhouette is desired. The laces also allow a greater degree of control of the waist, ribs, and hips individually, from day to day or hour to hour, which is impossible with the simple hook system on stretch shapewear. Lastly, the stretch cinchers supposedly encourage your body to sweat off weight – see above re: corsets not being a substitute for exercise! A well-fit corset works with your anatomy rather than fighting it.

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

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

Myth: Fajas are less intense and more comfortable than corsets.
The Truth: Though fajas/girdles/”cinchers” are presumed to be more comfortable than corsets, my experience was the opposite: a girdle creates all-over compression as opposed to the balanced fit of a corset, which only compresses the waistline. To be blunt, stretch shapewear really does make me feel encased like a sausage, whereas a corset makes me feel supported like a firm hug. As I mentioned above, lacing gives a more controlled fit – so if you want more compression on your aching hips, or less on your ribs because you just ate, it’s the work of a couple minutes to tweak and improve your comfort levels!

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

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

Myth: Waist training doesn’t create any lasting results.
The Truth: Lucy has set up a fantastic before and after gallery of waist training, where you can see for yourself that the change in silhouette sticks around even when the corset comes off. These results are more semi-permanent than truly permanent, as the body will relax back into its original shape eventually without maintenance training.

Dark Garden bespoke "Victorian" costume | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Ryan Chua

Dark Garden bespoke “Victorian” costume | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Ryan Chua

Bonus Myth: Because handmade corsets are expensive, that means the corsetieres are rakin’ in the dough!
The Truth: I have an in-depth post about why corsets are expensive. Corsets require not only years of study, but specialized and expensive materials and equipment (equipment = overheads!), unique and extremely accurate construction techniques, and a fair amount of time to make – especially once correspondence is factored in! Running one’s own business means corsetieres don’t have health insurance coverage, vacation time, or even sick time factored in.

Marianne

Marianne

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

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Indie Corsetiere Spotlight: Rosie Red’s Fairy Tale Reverie

Rosie Red "Wilde Roses" Collection | Model: Georgina Horne | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Georgina Horne | © InaGlo Photography

As an indie designer myself, I love seeing what my peers are up to in the world of corsetry. Recently a new designer has emerged: at 23 years old, Rosie Denningham of Rosie Red Corsetry & Couture is already well on her way to the top. Her design voice is unique and easily identifiable, and she’s already had the honor of dressing one A-list celebrity. Rosie’s curve-friendly designs are like something straight from a fairy tale. She’s indulged me with an interview…

Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

How long have you been making corsets and when did you officially launch your brand Rosie Red Corsetry and Couture?
I made my first ever ‘real’ corset in my second year of university, so that’s about two and a half years ago. Wow, that’s gone quickly! Rosie Red Corsetry & Couture started as a Facebook page to showcase my work and over the past year I have been building it as a brand. Although I am now working at this full time, with support from the Princes Trust, and have showcased my Wild Roses collection at many catwalk and fashion events, I haven’t actually ‘launched’ in any official kind of way. I will need a launch party. Yeah, there will definitely be a party. Love a party. Maybe a Language of Flowers party (the name of my new collection in current development).

Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Model: Rosie Pigott | ©InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Rosie Pigott | ©InaGlo Photography

Where did you learn the art of corsetmaking?
University [Birmingham Institute of Art and Design] was definitely a catalyst for me, but there is just so much you can learn in a few days. I think because I have a strong technical understanding of garments and patterning, corsetry seemed like the next challenge. I have interned all over the place, beginning with a visit to Miss Katie, who made Immodesty Blaize’s orginal outfits. I have learnt so much from so many incredible corsetieres, maybe most importantly that there are so many different ways to do different things. The Oxford Conference of Corsetry enforced this even more. I also read everything I could get my hands on about corsetry: Linda Sparks, Jill Salen, everything Valerie Steele; I bought Sew Curvy’s ebook when it came out and Corsets: A Modern Guide by Velda Lauder. I basically Googled, “corset book,” and aimed to read all of the things. And I ‘trial and errored’ a zillion things.The first pair of knickers I made, for example, my tutor said ‘looked more like dental floss…’ I’m a very hands on kinda gal. I would rather do it and talk about it after, then talk about it and over analyse before I’ve even set about starting.

Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Model: Evie Wolfe | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Evie Wolfe | © InaGlo Photography

What resources do you recommend for other burgeoning corsetieres?
Intern where you can! Talk to people, ask questions and be curious. There is a fine line and an etiquette to do so, but you’d be surprised what you can learn from just being inquisitive. If you’re unable to intern, for heaps of reasons, then I would absolutely advise going to a Sew Curvy class. Julia teaches in such a hands-on way and is just lovely with a wicked sense of humour.

And I know you didn’t ask me to give any pearls of wisdom haha, but I would say: ‘just do it’. The time you may have spent worrying about not being good enough, you could’ve spent improving!

Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

What other designers and corsetieres do work that resonates with you? Who or what inspired you to get into corsetmaking? Is there a particular element of your upbringing that you feel contributes to your innate design sensibility?
My parents are both very creative. My mum used to make wedding cakes with these delicate and intricate sugar flowers and my dad is super musical. Our house is full of guitars, basses and other stringed instruments. Creativity was always really encouraged. As a little girl I was dressed up all the time. My dressing up box was my favourite ‘toy’, and I often sellotaped and stapled my own outfits together.
It was Jo from Rawhide corsets that inspired me to get into corset-making. She was a visiting tutor for the corsetry module at university and brought in a whole heap of corsets of all different shapes and sizes for us to try on and learn how to lace. It was single-handedly the best, most transformative thing I have ever worn. I realised that this was an item of clothing that actually did something to alter the body; I felt empowered and incredible.
Jean-Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood and Coleen Atwood have got to be my favourite designers. Maybe a bit cliché, but it’s the truth, and they are so popular and well-loved for good reason. I admire all of the corsetieres who are doing their own authentic thing, and I am lucky to have such great friends in such great designers. I recently showcased my collection alongside Neon Duchess at Oxford Fashion Week’s Couture show. She’s one to keep an eye on. I also have just received my own Sparklewren piece. I interned for Jenni while I completed my final year of uni, it was a total joy, as is her work and the lovely lady herself.
Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Do you personally wear your corsets (often)? What about corsets from other makers?
I often wear my own cincher and underbust. It really helps my posture, and I am massively into vintage clothing so enhancing my waist and curves is something I strive for. I love fancy underwear in general, you never know when you might get hit by a bus ;) Now that I have just received my Sparklewren, she will be getting many outings.
Rosie Red "Flights of Fancy" Collection | Model: Emily McLeish | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Flights of Fancy” Collection | Model: Emily McLeish | © InaGlo Photography

It seems you currently only do bespoke fit work, is that correct? Do you have plans to develop a ready-to-wear line eventually?
I currently do only make bespoke wear, this is because from having studied costume design you realise that no two bodies are the same. As I am specialising in bridal and event couture, these are garments that normally are taken to be altered after purchasing anyway, it makes sense to me to create patterns to the individuals shape from the get go. Having said that, I absolutely have plans to grow and expand as a brand. For example, Jenny Packham offers a RTW line stocked in places such as Debenhams. The sky really is the limit, so I won’t ever say, “never ever.” Catering for all body shapes and types is key to my brand though, and by always offering a bespoke service this means that it will always be possible.
Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Models: Evie Wolfe & Georgina Horne | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Models: Evie Wolfe & Georgina Horne | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Model: Evie Wolfe | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Evie Wolfe | © InaGlo Photography

Your website says you have a few signature details for your work, care to tell us a bit more about those and how you came up with them?
Signature design features are really key to making Rosie Red Corsetry & Couture the brand that it is. I want people to instantly be able to say ‘that’s a Rosie Red!’ Authenticity is vital. I line my multi-layered corsets with red satin coutil, I like to think of this as the Louboutin effect. Also, it gives a bit of a POW when you have soft bridal colours lined with this buzz. Maybe it says something about my personality too. I also embroider words, poetry, prose and lyrics into my garments. These are often in hidden places that you need to search for. I like to think that clothing can hold secrets, and I never explain who I am writing for or about. English Literature was always my favourite at school and I read a lot. Words are just really beautiful. Another details and maybe the most well-known are my ‘rosie’s roses’. No one has worked out how to make them yet, and if they do they will probably realise that they are far too time-consuming and patience-demanding to try to replicate. I absolutely adore them and I will be selling them as RTW hair clips and fascinators in the near future.
Rosie Red "Flights of Fancy" Collection | Model: Emily McLeish | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Flights of Fancy” Collection | Model: Emily McLeish | © InaGlo Photography

What inspires your current design work?
Stories, music, meeting people, dreaming and nature. It’s always hard to answer about inspiration without sounding too cliché. I just think that I’m really observant and emotional, haha. So if I observe something and it triggers a feeling, I think, “Yeah, I’ll incorporate that.” I also think about bodies first and foremost, and think, “How would that body look decorated like this?”
Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

What’s your favorite corset styling accessory?
I like corsetry worn within part of a whole ensemble. Anything tulle or lace. I love tulle and lace.
Rosie Red "Wild Roses" | Model: Evie Wolfe | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” | Model: Evie Wolfe | © InaGlo Photography

How do you select your models? Do you have any particular models or clients who serve as a muse to you?
I have so many messages daily from people asking how to model for me, it really is so flattering and yet so disappointing that unfortunately not everyone can. Miss Deadly Red is my absolute favourite for ‘standard’ sizing but with a curve too. She came about because I really wanted a red-head with an old-school vintage feel that could pull off a fairytale vibe. She is perfect and an absolute sweetheart. My plus go-to ladies are model Evie Wolfe and blogger Georgina Horne (Fuller Figure Fuller Bust) they are hilarious, and just divine. I actually have made contact with several more models for something special I have lined up this year. I really want to represent all women and this means using women of all ages and also women with ‘disabilities’. Personality and confidence is key, I want to have a fun and successful day shooting. A dirty sense of humour is always welcome.

Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Tell us about dressing Helena Bonham Carter! How did that come to be? Did you make something special just for her? Will we eventually see more images of her in your ensemble?
I received my email one year and a day ago telling me that Helena loved my work. Madness. I still don’t know if it’s fully sunk in. I think with hard work, positive thinking and a strong sense of ambition, you would be shocked at where you can end up. Some of the most frequent questions I get asked are ‘did you get a selfie?’ and ‘did you take pictures on your phone?’ Can you imagine how inappropriate and cringe that would have been! She is a totally amazing lady, but I was there because she wanted to see my work, not as a fan girl. Business head on. There are talks of things in the future… but that’s all I am saying now…

Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Model: Rosie Pigott | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Rosie Pigott | © InaGlo Photography

Any other celebrities you’d like to dress for your bucket list?
There are heaps. I really strive to have my ensembles on the red carpet, and as a regular feature. Paloma Faith is top of the list at the moment. I think she would be the most hilarious character and her sense of style is just so on point. I just had a builder come and lay some flooring (glamorous life) and he said out of the blue that Paloma Faith would look perfect in my stuff, and he was sure she’s next. So let’s hope he’s right, hey ;)

Rosie Red "Wild Roses" | Models: Rosie Pigott & Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” | Models: Rosie Pigott & Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Model: Rosie Pigott | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Rosie Pigott | © InaGlo Photography

What do you think is next for you?
As I always say, world domination.

But as a side note the next step for me is to build Rosie Red Corsetry & Couture as a sustainable and growing business, with the help of The Princes Trust. I aim to keep bringing diversity into the industry, and to make more individuals feel utterly beautiful. I have a feeling that things have a mad way of working out, so I’m just really excited for the journey…

Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Model: Georgina Horne | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Georgina Horne | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red "Flights of Fancy" Collection | Model: Emily McLeish | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Flights of Fancy” Collection | Model: Emily McLeish | © InaGlo Photography

What do you think of Rosie Red’s work? Do you own any Rosie Red corsetry? In a fantasy land, what sort of piece would you order from her?

Rosie Red "Wild Roses" | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red "Wild Roses" Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

Rosie Red “Wild Roses” Collection | Model: Miss Deadly Red | © InaGlo Photography

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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Top 3 “Starter” Corset Brands Under $100

As much as I love and advocate for handmade corsetry, I know that spending $300 on a garment that you’re not sure you’ll wear often and possibly can’t even try on first is a hefty investment. Be it for waist training, back support, shapewear, or fashion, there are many reasons to start wearing corsets. For many of the same reasons why it is more practical to buy a standard-fit corset before investing in custom, you might find yourself buying a mass-manufactured corset to test the waters before upgrading to a high-quality handmade piece.

Orchard Corset Steel-Boned Overbust in Satin (CS-511)

Orchard Corset Steel-Boned Overbust in Satin (CS-511)

My first corsets, purchased ten or so years ago, were like this… factory made pieces bought off of eBay. Budget corsetry has come a long way since then: styles are curvier and the price point has dropped for some brands and increased for others. I haven’t tried any of the brands listed, but these are the three names I hear come up most often. Be aware that sizing, customer service, and even quality control for budget brands can be inconsistent. Though even a starter corset is often considered an “expensive” garment by consumers, consistency is one of the first corners that is cut in order to make that price point.

Orchard Corset CS-426_black_satin_hip_ties_front

Orchard Corset “CS-426″ Longline Underbust Corset w/ Hip Ties in Satin, $88

Orchard Corset is probably the most popular brand of starter corsets. Their corsets run from $65 to $103 (there is only one style that even hits the three digit price point). The shaping of an Orchard Corset is moderate and they are very popular with those just beginning to waist train, and certain styles have waists up to 46″. They have a wide variety of styles and fabric choices available.

Mystic City "MCC-68" cotton longline/high-back underbust corset.

Mystic City “MCC-68″ cotton longline/high-back underbust corset.

Mystic City Corsets are probably the only eBay store from which it’s “safe” to buy a corset, as eBay is generally rife with shoddy knock-offs. Their shaping is more extreme and accommodates a high reduction or dramatic natural hourglass. It seems their sizing varies by styling but some corsets are available with waists up to 44″. Prices range from $65-$135; the overall style of the brand is much more classic/industrial goth with detailing like flat studs and large buckles on black leather, though of course plainer styles are likewise available as well as some with brightly colored contrast.

Restyle black cotton underbust: "WIDE HIPS MATT," $49 USD

Restyle black cotton underbust: “WIDE HIPS MATT,” ~$49 USD

Lastly, we have ReStyle in Poland. ReStyle’s styling also tends towards the classically gothic, but more of a spooky direction with occasion forays into basic steampunk. The color palette is all neutrals, black (with occasional white accents) and brown. In USD, prices range from roughly $45 to $62. They offer styles with both moderate reductions and dramatic hipsprings, from 18-32″.

Restyle black satin underbust "VIOLIN" longline corset

Restyle black satin underbust: “VIOLIN” longline corset, ~$46 USD

Which of these brands have you tried? What were your experiences with them? If you started wearing budget corsets originally but have transitioned to handmade, what did you think when you made the switch?

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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Cinderella’s Corset Controversy (Or Why Everyone Should Calm Down About Lily James’ Waist)

Lily James stars in Disney's upcoming live-action Cinderella film. It comes out next week but her waist has been making waves for months already.

Lily James stars in Disney’s upcoming live-action Cinderella film. It comes out next week but her waist has been making waves for months already.

It has been brought to my attention that the internet is still flipping out over Lily James’ waist in the trailers and promotional imagery of Disney’s upcoming Cinderella film. First there was the debate over whether her waist has been edited in post-production to be so tiny. Now, the camp that thinks said waist is causing body dysmorphia is latching onto the revelation that wearing a corset changes the way you eat: Lily James went on a “partially liquid diet” while wearing the corset. (Um, isn’t that also technically a “partially solid diet?”)

A stepsister in her undergarments: a corset and unusual crinoline.

A stepsister in her undergarments: a corset and unusual crinoline.

I take issue with this on a lot of levels. First, why do we really care that much about what (female) celebrities eat? That to me speaks far more to the body image issues that plague this country’s women than the use of shapewear and/or Photoshop. I still don’t understand why a corset is supposedly more misleading and damaging than, say, eyeliner, or high heels, or even Spanx.

“If you’re going to expend energy being mad about Photoshop, you’ll also have to be mad about earrings. No one’s ears are that sparkly!”

-Tina Fey, Bossypants

Lily James' now famously tiny waist in a promotional image from Disney's new live-action Cinderella film.

Lily James’ now famously tiny waist in a promotional image from the new live-action Cinderella film.

Now, just how “unreal” is the waist in question? It’s really hard to edit an actual human in footage rather than a still image, so it’s unlikely that any of the trailers featured a CGI waistline. On the other hand, realistically, the results of any photoshoot for a major motion picture would be cleaned up to some degree in post-production. But let’s stop pretending that photos are magical truth mirrors, please, and that every other actress’s arms, waist, face and/or boobs aren’t touched up for every single movie poster ever since the dawn of movies.

A side view of Lily James in her Cinderella ballgown. Notice how her waist is about the same width from this perspective as from the front - it's been sculpted to a circular, rather than oval, shape to further the illusion of tinyness.

A side view of Lily James in her Cinderella ballgown. Notice how her waist is about the same width from this perspective as from the front – it’s been sculpted to a circular, rather than oval, shape to further the illusion of tinyness when viewed from the front.

As others, like Catherine Clavering of Kiss Me Deadly, have pointed out, part of the apparent smallness of the waist is an optical illusion created by the fullness of the skirts and neckline/shoulder poofs. Check out this post on Dispelling the Myth of the Itsy Bitsy Teeny Tiny Waist and scroll down to see another blue dress with a similar silhouette from the Met Museum. Some corsets are also cut so that some of the circumference of the torso is merely redistributed front and back, rather than reduced, which makes front and back views look much more extreme. The size of the skirt and the structure of the corset also have a symbiotic relationship. Historically, a woman’s bodice or corset helped distribute the weight of heavy skirts.

Lily James in a simpler day costume for Cinderella.

Lily James in a simpler day costume for Cinderella.

Now, note the different tone taken by these two interviews with Lily James. She states that she is naturally small waisted and was substantially corseted for the film, but the LA Times interview emphasizes her well-being and appreciation for the costume whereas her E! interview is a bit self-effacing and admittedly overdramatic.

“I think it’s all very hypocritical, and they contradict themselves, and they’re drawing more attention to it. I think all that stuff’s so negative, and you’ve got to let it wash over your head,” she said, struggling to find her words. “I’m so healthy. I’ve got hips and boobs and a bum and a small waist.”

-Lily James

Lily James in her corseted Cinderella ballgown.

Lily James in her corseted Cinderella ballgown.

As for her so-called “liquid diet,” I find the way it’s being discussed to be a bit misleading. It’s not as if Lily James went on a juice fast (an action our culture would normally find praise-worthy) to fit into the corset and never ate solid food. Exclusively for the time when she was corseted, she found soup easier to digest, and her director made sure there was always some at the ready for her. Everyone reacts differently to eating in a corset, but eating smaller/more frequent meals (another action which is generally thought of as good health practice) and different kinds of food is totally normal.

The vast majority of women (and men) wearing corsets today are doing it for their own pleasure and can elect to loosen their laces somewhat during or after eating in order to accommodate the digestive process if necessary. Since Ms. James was on a film set, her corset had to be consistently laced to the same level in order to maintain the fit of the dress, and she didn’t have as much control over when she put her corset on and took it off. Historically, women would (of course) wear tighter corsets for special occasions like a ball, just as modern women might wear their highest heels for a special event. The difference here is that not only were those women accustomed to daily corseting, but they only had to do it for one night, not however many days it takes to get the requisite takes for a huge motion picture. Actors and actresses have surely endured much crazier things than soup for the sake of film.

“I was constantly saying ‘You are eating, aren’t you, Lily? Let’s get Lily some soup please!’”

-Kenneth Branagh, Director of Cinderella

Lily James in a corseted ballgown in Cinderella.

Lily James in her corseted Cinderella ballgown.

At the end of the day, I just wish we would stop treating corseting as if it were some form of madness. While those who are campaigning against tiny waists may think they’re doing it “for the children!” it’s nothing more than another kind of body snark. Don’t tell me Lily James’ waist is why you need feminism; this unrelenting judgment of what women wear and eat is why I need feminism.

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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Book Review: Waist Training 101

Disclosure: I was at one point in contact with the author/publisher about writing this volume myself. I purchased my own copy for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Waist training with corsets and fajas/girdles has continued to gain momentum, and there’s a new book out on the subject. Vanna B’s self-published Waist Training 101 book is a substantial improvement on the last one I reviewed, but is it the handbook waist trainers have been looking for?

Waist Training 101 by Vanna B.

Waist Training 101 by Vanna B.

Let’s start with the contents. What’s actually covered in Waist Training 101? The contents include, of course, the expected: intro to waist training, beginning training, results. Also included is a fair amount of general information on corseting itself: history, corset components, types of corsets, health questions, and benefits, care and measuring. There are short chapters on diet and exercise, little “Did You Know?” facts sprinkled throughout the book, and a measurement tracker and waist training log at the end. The whole book can be read cover to cover in less than an hour.

The book has drawn some criticism; some feel that it’s simply a compilation of information that’s already available on the internet for free. Several who have written about corsets are uncomfortable about what seems to be some pretty close paraphrasing of their own statements, without any crediting or reference to them. This isn’t to say that the book is entirely lacking in citations – just no referrals to any sources that could be construed as, say, competing.

The Corset: A Cultural History, by Valerie Steele, is referenced repeatedly in Waist Training 101, particularly in the section on health.

The Corset: A Cultural History, by Valerie Steele, is referenced repeatedly in Waist Training 101, particularly in the section on health.

As for the quality of information, it is more or less accurate. Frankly, there was (and is?) a need for this style of compilation. The last waist training book I reviewed is no longer available (presumably because its author had no rights to the images it used), so at present the only other actual waist training book available is Romantasy’s price-prohibitive $50 guide. I say “more or less” accurate because, generally speaking, I found Vanna’s explanation of corset functionality to be quite shallow. It does feel like she’s paraphrasing other sources without really understanding their meaning. On several occasions, Vanna will reference a certain system (of measuring, of lacing, of gauging quality, of breaking in a corset) as if it’s unequivocally “the best” or only way. (Guys, I’m really tired about hearing how only “steel bones” are what make a corset effective as shapewear, and how corsets need at least 20 of them. Boning maintains vertical tension. The shape of the corset panels is what gives it, and you, shape. You could put steel bones in a pillowcase and it wouldn’t magically become effective shapewear.) The health section quotes Valerie Steele’s, “The Corset: A Cultural History,” extensively, distilling the relevant information into a bite size portion. The glossary at the end of the book seems redundant in such a short volume, and gives a combination of better and worse information than that within the meat of the content.

Victorian Secrets by Sarah A. Chrisman isn't technically a book on waist training, but it is a personal account from a woman who adopted the habit of wearing a corset, and eventually full Victorian dress, on a daily basis.

Victorian Secrets by Sarah A. Chrisman isn’t technically a book on waist training, but it is a personal account from a woman who adopted the habit of wearing a corset, and eventually full Victorian dress, on a daily basis.

Given how short the book is, I wish Vanna had devoted less space to explaining construction and history that she doesn’t “grok” and more telling us about her personal journey and actually wearing corsets. This was the rather effective approach taken by Sarah Chrisman’s Victorian Secrets. I would have liked to have read more anecdotal evidence – how long did Vanna train? What were her results? With which brands did she dabble? Has she had any custom corsets made? What difficulties did she find in adjusting to the corseted life? Vanna is now selling corsets via her Waist Training 101 website, but there’s no information about the brand she’s selling or how she chose it.

On the plus side, I thought the “Did You Know?” call-outs were a fun way to keep the reader interested. She maintains the most important maxim of wearing corsets: Listen to your body. I love that she included a measurement tracker and a waist training log. It’s great that she’s included a section on exercise, including pictures of how to actually do a couple exercises and stretches. (I do wish she had explained why she chose those particular moves… I’m really clueless when it comes to exercise.)

Waist Training 101 by Vanna B. Back cover.

Waist Training 101 by Vanna B. Back cover.

Design-wise, I have to admit I was, well… less than enthralled with the aesthetic of the book. The neon cover is a bit garish and looks as if it were designed in PowerPoint. Corsetry to me is about elegance and refinement, attention to detail and old-fashioned craftsmanship. If I had my way, every book about corsets would be at least as nice as your average coffee table book. The illustrations inside also leave a lot to be desired – they are inconsistent; some of them are clear copies of specific designer’s works, others are crudely sketched and rendered. As a fashion illustrator, I don’t think this particular approach to illustration actually serves the purpose of, well, illustrating the concepts. The print version also has some issues with tracking at the ends of paragraphs, where the justified align is maintained and thus the final words are spaced absurdly wide.

From the design to the content, it seems as if Vanna’s book is directed specifically at the new, “mainstream” crop of corset wearers. It has the look of a diet book and indeed covers diet and exercise as an aid to waist training goals. While of course I advocate for eating healthily and being active, many who waist train have no interest in (or need for) losing weight. The corset culture that I know and love is about self-love, about discipline, about increasing your understanding of and appreciation for your own body. The conclusion of the book talks about goals and maintenance as if waist training and corsets are just a means to an end, rather than a lifestyle change/subculture community.

At the end of the day, there is a kind of person who wants to spend $5-$15 to have all the information in one easily digestible source without having to trawl through the free internet sources. Though Waist Training 101 isn’t the ideal book on the subject, it’s unlikely to be the last. I give it three stars.

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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Review: Latex Thigh High Stockings by Lust Designs

Disclosure: The lingerie in this review was purchased with my own money and all opinions are my own. I received the stockings at a discount when I modeled for the designer. Lust Designs is unaffiliated with this review.

Lust Designs Classic Thigh High Stockings | Lingerie set: Made by Niki | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

Lust Designs Classic Thigh High Stockings | Lingerie set: Made by Niki | Model & Styling: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

I bought myself a pair of latex thigh-high stockings when I modeled for Lust Designs four years ago. The rest of the ensemble was a latex French maid outfit, if you were curious. The latex stockings I bought are made of opaque black latex and are a size Extra Small, and retail for $150. At this point, they’re the only latex I own (though that’s likely to change) and I have only worn them a few times… but they fit like a dream, despite a solid 15 pound weight gain since their original purchase. Wearing latex instead of fabric is definitely a unique experience.

Lust Designs Classic Thigh High Stockings | Model & Styling: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

Lust Designs Classic Thigh High Stockings | Model & Styling: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

The Experience of Wearing Latex
When I wore my latex thigh-highs to an art modeling shift – hey, it was femme fatale day! – I got a taste of what it must feel like for corset neophytes to wear their corsets out in the world for the first time. I lubed up my legs (more on that later) and spent a laborious several minutes sliding the stockings on. As with vintage stockings, care must be taken when putting on latex. Try to use only the pads of your fingers; a careless fingernail can rip your expensive latex. For styling, I wanted to give the outfit a contrast in textures, so I wore a teal dress with a chunky, cotton-y lace overlay. As I walked to work and rode the bus, I was very aware of my legs and their alien shininess. I felt certain that everyone was looking me, though I realistically knew that in San Francisco one sees far stranger sights and far naked-er women on a daily basis. Aside from the fetish factor, my outfit was quite modest, but it evoked a hyper-awareness of my presence in the world. Part of what makes things like latex and corsets “fetish” garments, I think, is that they heighten our personal awareness, anchoring us to our corporeal existence, rather than blocking it out in a haze of spandex jersey and elastic waist bands. Wearing latex also drastically increases temperature sensitivity. It’s not breathable, so when it’s hot, you’re really hot. Step outside of a hot club and into a brisk evening and suddenly your sweat turns to ice and the chill can be biting.

http://lustdesigns.com/products/classic-thigh-high-stockings

Lust Designs Classic Thigh High Stockings | Lingerie set: Made by Niki | Model & Styling: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

Latex and Lube
Let’s go back to the lube. You need to lube yourself and the interior of any latex garment to put it on. The type of lube you use will affect both the ease of getting dressed and the feeling of the latex on your skin. I couldn’t remember what kind of lube I was supposed to be using so I quickly skimmed several articles, including Lust Designs’ own A Beginner’s Guide to Latex Clothing, panicked when I thought I didn’t have the right kind, then let out a sigh of relief when I found mixed answers and went with what was on-hand, which was water based. It turns out, Penny of Lust Designs doesn’t recommend water based lubricant because it is stickier and dries faster. This makes it harder to put the latex on. Oh, and also? Remember to shave your legs. The stickiness grabbing tiny leg hairs can be uncomfortable. Unless you’re into that – for some, the mild discomfort is part of the fun of wearing latex, and doesn’t necessarily register as discomfort per se. After that, I bought a bottle of Lust’s recommended silicone lube (from Lust, $16 well spent). My next time putting on the latex stockings went literally much more smoothly, and they were more comfortable on my legs. The same lube can also be used to shine the exterior of the latex. Just pour some into your hand or on the garment and rub it in.

http://lustdesigns.com/products/classic-thigh-high-stockings

Lust Designs Classic Thigh High Stockings | Lingerie set: Made by Niki | Corset: Pop Antique “Vixen” | Model & Styling: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

Lust Design’s Classic Thigh High Stockings: Fit and Construction
Penny took my measurements and whipped up a pair of her standard size Extra Small stockings. At the time, I was definitely an XS across the board (not so true now). They fit so well that I actually thought she had made them custom for me! Four years and fifteen pounds later, they still fit fantastically well. One of the great things about latex is that, because it’s so stretchy, it can be pretty forgiving like that. As for the construction, there is a back “seam” and a front “seam.” Seams in latex are much more flat than on regular clothing because the pieces are simply overlapped and bonded together. There’s no concern about fraying/raveling so raw edges can be semi-exposed. The left and right sides are symmetric and virtually reversible – there doesn’t seem to be a “right side” and a wrong side/inside. Latex can make you pretty sweaty and it has zero breatheability so there’s nowhere for sweat to go. Lust Designs’ stockings are cut with a peep toe so that your sweat doesn’t pool and make you slip (ew). I try to make sure that the edge of the peep toe is positioned so that I won’t feel it when I walk and stand, but if your feet are less sensitive it probably doesn’t matter – the edge of the latex is quite thin. Lust also makes a couple other styles of thigh high – a contrast band and “backseam” style and one with a heart motif and backseam. Custom fit stockings are 20% more than the RTW price. (As an aside, one great thing about Lust Designs is that they have a well-deserved reputation for being able to fit ALL figures, particularly plus-sized curvy girls.)

http://lustdesigns.com/products/classic-thigh-high-stockings

Lust Designs Classic Thigh High Stockings | Lingerie set: Made by Niki | Model & Styling: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

Washing Latex
I’ll admit I’ve been taking pretty shoddy care of my stockings, but they seem none the worse for it. The latex doesn’t seem to hold onto my sweat once I take them off so they don’t need to be washed as often as you might think. It’s probably about time for me to pop them in the sink with a bit of cool water and mild soap – easy enough to do, even in a tiny bathroom. Like corsets or anything else, the frequency of washing will be dependent on your body chemistry; you have to find the balance between the damage intrinsically caused by washing a garment and that caused by your body’s sweat, skin cells, and oils, as well as, of course, the hygiene factor. There are full care instructions on the Lust Designs, “The Care and Feeding of Your Latex,” page.

http://lustdesigns.com/products/classic-thigh-high-stockings

Lust Designs Classic Thigh High Stockings | Lingerie set: Made by Niki | Model & Styling: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

Signs of Wear and Longevity of Latex
The one sign of wear I have seen on my stockings has been on the heels and balls of the feet, where the latex has taken on a slightly scuffed appearance. This is partially because I need to shine them but also a to-be-expected factor of the abrasion from wearing shoes. After I wear my latex stockings, I fold them up and pop them into a sandwich bag, which lives with my other thigh-highs in a drawer. Metal discolors latex, so it’s really important to be cognizant of where you store your latex and the accessories and other garments you wear it next to… like garter clips. Luckily, with opaque black, discoloration isn’t an issue, but light colored and transparent latex is more prone to discoloration, from metal, sunlight, soaps, etc. Baby powder or tissue paper can also be utilized for storing latex. Eventually, latex can become brittle… but I think that’s a process that can take a decade or more.

http://lustdesigns.com/products/classic-thigh-high-stockings

Lust Designs Classic Thigh High Stockings | Model & Styling: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

Latex Allergy
One very important thing to keep in mind is that some people are allergic to latex. If you’re allergic, chances are you know by now, but what about everyone around you? Luckily, unlike peanuts or scent, latex allergy (in my experience) has to be triggered by touch rather than mere proximity. If you want to wear a sexy spanking skirt as a surprise for a partner, you might want to double check that it won’t make them break out in hives!

http://lustdesigns.com/products/classic-thigh-high-stockings

Lust Designs Classic Thigh High Stockings | Lingerie set: Made by Niki | Model & Styling: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

All told, I’m really excited to have rediscovered my latex stockings. I am very impressed with the quality of construction and fit, given how I have alternatingly ignored and mistreated my stockings over the past four years. I’m definitely planning to buy more latex from Lust Designs, whose retro-modern aesthetic resonates strongly with my own personal taste… I’m thinking a tea-length transparent circle skirt will be my next purchase. In a city like San Francisco, “daywear style” can be pretty eclectic and I’d love to bring more lingerie-outerwear and niche designers into my personal look.

http://lustdesigns.com/products/classic-thigh-high-stockings

Lust Designs Classic Thigh High Stockings | Lingerie set: Made by Niki | Model & Styling: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Max Johnson

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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Analyzing Corset Fit: Bust & Vertical Measurements

Last week I introduced some basic concepts of corset fitting. While the lacing allows for a lot of flexibility in fitting a corset, of course, there’s much more to it. I’m going to continue the lesson, going into greater detail with things like bust fit and vertical measurements.

Dark Garden Valentine corset | Model: Allie Diane | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden Valentine corset | Model: Allie Diane | Photo © Joel Aron

General Bust Fit
Unlike bras, corsets have no cup or band sizing, which can make them a lot more flexible for fitting a bust. Underbust corsets stop at about bra band level and should ideally only affect the bust by affecting your posture, so if you’re looking at bust fit, that probably means you’re in overbust territory. It’s hard to know if an overbust corset will fit without trying it on, so when you do, here’s what you should look for. The fullest part of your breasts should settle into the fullness of the bust area of the corset. The top of the cup shape (on a sweetheart style corset, which has a contoured bust) should lay flush against the top of your breast, neither cutting in (creating a quad-boob) nor gapping. The bottom of the bust curve should support your breasts.

Dark Garden Victorian corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Laquel Wright

Dark Garden Victorian corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Laquel Wright

Small & Large Busts
If you’re small busted or asymmetric, I tend to find Victorian-style semi-flat fronts easier to fit. If you’re particularly full busted, make sure the “diameter” of the cup is sufficient… the vertical space of the cup is sort of equivalent to the width of an underwire spring, but luckily less specific. Still, I find that a too-small bust on a busty girl will push down the apex and cause overflow. A longer vertical space for the bust will also keep from creating a chin-rest out of a full bust. (I also have a prior article that’s specifically about finding the right fit of corset for your body type.)

Bust Coverage
Lastly, regarding coverage for the bust, make sure to test what happens when you raise your arms! In a flat-front cut, a neckline at roughly nipple level is called a midbust and tends to be historically appropriate… but perhaps less so for day to day life. Modern cut overbusts should provide a comfortable level of coverage at the nipples and center front without pushing into the underarm… but that brings us to the issue of vertical measurements.

Dollymop for Dark Garden "Amelia" corset ensemble | Model: Stilletta Maraschino | Photo © John Carey

Dollymop for Dark Garden “Amelia” corset ensemble | Model: Stilletta Maraschino | Photo © John Carey

Vertical Measurements
When gauging size for off-the-rack corsets, a lot of people go off of continuous vertical measurements such as busk length or princess line. I find this method insufficient because it leaves out a hugely important piece of information: the waist level within that measurement. Two people may have a similar underbust to lap measurement but opposite fit problems.

Here’s an example. Let’s say the underbust to lap measurement of a corset is 10″. Person A is tall, with a high waist line, perhaps full busted. It’s 6″ from the waist down to the lap, 4″ up to their underbust. Person B is long waisted, wears their corsets low on their waistline. It’s 4.5″ down to their lap, and 5.5″ up to underbust. On person A, an underbust might give inadequate hip and low-stomach support, but push into the bottom of the breasts. On person B, the exact same corset might make it hard to sit comfortably, but leave part of the rib cage exposed. So when communicating with a corsetiere, I recommend providing these verticals as separate measurements rather than using a continuous one.

Dark Garden Dollymop underbust corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Laquel Wright

Dark Garden Dollymop underbust corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Laquel Wright

Princess Line Length
So. What are you looking for with these vertical measurements? You want them to correspond with your preferred level of support and mobility. (This might be a good time to brush up on A Corset Family Tree, Abridged.) Shorter hip and rib measurements will give a greater range of motion. Longer measurements provide more shaping and support. As in the above examples, you can probably guess that you don’t want the length to cut into either your thighs (test this sitting down), or push into your breasts or underarm.

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

Pop Antique Vixen ribbon corset | Model: Nicole Simone | Photo © Max Johnson | Disclosure: The fur shown is a vintage piece.

Center Front Length
With the right shaping, the length at the center can be significantly longer at either end, though at a certain point you can lose support and the busk will stand away from the body. This diminishes the support of the lower stomach and hips.

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

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

Bonus Section: Comfort
At the end of the day, no matter how it looks, corset comfort is critical to fit. If it puts undue pressure on your ribs, that’s a fit issue. If you are hunching your shoulders forward because it fights your natural posture, that’s a fit issue. If you prefer to lace tightly enough that your corset cuts into your softness a bit, that’s a valid choice. Conversely, be wary of lacing your corsets too loosely, as this can cause chafing. Better to have a corset with a milder waist reduction and rib shaping than wear your corset so loose it can slide around on your body.

In a custom fitting, please remember than a corsetiere only knows what they see, and not what you feel. Be really communicative about everything you experience in the corset, but you probably don’t need to repeat yourself… your corsetiere should be writing on your mockup and/or taking notes on a separate sheet throughout the fitting.

Do you have any other questions about what fit looks or feels like in a corset? As I said last week, when it comes to corsets, one never stops learning about fit, but I hope I’ve given you a starting point help you in your corset shopping!

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 Fit 101

A well-made corset has a very carefully balanced fit: to create a beautiful shape that is actually wearable by a human requires great attention to the distribution of ease and negative ease. The lacing and lacing gap allows for fine-tuning of the fit on an individual basis without requiring a fully bespoke corset. Much has been written about bra fit, but what defines fit for a corset?

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

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

As a corsetmaker, I firmly believe that one never stops learning about fit. There are always new ways to address the uniqueness of each body or to make a standard fit style with greater comfort. There’s also a relationship between fit and construction, and each wearer and maker will have their own opinions and preferences. With all that in mind, I’d like to start with some basics, focusing on what fit looks like in a corset. This is the method of fit analysis I use when working for my corsetry mentor, Dark Garden, who has the benefit of essentially a full run of basic corsets in every style and size combination for fitting, and when fitting models for my own line Pop Antique, where I use my smaller library of existing samples.

Placement of the corset
In my article on lacing mistakes, I discussed how important it is to make sure the corset is properly anchored on the skeletal waistline. You’ll want the corset to be settled just between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your pelvis for maximum compression and comfort. It may migrate (usually up) as you lace in or throughout the course of the day, so you might give a little tug at the top or bottom of center front to adjust it back into position.

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

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

Top of corset: bust or underbust
The top of the corset should lay snugly against the body. It should be tightened such that it neither gaps (stands away from the body) nor cuts in (creating a muffin effect). Particularly at the side of the rib cage (or top of the bust) you want to make sure that it is laying smooth and flush. With a plus size figure, sometimes the underbust may look flush, but as there is more compressible flesh, the ribs can be tightened more. Even so, try to avoid over-tightening (at any size) as it will create a roll at the back of the corset. Tightening the underbust properly will further emphasize the waist and hipline, rather than eclipsing it. If a corset cuts in at the back but is gapping at the sides, it may have the right circumference but be the wrong shape for your body and posture. This can always be covered with a bolero if you’re not in a position to have the fit at least partially personalized for your body.

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

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

Waist
Corsets are cut with negative ease at the waist: they are smaller than the body they go onto. Thus, the lacing has to be adjusted each time the corset is put on or taken off. Stretch garments also have negative ease, but the stretch is what allows you to put them on without fiddling with a closure. The give in a corset comes from the lacing. If the lacing has stretch, it won’t work, and if the corset is loose enough to come off immediately, it is too big! Boning and waist reduction should be spaced as to avoid creating pressure points. Size-wize, everyone compresses differently and each brand allows for varying degrees of reduction. Those looking for mild shaping should buy a shapely corset that is 4-6″ smaller than their natural waist. If you’re looking for more dramatic shaping and compression, I would suggest that natural waists of 26 or less buy a corset 4″ smaller than their waist (2″ reduction and 2″ gap), by 30″, go to 6″ smaller (4″ reduction and 2″ gap). A natural waist of 40″ could buy a corset up to 8″ or 10″ smaller and lace it with a gap of up to 4″, and a 50″+ waist could buy a corset 10″, 12″, or even 14″ smaller than their natural waist, again with a gap of no more than 4″. Of course, you should always check in with your corsetiere of choice, but this gives you a starting point! (Note that these numbers won’t apply with budget corsetry, which often is cut with a tube-like shape… less shapely than your body might already be, uncorseted.) If you have the opportunity to try on a corset before buying, hang out in it for as long as is reasonable. Your body may settle within the first 15 minutes, but as a day wears on it could reverse course into discomfort.

Dollymop for Dark Garden Cavalry corset | Model: Autumn Adamme | Photo © Joel Aron

Dollymop for Dark Garden Cavalry corset | Model: Autumn Adamme | Photo © Joel Aron

Bottom of corset: hips
Another of the lacing mistakes I mentioned earlier is over-lacing the hips. I like to fit people with the corset once again visually flush against their body, but this time with enough room to get a couple fingers inside the bottom edge. This allows the hips to expand when you walk and sit down. Of course, some people prefer the feeling of additional compression around their hips, even if it results in a visually too-tight corset, and that’s perfectly acceptable, too. As a starting point, though, I like to start with a smooth line.

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

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

The lacing gap
The lacing gap is critical to the fit of a corset. Whether or not you prefer to lace your corsets fully closed or leave a gap is a personal choice. A small historic study did show that a lacing gap averaging 2″ was standard in the Victorian corset-wearing heyday. Some find the pressure of boning along the spine to be excessive while others find it supportive. Having a gap at the center back, in my experience, allows for the center back line of the corset to lay smoothly more easily, as well as allowing for greater variance in the degree of reduction and any size fluctuation. It’s a common fallacy that the shape of the gap must be absolutely parallel: a variance of up to 2″ total is perfectly fine if necessary to create a good fit. (For example, 1″ at the ribs, 2″ at the waist, 3″ at the hips.) It’s far more important for the hips and ribs to lay flush with comfortable pressure at the waist than to create a parallel gap. You may find that having the gap shape angled may actually improve the level of comfort and back support you get from your corsets.

Dark Garden bespoke Waspie being broken in. Via @popantique on Instagram.

Dark Garden bespoke Waspie being broken in. Via @popantique on Instagram.

Breaking in a corset
Sometimes when fitting a corset, I’ll see that there’s a bit of looseness through the ribs and hips, but the gap is correspondingly a bit wider. If I’m fitting a corset for a sale, then I’ll know that once the corset is properly broken in (much the way a pair of shoes breaks in), it will lay well against the body with an appropriate gap size. Diagonal dimpling in the fabric also relaxes as the fabric molds around the body.

If your eyes haven’t glazed over yet, next week I will go into greater depth in discussing corset fit, specifically regarding the bust and vertical measurements. Do you have any corset fit questions you’d like to see addressed?

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, Cocktails, & Carousing: The Effects of Drinking While Corseted

Disclosure: The following is a compilation of anecdotal evidence and is not intended to replace the opinion of a licensed medical professional.

If you’re planning to indulge in both A) the excuse to don a corset (hurrah) and B) a bottle of wine or some cocktails this Valentine’s Day, you might find yourself in for a surprise. Though drinking while corseted isn’t guaranteed trouble, it’s highly likely that your body will process and respond to alcohol and cocktails differently when compressed by the corset. There are several different scenarios of how this might play out, so I highly encourage you to engage in a not-so-dry run before the big night.

Dark Garden bespoke Sweetheart corset | Model: Autumn Adamme | Photo © Perry Gallgher

Dark Garden bespoke Sweetheart corset | Model: Autumn Adamme | Photo © Perry Gallgher

One of the most common reactions to drinking while corseted is that you’ll feel fine while laced in… but as soon as the corset comes off, you are either instantly hungover or wasted. If you are already prone to hangovers or have particularly vicious or long-lasting ones, this is probably more likely. If you end up in the “instantly wasted” camp, try to remember not to overcompensate for how mildly you are being affected… remember it will all catch up with you at the end of the night! If you tend to suffer from muscle soreness from dehydration after drinking, that effect may well be worsened.

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

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

Other common side effects are nausea or acid reflux. There’s potential for a bit of a vicious cycle here: Too much food and/or drink while corseted can cause bloating. So, while corseted, one tends to eat smaller meals. Smaller meals leave more room for beverages. Alcoholic beverages generally require a bit of food to ground them. So you need to remember to keep your food and alcohol intake balanced, but consume less of both than you would otherwise.

Dark Garden Sweetheart corset ensemble | Model: Elisa Berlin | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden Sweetheart corset ensemble | Model: Elisa Berlin | Photo © Joel Aron

On that note, be wary of champagne/sparkling wine, bubbly cider or beer, or mixed drinks with carbonated content. Lucy has an in-depth piece about why corsets and soft drinks don’t mix. Basically, in a compressed stomach, there is less room for those bubbles. Feeling bloated or needing to burp in a corset is a pretty unpleasant experience. Drinking neat liquor or flat cocktails is a less risky prospect.

So what can you do about it? Well, half the battle is wearing the right corset. A corset with a milder reduction (or worn looser) will give you fewer problems. (I consider 2″ or less a mild reduction; 3-5″ is moderate, and 6″ is dramatic… but it all depends on your size, because 4″ is a lot more on a 24″ waist than on a 36″ waist.) If you waist train or generally wear your corsets frequently, your body is also more adapted to the compression so you have less to worry about. Corsets that are custom fit and/or well broken in will also be less triggering.

Dark Garden bespoke Alyscia corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Chris Gaede

Dark Garden bespoke Alyscia corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Chris Gaede

Regardless of what corset you end up wearing, be sure to stay hydrated. The uncorseted guideline is to (ideally) drink as many glasses of water as you do of alcohol. Though it may be inconvenient to do so in a corset (between the space it takes up and the slightly increased difficulty of using the bathroom), you should really strive to drink at least that much water. You should also switch to just water well before you unlace, giving your body at least an hour if not more to process the last round of drinks. At the end of the night, unlace very slowly, a half inch at a time, to prevent all the residual alcohol from hitting your system all at once. You can also loosen up and relace periodically throughout the night, giving each drink a chance to circulate instead of creating a boozy bottleneck.

What have your experiences of drinking in a corset been like?

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 Buy Corsets for Gifts & Special Occasions

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, which means people all over are thinking about what to wear, what to gift, or just how they want to treat themselves this year. No matter which direction you need to go, corsets definitely make a statement, but they’re definitely not the most straightforward thing to buy. You’ll need to carefully consider a corset’s unique sizing (unrelated to dress or bra size) and the style, in addition to the high ticket price and long turnaround for a good corset – which, in my opinion, is the only kind of corset worth having! I’ve written a lot more on that but suffice to say, a cheap corset rarely fits, looks good, or lasts long… but it rates really high on the discomfort charts.

Pop Antique "Prima Donna" corset, styled with vintage fur and vintage tulle skirt. | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

Pop Antique “Prima Donna” corset, styled with vintage fur and vintage tulle skirt. | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © John Carey

Budget
Corsets come in many grades of quality, but everyone seems to agree that even cheap corsets are expensive. (If you’re wondering why, you’ll find the answer here.) So what grade of corset is right for you/your loved one? Take a look at the various price tiers and carefully consider whether you would rather go for a low-budget corset to plumb the waters or maybe save up/buy yourself gift certificates and let them stack up over time. You’ve got a window of about $30-$3000 and everything in between, but I generally recommend $200-$300 as a minimum starting budget for a good corset.

Dark Garden "Corselette" | Model: Nicole Simone | Photo © Edward Saenz

Dark Garden “Corselette” | Model: Nicole Simone | Photo © Edward Saenz

Size
As I said before, corset size has nothing to do with dress size, pant size, bra size, hat size, or shoe size. Corsets are measured by the garment’s waist measurement. Generally, you’ll want a corset 2-6″ smaller than the wearer’s natural waist (not where pants are worn), but the best way to guarantee a fit is to actually try the thing on. A lot of budget brands make big claims about waist reductions, but their rib shaping and hip spring just don’t allow for human anatomy! Is there a corsetmaker whose work you like around your area? Maybe you can visit their studio/showroom/boutique and make the shopping experience part of the gift. Of course, you’ll get the best fit with a fully custom corset. Gift-wise, a custom corset is the lingerie equivalent of keys to a brand-new convertible. If you are dead-set on an instant gratification surprise gift and you don’t already know the giftee’s corset size (which, like any other clothing, can vary widely from brand to brand!), maybe you should just stick with a super stylish luxe robe.

Pop Antique "Flirt" corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Razo Photo

Pop Antique “Flirt” corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Razo Photo

Style & Practical Concerns
If you don’t want to go the classic red/pink route but do want something that feels flirty and festive, consider: lace overlay, ruffle trim, lacing detail, or mesh. I’ve already written a full piece on How to Choose the Right Corset for Any Occasion, so the question here is, do you want a special occasion corset, or an excuse for a more basic corset that you will be able to wear more often? Especially if you’re shopping for someone else, a simple well-fitted underbust that matches their wardrobe might be better received than a naughty-nurse inspired polyester tube with bra-hooks in the front and plastic boning. Kiss Me Deadly wrote a great blog post on lingerie gift shopping, which I highly recommend checking out. If you’re shopping for yourself, consider the practicality. Are you wearing your corset for a sexy nightcap or will you also have to fit a dinner in there? How long can you comfortably wear your corset for – does the fit suit your natural posture, chafe under your arms, or poke your lap? Is there a scratchy trim? You want to feel comfortably supported, not restrained and cranky. Also bear in mind that your body may respond differently to alcohol while corseted, so be sure to give that a test before a big date, lest you end up suddenly wasted, or worse, instantly hungover.

Dark Garden bespoke "Aziza" corset | Model: Vienna La Rouge | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden bespoke “Aziza” corset | Model: Vienna La Rouge | Photo © Joel Aron

Turnaround Time
There are a few boutiques where you can walk in and purchase a corset to take home immediately. For example, Dark Garden in San Francisco, What Katie Did in London and in Los Angeles, and Orchard Corset in New York. Some designers have show rooms where they may have a few samples for sale, such as Sparklewren in Birmingham or Morúa in Chicago. In many cases, though, your corset is being made to order just for you. This is a process that can take weeks or even months. Make sure to account for that in your planning, and don’t get mad at the designer because they won’t shove aside all their other orders so you can get yours in a week. (Or at least, not without a hefty rush fee.)

Dark Garden "Cincher" corset | Model: Anuka Mendbayar | Photo © Joel Aron

Dark Garden “Cincher” corset | Model: Anuka Mendbayar | Photo © Joel Aron

Returns
A handmade corset is usually made-to-order, and is rarely returnable. An exchange may be possible if the corset is unworn, with a standard fit, and the fabric choice a popular one. If you purchased a factory-made corset from a boutique or online retailer, you may be able to return it. Always check the return policy – since sizing/fit is so particular for corsets (and they are technically intimate apparel), you really need to be certain of the purchase. Again, a gift certificate is probably a smarter choice if you have any hesitancy about size or style. A latex designer I know recently had a client change their mind about the design they’d signed off on… but only after the ensemble was made. Even if the corset isn’t a gift and you’re buying for yourself, it isn’t the designer’s fault when you change your mind about what you want, and they can’t be responsible for that. You’re responsible for paying for what you ordered.

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

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

A corset isn’t the easiest gift or holiday outfit, but it can certainly be a very memorable one. There’s a special excitement that goes along with being gifted a corset, or taken on a special corset shopping trip. A bit of forethought and planning is required to ensure the correct size and timeliness, but the result is very worth it.

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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