Posts by Marianne

About Custom & Made-to-Measure Corsets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marianne

Marianne

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

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Waist Training 101

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marianne

Marianne

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

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Not All Corsets Are Created Equal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marianne

Marianne

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

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Christine Wickham In Memorium

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

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

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

Underbust corset by Ariadne's Thread.

Underbust corset by Ariadne’s Thread.

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

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

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

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

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

Marianne

Marianne

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

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

Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evollove Twilight Dream Longline Bra on ASOS

Evollove Twilight Dream Longline Bra on ASOS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marianne

Marianne

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

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A Look Back: Pinups of Bygone Eras

Lilyan Tashman, Ziegfeld Follies publicity photo circa 1916/1917.

Lilyan Tashman, Ziegfeld Follies publicity photo circa 1916/1917.

It’s a fact that people have been taking pictures of lovely ladies for as long as there have been cameras.  There’s something about really old photos that has always seemed particularly luminous and compelling to me, some combination of the film and retouching techniques that is reminiscent of an oil painter’s brush strokes.  (And, if you look closely, you can even occasionally see where some tiny brushwork was applied for some proto-Photoshopping.)

An exotic dancer from the 1890s.  I would totally wear this outfit.

An exotic dancer from the 1890s. I would totally wear this outfit.

The public domain (in the United States) includes images from before the year 1924, which encompasses the Victorian and Edwardian eras, the Belle Epoque, WWI, and the beginning of the jazz age. Some of the photos have a timeless appeal (I often find the eyes particularly compelling in these old portraits), and some are amusingly dated.  These older pinups bridge the languidity and restfulness of the classical painted figure and the ever-so-charming (but somewhat contrived) poses of those cheerful mid-century pinups.

Vintage portrait of woman in hat and leather gloves.

Vintage portrait of woman in hat and leather gloves.

The images I’ve shown today have been sourced primarily from Wikimedia Commons or DeviantArt’s Resources & Stock Images category, where several users have uploaded brilliant galleries of these old photos.  All photos found on DeviantArt link back to the uploader, and I highly recommend you peruse their galleries for additional works. I tried to find more information about these photos via Google’s reverse image search, Wikipedia, and the like, but if anyone is able to provide any confirmed additional information about these photos, such as the year, subject, or photographer, I would love to know and add it to the caption.

Costumed dancer (?) on postcard, circa 1905. Via les2a on DeviantArt.

Costumed dancer on postcard, circa 1905.

Maria Cavalieri, vintage postcard circa 1900, Russian opera singer.  Via MementoMori on DeviantArt.

Maria Cavalieri, vintage postcard circa 1900, Russian opera singer.

Vintage boudoir scene, via MementoMori on DeviantArt.

Vintage boudoir scene.

Vintage pinup with cigarette holder and beautiful stockings and garter belt.  Via VioletIvory on DeviantArt.

Vintage pinup with cigarette holder and beautiful stockings and garter belt.

Vintage pinup in deshabille with hat.

Vintage pinup in deshabille with hat.

Vintage pinup in stockings and sheer negligee. Via candiesforeveryone on DeviantArt.

Vintage pinup in stockings and sheer negligee.

 

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 by Kim Fox

Disclosure: I borrowed this book through the Amazon Prime lending library with my personal account. All opinions are my own.

Waist Training by Kim Fox

Waist Training by Kim Fox

The full title of this book is, “Waist Training: Corset Training with Tight-Lacing Corsets to Trim Your Waist and Cinchers to Cinch the Inches,” and it appears to be the only work by author Kim Fox, who apparently self-published this volume after a modicum of light research and personal experience.  It’s exciting that waist training has become mainstream enough to have books written about it, but unfortunately I found this take to be poorly researched and poorly edited, wandering from confusingly phrased to self-contradictory and downright wrong.

Photo © Joel Aron | Jason Zentraedi for Dark Garden

Photo © Joel Aron | Jason Zentraedi for Dark Garden

On the positive side, the author doesn’t discriminate based on gender, repeatedly making references to men’s shapers and waist training.  The book is short, with a comprehensive table of contents, and can easily be read in under an hour.  Ms. Fox counsels some basic common sense rules – pace yourself when lacing and breaking in your corset, consult with a doctor if you are under the age of 18 or have a medical condition, if trying to lose weight pair your corset with diet and exercise.  It almost seems more along the lines of the so-called “Corset Diet” rather than true waist training.

I would not recommend this corset, shown early in the book, for waist training, as its shape is very tubular. Photo via Amazon.

I would not recommend this corset, shown early in the book, for waist training, as its shape is very tubular. Photo via Amazon.

So that’s the good.  Now for the bad, which is unfortunately rather more extensive. When I first started reading, I have to admit I was already not expecting very much.  The corset shown on the cover has the classic inverted parentheses shape of a mass-produced corset with only a mild reduction, and the first one shown inside is even worse (see above).  As I read, it became clear that the author knows very little about corsetmaking and its relationship to effective waist training.  Ms. Fox apparently isn’t even familiar with the word “corsetiere,” which means “corset maker.” A layperson may not know this word, and that’s fine, but one who purports to be anything of an authority on waist training should be familiar with it. If you’re a regular reader, you know I write about corsets and waist training quite often, and Ms. Fox did find one of my posts: my original list of 8 Corsetieres to Follow on Instagram. She describes it as as a list of “cool waist training folks,” which I think hardly does credit to a list of highly skilled artisans who are reviving a niche art of fitting and designing beautiful shapewear.

Pop Antique corsetrix corsetiere Marianne Faulkner photo Max Johnson

corsetiere, noun: A person who specializes in making, fitting, or selling corsets, brassieres, or other foundation garments.  I like to refer to myself as a corsetrix, which, to be fair, is a word I’m pretty sure I made up.  Photo © Max Johnson. | Marianne Faulkner of Pop Antique

In the introduction, she talks about “waist trainers and corsets” without clarifying the distinction.  I think the former is meant to be those elastic shaper things?  (Here’s my take on stretch vs structured shapewear,  though I’ve never tried Spanx or fajas.)  According to Ms. Fox, one “graduates” to “the kind that not only have hooks [and] that allow you to tighten it more with laces in the back.”  Only about halfway through does she emphasize the need for “traditional steel-boned corsets,” and according to her, it’s obligatory to start with an underbust rather than a “full corset,” an overbust.  Generally speaking, underbusts are preferred and more versatile, but they’re not mandatory, nor are they any less corset-y than overbusts, which is part of why I’ve never cared for that particular description of the distinction between styles.

Initial waist reductions of 10 or more inches are possible on larger figures. Model: Nicole Simone for Pop Antique | Photo: Max Johnson

Initial waist reductions of 10 or more inches are possible on larger figures. Model: Nicole Simone for Pop Antique | Photo: Max Johnson

Ms. Fox talks about the age you should be for training before saying anything much about the corsets themselves.  In her words, steel boned corsets “can obtain a cinch of 3 to 5 inches of serious waist training, [sic]” and, “Custom made corset might be great, and run about $139 or more. [sic]” (You can see what I mean about the lack of proper editing; confusing sentences like this abound.) In my experience as a corsetrix, a corset can cinch two to ten inches off the bat (depending on both you and the corset), and a decent custom should cost a bare minimum of $300 – ideally more in the $500-$1500 range.  After all, you get what you pay for.

    Tightlacer Elisa Berlin in a 17" corset by Pop Antique. Photo © Jon Bean Hastings

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

Ms. Fox considers the terms waist training and tightlacing to be interchangeable, though she barely touches upon true tightlacers at all.  She does make some sort of vague cautionary tale of one Nerina Orton with an alleged 15.7″ waist.  I hadn’t previously heard of Ms. Orton, but a quick Google showed more dramatics from the media, likely filled with skewed, hyperbolized, and out of context information.  (Needless to say, I am tired of those stories; even if they were true, they are hardly representative.)  She states that one “should” wear corsets laced fully closed; while this is a matter of preference, it is actually standard practice for corsets to be worn with a 2″ gap in the back lacing.

Victorian Secrets, by Sarah A. Chrisman

Victorian Secrets, by Sarah A. Chrisman

It’s possible that she is avoiding using technical language to keep it easy for the reader; she’s clearly targeting a mainstream market here, using examples of typical “hot” celebrities with naturally curvy hip to waist ratios.  Instead, though, I find it even more confusing and it mostly just seems like she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.  For example, she recommends corsets with “a strong exposed tape,” but a hidden waist tape generally is more comfortable and implies a higher end construction – it’s small things like this that continually undermine her credibility, and with it, the subject itself.  She also refers to “full lacing cord” (what?), describing it as superior to ribbon, which is, “not made for tightlacing,” even though it’s actually used by the majority of high-end corsetieres today.  A far better approach would be to break down the jargon for the layperson, as Sarah Chrisman did fairly well in her book, Victorian Secrets.

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

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

Ms. Fox contradicts herself on numerous occasions.  Early in the book, she specifically states that you shouldn’t sleep in a steel boned corset (no mention of why); close to the end, she changes her mind and says, “you can even sleep in your corset.”  In another paragraph, she says something about, “Instead of always popping your corset in and out of the washer and dryer…” and only several paragraphs later gets around to saying that, actually, you should never wash your corset in the washing machine (which is true).  If I were a corseting newbie, I would find myself extremely confused by her advice, and constantly wanting more detail and explanation for it.

Photo and corset by Angela Stringer | Model: Victoria Dagger

Photo and corset by Angela Stringer | Model: Victoria Dagger

Arguably the worst advice in the book is casually contained within a single sentence.  “When you want to take it off, you can loosen the laces and unsnap the front – or just try to unsnap the front closures first.”  Actually, the first rule of corseting – yes, even before “Boots, then corset!” – is to always unlace before loosening your busk.

As far as I can tell, this book is only available as a Kindle book from Amazon. You can read Kindle books on your smart phone or computer as well as Kindle devices, so don’t feel left out if you don’t have an e-reader.  If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can borrow the book for free (which is how I read it).  However, I would not recommend this book to those interested in waist training.  There are better resources available on the internet for free; more information could be garnered from watching an hour of videos on Lucy’s Corsetry or reading through my previous posts here on The Lingerie Addict or the archive of knowledge that is the Long Island Staylace Association (LISA).  I’ve also been compiling good blog posts about corsets from a variety of sources onto a Pinterest board.

What are your favorite resources for waist training advice? What tips would you give to someone interested in waist training?

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 Style Watch: Hip Fins, Baby Panniers, and Floating Gores

Corset: Royal Black / Model: Ophelia Overdose

Corset: Royal Black / © Moritz Maibaum Photography / Model: Ophelia Overdose

I first became aware of hip fins on corsets via Sparklewren, though there are quite a few couture corsets (particularly corset bodies) that feature them.  Though “hip fins” has become the commonly accepted name for them, I like to think of them as miniature panniers; they could also be considered a sort of floating gore or a stiffened semi-peplum.  This detail generally parallels the iliac crest and emphasizes the dramatized hip spring.

Corset: Sparklewren / © Sean Elliott Photography / Model: Madame Bink

Corset: Sparklewren / © Sean Elliott Photography / Model: Madame Bink

This creation by Sparklewren was that which originally introduced me to the hip fin concept.  I was so in love with it that I ended up buying the sample!  The line of the top shaping of the corset also leads the eye towards the beautiful waist shaping and accented hip.

Corset: Pop Antique "Tease" / Photo © Morgan Marcani / Model: Victoria Dagger

Corset: Pop Antique “Tease” / Photo © Morgan Marcani / Model: Victoria Dagger

When I saw the photo on Facebook, the texture of the alligator leather looked (to my eyes) like a lacing detail.  After talking to Jenni of Sparklewren and learning it was, in fact, a textured material, I realized I was projecting a very Pop Antique-esque design concept.  I promptly executed it in the form of my “Flirt” cupped corset, which also has complementing waist lacing detail on the front bone casings. After the initial sample, I decided to make the baby panniers detachable in the name of versatility, as shown on the “Tease” underbust above.

Neon Duchess © Iberian Black Arts model Threnody in Velvet

Corset: Neon Duchess / © Iberian Black Arts / Model: Threnody in Velvet

Of course, one cannot discuss hip fins in corsetry without mentioning the incomparable Neon Duchess. Corsetiere Hannah Light has made this detail something of a signature, playing with layered fins in varied fabrics and textures, adding beading, and even incorporating an exaggerated floating hip spring into the body of her corsets.

Corset: Royal Black / © Moritz Maibaum Photography / Model: Ophelia Overdose

Corset: Royal Black / © Moritz Maibaum Photography / Model: Ophelia Overdose

As well as the beautiful “Pink Fairy” corset at the top of the page, Royal Black has many designs featuring hip fins.  The Empress, shown directly above, is one of the newest designs from Royal Black.  Its spiked semi-circles float in a manner that is even more exaggerated, anchored only at either end, lending an almost automotive feeling to an otherwise very feminine style.

Jane Woolrich Lingerie

Jane Woolrich Lingerie

Though the above style by Jane Woolrich Lingerie is only a very light corset, clearly not intended for any particular shaping, I do find its stiffened, wraparound peplum notable.  This design is particularly reminiscent of a miniature pannier or crinoline rather than the more minimal fins.

Wyte Phantom pannier corset

Corset: Wyte Phantom

Wyte Phantom has made several corsets with miniature panniers built in.  Notice how the frame of the panniers is a continuation of the bone channels.  Wearing panniers exaggerates the sway of hips whilst walking, which will only be further emphasized by the dangling beaded trim along the bottom edge.

Corset: Ava Corsetry

Corset: Ava Corsetry / Photo: Anna Swiczeniuk / Model: Miss Betsy Rose

“Carmen” by Ava Corsetry styles its hip fins with sheer lace, held rigid by boning. This style is limited edition, available in sizes 20-28″.

Corset: Sparklewren / © Sean Elliott Photography / Model: Tessa

Corset: Sparklewren / © Sean Elliott Photography / Model: Tessa

What do you think of the hip fin style?  Do you have any corsets with floating hip detail? How do you style them?

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 Talk: The Wonderful World of Flossing

Flossed corset by Clessidra Couture; modeled by Morgana; photo by Chris Murray.

Flossed corset by Clessidra Couture; modeled by Morgana; photo by Chris Murray.

Flossing is one of my favorite corset embellishments.  Though it’s nothing new, it has incredible potential for variation, as you’ll see from the following images.  Flossing is, in short, a particular type of embroidery on corsets, generally used at the ends of bone channels.

    Closeup of flossing detail on corset by Clessidra Couture; original photo by Chris Murray.

Closeup of flossing detail on corset by Clessidra Couture; original photo by Chris Murray.

Sparklewren red flossed corset closeup

Closeup of red flossed corset by Sparklewren.

Flossing can be used as a selective accent, as in the image of Elisa Berlin below, where the flossing placements trace the hourglass shape of the corset.  It looks particularly striking when used in numerous side-by-side placements, as shown above in the corsets by Clessidra Couture and Sparklewren.  Designs can be simple or complex, like the beaded motif by Angela Stringer.  Alicia Rose’s intense floating flossing is quite a distinctive signature of her line.

Accent flossing echoes the hourglass shaping of a tightlacing corset by Pop Antique; modeled by Elisa Berlin; photo by Jon Bean Hastings.

Accent flossing echoes the hourglass shaping of a tightlacing corset by Pop Antique; modeled by Elisa Berlin; photo by Jon Bean Hastings.

Angela Stringer beaded flossing

Beaded flossing on an in-progress corset by Angela Stringer

Floating flossing on a sheer corset by Alicia Rose.

Floating flossing on a sheer corset by Alicia Rose.

One of the reasons flossing is particularly wonderful, and distinct from purely decorative embroidery, is that it can anchor a corset’s bones within their channels.  The apex of a functional flossing design is at the end of the bone, which is where the fabric of the corset is under more stress.  By minimizing the bones’ movement, chafing against the body of the corset is reduced, and poke-throughs are made less likely.  If there’s enough strain that a bone is going to come through, you’ve got a fighting chance that it will break through the flossing before the fabric itself.  I’ve even done a quick and dirty repair of a corset with a bone coming out by quickly flossing over the broken end of the channel.

Flossed corset on the cover of The Basics of Corset Building by Linda Sparks.

Flossed corset on the cover of The Basics of Corset Building by Linda Sparks.

Flossed corset on the cover of Underwear: Fashion in Detail

Flossed corset on the cover of Underwear: Fashion in Detail

Corset with phoenix motif flossing and feathers by Pop Antique.

Corset with phoenix motif flossing and feathers by Pop Antique.

I repeatedly refer to corsets as engineered garments, a facet which exists happily alongside their prettiness.  Flossing parallels this perfectly; on my website, I have flossing listed as both a reinforcement and a decorative add-on.  It’s definitely a case of form meeting function.  Flossing can also be added or changed after a corset has been fully stitched, further lending to its versatility.

Crikey Aphrodite flossed metallic pink corset

Detail of flossing on metallic pink corset by Crikey Aphrodite.

Daze of Laur butterfly flossing

Butterfly motif flossing on corset by Daze of Laur.

Historic corsets often had purely decorative flossing continuing up the line of the bone channel.  This stitching catches only the top fabric of the casing and does not go through the boning itself to the corset lining, unlike flossing that frames the bones.  The below corset by Daze of Laur shows both styles within the same design.

Daze of Laur flossed corset

Black and tan corset with flossing by Daze of Laur.

Daze of Laur flossing closeup

Closeup of flossing design on corset by Daze of Laur.

Aside from its creative potential, I also particularly enjoy flossing because I find it so soothing.  It’s a repetitive task, but not in a way that’s boring.  Sitting on my couch or in the sun, there’s something very zen about repeating a flossing pattern. (I also get the same satisfaction out of firmly stitching buttons in place.)  I’m not sure if other makers experience it in quite the same way, but it does seem to be fairly universally loved.  Several years ago, I was actually nervous to try flossing, but I’m glad I took the leap; it was nowhere near as daunting as I had expected it to be.

Serindë blue corset front

Blue corset with flossing by Serindë Corsets.

Serindë flossing closeup

Closeup of flossing on blue corset by Serindë Corsets.

Gradated fishnet flossing on a double boned corset by Pop Antique.

Gradated fishnet flossing in shades of pink on a double boned corset by Pop Antique.

Which is your favorite of the flossed designs showcased here?  Is there a corsetiere whose flossing you particularly love? Another classic corset detail that delights?

Morúa Designs flossed corset Tina Imel

Flossed corset by Morúa Designs; model & photo Tina Imel.

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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Pinup Spotlight: The Art of Fritz Willis

nude_cover_lg

The Nude by Fritz Willis, an artists’ guide published by Walter Foster

Classic pinups in illustration have long been an obsession of mine, though it’s been a while since I last wrote about pinup art.  Today I’d like to focus on one of my favorite artists, though he’s not one of the best known.  Fritz Willis’ style tends to feature a slightly more mature looking subject with a 60s vibe; though many of his paintings feature classic pinup-style poses, he also gracefully captures some that are more relaxed and natural.  As well as his pinups and commercial illustrations, Fritz Willis also wrote several how to draw and paint books; I have a copy of his “How to Draw and Paint Faces & Features” book.

The Great American Pin-Up

The Great American Pin-Up, my favorite reference book on pinup art.  Cover painting by Gil Elvgren, likely the best known of all pinup artists.

Though Fritz Willis published his first pinup in 1946, his iconography is definitely more representative of the the end of the era of pinups.  His models often have more of an introspective maturity; more wanton and confident than Elvgren or Petty’s coy and girlish pinups with toothy grins.  To quote The Music Man, “The sadder but wiser girl for me!” Likely at least part of the reason Fritz Willis’ models look more mature is that he used his wife, Pat, as his model.  (Alberto Vargas also utilized his wife, a showgirl, as a model; George Petty, his daughter).  In fact, in one casual nude portrait shown in Taschen’s amazing “The Great American Pinup,” she even seems to have been painted with silvering hair, though her body is still depicted as youthfully firm.  That’s Figure 865, if you have the book.  If you don’t have the book, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Willis Girl, though born in an age of rebellion, had the sophisticated air of the classic pin-up.

“The Great American Pinup,” Charles G. Martignette / Louis K. Meisel

The Model by Fritz Willis, an artists' guide published by Walter Foster

The Model by Fritz Willis, an artists’ guide published by Walter Foster

Stylistically, Fritz Willis expertly blended fine detail with loose painterly strokes (an effect that is something like the painterly equivalent of using a shallow depth of field in photography, drawing one into the image and emphasizing the focal point).  He even left unfinished backgrounds and sketch elements in his final paintings, but the effect somehow feels much more resolved than Petty’s flippant and clean red lines.  He was a perfect fit for Brown and Bigelow’s ongoing Artist’s Sketch Pad series, which launched in 1943 with Earl MacPherson.  Willis was the last artist to paint for the series, though one source online cites that he did so for 15 years after receiving the commission.

How to Draw and Paint Faces & Features by Fritz Willis, published by Walter Foster

How to Draw and Paint Faces & Features by Fritz Willis, published by Walter Foster

The four books he wrote for the Walter-Foster publishing company included The Nude (Foster no. 96), Faces and Features (106), The Model (117) and Art Secrets and Shortcuts (143).  Sadly, most of these volumes are out of print, though apparently the Walter Foster Collectibles’ “How to Draw & Paint Pin-Ups & Glamour Girls” has reproduced some of the content along with the work of other relevant illustrators.

Fritz Willis retired with his wife to southern California, where he passed away from Parkinson’s Disease in January, 1979.

Were you already familiar with Fritz Willis’ work?  What are your favorite elements?  Do you have another favorite artist among the lesser-known pin-up illustrators?

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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