Posts with tag "corset"

“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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5 Corset Trend Predictions for 2015

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

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

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

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

Purdy beaded cage corset.

Purdy beaded cage corset.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pantone's Color of the Year 2015: Marsala

Pantone’s Color of the Year 2015: Marsala

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

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

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

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

Marianne

Marianne

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

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What Is a “Real” Corset, Anyway?

Disclosure: This blog post contains an affiliate link.

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

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

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

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

What a Corset Is and Does

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Grey Area

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

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

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

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

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

Not corsets:

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

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

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

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

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

Marianne

Marianne

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

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Medical & Support Corsetry

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clessidra corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Clessidra corset | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marianne

Marianne

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

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A Corset Family Tree, Abridged

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

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

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

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

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

Overbusts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Underbusts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marianne

Marianne

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

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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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What (You Didn’t Know) to Look for in a Corset: 5 Popular Myths Debunked

By: Marianne

So you want to wear a corset, and you’re finally ready to buy one. You’ve done a bit of research and heard about the horrors of plastic bones and cheap Chinese knock-offs, about the wonders of coutil and how 100% custom is the only possible way to get a corset that fits you and doesn’t mangle your anatomy, and how they take twenty – no, fifty hours to make.

Well.

So-called fact: All good corsets use coutil as their strength layer.
False. While coutil is designed specifically for corsetmaking, like any fabric it comes in different quality grades and there are many other serviceable fabrics available to the modern corsetiere.

The basics of hardware and construction: steel bones are a must (spiral, flat, or a combination). The front closure should be a busk, not hook and eye tape. The laces should go through two-part metal grommets or eyelets. Your corset does not need to be made of umpteen layers of fabric; however, the fabrics used should be stable and sturdy, with an all-natural fiber in the layer closest to your skin. A waist tape, whether visible or concealed, should be present to stabilize the waist. A “real” corset will always be sized according to the waist measurement – never S/M/L.

So-called fact: More bones are always better.
False. I don’t want to duke it out with other corsetmakers over this, but the type and distribution of the boning makes a big difference in how comfortable a corset is or isn’t. Some of us just don’t like bones against our bones, okay? Anyway, you can’t just throw a bunch of extra bones in a corset and claim it makes for a better product. The boning should support the shape of the pattern and the wearer.

While we’re talking fabric and materials, here’s one of top three things I look for when analyzing another corsetmaker’s work: does the fabric’s pattern match at the center front?

One of the keys to successful corsetry is attention to detail. Pattern matching at the front closure doesn’t take much additional time or fabric because it’s a straight line. The cutter may even match the center back as well. Stripes should meet at each seam (as much as possible), and plaids should continue all the way around the body, as shown with these Dark Garden corsets. Electra Designs is particularly renowned for her fastidious asymmetric pattern matching on each seam.

When I see a seemingly well-made, shapely corset with disjointed pattern matching, I start to wonder what other short-cuts that corsetmaker is taking.

This is probably my biggest pet peeve when looking at corsets online. It really cheapens what may have been a quality piece.

So-called fact: Off-the-rack corsets fit no one and I absolutely need a custom corset.
False. Don’t get me wrong – a custom fit from an expert will always be better. But properly developed ready-to-wear patterns are, in fact, designed to fit the majority of a given corsetmaker’s customers fairly well. That’s the whole point. I could write a whole article on this, honestly, but the keywords are “properly developed patterns” – not all RTW corsets are created equal, and not all custom corsets are created equal either.

The way a corset is photographed can be a giveaway for many things. One thing that makes me immediately suspicious is when a corsetiere uses a lot of profile shots of their designs. This tells me nothing about the shape the corset gives.

Several more quality indicators are in the back views, if there are any. How wide is the lacing gap on the model? How even is the gap? How far apart are the grommets? Most models are very small, wearing on average around a 20” corset. Ideally, a corset should be worn with about a 2” gap. If the gap shown is significantly wider, it means that certain measurements are too small even for these waifish lovelies. Usually it’s not the waist, but the hips and ribs, that are too narrow. In other words: no curves in the corset!

Models also by definition must have relatively standard (yet idealized) figures. So if the lacing gap is widely varied down the back, that probably means something is amiss with the fit.

Also look out for dramatic “bubbling” on the bones down the center back: the lacing tension is not evenly distributed, which means they couldn’t even bother to properly lace in their model for the photos that are supposed to represent, promote, and sell their corsets. Check out the wonky lacing gaps and bubbling bones on this vintage video of Dita Von Teese.

Lastly, it’s always appreciated if a corsetiere specifies whether a photographed corset is off-the-rack fit or an altered pattern for the particular model.

So-called fact: If the grommets are the same distance apart the whole way down, the corsetmaker is lazy and does inferior work.
False. Grommets may be spaced closer at the waist to support the increased tension at that point, true. However, the way the corset is laced can also provide the necessary support, particularly if the grommets have already been set fairly close together down the entire length. Look for criss-crossing at the “bunny ears” loop.


Finally, the third thing I look at when assessing another maker’s corset is the shape of the side seam. Let’s say you’re at a convention or lingerie shop and there’s a table or rack of corsets in front of you. The shape of the side seam when it’s not on a body is the same shape it will give the body.

A lot of low-end or poorly-patterned corsets have a shape that looks more like an inverted set of parentheses than an hourglass. Corsets from my line, Pop Antique, have a distinct cup shape at the side (and front) rib, which I feel makes them more comfortable, but some corset wearers and admirers prefer a smoother, more conical rib shape. Regardless, the waist should be a clearly defined point above a visible hip curve, not just a shapeless, gradual flare.

To demonstrate this, my friend Lindsay will be playing the part of my lovely assistant. She brought two of her own pieces, one by Lip Service (which I wouldn’t really call a corset, and you would all probably know better as well) and the other by Heavy Red, a moderately respectable entry-level corset maker. Then I put her in a Dark Garden corset and a Pop Antique corset, both ready-to-wear fit. For reference, she even allowed me to photograph her natural, uncorseted figure.

I didn’t have any corsets from other reputable makers that would fit Lindsay, so we had to stop at those two, but I think we proved our point. Lindsay’s natural figure is more curvy on its own than in the cheaper corsets! What you get when you buy a $300 or $1000 corset over a $30 or $100 corset is not necessarily fancier materials and boning, but a high-quality fit. And, okay, the fabric is nicer.

So-called fact: Corsets take on average 20-50 hours of labor, if not more.
False. A simple corset can be cut, stitched, and laced in under 10 or even 5 hours if the stitcher is very experienced. Don’t take it for granted, though: that training, experience, and efficiency is built into the price for high-quality corsets.

A custom corset with multiple fittings and lots of hand-detailing, of course, can and will take much, much longer. Examples of this include Sparklewren’s carefully placed vintage lace, Dark Garden’s couture feather overlays, Sandra Stuart’s meticulously embroidered teacup corsets, and the fully-fashioned knit corsets from my line, Pop Antique (all shown below).

What do you look for when you shop for a corset?


Where to Shop for Corsets: 50 Places to Buy your Next Corset

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently, especially during an event like Corset Week is, “Where can I buy a nice corset?”

It’s a question I totally understand. Even the most inexpensive (but still quality) steel boned corset will cost you at least $100… and as you get into custom measurements and quality fabrics and special add-ons (like fan-lacing or lace overlay), the price can skyrocket to triple that — at least.

So to make things just a little easier, here’s the official Lingerie Addict list of 50+ places to buy your next corset. The first 10 are good sources for off-the-rack, ready-to-ship pieces. The next are expert corsetieres who can build a corset from scratch to your specifications. An asterisk by a name means I’ve made a satisfactory purchase from that corset retailer or corset maker before.

I really want this post to be a resource that people can use for a long time, so please feel free to not only share this post with your friends but to also leave reviews of the corset businesses you’ve bought from in the comments. After all, there’s no lingerie addict like an informed lingerie addict.

This article was updated in March 2015 by The Lingerie Addict’s in-house corsetry expert, Marianne Faulkner. The above is Cora’s original introduction. To get you started, I’ve compiled twelve of my top articles on buying a corset. Each brand has also been updated to include a location; for a larger index of corsetieres across the world, please consult Lucy’s Corsetry’s Corsetiere Map.

How to Buy A Corset

  1. Why Corsets are Expensive
  2. How Much Should You Spend on a Corset?
  3. What (You Didn’t Know) to Look for in a Corset
  4. In Defense of Ready-to-Wear Corsets
  5. About Custom & Made-to-Measure Corsets
  6. Corset Basics: Silhouette Styles Defined
  7. A Corset Family Tree, Abridged
  8. How to Choose the Right Corset for Your Body Type
  9. How to Choose the Right Corset for Any Occasion
  10. How to Order Handmade Lingerie & Corsets
  11. How to Buy Corsets for Gifts & Special Occasions
  12. 10 Specialty Corsetieres

Mass-Manufactured Starter Corsets

Orchard Corset

Orchard Corset

  1. Fairy GothmotherLondon, England, UK
  2. Hips and CurvesSouthern California, USA
  3. MeschantesRaleigh, NC, USA
  4. Mystic City CorsetsGarfield, NJ, USA
  5. Orchard CorsetWenatchee, WA, USA, and New York, NY, USA
  6. RestyleSiedIce, Poland
  7. Timeless Trends*Austin, TX, USA

    Finer Manufactured Corsets

    What Katie Did

    What Katie Did

  8. Angela FriedmanNew York, NY, USA
  9. Isabella CorsetrySacramento, CA, USA
  10. What Katie Did*London, England, UK, and Los Angeles, CA, USA

    Custom and/or Couture Corsets

    Sparklewren

    Sparklewren

  11. Anachronism in ActionLos Angeles, CA, USA
  12. Angela StringerLiverpool, England, UK
  13. Ava CorsetryGuernsey
  14. The Bad ButtonGeorgetown, KY, USA
  15. Bibian BlueBarcelona, Spain
  16. Boom Boom Baby Boutique*Norwich, England, UK
  17. Clessidra CoutureOxfordshire, England, UK
  18. Contour CorsetsPhiladelphia, PA, USA
  19. Corsetry & RomanceCracow, Poland
  20. Corsets & MoreAldersbach, Germany
  21. Crikey AphroditeGlasgow, Scotland, UK
  22. Flo FoxworthyWellington, NZ
  23. Karolina LaskowskaLondon, England, UK
  24. LaBelle FairyCranbrook, BC, Canada
  25. Lace EmbraceVancouver, BC, Canada
  26. Laurie TavanSan Jose, CA, USA
  27. Lovely RatsDallas, TX, USA
  28. Lovesick Corrective ApparelToronto, Ontario, Canada
  29. Luscious PearlSurrey, BC, Canada
  30. Madame SherSão Paolo, Brazil
  31. Maison MoginotParis, France
  32. MDC DesignsBakersfield, CA, USA
  33. Miss KatieHastings, England, UK
  34. Morgana Femme CoutureLondon, England, UK
  35. MorúaChicago, IL, USA
  36. Neon DuchessPortsmouth, England, UK
  37. OrchidShrewsbury, England, UK
  38. Period Corsets* – Seattle, WA, USA
  39. Pop AntiqueSan Francisco, CA, USA
  40. Purdy CorsetryAuckland, NZ
  41. Retro FolieMontreal, Quebec, Canada
  42. RomantasySan Francisco, CA, USA
  43. Rosie RedOxford, England, UK
  44. Royal BlackVienna, Austria
  45. Scoundrelle’s KeepSaint Paul, MN, USA
  46. SerindëParis, France
  47. Sian HoffmanLondon, England, UK
  48. Skeletons in the ClosetBuitenpost, NL
  49. SnowBlack CorsetsSilesia, Poland
  50. Sparklewren*Birmingham, England, UK
  51. SugarKitty Corsets*Columbus, OH, USA
  52. Sweet CarouselEdmonton, Alberta, CA
  53. Tighter CorsetsDuvall, WA, USA
  54. VanyanísMelbourne, Australia
  55. VideNoirMilan, Italy
  56. Waisted CoutureLas Vegas, NV, USA
  57. Wilde Hunt CorsetryColumbus, OH, USA
  58. Wyte PhantomBarnton, England, UK

    Latex Corsets

    Ooh La Latex

    Ooh La Latex

  59. Atsuko KudoLondon, England, UK
  60. Lady LucieLondon, England, UK
  61. Lust DesignsOakland, CA, USA
  62. Ooh La LatexLondon, England, UK
  63. Westward BoundPlymouth, England, UK

    Legacy Brands

    Dark Garden Unique Corsetry

    Dark Garden Unique Corsetry

  64. Bizarre DesignAmsterdam, NL – Established 1987
  65. C & S ConstructionsWiltshire, England, UK – Established 1988/1995
  66. Dark GardenSan Francisco, CA, USA – Established 1989
  67. Puimond*Los Angeles, CA, USA – Established 1995
  68. Starkers!Toronto, Ontario, Canada – Established 1992