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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.


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 shortcuts 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 curvier 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 five 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?

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

84 Comments on this post

  1. Beans says:

    A solid article, I only have one problem. Steel boning is totally unnecessary. I have seen some very solid, well shaped corsets intended for tightlacing with (and this is may seem a little weird) industrial zip ties used instead. They hold a rigid shape that is somewhat flexible. With the proper machine, they can be sewn through so the top or bottom of the piece does not warp. Plastic wont rust or catch, caps wont fall off and wont take on a weird bend with wear.

    Steel boning is NOT a must but you do have to be careful about the quality of any plastic used.

  2. Kylee says:

    Hey there i was wondering if you could shed some insight on some products, shape waist corsets and orchard corsets those are the stores for the corsets i am considering in possibly purchasing. I am very unsure if they are likely to work or just taking my money. I would love your insight on this matter and if they arent good places to buy from do you know of any good online stores that wont cost me an arm and a leg. Thanks so much ! Looking foreward to hear from you. -kylee :)

  3. Hattie says:

    Hi, I’m not so interested in achieving a small waist/ hour glass figure as I am sort of naturally curvey in that way. I am more interested in flattening my ribs from the side, as in making them less barrel shaped. Is this possible or does waist training simply not work that way?

  4. Lizabeth Williams says:

    Though the defined waist is my favorite part of a corset, It doesn’t work on me. I’ve probably spent 300 hours corset shopping and researching in the last few years, I’ve spent real money on a product that is worse than I could expect. Even Custom corsetieres make my search difficult. I’m 5’2, I have a medium build, a mom pooch and wide ribs. A normal corset, roughly 300 dollars in my world (PS, I work at the Renaissance faires ) will hurt me. I have saggy mom boobs, so under busts don’t work, but a Victorian is too high. a normal length, properly laced will cut off the circulation to my hips and legs, making them go numb if I sit down. and then there is the boning, it crumples up after a few days of wear, because it isn’t pressed to fit me. Hip bulges, fabric bubbling. I’ve nearly given up on the corset industry, I have tried, and I just can’t find anything that makes me feel beautiful, and will hold up during a working day.

  5. Vina says:

    I got a couple of cheap plastic-boned corsets back inky late teens to train myself into a proper corset when I could afford one. The one that everyone Ooh’s at is like the Lip Service one in fit, but it’s shiny red ruffled taffeta. The other (crimson cotton) one has a muchbetter fit, but zips up the side. :-/ I only wear it for light use and last-minute costumes, and practicing proper lacing
    And to those bemoaning being plus sized:It’s no easier to get a decent-fitting corset when you’re underweight -I end up wearing a bra underneath…

  6. Laura says:

    Thanks for the lovely article. It seems everywhere you look there are new corset myths, so every little bit helps!

    I’m in the process of having my first corset custom made, and I absolutely cannot wait!
    I decided to go with a custom-made (rather than ready-to-wear) corset, because the main thing I am looking for in my corset isn’t waist-training but bust-support – and I tend to have trouble finding pre-made overbusts for my G-cups!
    My corsetmaker has been super helpful, and we’ve had a few fittings for the mock-up – even with only half the boning sticky-taped into the mock-up, and a very loose lacing (there were no eyelets and only a single seam for each panel, so we didn’t pull tight at all), it feels fantastic and gives me an immediate but gentle curve (and smooths out all those lumpy areas that no-one else needs to know about!)
    I’ve attached a photo if anyone wants to see – I just can’t contain my excitement and want to share it with everyone! :)

  7. DannyJane says:

    Sorry, but for some of us a custom corset is the ONLY way to go. I am 5’2″, plus sized and VERY short-waisted. Besides that I am exceptionally curvy with a need for a lot of bust support and a 14″ difference between my waist and hip measurements. Off-the-rack corset never come in a short waisted cut and nobody makes a corset to accomodate a large waist/hip ratio. The narrowest part of a commercial corset will naturally gravitate to my waist, the top binding will cut deeply into my underarm and the back lacing will either meet at the waist or gap too much at the hip. Custom made is the only way.

  8. Laurie Tavan says:

    I’d also say lacing gap width is also a very personal preference but agree that even gap is prefered (although bridal clients seem to like the”v” shaped lacing for wedding gowns I’ve found). I have had clients who prefer their corsets to close and some who want the 2″ gap and others who have requested 4″ gap because they fluctuate a lot weight wise or just like more lacing visible.For the most part though I agree with all your assessments. Great article.

  9. Laurie Tavan says:

    I’ve had clients ask for a more “)(” shaped corset with more gentle curved because they wanted custom fit but without a wasp waist or distinct nip into the waist. So while I agree that a lot of off the rack or cheap corsets will give this shaping not all corsets with this shaping are bad. Different people desire different shaping… I am still proud of the fit on this corset.

  10. john says:

    Thanks for providing all this information. I like to buy my wife corsets and she loves to wear them. She & I wondered why some seemed to fit ok and some seemed to just smash her whole upper body flat into a tube rather than make her more shapely like they should have. I will buy only a higher quality now because I know they will be more comfortable for her also thanks again

  11. Christina Wheeler says:

    Hi Marianne,

    Thanks for the great article. I am in the midst of trying to pattern my own corset. I’m not a pro wearer yet, but maybe someday. My waist is 29.5″, hips 41″ and I am confused on how to pattern for my hips. Meaning the correct difference to get a curvy shape. Any help is Greatly appreciated. Thanks

  12. Sonia says:

    Wow! I learned so much about corsets! Thank you. Can plus size girls start waist training too??

    • Thursday says:

      The ability to waist-train does not depend on your figure, Sonia. As fat is quite easily compressed, plus size girls may even experience more dramatic reduction of the waist. It will differ for each person.

  13. Jameelah says:

    Nice advice, Do anyone know where I can get a corset in my size my waist is 52″ PLEASE someone help me.

  14. Anne says:

    How I wish you would added to the examples one of the corsets from Corsets UK (the same as punk69, corset deal, etc etc, they’re very popular, you even illustrated one of them here, the red one at the begining), because they seem like they have a strong construction and they’re steel boned and everything, but their underbusts don’t seem to give much shape, unless laced in a certain way. I don’t really have a budget to spend 100 dollars on a corset although I know I should but I judt can’t right now, so I have to stick with the fairly cheap ones (not chinese, nonono). I found a really good corset maker on eBay (don’t hit me) that sold his corsets at around 50 and it fits like a wonder, super comfortable, the gromnets are even when I lace it and give me a beautiful shape without much effort at all but he doesn’t have many designs :( So I was wondering to buy one from Punk69/corset Deal etcetc but I don’t know :( Any advice? Can you recommend corsets under 100? I know I should spend if I want quality and I’d love to, but I just can’t right now haha, and I really love to wear corsets. :) Cheers on an awesome post!

    • Olivia says:

      Hi Anne – just wondering if you had the corset makers details for ebay, I’m looking for the same kind of thing & looking for something plain, and cannot *currantly* afford a custom-made one

      – asides, really interesting article, esp about the gromnets & lacing

  15. Gina says:

    Hi, I’m a newbie to corsets and am looking for further input about “what to look for in a corset” especially a custom-made one that is meant to “fit properly.” I’m very busty and recently ordered a custom-fitted corset at a local shop. It is a sweetheart Victorian that costs about $1000. I had a couple of mock-up fittings and when I tried on the final piece, it “fit” right in all the areas below my chest; the corset was beautifully constructed and comfortable to wear — again, in areas below the chest. Now for the chest area, the breasts only fit in the corset if the top was loosened. When it was tightly laced and supportive, I got double boobs. With the loosening, there was extra room in the cups where my breasts could just sit in the space. However, the loosening made the corset less supportive for my breasts, so that when I raised my arms, there was a huge gap between the corset and my breasts, and when I bent over, my breasts would sag and literally look and feel as if they were about to fall out of the corset. Basically, I’m self conscious and worry about my breasts falling out of the corset. I need the corset to be functional and practical for everyday wear. I am very dissatisfied with the final piece I tried on and haven’t paid in full for it yet. The corset shop staff kept telling me the corset looked amazing on me and that it “fit well” and I don’t completely trust their opinion.

    This is my first (and pricey) custom-made corset. I’m looking for input from corsetmakers and those who generally wear custom-made corsets for their expectations in a custom-made corset. Like what does it mean for a corset to fit properly? Does it just have to look right from eye view, especially in the waist, and be snug, comfortable, and breathable in that area? Is support for the breasts (I.e. containing them enough so they don’t fall out of the corset) significant, or secondary to looks? Would appreciate your help on this. Thanks!

    • Treacle says:

      Hi Gina,

      Thanks for commenting! There are a ton of articles about corsetry on The Lingerie Addict. You can find many of them under the label “corset.”


  16. kabuki couture says:

    great piece, the photos comparing the corset shapes is most excellent, there are just two things im itching to say, “The shape of the side seam when it’s not on a body is the same shape it will give the body” while the shape of the side seam ( if said maker uses a side seam ) is a good indication of the shape it will have on the body it is not a absolute, for a dramatic curve one would need to spread the waist reduction out over at least a couple of side seams unless you want a horrible puckered and wrinkly mess.
    the second is just my little 2 cents ( and i know you werent covering everything) and thats, when buying a well made and expensive corset one thing i look at and one thing that drives me nuts is when a corset maker machine stitches down the bias tape rather than hand stitching it down it looks terrible!!!
    thanks for this it was a good read :)

  17. Danika says:

    I know this is not on the topic of the article but can you tell me where I can get that top I love it.

    Sorry for off topic.

  18. Seams Plus Stress says:

    …To be concise, my point is this:
    Saying “knits cannot be used to make a corset” invalidates your methods, and punishes you for your creativity.

    Saying “knits cannot be used to make a corset unless stabilized by a strength layer” expresses the intended idea, while being inclusive of your craft. Especially in presentations to newbie corset makers/purchasers, we should err towards being inclusive of our comrades. People should be educated enough to make unpopular choices – correctly.

    I understand why your focus in the article is so narrow. At the very least, mentioning that these “rules” were specifically addressing a particular type of corset (and why) would have gone a long way.

  19. Seams Plus Stress says:

    I appreciate that you are generalizing and focusing on one commonly used style of corset pattern/construction. Many (maybe even most) currently practicing corset makers rely on this style.

    This article reads like a guide of what to look for, and what to AVOID. Presented to the novice by the experienced corset maker.
    That said, blanket statements like “…it’s a straight line.” and “The shape of the side seam when it’s not on a body is the same shape it will give the body. ” are simply untrue. These are not universal facts, and should not be stated as such. There is far too much variation in method to warrant these kinds of concrete statements – especially when telling people “what to look for.”
    Qualifying words like often, usually, sometimes etc… would have provided appropriate accuracy, without adding too much bulk to your article.

    Most of the information here is helpful, if not accurate. I think you wrote a great article, and I applaud dissemination of information and self promotion. I guess my issue is that in doing so, you have invalidated methods outside of your own, and implied absolutes that may serve to work against your fellow corsetieres (should they stray from the common straight-drafted Victorianesque). …And even yourself – (“the waist should be a clearly defined point above a visible hip curve”) should you attempt fitting someone of obese or otherwise awkward stature.
    It is neither difficult, nor inappropriate to hand draft a curved center seam or to avoid placing a seam on the direct side of the body. It is merely uncommon. “Their own patterns cut for modern figures…” doesn’t have to exclude Edwardian (or other less common) stylings.

    I will agree that there simply isn’t room to tackle everything. I will agree that due to the nature of the article, short and sweet is a good tack. My criticism is not about all the many things left out of this article. It is about the potential negative impact of the included information – when it is applied to Well Made corsets that happen to fall outside of a perilously narrow focus.

  20. Seams Plus Stress says:

    This is a great article.
    I have to say that the segment on pattern matching is a bit misleading. While it may not take much more fabric or effort to match a pattern, there are many cases in which it Does require more fabric (and time) to match a pattern across the front of a corset.
    Plaids and two-tone stripes tend to be pretty easy in this regard. Larger repeating patterns can often handle being cut down the middle and applied to each side. In order to completely spread an image across the front of a corset, one needs to take into account the seam allowances. This will require more fabric and attention to detail. This is best illustrated in the Heron corset above. If the corset maker hadn’t cut the front halves from two different images, the seam allowances would chop out most of the bird.

    • I chose Alexis’s Heron as an example of *exceptional* pattern cutting – at no point did I mean to imply that all prints should match across all seams. Illustrative prints like the heron corset are kind of a separate category from a simple repeating motif. They do indeed take up MUCH more fabric and time to cut. Even the blue and burgundy victorian balloon underbust at the top of the article took me a surprising amount of yardage.

      But, for a basic brocade, cotton novelty print, or lace, matching just the center front line, specifically, is something I expect from any high quality, handmade corsets. Ironically, even heavily mass-produced corsets are often able to easily match their patterns and plaids because they are cut using computers and lasers. There is no good excuse for a handmade corset to be blatantly disjointed across the center front. There is no good excuse for not matching a plaid horizontally. The only reason you would not match either of those things is if you just straight up forgot, and/or did not have enough fabric, which isn’t really a great excuse for a professional businessperson…

      I’m not going to lie and pretend I’ve never messed up and forgotten to match a print, but knowing that cutting is not my strength I just preempt the problem now and usually contract my cutting to a particular someone who is exceptionally good at it.

      • Seams Plus Stress says:

        I absolutely agree with you about the importance of matching the center front (and the messages conveyed to the potential purchaser through failure to do so.)

        “Pattern matching at the front closure doesn’t take much additional time or fabric because it’s a straight line.” is the specific statement I was responding to. Misleading? Only due to oversimplification of a point.

        Many Edwardian patterns and patterns for stouter figures are not cut on a straight line at the center front.
        Regarding patterns that are completely straight in CF orientation, it is a straight line AND a seam allowance. In the case of a large detailed print such as the Heron corset, you could go through a sizable amount of fabric before you wound up with a second image to use for the other half of the center front panel+seam allowance. (Heaven forbid you botch one side and have to locate a third image!)

        • Most practicing commercial corsetieres tend to use their own patterns cut for modern figures, rather than historical recreations. Or at the very least, they are adapting the historical patents/patterns, since they’re almost certainly going to need to be graded to size anyway. And if one was doing a historical recreation of an Edwardian style, then it’s pretty unlikely that that corsetmaker would be using a print anyway… Basically, for this article, I wanted a simple How To of what to look out for, and unfortunately I couldn’t fit in All The Things and exceptions and variations… There’s a LOT of detail stuff I didn’t bother to mention because of space issues (like hand-stitched, rather than metal, eyelets). All my posts here tend to run a smidge too long as it is… what I’m saying is, I’m somewhat obligated to simplify points when I’m pontificating.

          I don’t think anyone would try to use a large-scale print like the heron illustration if they weren’t going to match it – no matter what you’re matching, you’re always going to have to move to find the matching repeat, and you can usually still use the space in between for other panels. If you want an attention-getting detail (vintage lace, crazy pattern matching, etc), it should be worked into the costing/price of the corset. Most often the culprits for mismatched center fronts are lace and cotton novelty prints, which have reasonably small repeats or at least space between for cutting additional panels. The overall point is that there are certain things I expect from a handmade corset, and that is high on the list. In 2012, most real corsets are expected to be high-quality, handmade pieces, which are therefore expensive, because they are now special occasion garments rather than daily foundation wear. (Even for those rare clients who do wear them as daily foundation wear, it’s still a specialty market.) So the production and construction of a modern corset should ideally support (no pun intended) those expectations.

        • Oh – and there’s always the option of cutting a large-scale illustration like that on the fold and omitting the front busk, as I did when knitting the “chat noir” illustration! Sometimes sacrifices of practicality must be made for the sake of design.

  21. AlexaFaie says:

    Great article. This might just be the best I’ve seen so far in breaking down what to look for in a corset, both in terms of description and photos. I’m a total corset addict and have been for many many years so none of this is new to me, but its fantastic for those who know very little and are just starting out in the world of corsetry.

    I do find I get pickier and pickier when it comes to corsets as time goes on though. I get so fussy about pattern matching that when I used paint to create a corset design for a potential corset I painstakingly copied and pasted the tiny swatch which was available (only had a thumbnail size) so it would match for the front!! One of the reasons why I’m so hesitant to try my hand at corsetry – I’m too much of a perfectionist and I can’t do straight lines very well so I’d hate to see what I do to seams….

    As for the boning issue, I think if they are positioned correctly that you don’t need loads of bones. But the most comfortable off the rack corset I’ve ever tried on was one by Corset Rouge and they use tons of thin (and lightweight) bones throughout the corset (28-60 on average). I loved the feel. I’m quite boney and the corset I had been wearing that day which was a custom one, had rubbed on my hips despite me using bra pads to pad my hips. So my hips were a bit sore. Tried on the Corset Rouge corset and it was sooooo comfortable, like putting on a pair of slippers after being in heels all day! No pressure anywhere as it was all spread out so evenly. Of course the patterning will have helped too. But I’d probably be far too lazy to put so many bones into a corset I made myself. Takes so much more effort! Ha ha! And you have to be soooo neat – something Corset Rouge do so well. See here:
    Then again, I have newer made to measure corsets which don’t have loads of bones, but they are really comfy and have no pressure points. I guess it just comes down to skill in the end.

    And as for shape, unless you are the same size at underbust, waist and hips, don’t bother with corsets-uk as they have no shape to them at all. My hips are 10″ bigger than my natural waist, the corsets are made 8″ bigger than the corset waist size. So pick a corset 4″ smaller than your natural waist and the hips are 6″ too small! Even if you have an 8″ difference between waist and hips naturally you wouldn’t be able to close the corset comfortably. Not if you want any waist reduction that is. And these are the corsets they sell as “waist training” and suitable for a 6″ reduction. Eeep! Maybe the people who came up with the patterns for their corsets have bones made of jelly…. ;)

  22. kimera says:

    The smurf corset was from House of Canney.

    This was posted today, January 10th 2012 on thier Facebook page.

    Scroll through their pictures. It’s in there.


    • Thank you. Alexis of Electra Designs helped me identify it earlier so I noted it in the comments above, but I’ll email Treacle and see if we can run a correction in the body of the article where it will be more visible. I was kind of amazed that my initial google for “smurf corset” didn’t instantly answer my question.

  23. KathTea says:

    You know, re-reading this article reminded me on why you criticised FGM for not pattern matching their plaid overbust… But it appears somebody had deleted your comment there! Tsk tsk…

    I mean, if they went on to say “Thank you, we’ll try to do that with future corsets next time.” that would have been nice. Or even a simple excuse for not doing so. But to delete criticism?!

    • I think that particular image is uploaded to multiple albums on their Facebook page – I just checked and the comment is still there. The corset in question is not made by FGM, just one of the lines they carry, and I’ve seen other illustrious corsetieres forget to match their CF on their cotton novelty prints or lace overlays as well. I’d like to think this article is helpful to consumers and corsetieres alike. Sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot by forgetting a seemingly small detail, or we may even get sucked into the same hype that I’m attempting to dispel.

      • KathTea says:

        Oh okay then sorry ><" Must have been a misunderstanding.

        Yeah, the latest corset I am getting would involve pattern matching with no extra charge! However the corsetiere said that she would prefer to only match the front two panels and not the rest…

        I've always wondered where the other corsets from FGM came from… I know they have plenty of Miss Katie, Puimond, Valkyrie Corsets and of course FGM, but there are a few that appear… unnamed.

      • KathTea says:

        And I believe the plaid corset on FGM is a Miss Katie corset. It is rather cute though. Would be even more mindblowing with matching plaid :P

  24. Andrea says:

    Awesome article. Really interesting reading up on corsets. I got a corset off eBay, (it wasn’t that cheap) and it fits quite comfortably, but it doesn’t give the same shape as the ones that you have shown from your line and the others. When I look at it, it’s almost straight, I would love to invest in a custom made one as I am curvier and find it hard to find one that suits and fits well. :)

    • As a corset wearer, I’m super open to trying other RTW corsetmakers but Dark Garden and my line definitely have the curviest off-the-rack patterns of any that I’ve tried, being well-suited to a 10-12″ hip to waist difference. If you happen to be in or around San Francisco, Dark Garden has a bit of an advantage in that they have an amazing shop where you can get professionally fitted and try on size samples.

      If you haven’t seen it yet, you can also read Treacle’s 51 Places to Buy Your Next Corset:
      There’s no limit on the curves if you’re ordering fully custom and you may be able to find a corsetmaker who is close enough to you for an in-person fitting. DG and Electra Designs are both specialists in the remote fitting process, though the latter is not currently taking orders.

      • Vanessa Pangaud says:

        I have had a long affair with corsets and still, after 15 years, still adore wearing one. I’ver owned maybe two or three “high end” corsets but, for the most part, I wear what I can afford and that is Heavy Red for the most part.
        I am a strong believer in you get what you pay for and that the person who makes it is an artisan and mass producing corsets such as Heavy Red and others make are simply inferior.
        I wanted to add another place you can get handmade stunning corsets online which hasn’t been mentioned. The website is and Simone is the women who runs things. Her skills are easily seen directly from pictures found online. I have admired the corsets in her online gallery for years.
        I finally had a little money to spend as I wished and once we had the specifics down I find myself waiting, with baited breath, to receive the custom corset she is making me as we speak. I feel so lucky that someone I have admired for the better part of a decade is making me a custom corset! I thought the price she decided I thought was quite fair. Mind you I chose a simpler corset than most in her repertoire which are SENSATIONAL, but out of my price range at the moment.
        Anyhow, I thought that people who are looking into good corsetries should check out her website. Along with custom corsets, she does also do off the rack sizing for less if you contact her.

        • Jessica says:

          Hello ladies!

          Im wanting to buy my first corset/waist trainer ever I have always wanted one. Im a pretty curvy women ive recently lost 82lbs in about an 8mo period. But still about 200lbs. I was built definitely with child bearing hips, a ghetto booty and a slim torse. I have a minor case of scoliosis. Is it better for me buy off the rack or get a custome fitted corset? And I have a what they an apron stomach from having babies and losing and gaining weighg what else can I do to flatten that some? Ive been doing cardio yoga and walking uphill which is about a mile walk. Is it possible due to my shape im not able to wear one and get the look I want?

      • Denise says:

        Isn’t the desirability of various shapes subjective, rather than a marker of quality? For me, personally, the wasp waist combined with convex hips looks horrendous (that mockup with the tightlacer makes me want to run screaming in the other direction) and I’d prefer the inverted parentheses. Or better yet, the shape of the lady in the top photo.

  25. katie says:

    Great article. So agree with you about the boning issue (and everything else in fact!)


  26. Gaby says:

    This was a really fascinating article – and also outlines why I am yet to tackle corsetry – I could never live to up to the amazing corsetiers out there already!!

  27. Lindsay says:

    I’m not 100% sure without looking, but I’m fairly sure that cheap overbust was Leg Avenue, not Lip Service, which probably makes it even more regrettable. I don’t know if you’d need or want to change that.

  28. If anyone’s curious, Alexis of Electra Designs was able to find the source for the amazing smurf corset:

  29. KathTea says:

    Hi Marianne, I’m doing a piece on corsetry for the newspaper I’m interning at so check your e-mail inbox :D

    And thanks for the article. Very enlightening. I have to say though, I am going to be experimenting something from Desert Orchid Designs later this year and well, it involves a corset with a zillion spiral steel bones. I trust Bethan when she said that it was comfy (she made a sample corset with that feature and wore it) so I am just giving it a gamble… Plus, something unique I suppose!

    • Oh, don’t get me wrong – there are times when more bones are a good idea. Sparklewren notoriously uses a lot of very carefully placed bones to give her corsets that surreal smoothness.
      I tend to gravitate to the other end of the spectrum, being quite bony to begin with, and personally, I find spirals a lot more comfortable than flats, but some people prefer the rigidity of flats.

      Basically my point is that there is no rule of thumb that says a corset needs to have 50+ bones in order to function. The style of the corset, the production methods of the corset maker, and of course the preference of the person wearing the corset are all carefully balanced when considering things like how heavily boned a corset is. I’m not trying to say that heavy boning is bad – just not automatically good.

      • Aurora says:

        Basically my point is that there is no rule of thumb that says a corset needs to have 50+ bones in order to function.

        Wow! Here I was thinking that I was probably on the little-bit-overboard side, but I don’t think I’ve ever put more than 30 bones in a modern corset. 50+ seems like way too much, even for someone like me who’s on the close side of obese.

        • Haha, that may have been hyperbole on my part. I just remember reading posts from corsetry communities on LiveJournal and thinking, “You put HOW many bones in that thing??”

          There is such a thing as a “fully boned” corset, which is basically what it sounds like. “Modern corset” is a good point, though, as earlier stays were more often fully boned.

          Anyway, there’s a lot of factors that go into how many bones and what sort a particular corset will get. As mentioned in another comment as well as yours, larger clients need more bones to balance out the distribution; tightlacers also need the additional support. Bones help smooth out sharp curves that might otherwise pucker. For me, I prefer being minimally constricted (thus the rib-cup), so I favor relatively light boning.

      • Andrea says:

        As an addendum to this, plus sized women need more boning than skinnier women. Lots of corset makers, even those who do custom work regularly and are extremely well known, expand the pattern pieces without accounting for adding more boning. The result is a corset that has distinct pressure points that become quite painful, and a corset that warps. If the photo on a website shows only boning at seems, and you want out in a size over 30″, ask before ordering if the larger sizes have additional boning. Doesn’t have to have 50 steels by any means, but 14-16 bones and a busk is NOT enough for waists that measure 34″ or more! Something for the curvier women to keep in mind!

        • Good point! That’s part of what I mean by the distribution of the boning. I think this is partially offset if the corsetmaker in question double bones their seams as a matter of course, but overall the issue of additional mid-panel boning for plus size clientelle is multifaceted in terms of customer perceptions and emotional response, production realities, etc. Ideally, educated clients will bring this concern up with thoughtful shopgirls or corsetieres to find the best solution for their body.

          Also, the placement of the seams can make a huge difference – for me, with a particular colleague’s work, I am between two sizes. The boning placement on the larger size is much more comfortable even if I am lacing it to the same waist measurement. Some corsets just fit better on some bodies, be it a particular style or the maker as a whole.

          • Cassie says:

            When I was making corsets, I used to try to make my bones evenly placed. Generally 1″ apart on smaller sizes and 2″ for larger sizes, although I wouldn’t have a set formula. I wasn’t a great pattern matcher despite trying to be hahaha, but all of my clients were quite happy with the comfort and overall look of my corsets.

      • KathTea says:

        Well, if I am not mistaken, based on the design that I am hoping to go for, there might be 30-40 bones! Sounds crazy but I remember reading somewhere that it would help with my back.

        Only time can tell!

        PS: I think I favour spirals more then again my only experience with flats was with a Punk69 corset so… *shrug*

        • 30-40 bones isn’t that crazy. Again, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with lots of bones, I just wouldn’t use it on its own as a quality indicator. The extra bones may very well help with your back, just make sure they’re also comfortable against your front ribs.
          Flats come in different grades – some are super stiff, some are strong but more flexible.
          I prefer spirals as well, but I use actually use a combination of flats and spirals to achieve my preferred balance of flexibility and stability for Pop Antique corsets.

  30. Brilliant article that busts some corsetry myths. Thanks!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • Constance says:

      Thanks for the info. I have always found myself wanting to invest in a corset, but being that I am considered a Plus sized female ( 5’6″ 335lbs) trying to find a corset that would one fit and two be long enough has been a daunting task. I say long enough due to the fact that most of my weight is in the belly area. Do you have any suggestions for someone like myself? Any and all comments will be greatly appreciated!

      • Susan says:

        Was there ever an answer to this question? I’d like to hear it too.

      • kirsten says:

        i know two corset makers who can and do fit plus sizes. the FIT of their corset, and the look of their corsets, are VERY different.
        1. Mayfair Moon (aka Nikki Cohen) who makes a more straight sided corset (trust me its awesome, full pictures on her webpage or facebook) this will make you look fabulous, but will NOT pull in your waist.
        2. Brute Force (aka brute force leather, they make fabric and / or leather corsets as well as fantasy pieces that… well corset is the closest word) this is a typical Victorian style, with a curve in to the waist (what most people are thinking of) this is run by Thomas Willeford who also writes books on steampunk stuff….

      • Kat says:

        Check out Mayfaire Moon Corsets. Nikki is based in Philadelpha & is a petite, plus-sized woman who makes amazing corsets for women of all shapes and sizes. You may have heard of her Tardis corset that most recently went to Heathrow for a photo shoot/book promo. You can find her via Facebook or

      • Alice says:

        Honestly a good place to look for custom corsets to fit the 300+ lb lady would be historical costumers. Hit up your local ren faire or any historical reenactment group, you may be able to commission a custom piece or at least get pointed in the right direction.

    • Large gal says:

      What about bigg belly types that want to wear a corset i have little hipsand B cup breast but my belly waist measures larger than my bra so what i just have to loose 30 lbs before i can fit in one???

    • Ev says:

      “Busts” some corsetry myths. Lol :)

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