Corset Care 101: How to Store Your Corset
With the winter holiday season officially over, many of us are sorting through the accumulated rubble of our various gifts received and parties thrown. As for me, I also have been in the process of unpacking from my first move in four years, so besides picking up a season's worth of cocktail dresses from my dressing room floor, I have to sort and put away all my regular clothes, including my collection of corsets. There are several different ways to store a corset; today I'll cover four basic ways, plus a bonus decorative storage method I've always secretly wanted to try.
1. Laced and laid flat in a drawer
This is perhaps the simplest and most obvious solution. Between wearings, tighten the laces on your corset until its gap is fully closed. (Put one of the busk loops behind the stud side of the busk while fastening the others like normal; the tension will keep the busk from opening itself.) Tie off the excess lacing into a bow and then pull it straight up, tucking it inside the corset at the center back. Lay your corset flat in a drawer, stacking your collection but being careful not to place anything adjacent to a delicate fabric (such as a lace overlay) that might snag it (including the busk of another corset). You may also fold your corsets in thirds if your drawer is the wrong proportion for them to lay flat. Depending on the shape distribution and boning pattern, some corsets may not fold well. Alternatively, you can place them semi-upright in a bin instead of flat in a drawer.
2. Rolled up and stored in a drawer or bin
With your corset unlaced, roll your corset up around itself, starting with the stud side of the busk and leaving the fashion fabric facing outwards. When you get to the lacing gap, keep rolling, but make sure you catch the ribbon loops at that point. As with the previous method, the boning placement may affect how well your corset rolls, but the rolling shouldn't cause any damage to the bones, even for long-term storage.
If you are concerned about your fabric getting dirty or abraded (white corsets, lace overlays, rhinestone detailing, etc.), you may wish to protect it by then wrapping it in a corset bag, pillow case, or perhaps even the leg cut from a pair of nylons. I wouldn't recommend storing all of your corsets wrapped if you have a lot of them, as it'll be hard to tell them all apart if you can't see the fabric clearly.
3. Hanging from its laces on a hanger
This is how most of my corsets are stored. You can have your corsets laced or unlaced for this method, but I like to leave them unlaced because then it's easier to get back into them. Simply flop your corset over the bar on a hanger so it's suspended by its laces. Use a sturdy hanger, as the weight of the corset can cause bowing or drooping. I like to use tiered slack hangers, as closet space is at a high premium for me. The boning pattern makes no difference with this method; however, protecting more fragile fabrics is less straightforward. Though I've yet to try it, you could place a piece of fabric over the corset in question, like a dropcloth, perhaps pinning a couple of places to keep it from sliding right off every time you go for the adjacent corset or article of clothing.
4. Laced closed and hanging facing out
Using the busk trick from the first storage method, lace your corset fully shut and tie off the waist loops. You can tuck the bow into the top of the corset as above, or wrap it around the neck of your hanger.
Method A: As well as the hanger, you'll also need some ribbon (probably about two feet should be sufficient) and two safety pins, such as the tiny gold ones that come with a lot of clothing and lingerie. Cut your ribbon in half (burn the ends if you don't want it to fray), then fold it in half. Pin through both layers of ribbon (on the cut end) to the lining of your corset at the side seam to create your own hanger loops. If your corset is too wide to hang well this way, try pinning the ribbon ends separately to front and back, like a spaghetti strap closer to the princess line.
Method B: Use a skirt hanger, protecting your fabric from the grips with padding made from scraps of fabric or wider ribbon, such as a soft cotton twill. (Try not to use the padding pieces each time you unclip your corset!) This method works best for corsets that are roughly the same height all the way across; less well for sweetheart and low-back styles, particularly in larger sizes.
This will create a nice boutique-like feel, particularly if you use high quality, matching hangers.
5. Displayed proudly on your wall
I've always thought a beautiful and clever way to both store and display a few corsets would be to hang them on my way, like pieces of art. Follow the directions to hang a corset laced shut, and choose an attractive hanger (such as these padded hangers) from which to hang it. Then, find a frame that is large enough for the corset and the hanger both. You won't need the matboard or the glass --- check vintage and thrift stores for bargains on frames missing these components. Tap in a nail or coat hook where you'd like the top of the hanger to be, hold up the frame for placement, then add a second nail above for the frame.
One warning: leaving your corsets hanging for too long could of course result in them getting dirty or discolored, so be careful about where they're placed, check them regularly to see if they need cleaning, and perhaps rotate the display every so often. This is not a long-term storage solution.
How do you store your corsets? Do you have a method not listed above? Please share in the comments.