Corset Shopping: Levels of Customization and Fit Glossary
When buying a corset, there are many types of corset available for purchase – and I don’t just mean the diverse styles! Between the factory produced and the handmade options, your head could spin with the acronyms, turnarounds, and fit options… so let’s break these levels of purchase down into a handy glossary, shall we?
Off the Rack / OTR: Also known as “Off the Peg,” an off the rack corset is in-stock, standard sized, and available to be brought home or shipped immediately at time of purchase. For some, OTR refers only to mass-produced/budget corsets, not handmade, though some corsetieres may have a boutique or showroom where handmade stock pieces are kept.
Ready to Wear / RTW: Ready to wear, or the French Prêt à Porter, is mostly used as a catch-all term for standard fit. Technically it is a synonym for off the rack, a corset available for immediate purchase, but in the vernacular it can also refer to a standard style and size that is made to order.
Made to Order / MTO: A made-to-order corset is a standard size corset that isn’t made until it’s been ordered. The corset style, fabric, and detailing combination may be from a standardized menu or uniquely based on the client’s choice of fabric and detailing. Made to Order corsets are individually handmade and the turnaround will vary by maker.
Altered Made to Order: The advantage to a MTO corset is that it can also easily accommodate small fit personalizations – for example, a longer or shorter torso length, or a larger hip spring. You should expect to pay an additional fee for this service. Turnarounds might be slightly longer than a standard MTO but much shorter than for a custom corset.
Semi-Custom: The specifics of semi-custom will vary from maker to maker – for example, it may refer to a corset with standard height, but personalized circumference measurements (such as underbust, waist, and hip), or it could be used as a more succinct phrasing for “Altered MTO.”
Made to Measure / MTM: For MTM, a thorough set of measurements is taken and a unique pattern is drafted. The corset is then sewn in the final fabric. I generally don’t recommend MTM corsets: they are essentially custom corsets without the benefit of a toile/mockup fitting to test and confirm the fit. Custom corsetry addresses the unique variances between bodies; by skipping the mockup you don’t allow for the unique variances in compressibility and posture as well as pure measurements, and if the measurements taken are inaccurate the whole thing is a wasted endeavor.
Custom/Bespoke: A custom corset is fit in every dimension for your body only. A unique pattern is made and the fit is tested via mockup fittings. All the vertical and circumferential measurements are fine-tuned for the individual, as is the angle, shape, and placement of the seams. The best custom corsets are the result of an ongoing association between client and maker, as certain corseting preferences may only become apparent after prolonged wear. Custom corsets may be based on a standard style or have a unique silhouette. A custom corset is significantly more expensive and has a much longer turnaround than a standard made-to-order.
Do you own a custom or off-the-rack corset? What do you think of these terms?