Review: Vollers 'Waist Hugger' Underbust Corset
Disclosure: This product was purchased for the purpose of review by The Lingerie Addict. All opinions are my own.
Most corset aficionados have heard of Vollers. The British corset brand pack some serious heritage, having been founded in 1899. Vollers' website offers some fascinating snippets of their history; I love the fact that the company occupied the same factory space for over 90 years! All of the brand's corsets are still produced in their UK factory, which is particularly admirable given the recent decline of British manufacturing. As far as I'm aware, Vollers is now the last British brand producing corsets in the UK on such a large scale.
Vollers' website has a vast range of products available, with a huge choice of silhouettes and fabrics. Prices range from £95-£950 ($134-1343), with the majority of styles sitting around the £250-295 ($353-417) mark. All corsets come with a ‘lifetime guarantee’ and are made to order and sent within a day. I find this quite astonishing. Unless intended for very occasional wear, a corset has to take a lot of strain so I'd consider it natural for such a garment to have a finite lifespan. Just for some context, in the late 19th century a corset was considered good value if it came with a guarantee for one year.
Corsets are relatively complex garments to construct, and Vollers offer a lot of customization options on their website. It wouldn't make sense for the brand to carry stock of all of these options, so it's likely the corsets are constructed on a piece basis (individually) rather than on a production line (several of the same garments sew together to save time). I'm deeply impressed that Vollers offers these quality and turnaround guarantees as standard: it must be quite the logistical challenge to handle so many corset possibilities at such speed!
From an aesthetic perspective, many of the designs feel a little dated and don’t look particularly curvy. This isn’t to say a curvy look is a requirement for all corsets (I actually believe that options for straighter silhouettes are a good thing!); it just means that they’re not the right product for me. Nevertheless, when Cora asked me to review one of their pieces I was intrigued to study one of these garments in person. There had to be something in their product range that would work for me.
My body shape is relatively curvy without a corset. Consequently, it's easy to get quite dramatic results without much effort when the corset is the right shape. I was therefore a little concerned that the Vollers standard sizing wouldn’t work for me. I had a conversation with the brand’s online customer service about this, asking which product they’d recommend for my body measurements (35” bust, 27” ribcage, 25” waist, 35” hips), and they told me that the standard sized ‘Waist Hugger’ in 20” would be a good fit and would in fact be suitable for waist training.
Based on this advice, I purchased the 20” ‘Waist Hugger’ underbust corset in a black spot brocade fabric. The style retails at £160 ($226) and is available in sizes 18-38” waists with made to measure offered for 25% more. Fabric choices include black satin, red satin, white ‘Oxford stripe’, and the aforementioned black spot brocade. My order arrived the next day in a gorgeous branded box.
This lovely experience however, was marred by the emails that I received from the company over the next few days. Shortly after the corset arrived, I began receiving almost daily emails asking me to review it for their website. Not even addressing the fact that this hadn't given me enough time to wear the corset properly, I couldn't help but feel a little harassed.
From a technical perspective, the garment has all the necessary components for a sturdy and long-wearing corset. It has a front flexible steel busk closure with a stiff steel boned underbusk placket for re-enforcement and modesty. There are 9 spiral steel bones on each side, encased in a mix of internal and external casings made of a poly-cotton twill. There is about an inch of space at the end of each bone, which does mean that the corset feels a little floppy at its top edge.
A 1" satin ribbon waist tape is held in place by a mix of internal bone cases and outer case stitches. The eyelets at the centre back are framed with a total of 4 flat steel bones. The grommets are of the single piece variety, with a splayed back rather than a standard washer. This isn’t explicitly ‘wrong’ for a corset, but it is a cheaper option to the 2 part eyelet and can result in the ‘teeth’ of the grommet catching on laces with continued wear.
The top and bottom edges of the corset are bound in black Petersham ribbon. The ends are folded to the inside of the garment and bartacked down, with raw edges left visible. Although the bar tack (a stitch used normally on bra underwire cases) means the binding is secure, it does feel a like a cheap finishing option.
The lacing is made of slightly stretchy shoelace cord with plastic coated ends rather than metal aglets (unfortunately even after very few wears, this plastic is already starting to crack and peel away). The modesty panel is unstiffened and uses the brocade as its outer fabric. It is secured with a single row of lockstitch and consequently can be easily removed if desired. The Vollers brand label and sizing information can be found on this panel, with a further label for fabric compositions caught under a bone casing towards the centre back of the garment. A discreet label with the brand name can be found on the outside of the garment by the eyelets. All the fabrics used in the corset are a blend of polyester and cotton.
The stitching is neat and accurate throughout the garment. Unfortunately, this feels somewhat let down by the fact that a relatively long stitch length is used. In the long term this can mean that the garment may not last as long, but it also just doesn’t look that nice. I must admit on the whole though that I am impressed with the quality of the garment given its price and the fact that it’s manufactured in the UK. Any niggles that I have with it are surely down to trying to keep to a relatively low price at a healthy retail margin.
Although there are plenty of independent corset makers that can produce products at this price point, it is not fair to compare them to a brand like Vollers. An independent corset maker is incredibly unlikely to have the overheads of a larger scale company. When you manufacture at factory scale, there are unavoidable fixed costs such as employee wages, machinery and upkeep, rent and utilities, storage costs and much more. All of this has to be accounted for in the products' price margins. Most independent corset makers can bypass this, whether it be through working from home or not holding any stock.
All of these positives though are let down by the frankly appalling fit of the garment on my body. When the corsrt arrived, my initial reaction was one of disappointment - the corset just doesn’t look curvy. I immediately took a measuring tape to it: the underbust measures 28”, the waist 20” and the hip 28”. With this information alone I knew the corset wouldn’t fit. Yet the brand’s customer service not only told me that this style would be a good fit on me, but also that it would be suitable for waist training. Waist training is a serious type of body modification; I can’t help but feel that recommending products like this corset is at its best irresponsible and at worst dangerous.
As you can see in the photos, this corset just doesn’t fit me. The underbust is loose, and the hips are painfully tight and cut in. I cannot lace the corset particularly tightly as my hip bones simply won’t allow it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the fact that Vollers choose to cut their corsets to this silhouette; they know their target market better than I do. What I do think is wrong is how their customer service willfully missells their products. I feel deeply disappointed by this experience and know that I won’t be returning to this company any time soon. I’d hesitate to recommend their products knowing that there are so many other corset companies offering a better product and better value for the money.
Overall, my experience with Vollers has left me conflicted. I love the fact that this brand has such strong heritage and that they're so dedicated to ethical, British manufacturing. I can't even begin to imagine how much of a challenge it is to produce a 'proper' corset (as opposed to a boned bodice) in a factory setting - let alone one that, objectively speaking, is quite well made. Unfortunately, this all pales in comparison to my experience with the product. The fact remains that the garment is incredibly ill fitting, yet I was still told it was suitable for me by customer service staff. Ultimately, the fact that I can't wear this corset makes it useless to me, and it's totally tarred my view of Vollers.
Readers: Have you ever tried Vollers corsets? What did you think?