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Reflections on 2012, and looking to 2013

Forgive me if this post doesn’t contain new information about corseting per se. I don’t really share my personal life on this blog, but thought it appropriate to write something a bit more personal as 2012 comes to a close. After all, I am a human being and don’t take the role of teacher all the time.

2012 was the first full year that I’ve been out of school. It’s also the year that I probably worked the hardest in my life. January 5th 2012 was the day I launched and in less than a year, it has grown to proportions of which I had never dreamed.

Continue reading Reflections on 2012, and looking to 2013

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Corsets, Posture and Confidence (it’s not all about size)

Confident woman in a “power pose” (via Pixabay)

In the past, I’ve discussed at length the effects that the corset can have physically on the body, but up until now haven’t discussed how it can affect your mental and emotional state. In this article, I will discuss how corsets can directly affect your confidence and your interactions with others. You may also view my video version of this article, if you prefer not to read:


Let me preface this by saying that a corset can affect one’s positive self-image, without feeding into society’s warped views on weight and its relation to social hierarchy. So many people chide corseters, presuming that our own confidence stems directly from changing or lying about our figures. This couldn’t be a more misinformed frame of mind.

 I will start with my own personal experience in this sense, and go on to discuss the science behind this.

Continue reading Corsets, Posture and Confidence (it’s not all about size)

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What to Look for when Purchasing a Corset ONLINE

This post deals primarily with differentiating a real corset from a cheap bustier – not necessarily all the different levels of quality when it comes to a corset. When you get into differentiating a hand-designed piece from a factory piece, it can sometimes get tricky, especially when there are cases of photo theft. Learning to recognize photo theft and who wholesells to whom, will come with experience and familiarizing yourself with the work of various designers.

Do see this video if you would like to see two specific examples of a company that doesn’t market their corsets effectively, and a website that does have effective marketing. I would have liked to include many other corset companies (and even individual designers’ websites) in this video, but Orchard was the only company who had agreed to show their site on video.

Analyzing the photo

The model should preferably be alive

The corset should preferably be modeled on a real person, not just a “floating” corset or on a mannequin that already has a wasp waist. It’s nice to see a back view to be sure the gap in the back is nice and even. When the corset is shown at multiple angles, it will prove that it wasn’t laced in a biased way.

If you can see all angles…

When you look at the corset from all angles, try to count the number of panels – there should be no less than four on each side, but preferably 5 or 6 panels.

Beware of corsets that look like this in the product listing

 The grommets should be reasonably spaced apart – not too far apart; 2 inches between each grommet is too much space to give a decent and controlled cinch in my opinion. Eyelets or grommets should also be sandwiched between two bones (unless use of a lacing bone is mentioned), and in the pictures, the laces should not be crumpling up on itself.

When looking at the boning channels, you should not be able to see the whirls of the spiral steel boning underneath the satin. If you do, this means that the satin may not be reinforced and the bones may wear a hole through the satin eventually.

Panels should be somewhat smooth, not too wrinkly, not asymmetric and not gaping away from the model or mannequin. Sometimes, I will see a more or less reputable company that has a picture of a very wrinkly satin corset, and it looks rather sloppy. In these situations, I’m actually confused as to why that reputable company would make an uncharacteristically wrinkly piece, and/or why they would use such poor photographs. Regardless of the reputation of the seller, if I see a corset that is quite wrinkly and wobbly, it’s a pretty good sign that it’s not laced onto the mannequin tightly, and it may not be designed to be laced tightly – as a result, I wouldn’t purchase it.

Reading the description

Make sure you check the whole page for full description – and read ALL the small print. If it says plastic or acrylic bones, don’t buy it. The description should say all steel bones, or fully steel boned, or will list the number of steel bones. There should be no less than 12 bones, but preferably over 20 if you plan to wear this on a regular basis.

A decent corset will also usually have a waist tape – either see the outline of this in the photos, or look for it mentioned in the description.

The website should mention that the corset has at least 1 layer of sturdy cotton (a strength layer) so it doesn’t stretch. Most companies use twill, but a few do use coutil. Often they don’t specify, but they should at least make mention of a strength layer being included.

If they can trick you with wording, they will.

Make sure they don’t use tricky wording such as “Steel busk and bones” because they want you to read that as “steel busk and steel bones” but in reality it can read as “steel busk, and-also-there-are-bones-but-we’re-not-telling-you-what-kind.”

Front fastenings

When buying off-the-rack corsets, then a busk is your safest bet. Zippers may or may not be strong enough, depending on the brand. You generally don’t need to worry about closed-front corsets since no front fastening means no weak areas here – the only caveat is if you don’t have the patience to unlace it completely and slip it over your head when putting it on or taking it off. If a corset laces up in front and back, this is fine as long as both the center front and center back panels look to be the same quality grommets or two-part eyelets, and both sets are sandwiched between a pair of bones.

Optional features

Other things like a modesty panel and garter tabs and the like – these may or may not be mentioned. It’s up to you whether these are a “requirement” or a “nice-to-have”.

Be wary of freebies

Some companies will offer free sets of garter tabs with every corset – I actually tend to avoid these unless I can see the quality of them. Some sellers will always offer something free like that to sweeten the deal but if you ask me, if they have to entice someone by throwing in freebies ALL the time, it means that the corset is not worth the price they listed it at.

Do you have any other ways of picking the “real” corsets out from the plastic-boned “corset tops” and bustiers, which aren’t so obvious to a beginner? Let me know in the comments below!

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My First Video Interview – by Radical Redefinition

Celina Wilde. Click through to her website!

2012 has been an exciting year for me (so far!), having accomplished so much toward building my site, my Youtube channel, and my corset collection.

As most of you know, I tend to shy away from interviews (especially on national television) as it’s difficult to know if my words might be twisted around or if my passion may be made to look like something from a side show.

But the moment I spoke with Celina Wilde (owner of Radical Redefinition of Having It All), I knew that she would do neither. Her own site revolves around what success and contentment really means to each individual working woman, as opposed to what definition of success has been fed to us.

It was such a pleasure and an honour to speak with Celina, and I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did. For anyone curious about following your own passions and dreams, do check out Celina’s site here.

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De-bunking some myths about OTR corsets

As a bit of an addendum to my last post, this article intends to show that not all OTR corsets are equal, but rather come in a spectrum in quality of materials, construction and price. Also, while some of these myths are partially true, I explain why some of these terms aren’t really “all that bad” as nothing in corsetry is totally black and white. Lastly, I give examples of “exceptions” to each myth. So let’s jump right in:

Continue reading De-bunking some myths about OTR corsets

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OTR and Bespoke industries support one another

I might be playing devil’s advocate here. While I will try my best not to say anything inflammatory, this “Kumbaya” article may still cause me to lose favor with some corsetieres. No doubt some are already confused by the fact that I work so hard to purchase from small corset businesses and individual designers, yet still review and promote OTR corsets. (Admittedly, at this point in my corset journey, I don’t purchase OTR corsets for my own benefit, but for my viewers’. I have too many corsets in my personal collection as it is.) But looking at the big picture, both of these industries support one another. Just as The Lingerie Addict had suggested that VS is a gateway to higher-end lingerie, OTR corsets are the gateway to bespoke corsetry.

OTR is an abbreviation of “off-the-rack”, or sometimes called “off-the-peg” or “off-the-shelf”. An OTR corset is a corset that is standard sized and often mass-produced, much like the non-custom-fit clothing that you can find in any fashion or department store. I explain more about different levels of customization for corsets in this video.

Dark Garden offers both ready-to-wear corsets for beginners, and a bespoke option that’s most often used by return customers who are ready for more. Model: Lucy (me). Photo: Remedy Photography.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a basic list of requirements of what a decent (real) corset should include, plus a softer list of what the best quality corsets include. There are certain corsets out there that I view as not-corsets, and I have owned both mass-produced OTR corsets and custom corsets from individual makers that have seemed to be total garbage. Neither industry is totally perfect, and just one bad experience in either one can permanently sour a customer’s opinion toward corsets in general.

When prompted, I will always tell others that if they can afford to start with a custom corset, then do so. But that’s not to say that OTR serves no purpose. They were my jumping board into bespoke corsetry. If I hadn’t started my corset journey by purchasing an OTR piece, I would have never considered supporting individual makers.

  • When I saw OTR websites which showed young models wearing corsets paired with their street clothes, it helped desensitize me to the idea that a corset could be used in as an “outerwear” fashion accessory.
  • The hassle-free exchange/return policies that came with these standard-sized corsets (which does not exist for custom corsets) gave me the courage to purchase my first corset, since I’m a commitment-phobe when it comes to spending large sums of money.
  • It was by purchasing several brands of corsets that I came understand that not all corsets are constructed the same, and that there existed a relevant price-quality connection.

If OTR corsets had never existed, I would have never been able to justify commissioning a top-quality, truly fitted, non-returnable bespoke piece. I found it just made more sense to “learn to drive on a cheaper car, before springing for the Ferarri.” And I’m not alone in this mode of thinking.

A surprising perspective from invidivual designers

So OTR companies aren’t totally evil, but I don’t worship them either. I do have my limits. I do not condone some OTR companies directly ripping-off the designs of an individual maker. I become extremely upset when the odd viewer comes to me, having purchased one of these replicas, under the impression that the original designer actually had a ridiculous price markup for the same cheap piece, and proceeds to complain about that designer.

But I was even more shocked to discover that some bespoke corsetieres are not all that upset about this, because the vast majority of the people that were fooled into buying the replica didn’t have that same reaction outlined above. Most of their clients had walked the same walk I did – they purchased an OTR replica, experienced for themselves the price-quality connection, and made the decision  in the end to invest in the original piece. These corsetieres explained to me that – while replicas are annoying – OTR companies were to thank for increasing their clientele, not decreasing clientele through competition.

Not all clientele are the same

Through my consultations, I’ve come across clients with all sorts of opinions. Those who turn their noses up at OTR corsets (for what its worth, I supply consultations for custom corsets as well, not just OTR companies), and other people who have had terrible experiences with custom corsetieres, and had decided to stick only to OTR corsets! There are also people from all walks of life, with different body types, different budgets, and wanting to try corsets for different reasons, whether it’s for one weekend during a convention and then never worn again, or as a daily companion for years. It takes all types in this world, and I assure you that there is no shortage of clients for either industry.

My aim is not to convince the anti-OTR people to start supporting these companies, nor to guilt or pressure the anti-bespoke people to reprioritize their purchases. I don’t mean to call anyone a “corset bigot” or force them to change their mind. My aim is to help clientele and makers within the two industries alike, to see both sides of the situation and try to tolerate one another. Because while either industry can certainly survive without the other, they sometimes do better together.

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Puimond PY15 Black Wicked Plunge Overbust Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Puimond Wicked Plunge Overbust Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length Center front is about 13 inches long. From apex of bust to bottom of the corset is 17″ (waist to apex 12″), center back about 13.5″. Unique dramatic wasp-waist (yet comfortable) silhouette. Hips are longline and rounded, while ribcage is more conical. Exaggerated plunge neckline; I recommend using double-sided/ toupee tape if your breasts tend to migrate.
Material Fashion layer is black spot broche, backed onto cotton; lining is cotton coutil.
Construction 6 panel pattern. Top-stitching between panels, sandwiched boning channels (with the use of bone casings), one on each seam and one in the center of each panel. Floating liner (very comfortable).
Binding Black patent leather, machine stitched inside and outside; trimmed short instead of folded under on the inside (typical treatment of leather/ pleather binding)
Waist tape 1″ wide invisible waist tape between the interlining and lining.
Modesty panel None.
Busk None. Closed front with embellishment.
Boning 24 steel bones. Two steel flats in the center front (underneath embellishment), and four flats in the back sandwiching the two rows of grommets. Remaining bones are 1/4″ spiral steel, one placed on each seam and one placed in the center of each panel.
Grommets 26 grommets total, size #00 two-part grommets with moderate flange; set equidistantly; high quality – no splits, no wear/fraying/pulling out of grommets
Laces Strong nylon braided shoe-lace style laces; they’re thin, they grip well and they are long enough. Very easy to lace up. Almost no spring.
Price The PY15 is advertised as $490 for fabric and $650 for leather/vinyl. You can see the options on his website here.
Puimond Wicked Plunge overbust, modeled by Lucy (me). Photo: Krista Naco.

Final Thoughts:

This is my second Puimond overbust corset. As I had mentioned in my previous Puimond review, this one is constructed differently and is one of my favorite corsets in terms of fit, comfort and sturdiness. It’s a shame that I don’t get to wear it out often enough!

This corset is quite long with a low waistline, and feels as though it were constructed to fit me, even though it’s a standard size. (The bust is actually supposed to be like that!) The quality of the materials and hardware used are also top. If a standard size fits this well, I’d be quite curious to know how a custom one could fit! I’m a huge fan of Puimond and can’t recommend his work highly enough. To see Puimond’s other styles, do visit his website here.

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De-Sensationalizing the Corset

I received a very refreshing and pleasant message from a subscriber the other day, which included this passage (published with permission):

I just wanted to tell you how much I really love your channel, and how pleasing it is to see someone who makes corsetting something that’s empowering, fun and sort of a hobby. I found that before you, there seemed to be two camps of social stigma: Sexy Corseting for the bedroom and nights out, or Grandma Corseting that’s seen as uncomfortable, demeaning and anti-feminist (not to mention a bit utilitarian and unflattering!). What I mean to say here is, thanks for giving it the air of girls chatting together, rather than guys saying “They’re only doing that to look thinner/sexier!”. I think corsets are fun and beautiful, and so do you!

The part of her letter which made me smile the most was what she said about my channel giving the air of girls chatting together. I had never really thought about it that manner, but in a way that’s exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for – educational and demystifying, but also colloquial and relaxed, instead of the focus being on strictly the fetish community or strictly historical re-enactors/ Grandma’s attic. But let’s expand on this topic a bit…

Continue reading De-Sensationalizing the Corset

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“Corset Making” e-book by Julia Bremble

This post is a transcript of the video, “‘Corset Making’ Book (Julia Bremble of Sew Curvy) REVIEW” which you may view here along with a taster of the actual e-book:

Details of the e-book format:

This book was published by, a well-established producer of e-books. The table of contents in “Corset Making” has hyperlinks so you can click on any heading and it takes you to where you need to go. Clicking on URLs will take you right to the “Sew Curvy” website for more reading, or to purchase corset supplies if needed. It’s easy to jump around this book.

All the pictures are in color – they’re zoomable so you can see finer detail, and you can print out worksheets if you like. There are also video tutorials incorporated right into the book, so you click the link or photo on a certain page and the video pops up and plays automatically.

Julia’s writing style, and some tips on how corsets differ from other garments:

Julia’s technique is very friendly, she tries not to overwhelm you. Even for absolute beginners, she says, “…if you can sew a straight line, you can build a corset”! She mentions that the corset is like “wearable architecture” and I really love that term.

At the end of the book you have two projects – you can make either a single-layer corset or a double layer corset. Corsets with more than two layers aren’t really covered in this book since construction of those can be more complicated.

Julia describes terms such as negative ease, and how no two corsets look exactly the same on different people, because even when two people have similar measurements, their weight distribution in each dimension may be different. She gives tips on what a corset should do for the wearer when it’s properly made, and how to fit a corset, minimizing the chance of discomfort or unflattering effects

Julia also uses bulleted lists – I LOVE the use of lists, as they’re easy to understand, easy to read and help to not overwhelm the reader with a “wall of text”.

Tools and Materials:

Tools for making your corsets – she is big on the measuring tools because precision is a must in corset making. Patterning tools, marking tools, cutting tools, tools for your bones, tools for your eyelets or grommets, finishing tools. This is quite a large section because she not only tells you what you need, but how to use it and why it’s important. She even tells you what kind of needles you need and what type of thread to buy. This takes all the guesswork out for you.

Next she describes the hardware of the corset, which is basically anything that’s not the textiles. She describes the bones as the scaffolding or the framework of the corset. There are some tips and certain methods to tipping bones that I hadn’t heard of before I read this, so don’t assume you know everything!  She mentions the typical metal bones but also some substitutes – when these substitutes might be used, and what they’re also not good for.

Next is the textile section where she goes through the different types of fabrics for corset-making, including fashion fabrics, lining, several different types of coutil, and substitutes – once again, when substitutes might be used, or why they shouldn’t be used.

Construction Techniques:

Onto actually constructing the corset – this is a treasure trove. Her method of roll-pinning layers makes so

much more sense than my own video. As for assembling the panels, Julia does cover the basic seams for beginners, but her step-by-step instructions for a lapped seam is the best I’ve seen, and really helped me wrap my head around how to make them neat and precise.

She also shows you a really simply way to insert gussets. In her video tutorials, she’s very elegant, and makes the sewing process look so effortless.

There are also techniques for sewing very neat internal and external boning channels, so that the corset looks clean from the outside but still catches all the edges appropriately on the inside. She shows you how to make external boning channels and how to make your own binding, as well as touching on embellishment like adding trim, rhinestones or flossing – although not too much detail, she does give some useful tips as well as shows pictures for inspiration.

Fitting, and two projects:

Front cover of Corsetmaking e-book. Clicking through will take you to the store to be purchased.
Front cover of Corsetmaking e-book. Clicking through will take you to the store to be purchased.

Next comes the section on fitting – it shows you all the important places on your torso that you need to measure for a corset, how you should stand and even how to not hold the measuring tape!

There’s a pretty big section dedicated to fitting and adjusting the mockup, which if you’re familiar with fitting other garments, you’re also probably familiar with slashing or tucking – how to make it smaller or bigger in places – but Julia doesn’t just leave it at that. One important thing she mentioned is that sometimes you don’t have to change the overall circumference, but the distribution of the tension. She shows you how to slash one place and then go back and tuck another – this is how a beautiful fit is achieved. She shows what you generally need to do in order to solve common fitting problems – this section is absolutely invaluable.

Then she gives step-by-step directions on how to make a single layer corset and a double layer corset. Once again, I’m learning new things in this section, such as a really simple tip to get the edges of your binding neat and clean. The method for assembling the double-layer corset is ingenious, and worth the price of the book in itself.

Who is this book for?

It’s mentioned that this book is for the beginner to intermediate, but I think there’s something for everyone in this book. Even if you’ve never stitched a seam in your life, this book will inspire you, and even if you’ve been making corsets for years, there’s still a different or new technique somewhere in here for you. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

You can purchase the book for £15 (about $24) with free worldwide shipping from Sew Curvy, or from Vivebooks.

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Puimond PY06 Iridescent Pearl Plunge Overbust Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Puimond Iridescent Pearl Overbust Review ” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length Front is about 12 inches long, back is 13″ long. From waist to underbust is 4-5″, waist to peak of bust is about 10″. Unique silhouette in which the ribcage follows the natural contours but nips in dramatically at the waist for an extreme hourglass shape. Hips are cut high; not a problem for pear shapes. Recommended for extreme hourglass ladies. Exaggerated plunge neckline; I recommend using double-sided/ toupee tape if your breasts tend to migrate.
Material Fashion layer is pearlescent vinyl; backed onto cotton; lining is cotton coutil.
Construction 6 panel pattern. Lock-stitching between panels, external boning channels in the middle of the panels, and a floating liner (very comfortable). 6 garter tabs.
Binding Matching pearl vinyl, machine stitched inside and outside; trimmed short instead of folded under on the inside (typical treatment of leather/ pleather binding)
Waist tape 1″ wide invisible waist tape between the interlining and lining.
Modesty panel None.
Busk Heavy-duty wide busk (1″ wide on each side) about 11″ long (5 pins).
Boning 10 steel bones not including busk. On each side, there are 3 bones in the middle of the panels (feels like spiral) and another two steel flats sandwiching the grommets at the back.
Grommets 26 grommets total, size #00 two-part grommets with moderate flange; set equidistantly; high quality – no splits, no wear/fraying/pulling out of grommets
Laces Strong cotton braided shoe-lace style laces; they’re thin, they grip well and they are long enough. Very easy to lace up. Zero spring.
Price The PY06 is advertised as $450 for fabric and $570 for leather/vinyl. You can see the options on his website here.
Puimond plunge overbust in pearlescent PVC, (straps detached). Model: Lucy (me!). MUAH: Stella Amore. Photo: Trillance.

Final Thoughts:

This was my first couture corset purchase back around February of 2011. I have since purchased another Puimond overbust (PY15) which is constructed differently, and fits totally differently as well. For anyone who may have gotten the impression that I was complaining about the fit of this corset, please note that Puimond is not at any fault – he is a very well-respected designer in this field.

I’m more upset that my torso length doesn’t fit the corset, as opposed to the corset not fitting me. This particular corset was not made to my particular measurements; it has been around for many years and been worn by at least 4-5 different people. It’s held up surprisingly well over time, all things considered. I’m very excited to review my second Puimond corset in the future, as it shows how Puimond alters his construction techniques based on fabrics used and silhouette he’s going for – not all “Puimonds” are the same!

To see Puimond’s other styles, do visit his website here.

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Preventing your belly from falling out below your corset

Plenty of people have written me in the past, asking if there’s anything that can be done on getting rid of “muffin top” or otherwise spilling of one’s flesh out of the ends of the corset, especially if they are a little on the fluffier side. I had already addressed muffin top in a previous video where I featured the Genie Bra (note: I now use the Genie bra as a night bra as it lost elasticity after about two months, but using a sports bra or longline bra with the same shape in the back still helps to minimize my own muffin top).

In this particular video I cover the other side: how to prevent the lower belly pooch from “oozing” out the bottom edge of the corset:


One simple tip that my aunt had come up with with to solve the “apron” or “kangaroo pouch” problem:
Before tightening up your corset, pull down on it and make sure that the waist of the corset is sitting at your skeletal waist (the squishy bit under your ribs, and above your iliac crest) instead of your “apparent” waist (which is the smallest part of your waist – this may appear higher up on the ribs especially on people who carry a bit more weight around the middle). Once your corset is positioned correctly, start tightening your corset a little bit. Stop halfway through and put one hand down into your corset (under the front of your corset, so your hand/arm is between the corset and you). With that hand, pull up on the skin of your abdomen while with your other hand pull down on the bottom edge of your corset. Since your corset is half-tightened, then the mild tension of the corset should keep your belly in place while you finish tightening up.

When I explain this tip to others (often grandmothers and also apple-shaped ladies with pendulous abdomens), it solves the problem 8 times out of 10. This works best with longline corsets (especially those with a spoon busk), although not so well with very short cinchers.

Spencer Underbelt, 1947
Roger K, a writer for has kindly provided this link to an article about underbelts, which looks like

a sturdy pad fastened over the pelvis and were specifically designed to prevent that “belly ooze” from coming out the bottom of the corset. These were manufactured by companies such as Spencer and Spirella from the 1920’s until discontinuation around the 1970’s. It’s (sadly?) comforting to know that reverse muffin top is an issue that not only modern corsetees face!

Please let me know if this tip has helped you – or if you have any other tips on preventing muffin top or “belly ooze”, do let me know in the comments either here or on Youtube!

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Sparklewren Couture Overbust Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Sparklewren Couture Overbust Corset Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length Front is about 10.5″ inches long, unique silhouette in which the ribcage follows the natural contours but nips in dramatically at the waist for a wasp-like effect. Hips likewise follow the body’s natural contours; very comfortable. Longline corset. Will hold in lower tummy pooch, recommended for extreme hourglass ladies. Exaggerated plunge neckline; I recommend using double-sided/ toupee tape if your breasts tend to migrate.
Material Fashion layer is 100% silk charmeuse; interlining is 100% cotton coutil, lining is cotton.
Construction 6 panel pattern. Top-stitching between panels, sandwiched bones, and a floating liner (very comfortable). No garter tabs.
Binding Matching silk charmeuse bias tape, hand-finished.
Waist tape 1″ wide invisible waist tape between the interlining and lining.
Modesty panel Floating 4″ wide stiffened lacing protector on the back; placket by knob-side of busk.
Busk Heavy-duty wide busk (1″ wide on each side) about 10″ long (5 pins), with several bones on each side.
Boning Continuously boned. 64 steel bones not including busk. I’m guessing 58 spirals (ranging from 5mm to 7mm wide) and 6 flats (6mm to 8mm wide) – two on either side of the busk and four sandwiching the grommets at the back.
Grommets 32 grommets total, size 5mm two-part Prym eyelets with moderate flange; set closer together at the waistline; no splits, no wear/fraying/pulling out of grommets
Laces Strong cotton braided shoe-lace style laces; they’re thin, they grip well and they are long enough. Very easy to lace up. Zero spring.
Price Sparklewren has every client sign a confidentiality agreement; please contact Jenni if you would like to commission a similar piece.
Sparklewren overbust front view, profile, and waist cross section (click through for more context)

Final Thoughts:

This is my second corset purchased from Sparklewren, and my first true experience ordering bespoke from a professional corsetiere. This overbust was commissioned back in January/February of 2012, and completed in May. I was given the option of different colors of silk charmeuse, different types of antique lace and layout of said lace, different flossing motifs, etc. It was an incredibly exciting process and it fits like a dream, too. Jenni is a true artist in her field.
See more of Sparklewren’s creations at her website, here.

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Using Corsets for a 1950’s “New Look” Accurate Silhouette

Earlier today I posted an “OOTD” video, showing that the right undergarments can make all the difference when trying to dress in a period-accurate manner.

If I could show you the difference of the fit of these dresses with and without a corset, I would – alas, I couldn’t get either of them zipped up without a corset. The little black wiggle dress has a 24″ waist, the blue dress has just under a 25″ waist. I have a natural 27″ waist – close, but no cigar.

After reading Sarah Chrisman’s bookWaisted Curves…” and remembering what she said about the subtle lessons we can learn from studying and wearing vintage clothing, I decided to pay more attention to my own posture and behavior while wearing these dresses.

The Little Black (Wiggle) Dress (LBWD?)

This is a sophisticated little number. By modern standards, it’s very conservative (covers much more skin than most cocktail dresses available today) but there’s something alluring about it. The dramatic dip in the waist is unexpected to most people today, and the bodice of the dress will not be having any self-deprecating pose from me. The width of the back panels are more narrow than that of the front panels, forcing my shoulders down and back, making me look confident and proud even in situations where I’m feeling painfully shy.
The only feature I find less-than-absolutely-perfect about this dress is the little lower-belly pouch that sticks out from the skirt, making my profile look a little dumpier than I actually am. Whether this is just a result from the the skirt’s darts and pleats, or if this was designed in due to the shape of many women during this time, I’m not entirely sure – but I am told that this is normal of wiggle dresses of the period.

The Blue-Grey Shelf-Bust Twirly (Swing) Dress
Vintage silver-blue full-skirt dress. Model: Lucy (me!). MUAH: Stella Amore. Photo: Trillance.

I have no words for how much I love this dress. The teensy pleating over the bust area; the way the silhouette is created by elongated hourglass-shaped panels (much like the panels in a corset) dipping in at the waist and swooping back out again in the skirt; the sweet little bow detail on the shoulder; the heavenly silky blue fabric with pink lining which go perfectly with my new lemon-meringue-colored petticoat – wearing this dress makes me want to play hooky from work and just twirl in this all day.
Whereas the LBWD makes me feel mature and sophisticated like a siren or femme-fatale, this soft blue dress makes me feel distinctly youthful, sweet and girly. I feel like a flower; something to be nurtured and cherished.

The psychological effect of clothing is incredible. When I hung up the femme-fatale dress and the delicate-flower dress and donned my comfy, frumpy, fleece pajamas this evening, I felt a little silly – how could I let my clothing affect me so much? Is there any merit to that age-old saying “The clothes makes the man” (or woman)? It makes me wonder if wearing a corset has shaped my behavior over the past couple of years, and if so, how (and how much) has it changed me?

Whatever the case may be, it’s definitely fun!

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Serindë Longline Underbust Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Serindë Underbust Corset Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Serindë is a lovely small-business corsetiere based in Lyon, France – although her international shipping rates are very ideal! She’s known for adding jewelry and charms to her corsets, and her beautiful whimsical designs inspired by fairies and folk-lore, although she makes very sophisticated and sultry pieces as well.
She currently doesn’t have a website but you can find her on Etsy, DaWanda, and Facebook.

Fit, length Center front is 12″ inches long. On my standard size 22″, the underbust is 27″, waist 22″, and hips 33″. Lovely hourglass silhouette. Longline corset, good for ladies with nearly all torso lengths, since the shortest part of the torso is 8.5″. Large hip spring; very comfortable in the hips. Will hold in lower tummy pooch; recommended for hourglass and pear-shaped ladies, especially those with a bit of a smaller ribcage.
Material 3 layers; fashion layer is silver-on-navy floral brocade backed with interfacing; strength layer is coutil, and the lining is soft cotton.
Construction 6 panel pattern with no hip gores. Top-stitching between panels, sandwiched boning (two per seam), and a floating liner (very comfortable). No garter tabs.
Binding Blue satin bias tape, beautifully hand-finished.
Waist tape 1″ wide invisible waist tape between the strength layer and the lining.
Modesty panel No modesty panel in the back on my version, but does include a placket on the knob side of the busk.
Busk Standard flexible busk (1/2″ wide on each side) about 10″ long (5 pins), reinforced with a sturdy 1/4″ wide flat steel bone.
Boning 24 steel bones not including busk. On each side there are 9 spirals (1/4″ wide), double boned on the seams, 1 flat (1/4″ wide) beside the busk, and 2 flats (3/8″ wide) sandwiching the grommets.
Grommets 30 grommets total, 5mm two-part eyelets (Prym brand, very good quality) with moderate flange; set well with the grommets getting closer together near the waistline, no splits, no wear/fraying/pulling out.
Laces 1/2″ wide double-faced satin ribbon in navy blue. Very strong, has not broken or frayed despite lacing very tightly in this corset.
Price Recently quoted on Facebook at €165 which is around $215; subject to change.
Serindë underbust, modeled by me. MUA: Stella Amore. Photo: Trillance.

Final Thoughts:

I love this thing. This is another corset that I will likely never part with. I have to commend Serindëfor her ability to tame the temperamental Chinese brocade without one wrinkle or frayed edge whatsoever! The blue and silver colour scheme is gorgeous together and the silver hardwear completes the look so nicely. The jewelry chains draw attention to the hipspring by cascading down the sides of the hips. I love that I can dress this corset up or down, and remove the jewelry if need be. This corset is also very comfortable and I find that I can easily close this corset at the waistline, whereas in other 22″ corsets I’m limited  by the girth of the ribcage and hips. I only find this corset to be a tad small in the underbust area (the corset’s underbust is 27″, while my ribcage is usually 28-29″) but I knew this before I purchased the corset. Serindë is one designer you definitely need to watch in the near future!

To see Serindë’s standard size sale items, do check out her Etsy store here.

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Deborah Roberts’ blog on Waist Training experiment (ABC 20/20)

Deborah Roberts measuring her waistline after being laced into a Romantasy corset. Screencap via ABC 2020

Just a few hours ago, the late-night TV show ABC-20/20 had aired an episode on “Going to Extremes”, in which corseting was discussed (in the same light as plastic surgery and feeding-tube diets). While I could make this post easily dissolve into an argument on why I think the simple wearing of a garment (which can be removed at any time) is not necessarily as extreme as going under the knife, the real reason I’m posting is to bring attention to Deborah Roberts’ latest blog entry on the ABC website and discuss the representative doctor’s statement. In this article, Ms. Roberts explains how she received a custom-fit underbust training corset (made by Jill Hoverman) and undergoes a waist training experiment over the course of two weeks, under the guidance of Ann Grogan, owner of Romantasy.

I’m certain I’m not the only one who noted a tiny discrepancy in the mood of the TV segment vs the blog. While I have 100% respect for Dr. Gottfried and still maintain that one should see their doctor and ensure that they’re in good health before and during the process of corseting, I’m extremely curious to know where she found the statistic that “Corsets can squish your lungs by 30 to 60 percent, making you breathe like a scared rabbit”. In my several years of research, I have only found studies that had shown a maximum of 30% reduction in capacity while wearing a corset, with the average decrease in lung capacity among corseted females being only 20% (see my article on corsets and lungs here for more information). Being one who believes in backing up research with proof in numbers, I’d be annoyed in either scenario if I were to learn that the 30-60% statistic came from a study that was only available within the medical community and deliberately concealed from the public, OR to learn that number were mere speculation and stated as absolute fact.

A diminished capacity of the traditionally reported maximum  30% would be less likely to cause hyperventilation (compared Gottfried’s statistic of 60%) since the tidal volume – the amount of air a healthy, uncorsetted individual takes in during a typical relaxed breath – is a mere 10-15% of the vital capacity for an average human. It would, of course, be stupid to run a 100m dash while tightlaced – but under normal, relaxed circumstances I and many other corsetted individuals have never experienced adverse effects in breathing, particularly when using an underbust corset (which was largely not used in daywear during the Victorian era). If anyone can find the study that states capacity reduction of up to 60%, please let me know because it would be worth adding to my research.

In the very least, the written blog is refreshingly corset-neutral and fairly highlights both Deborah Roberts’ positive and negative experiences – and even Dr. Gottfried’s statement is somewhat ‘softer’ here compared to that on the TV segment. I thank Ms. Roberts for being sensitive and sensible around the subject of corseting.


If you would like to watch the video of ABC’s 10/12/12 20/20 “Going to Extremes” show, click through this link. The corset segment runs six minutes and starts at the 20 minute mark—about 1/3 through the “bar” at the bottom of the screen.

Deborah’s blog:

Finally, this video shows more of the interviewer’s week-long trial of corset wearing.

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Age limits to corseting?

How old is too old to start corseting? How young is too young to start corseting?

This is a tricky subject. Since corseting is not an incredibly mainstream activity, no laws in any country (to my knowledge) has put down laws concerning a ‘safe’ age for someone to wear a corset. Further, there are so many levels to “corseting” – are we talking about waist training every day? Only a few hours every day, or 23/7? Are we dealing with light reductions or extreme tightlacing with much higher reductions? Are you compressing the ribcage, or just the waistline? There are as many ways to wear a corset as there are to consume alcohol. Does this mean that a ‘blanket law’ should apply to all corsets of all sizes for all people, the way that such laws exist for alcohol consumption?

For simplicity’s sake, I’m talking specifically about waist training and tight lacing in this article – that being waist reductions of 3-4 inches or more, and corsets being worn on a regular basis, a few times a week or everyday, with moderate pressure on the floating ribs. Furthermore, these are my opinions and my opinions only. I know some corsetieres and other ‘corset authorities’ who have similar views to mine, and some that have differing views. Just know that this is my side of things, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone has the same answer – nor does it replace the medical advice of a doctor.

If you’d prefer to watch my video on the subject instead of read about it, you may do so here:

How young is too young to start waist training/ tight lacing?

I’ve had viewers as young as 12 ask me if it’s alright to start corseting. They promise me that they’ll go slowly and they’ll be very patient about it, etc. Every time, I will tell them the same thing:

Waist training is a form of body modification. Therefore it should more or less follow the same rules and guidelines as other forms of body modification. In North America, most legal tattoo and piercing parlors require you to be at least 18 years old – that is the age at which you’re considered an adult and you’re responsible for your own actions and what you do with your body. Before that age, you’re not considered 100% responsible for your own body. Furthermore, depending on the country you live in, you have to be older than 18 to engage in risky activity like smoking or drinking – for instance, 21 years old in America, or 25 years reportedly in India. It’s my belief that corseting should be treated the same way.

Whenever somebody asks me permission to waist train, I feel a bit awkward. Firstly, I’m essentially “just a woman on the internet”. You and I are total strangers and I can’t give you “permission” to do or not do anything. If you’re under the age of 18, you’d have to go to your legal guardians for permission. On a general level, I tell these youth the same thing most tattoo parlors will say: You should be at least 18 years of age – OR 16 years of age if you have your parent or guardian’s consent. This is to protect all parties involved:

  • It’s to protect your body from anything going awry during corseting, whether through the poor choice of going too far/too fast with your reduction, OR from accidental injury that was not the cause of poor choices.
  • It’s to protect your parents from being blamed for neglecting your well-being, should anything happen to you.
  • And it’s to protect my ass from being called a “bad role model to children”, because I have never claimed to be a role model to children. I’m as much as a role model as Joe having a cigarette outside on his lunch break, or Linda having a glass of wine with dinner. I’m an adult engaging in an adult activity, trying to mind her own business.

A lot of teens might want to say at this point, “Well I think it’s B.S. that I should have to wait until I’m 18, because I’m so mature for my age and I’ve stopped growing in height and I went through puberty really young, etc. etc. etc.” It doesn’t matter. It has nothing to do with maturity level. It has nothing to do with how old you were when you started your period. It has to do with your skeleton, and how ALL people’s skeletons as children are comprised largely of cartilage – this much softer and weaker than bone, and your bones don’t fully mature until about age 25.

Is it true that two hundred years ago, girls wore bodices? Yes – actually both girls and boys wore bodices. At the time, it was thought that this promoted good posture and reduced the risk of skeletal deformity as the child grows.

Is it true that you can see 12 year olds wearing back braces as a mode of therapy for scoliosis or other congenital skeletal issues, even today? Yes, and these braces can reduce the waist several inches, and also put pressure on the ribcage much like a corset does – and this is all done under medical supervision! But it doesn’t mean that any old off-the-rack corset is designed to be as safe and as effective (if you’d like a medical corset, you’d have to go to a corsetiere who specializes in such). It’s true that the younger you start reducing and training your waist, the more malleable your ribs are, and the easier it is for them to move out of the way. But cartilage is much easier to bend and/or break compared to bone – and if there’s even the tiniest risk of that happening, I don’t want you to take that risk.

If you’ve been tightlacing since you were 13 years old and you’re fine today, I’m happy for you. I hope that would be the norm and not the exception, if other young teens/tweens decide to go against what I say and begin corseting at a young age. But I don’t condone wearing corsets under the age of 18 years, and I’m highly unlikely to change my mind on this. Foot down.

Now, if you’re younger than 18 and you just like the look of corsets, then there are cheaper options (cheaper both in quality and in price). These won’t pull you in more than 1-2 inches, which is about the same reduction that one might expect from their belt or their skinny jeans. There are decorative ‘corset-like’ bustiers and tops available so you can get the look without getting the reduction. (The Pragmatic Costumier showed the difference a corset can make on a person’s silhouette even with zero waist reduction.)

Am I too old to start waist training / tight lacing?

Lucy with Cathie Jung and Melanie Talkington
Cathie Jung (center) with Melanie Talkington (left) and Lucy (right) at the Grand Corset Ball.

I’m hesitant to set an upper limit in this scenario, because whether or not a person can corset train depends on the individual’s health, lifestyle and family history. Cathie Jung started tightlacing ’round the clock when she was about 45 years old and now in 2012 she is 75 years old, still wearing her corsets tight as ever. However, this took 3 decades of persistent work, and 3 decades of her body acclimatizing to this pressure. For someone who is just starting to wear corsets at 75 years old, the amount of reduction plausible and the health concerns would be much different.

For mature women just starting waist training, I would say that the biggest health concerns would be osteoporosis or any osteolytic auto-immune conditions, because having brittle bones means your ribs are more likely to give under pressure. Also if you have any vaginal or uterine prolapse, the increased intra-abdominal pressure from a corset may exacerbate the condition. You also have to watch out for hypertension, circulation problems and – depending on certain medications – your activity level and whether or not you smoke cigarettes, you need to watch out for thrombosis.

Now, this may sound scary, and a lot of people might be reading this and say, “Oh, a corset can cause all that?!”
Not necessarily cause these. But exacerbate, quite possibly. In many cases, the body can already have had a pre-existing condition and the corset can merely amplify its symptoms. But it would be unfair to blame a corset for bringing out whatever problems you had in the first place. Wearing a corset has actually brought attention to certain aspects of my own body (such as dairy and gluten sensitivities, and my asymmetric hips) and drove me to seek assistance to correct these issues. Had I not noticed these through the use of corsets, these may have remained underlying issues that could have taken years to detect and correct.

But you see, there are so many different factors that go into the health of a person it really goes much farther beyond age. A person can be healthier at 65 years than they were at 20 years. But whatever your age is, make sure that your body is healthy and prepared for a corset.
Healthy and prepared.
Prepared being mature enough and fully grown, and healthy meaning preferably no underlying health conditions conditions (unless your condition is one that your doctor thinks can be improved with a corset, like an abdominal hernia or pain from a slipped disc).

If you have a clean bill of health and your doc gives you the thumbs up, then go for it.