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“Disco Armadillo” PVC Ribbon Cincher Case Study

This entry is a summary of the video “‘DISCO ARMADILLO’ PVC Ribbon Corset”. If you would like more complete information and side notes about the corset, you can watch the video on YouTube here:

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This was my first attempt at sewing a corset from vinyl. I have to thank Marta “Snowblack” for her wonderful  Foundations Revealed tutorial on sewing leather and vinyl corsetry. Just a few things that I have learned about handling vinyl:

  • The material stretches (so you must back it with coutil) however it does not drape like most other fabrics.
  • It is also not a self-healing fabric, and will show all pinpricks. Therefore you should pin your panels only in the seam allowances.
  • Using a teflon foot (or a piece of tissue between the vinyl and the presser foot) will help the vinyl to feed smoothly without dragging or sticking to the presser foot.
  • Lastly, feed dogs will leave permanent marks into the bottom of the vinyl, especially if it has a metallic foil finish. Putting tissue or masking tape on the underside of your fabric (where your seam line will be) will protect your fabric from the feed dogs digging in.
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Here is the overview of my Disco Armadillo, in typical review form:

Fit, length Center front is 10.5″ high, and I drafted this corset to be very curvy: underbust about 32″, closed waist 24″ and hips 34″.
Material Just two layers; the outer PVC ribbon and the inner coutil.
Construction 5-panel pattern – three vertical panels at front/side/back to hold the bones, and two ribbon panels. I learned how to draft a ribbon corset from Sidney Eileen’s ribbon corset sewing tutorial. The coutil panels aren’t “ribboned” like the outer pieces; rather they are in one piece. Most seams are topstitched as I was afraid that lockstitching would cause the PVC to become too perforated and tear apart. However at the busk, seams were lockstitched nonetheless as it looked better. Some edges of the ribbon were left raw, as folding those edges under would be too bulky.
Binding There is binding at the top and bottom of the vertical panels only; the ribbon panels do not have binding. I also left the inside edge of the binding raw – this is normal with binding made out of leathers or vinyls.
Waist tape Ribbon corsets typically don’t have a waist tape; a horizontal piece of ribbon running around the waist will act like a waist tape anyway.
Modesty panel I didn’t make a modesty panel for this corset because I designed it to close completely at the back.
Busk A standard flexible busk, 1/2” wide on each side, with 5 pins, 9.5″ long. Although it is quite flexible, having 3 layers of PVC ribbon surrounding the busk makes the front panel quite stiff and sturdy.
Boning Only 8 bones total in this corset (not including the busk), only boned on the vertical panels. There are two spring steel bones sandwiching each row of grommets at the back, and an additional two bones on each side panel, all 3/8″ wide.
Grommets There are 20 2-part size #00 grommets (10 on each side). I used self-piercing grommets and a new press to insert these, and they work very well with the PVC. I placed a layer of heavy canvas in the grommet panel to give the grommets more to “grab onto” and to prevent the PVC from stretching. There are no splits and the grommets are holding up quite well with regular use.
Laces I used some 100% nylon purple paracord – it’s extremely strong (holds tension up to 500 lbs) and has no stretch, is resistant to fraying but has a tendancy to twist. You will definitely need a square knot or bow (not a round one) to keep your corset securely tied at the back.
Price Ribbon corsets in general are not particularly difficult but they are time-consuming and require a bit of pre-planning. I would most likely place a typical satin-and-coutil ribbon corset at around $150. However, because the PVC ribbon is extremely challenging to work with and also quite expensive ($10/meter when not on sale, and this corset used 9 meters), I wouldn’t remake this corset for less than $250.
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“Waffle Iron” Skeleton Corset

This is a summary of the video “Waffle Iron” Skeleton Corset Experiment. If you’d like more information on how this corset is made and more in-depth explanations, please watch the video available on Youtube here:

I called this corset my “Waffle Iron,” because of the way my skin and flesh pokes through the holes of this skeleton corset prototype, and the lines it leaves afterward. I was inspired to make this due to the recent warming weather and ventilated corsets such as this.

I wanted to push my limits and my knowledge of corsetry, and break down corsetry to its “bare bones” so to speak. To experiment with “corset minimalism” and to get to know the “architecture” of corsets better – to see where the most important lines are.

While I agree that mesh on the open areas would have been more flattering, that wasn’t really the point. Skeleton corsets have existed in the past (with no mesh) and women wore chemises underneath which helped prevent the “oozing”. I still intend to use liners under this corset if/when I wear it in the future.

How this corset was made (please see the video as I did record the steps as I made this):

  1. The “fabric” is the most-densely-weaved twill tape I could find  – this is the only textile I used, other than a bit of canvas to reinforce the grommet area.
  2. I started with a custom-drafted 6-panel corset pattern, then sewed a quick single-layer “corset” from a soft tear-away stabilizer.
  3. I centered the tape on the seams of the stabilizer “corset” and also laid tape on the top/bottom edges and across the waist. (I considered adding another horizontal strip at mid-rib height, but I wanted to see how little I could “get away with.”)
  4. Once I had the outline I wanted, I tore away the stabilizer, laid down another layer of vertical strips to create the bone casings/busk/grommet areas.
  5. I added boning to the channels, folded the top/bottom edges over double to cover the raw bone-casing edges, and added grommets.

Once I put on the corset, I noticed a bit of an “Easter Egg” – I was able to perfectly see and understand my problem areas and my body’s asymmetry within a corset. Only by using a “transparent” corset such as this one would I ever have started to understand these little complications and how they can best be fixed. Let’s see a few pictures:

 In this front view, you can see that my left iliac crest protrudes more than my right one, and also even one side of my body cinches more readily than the other side, which can be measured in hip-spring on each side vs. “rib spring.”

In the profile view,  the bone of the corset is right in front of my iliac crest and pushing back on it slightly. This wouldn’t normally happen in a regular corset, because the fabric would prevent my hip from freely jutting out behind it. Instead, the bone would rest directly on my hipbone and cause discomfort.

Here is a picture of the right side, by comparison. You can see that the right hip doesn’t protrude behind the corset bone in the same way. In the past I would try to alleviate the discomfort on my left hip by simply drafting the hips of my patterns larger and larger, but now I see that I have to completely change my drafting technique and move the panels and bones away from the problem area.

In the first picture of the 3/4 view, you can see the “waffle iron” visual effect. The way that fat pads are genetically distributed, many women (and some men) have a little pocket of fat directly under their navel, and it’s no different for me. This is likely why so many skeleton corsets in the past had a diamond-shaped belt (2nd photo, same angle) or waist tape to hold that flesh in. The diamond could be shallow and stop just around the natural waist, or continue up to the sternum.

While I do realize that the “flesh oozing” is undesirable to many people, I have discovered that seeing the bulges is actually useful. I see it as a topographical map telling me how much support/pressure is required in each “grid” of the body – the more oozing in one pocketed area, the more tension and support that area requires. This means I can take more care and attention in shaping those areas in my drafting, while other areas can simply gently cup or lay flat over the flesh without restriction. If I were to put mesh between the panels, I wouldn’t be able to see this “map” quite as well. 

In the future I will make this with coutil instead of twill, as the twill tape is fairly flimsy and makes for wobbly lines. I think I will have the same number of bones (or more) but instead of having “two bones on each seam” like I did here, I’ll likely have one bone on the “seam of the panel” and another bone in the “middle of the panel”. I will also likely add the mid-rib horizontal piece, and widen the area at the waist /make it a diamond shape to hold in more abdominal flesh. Lastly, I’ll make the top/bottom “binding” twice as wide so it will lay flat on the body without rolling and twisting funkily like it is here, and the bones may even extend (at least partway) through that width of the binding just to prevent twisting.

I’m quite excited about how much I’ve learned from this little project, and I’m looking forward to improving upon this first prototype. As they say, “Excelsior!”

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Enjoying the Corseting Journey and Adjusting Goals

This article is a summary of the video “Corset for YOURSELF: You must ENJOY the Process (+Screw the Naysayers)”. If you would like more complete information feel free to watch the video, available on Youtube here:

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Enjoying the Journey of Corseting

“How long will it take me to reach my goal waist, and can I stop corset training once I reach that goal?”

This is a question I receive with disturbing regularity. When I made my previous video, “Permanent Waist Reduction“, I said that once you reach your goal you have to maintain your new small waist by corseting occasionally. This isn’t unique to corsetry. If you go on a diet and lose weight, you still have to eat well and do maintenance exercise to keep your body at that goal weight. If you want to run a marathon, you have to train yourself up to that level – but once you can run one marathon, there’s no guarantee that you can continue to run marathons for the rest of your life if you never practice your running again. Usually, runners run because they enjoy it. Corseters wear corsets because they also enjoy it.

That is why I say that if you really hate the thought of putting on your corset each day, then waist training is probably not for you. This may sound harsh, but if you are honest with yourself about this, it can save you from wasted time, money, effort and tears.

If this is your case, try to think of why you don’t like wearing your corset:

  • Is your corset low quality? Do the bones poke at you; does it pinch your hips or “crush” your chest?
  • Are you trying to reduce your waist too small, and too quickly?
  • Do you generally have claustrophobia? Do you have a problem with having your mobility hindered, even just a little bit?

There are solution to all of these problems, IF you would like to continue corset training. In the first situation, you require a better quality corset, preferably custom fit. This can solve a multitude of issues, and transform your corseting experience from one of fidgeting in pain, to one of a pleasant and supportive hug.

In the second situation, this is obviously user error and you will enjoy wearing a corset much more if you simply slow down, practice some patience and go at a pace that allows your body to respond to the corset instead of resisting it.

In the third situation, you may find it useful to start with a much smaller cincher like the WKD Baby corset, or even start with a wide belt to get you used to having pressure on your waist before you move onto a full corset. There are also front-lacing corsets that you can use if your issue is not being able to reach the laces behind you. There are flexible sport-mesh corsets which allow more mobility than ones made from traditional coutil.

Again, this is only IF you would still like to try waist training again, even after your negative experience with it. Many people decide that corsets are not for them and give them up entirely – that doesn’t necessarily reflect a failure; it only shows that this world would not be so wonderful if we all liked the same thing. But before you say “never again”, do reflect a bit and ask yourself why.

When you enjoy the journey, the process of corset training simply for the sake of wearing a corset, then you find you’re able to wear the corset more often and for more hours each time – which will result in optimal progress toward your waist training goals. You also become less discouraged by fallbacks.

As a comparison – when you’re hiking, it’s a much more enjoyable experience to take your time and enjoy all the various views, learn about all the flora and fauna, and maybe sit by the creek and enjoy a picnic on your way to the top of the hill. Even if you don’t reach the top of the hill (your goals), you will have at least enjoyed your experience and made positive memories, compared to the person who tried to keep their head down and run to the top of the hill, instead twisting their ankle halfway up and never having enjoyed the process from the beginning.

For a more applicable example: when I was sick with a respiratory infection for 1.5 months, I could not corset at all for that time, as I needed my lower ribcage free to clear my airways when I cough. During that 1.5 months, I lost about 2 inches of progress in my corseting. I used to be able to cinch below 23″ and at this time I can only corset to a little under 25″. But I am fine with this. I corset because I like the “hug” of it, and it makes me feel good about myself regardless of a two inch difference. When I couldn’t corset, it was the feeling of it that I missed, more than the figure-shaping aspect itself.

It is also important to figure out a corseting schedule that fits your daily life. If you like to sleep in your corset, then go ahead and sleep in your corset! I personally don’t like to wear a corset to bed, so I don’t. Would I get more progress in waist reduction if I did sleep in a corset? Most likely, yes. However I didn’t need to do this in the past, so I don’t feel that I need to do this now. If you don’t enjoy wearing a corset at any time, don’t wear it. Simple as that. Taking a day off from corseting or not sleeping in your corset does not make you lazy, weak-willed or undisciplined. Remember that we’re talking about an article of clothing and it’s not the end of the world.

Goals:

While it is always good to set goals for ourselves, remember to be a) patient and b) realistic in these goals. If you are starting with a 40″ waist, it is not realistic to set a goal to achieve an 18″ waist within 6 months. You are not in a race with anyone, and you MUST take into consideration your body’s limits. I would not personally recommend reducing your waist more than one inch per month, and once you get to a certain reduction you may find that you are only able to cinch 1/2″ or 1/4″ per month.

You may also find that your goals change over time. About 18 months ago I mentioned that my goal waist was 20 inches, corseted. These days I think that a 20″ waist would be “nice to have” but it is not something I am fixated on. If my body is unable to ever achieve a 20″ waist, I wouldn’t be devastated and I wouldn’t stop corseting out of dejection. I simply love corseting for the sake of it. (Update April 2013: I did achieve the coveted 20″ waist, with the help of my Contour Corset and Puimond underbust – and once I did, I decided that I actually preferred how I look at 22″! Such is life).

Now I do realize that many people seem to think that corseting is a social activity, but I feel the need to remind some that it is not. Corseting and waist training is in fact a very personal activity – only the individual corseter really knows how it feels to be in their body, in that particular corset, at that particular time. If you feel at home wearing a corset and you come across someone who is trying to convince you that it must be the most excruciating thing in the world, simply dismiss that person. Conversely, if you feel that you only want to (or are only able to) corset to a certain size, and you come across someone who tries to bully you into cinching to a smaller size, avoid that person too. You are responsible for your own body, and when it really gets down to it, only you can truly control your laces.

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Lucy’s First Interview! Bloggery of a Gothcat

Usually I eschew public interviews because of the way the corset world can be misinterpreted, twisted and made to look “scary” or “icky” by mainstream media. However when Kitty first approached me about doing an interview, we hit it off right away! Kitty is so much cooler than mainstream and she made the process hilarious and painless. I am excited and pleased to show you my first interview. Click anywhere below to go to the interview:

Interview – Lucy from Lucy’s Corsetry

Thanks so much to Kitty for making this happen! While you are there, do check out the rest of Kitty’s site, Bloggery of a Gothcat as she is a fellow corset enthusiast (and also regularly posts adorable cat .gifs which never hurt).