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“Corsets and Crinolines” by Norah Waugh – an overview

This post is a transcript of my video, “Book Review: Corsets and Crinolines” which you can view here:

“Corsets and Crinolines” is a book containing historical summaries, corset diagrams and patterns, and collection of period letters, articles and other fashion publications directly pertaining to women’s undergarments. Written in 1954 when corsets and fluffy skirts were coming back into fashion; Ms Waugh observed how fashion trends were cyclic and discussed how small waists and big skirts came in and out of fashion 3 distinct times in history. Each of the three eras are given their own chapter:

  • Chapter 1 is dedicated to the 1500’s – 1670 when the pair of bodies became popular and the farthingale (the predecessor of the hoopskirt) was first seen in Spain.
  • Chapter 2 is from 1670 – 1800 when the stays and hoop petticoats were fashionable.
  • Chapter 3 is from 1800 – 1925 when the corset (as many of us know it today) were popular, as well as the crinoline (in the Victorian era) and the bustle (in the Edwardian era).

The Chapters

Each of these chapters contain a section on the history of these garments: how they came to be , how they spread in popularity, what they were made of, etc. The next section in each chapter contains references to the garments from contemporary sources – bits and pieces of people’s journals, diaries, poems and song lyrics, articles from old newspapers. One thing I found interesting is how in every era, there are people who both love and detest the fashion. One particular entry I noted was written by a man who was convinced that corsets and hoopskirts were a sin because it allowed a woman to lie about about the shape of her body – they gave the impression of a small waist and wide birthing hips until she removes the garments. I can see how that would be a disappointment, but a “sin”? That’s a bit of a catch 22 since a lady would be considered loose and indecent if she hadn’t worn this foundation gear.

The Illustrations

Corsets and Crinolines cover. Link will take you to Amazon.

As far as the illustrations go, there are over 100 illustrations in this book. All illustrations are described and listed in the front of the book so you can find the page of what you’re looking for. Some of these visuals are old paintings done as far back as 1560’s, all the way up to photographs taken in the 20th century. There are portraits of ladies, caricatures and fashion/costume sketches. This book also contains a ton of patterns. Every section includes scaled-down patterns of the stays, the corsets, and the hoopskirts, true to the period, so you can make your own. Later editions of this book include a legend with every pattern, showing how much each one should be scaled up.

The Appendices

There are four appendices total: the first two are instructions on how to construct corsets and hooped skirts. The third appendix talks about “supports” (the bones) – the book touches on everything except whalebone – they discuss geese quills and cane in corsets, saplings in farthingales and steel hoops in crinolines. The fourth and last appendix is entirely dedicated to whalebone: the book explains where it comes from, (the cartilaginous jaw of the baleen whale), and the fishing industry and its role in economy – how people reacted to the rising prices in baleen when whales became endangered.
Lucy’s side note: 
If you have never seen what baleen looks like, watch Disney’s Finding Nemo at the part where Marlin and Dori are trapped in the whale

Lastly, there’s a glossary of terms in the back and a pretty exhaustive index.

Who is this book for?

This is a must for fashion historians and those interested in first-hand accounts of fashion. You can buy it for the patterns, there are approximately 25 patterns included so it works out to $2 per pattern – just be aware that there are no step by step instructions.

One important thing to note is that many of the contemporary sources are in French. This isn’t a problem for me because I can somewhat read French (I read it a lot better than I speak it, anyway) but if you can only understand English then only about half of the written content of this book will be useful to you.

The cheapest place I have been able to find this book is on Amazon. You can also see select pages inside the book on the Amazon site.

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“Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself” by Sarah A. Chrisman — an Overview

I admit it. I’m terrible at book reviews. So many years of working in biology labs have conditioned me to treat every publication the same way: study, jot notes, report results relevant to my own research. Opinions are frowned upon by the Board. (At least I got to sneak in some alliteration.)

My video review, despite being 13 minutes long, feels painfully short and superficial. In reality, the raw footage of the review was over an hour long, wherein I combined Chrisman’s research and experiences with my own and discussed possible (soft) conclusions to certain questions regarding physical, psychological and societal impacts of wearing a corset. Alas, most people these days don’t have 13 minutes to spare, nevermind an hour.

This book used to be called “Waisted Curves: My Transformation into a Victorian Lady” and was self-published and hand-made – Chrisman carefully hand-folds each page, sews them together, and binds the cover in your choice of cloth, silk or leather — the way that books were made in the Victorian era. Due to the print or weave on the cover fabric, no two books are exactly the same. You kind of feel the love and the labour emanating from this. The price of this book, $40 for cloth-bound and $49 for either silk or leatherbound, is well-justified just by how much work must have gone into assembling the book itself — but the contents inside are worth much more.

Now the book has been picked up by a publisher, it has changed its name to “Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself” and is available on Amazon.

The book is essentially a memoir of Chrisman’s first year (and a few months extra) of corset training – in this time, her waist is reduced from 32” uncorseted to 22” corseted – she changes the way she carries herself, and her style of dress so that essentially she is transformed into a “Victorian lady” by the end of the book. If this book were made into a movie trailer, I have a feeling that it would look like a typical “transformation” or “make0ver” movie (e.g. Clueless, She’s All That, Teen Witch, Princess Diaries, etc). Let me tell you now that those movies are garbage compared to this book. “Waisted Curves…” is a non-fiction, first-hand account of what it’s really like to make such a transformation (not only in appearance but also in health, grace and building one’s knowledge) – it’s not an overnight change, and it’s not without its challenges.

A not-so-brief summary of events (SPOILER ALERT)

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Buying a Corset? What you should look for when purchasing in-store

This post is a transcript of my video of the same name. It really is more useful to watch the video as I show in detail everything I talk about – thus, you will know what to look for.

But for those who prefer to read as opposed to watch/ listen, then this article is for you!

SO. Let’s say that you’re one of the lucky people to live relatively close-by to a shop that sells corsets, or you’re at a Renaissance Faire and there’s a vendor selling corsets. You’re interested in buying one, but you’ve never handled a real corset before, and you’re worried it might not be good quality – how do you know what to look for? What should you ask the vendor or store clerk? Here’s a checklist for you, and several tips to aid you in your detective work…

– Click to read more!>

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“The Basics of Corset Building” by Linda Sparks: a review

Linda Sparks is the owner of the company Farthingales which has a store in Stratford, Canada. I purchased the 2008 hardcover edition of “The Basics of Corset Building” back in very early 2011, for less than $20 – the cheapest place I found it at the time was on Amazon. It’s only 77 pages long, but don’t let that fool you – it’s chock full of information. There’s no froth in here – pretty much no history or filler; just instructions.

If you prefer to watch the review instead of read it, you can view my video (from last year) here:

In the foreward Ms. Sparks jumps right in by saying that anyone who can sew a straight line can sew a corset. Her methods are friendly yet no-nonsense – she does a good job of saying “yes, there’s a lot of fine detail and many steps to constructing a corset, but building a corset from start to finish doesn’t have to be scary.” If you’re willing to put in the work and practice some patience you can make a corset.

There are four sections in the book:

Section one focuses on what you’ll need to make a corset. She dedicates a chapter to each of the tools involved like awls, bone cutters, pliers etc. (I believe you can preview this chapter on Google Books.) There are also chapters on textiles (being the strength fabric and fashion fabric, waist tape etc.), and also a chapter on supports and hardware of the corset – the bones, tips, busk, and grommets. Most of the materials in this section you can also buy directly from her online store.

Section two explains in detail the steps of putting a corset together. How to cut and tip bones – both steel and plastic – how to insert a busk, how to insert grommets, working with lacing tape, tipping your laces, applying binding, etc.

Section three goes into techniques. Ms Sparks teaches you five different ways of making a corset: single layer that can be altered or not altered, double layer that can be altered or not altered, and lastly a corset that has a pretty fashion layer.

Section four goes into customizing corset patterns, namely Simplicity and Laughing Moon patterns, and how to fit mock-ups and alter your corset to your body. She also provides inspirational photos of the same corset patterns made with different fashion fabrics to show you how drastically they can change the overall look.

There’s also a glossary of terms at the back of the book. Throughout the book any words you see in bold you can find in the glossary.

My Personal Thoughts

Going through the other reviews of this book online, I notice that a lot of people complain about grammatical errors. Reading through the book myself, I admit that some errors jumped out at me, but I can forgive that because this book not supposed to be a literary masterpiece, it’s an instruction manual. It’s still perfectly readable and easy to understand and the content is good.

Pictures:this book is bountiful with pictures, both black and white photographs and diagrams. I liked how

“The Basics of Corset Building” by Linda Sparks – 2008 edition book cover

many pictures were featured, but for the total beginner corsetiere I think there could be fewer simple diagrams and more photographs. If the next edition of the book were to include colour photos that’d be great too. I understand depth and dimension a lot better in colour pictures compared to greyscale, and this would make it easier to keep track of overside and underside of fabric during the sewing instructions.

Succinctness: The title of the book is not misleading in any way: it goes through the BASICS of corset building and it is a handbook for BEGINNERS. If you have no knowledge whatsoever in making a corset, then this book is a fantastic resource. However if you have already made a corset before, you may be a little underwhelmed by this book. Many of the techniques like using an awl, applying grommets, inserting a busk, making internal boning channels, adding binding to the edges of a corset etc. I learned just by following instructions that came with the Simplicity 9769 pattern. However for those who like multiple resources, who like to learn about slight variations in construction methods or who just like to read the same methods explained in different words, then this book would be a great addition to your collection.

The photo of the corset on the cover of the book is gorgeous, but in the book it doesn’t teach you about diagonal bone placements or cording or any flossing techniques featured on the corset on the cover – I think this book has a lot of opportunity to expand in the future – Ms. Sparks could possibly add a chapter or create another entire book on advanced techniques. I did learn a few new things from this book but wish there could have been a bit more on finishing, embellishment etc. I was quite happy with my purchase anyway, as it is another way to support the corset making community and keep it alive.

You can read other reviews on this book or purchase it from Amazon, here.

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“Corsets: A Modern Guide” by Velda Lauder – A book overview

I choose to call this an “overview” rather than a “review” because I have decided that I’m terrible at reviewing books. I give “spoilers” (if such exist in history) and don’t inject much of my own opinion into reviews. What I simply aim to do is tell you all the different interesting things you can expect to learn in this book, in more detail than I have given in my video or this post. If you prefer to watch/ listen instead of read, here is my video review:

What can you expect to learn in this book?

This book has a heavy focus on the history of corsets. It starts at the very beginning, with primitive corset-like garments worn by the Norfolk, Boadicea the Celtic Goddess, a statue of an ancient Crete goddess, incredibly old drawings and paintings – these all portrayed women wearing leather bodices as armor: waist cinchers complete with adjustable lacing, since other methods of closure (like buttons) hadn’t been invented yet.

It also touches on how almost every culture has some form of body modification – food binding, neck stretching, etc. And now cosmetic surgery is prevalent – it’s a human need to “reinvent ourselves,” Lauder says.
She mentions that women are not the same shape and size that they were in the Victorian era, due to health and nutrition – therefore she says it is necessary to modify the shape of the corset to fit a modern woman.

Corsets throughout history were different shapes and had different purposes – either to flatten curves and give a more child-like silhouette in the medieval era, or to give a conical torso in the 16th century, then a natural shape in the Regency era where corsets were higher and more resembled bras, then to give an hourglass shape and accentuate curves in the late 1800s. However it’s important to note that not all of this shaping was done by corsets, pairs-of-bodies etc. Padding was also used on the shoulders and hips to accentuate this silhouette. Corsets and other under-clothing was also used for warmth, and to prevent the body from staining the outer clothing as bathing was less frequent.

The book touches on how fashion was different and similar between the wealthy and the more “industrial” classes – namely, how the wealthier classes deliberately dressed impractically, to show that they don’t have to do hard physical labor. However, both high and lower classes did wear some form of the corset.

Letters and newspaper columns of the time show opposition of the corset mostly from men – however, women’s fashion endured because of older women – the mothers, grandmothers and maids. Therefore, corsets were not forced upon women by male misogynists.

“Corsets: A Modern Guide” book cover

During the 1800s, both men and women wore corsets (as I had mentioned in my men and corsets video), especially those of higher class, as it promoted good posture and showed that you were an “upstanding” citizen. King George IV was one of these corseted men.

Modern designers like Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Alexander McQueen are known for their corsets created in modern materials like metals, latex, plexiglass, scales and feathers – they combined the traditional with the fetish with the surreal.

Christian Dior was responsible for the New Look fashion in the late 40’s / early 50’s. This book also touches on Chanel, Jacques Fath, and others. Vivienne Westwood, called the Mother of Punk in the 70s, was one of the first people to wear a corset as outer wear. Punk and fetish fashion rose together at this time. There was also of course the goth movement in the 80’s, Madonna’s corsets in the 90’s, and today, corsets have evolved once more in steampunk fashion.

Other sections mention the Burlesque side, featuring Bettie Page and Gypsy Rose Lee in historical context, and Dita Von Teese and Immodesty Blaize in modern Burlesque.

Yet another chapter is dedicated somewhat to fetish of corsets. The first known corset fetish stories are published in the “English Woman Domestic Magazine”, though the stories in here have been largely dismissed as fantasy. However this establishes a different between corseting and tight lacing. Almost all women corseted everyday at a light reduction, but did not necessarily tight lace. In modern day, extreme tight lacing and other forms of body modification like piercings, tattoos, implants, branding etc formed a marriage – Fakir Musafar is referred to as the father of modern body modification.

Galliano and Mr Pearl both promoted the couture / high fashion side of corsetry, the heavily embellished pieces that were works of wearable art.

The last chapter is the “modern girl’s guide to corsets” – Corset 101 – how to choose the correct size, how to lace it up. The end of the book includes interviews from three of Velda’s models and their personal experiences.

My personal thoughts

The book itself is well-written, there are few if any errors. This book is MUCH easier to read than certain other history books, and was capable of keeping my attention.

I noticed in the historical section it jumped around a lot – I would have preferred for it to focus on one fashion era at a time, for instance devoting one chapter to each fashion era, instead of the current organization. In this book, the silhouette would be one chapter, and it would describe the silhouette in one era compared to the next era. Then the next part focused on the skirts: how the skirts in ‘that era’ compared to ‘that other era’. I found that with the current organization of this book, it had a tendency to repeat itself. However this may be useful for people who don’t want to bother reading the whole book but instead pick out the chapters that they want to read, as those chapters are able to stand alone.

Some people have said that this book is too “Velda-centric”. There are a lot of her corsets in here, and it does mention her introduction to the modern corset industry and how she pioneered some styles – however, it says in the preface that this is HER journey through history – it wasn’t written by a historian per se, but by a designer. It isn’t meant to be read like an unbiased textbook; it is definitely pro-corsetry. I’m not surprised that so many of her designs are featured throughout the book, and I wouldn’t hold this against her or the book at all.

In all, I enjoyed reading this book (and looking at all the pretties in the book!) and I’m currently enjoying combing through the bibliography in the back to learn more about the history of corsets and fashion. You can read more reviews on “Corsets: A Modern Guide” or to purchase this book on Amazon here.

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“History Myths” Blog articles of interest

History Myths” is a charming blog that reads somewhat like Snopes or FactCheck, except with the obvious focus on popular myths and legends throughout history. While nearly all articles are a fun read, here are a few that would be of particular interest to corset-enthusiasts. It’s also worth it to read through the comments of each article, as some very pertinent points are made by other readers.

Myth #59: Women had very tiny waists in “the olden days” – historical corsets and outfits displayed in museums usually have waists ranging between 21 inches to 35 inches, the average being around 23″-25″.
There is quite a lot to say on this topic, including the fact that many of the corsets of the time were not designed to be closed all the way – it was customary to have a 1-3 inch gap in the back, meaning that an 18″ corset may have been worn closer to 21″. Also, be aware that while many museums display articles of clothing that are best preserved, many of them preferentially display corsets and clothing that would be most interesting to visitors – those being the most elaborate, and those with the tiniest proportions – although they may not necessarily be representative of the average of the time.

X-ray of Cathie Jung in a corset, demonstrating that she still has all ribs – they have just tapered though years of corset training with conical rib corsets. Click through to see her other scans.

MYTH #47: The fainting couch was invented during Victorian times for tightly corseted women to use whenever they felt faint – the chaise longue has existed (and been fashionable) for millenia, certainly not made for the sole purpose of fainting women. (Note: I talk a bit about the “fainting stories” in my blood pressure article here.)

Myth #28: Women had ribs surgically removed to make their waists smaller – There is zero evidence supporting that ribs have been surgically removed for cosmetic reasons, ever. That goes for today’s celebrities as well – Cher, Janet Jackson, and Marilyn Manson have all been subject to the rumors of rib removal – you can read more about this on Snopes, here.

Once again, it’s best to read through the comments and not just the articles, as some of the information in those articles have been debated as well. But these articles provide a good place to jump into further discussion.

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With and Without: How Wearing a Corset Affects You and Your Clothes

The Pragmatic Costumer showing the silhouette without and with a corset – in both situations, the external waist measurement is 28 inches!

A lovely, balanced and logical corset-neutral article that shows that the average waist reduction among 52 women was only about 2.5 inches, that corsets were necessary foundations to support the breasts and the heavy garments of the time, and that even a corset at zero reduction has remarkable effect on silhouette/frame. Also featured is an interesting study performed in the late 19th century which is worth a read in itself. Do turn a blind eye to the words “today’s fetish corsets” as it’s not supposed to be taken as derogatory to tightlacers. As Liz sums up nicely elsewhere in her blog, “Whether you are a lady or a gent, costumer or casual, tight-lacer or comfort-seeker, there is a corset for you!”

Go through this article slowly; it’s well worth it. ~ Lucy

With and Without: How Wearing a Corset Affects You and Your Clothes

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Versatile Corsets Mimosa Overbust Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Versatile Corsets Mimosa Overbust Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length Front is about 13.5″ inches long, modern hourglass or slim silhouette. Not a longline corset; cut above the hips. Good for women with an average length torso. May not cover lower tummy pooch – I’d recommend this corset to women who have a balanced figure on top and bottom, or top-heavy women who would like more bust support.
Material 3 layers (counting the interfacing); fashion layer is satin which is interfaced with medium weight woven fusible interfacing, and the lining is 100% cotton American coutil.
Construction 9 panel pattern (6 on the bodice and forming the bust cup). Top-stitching between panels, boning channels are interestingly sandwiched such that the bones are not visible on the fashion layer. Also has 8 garter tabs.
Binding Matching turquoise binding made from bias strips of satin.
Waist tape 1″ wide invisible waist tape between the interlining and lining.
Modesty panel Attached 7″ wide fabric lacing protector on the back; unstiffened placket under busk.
Busk Standard flexible busk (1/2″ wide on each side) about 12″ long (6 pins), with a 3/8″ wide flat steel bone on each side.
Boning 26 (28 if you include the underwire) steel bones not including busk. On each side, 10 spirals (1/4″ wide) double boned on the seams, 2 flats (1/4″ wide) sandwiching the grommets and another flat bone beside the busk.
Grommets 26 grommets total, size #00 two-part grommets with large flange; set equidistantly, no splits, no wear/fraying/pulling out of grommets
Laces Strong nylon cord-style laces; they’re thin, strong and they are long enough but very slippery.
Price Currently $398 USD for the standard size on the Versatile website (right now they’re having a 25% off sale on all their corsets – enter the coupon code Fall25).

Final Thoughts:

When I first bought this corset and received it in the mail, I wasn’t going crazy for it. As time went on, I found that the more I wore it, the more I liked it. The individual cups are very comfortable – I feel that this is one of the few overbust corsets I own that don’t squeeze my girls into painful little pancakes. When working at my computer, I like to wear this corset because it has a natural silhouette and fit (as opposed to a wasp-waist) and the cups support me like a bra, yet take the weight off my shoulders which further prevents me from hunching over.
Aesthetically I do prefer the more dramatic wasp-waist silhouettes however, so if I were to go back and buy this again, I may invest in the custom size. Although the overall effect is flattering as it is, I feel that it would have been an even better fit if the corset were larger in the ribcage, and had smaller cups (C cups instead of D). This would help support my bust more while preventing muffin top around the back. I also feel that the cups could be placed closer together in the front – perhaps the flat bones on either side of the busk can start lower down, allowing the cups to be pushed closer by about an inch.
The Mimosa corset is also available in various color combinations as you can choose the main fabric, then trim, external boning channels, and binding. I’m actually glad that I didn’t get decorative external boning channels, as this gave me the opportunity to see the unique and clever construction – a style I had never seen before:

Overall, I am happy with this purchase. It’s a totally unique piece in my corset collection, and one of the more comfortable overbusts I own. In retrospect I probably should have purchased this corset in a gold color or other earth-tone so I can wear on more occasions in conjunction with a steampunk outfit, from conventions to Halloween. To see other models in the Mimosa corset, Versatile has a small gallery of women of all shapes and sizes so you can see how it fits different people. You can see it on their website here.

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Morgana Femme Couture MF1331 Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Morgana Femme Couture Longline Teal Silk Corset Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length Front is about 13.5″ inches long, traditional hourglass silhouette with conical ribcage. Longline corset, recommended for tall or long-waisted ladies. Very comfortable in the hip area. Will hold in lower tummy pooch, recommended for pear-shaped ladies.
Material 3 layers; fashion layer is silk dupioni, interlining is 100% English cotton coutil, lining of cotton twill. Boning channels are satin coutil.
Construction 6 panel pattern. Lock-stitching between panels – external boning channels strengthen seams. Floating liner (very comfortable). Also has 6 garter tabs.
Binding Black satin coutil bias tape neatly machine stitched on both inside and outside.
Waist tape 1″ wide invisible waist tape within the layers, secured down at boning channels.
Modesty panel None in back; unboned placket under busk.
Busk Standard flexible busk (1/2″ wide on each side) about 12.5″ long (6 pins), backed with a 1/4″ wide flat bone on each side.
Boning 24 steel bones not including busk. On each side, 9 spirals (1/4″ wide) in external channels, 2 flats (1/4″ wide) sandwiching the grommets and an additional flat steel by the busk.
Grommets 30 grommets total, size #0 two-part grommets with moderate flange; set equidistantly, no splits, no wear/fraying/pulling out of grommets. I love these grommets!
Laces Strong 1/4″ wide nylon braided shoe-lace style laces; they’re thin, they grip well and they are long enough. No spring to the lace.
Price Currently $230 USD on their Etsy store (standard size, ready-to-wear) or $290-$350 USD on the MFC website (made-to-measure and custom colours, price depends on the size).
Morgana Femme Couture underbust as it’s shown in their product listing

Final Thoughts:

I was very pleasantly surprised by this corset. For a standard size corset, the hip spring is amazing and my ribs are beautifully tapered yet not too “scary” looking. This corset is the first time I have been able to close a 22″ off-the-rack corset all the way (previous styles have either been too restrictive in the hips or the ribcage to do so).
I’m also quite impressed with the quality of the materials in this corset. The dupioni silk fashion layer, English herringbone coutil strength layer, satin coutil boning channels and cotton lining look and feel strong yet luxurious. Once you go quality, you kind of don’t want to go back.
I found the price to be reasonable (at $230 it’s not much more than some other off-the-rack corsets, and actually less than certain other brands). The custom price is also justifiable, however I am curious to know where the corsets are actually manufactured. The one turn-off I have is the price markup for the 4 largest waist sizes (27″ – 30″). Yes, larger sizes do require more material but – with all due respect – having to pay nearly $60 more just because of a few more inches seems a little unfair. Perhaps I’m shooting myself in the foot (especially since I belong in the “smaller” group), but there must be some way to budget for the extra fabric used in larger sizes – even if this means marking up the smaller ones slightly.
Apart from that one small bug, I am thoroughly impressed with this corset – the materials and the construction are top notch for an off the rack piece.
To see this corset and other styles provided by Morgana Femme Couture, visit their website here. To see their selection of off-the-rack corsets, see their Etsy shop here.

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Glowing Tardis Corset Case Study

This post is a written summary of the video case study for the Light Atop the Tardis corset I made back in May/June of this year.

This corset was made for a girl attending Dragon*Con this August/September so I had to keep it a secret for several months, until after its debut at the convention. The corset itself is supposed to resemble (as its name suggests) the light on top of the Tardis while her skirt was the main box (which opened to show the impossibly huge interior of the Tardis).

-Details of the Tardis corset…>

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A corset-positive article by Collector’s Weekly

Beautifully flossed corset
Image from

This article titled “Everything You Know About Corsets Is False” written by Lisa Hix is a corset-positive piece based off museum curator Valerie Steele’s book, “The Corset: A Cultural History.”

This article has already been widely read and discussed within the corset community, but it still merits a nod here because of its concise debunking of some of the most common misconceptions about corsets.  I highly recommend this article to anyone who is new to corsetry and looking for quick and credible answers to the more popular questions and worries concerning corsets and tight lacing.

As for Ms. Steele’s book, I am planning a review on this book within the next couple of months, so sit tight. :D

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Sparklewren Flossed Swiss Cincher Review

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

Fit, length Front is about 9.5″ inches long, dramatic hourglass or wasp-waist silhouette. Side is 8.5″, good for average or even short-waisted ladies. I would not recommend this cincher for someone who has a problem with lower-belly pooch, though. Very comfortable due to high cut on the hips and external, continuous boning.
Material 2 or 3 layers; fashion layer is satin coutil and the lining is a plush satin (not coutil). May have strong interlining as well (guessing from thickness) but not sure.
Construction 6 panel pattern. Panels are assembled and external boning channels laid down and flossed before a floating liner was added. All the finishing is done by hand.
Binding Black satin coutil bias tape neatly machine stitched outside and hand-finished on inside. Very thin binding (I like it!).
Waist tape ~0.75″ wide invisible waist tape under the lining.
Modesty panel No lacing protector on the back; unstiffened placket attached to the knob side of the busk.
Busk Standard flexible busk (1/2″ wide on each side) about 9″ long (5 pins) and has an additional 1/4″ wide flat steel bone on either side of the busk (this bone is extremely stiff).
Boning 34 steel bones not including busk. 28 spirals (1/4″ wide) all in external channels, 4 flats (1/4″ wide) sandwiching the grommets, an additional 2 flats (1/4″ by the busk).
Grommets 28 grommets total, size #X00 two-part grommets with small flange; set closer together at the waist, no splits, no wear/fraying/pulling out of grommets.
Laces Strong cotton braided shoe-lace style laces; they’re thin, they grip better than nylon laces, and they are long enough with absolutely zero springiness.
Price Currently £350 for a made-to-order cincher (in your size, with your suggested flossing color/ motif). Contact Sparklewren on her website.
Sparklewren cincher. Model: Lucy (me!). MUAH: Stella Amore. Photo: Trillance.

Final Thoughts:

Oh my God.  Despite the fact that this corset wasn’t originally made for me, it fits like a dream. If fate exists, then this cincher was fated to be mine. This corset is super comfortable – as I mentioned in the video, the high cut at the hips bypasses the issue I usually have at the iliac crest, and the continuous boning prevents any pressure points. The external channels mean the inside is completely smooth. Due to the army of bones, this corset is rather heavy and thick – the external measurement is around 24″ but the inside measurement gives a waist measurement of closer to 22.5″, and with barely any rib compression as well!

This was the first corset I purchased that contained flossing, and first with continuous boning. It’s amazing how the smallest details “make” the whole corset – what seems like just a sweet, simple cincher actually has a startling amount of work and detail. This pretty piece of armour has ruined all other cinchers for me!

In addition to her skill, Jenni (the lady behind Sparklewren) is one of the kindest, most communicative and helpful corsetieres I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I will speak more of this when I review my custom overbust from her, but I will say now that her customer service is as good as her corsets.

To see the Sparklewren’s other work, do check out her website.

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Outfits with a Corset: Hiding your Corset with Empire Waists

I know what some of you are thinking: “You spend hundreds of dollars for a high-end training corset, and countless hours of effort and discipline whittling down your waist, and you want to hide it?”

Hiding or concealing your corset isn’t about shame. Sometimes it’s necessary to conceal the corset during work or school hours (especially if one’s waist is obviously unnatural, such as a wasp-waist or pipe-stem). The same way that employees and employers alike cover their tattoos with make up or take out their gauge earrings (plugs), so corsets may be a form of body modification that’s frowned upon in the workplace. Even outside of corporate life, some people wear corsets for personal reasons but don’t feel it necessary to make it anyone else’s business.

That being said, there are several ways to fairly easily hide your corset under clothing. One of these ways involves empire-waist shirts and dresses.

Empire-waist tops are “cinched” in at the underbust level, and fall freely below that point (very much the popular silhouette during the Regency period). As such, the waist of your shirt will fall at, or just above, the point where your underbust corset will start. Since corsets tend to not constrict your upper ribcage, the high waistline of your shirt in this area will look natural, and then the surplus of fabric beneath that point will easily conceal the sharp inward curve created by your corset.

My “red riding hood” empire waist sweater is excellent at hiding my underbust corsets

In the video below, I show a couple of different examples of empire waist shirts. They may have an elasticated bottom (in order to create a “bubble” effect) or they may be free and loose on the bottom, like an A-line skirt that starts just under the bust area. Both of these work well to hide corsets.

Generally speaking, heavier fabrics are better at hiding your corset than more lightweight fabrics. While lighter fabrics can still conceal a corset, any breeze or draft that pushes your shirt aside will show your silhouette beneath. (This can be used to your advantage sometimes!) The lighter the fabric is, the looser the cut of the shirt must be in order to conceal the corseted figure.

Even if this style of shirt or dress isn’t “in season”, there are two places that you’re likely to find them. The first is 2nd-hand stores, also known as fripperies, consignment shops, “vintage boutiques”, Goodwill/ Salvation Army/ Value Village etc. The second place where you will always find empire waists in fashion is a maternity clothing store, as most of their clothing is designed to conceal (or have enough folds of fabric to accommodate) a growing belly. In fact, most clothing which is designed to hide so-called “problem areas” (protruding bellies, apple-shapes etc) are also quite good at concealing other “odd” shaped torsos, such as a corseted figure.

In the next few weeks I’ll be making more of these “Dressing with your corset” videos and posts, to show you the different ways that you can either accentuate or hide a corseted figure.

To see my outfits in detail, watch this video:

Best wishes,