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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.

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

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.

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)

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: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/10/10/my-life-in-a-corset-squeezing-into-a-new-dieting-strategy/

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?

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 she is close to 75 now, 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.
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.

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“Corsets: Historical Patterns and Techniques” by Jill Salen – an overview

This is more or less a transcript of my video review of the same book – if you prefer to watch/ listen to the review instead of reading it, you may do so here:

I purchased this book for about $23 on Amazon. This book includes full-color photos of historical corsets, then patterns made from these corsets and notes on how they’re constructed or typical embellishments. This book is designed to be a supplement or an improvement to Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh, adding to the number of patterns and more detailed construction notes. Having 25 patterns in this book, this means that the price for each pattern was less than $1, which made the purchase well worth it to me.

The corsets range from about 1750 to around the time of WWI. There’s a section in the introduction that explains how corsets were dated (if they didn’t have the year of manufacture stamped on the corset). Curators gain hints by the way that these corsets were constructed. The earliest corsets were sewn entirely by hand and used hand-sewn eyelets and a wooden busk, whereas in the late 19th century had the luxury of sewing machines and many corsets were mass-produced at this time; they also usually had metal eyelets and a metal split busk. You can also gain insight to the year each corset was made, based on what silhouette was in fashion at what time, or ways of patterning – use of hip or bust gores, or cording instead of boning, etc.

Ms. Salen also discusses who would wear a certain corset and when they would be worn – certain corsets were designed for younger ladies verses matrons, women of higher class could afford to purchase more elaborate corsets or less practical corsets. Also, a proper lady may have several corsets – one for daily work, one for riding horseback, one for dances and special occasions. What country a person lived in also meant access to different materials or different fashions.

One interesting point she makes is that many of the corsets you see in museums are not representative of the norm – if you think about what clothes we save in our wardrobe, the ones that survive the longest are usually expensive clothes, those of sentimental value, and clothes that you keep in hopes of losing weight. Jill says this is no different from women 1-200 years ago! So the tiniest and the most elaborate of corsets are the ones that survive because they’re worn the least – so we falsely believe that everyone had an 18” waist at the time.

The meat of the book is a collection of 25 corsets from 1750-1917. For each corset there’s a full color photo, followed by a blurb explaining what materials it was made from, and notes on construction or embellishment if you want to make a period-accurate recreation of it. There are also interesting notes where applicable – for instance in the 1917 corset Salen explains how many of the textiles were rationed due to the war, and so new, cheaper synthetic fibers were made in lieu – they also found ways of making paper twine, paper cording, even paper thread to minimize the cost of clothing during this time. After these photos and notes, you find a pattern for each corset. The patterns are drawn out conveniently on a grid, with a legend so you can size it up easily before adjusting the measurements if you wish. On the patterns there are also marks for boning or cording placement, grainlines for the fabric, eyelet placement and “balance marks” (aka notches) so you know

“Corsets: Historical Patterns and Techniques” by Jill Salen.

what panels are sewn together in the correct order.

After these patterns the book gives you two “projects” – step-by-step instructions how to make a corset two different ways: a hand-stitched corset from 1790, and a machine-stitched corset from about 1900. The techniques section in the back shows you period-accurate hand-stitching, what’s appropriate at the seams, at the eyelets, at the binding, etc. It shows you how to do basic flossing and cording, and how to insert a busk.

It also has a bibliography for further reading, URLs for various museums which hold corset collections, an index, and a list of shops that supply specialty corsetry items (which is a little odd because a German store is listed under UK and a Canadian store is listed under US).

My personal thoughts:

I found this book an easy and quick read, considering it’s mostly patterns. I did learn some new things in here, such as techniques for hand-sewing and the little historical or political anecdotes associated with the corsets in each time were interesting. In the section of current corset manufacturers she only mentions two (Symingtons and Vollers), which I consider an unfairly small sample size. Having a color photo of each corset so you have a clear view of what the end result is supposed to look like, is useful, I especially liked extra photographs of how stays were finished on the inside, and wish that could have been done with all of the corsets,  although I can understand if a museum wouldn’t allow that. But despite the two projects in the back, you MUST already have knowledge basic corset terminology, and how to construct corsets – how to adjust the fit, how to sew panels together, etc. in order to make full-use of this book. However, I will still always keep this book in my collection. It’s a fantastic resource for period corset patterns, and even if I were to make every pattern in the book, I would still keep this book to look at the pretty photographs. ;)

The cheapest place I have been able to find this book (price + shipping) is on Amazon. You can view the book and read other reviews about it here.