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.
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.