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:
- Myth: All OTR corsets, regardless of brand name, are made in the same factory in India.
Truth: A huge volume of corsets (and not-corsets) are indeed manufactured in India, Pakistan, and China. While I try not to make sweeping generalizations about the quality of products coming out of certain countries, because that sort of feels like racism or “nationalism”, I will say that many other OTR companies are manufactured elsewhere, for example the US, UK, Thailand and Poland (to name a few). Each have their own way of keeping prices down and can still avoid the use of “sweatshops” – for instance some of the brands take on interns from nearby fashion schools, who give their labor to gain invaluable skills in the corset industry. If it makes certain consumers feel better to purchase corsets from these countries of origin, then go for it.
Examples: Versatile, Period Corsets, Dark Garden and Meschantes all offer standard-size corsets hand-made in the US.
- Myth: OTR corsets are made entirely by machine, and not people.
Truth: Okay, define “made by machine”. OTR corsets are not completely hand-stitched like corsets prior to the industrial revolution. People today do (sometimes) operate patterning software and sewing machines and grommet-presses (and sometimes, when they can afford it, really cool and super precise automated cutters), but the entire process isn’t completely automated.
Examples: Pretty much every corset brand.
- Myth: OTR corsets are made in an assembly line, where each person practically only sews one seam.
Truth: While some factories might work that way, this is not true for all – many companies take pride in having each corset made from start to finish by one person. Some companies (even those in the US) do employ a few people throughout the process: “cutter”, “sewer”, and “hardware (bones and grommets)”. But this hardly makes for an “assembly line”. A “team” though? Sure.
Examples: WKD says they have one person assemble the entire corset from start to finish.
- Myth: All OTR corsets are ill-fitting or make you look like a tube.
Truth: “Ill-fitting” is very subjective. I’ve had my share of “ill-fitting” corsets, which fit beautifully on one of my slimmer or curvier friends. Looking at the huge range of body types out there, it is likely that each brand of corsets, regardless of their shape, will look flattering on a certain percentage of the population. But there is no one brand that’s going to give a perfect fit on everyone. Lastly, not all corsets contribute to the “cylinder” effect – many brands have their own corset patterns, which can vary greatly in bust shape, ribcage tapering and hip spring.
Examples: Many options from Bad Attitude Boutique and Isabella Corsetry have very curvy patterns.
- Myth: OTR corset companies use glue in their manufacturing process.
Truth: Once again, here’s an issue with semantics. The biggest fear when it comes to this myth is that the corset would be completely glued together and not actually reinforced with stitches, the way many suits now have “taped” seams. I’ve haven’t yet found this to be the case. The other fear is that most glue is non-archival and will eventually ruin the corset, especially if it’s washed. This point is a bit moot because some of the best corsetieres I know of use fusible interfacing and other fusible webbing in their work, which also comprise of glue. Some of these fusibles are (relatively speaking) extreme in pH which may break down the fibers of the corset over the next several decades or centuries, threatening its state as an heirloom. But the vast majority of consumers don’t really care about this, as long as the corset remains beautiful and functional during their own lifetime, or at least until they move onto the next corset.
Example: Surprisingly, I found that my OTR Morgana Femme Couture corset did not use any fusible next to the silk fashion layer.
- Myth: OTR corsets never use coutil.
Truth: For the vast majority of OTR corsets, I have found this to be true – most of them seem to use a regular (single-direction) twill/ drill, which has a tendency to stretch more on one bias than the other. However, some antique corsets still exist that are made from jean, and I know of some well-known modern custom corsetieres who do not use coutil at all in their corsets. Further, several types of “corset coutil” now exist – in addition to the traditional herringbone coutil; spot and floral broches, satin coutil, canvas-(plain) weave coutil etc. can make strong and beautiful single-layer corsets. But more to the point, several modern OTR companies do use coutil if that’s really what you’re looking for.
Examples: Standard-size Morgana Femme Couture and Versatile corsets both still use herringbone coutil. Axfords also mentioned that their plain-weave coutil is woven exclusively for them in the UK.
- Myth: You can’t use OTR corsets for daily wear.
Truth: When wearing an OTR corset the likelihood of you eventually experiencing problems during daily wear or training is higher compared to when wearing a custom-fit corset. You may feel some discomfort here or there, or the corset may begin to stretch or fall apart if it’s not designed for rigorous use. In this situation, a custom-fit corset designed specifically for waist training may be worth your time, your health, and your wallet.
But there are no corset police that will arrest you for wearing an OTR corset on a daily basis. If you’re one of the lucky people who can find a standard-sized corset that fits you really well and feels comfortable, and as long as you’re aware of the guarantee policy and “design for use” of the brand you’re dealing with, I don’t see why you should be persecuted for wearing them every day.
Example: Timeless Trends offers a lifetime guarantee on their corsets, saying that customers can wear their corsets daily without reservation.
Have you heard of any other dubious stories regarding standard size or OTR corsets? Leave a comment and let me know!