Contour Corsets Review (Summer Mesh Underbust)

This entry is a summary of the review video “Contour Corsets Summer Mesh Underbust Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length Front is about 12.5 inches long, back is 13.5″ long. Unique silhouette in which the ribcage mostly follows the natural contours, tapering a bit through the lower ribs, but nips in dramatically at the waist for an extreme hourglass shape – almost wasp-waist in silhouette. I had requested this type of ribcage – if you prefer a more natural shape, this can be accommodated. This is called a “mid-hip” cut; coming slightly over the iliac crest but not longline. Extreme hipspring. See the “Final Thoughts” section on other fitting notes.
Material Primarily one layer of very strong, almost no-stretch poly mesh. I chose the “gold” color to match my medium-olive skin tone (it’s a cross-weave of a light yellow and deeper pinkish-copper). Despite being synthetic, the holes in the mesh allow my skin to breathe. Still, I always wear it with a liner underneath. Boning channels and binding are made from somewhat matching light-brown twill.
Construction 6 panel pattern, with most of the hip-curve between panels 3-4. At least triple-stitched: Lock-stitching between panels, seam allowances pressed open and zig-zag stitching to further stabilize the seam, then external boning channels, double-boned on the seams (external channels often contribute to an even stronger seam). No garter tabs (not requested).
Binding Brown twill that matches the boning channels; machine stitched inside and outside.
Waist tape None. This corset is strong enough without a waist tape, and in fact stronger than many of my corsets that do contain waist tapes. (I admit I had my doubts, but this corset has been tried and tested for nearly a year.)
Modesty panel 4″ wide stiffened modesty panel (lacing guard) in the back, suspended on the laces. 1″ wide modesty placket under the front closure, with a very heavy flat steel bone (essentially a boned underbusk).
Front closure Not a busk! The front closure is a “stayed zip” – heavy duty metal YKK zipper, secured into twill panels with the mesh overlayed. A 1/2″ flat bone is on either side of the zipper, and a 1/4″ flat bone sits on top of either side of the zipper as well. The very stiff and heavy 1″ underbusk further stabilizes the zipper so it doesn’t buckle. This has been my first tightlacing corset with a zipper and I’ve had no isssues with it.
Boning 29 total steel bones. On each side, there are 10 bones in external channels, then 2 flats on either side of the grommets in the lacing system, as mentioned before another 1/2″ steel beside the zipper, another flat bone on top of the zipper, and the last 29th bone is the heavy underbusk underneath the zipper.
Grommets 26 grommets total, size #0 two-part grommets with a large flange; set closer together at the waistline; high quality – no splits, no wear/fraying/pulling out of grommets
Laces I opted for the heavy-duty lacing; nylon braided shoe-lace style laces; they’re thin, they grip well and they are long enough. Very easy to lace up; they glide through the grommets well but hold their bow tight. Zero spring.
Price The Summer Mesh underbust costs between $520 – $575 at the time of this review. The price depends on the size and other considerations (see below). Asymmetric patterns (for those with scoliosis, etc) add $100. You can see her full price list here.

Final Thoughts:

When I first recorded the review and did the “first edit”, it was nearly 20 minutes long because I had so much to say about this corset. It is like no other corset I’ve had before, so even for a review such as mine (which is on its own pretty objective, but still comparable if you read across the tables of different reviews on this site), it can’t really be compared to other corsets in my collection. The posture, the materials, the construction, the pattern/ silhouette – everything  about this corset is just… different. Be prepared for a really long discussion (and as model KathTea had once said, “If this is tl;dr then corseting is probably not for you”).

This corset also fits very nicely under my smallest vintage dresses, lending a fairly accurate period silhouette which was a happy surprise.

Although this corset is one of my smallest, it is not my absolute smallest. My Contour Corset has a 20.5″ waist. I have two 20″ corsets from both Puimond and Jupiter Moon 3, and a 19.5″ cincher from Beespoke (although that one is nowhere close to being closed) and each of them give a totally different silhouette. I believe that the great polarized reaction received from this corset was due to the unique patterning which lends to the most dramatic silhouette of any of my corsets. This is precisely why the name of the company is called “CONTOUR Corsets”, because the contouring of the hip spring creates an illusion that makes the waist look much smaller than it actually is. (Fran used to have a video explaining this, which I’m not sure where it’s gone to now.)

Because the pattern/ cut of this corset is not typical, the measurements I took when commissioning this corset shouldn’t have been my “typical” way of doing things, either. Over the years as I worked with more corsetieres, I’ve learned to slightly “fudge” my measurements so I can predict the way that the final corset will fit. Some of the ways I tend to fudge measurements:

  • I know that I have a long torso/ low waist, so I know that I need a longer-than-usual waist-to-underbust measurement. I will typically request around 5.5 or 6 inches (changes with posture) but no more, because I predict that I will need a bit of space between my bra underwire and the top of the corset to wear the corset comfortably.
  • I know that I have a bothersome left hip, but rather than requesting an asymmetric pattern (which almost invariably costs more, no matter which maker), I will often simply state my iliac circumference as one inch larger than usual (I’ll ask for ~34″ instead of my usual 33″) and sometimes state my iliac bone to start about 0.5″ higher than it actually does, so the corset isn’t abrasive against my iliac bone (for some reason, even when I’m heavier I just don’t get padding around that bone).
  • I know that I’m capable of reductions up to about 7″ but if the maker simply refuses to make corsets with any more than a 4″ waist reduction, then I will state my natural waist to be 1-2″ smaller than it really is. (i.e. my real waist is about 27″, but if I want a 22″ corset then I’ll say my waist is closer to 26, so to avoid winding up with a 24″ corset). I didn’t have to do this in the case of commissioning my Contour piece, though.

With other makers, this has worked beautifully. But Contour has a different way of measuring the body, and I learned a few things about drafting for bodies at higher reductions:

Photo taken probably around August last year. Corset laced with about 1″ gap – the hips are a bit loose as a result. The corset must be completely laced shut to fit properly.

  • My natural figure is more or less straight up and down. When corseted, curves are created (duh). Between two given fixed points, an arc will always be longer than a straight line, and the more curved the arc, the longer the line will be (yay, math). This means that as my waist is capable of greater and greater reductions, the distance between my waist and my underbust increases – and if the corset cups around the ribcage instead of creating a conical shape, this line has to be made even longer and must be drafted in.
  • The same goes for the waist-to-iliac measurement at higher reductions. When uncorseted, my waist-to-iliac is typically around 3″, but when corseted this distance increases to 3.5″ or 4″. This particular corset has pre-bent bones along the side seams that contribute to the dramatic silhouette, so in this corset I notice most of the cinch in my waist along the obliques and pretty much none along the front abdominal region, which means the distance is even greater.
  • Fran has also mentioned that due to the high reduction of this style, there may be a greater downward “shift” in the intestines and the area below the waist may become fuller (read: a possible inevitable lower pooch, not from fat but from organs). While the strong underbusk prevents a lot of the roundness of the lower tummy, there is a bit more space drafted below the waist to accommodate this shift.
  • I also learned some things about my own body that I hadn’t known before, such as the tendency of my flesh to squish more upwards instead of downwards, and the fact that my xyphoid process is freakishly high compared to some other people’s.

All that said – because a corset maker is essentially taking all this into account and predicting a body shape and that had not yet existed on my body (and also predicting how my body would respond to the pressure), and because I had slightly messed up on the measurements based on incorrect presumptions of what she was going to do with those measurements, it turns out I needed about an inch more length at the top (this is also due to the corset being extremely posture corrective) and likely a bit less space in the hips. Lesson learned: never fudge your measurements. If you’re not sure about certain measurements, ask the maker if it is okay to take photos of the measurements to ensure that they are accurate. Because each corset maker does things a bit differently to everyone else, this is the advantage to keeping some “brand loyalty” and sticking with one maker throughout your waist training journey, because they can make modifications to your corsets as needed, and as your body changes over time.

But given the fact that there was no mockup involved and this gives a better shape than many of my corsets that did have a mockup fitting, I still think it’s pretty amazing – it’s also one of my most comfortable corsets.

My particular corset is very posture-corrective, gives a high reduction, and tapers along the ribs with increasing  pressure down to the waist. However, this is not the only type of silhouette available. Fran takes into consideration your experience level and preferences, so if you only want a light reduction, she can do that. If you want less tapered ribs, she’ll do that. She can also make corsets that are more posture-corrective or more accommodating compared to mine. This is what is meant by a true bespoke piece.

This corset is sort of what turned many my preconceptions about corsetry upside down. Because of this corset, I realized that coutil is not always the most appropriate choice, and in some situations synthetic does have its advantages. This corset taught me that waist tapes are not always necessary (Jeroen Van Der Klis of Bizarre Design, who has a background in engineering like Fran, also doesn’t use a waist tape), that lock-stitching can indeed be very strong when treated properly, that flats over the sides of the corset are actually amazingly comfortable when pre-bent in the right shape, that zippers can be used effectively and can be extraordinarily strong in corsets, and the lacing system (which doesn’t bow or distort whatsoever) is a bit magical.

Because of this corset, whenever a beginner corseter asks me what are the BEST features of a well-made corset, I find myself having to add asterisks and sprinkling grains of salt all over my responses – probably to the confusion of the beginner – in order to avoid “lies-to-children” (to reference the Science of Discworld). But all this really goes to show that you really must learn and become a master of the rules, before you go breaking them.

To see what Contour Corsets has to offer, you can find the website here. Also be sure to check out Fran’s Youtube channel here.

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23 comments on “Contour Corsets Review (Summer Mesh Underbust)

  1. Pingback:Corset Embellishments | Lucy's Corsetry

  2. Waspi on said:

    First of all thanks you so much for the sharing. Your blog et video are so precious!
    I love Contour Corsets, and wahooooo you looks fabulous with!
    I don’t really understand something about the magical lacing system (which doesn’t bow or distort whatsoever.I’m a very curious, what’s the trick? Is it a lacing boning like this one?

    • bishonenrancher on said:

      Hi Waspi, the Contour Corset doesn’t have any lacing bone; it’s just that the bones are very close together with larger grommets that make any gliding of the laces very easy. But I also suspect that it has something to do with the bones that are used and the fabric itself – the fact that it’s not flimsy and doesn’t collapse on itself to begin with!

  3. silksarii on said:

    I will soon be the owner of a Contour creation for my first, ever (!!!) corset and I’ve been re-watching every single one of your videos (and Fran’s) out of a thirst for knowledge and a little impatience ^.^ Thank you again for (answering my questions) and being a really awesome, centralized source of the math/science that goes into corsetry.

    Out of curiosity, how long did it take you to season this corset? I believe Fran’s website says ~100 hrs and in thinking about your usual 2,2,2 method, I’m sure you would have been tempted to lace down more..

    • bishonenrancher on said:

      Hi Silk Sarii, indeed it took me longer to season my Contour corset than any other corset I’ve had in the past! I’m not exactly sure as to how many hours it was to become seasoned, but I did start lacing it tighter long before the 100 hour mark – since the summer mesh is unlike any other corset I’ve had in the past (the fabric is very unyielding and it’s difficult to bend the bones in a different direction) I figured that it’s made to withstand reductions of more than 2″ so I probably laced it closer to 4″ reduction for a few months. But be aware that the seasoning process is just as important for your body as it is for the corset, if not more. The 2/2/2 rule is designed to also help beginners practice patience and ease into corset-wearing slowly and gently so they don’t get hurt. 🙂

  4. treeman110 on said:

    The Contour in brown looks incredible on you. Perhaps a little smaller than you usually wear – 20.5 is very tight. Magnificent

  5. Oh what can i say!! Ive learned a bit more about corset construction from watching your review 😀 now i must eat Frans brains so i can absorb her knowledge <3

    • LOL! Really I have tried my best to explain what was going on, while at the same time protecting her trade secrets. I will admit that certain parts of this corset remain a mystery to me, but that’s also what makes it a bit magical. 🙂

  6. RuthAnne on said:

    That’s such a gorgeous corset! I’ve always been a fan of extreme curves! 🙂
    You say that your uncorseted figure is quite straight up an down, and I’ve also heard people say that if one for instance has a large natural waist measurement that doesn’t have to be a hinderance to achieving a great reduction “the more you have, the more you can lose”. I have a question, though: What about someone who already has a waist which curves a lot naturally, seen from the front? Does that put limitations to how much smaller one can go? I look very curvy from the front, or back, but then from the side my belly protrudes quite a bit, so I feel that when I wear my corsets, the reduction is perhaps more in that direction, and that visually my waist doesn’t look all that much smaller from the front. Is this something which could be changed by regular training or wearing a different type of corset? Or is it more difficult to go curvier, when one is alreday quite curvy? 🙂

    • Hi RuthAnne, I’m so glad you enjoy this corset. 😀 There are some people who are naturally hourglass or pear-shaped, some of my online friends are like that, and when they put on a corset their curves go from impressive to eye-popping. Some of them are able to corset down to 18″ because of their natural shape, but of course only if they purchase made-to-measure corsets as the OTR ones available today don’t have a wide enough hipspring. 🙂 So I don’t necessarily think that starting out with a natural curvy shape would be a hindrance; on the contrary they are probably able to achieve much more impressive ratios with their starting point!

      • RuthAnne on said:

        Thanks for your reply! 🙂 Didn’t see it until today (must have forgot to follow this post). My measurements are about: Bust:40.5″, Waist: 31″, Hips: 41″ (with HUGE fluctuations due to hormonal issues). My underbust measurement is 34-35-ish, and I’m 5’8″ tall, so I’m definitely quite heavily built, but admittedly a bit chubby too. Very happy with my proportions, though, which makes me want to accentuate them with what I wear.

        I own a few corsets from What Katie Did. Two “Morticia” in size 28″, and on a good day/period I can close that size, but I feel that it kind of kicks out in the profile, so I still can’t hide the belly fat as much as I would have liked to. The “Antoinette” (same size as Morticia) somehow makes my waist look smaller from the front, though it isn’t supposed to be for curvy figures only, but a bit of the same problem is going on with the busk not holding me in. So I also bought a Mae Extreme in 26″, but haven’t been able to season it properly yet, it just feels very uncomfortable even with a big gap in the back, and the shape looks weird so far…:/

        I also own a leather underbust from a different maufacturer, and that is just way too cylindrical and makes me look straighter than I really am. Maybe it would be a better solution to just try to lose some of the weight from my stomach, but I’ve always wondered if a different company might have something perfect for me the way I am now. Like you say, custom is always the best, so if I decide to invest in more corsets sometime, that is maybe the way to go? Anyway, thanks a lot for your reply! 🙂 Good to know that I still have the opportunity to make things work with the right corset.

    • Janina on said:

      I have the sort of body you’re describing, RuthAnne. And I have about 10% more fat weight than my ideal, so a bit of a gut in front. :/ In corsets that fit my shape (large rib area, large hip spring, small waist) I can achieve 6 inches of reduction in the squishiest area around my navel without much effort. The visual change is dramatic, and I love it.

      I can get a 7-8 inch reduction from the one bespoke corset I own. According to Mr. tape measure most of what’s happening is my apparent waist is moving down 2-3 inches closer to my hips, so the transition from my waist to hips is more acute.

      So far I’ve only had the pleasure of trying OTR corset brands that run $250 and less. Of those that I’ve tried, Isabella corsets (esp. Josephine underbust) come closest to fitting my shape and giving me excellent waist compression. It’s super comfy. Orchard Corset silhouette level 3 is pretty decent, although slightly less curvy.

      Straighter corsets tend to just fill in my mid section and reduce, rather than amplify my curves, even when the gap isn’t parallel but )( shaped.

      I have a medium curvy corset from Kinnaird of Ireland with flat steel bones that gives me a decent reduction because with a gradual break in period, the bones bent a lot to accommodate my shape. However, it is not nearly as comfortable for prolonged wear as corsets that better describe my curves.

      I’ve learned through trial and error that if the corset looks like it has extreme hip spring on the model in the photo, it’s more likely to look good and feel good on me.

      • RuthAnne on said:

        Hi, Janina! 🙂
        Thanks for sharing your experiences! I remember Lucy’s review of the Josephine too, and I kind of ‘almost’ bought it the last time I was about to order something. I’ve heard others say great things about that one too, so maybe I should try it sometime, if I get the chance. Have you tried the Edwardian overbust from Isabella corsets by the way? I really like the look of that one…And I only own one overbust corset so far,and would have loved to find another one at some point. 🙂

  7. Janina on said:

    Thank you for the in depth tour of a lovely and alternatively constructed corset. I feel like I’ve visited a top notch museum display. It looks gorgeous on you. I never thought a tan/khaki color could be so subtle.

    • Thank you so much, Janina! This was also the first time that I’ve found such a color that matched my skin tone so well, so I had to take advantage of it, haha. 🙂 This was both a challenging and a fun review to make.

  8. Just to give an example of the lineage of the corset that you’re wearing — check out this 2009 video of Amy describing her corset design:

    My Wasp Creations corset, which I purchased back in 2006, is a treasure and has held up for years because of the smart design features.

  9. I think it is absolutely essential to credit the great Amy Crowder of Wasp Creations for many of the wonderful design components that you describe. While Fran has continued to innovate since Amy’s death, every time I see a Contour Creations corset, I can’t help but see Wasp Creations and Amy Crowder. She was an amazing corset maker and shouldn’t be forgotten.

    • I unfortunately never got the chance to work with Ms. Crowder or own a Wasp Creation, although have heard many great things about her work. Fran did tell me that Contour’s designs have a foundation in Ms. Crowder’s traditions. I’m very happy that Fran is able to keep this amazing artistry alive, and agree that Ms. Crowder should not be forgotten as she was responsible for changing the face of corsetry. I’m also excited about how the corsets have come to evolve over the years and curious about how they may continue to be built on in the future – great things happen when ingenious people combine their ideas and efforts. It really is more than a corset, it’s a piece of technology. 🙂

  10. Thanks for quoting me! I must report that the JvdK aka Bizarre Design corset despite being usually being worn at a 2″-3″ reduction, it gives me a great shape without a waist tape even! I really hope I could invest in a Contour Corset one of these days!

    • Of course! It’s a great quote that I will probably use again and again. After so many people writing to me and saying “I don’t have the time to watch your videos, so can you just tell me what to do?” and my having to explain that this is a culmination of years upon years of research, you’ve effectively summed it up in one sentence. Conciseness is not my strong point, but others do it for me. 😉
      Your Bizarre Design piece is magical. I remember being so shocked last year when EgapTesroc showed me that his corset doesn’t have a waist tape, it was awesome. My bird’s wing underbust sample from Sparklewren is also an experimental piece without a tape. Of course, most of the time I still prescribe to using/ requesting waist tape, because you have to be a pretty magical maker to pull off not having a waist tape.
      I’m really happy I’ve purchased this corset. It’s been one of my most worthwhile investments as it taught me so much about corset construction and my own body.

  11. I am a pretty young ‘child’ when it comes to corsets(6 weeks in) but I became very intrigued with Contour Corsets as soon as I discovered them. I love the science that goes with her approach and am happy that you endorse it too.

    I don’t know if I will be serious enough or not with waist training or not but if I do get serious, Fran is my 1st choice for a bespoke corset. Based on what you said about measuring I’d want her to measure me personally as I live across the state from her.

    Thank you for what you do! You are, in my opinion, the best source of corset information out there!

    • Thanks you so much Gabrielle, I consider that a huge compliment! Yes, if at all possible, it’s best to have your measurements taken for you, to remove some of the guesswork. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

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