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Reflections on 2014, and Looking to 2015

Every December 31st, I look back on the accomplishments and memories I’ve made over the past year. You can read the one from last year and the year before, if you wish.

In less than a week, my website will turn 3 years old. This past October, my Youtube channel turned 4 (for all intents and purposes). More than ever I realize the importance of running a blog and a channel side-by-side, as different people have different ways of sourcing information. Before we charge ahead, I will preface this by saying that 2014 was not exactly my most productive year (I didn’t meet some of my goals), but it may have been the most exciting year so far. Read on…

Continue reading Reflections on 2014, and Looking to 2015

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Remembering our Absent Corsetier(e)s

As 2014 draws to a close, I feel that it’s only fitting to look back with respect to the notable corset makers that are sadly no longer active in our community, whether by choice (closing commissions) or by passing on. These wonderful, talented artists will never be forgotten. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list – so if you would like to add anyone, please feel free to comment below.

 

In Memory of those who have Passed On:

 

Iris Norris, 1921 – 2000

2000, April – Iris Norris (The Independent Corsetiere).

Iris lived in London, England, and worked as a seamstress for 38 years (and later on, a model) for Gardner & Son Corsets, Ltd until they closed their doors in 1981. According to Staylace, Iris carried her love of corsetry over such that she continued to take commissions until the beginning of 2000. She passed away in April of that year, at the age of 78. I was not active in the corset community at this time, but felt that it would be respectful to include her as she helped pave the way for other independent corsetieres to succeed. Read tributes to Iris here on Staylace, and also here and here on corsetiere.net.

 

Michael Garrod (1928 – 2003) with Cathie Jung.

2003, July – Michael Garrod (True Grace Corset Company).

Michael Garrod started his business in 1982 and ingeniously incorporated some of his knowledge in glider aircraft engineering into his corsets to create incredibly sturdy and smooth pieces. It is said that he passed away peacefully in 2003 at the age of 75 after a long battle with cancer. Both Ann Grogan and Velda Lauder dedicated their books in his memory. See tributes by both Romantasy (another), and Staylace.

 

Constance Trench-Brown (right) with husband and partner Stuart, and friend Karen on the left.

2008, October – Constance Trench-Brown (C&S Constructions).

Constance made 50% of the C&S Constructions company, along with her Business and Life partner Stuart. According to Staylace, the couple started making corsets in 1988 and went into business in 1995, specializing in pipestem silhouette corsets. Constance was said to have persevered and continued passionately sewing corsets even as her health was on-and-off in her last few years, but sadly she passed in 2008. Stuart has kept the name of the company and continues creating corsets even today. Read a memoriam on Constance here, and visit C&S Constructions website here.

 

Amy Crowder, 1971 – 2010

2010, May – Amy Crowder (Wasp Creations).

Amy had 25 years of corset-making experience and had been a dedicated tightlacer since 1991. In this video you can see her revolutionary corsets as she demonstrates the zip-closure and effortless lacing system – Amy had a very loyal following and many believed that she would transform modern corsetry as we know it. Amy passed away in May of 2010, at the age of 39 – I was relatively new in the online corset community at this time, and was very saddened to hear of her passing. According to one source who is in touch with Amy’s mother, heart conditions ran in Amy’s family. Read Amy’s obituary here.

 

Ruth Johnson (1932 – 2010) with Ann Grogan.

2010, August – Ruth Johnson (B.R. Creations).

Ruth Johnson worked with several notable educators and pioneers within the corset community as corsets were experiencing their renaissance in the mid 20th century. As early as the 1960s, she worked with Fakir Musafar (the Ol’ Corsetier, Hourglass Company) and she was also a resident corsetiere on Ann Grogan’s Romantasy team from 1990 until her retirement in 2004. She became a source of inspiration for many younger corsetieres and passed away in 2010 at the age of 78. Read about her legacy on Romantasy here and here.

 

Velda Lauder, 1964 – 2003

2013, March – Velda Lauder.

Velda Lauder describes herself perfectly and concisely in her Twitter bio: Corsetiere, designer, author, consultant. She was a popular designer in the UK and around the world, dressing celebrities like Dita Von Teese. In 2010 she published her book, “Corsets: A Modern Guide” – and as Marianne Faulkner said – she was in her professional prime. Velda passed away in her sleep in 2013 while on a trip to Dublin, shortly after her 49th birthday. One source proposes that the cause may have been food poisoning or a virus. Read tributes on The Lingerie Addict and Jed Phoenix.

 

Christine Wickham (1992 – 2014), in a corset by Lovely Rats Quality Custom Clothing.

2014, July – Christine Wickham (Ariadne’s Thread).

Christine was a good friend of mine and I was deeply affected when I learned of her passing. She had only been active within the corset community for a few years – but in that short time she became hugely involved, moderating multiple groups and forums, creating and selling corset patterns, operating a graphics company (she did all the design work for my dress-up doll) and creating corsets under the name Ariadne’s Thread. She passed away earlier this year, just short of her 22nd birthday, from a pulmonary embolism thought to be the result of a knee injury during yoga practice. She is still deeply missed by all who knew her. Read memoriams by myself, The Lingerie Addict, Vanyanis, Sidney Eileen and Foundations Revealed.

 

Respecting those who have Retired:

Blue overbust with black lace by Creations l’Escarpolette

2008 – Creations l’Escarpolette.

The story of Joyce, the corsetiere behind Creations l’Escarpolette, is an unfortunate one. She had amazing talent and skill when it came to creating corsets, and particularly within the LiveJournal community her popularity exploded in the early 2000s. She was ahead of her years in construction and embellishment, and clients were willing to wait years for the opportunity to own a piece from Joyce. It’s said that between 2006 – 2008 she became overwhelmed with the volume of orders, and disappeared from the online community as more clients came forward with stories of not receiving their orders (1, 2). Perhaps this is a curse of reaching success too quickly. I feel that she still had so much to give, and perhaps tried to make too many people happy at once. The website and journal of Creations l’Escarpolette are still available here.

 

Lucy (me!) in the Abigail II underbust by SugarKitty Corsets

2013 – SugarKitty Corsets.

At the end of 2013, SugarKitty Corsets announced that after 11 years of making corsets, they were retiring from corsetry indefinitely. The owner Shannon still operates under SugarKitty Couture and offers burlesque-related accessories like pasties and knickers through her Etsy shop. I’m very fortunate to have been able to purchase and review one of her pieces, and still hope against hope that perhaps one day she’ll take commissions again! See SugarKitty’s website here.

 

Cathie Jung modelling an underbust by J.C. Creations.

2014 – J.C. Creations.

On November 1 2014, J.C. Creations shut their doors. J.C. Creations proved their expertise in corsetry through creating lovely corsets for the likes of Cathie Jung, Guinness World Record holder for the smallest waist on a living person. I was only able to study one of their men’s corsets – and I wish I had more time to learn more about their history and accomplishments, but I’m still grateful for the opportunity to share what I knew about them through the generosity of EgapTesroc. May J.C. Creations enjoy their retirement, knowing that they will be welcomed with open arms if they should ever decide to return.

 

To all those on this list: your work was well-loved, and you yourselves will be missed. Thank you for your contribution to our community, no matter how large or small.

Would you add anyone else to this list? If so, who?

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Is it Possible to “Shrink your Hips” using a Corset or Girdle?

 

“I’ve been wearing a corset for a few months, and I like the way my waist looks small but I hate that it makes my hips look big! Can I use a corset over my hips and make them smaller over time?”

I’ve received this question half a dozen times over the past few years, from people who started wearing corsets but then didn’t like the way the smallness of the waist made their hips look wider. Unfortunately (or fortunately) wider-looking hips is an intrinsic property of wearing corsets: when you reduce the waist, everything else looks larger in contrast, including the size of your bust, the breadth of your shoulders and the width of your hips. This is what creates the illusion of curves!

Still, some people would like to know if it’s possible to make your hips look smaller over time. I have to say, I’ve never seen a corset per se that has specifically achieved this.

Hip Compression is ONLY Logically Feasible in the Weeks Following Childbirth


The Hip Slimmer is a hip compression belt marketed toward those who have recently given birth. Click through to Amazon.
The Hip Slimmer is a hip compression belt marketed toward those who have recently given birth. Click through to Amazon.

I have seen some more modern hip belts and compression girdles that are marketed towards people who had recently given birth (like this one and this one and this one) so they can reduce their hips that may have widened during pregnancy. This is an important note. Your “hip bones” are the outermost crest of your pelvis. During puberty, the bones of your pelvis more or less fuse together. When you’re pregnant, especially during the last month of pregnancy, your body creates the hormone relaxin which helps your ligaments and joints to relax and widen – mostly in your pelvis so the baby can pass through (but because the hormone is circulating through your entire body, some people also report their feet getting larger during their last trimester).

The amount of relaxin circulating through the body reaches its peak around labor (which makes sense). After you give birth, the amount of relaxin is supposed to taper off and leave your system – so it’s during these crucial few weeks following delivery that the hip compression belt companies will target these women with the relaxin in their system. Because the relaxin had helped to loosen their ligaments in the first place, the idea is that the relaxin will also allow the pelvis to “shrink” back together with the help of some mild compression.

But for people with nulliparous hips (people who had never given birth before), there is essentially “nothing to compress” since your ligaments are still more or less tight (as long as you don’t have a connective tissue disorder). Even people who HAD given birth but it had been 6 months or more since delivery, I’m not sure how effective hip compression would be because the relaxin is no longer circulating at higher levels.

 

There are Risks Associated with Trying to Compress Your Hips


Personally, even when I’m wearing a conventional corset (designed to reduce only the waist) I have to be careful about the way the hips of the corset are shaped, because genetically I don’t put fat on my hips (I tend to gain weight in my abdomen but not over my hip bones). When I have a corset that pushes down on my hips, the corset grinds against my iliac crest and it’s quite uncomfortable and painful. There are delicate blood vessels and nerves that run over a person’s hip bone, which are fairly superficial (close under the skin) and when I’m wearing a corset, these delicate nerves and blood vessels are easily pinched (“trapped between a rock and a hard place” – between my hip bone and the rigid corset) which can cause numbness, tingling or pain.

While there are some people who put on a generous amount of subcutaneous fat over their hipbones and they may be able to compress their hips down slightly, this is still not something I personally recommend or condone. If you do experience numbness, tingling or pain in your hips, this is a sign that your corset is not fitting you correctly. This is not normal and do not ignore this. If you continue to ignore the immediate (acute) discomfort you’re experiencing, the longer compression over the hips may cause some bruising in your hip area, and cause damage to the nerves in the area that can take weeks or months to heal, because nerves take a very long time to recover.

This is not unique to corsets; some people have experienced similar hip pain from people wearing modern clothing like skinny jeans, low-rise pants and hip-huggers.

 

Why Properly-Fitting Corsets Don’t Hurt Your Hips


The reason why a well-fitting conventional corset does NOT cause numbness or tingling in your hips/ legs/ bum is mostly due to the fact that you’re not pinching the vessels that run between your bone and the corset (two rigid spots). Your waist (apart from your spine running through) is mostly soft tissue – muscles, fat, and mostly hollow membranous organs (like intestines which can easily flatten down). The corset then “springs outward” as it passes the waistline heading towards the hips, and it does not compress the hip bones at all – instead, it is drafted to be the same size as your natural hips, so it gently hugs and supports the hips, fitting it like a glove while not pushing down on the area.

There is only one situation where I would recommend someone buy a corset with a hip measurement that is smaller than their own “hip meaurements” and that is if a person has a large, protruding lower tummy. If you take a high hip measurement and a pendulous lower tummy is in the way, then your hip will artificially measure larger than it should be. So if your corset supports your abdomen properly and pulls that lower pooch in and up, that compression over the lower tummy will likely lead to a “smaller than natural” hip measurement – but the corset will still be drafted to curve over the hips and not compress them. The corset may have a sturdy busk to pull in the front, while possibly having pre-formed steels that “kick out” the hips at the side seam. In this situation, I would highly recommend having a custom corset fitted to you by an experienced maker, or in the very least try on a corset in-store so that you can assure it fits properly before you buy it.

 

What Can You Do if you Love Corsets, but Not the Look of Wide Hips?


Redthreaded is one corsetiere who makes custom longline Titanic-era corsets. Click through to see the gallery of more Titanic-era corsets!
Redthreaded is one corsetiere who makes custom longline Titanic-era corsets. Click through to see the gallery of more Titanic-era corsets!

Because there is a risk of hip bruising, tingling, numbness or pain, I would NOT recommend deliberately buying a corset smaller than your own hips and trying to use hip compression to make your hips look more narrow.

If you don’t like the way your corset puts your hips on display and makes them look wider, there may be a couple of other solutions:

  • Easiest solution would be to buy a larger corset – a piece that is less curvy with a less dramatic “hip shelf”. Your waist will be bigger in this corset, which will make your hips would not look so big in contrast.
  • You can also experiment with different styles and silhouettes of corsets – instead of a shorter Victorian style corset, you might want to try an elongated Titanic era (19-teens) style corset that is designed to make the body look long and svelte.

 

Do you have any other suggestions for those who want to make their hips look slimmer? Leave a comment below!

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Interview with Beata Sievi, corsetiere of Entre-Nous

In September of 2014, following the Oxford Conference of Corsetry, I travelled to Bath, England with new friends Beata Sievi (Entre-Nous) and Lowana O’Shea (Vanyanis), taking in some of the Roman Baths, museums, and churches.

I also had the pleasure of modeling a piece for Beata, photographed in the 400+ year old library in Oxford.

Beata is a very experienced couture corsetiere from Winterthur, Switzerland. As a psychologist-turned-designer, Beata places much importance on intimacy and relationships, and as such her aesthetic is focused around poetry, romance, and sensuality. Her pieces are entirely one-of-a-kind and she tends to build a rapport with each client to create breathtaking pieces suited precisely to the individual. In the interview below, you will see some cutaways to some of her past works, including a Samurai inspired corset, a corset covered with love letters, etc.

As filming interviews was not permitted on location in Jesus College, this interview was filmed in the gorgeous dining area of our hotel in Bath.

Timeline:

0:35 How were you first introduced to corsetry? How did you come to love corsets?

Lucy modeling a black brocade overbust made by Beata of Entre-Nous; photo by Beata Sievi. Click through to read Beata's blog about the Oxford Conference!
Lucy modeling a black brocade overbust made by Beata of Entre-Nous; photo by Beata Sievi. Click through to read Beata’s blog about the Oxford Conference!

3:35 How did your relationship with a corset enthusiast at the start of your business come to influence your artistry and romantic corset designs?

7:20 Why did you choose the name Entre Nous for your business, what is its meaning and significance?

8:40 If you could choose a favorite corset you’ve made for a client in the past, which would you choose?

11:55 What is your favorite part of the creative process?

12:20 Since you don’t get the opportunity to create as much corset art as you like (where you are given full creative liberty by a client), what part of your business is the most enjoyable to you? Designing, teaching, etc?

14:20 What is your least favorite part of corset making/ the creative process?

17:50 How long have you been in the corset business?

18:05 With so much experience behind you, is there anything you’re looking forward do in the future? What are your goals and aspirations for Entre Nous?

You can find more of Beata’s work below:

Beata’s blog of her designs: beatasievi.com

Beata’s blog for corset making: ecoleducorset-entrenous.com

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Dimples of Venus: A Helpful Gauge for Corsets!

Below is a transcription of the video above – please refer to the video for all visual guides. :)

Today we’re going to talk about the dimples of Venus.
Girls can have them, guys can have them, older people can have them, babies can have them. But what are they, and how do they relate to corsets?

The official name for “Venus dimples” is actually “lateral lumbar indentations“.
Indentations = dimples,
Lumbar = lower spine,
Lateral = to the side.

The indentation is caused by ligaments pulling under the skin in that area, and it marks the sacroiliac joint – the place where your sacrum, or tailbone area, meets up with the ilium, or what I call the “wings” of your pelvis. (Because if you squint your eyes, the pelvis vaguely resembles the shape of a butterfly.)

When I was younger, someone told me that the wider a woman’s dimples, the more fertile she’s said to be. (Which isn’t exactly true – although during pregnancy, the hormone relaxin causes stretching of all ligaments in the body, but especially those of the pelvis – so it’s theoretically possible for one’s Venus dimples to become wider during pregnancy.)

Horizontally, Venus Dimples mark where you should measure your Upper Hip!

The reason I’m talking about it today is because the venus dimple, being a marker of the sacroiliac joint, is an excellent marker of where to measure your high-hip line as it’s roughly in line with your iliac crest. Even if you have a lot of padding on your hip area and can’t find your hip bone pressing down, if your Venus dimples are visible, you can use these as a marker to measure your upper hip. Remember, your upper hip is an important measurement, because the pelvic bones cannot and should not be compressed in a corset.

 

Vertically, Venus Dimples can tell you how long your corset should be!

Venus dimples tend to be visible right above the curve of the bum and the tailbone, which can make it a marker for how long you need the back of your corset to be. In previous videos and articles, I talked about the importance of the length of the front of the corset, and of course it’s still important – but the length of the back can also affect the comfort and fit.

Measuring from your waistline UP to the bottom of your shoulder blade (or just above your bra band) will give you a reasonable corset height that will help you avoid muffin top, while allowing good mobility of the arms and shoulders (although it’s possible to make the back of a corset even higher!).

Measuring from the waist DOWN to the Venus dimples provides the absolute minimum measurement for a comfortable corset in the back (for me, in any case) – a corset shouldn’t end above this spot. A corset can be longer than this too, but it must be able to curve over the tailbone and bum.

Corsets that stop short of the Venus dimples in the back won’t provide sufficient support for a lower tummy in the front, and corsets that extend much, much lower than the Venus dimples are likely to require bones that can curve and flex over the upper bum and tailbone area (otherwise the bones will dig into the top of your bum!). I tend to prefer my corsets to end about 2 inches below the Venus dimples – depending on the height of your bum, this might be where the butt crack starts for you.

 

The distance between your Venus Dimples can help you choose a comfortable ‘lacing gap’ width!

The width of the Venus dimples can also provide a good gauge for you to determine what gap width in the back would be suitable, as it can give clues to the musculature of your back. A corset with a gap far too wide may cause the steels to rest closer to your oblique muscles as opposed to your erector spine muscles, and you’re not going to get the right torque to pull your waist in.

Dimples of Venus (arrows) on a model with prominent spine. Photo by Zaheer12a for Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Dimples of Venus (arrows) on a model with prominent spine. Photo by Zaheer12a for Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

When you’re choosing a first corset, it’s a good idea to at least have the gap in the back within the width of your Venus dimples. In the case of the model in the video, her spine is prominent (you can see the vertebrae through the skin), so it might be more comfortable for her to wear a corset with at least 1 inch gap so the corset steels aren’t grinding on her spine. Her Venus dimples are about 3 inches apart – so based on her anatomy, I’d estimate that a suitable lacing gap for a well-fitting corset would be between 1-3 inches. Incidentally, this is what many professional corsetieres recommend to begin with!

In sum: beyond just looking cute, using Venus dimples as clues can actually help you measure for a corset and predict how it might fit on you.

What do you think of the “Venus Dimple” theory for fitting corsets? Do you agree or disagree? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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‘Love of Corsets’ Black Satin Underbust Review

This post is a summary of the “‘Love of Corsets’ Black Satin Underbust Review” video, which you can watch on Youtube:

Fit, length Center front is 13 inches long, the side seam is 9.5 inches long. (Your torso should be about 10 inches long from underbust to lap). Center back is 12 inches long. Circumferential measurements: waist is size 24 (24 inches), the underbust is 28 inches (4 inch rib spring), and the high hip is about 32 inches (8 inch hip spring).
Material Two main layers: fashion fabric is black poly satin, and lining is black cotton twill.
Construction 5 panel pattern, constructed using the welt-seam method. The panels are stitched with a lock-stitch, and the corset is double-boned on the seams (bones sandwiched between the layers).
Binding Commercially-made soft black satin bias binding. Top-stitched on both outside and inside. Includes 4 garter tabs at the bottom (2 on each side), and 2 hanger loops at the top.
Waist tape None.
Modesty panel Modesty panel in the back is 5.5″ wide and finished in matching brocade. Unstiffened and stitched to the corset on one side (easily removable). Also the modesty placket in front is 1 inch wide.
Busk 12 inches long with 6 loops and pins, equidistantly spaced. The busk is 1/2 inch side, but slightly stiffer than a standard flexible busk.
Boning 20 total bones not including busk (10 on each side). 1/4″ wide spirals, double boned on the seams. Two 1/4″ wide flats sandwich the grommets on each side.
Grommets 18 grommets total, size #00 with a small flange and finished in silver. Set equidistantly, a little more than 1 inch apart.
Laces Black flat nylon shoelace style lacing, 1/4″ wide. Slightly springy but very difficult to snap. Long enough and comfortable to hold when lacing up.
Price This corset is now around $30 USD through Amazon (half the price they were two years ago!)

*

Same corset in champagne satin.
Same corset in champagne satin, $29.99 USD on Amazon (click through)

This corset is a modern slim silhouette, with a smooth sweeping curve from rib to waist to hip. It gives me a mild waist reduction, so if you are naturally curvy or hourglass-shaped, I would recommend a curvier style corset. However if you are an “apple” shape where you carry most of your weight around your tummy, you may find this corset helpful for flattening and smoothing.

One day I was doing some heavy lifting and felt a twang in my back muscle. I went home and put on this corset at a light reduction, and it was just what I needed to help my back relax – I felt back to normal within a few hours.

This specific corset is currently available through Amazon in white/ champagne (20 steel bones) but feel free to check out all of Love of Corsets’ corset styles on Amazon.

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Orchard Corset CS-530 Overbust Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Orchard Corset CS-550 Overbust Review”. If you want visual close-ups, you can watch the video on YouTube here:

Fit, length Center front is 15″, the longest part from peak of the bust to lap is just under 16″. The center back is 12.5″, so the lengthwise measurements are nearly identical to Orchard’s CS-511 overbust. It has a gentle sweetheart neckline, but it’s cut over the hip (by contrast, their CS-511 is slightly longline). It’s a modern-slim silhouette. I’m wearing a size 24″, the bust is 34″ (10 inches bigger than the waist), and the hips are about 32″ (8 inches bigger than the waist).
Material 3 main layers – the outer fashion fabric is black satin, a sturdy cotton twill interlining, and the lining is also black cotton twill.
Construction 6-panel pattern (12 panels total). Constructed with the sandwich technique (fashion fabric flatlined to interlining and treated as one layer) and the bones are sandwiched between the two cotton layers. It’s double boned on the seams.
Binding Made from black satin bias strips, machine stitched on both sides. There are also 6 garter tabs, 3 on each side.
Waist tape One-inch-wide waist tape running through the corset, hidden between the layers. Starts between panels 1-2, and ends by the back grommets.
Modesty panel Modesty panel on the back is unstiffened and 6 inches wide, made of a layer of matching black satin and a layer of twill. Panel  and attached to one side with a line of stitching (easily removable if desired). There is also a placket by the busk.
Busk Busk is 1/2″ wide on each side and 14” long, with 6 pins (the bottom two pins are slightly closer together). It is fairly sturdy; less bendy than some other 1/2″ busks I’ve tried.
Boning 22 bones total (11 on each side). On each side, 9 of them are spirals about ¼” wide (double boned on the seams, except for between panels 5-6) and then there are two flat steel bones, both 3/8” wide sandwiching the grommets.
Grommets There are 24 grommets (12 on each side), all size #00 grommets, with a small flange, finished in silver and spaced equidistantly. On the underside there are some splits which do catch on the laces a bit when lacing up.
Laces The laces are ¼” wide flat nylon shoelace style. I find them to be long enough and quite strong, but also rather springy. However, Orchard has some higher quality laces (in several colours) available on their website – I very much prefer their ribbon laces to the standard shoelace style laces, however the shoelace style laces would catch and shred less on the splits in the grommets compared to the ribbons.
Price Currently $79 USD on Orchard Corset’s website.

 

CS-530 overbust in limited edition green satin, and silver-on-black brocade. Click through for Orchard Corset's buyer guide.
CS-530 overbust in limited edition green satin, and silver-on-black brocade. Click through for Orchard Corset’s buyer guide. Models: Caylin (L) and Cheri (R)

This corset scored fairly well on the Bust Test, as the bustline came up high enough on my chest to hold me in during certain activities like shrugging and putting my arms up. One thing I would prefer is if the pattern around the bust would round and come inward up and over the breast, the way their CS-511 corset did when I reviewed that piece. However, this CS-530 overbust comes up rather straight on the bustline, and pushes everything upward. Aesthetically I like a more rounded, less ‘squished’ bustline, which is more consistent to the way molded bra cups look today, and also makes me feel safer that I’m not going to “booble out” of the corset when leaning over.

The picture above leads to the buyer’s guide on Orchard’s website, where they say the CS-530 is better suited for larger cup sizes. I wear anywhere between DDD to H cup depending on the brand, but I personally prefer the shape of the CS-511 overbust – but take this info with a grain of salt.

It’s a common trend for Orchard Corset to have the “bunny ears” set high on the waistline. My natural waist is always 1-2 sets of grommets lower than the bunny ears, which means when I pull on the loops, it compresses my lower ribcage as opposed to my actual waistline – if this is the case for you, there is no shame at all in unlacing and relacing the corset with the bunny ears a bit lower – you may find it more comfortable, more flattering and easier to use!

Orchard Corset has graciously provided my viewers and readers with a coupon code – enter CORSETLUCY to receive a 10% discount on your purchase. See the CS-530 overbust here.

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Case Study: Sapsford Silver Overbust Corset

This post is a summary of the “‘Case Study: Sapsford Silver Overbust” video, which you can watch on Youtube:

Quick Stats:

Material Two main layers: fashion fabric is a pattern-matched synthetic upholstery fabric with metallic threads interwoven, and it’s already backed onto a twill-like fabric. The lining is white herringbone coutil.
Construction 7 panel pattern (drafted by Scarlett Sapsford). The fashion layer is floating, and the corset is single-boned on the lining side.
Binding Bias strips of matching silver metallic fabric, machine stitched on both outside and inside (stitched in the ditch on the outside).
Waist tape 1 inch wide twill tape sandwiched between the layers.
Modesty panel No back modesty panel, but there is a narrow placket by the busk.
Busk 12 inches long with 6 loops and pins, equidistantly spaced. The busk is 1/2 inch on each side, and there are a pair of grommets above that ties at the bustline.
Boning 16 total bones not including busk (8 on each side). 1/4″ wide spirals, single boned on the seams. Two 1/2″ wide flats sandwich the grommets on each side.
Grommets 34 grommets total, size #00 with a small flange and finished in silver. Set equidistantly, a little more than 1 inch apart.
Laces 1/2″ wide, double-face satin ribbon finished in silver.

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A bonus from yours truly - last month I made this pattern-matched overbust with a complicated asymmetric motif as a challenge to myself. I made this using the techniques in Scarlet Sapsford's Corset Making course (click the photo to learn more about the course).
A bonus from yours truly – last month I made this pattern-matched overbust with a complicated asymmetric motif as a challenge to myself. I made this using the techniques in Scarlet Sapsford’s Corset Making course (click the photo to learn more about the course).

This was a great project that came together in just a few days! Although I’ve known how to make my own corsets for years, it was fun going through Scarlett Sapsford’s Express Corset Making Course, discovering slightly different techniques from my own, and honing my skills by learning from a different angle.

Matching the motifs on this corset was a bit of a challenge, but a fun one. I followed Scarlett Sapsford’s instructions in her complete Corset Making Course, and it turned out (mostly) fabulous. A few things I would do differently:

  • I would have backed the fashion fabric onto interfacing to stabilize it and prevent warping (because warping is bad news when you try to match panels together!)
  • I might have chosen a fabric that has a less bold motif. Although the clear-cut and high-contrast motif made it easy to see where I should be matching the pieces, it also makes it super obvious where the matching wasn’t quite perfect. Yes, I did have to re-cut a panel because it was a few mm off!
  • I might lock-stitch the seams and press the seams open instead of using a top-stitch, because it makes the outside smoother and would prevent the motif from looking “off” when viewed at different angles.

I have a long torso and a low waist, and most OTR overbust corsets are a bit short on me – this is an issue if I want to keep my bust comfortably covered! So I modified Scarlett’s overbust pattern and added an inch of length in the ribcage. I did not make a mockup for this corset before jumping in and creating the final piece; if I had made a mockup, I would have lengthened the pattern even more in the front, and added another 2 inches in the bust to accommodate for my fuller chest.

Of course, this means opportunity to make more corsets in the future, about which I will not complain! :D

If you’d like to learn how to make your own corset like this one, be sure to check out Scarlett Sapsford’s Express Corset Making Course!

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Advanced Breaking in your Corset (Intuitive Seasoning)

This serves as a synopsis to my corset seasoning mini series from 2013, but also an addendum for experienced corset wearers and how they break in their corsets as well. Feel free to watch the video from 2014 above, or read the post (a transcript, revised in 2016) below.

There are understandably some complaints from people about the 2-2-2 guidelines and how this doesn’t work for people who wear corsets at a 6, 7, or 8+ inch waist reduction. This is a valid point and I want to share with you the same thing that I told to these more extreme tightlacers back in 2014.

Romantasy’s 2-2-2 guideline (wearing the corset at a 2-inch reduction [measured over the corset, so it is actually a slightly more dramatic reduction under the corset], for a duration of 2 hours a day, each day for 2 weeks) is exactly that: a guideline for beginners. You can choose to follow it or not follow it.

Some 7 or 8 years ago, before I ever read about the Romantasy method, some other corset companies posted instructions online for beginners, telling customers to “lace the corset as tight as you possibly can, and keep it on for as long as you can stand it” on the first wear – and more alarmingly, to “expect that it will hurt” until you can force the corset to soften and mold to your body.

Holy crap, that is bad advice.

Luckily I had the sense to not tie my corsets as tightly as possible from the first wear, but I did observe that for the first couple of corsets I owned, when I had not broken them in gently, one of my corsets ripped at the seam when I sneezed, another corset had a busk break through the center front seam, and yet another had a grommet pull out within 2 wears – at this time I believed that I was lacing too tightly/ too fast, or treated my corsets too roughly.

I will add a note here though: if you read through my seasoning mini-series, you’ll see that even when you treat a professionally-made, custom-fit corset quite gently, sometimes SNAFUs can still occur. It was only after a different corsetiere came forward a year later and noted a ripped seam in a green corset her own company had made, that it was hypothesized that this particular batch and color of green Gütermann thread might have been defective and not as strong as their usual thread!

The 2-2-2 guideline was designed to combat the incorrect and potentially dangerous information that was previously distributed by other brands [to wear your corset as tight as possible on the first wear]. The Romantasy method helps the gently ease the beginner’s body into the process of wearing a corset (because most people are so accustomed to elastic, loose fabrics today that such a rigid garment such as a corset may take some getting used to). The process of “seasoning your body” is just as much (if not more) important than the softening process of the corset itself – making sure the fibers are aligning and settling properly (if the corset is on-grain), and observing the corset losing its ‘crispness’ so it may hug around your body better.

It’s already implied that a beginner would not be starting with an 8-10 inch reduction that would fit on them like a wobbly corset with only the waistline touching your body. Although a small amount of flaring at the top and bottom edges is normal if your corset is not closed in the back, to experience flaring so extreme that you can fit stuffed animals into your corset, I believe the corset is probably too curvy for you if you’re a beginner. Refer back to my article about corset fitting, and why having a gap too wide in the back of the corset is a bad thing.

 

At the time these guidelines were created, achieving more than 4-6 inches of reduction was extremely rare.

Back in the 1990s to early-2000s, when I was researching corsets as a teenager, many authorities and corset makers were only recommending that people start with a 3-4 inch reduction – maybe 6 inches if you were plus size or particularly compressible. Think of the OTR corset brands that existed 10-15 years ago: Axfords, Vollers, Corsets-UK, Timeless Trends – these corset vendors did not make extremely curvy corsets designed for dramatic reductions at the time, and the average person would be lucky to achieve more than a 3-4 inch waist reduction without their ribs and hips getting compressed too tightly anyway. Over the past 5 years, curvier corsets have become more accessible through OTR brands (as opposed to having to commission a custom piece at 3-5x the price of OTR). Today I’m hearing of people buying their first OTR corset at 8 or even 10 inches smaller than their natural waistline, which is not a practice I would condone for everyone.

I can wear a corset around a 7-inch reduction, but I’ve been wearing corsets occasionally for around 12 years, and waist training off and on in the past 6 years. My waist has become accustomed to the pressure such that my muscles readily stretch, my intestines readily flatten and give way, and my body can accommodate moderate-to-largish reductions relatively quickly. But this may not be the case for a beginner, and there is such a thing as going down too much, too quickly. My concern is that if a beginner is starting with a corset 8-10 inches smaller than their natural waist, their corset will not fit properly because they may not tolerate large reductions in the beginning, but they may be impatient and want to close the corset within a few weeks or months. I don’t want people to end up hurting themselves.

Regardless, nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to season your corset using the 2-2-2 method. I mentioned in one episode of my corset seasoning mini-series that different methods and durations of breaking in your corset exists, and there is no “One” perfect way, no one hard and fast set of rules to break in your corset.

Romantasy has one way of doing it, Orchard Corset has a different method, Contour Corsets has yet a different method, and I’m certain that there are other brands who have their own way. Some methods are faster, some are slower, some methods are more structured, some are very free. The common goal is to have a corset that wraps around your body like a glove, and feels comfortable enough to wear for long durations without injury to yourself. But it’s also imperative that you start with a corset with a reduction suited to your experience level and body type, and with dimensions predicted to fit you well.

 

Different people have different bodies, and can cinch to varying reductions.

Someone who is larger, more squishy or more experienced might be able to cinch down more than 2 inches on the first wear (indeed, one of my clients whose natural waistline approaches 50 inches is able to close a corset 12 inches smaller within a few wears! Same with someone who has had surgeries to remove their colon earlier in life, but this is an extreme situation obviously not applicable to 99% of the population).

However, some other people are very lean, or they are body builders and have a lot of muscle tone, or they may simply have inflexible obliques or inflexible ribs, or they have a low tolerance to compression, and they may not be able to reduce their waist by even 2 inches – and those who are naturally able to lace to dramatic reductions should not shame those that can’t. Also by having a general guideline for beginners, and a modest one at that, it can help eliminate a false sense of competition between inexperienced lacers who have not yet learned to listen to their bodies.

 

Viewer question:

“I’m wearing the corset as tight as I possibly can, and it measures the same on the outside of the corset as my natural waist? What am I doing wrong?” The answer: nothing is wrong. Firstly, your corset has some bulk, so even though your external corseted measurement is the same as your natural waist, most likely your internal waist measures 1.5 – 2 inches smaller. And if that’s as small as you can comfortably go at this time, and if your corset is fitting you properly (it’s not a case of the ribs/hips of the corset being too small for your body and blocking your waist from reducing more), that reduction is perfectly fine! Wearing a corset should be enjoyable, not a cause of stress. With patience, most people find they can comfortably reduce more in several weeks or months.

Another question I regularly receive:

“How long does it take to season a corset?” Different corset makers will state that it takes different amounts of time for their corset to be fully broken in, just like I mentioned in a previous episode of the mini-series. Orchard Corset once said that it takes around 10 hours to season, while Contour Corsets says to take closer to 100+ hours to season one of her hardcore summer mesh tightlacing corsets – so there is a spectrum, and it depends on the brand, materials and construction methods.

 

Some people like rules, others don’t.

The whole point of Romantasy’s 2-2-2 guidelines is to encourage beginners to ease into the process of wearing the corset and to be gentle with themselves from the start. What I’ve found over the years is that some people are more intuitive and like to learn from experience – they prefer to navigate their own way through a new skill/ process through trial and error, while some others are more analytical and prefer to have a more rigid system that they can follow. This is true for more than just corsetry – it’s true for learning to play a new instrument (classical vs contemporary lessons, or even having a teacher at all vs being self-taught) or losing weight (some prefer to just eat well and walk more often, while others take on a strict workout regime with a certain number of reps with certain weights, and they count calories and macromolecules, etc.). Most people are somewhere in between. Most importantly, both methods have their perks and drawbacks, and one method is not inherently better than the other.

Perhaps it’s a certain type of person who is drawn to corsets in the first place, but I notice a larger proportion of my viewers and readers prefer to have some rules or guidelines to start out with. It’s okay to follow a system until you become familiar with your body and you can come to trust your own experience. It’s okay to “learn rules” and then choose to accept or reject them later on.

And of course, some people naturally possess more common sense than others (I cringe when someone tells me that their ill-fitting, poor quality corset bruised them and yet they refuse to stop wearing it!).

 

Let guidelines guide you, not control you.

There are some beginners who are very pedantic and they begin to worry that they seasoned their corset at 2.5 inches instead of only 2 inches – of course, there is a limit to everything and it’s not that big a deal if you don’t follow the guideline to the letter. However, if you wore your corset for 12 hours on the first day and ended up bruising yourself, this is a greater concern (and you should always place more importance on your body than on your corset – a corset may cost $50 – $300 on average, but your body is priceless and irreplaceable). A 2(ish)-hour guideline should be long enough for you to tell whether your corset is causing any fitting issues (or is contraindicated with any pre-existing condition, like if a corset tends to bring on a headache or blood pressure spikes to those already prone), while usually being short enough in duration that it shouldn’t cause bruising or pinched nerves or any other troubles that could arise.

Obviously, corsets should never ever hurt, pinch, or bruise you, nor should it cause muscle tension, or headaches, or exacerbate your health problems – if it does, that type of corset is not right for you, or you may not be healthy enough to wear a corset.

These days, I have a very intuitive way of wearing my corsets after they’re broken in – I don’t necessarily count the hours I wear them, or the reduction. If the corset feels too loose, I might lace it a bit more snug. If the corset feels too tight, I will loosen it. If I’m sick of it, I take it off! (By the way, you can learn more about different waist training methods in this article.)

When you’re more experienced with corsets, you can trust yourself to be more intuitive regarding how long to wear the corset and how tightly.

Analogy: Hard Contact Lenses

I started wearing hard contact lenses at 14 years old. They correct my astigmatism by literally acting like a brace for my eyeball and changing the shape of my cornea. While soft contacts mold to the natural shape of the eye, hard contacts will encourage the eye to take the shape of the contact lens (similar to how a corset molds your waist). But this can cause eye irritation especially in the beginning – my corneas were not adapted to the shape of the contact lens, so I couldn’t wear my contacts 14-16 hours a day. The optometrist gave me a strict schedule to follow, starting with wearing the contacts for 2-3 hours a day, one or two times each day, and slowly building up from there. The schedule lasted about 3 weeks until I was able to wear my contacts all day without eye strain, nausea, headaches, eye dryness, or irritation. Of course, when I get a new pair of contact lenses (with a stronger prescription, booo but such is life), I don’t have to go through the exact same schedule because my eyeballs are already accustomed to wearing contacts – I only have to get used to the strength of the prescription. When receiving a new corset (with a silhouette you’re already accustomed to), you don’t have to “re-season” your body the same way you did as a beginner, but you may need to train your body if your new corset is a few inches smaller than you’re used to.

Analogy: Weight Lifting

Some people will go to a personal trainer for a few weeks or months to learn good form and to get help with finding the weight, number of reps in a set and number of sets in a workout – and then once they know what they’re doing, they can stop going to the trainer and adapt their own workouts the way they like. Over time, you can expect to improve your strength and you may be able to lift more weight or go for more reps – but the program you make for yourself over time may not be suitable for a different person, especially not a beginner. On another note: other experienced athletes prefer to keep going to a personal trainer for years, long after they already know how to perform certain exercises properly and know intuitively what works for their own body, because these folks find value in having someone else create a system for them and continue to hold them accountable (which is also likely why Romantasy’s 3-month waist training coaching service has been successful over the years).

What is Lucy’s excuse for still seasoning all her corsets the same way?

I’ve been wearing corsets for over a decade and have seasoned well over 100 corsets in that time. Why do I still follow a structured seasoning schedule, especially as an intuitive corseter after the seasoning process?

The reason for this is mainly because I prefer to season all of my corsets in the same method. I do regular reviews with different corset brands. By controlling the reduction and the duration I wear every corset and giving them all the same treatment prior to review, I can see how well some corsets stand up to tension over time. In truth, I can tell within 10 minutes of putting a new corset on whether that corset is going to work with my body or not. Quite honestly, there have been certain corsets where (had I not received a request to review the corset) I would have tried on that corset once and immediately gotten rid of it. But if I’m going to give a fair review, I have to give a corset fair treatment.

In science, you have to control as many variables as possible in order to perform a fair, objective experiment. So I’ve incorporated a quality control system where I control as many variables as best as possible by seasoning every corset the same way. This ensures that I’m not putting more stress on some corsets than others (the exception to this being a ‘rental’ or ‘loaned’ corset that I need to send back after filming, in which case I won’t season it at all). The 2-2-2 guidelines are, as mentioned before, a very mild amount of stress to put on a corset – and if that corset does not even survive a trial period of 30-50 hours without seams stretching or a grommet pulling out, then I definitely know that the construction is compromised and the quality isn’t close to what I’d consider industry standard.

Bottom line, if you are an experienced corset wearer, or if you are particularly compressible, or if you hate following a rigid schedule, then the 2-2-2 guidelines (or indeed, any other corset seasoning guidelines) may very well not work for you, and that’s alright. But other people find it more comfortable follow a more rigid seasoning schedule. It’s really no skin off your back to let someone break in their corsets in a different way, as long as the other person is not hurting themselves and not destroying property. Live and let live.

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‘Love of Corsets’ Long Brocade Underbust Review

This post is a summary of the “‘Love of Corsets’ long brocade underbust review” video, which you can watch on Youtube:

Fit, length Center front is 13 inches long, the side seam is 9.5 inches long. (Your torso should be about 10.5 inches long from underbust to lap). Center back is 12 inches long. Circumferential measurements: waist is size 24 (24 inches), the underbust is 30 inches (6 inch rib spring), and the high hip is about 32 inches (8 inch hip spring).
Material Two main layers: fashion fabric is brocade, and lining is black cotton twill.
Construction 4 panel pattern, constructed using the welt-seam method. The panels are stitched with a lock-stitch, and the corset is double-boned on the seams (bones sandwiched between the layers).
Binding Bias strips of matching poly brocade. Top-stitched on both outside and inside. Includes 4 garter tabs at the bottom, and 2 hanger loops at the top.
Waist tape None.
Modesty panel Modesty panel is 6″ wide and finished in matching brocade. Unstiffened and stitched to the corset on one side (easily removable). Also the modesty placket in front is 1 inch wide.
Busk 12 inches long with 6 loops and pins, equidistantly spaced. The busk is slightly stiffer than a standard flexible busk.
Boning 16 total bones not including busk (8 on each side). 1/4″ wide spirals, double boned on the seams. Two 1/4″ wide flats sandwich the grommets on each side.
Grommets 18 grommets total, size #00 with a small flange and finished in silver. Set equidistantly, a little more than 1 inch apart.
Laces Black flat nylon shoelace style lacing, 1/4″ wide. Slightly springy but very difficult to snap. Long enough and comfortable to hold when lacing up.
Price This corset was $65 at the time of recording two years ago, but most of Love of Corsets’ stock is now around $30 USD!

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This corset is a modern slim silhouette, with a smooth sweeping curve from rib to waist to hip. It does give a moderate waist reduction on me (having a 6″ rib spring and 8″ hip spring) so Romantasy may call this a “U” shaped corset, or it may be reminiscent of an old Victorian silhouette (as their corsets were not convex at all over the ribs, but rather smoothly concave).

I wouldn’t recommend this piece for “stealthing” under clothing, because the rather long point in the bottom of the center front may poke out from under your pants! However, the same brand has a few other corset styles that would be a bit better for wearing under outfits.

This specific corset is sadly currently unavailable, but feel free to check out some of Love of Corsets’ other styles on Amazon here.

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OOTD: Cinch Clips to Accentuate your Corseted Figure

If you don’t want to permanently tailor your clothing to contour over your corseted waist, but you still want to show off your hourglass figure, what can you do?

Wearing my Contour Corset under my sweater tunic and toddler belt.
Wearing my Contour Corset under my sweater tunic and toddler belt.

In a previous video I discussed belted fashions (that belt was originally made for a toddler, by the way – waist size 20 inches up to 25 inches), but if you are concerned that a belt would cause too much friction and damage a delicate fashion fabric of your corset, you can try cinch clips as an alternative (also called dress clips or jacket clips). Check Etsy, they come in a myriad of colors, and you can get them ruched or flat, with silver clips or gold.

My friend Zessinna crochets adorable roses and bows to conceal cinch clips – check out her Etsy shop here if you have the time!

The cinch clips can be hidden by a cardigan or jacket (or in my case, my long hair!) if you don’t like the look of it. Alternatively, with a little bit of fiddling to make the creases look tidy, you can theoretically cinch your shirt from the underside so the clip doesn’t show! But you can try a more decorative cinch clip like the one below from Amazon if you want to show it off.

Watch the video above to see how the cinch clips transform my look in several different outfits!

H/T to Gabrielle for her great cinch clip solution!

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Cardigan Clip: Silver Antiqued Swirls with Crystals. Photo courtesy of Amazon affiliate.

 

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Orchard Corset Mesh CS-411 Review

This post is a summary of the “Orchard Corset MESH CS-411 Underbust Review” video, which you can watch on Youtube:

Fit, length Center front is 10.5 inches long, the side seam is 8 inches long. (Your torso should be about 9 inches long from underbust to lap). Circumferential measurements: waist is size 22 (22 inches), the underbust is 29 inches (7 inch rib spring), and the low hip is about 31 inches (9 inch hip spring).
Material One main layer of beige, cotton fish-net style mesh. The boning channels and binding are beige cotton twill.
Construction Although it looks like a 6 panel pattern, the corset is actually made from the same pattern as the original CS-411 so it’s a 4-panel pattern with extra boning channels in the center of some panels. As the corsets get larger in size, the number of boning channels increase. The seams between the panels are reinforced by sewing twill boning channels to both the outside and the inside of the seam, completely covering/ sandwiching it.
Binding Bias strips of beige twill, neatly machine stitched on outside and inside. No garter tabs.
Waist tape 1-inch wide beige satin ribbon is exposed on the inside of the corset, anchored by the seams/ boning channels. (Note that the newer stock have a black ribbon, not beige!)
Modesty panel Modesty panel is 5.5″ wide and finished in beige twill. Unstiffened and stitched to the corset on one side (easily removable). No modesty placket in front.
Busk 9.75 inches long (a bit unusual in length) with 4 loops and pins, the bottom two closer together. The busk is slightly wider and slightly stiffer than a standard flexible busk (this one is about 3/4″ on each side).
Boning 14 total bones not including busk (7 on each side). 1/4″ wide spirals, single boned on the seams. Two 1/4″ wide flats sandwich the grommets on each side. This is ONLY for the size 22″ (larger sizes have more bones, contact Orchard Corset for more info about other sizes).
Grommets 20 grommets total, size #00 with a small flange and finished in silver. Set equidistantly, about 1 inch apart.
Laces Ivory flat nylon shoelace style lacing, 1/4″ wide. Slightly springy but very difficult to snap. Long enough and comfortable to hold when lacing up.
Price The smaller sizes (up to size 32″) is $69 USD, and the full-figure sizes (up to size 40″) is $77 USD.
Use CORSETLUCY to save 10% off your entire order! (This is a coupon, not an affiliate link.)

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I was quite impressed with the curviness of their mesh CS-411 compared to their original cotton/ satin CS-411 styles – I have a broader ribcage compared to some other women, so I find this curvier mesh version to be much more comfortable than their CS-411 corsets finished in other fabrics.

Also because this corset has much give in the mesh, it contours around the ribs in a convex shape and can accommodate round and rigid ribcages without placing pressure on it (the CS-411 in cotton twill, for instance, is slightly more conical through the ribs).

The CS-411 corset is my favorite of Orchard Corset’s mesh pieces. The fact that it’s cut (more or less) straight across at the top and bottom edges make it great for “stealthing” (wearing under clothing, especially in the summer) without weird points poking out from under your clothes. It’s cool and breezy, ideal for use in hot climates or during the summer. But if you have a longer torso or if you have a larger, lower hanging tummy, you may prefer to try Orchard’s mesh CS-426 longline corset instead which provides more control of the lower abdomen.

Because of the tension at the waist tape and much less tension in other areas of the corset, the fabric around the grommets pull unevenly at the waistline and cause the bones to twist a bit, but the grommets had fortunately not ripped out. It was the mesh itself that had ripped after a few months of use.

CS-411 in beige mesh. Photo by Orchard Corset.
CS-411 in beige mesh. Photo by Orchard Corset.

Keep in mind that these mesh-style corsets don’t last forever – if I’m wearing a mesh corset on a regular or daily basis in the summer, I can expect it to wear out by the time autumn arrives – this is somewhat true of all “fishnet” style mesh corsets, regardless of the brand, so it’s not a strike against Orchard Corset – it’s the nature of the fabric. The CS-411 corset is available in solid fabrics as well if you prefer your corsets to be a little more sturdy and last a bit longer.

Use my coupon code CORSETLUCY for 10% off your entire order – this is a discount, not an affiliate code! I get no payment from people using this code.

Learn more about the CS-411 corset here on Orchard Corset’s website.

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Corset Wearer’s Organs Illuminated by MRI

 

I can hardly contain my excitement! For the first time, we have public information as to what happens to a corset wearer’s organs through the use of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). I’ve wanted to do a study like this for years, but time, finances and limited access to imaging facilities prevented me from doing so.

Fortunately, German medical doctor and TV sensation Dr. Eckhart von Hirschhausen took it upon himself to study how a corset moves organs in a tightlacer on his October 2nd episode of his gameshow, Hirschhausens Quiz Des Menschen (“Hirschhausen’s Quiz of the Human [body]”).

Internationally acclaimed burlesque artist Eden Berlin volunteered to be studied, wearing a specialized tightlacing corset made by Korsettmanufactur TO.mTO.  The magnetic pull in an MRI machine is so strong that it is capable of ripping steel out of corsets and through flesh – so Tonia Merz, the corsetiere behind TO.m.O, explained how she used non-metal boning and other non-ferrous hardware in the corset so as not to endanger Eden during imaging.

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In this episode of Hirschhausens Quiz Des Menschen before viewing the results, the contestants had to guess what would happen to Eden’s body when she’s wearing a corset. Here were the options:

A. The lungs are compromised, so she has a lack of oxygen.
B. The kidneys are compressed, so they are less efficient at filtering.
C. The intestine is deformed, so digestion is slowed.

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Here are two MRI images of Eden, with her uncorseted figure on the left and her corseted figure on the right. This image is behind her peritoneal cavity, showing her kidneys and lungs. Dr. Hirschhausen explains how the lungs and kidneys haven’t moved much between the two images.

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This screencap now shows the peritoneal cavity. Dr. Eckhart gestures the normal location of the ascending, transverse and descending colon in the left image, and the transverse part of the colon is clearly viewed (where his hand is).

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Now Dr. Eckhart gestures to the right image and shows how the intestines are flexible. He says that you can see that the transverse colon has shifted so that part of it is above the waistline, and part of it is below. (While it might not have been explicitly mentioned, from the image we also now have confirmation that the liver and stomach move upwards (and the liver remains pretty much in the same shape) and they are not forced down below the waist like some horrendous illustrations once claimed).

Therefore, Dr. Eckhart concluded that answer C (the intestine trapped and digestion slowed) was the correct option.

As a follow-up to this, an MRI was done on a woman in her third term of pregnancy with the baby already in head-down (vertex) position, to show how the intestines have shifted upward considerably (again, the intestines are designed to be flexible). The baby is obviously highlighted in red.

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One thing I should point out is that Eden is not a daily waist trainer but rather wears her corsets for her performances. It’s also unknown how much time she was given to lace up and have her body adjust to the tightness before she had the second MRI taken – I know that if I give my body time to adjust while lacing down slowly, I can feel an intestinal shift after 20-30 minutes, and find that the feeling of pressure is reduced and I can lace a little tighter than before. Fran of Contour Corsets proposes that over time, a tightlacer can coax the entire transverse colon to sit below the waistline, away from the line of highest pressure from the corset, which can make digestion much easier.

Update: Eden Berlin has commented on her experience:

“The MRI pictures where made pretty much directly after i was putting the corset on and on top of this it is a new corset so still very stiff in shape. I think with a corset that my body was already used to and more time before the MRI picture the result may have been a bit different. But my organs where basicly just moved a bit up or down without changing much in shape.”

And on her waist reduction:

“My natural waist is 63cm… it was a 50cm corset and it was actually completly closed.”

Tonia Merz also confirmed that the corset was made to close at 50cm, and designed to give about a 5 inch reduction. With a 20% change in her waist circumference, this definitely qualifies at tightlacing.

If given the opportunity, I would love to repeat this MRI study with different tightlacers to see how the positions of organs change slightly depending on the individual, the silhouette of corset worn, the reduction of the corset, and how long they’ve been training. Huge thanks to Hirschhausens Quiz Des Menschen, Eden Berlin and Tonia Merz for their incredible collaboration and allowing us to finally see where the organs shift when wearing a corset, and especially to Tonia for her translation of the conclusions!

EDIT, JANUARY 10, 2015: You can now view the full episode here on Youtube (German, no subtitles). The corset topic begins at 35 minutes in, with the MRI portion around 45 minutes in.

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Sparklewren Golden Bird’s Wing Review

This post is a summary of the “Sparklewren Bird’s Wing Underbust Corset Review” video, which you can watch on Youtube if you prefer:

Sparklewren Bird’s Wing Quick Stats

Fit, length Even though this corset is a sample, I’ve added the measurements below for the sake of completion.) The center front is 11.5 inches long. Princess seam is 11 inches. The center back is 9 inches (it has a beautiful sweetheart shape in the back). Circumferential measurements: waist is 20 inches (see discussion below for notes), the underbust is 28 inches, and the low hip is about 37 inches.
Material Two main layers: fashion fabric is a gold moiré silk, and the lining is a fine-weave black herringbone coutil.
Construction 14 panel pattern (28 panels total). Each panel is very long and very narrow (each one is less than an inch wide at the waistline!)
The panels were assembled using a lap-seam, and the topstitch on each seam doubles as a narrow boning channel.
Binding Bias strips of gold moiré fabric. Neatly machine stitched on front, hand-finished on the underside.
Waist tape None detected. (See discussion below)
Modesty panel None came with this sample (but for bespoke commissions, a modesty panel is available for a possible markup).
Busk Standard flexible busk (1/2″ on each side), 11 inches long with 5 loops and pins (bottom two are closer together). There are so many bones adjacent to the busk that it helps keep the center front flat.
Boning 34 total bones (17 on each side). The bones in the front and back feel like 6mm wide flat steels, while the bones wrapping around the sides are likely 4mm or 5mm spirals. It is single boned on the seams, but because it has so many panels, the corset feels like it is continuously boned!
Grommets 24 grommets total, size #00 with a medium flange and finished in silver (it would have been beautiful if they were finished in gold to match the fabric!). Grommets are set a bit closer together at the waistline, and they’re in excellent condition (not falling out).
Laces Black flat shoelace style lacing.
Price £400 GBP for the Phoenix Bird’s Wing style.

 

Gorgeous high-contrast shot of the gold bird's wing sample. Photo by Sparklewren.
Gorgeous high-contrast shot of the gold bird’s wing sample. Photo by Sparklewren.

Although this was a test sample, this lovely bird’s wing underbust resembles Sparklewren’s limited edition “Phoenix” line. The precision and care required to make such a corset is remarkable – if Jenni’s seams were off by even 0.5 mm in each panel in this corset, the entire corset would end up being 1.4 cm (more than half an inch) bigger or smaller in the waist!

This corset was made to fit someone with a smaller ribcage, larger hips, and higher waistline than myself (I am long waist from the waist up, and short from the waist down) so it was eventually re-homed to another corset collector who happened to fit the corset perfectly.

This is a remarkably comfortable little corset despite not being made for my measurements. It was deliberately made slightly small (19 0r 19.5 inches) to accommodate for a small amount of stretch and end up as a 20-inch waist, as its construction (traditional lapped seams) did not allow for the addition of a concealed waist tape.

Because there are so many panels to the bird’s wing corset, it’s said to mold extremely well to the wearer – even molding to a person’s asymmetries, say if they have scoliosis – and still be very smooth and comfortable.

See more of Sparklewren’s work here on her website.

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How to Prep and Pack Corsets for Shipping

It’s well-known that I sell off my gently-used corsets once I’ve finished reviewing them. I’ve received a few requests to show how I safely mail my 2nd-hand corsets, and in the video below I show the most common method I use.

Please keep in mind that there is a spectrum for the way corsets come in the mail. When I purchase corsets from professional corsetieres, some corsets had been literally bent into an “L” shape and stuffed into a (non-waterproof!) manilla envelope. Conversely, some other corsets had been wrapped lovingly in acid-free tissue paper and tied with a ribbon, spritzed with perfume*, included a hand-written thank-you note and topped it off in a high quality engraved box!

My method is “middle of the road” finding a balance between keeping the corset protected and dry, while minimizing waste and keeping the package as light as possible – and when it comes to mailing a heavy steel boned corset, minimizing the weight of the packaging can mean the difference between shipping costs of $12 (small packet) vs $25 (full parcel)!

I know that some people will be appalled that I don’t ship my 2nd-hand corsets in a cardboard box with a load of styrofoam. Despite this, I fortunately have a 100% success rate of corsets being delivered to their new homes unmarred. (So far.)

Here’s how I prep and pack my corsets for shipping (feel free to follow along with the video above!):

  1. Weigh your corset, bag/ box, tissue paper and any accessories on a kitchen scale that can measure in grams (or ounces if you’re in the US). In the video, you see that a cardboard box adds nearly a pound of weight, which inflates the shipping price by $6-10! This is why I use waterproof bubble mailers which have an almost negligible mass.
  2. Measure the dimensions of the bag/ box as well.
  3. Check over the corset for any flaws or issues. (Although, your customer should know about these before purchasing the corset in the first place!)
  4. Tighten the laces and either tie in a bow or wrap it neatly with a band.
  5. Use a (CLEAN!) lint-roller and get rid of any dust or lint on the corset. You do not want to transfer pet hair onto a corset, nor would you want to lint-roll a white corset right after rolling a black one – so really, just use a clean piece of lint tape for EVERY corset.
  6. Fasten the busk. You can either put one (or two) loops under the knob side of the busk to lock it in place (so it doesn’t unfasten). If you’re worried about the busk bending in transit (or if your corset has a modesty placket under the busk) then fasten the busk normally and put an elastic band over the knobs to prevent the busk from becoming undone.
  7. Fold the corset (some corsets fold more nicely than others. Most, I’ve found, like to fold in thirds).
  8. Wrap the corset in some tissue paper. This is especially important if shipping two corsets of different colors, because you don’t want the ink to transfer! Also, don’t wrap a white corset in colored paper. Just don’t do it.
  9. Add a business card or personal thank-you note, if you wish.
  10. Waterproof your corset: if you are using a paper envelope or box, then wrap it in a plastic bag or plastic wrap beforehand. But as I use a waterproof bubble mailer, I don’t usually need to worry about this extra step.
  11. Then seal up your box or bag with the corset and accessories inside!
  12. If mailing in a soft bag/ mailer, I tend to write on the mailer: “PLEASE DO NOT FOLD OR BEND” (fortunately, my post system is good about respecting this!)
  13. Add the address as per your post system’s requirements (in Canada you can hand-write it, while in some other places they must be typed, especially if shipping internationally).

*I actually prefer no scent, as some people are sensitive or allergic to perfumes.

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Corsets and the Victorian Fainting Culture

In a previous article, we discussed how feeling faint or light headed is caused by the brain not being properly oxygenated – but contrary to popular belief, most of the fainting done by people in corsets was not due to suffocation. Most genuine fainting was said to be rather due to abrupt changes in blood pressure. (This is just one of many reasons why it’s important to lace down gradually; tying your corset too tight, too quickly can cause acute changes in blood pressure and make you feel lightheaded.)

Today we’re not going to focus on blood pressure per se, but we’re going to specifically touch on the “Victorian fainting culture” – what do I mean by that? Well, have you ever wondered why there are so many stories of fainting during the Victorian era, and why the “swooning Southern Belle” is depicted so often in period movies? Have you ever wondered why people claim that the Victorians invented the fainting couch solely for this reason? Let’s analyze a few different reasons why upper class Victorian women could have fainted:

Shortness of Breath (from possible overexertion)

I’m not denying that some women could have genuinely fainted from shortness of breath, but this scenario was likely far less common than some individuals claim. Someone could feel woozy if they were laced more tightly than they’re accustomed to, for a special occasion (like a party or ball). It wasn’t out of the ordinary for a woman of wealth to own more than one corset, and sometimes her formal corset would be slightly smaller than her day corset to give a more dramatic or impressive silhouette (I should add that I don’t personally consider it responsible to tightlace past the point of discomfort/pain; nevertheless, other people do go the extra inch for a special event). Add an evening of more exertion than usual (like hours of dancing) and dehydration on top of that, and it would not be outside of the realm of possibility that a woman would faint.

Overheating

Let’s not rule out the possibility that women may have fainted from simply overheating. Consider the Full Monty of undergarments: a chemise under the corset, bloomers, the corset itself, a corset cover, possibly a hoopskirt, several petticoats, and then over that would be a blouse, an overskirt, possibly a jacket, train for the skirt, and perhaps a little hat or bonnet on top of your head. Clothing can exceed 20 lbs at times, and there would be around 4 layers of clothing between your skin and the air – which, even if made from the lightest linens and using the thinnest corset, would still add up in weight and insulation. If you could imagine wearing all this in the middle of summer in Texas or Georgia (since the media love to depict Victorian ladies as specifically Southern Belles), and air conditioning won’t be invented for another 100 years, it’s safe to say that you may feel considerably overheated – and this can lead to fainting and heat stroke.

Dehydration

It is so very easy to become dehydrated. Even today, some sources state that 75% of North Americans are chronically dehydrated – we do not drink enough water or eat enough hydrating foods. Corsets are able to exacerbate symptoms that you would not normally notice when you’re uncorseted – i.e. while corsets are not to blame for our chronic dehydration, wearing a corset may make you more aware of your body, and you may feel dehydrated faster and with more intensity than if you were uncorseted. When I started corseting on a regular basis, I noticed that I felt thirstier than usual. When I started setting alarms for myself to drink 2-3 liters of water each day, I started feeling much better both in and out of the corset. Fran Blanche of Contour Corsets has written about blood volume, dehydration and corseting on her blog here.

The scenarios already mentioned above (overheating, overexertion etc.) can lead to further dehydration, which may cause fainting much faster or more frequently in an already chronically dehydrated person. Staying hydrated is so very important if you choose to wear a corset.

Shock/ surprise

Yes, fainting from shock does happen. I have two stories where I’ve almost fainted in my life, and neither of them involve corsets: I remember being about 6-7 years old, trying to make a paper palm tree, and I accidentally stapled my thumb. I took one look at my thumb and I remember developing tunnel vision and ringing in my ears (classic vasovagal response). According to those around me, my face went pale and my lips turned blue. I never lost consciousness, but I do remember instinctively lying down quickly. A similar thing happened the very first time I put in contact lenses. Fainting from shock, with or without corsets, is a real possibility.

But would Victorian women be so sheltered as to faint at the slightest bad news? It likely depended on the individual’s temperament, and also their family’s status. The very high class were probably not exposed to the blood and gore like those living on a farm, nevermind being desensitized to shocking news and images and media the way we are today. News came from newspapers, magazines and word of mouth. Public executions were not done everywhere, and likely not attended by all people. It’s therefore not hard consider that if a sheltered person were see or hear something out of the ordinary (something appalling or grotesque) they may have reacted somewhat more dramatically and could very well have even fainted – whether intentionally or unintentionally, which leads us to the last point…

Mock Fainting (or what I like to call “Feign-ting”)

Many Victorian women were probably taught to pretend to faint in uncomfortable situations. Remember that it was unbecoming for a proper lady to throw a hissy fit (lest she be diagnosed with “hysteria” and hauled away). What’s a woman to do when she:

  • wants to quickly become the center of attention at a party?
  • sees someone annoying and wants to avoid talking to them?
  • is angry about certain circumstances but society doesn’t allow her to throw a temper tantrum?
  • (And as one viewer mentioned in a recent comment:) needs to escape to the toilet but doesn’t want to announce something so unbecoming?

The answer to all of these? She faints. Or feigns fainting, in any case. Fainting was said to be one of few ways to abruptly change a subject or leave a room while still saving face and being considered a lady. “Fainting culture” indeed!

What about all those fainting couches?

“Chaise longue in a 4th-century Roman manuscript” (Wikipedia commons)

Many people will claim that the Chaise Longue was invented in the Victorian era – in reality, they existed in Egypt and Greece at least 2000 years prior, and possibly as far back as the 8th century BCE. Unfortunately, taking a millennia-old piece of furniture and reinventing it as a strictly Victorian “fainting couch” (and treating their invention as a direct response to the corset) did nothing more than glorify and perpetuate the fainting culture and help Victorian women look fabulous while they were (pretending to be) unconscious.

While fainting in a corset is not impossible, there is much more to the wilting Victorian lady than what we’re usually taught. It’s worth noting that while many people faint for many reasons, it is NEVER “normal” to feel faint whether in or out of a corset. If you faint on a regular basis or for unexplained reasons, always see your doctor.

But there is a big difference between genuinely feeling lightheaded vs feign-ting for the “fun of it” – and I would prefer that the perpetuation of the swooning corset-wearer stereotype would stop today. So the next time you’re at a Renfaire or convention and you see someone at the corset vendor’s kiosk, melodramatically swooning and pretending to fall over for the “fun of it”, be sure to let them know that their melodramatic performance is hardly an original act.

Please note that this article is provided for information purposes, and is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. Please contact your trusted physician if you plan to wear a corset for any reason.