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Sizing Down in your Corset, plus What to Do with your Old, Bigger Corset

When you’re waist training, sizing down is a natural part of the process. Your first corset may be 4-6 inches smaller than your natural waist, but what happens if and when you “outshrink” your first corset, and you still want to train down further? How do you know when it’s time to get a new, smaller corset? Read ahead, or watch the video linked below (which gives the same information):

(Please note that sizing down is in the context of someone who is actually waist training; if you’re just an occasional corset wearer or you have no desire to size down, just disregard this post!)

When do I know it’s time to size down in my corset?

I suppose the question to precede this one is when do you know that a corset is fitting correctly before you even size down? We’ve discussed corset gap shapes and other fitting issues, but what about the size of your corset gap? A new corset that properly fits often initially has a gap of 2-4 inches (if it’s designed to eventually close completely in the back), or possibly a slightly larger gap of 4-6 inches (if the corset is designed to always have a small gap in the back, which some corsetieres do draft for). If you ever put a corset on for the first time, lace it loosely (as in the case of seasoning it), and it closes all the way in the back from top to bottom, your corset is probably too large to begin with and you need to size down immediately. Let’s say you’ve started with a well-fitting corset though, and you’ve been wearing it for several months. Today, for the first time, you were able to close your corset fully from top to bottom! Congratulations – do you go out and buy your next corset that very day? Not yet.

I would say that it’s time to size down when you can do one or more of the following:
  • you can easily and consistently close the corset every time you put it on, for at least a month.
  • your ability to close the corset is typically not affected by your menstrual cycle, water retention, small weight fluctuations or other natural fluctuations.
  • you can stick an arm down inside of the corset while it’s closed, or perhaps pull your abdomen away from internal wall of the corset while sucking in.

In the next post in this series, I will discuss what to consider when sizing down choosing your next, smaller corset. But for now, let’s discuss what you can do with your old corset that you no longer need as a primary corset:

What can you do with your old corset?

Can you alter your corset to be smaller?

Theoretically yes, but if you don’t sew, good luck finding a corsetiere who is willing to alter another person’s work. Many corset makers would rather make a new corset from scratch, rather than modify an old one – this is because if you want a “perfectly” altered corset that has no evidence of alteration, you’d have to:

  1. make friends with your seam ripper, and then:
  2. remove the binding
  3. remove the bones
  4. take apart the seams (and hope that the fabric survives this trauma as the seamlines are now perforated)
  5. likely cut through the waist tape (which weakens the corset), or put in a new, smaller waist tape
  6. reshape every panel (it’s not a good idea to do just one seam, if you want to ensure that the hips are not angled forward or backward in the end product)
  7. put the corset back together again, including reassembling the panels, adding the smaller waist tape, inserting the bones, and adding the binding!

Personally, I don’t consider this level of alteration worth the time or frustration when I can make a new corset in half that time! If you’re still interested in seeing how other people “took in” their corsets so they’re smaller, check out this video by CorsetRookie who sewed darts and pleats into his Axfords corset, although I should note that by doing this (especially in a thicker corset) the pleat may form a ridge or bump that can be felt when you’re wearing the corset and may result in pressure points. Another alteration walk-through by Snowblack Corsets shows her taking a larger WKD corset and cutting it down smaller and curvier, and adding embellishment like external contrasting channels and lace.

So, if you don’t feel like altering your old corset to be smaller, what can you do with it?

Click here to learn more about sleeping in your corset!
Click here to learn more about sleeping in your corset!

1: Use your old corset as a night/ sleeping corset.

If you have ever tried sleeping in your corset, you may find you’re the type who needs to loosen the laces a little when you sleep. So if you buy or make a new, smaller corset, you can designate the old larger one as a sleeping corset. Sleeping in a corset can be a bit traumatic to the corset (it can cause warping or abrasion) but since your old, bigger corset is no longer your primary training corset, you don’t have to worry as much about getting dander or oil on it, or if the satin fabric sees any thinning or wear if you’re rolling around and putting uneven pressure on it through the night.

2: Trade or sell your old corset 2nd hand.

If your old corset is still relatively good quality, you can sell it second hand or trade for a different corset! There’s a ton of old corsets sold on Ebay or Craigslist, and if your corset is more than 20 years old, it qualifies as an “Vintage” item on Etsy. There are also corset sale groups on Facebook, Tumblr, and my own consignment shop (the Bronze Line) as well. You can use the funds from selling your old corset to put towards your new corset! Before listing your corset, do some research into how much similar-quality corsets are being sold for. Presuming that your old corset is still decent quality/ wearable, then a 2nd hand corset will often sell for 50% – 75% of the original price (depending on who made it and how rare it is).

3: Cannibalize your old corset for materials for future sewing projects.

This corset had been sacrificed for hardware.
This corset had been sacrificed for hardware.

If your corsets are in poor condition and not appropriate for resale (and they don’t hold much sentimental value for you), then you can harvest parts of your old corset to be recycled in new corsets. Hardware like the busk and bones can be used over and over again for mockups or in future completed corsets as long as they’re not rusted or warped, and salvageable embellishments like large pieces of lace appliqué or crystals may be reused as well. You can also cut out the grommet panel of your old corset (making sure you leave a seam allowance) and you can quickly and easily sew that grommet panel onto all your future mockups and toiles, saving you time and grommets. There you have it – how you know when to size down from your current corset, and three suggestions of what to do with your old corsets. What are your requirements as to when to size down, and what do you do with your larger corsets? Let me know in a comment below!

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Xandriana Custom Tightlacing Underbust Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Xandriana Tightlacing Underbust Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

 

Fit, length This corset is custom fit (made to measure), so a corset for you may fit differently. Center front is about 12 inches high, and the side seam is 9 inches high, back is 15 inches high. Modern hourglass silhouette – rounded over the ribcage and rounded over the hips. Slightly longline.
Material Outer layer is pale pink satin (might be satin coutil). Lined in white herringbone coutil.
Construction 6 panel pattern. Panels are assembled using a topstitch. Bones are sandwiched between layers, double boned (one on the seam and one in the center of the panel).
Binding Matching strips of pale pink satin, machine stitched on the outside and hand finished on the inside.
Waist tape 1 inch wide waist tape, stitched invisibly between the layers.
Modesty panel Modesty panel is suspended on the laces and boned in a criss-cross fashion. A 1″ wide unstiffened placket in front.
Busk 11 inches long, standard width busk (half inch on each side) with 6 knobs and loops, the bottom two a little closer together. Reinforced flat bones on either side.
Boning 28 bones total (14 bones per side). Mostly 1/4″ wide spiral steels, single boned on the seams plus extra bones in the middle of the panels. There are two flat steels sandwiching the grommets as well, and two flats by the busk.
Grommets 28 two-part Prym eyelets, size #0, medium/large, held in strongly. Finished in silver and set a bit closer together at the waistline. Good wide washers, few splits but don’t catch on the laces.
Laces Laces are 1/2″ wide double-faced satin ribbon, finished in pale pink.
Price At the time I’m writing this, a custom underbust starts at $300 USD (suitable for tightlacing but not waist training). For a waist training custom corset, the price starts at $400.

Final Thoughts:

This corset was a bit of a serendipitous find. I had been meaning to try a corset from Xandriana for awhile, as one of my acquaintances (a previous client of Xandriana’s) had positive things to say about the craftsmanship.

So when I joined the Corsets On Sale group on Facebook and found another person who was selling their old Xandriana corset, with measurements very close to my own, I immediately jumped at the opportunity! The lovely pearlescent finish and the cheery flossing were even cuter in person, and I was pleased to see that the corset was not actually white, but actually the palest, most delicate shade of pink. I also liked the very high back of this corset as it provided excellent support while sitting at my desk, and it made muffin top virtually impossible. After uploading this video, I had the opportunity to talk with the corsetiere, and discovered that the flossing was actually done by the first owner of the corset.

Although this particular corset is not advertised for waist training, its construction is stronger than many other corsets out there that do claim waist-training-friendliness – one of my favourite features in this corset is the distribution of the boning. In corsets that are simply double boned on the seams, it can sometimes feel like the double bones make it “too rigid” in places, while there are vast spans of wrinkled, unsupported fabric between the bones. When you have one bone on the seam and one on the channel (as in this corset), the distribution is more even, which can help prevent pressure points on your body and prevent ugly wrinkling in the corset, resulting in a beautifully smooth and comfortable corset. The darker pink flossing in a clean V shape on the boning channels was also a nice visual touch, and highlighted the fact that this corset had quite even bone distribution.

This is a lovely little corset; the only changes I would make is to perhaps have the bones in the very back bow a little less – but as I am the 2nd owner of this corset, I know nothing of its previous treatment nor anything about the customer service from Xandriana.

Looking at the different  listings in Xandriana’s Etsy shop, it seems that the tightlacing underbust has only 1 layer of coutil, and a non-specific number of bones; while the waist training version has 2 layers of coutil and a guaranteed minimum of 26 bones, and more depending on the size and reduction. If you would like to learn more about the different options Xandriana offers, do visit her website here.

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Where to Buy Corset Dresses

This gorgeous plunge corset dress embellished with lace and crystals was designed by Viola Lahger (Sweden). Model: Insanitea Photo: Josephine Jonsson.

This post is a duplicate of the permanent page Guided Galleries –> Corset Dresses. The guided galleries are part of the corset brand research tools, which are designed to help prospective corset customers shop more wisely. This post may be out of date in the future, please refer to the permanent page linked above to get the most up to date information.

Beyoncé Knowles in a Thierry Mugler gold corset dress
Beyoncé Knowles in a Thierry Mugler gold corset dress

Corset dresses are highly specialized garments, which can be used for foundation under other dresses (such as those that Puimond provides for other designers to “build upon”), for weddings, or for clubbing / other fun events. They can act like combination shapewear, supporting the bustline and allowing the use of strapless dresses overtop (rather than using a strapless bra), cinching in the waist (instead of using a cincher), and smoothing over the hips (in lieu of a girdle).

Searching “corset dresses” on Google tends to yield poor results because many clothing lines simply offer dresses with boned bodices. True corset dresses (a structured garment where the back of the dress laces up the entire length) are sometimes not that easy to find, but they come in several variations which I’ll try to cover in this gallery.

*Corset makers, if you have made a corset dress and would like your work showcased in this gallery, please email me a photo of your best work and include a 1-sentence description and website or shop URL. Safe-for-work photos are preferred! Thank you!

A bride in Morùa Designs (who works in both the US and UK) shows off the back of her stunning corset wedding dress.
This floor length dress is boned down and laced to the knee, and expertly sculpted in true Bizarre Design fashion (Netherlands). Model: Dena Massque. Photo: Me-Chiel.
This gorgeous plunge corset dress embellished with lace and crystals was designed by Viola Lahger (Sweden). Model: Insanitea Photo: Josephine Jonsson.
Sparklewren (UK) is experienced in making incredibly smooth and ethereal custom corset dresses, here shown with detachable stole. What an enviable hip spring.
This floor-length corset gown by Royal Black (Austria) laces to the knee and is cut for serious curves. Model/styling: Červená Fox, Photo: Julian M Kilsby (ShadowFlux)
Bibian Blue (Spain) always has a selection of corset dresses in her various collections, like this Lys Ensemble with printed angels and handmade flowers, €695. Model: SINderella Rockafella. Photo/styling: Iberian Black Arts
KMKDesigns Located in MN, can make custom corset dresses to order in many styles, this mermaid style corset dress is made from blue silk with hand stitched lace and rhinestones.
KMKDesigns, located in MN, can make custom corset dresses to order in many styles; this mermaid style corset dress is made from blue silk with hand stitched lace and rhinestones.
Puimond (USA) makes awe-inspiring corset dresses, ranging from simple and sleek to highly customized like this ensemble estimated at $10,000.
This stunning corset dress with sheer fluted skirt by Persephone Corsetry (UK) won the Young Designer Award in 2014. Photo: Stuart McClay. MUA: SC Makeup. Model: Michaela Crompton
This stunning corset dress with sheer fluted skirt by Persephone Corsetry (UK) won the Young Designer Award in 2014. Photo: Stuart McClay. MUA: SC Makeup. Model: Michaela Crompton
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The Swallowtail Corset Dress by The Bad Button (USA) features a fully corseted form from shoulders to hips, while freefloating layers of silk gauze create the illusion of a wings when walking. Model: Samantha Jean Moore. Photo: Aesthetic Aperture
This sweet and lovely Lolita underbust corset dress features a full skirt to accommodate a blouse and petticoat underneath. By Skeletons in the Closet Corsetry (Netherlands).
This sweet and lovely Lolita underbust corset dress features a full skirt to accommodate a blouse and petticoat underneath. By Skeletons in the Closet Corsetry (Netherlands).
“The Love Warrior”, designed by Maison Moginot (France) with help from Mr. Pearl, is dripping with jewels. Model: Amanda Lepore
This audio-sensitive fiber optic dress lights up when the music gets loud! Designed by Rachael Reichert in NY, USA.
Contessa Gothique Design recently shared this radiant plunge, full-skirted corset dress – those curious to make their own can also read her 2-part tutorial on Foundations Revealed.
Stunning lattice-embellished corset dress made by Lace Embrace (Canada)
Designer Maya Hansen (Spain) always includes at least one corset dress in her collections. This one is modelled by Porcylin.
Red sweetheart corset dress with black lace appliqué, a custom design by Sweet Carousel Corsetry (Canada).
Scoundrelle’s Keep has four different styles of corset dresses, including overbust or underbust, long skirt or short. Currently shown is the Evangeline corset dress for $500.
While not likely available for purchase, I cannot complete a gallery of corset dresses without this piece by Ziad Ghanem (modelled by Immodesty Blaize, Fall 2010)
While not likely available for purchase, I cannot complete a gallery of corset dresses without this piece co-designed by Ziad Ghanem, made by Ian Frazer Wallace and modelled by Immodesty Blaize (Fall 2010)
This Jessica Rabbit inspired mini corset dress was designed by Orchid Corsetry (UK). Model: Miss Anne Thropy. Photo: Damona Art.
Atelier Sylphe (France) made this lovely zippered and ruffled creative corset dress, modelled by her client (Virginie).
Marvelous Mayhem (USA) makes both full-skirt and fitted custom corset dresses
Vollers Corsets has a few different corset dress styles, but my current favorite is this Veco floor-length custom dress for £950

*Please note that I have not personally tried every corset brand in this list, nor do I necessarily endorse every company on this list. This is for informational purposes only.

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Electra Designs Longline Underbust Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Electra Designs Long Hip Underbust Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:


 

Fit, length Center front is about 11 inches long, 9 inches long. Wasp waist silhouette. Standard size 22T long hip underbust – the underbust is 28″, waist is 22″, hips at iliac creast is 33″ (which is where my iliac crest hits). Gives a flat profile (doesn’t make me look thicker from the side) and the hips are slightly squared instead of rounded.
Material Fashion layer is blue satin (fused to soft interlining); strength layer (lining) is cotton herringbone coutil.
Construction 6 panel pattern. Top-stitching between panels, stitched 4 times between panels (extremely sturdy). Many many sandwiched bones. No garter tabs, but they can be added if you commission a piece.
Binding Black bias strips of satin, machine stitched on both sides and very tidy.
Waist tape 1″ wide waist tape invisibly secured between the layers.
Modesty panel No modesty panel came with this sample, but is available for a markup. Unstiffened placket in front made from a matching blue satin.
Busk Standard width flexible busk, 10 inches long (5 pins, the last two closer together). Reinforcing flat steel bone on either side of the busk.
Boning 26 steel bones (13 on each side), 1/4″ wide spiral bones on each seam and also in the middle of the wider panels. 1/4″ wide flat steel bones in front and back, and special lacing bones in the back (bones with holes drilled into them so the grommets won’t ever rip out).
Eyelets 20 in total, size #00 two-part eyelets with small flange; set equidistantly (they have to be because they’re set into a lacing bone); high quality – no splits, no wear/fraying/pulling out of grommets. Washer on the back is larger than the top-hat flange of the eyelet for extra support.
Laces Matching blue double-face satin ribbon, 1/2 inch wide. They glide smoothly through the eyelets, they grip well and they are long enough. Very easy to lace up, zero stretchiness.
Price At the time I’m writing this, the standard sized long hip underbust with the gently-rounded top and bottom edges is $400 USD. You can see other style options on her website here.

Final Thoughts:

 

A close-up view of myself in Electra Designs’ standard size long hip underbust.

This corset was a sample sent to me on loan so that Alexis could test the fit of her new standard size corsets, as a bit of a glorified mockup fitting – I asked her if I could also review this corset on my channel before returning the corset to her, and she graceously agreed. I believe Alexis had modified and updated her old standard size chart, modelling the new proportions off an average of her past many clients, and off her realistic Alvaform dress forms. I was very happy to try the new standard size corsets and find that it is slightly broader through the ribcage compared to the old standard sizes, so the corset holds in all of my flesh and doesn’t give me any ‘muffin top’ in the back. I would just need the corset to have a bit of a longer torso for it to fit very closely to some of my other custom-fit corsets! 

The flexible lacing bones follow the natural curve of my spine, allowing me to hold a neutral posture in this corset – I feel that this style of lacing would be excellent for those who have lordosis (swayback) as it doesn’t force the wearer to “flatten” the lumbar spine or hunch over. Additionally, I feel that this corset preserves my naturally flat profile and doesn’t make me look “thicker” from the side, the way that some other corsets do. Because the lacing bones are so flexible though, you must take care to tighten the corset with as parallel a gap as possible – otherwise the back may bow outwards at the waist, and look like “( )”.

As always, Alexis’ construction technique is extremely strong and definitely suitable for waist training – Alexis remains one of my favourite corsetieres and I look forward to commissioning her for a custom in the near future. At the moment she is busy creating a multimedia corset making instructional course, which you can learn more about on this page!

To see other styles from Electra Designs, do visit the official website here.

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How to measure your corsets with precision

For a detailed look at how I measure various corsets, see my in-depth tutorial below:

This is the third and final part to my OTR fitting mini series. In part 1 I taught you the various ways that an OTR corset company may share their fitting information (if at all), and the takeaway message from part 1 was to urge more OTR companies to display more than just the waist size – proportions are important too! Measurements of the ribcage, hips, and torso length all play a factor in proper fit, as well as the bust circumference if it’s an overbust corset.

In part 2 I showed you some case studies in determining if an OTR corset would at least approximately fit you. The point of this video is to show how to take your own body measurements and compare it with a sizing chart provided by your OTR company of interest – and really explain in detail why this exercise is so important. If you know for a fact that a corset is not going to fit your ribcage or hips properly for a given waist size, don’t waste your time and money! Move on and find a different brand that will fit you better. You will be more comfortable and your training will be better for it.

Here, in part 3, I will show you how exactly I measure my corsets. When I first receive a corset in the mail, I will take 5-8 measurements:

  • Circumference measurements: bust (if overbust), underbust, closed waist, high hip (iliac), and low hip (if longline).
  • Vertical measurements: center front, princess seam from underbust to lap, and sometimes side seam and/or center back.

I now log these measurements in the Corset Dimensions Directory, for everyone’s use. You can compare these measurements with your own measurements and see which corsets may fit best on you!

If the corset gets a lot of use, I may measure it again in a year’s time and see if it has stretched out at all.

Once you get the hang of measuring your corsets, it becomes intuitive: circumferential measurements should be perpendicular to the busk and back edge of the corset, or parallel to the waist-tape. Vertical measurements are always parallel with the busk or the back edge of the corset.  You may choose to measure your corsets several times and take an average, since the location of an iliac crest circumference or true underbust circumference may not be entirely obvious in some corsets.

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Where to buy Fan-Laced Corsets

This post is a duplicate of the permanent page Guided Galleries –> Corsets with Fan Lacing. The guided galleries are part of the corset brand research tools, which are designed to help prospective corset customers shop more wisely. This particular article may be out of date in the future, please refer to the main page to get the most up to date information.

Two variations of metal sliders for fan-lacing (suppied by Vena Cava Design)
Two variations of metal sliders for fan-lacing (suppied by Vena Cava Design)

Fan lacing may also be referred to as “Camp” lacing, “Cross” lacing, or “Cluster” lacing. Fan-laced corsets are relatively rare today, but they can be useful for those who have limited strength or dexterity. Fan-laced corsets differ from ‘regular’ corsets by their utilization of metal slides (usually, but not always!). These slides have grommet-like small holes on one end through which the laces are secured, and an adjustable serrated slot which grabs securely onto a grosgrain tape or belt. This allows the wearer to tighten their corset the same way that they would adjust a bra strap; simply by pulling on a pair of belts on either side of the lacing panel. For those who are unable to reach behind them and ‘pluck’ the individual X’s of the laces, a fan-laced corset may be just the trick for quickly and easily adjusting one’s own corset; for those with disabilities who use corsets for medical purposes, the use of fan lacing can contribute to one’s independence when dressing oneself. For those who would like a fan-laced corset as a fashion statement, you will find this page useful as well. Scroll down to see a gallery of corset makers who are experienced with making fan-laced corsets!

*Corset makers: if you have made fan-laced corsets and would like to be included in the gallery, please submit your best photo to my email here with a 1-sentence description and your website URL. Safe-for-work photos are preferred! Thank you!*

Functional Fan-Lacing:

The following corsets employ fan lacing to actually tighten and loosen the corset, rather than being used simply for embellishment. Scroll down the page if you’d like to see corsets which simply use fan-lacing for embellishment.

PureOne Corset Works in Japan has an entire line of fan-laced corsets in various styles.
Fan-laced medical-inspired corset by Contessa Gothique Design in Croatia
Fan-laced medical-inspired corset by Contessa Gothique Design in Croatia
Contemporary fan-lacing design by Lovesick Corrective Apparel in Canada.
Dark Garden (San Francisco, USA) custom Victorian underbust with
Dark Garden (San Francisco, USA) custom Victorian underbust with “cross-lacing”.
Alice Corsets in Ukraine made this beautiful pristine fan-laced corset.
Alice Corsets in Ukraine made this beautiful pristine fan-laced corset.
Lovely Rat's Quality Custom Clothing (Texas, USA) made this cute and feminine "meta corset", a fan-laced corset with printed corset fashion fabric.
Lovely Rat’s Quality Custom Clothing (Texas, USA) made this fan-laced corset with printed corset fashion fabric.
Fan-laced underbust corset by Serindë Corsets (France)
Fan-laced underbust corset by Serindë Corsets (France)
A gorgeous fan-laced corset made by Ivy's Custom Corsetry in the USA.
A gorgeous fan-laced corset made by Ivy’s Custom Corsetry in the USA.
AusAsche on Etsy has made this smart-looking men's fan-laced corset. (USA)
Tyler’s Chalk on Etsy has made this smart-looking men’s fan-laced corset. (USA)
This gorgeous fan-aced corset was apparently made by
This gorgeous fan-aced corset was apparently made by “CorsetWonderland” on Etsy, but unfortunately further information could not be found on it.
Cicatrix Design (New Mexico, USA) is another talented corset maker who has unfortunately been inactive recently, but still shares pictures of her lovely designs.
Tailor of Two Cities is a costuming company in Oklahoma USA, which is experienced in making various types of corsets.
Fan-laced underbust made by Jill of the Romantasy team in USA, $390.
Dark Knits Boutique in Edmonton, AB Canada offers custom overbust fan-laced corsets ($344 CAD)
Dark Knits Boutique in Edmonton, AB Canada offers custom overbust fan-laced corsets ($344 CAD)
Fan-laced custom underbust corset made by SparkleyJem in the UK (£180)
Fan-laced custom underbust corset made by SparkleyJem in the UK (£180)

 Decorative Fan Lacing:

The following corsets have a fan-lacing embellishment, but their use is not imperative to the actual function of the corset. Faux fan lacing can have a stunning effect on corsets, especially when contrast laces are used.

V-Couture in Germany has made this decorative fan-laced overbust with 4 non-adjustable slides.
Decorative fan-laced overbust by Boom! Boom! Baby! Boutique in the UK, modelled by Twig (£140).
Decorative fan-laced overbust by Boom! Boom! Baby! Boutique in the UK, modelled by Twig (£140).
BattieClothing in the UK has made this oxblood faux-leather underbust with non-functional fan-lacing (£260).
Oxblood faux-leather underbust with non-functional fan-lacing (£260) by BattieClothing in the UK.
Gorgeous silver underbust with decorative fan lacing, by Atelier Sylphe (France)
While fan-lace sliders were not utilized here, Anachronism in Action (USA) gets an honorable mention for her amazing fan-lace-like embellishment in this ensemble.

*Please note that I have not personally tried every corset brand in this list, nor do I necessarily endorse every company on this list. This is for informational purposes only.