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When to Consider an Overbust Corset – and When to Pass

In the past, I have quickly outlined why, if you would like to wear corset on a daily basis, you may want to start with an underbust corset instead of an overbust – however up until now I haven’t dedicated an entire video to this or had gone over this in detail. In this article I’ll outline the reasons why it’s generally better for a beginner to start with an underbust corset instead of the overbust – but if you’re interested in the possible benefits of overbust corsets, you can scroll down for the Overbust “Pros”. You can watch the video below, or you can read the article below the video which has the same information.

There are five main reasons that a beginner may want to start by wearing underbust corsets rather than ovebusts, especially if they plan to waist train:

Overbust Con #1: Reduced Mobility

Overbust corsets are obviously longer and come up higher on the torso – instead of just wrapping around the lower ribcage like an underbust or a cincher would, overbusts extend higher on the chest, and they often wrap around the back as high as the wingbones (or higher!). Because of this, overbust corsets allow a more narrow range of motion than shorter underbusts; they reduce your mobility. This means that you may not be able to reach or bend over as much as you normally would, and you have to make greater adjustments to move ‘naturally’ in an overbust. If mobility is required in your job or it’s something that’s important to you, then an underbust or cincher might suit you better. *However, do note that those who have hypermobility issues may actually desire this reduced mobility from an overbust, as it may decrease the prevalence of overextension/ flexibility-related injuries.

Overbust Con #2: Reduced Full Lung Capacity

A corset obviously differs in structure to that of a bra. Most bras out there have a certain amount of elasticity in their band, which expands and contracts each time you take a breath. With a corset, there is no elasticity (or there shouldn’t be), so the corset’s circumference around your ribcage is relatively fixed.

Take a hypothetical female whose chest measures 32 inches when she exhales completely, and 35 inches when she takes in a full breath. She might want to tie the corset to ~33-34 inches around the bust. This is enough to support the breasts while giving you enough space to take a normal, comfortable (tidal) breath. But each time she inhales deeply, and tries to use her absolute, full lung capacity, she might feel a bit of resistance from the corset. And every time she exhales completely, the ribcage may feel a bit loose and she might have the illusion that she’s not properly supported (even though she probably still is). So if you have breathing issues (or you work in an environment where you need your full lung capacity), you might feel more comfortable wearing an underbust corset that stops lower on the ribcage.

Overbust Con #3: More Conspicuous under Clothing

Cupped overbust made by Doris Müller (Corsets & More)
Cupped overbust made by Doris Müller (Corsets & More)

If you plan to “stealth” your corset underneath your shirts (wear your corsets underneath your clothing), then an underbust corset may look more natural. As mentioned before, the way that overbust corsets support the breasts is different from conventional bras today. Most overbust corsets don’t have individual cups the way that bras do, (although I do have a gallery for cupped overbusts here). But these are often expensive, and the vast majority of conventional (non-cupped) overbust corsets simply don’t give the same bust shape under clothing. An overbust corset may flatten the shape of the bust slightly more, and may not give the defined underwire area where you can see where the breast stops and the ribcage begins. It may also lift the breasts higher than bras, or otherwise make the top half of the breast look fuller – and because of this, overbusts can create more cleavage than bras in some individuals – so wearing an overbust corset under a tight or form-fitting shirt will sometimes make it seem obvious that something is different about you. If you are self-conscious about this kind of attention, you might want to simply pair an underbust corset with one of your regular bras, which will give you a slightly less conspicuous silhouette under your clothes.

Overbust Con #4: More Difficult to Fit Properly

Underbust corsets are much easier to fit a wide range of body shapes compared to overbust corsets. First think about how many bra brands and styles are out there, and how many people still need to go custom fit in their bras to get the right support, shape and comfort they desire. Now think about the number of standard size overbusts are out there – this number is much smaller, and they fit a much smaller range of bust sizes in wearers! If the circumference of your bust is more than 10 inches bigger than your corseted waist size (e.g. 34″ bust, and 24″ corseted waist), you can pretty much forget about finding a standard sized overbust that will accommodate your curves. In order to ensure the best possible fit in overbusts, you will have to go semi-custom or fully-custom, and preferably get professionally fitted with one or more mockups to make sure that the bust fits right. There is a lot to consider when fitting the bust! It must be properly sized – not too big, not too small – the fabric must come up high enough and cover as much of the chest as the wearer desires, the bust must be lifted high enough for the wearer’s preference but not too high, there shouldn’t be any spill over at the armpits/ out of the cup/ over the back, etc. etc. Fitting an overbust can be extremely challenging, and even I have quite expensive custom overbust corsets that didn’t even fit me properly in the end because I didn’t get a mockup.

 Overbust Con #5: More Expensive

If your budget dictates that your choices are limited to standard sized corsets, and you are not of “moderate” or “standard” bust size according to the fashion industry, (whatever “standard” is supposed to mean), then underbust corsets will be much more affordable for you. Even in standard sizes, overbust corsets simply cost more than underbust corsets because they require more fabric, they’re using a longer busk and longer bones, it takes more time to sew over the curve of the bust, etc. So, unless you are dedicated to saving up for a properly-fitted overbust corset, or unless you can somehow be compensated for an overbust by your insurance company, then perhaps an underbust corset would be better for your wallet.

 

At this point it probably sounds like I hate overbust corsets or that it’s difficult to find anything good about them, but this is not true! Well-fitting overbust corsets do have some very redeeming qualities, so now we will discuss the possible Pros about these corsets:

Overbust Pro #1: Better Posture Support

Overbust corsets can be ultimately better for your posture compared to underbust corsets. As mentioned above, overbusts come up higher on the ribcage, and often up to the shoulder blades in the back. This means that it’s nearly impossible to lean over and hunch your shoulders in an overbust corset. Short underbust corsets can help support your lumbar area, but I have seen corset wearers who still hunch or round their shoulders. If a corset comes up higher (halfway up the thoracic vertebrae or higher) then this can greatly reduce the risk of forward-rolled, rounded shoulders, and you might see less forward-head posture as well since your spine is “stacking up” properly.

Overbust Pro #2: Possible Upper Back Pain Management/ Curve Correction

Speaking of the spine, overbust corsets might be more supportive for people with upper back pain, or spine misalignment like scoliosis. Click here to read an article about a middle-age scoliosis patient who used a standard-sized overbust corset in conjunction with special exercises to actually decrease the curvature of his spine over time. Now, please be aware that this is a bit controversial, because this patient used himself as a “guinea pig” in this corrective process. Many corset makers will avoid making “corrective” corsets for those with scoliosis. Some of them can specially draft for an asymmetric corset that will fit a scoliosis patient comfortably, but most makers will not want to make corrective corsets unless they’ve trained with an orthopedic technician or have some experience in making medical prosthetics. But if you have a curvature in your upper or thoracic spine, then perhaps an overbust corset – whether corrective or simply supportive – will help support you better and make for a more comfortable experience as you go throughout your day.

Overbust Pro #3: Support for Large and/or Heavy Breasts

Cartoon by Kat Rosenfield

In some parts of the world, breast reductions are covered by insurance if the patient is able to prove that their breasts impede their lifestyle and cause them pain. Some people have breasts so large that they can cause or exacerbate spinal curvature, they can cause inflammation or even snapping of the scalene muscles and surrounding tendons, among other problems. Having very large or heavy breasts can sometimes lead to very serious medical issues, and one way to help prevent or help these issues is to wear an overbust corset. This is probably the most obvious positive application for overbust corsets, and it’s the one reason I hear most often from people wanting to purchase an overbust. The rigid bones and non-stretch fabric from the overbust corset helps to support the breasts 100% from below, with no pressure or tension coming from above the breast or over the shoulder. The weight from the bust is distributed throughout the rest of the corset, eliminating pressure points or strain in a well-fitting corset. 

Now, in a properly fitting bra, it’s said that at least 80% of the support should come from the band wrapping around the back, and very little support comes from the shoulder straps – but it’s a sad fact that strapless bras don’t work for many people; either the bra doesn’t come in their size, they don’t feel secure in one, or the bra doesn’t stay in place. Consider the damage that has already incurred in many women; think about the hunched shoulders and the permanent indentations in their shoulders and the pain that they’re already experiencing. This is where an overbust corset would be of huge benefit, because it is able to securely support the bust from below without the risk of falling down like many strapless bras do, and without the need for shoulder straps.

Overbust Pro #4: Prevention or Management of shoulder injuries or Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Illustration of TOS. Source: Wikipedia.

Heavy breasts can cause muscle strain and tendon injuries, and they can even lead to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. The Brachial Plexus is a group of nerves that runs from the neck and clavicle region into the shoulder, arm and hands. It’s part of the thoracic outlet, in the same region, which is a bundle of nerves and blood vessels together. This area can be compressed or stressed from heavy breasts, or a previous shoulder or neck injury, or even repetitive motions like playing an instrument (guitar, drums or violin). Basically, these factors can lead to nerve compression that can lead to a number of symptoms like tingling, numbness and pain in the hands; swelling and circulation isses; it can mimic the symptoms of carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel syndromes and can limit the use or strength of the hands. In extreme situations, other complications can arise as a result of TOS, such as blood clots.

Depending on the severity of thoracic outlet syndrome, it can be corrected with one or a combination of the following: physical therapy, injections (steroids or botox), surgery (often by removing the first rib next to the collarbone, and sometimes cutting the scalene muscles), and in some situations such as TOS caused by heavy breasts, wearing an overbust corset. Preventing and healing TOS may mean that there can be absolutely zero compression or tension around this delicate neck/ shoulder area, so conventional bras with shoulder straps are no longer an option for these patients.

If you’d like to learn more about TOS, here is an easy-to-understand publication by Dr. S. Mackinnon, M.D.

 

Need an Overbust Corset, but Don’t Want to Tightlace? No Problem.

For those that would like to wear an overbust corset to support their heavy bust, improve their upper back pain or help with TOS, but they don’t want to waist train or they’re nervous about the waist compression, the best part about this is that you don’t need to lace very tightly to reap the benefits of breast support or pain relief. So if you think that the use of an overbust corset can help you with any medical issues, I’d highly recommend you talk to your doctor before investing in one. And for those who are currently actively looking for a corset maker that is experienced in fitting heavy-busted clients, feel free to check out this Guided Gallery made just for you.

What are your reasons for wearing an overbust corset, or for avoiding them? Let me know in the comments below!

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Corset Connection “Summer” / Vollers “Nicole” Underbust Review

Vollers Nicole Corset 1891 longline

This entry is a summary of the review video “Corset Connection “Summer” / Vollers “Nicole” Underbust Review”. If you would like more complete information and side notes about the corset, you can watch the video on YouTube here:

Fit, length Center front is 12.5 inches. The length is almost the same all the way around the corset. Very much a longline corset – comes over the hips; I personally find it a bit difficult to sit in – recommended only for those who are tall/ with a long torso. Modern slim silhouette; very gentle curves. Circumferential measurements: Underbust 28″, waist 22″, iliac crest 28″, low hip 32″.
Material Fashion fabric is black 100% polyester satin; lining is a black cotton-poly blend twill.
Construction 7 panel pattern, but extremely unique. Two panels above the waist, two panels below the waist, one central “belt” panel, and then center front and center back longer panels (see video for details). Top-stitched between panels. Corset has internal boning channels.
Binding Commercial black satin ribbon, machine stitched on front and back (not folded under, as the ribbon is already finished/ won’t fray on the edges). 4 garter tabs, and this corset also came with garters.
Waist tape The “belt” panel is in one piece and effectively acts like a waist tape would.
Modesty panel 6 inches wide, unstiffened, and covered in matching black satin/twill. Secured to the corset with a line of stitching (removable). Front modesty placket made from black twill under the knob side of busk, and satin flap over the busk helps to hide the busk overtop.
Busk Standard flexible busk, 11″ long and ½ inch wide on each side, with 5 pins (lower two pins are closer together). There’s another ½ inch wide bone on either side of the busk for reinforcement.
Boning 16 bones total in this corset. There are 10 spiral bones (5 on each side), single boned between the panels. ½ inch wide flat on either side of the busk, and in the back there are ¼ inch wide flats sandwiching the eyelets.
Eyelets Vollers uses 1-part eyelets instead of 2-part grommets. 28 of them total, and set equidistantly. There is no washer on back and the eyelet is perforated to split. Vollers says these eyelets are used in heavy boots so will take quite a bit of stress without pulling out.
Laces 1/4 inch wide black flat braided shoelace style laces. Resistant to catching or fraying; minimal stretch or spring, and hold the bow well.
Price £150 on the Vollers website (as the “Nicole” corset), or $290 on the Corset Connection website (as the “Summer” corset).
Vollers Nicole Corset 1891 longline
Vollers Nicole Corset 1891 longline (“Summer” corset from Corset Connection)

Final Thoughts:

Corset Connection is an official retailer/ distributor of many different corset brands, of which Vollers is just one! This is the reason why this particular corset goes by two different names. Customers in the US may find it easier to purchase from Corset Connection because of shipping times and not having to deal with currency conversion or taxes/duty. Those in the UK may find it easier to purchase from Vollers, for the same reasons. Please note the “Summer” is the name of the corset; it is not intended to be a description of the corset (as in, not strictly to be worn as a corset worn for summertime). This corset is not available as a ventilated or mesh corset.

This corset is one of the most uniquely patterned corsets I have ever tried – with a 7-panel pattern fitting together more like Tetris blocks as opposed to all vertical panels, and having one seamless “waistband” or belt panel take the role of the waist tape, I loved studying this piece to see how it was constructed.  Unfortunately this pattern was very much not suited for my figure, and would be better for someone both taller and with slimmer hips than I have. I would be very curious to know how this pattern would be altered, should one opt for the custom-fitted version on Vollers’ site.

Another feature I appreciated in this corset was the busk cover which allows you to hide the hardware – this would potentially help with “stealthing” a corset under clothing, as the bumps and the shininess from the visible loops and pins would be concealed.

I do prefer corsets that are more heavily boned, and that have two-part grommets instead of one-part eyelets, however for occasional wear (not waist training) it would likely be alright and give a lovely slimming silhouette reminiscent of a 19teens figure. Do note that unless you choose the custom-fitted option, Vollers specializes in a mild, slim silhouette; not a dramatic wasp waist. Those in the UK can find the “Nicole” corset here, and those in the US can find the “Summer” corset in stock here.

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Sinner Couture Tightlacing Underbust Corset Review

This post is a summary of the “Sinner Couture Custom Underbust Corset Review” video, which you can watch on Youtube if you prefer:

 

Fit, length This corset was custom made to my measurements. The center front is 11 inches, and from underbust to lap (along the “princess seam”) is 9.5 inches long. I consider this a modern hourglass; the ribs and hips are both rounded. It’s a little bit longline on me
Material 3 main layers: fashion fabric is limited edition Italian floral jean/twill; strength interlining layer, and floating lining.
Construction 7 panel pattern. Panels are assembled with a top-stitch, the corset is single boned on the seams. Floating lining.
Binding Commercial black bias binding. Machine stitched on the outside and hand-finished inside.
Waist tape 1-inch wide waist tape stitched invisibly between the layers.
Modesty panel 5.5 inch wide back panel, unstiffened, attached to one side (cannot be removed), and finished in the same floral twill. Also has a tiny unstiffened modesty placket on the knob side of the busk.
Busk 9.5 inches long standard flexible busk with 5 pins (bottom two are a little closer together). The topmost inch or so does not have a busk and instead ties with a black ribbon.
Boning 16 total bones not including busk. On each side there are size 1/4″ spiral steel bones. Two further 1/4″ wide flats sandwich the grommets on each side. The number of bones in a corset depends on the size and waist reduction.
Grommets 24 grommets total, size #00 two-part grommets with small flange; set equidistantly. Finished in an “antique brass” colour, and all are holding in well.
Laces 3/8″ wide black satin ribbon; no stretch, glides well enough through the grommets without slipping.
Price At the time that I’m writing, it is $300 USD in her Etsy store.

Other thoughts:

This corset is one of my favourites of my collection. The corset itself is very soft, in that it molded to my body from the very first wear (it almost felt as though it didn’t need seasoning, although I was good and did season it properly). I also felt as though it accommodated my hip asymmetry very well, despite being a symmetric corset. This corset is designed for tightlacing but not waist training – considering how often I wear this corset though, I believe it has held up very well over time; the grommets continue to hold in well and the waist has not stretched out. Although there are relatively few bones in my corset, I feel that there is minimal wrinkling and the corset holds itself well.

This corset is offered in cotton or satin, but Yana also carries some exclusive Italian printed fabric – the floral jean fabric used on my corset was a limited option; Yana only had about enough to make one corset from at the time. At first I didn’t know if I would like the subtle earth tones, but I’m so glad that I chose this design – it’s even more gorgeous in person, and I get complimented on this corset whenever I wear it. The corset also came in a custom-sized little drawstring bag for easy storing.

Based on the measurements of my corset, and how Sinner Couture’s corsets are laced in her Etsy store, I believe that the corset was designed to be worn with a 1-2 inch gap in the back. If you prefer to wear your corset completely closed in the back, please let Yana know so she can draft it that way.

You can purchase the custom tightlacing corset from Sinner Couture through her Etsy store here.

 

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Isabella Corsetry Victorian Underbust Review

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

Fit, length Center front is about 11.5 inches high, and from underbust to lap is 9 inches, center back is 12.5 inches. Slightly wasp-waist silhouette (conical ribcage). Waist is 22″, top edge (underbust) is 29″, iliac crest is 31″. There is a discrepancy between the proportions of this corset vs. my Josephine corset from Isabella. The photo of the Victorian underbust on Isabella’s website does not do the corset justice!
Material 3 main layers: Outer layer is black polyester satin, cotton interlining, lining is cotton twill (with a pinstripe pattern).
Construction 6 panel pattern, panels assembled using the sandwich method and double-boned on the seams, sandwiched between two layers.
Binding Bias tape is a matching black satin; machine stitched on the inside and outside.
Waist tape 1 inch wide invisible waist tape – sandwiched between the layers.
Modesty panel 7 inch wide unstiffened modesty panel attached to one side. No modesty placket
Busk 10 inch long, heavy duty busk (1″ wide on each side), 5 pins equidistantly spaced.
Boning 22 bones, mostly double-boned on the seams except for the one seam adjacent to the grommet panel. Side bones are 1/4″ wide spirals, and there are two flats sandwiching the grommets.
Grommets 30 two-part grommets, size #00, medium flange, quite sturdy. Finished in black (a nice touch). Set a little closer together at the waistline. Large washers on the underside, a few splits in the back but they don’t catch the laces and the grommets aren’t pulling out so it’s not a problem.
Laces Laces are 1/8″ wide round nylon cord, rather slippery and annoying but it’s easy to replace. (My Josephine corset had come with ribbon though which was fine.)
Price At the time I’m writing this, the Victorian underbust in the Immediate line is $175 normally, $230 for made-to-order (standard sized but custom fabric), and $350 for both made-to-measure and custom fabric.
The updated photo of the black satin Victorian underbust looks to be slightly more accurate to the one I reviewed!

Other Thoughts:

I was quite excited about reviewing this Victorian corset, as it had been over 3 years since I purchased the Josephine corset from Isabella Corsetry and I wanted to see if there were any tweaks or improvements to her construction. Although it seemed as though the pattern between the Victorian and the Josephine looked extremely similar (save for the 2nd panel), the fit of this corset is actually quite different on me – this corset is cut for less curves, and the ribcage is more straight and conical compared to the Josephine. While this corset is size 22″, and the underbust is 29″ and hips are 31″; my 3-year-old standard sized Josephine is a size 20″ but has a ribcage of about 30″ and a low hip of over 35″. So perhaps they’re not quite that similar after all?

Talking with some other people who have purchased the Josephine underbust more recently, they have told me that their versions are far less curvy than the piece I own. It seems as though the sizing is inconsistent from style to style of these corsets, and even from corset to corset in the Josephine pieces! But for those who are curious, it is said that the average “spring” drafted for is somewhere in the range of 7″ bigger in the underbust, and 11″ bigger in the hips compared to the waist size.

Sizing issues aside, I am in love with the strong and smooth construction of this corset. Satin is notoriously difficult to work with and make it lie flat and smooth, but Isabella Corsetry does this with the highest skill. And while I can’t cinch down as far as usual in this little piece, it does give me a lovely silhouette.

For those interested in seeing the Victorian underbust in the Immediate Line (the cheapest line where the corsets are standard sized and have fixed colors/ fabrics, visit Isabella’s shop here.

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Corset Embellishments

 

When commissioning a custom corset from an independent corsetiere, you are not required to go with a plain black satin or twill corset! There are many different ways that you can request to have your corset embellished. If you can only afford plain OTR corsets, you still have the option of embellishing them yourself! See the video above for plenty of examples, and refer to the glossary below if you need extra help.

Embroidery – these are decorative densely-stitched motifs, usually of larger size. Most embroidery I see these days are machine stitched, using a specialized machine where you feed in a specific file and it creates the design before your eyes (this is how my Lovely Rats corset was embroidered). Those floral brocade designs can be said to feature floral embroidery in a repeating pattern, on top of a base fabric. Of course, in the past, most embroidery was done by hand. Today you can get embroidered patches/ appliqué, and just stitch or glue the patch to the corset or garment later on.

External Boning Channels – some external boning channels are functional, so they serve a dual purpose: to actually hold the steel boning and prevent it from wearing through the fabric, but to also provide visual interest and contrast to the corset. I personally find that external channels are the most comfortable because I cannot feel the channel against my skin – of course, this also means that the corset is more difficult to stealth under clothing because it will be bumpier. Sometimes though, external channels can be “faux” channels and only used for the sake of visual interest, while the real boning channels are sandwiched inside.

Flossing – floss is traditionally defined as “soft thread of silk or mercerized cotton for embroidery.” Flossing in the context of corsetry is often smaller, relatively simple versions of embroidery, that is typically only done at the tips of boning channels and are usually done by hand (although they weren’t always by hand!). Flossing, like external channels, has multiple purposes for a corset: to anchor the tip of the steel bone in place so it doesn’t slide around inside the channel (which can help keep the corset smooth and also prevent the bones from wearing through the fabric by friction over time), and floss can also help to disguise a repair to a boning channel that has already been worn through. Repeating the same flossing pattern on each boning channel can make that “patch” look deliberate, and can add visual interest to a corset. See my corset by L’Atelier de LaFleur for a detail of the special T4-esque flossing.

Yoke/ “Waist Diamond” – a yoke almost like a ‘belt’ that stretches across the waistline of a corset, and usually is in a different color. It also often widens at the front to create a diamond shape in the center front. When this yoke is reinforced with a very strong fabric, it helps to strengthen the waistline (it can function like a waist tape in the best of situations), and the widening at the center front can add more control to the tummy area. The WKD Laurie overbust had a contrasting yoke that helped to hide the waist tape.

Fun Lining – although this isn’t “embellishment” per se, I enjoy when my corsets have a bright, colorful or cheery inner lining. My own handmade Sebastian corset looks like a typical red satin corset on the outside, but on the inside it features some cute “Little Mermaid” novelty print cotton as a lining, which is a fun secret I get to carry with me when I’m wearing the corset. My corset from Tighter Corsets also features a beautiful linen lining, as well as one of my corsets from the Bad Button features lovely silk-fan lining.

Contrast Stitching/ Contrast Hardware – most visible hardware in a corset (busk, grommets, and sometimes aglets) are silver; however you can also find hardware in alternate colors like gold, pewter, black, antique brass, etc so you can match your hardware with the rest of the corset, or with contrasting embellishment. My Sebastian corset has black hardware which matches the black “shot” red fabric used, and also the black contrast stitching I had used on the external boning channels. As another example, my Ref R corset from Tighter Corsets has antique brass grommets and busk to match the soft gold contrast piping and creates a stunning effect.

Lace Overlay – when a corset is completely covered in a layer of lace, this is called lace overlay. Makers create this effect by taking a sheet of lace and flatlining/roll-pinning the lace overtop of the pattern pieces (usually with silk satin or taffeta underneath), then assembling the panels together as one normally would. This has to be done during construction; it would be very difficult to create a lace overlay on an already finished corset. Examples of lace overlay include my Axfords corsets and also my Boom Boom Baby Boutique sample.

Lace Appliqué – like with embroidery patches, sometimes lace can come in pre-cut pieces and motifs that you can place where you choose and hand-sew to your corset – or if you have a sheet of lace, you can carefully cut out the motifs  yourself. Some lace is black, white, dyed colors, or contain metallic threads. Some laces are lighter, while other lace is heavier or corded. Some lace even comes with beads and sequins already attached – but you can add the sparklies yourself later on.

Crystals, Sequins and Beads – many people love to bedazzle their corsets with flatback rhinestones or genuine Swarovski crystals (like my Waisted Creations corset or my Totally Waisted corset). These are usually glued on (E6000 is a popular choice, although due to some carcinogen worries, some opt for alternate brands). Beads and sequins are usually sewn on since they typically have a hole through which they can be anchored. As mentioned above, some types of patches, appliqué or lace come already beaded so you just have to adhere the appliqué to the corset and you’re set. Sequins can also come in strings that you can drape onto your corset.

Mesh Panels – mesh is quite functional in itself: it helps the skin breathe, it keeps you cool and dry, and it prevents your flesh from poking out of the “windows” from skeleton corsets – but mesh can also be a type of embellishment as well! When I wear brightly colored shirts or dresses underneath, effectively a corset with mesh panels will “always match” whatever I’m wearing because my outfit underneath will show through. Some others may choose to play around with mesh corsets; for instance, if they choose not to wear a corset liner underneath, then they may opt for a crop-top to cover their chest, but the mesh panels may show their skin underneath. Or you can layer your tops so that it looks like there is a different color under the corset compared to the rest of your shirt. I’ve tried mesh corsets from Contessa Gothique, Madame Sher and Contour Corsets.

Fan Lacing – fan lacing actually started as a functional alternative to traditional lacing, as it condenses all the individual cords in the back of the corset into a pair of easy-to-pull straps. For those with limited strength, mobility or coordination, fan-lacing can help you lace up by yourself. However, in recent years, fan lacing has made a comeback as pure embellishment, such as my cincher by Serindë.

What type of embellishment do you like best? Do you own any corsets with special decoration or embellishment? Let me know in a comment below!

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Shapewear Squeezes your Organs? My response.

A few days ago, HuffPost released this article on how stretch shapewear and compression wear are associated with various health risks, including organ compression – and I was asked by a few followers what I thought of this. After a few days of thought, this was my response on Tumblr:

Wow, this might be opening a can of worms. I could talk for a long, long, long time on this, but I’ll try to keep it on point and try not to get too ranty about it. Going point-by-point with the original article:

When you wear shapewear, you’re compressing your organs.

  • This is also true for corsets – but to what extent is important to note. [Note, see my article on corsets and organs here]
  • Pregnancy also compresses your organs.
  • Leaning or bending in any direction compresses your organs.
  • Nauli Kriya really compresses your organs.
  • Your own organs compress your other organs. Taking a deep breath expands your lungs, lowers your diaphragm, and pushes down on your intestines. Peristalsis is the motion of your intestines moving chyme along – they’re constantly contracting and writhing.
  • Organs are not supposed to be rigid. Life as we know it would never have existed if our organs were not made to move and compress. (The one exception to this is the brain, which has conveniently evolved to be encased within a hard skull.)

That includes compressing your bowels.

  • Indeed, and this exactly why the body is so resilient and able to tolerate compression. From what I understand, corsets typically compress the organs in the peritoneal cavity, and the vast majority of what fills this cavity are hollow, membranous organs (like the stomach and intestines) that contain food/water/air/waste. When your stomach and intestines are mostly empty, they can easily be flattened down, and they take the majority of the pressure from shapewear (or a baby, or nauli), leaving other solid organs like the liver and pancreas bearing relatively little stress.
  • As for shapewear possibly causing constipation and other bathroom issues, I talk about that in detail in this video (or this related article). Fran from Contour Corsets has also talked about why it’s important to learn how to have bowel movements while corseted, in this article.
  • But some people who’ve had chronic constipation throughout their adult life have actually found that corsets have helped stimulate their bowels and help them have more regular movements. It works similarly to applying abdominal pressure and massage for relieving constipation.
  • Speaking personally, I find that cycling the pressure of my corset (looser, then tighter, then looser, etc.) actually pushes things along in my bowels. Within the first 30-60 minutes of putting on my corset, I’m pretty much guaranteed to poop (I imagine it’s a toothpaste effect) and then I find I’m able to lace down further in greater comfort, as my abdomen just effectively lost volume. If no corset were on, this space would be replaced with air.

You can develop tingling, numbness and pain in your legs.

  • This is not just true for corsets and shapewear. It’s also true for tight underwear and jeans, and some people get numbness and tingling when they sit even in loose clothing – it depends on the person, how long they’ve been sitting, how they’re sitting, whether they have ergonomic furniture, etc. So I find it a bit unfair that they would point the finger at shapewear for something SO common. That said, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s safe or good for you.
  • Also, they mentioned something very important here – the problem usually arises when sitting, which is a serious issue in itself. Seriously, do you know how bad sitting is for you? If they wish to minimize their health risks, humans should not sit.
  • A well-fitting corset, when worn properly, should never cause numbness or tingling. This is why I’m constantly stressing the importance of finding a corset that fits you properly and doesn’t put any pressure on your iliac crest. A reducing corset should only compress the waist, not the hips or the underbust.
  • In my last giveaway (where contestants wrote in explaining how corsets had improved their quality of life), several people have written in and explained how corsets had a hand in actually relieving nerve issues like sciatica and other complications related to scoliosis and/or slipped discs – this is because a proper corset made by a trained professional can function like a therapeutic brace.
  • While we’re on the topic of nerves in general, corsets can help prevent/ relieve thoracic outlet syndrome in women with heavy breasts, and can help with sensory adaptation in those with sensory integration dysfunction and other sensory disorders. So while corsets have their risks with nerve issues (which is an indication of wearing it wrong, actually), corsets have their potential benefits as well. It’s a balance, you see.
I demonstrate a bicycle crunch, one of the staples of my daily core workout.
I demonstrate a bicycle crunch, one of the staples of my daily core workout.

Your muscles will suffer if you rely on shapewear for good posture.

  • If you don’t use it, you lose it. I don’t deny that some people can “develop a reliance on corsets” or other shapewear for good posture – but this is precisely the reason that Ann Grogan recommends a training schedule working yourself up to ~8 hours a day, 6 days a week. The 7th day is a full uncorseted day and gives you the opportunity to rely on your own core muscles so you can gauge your strength.
  • Also – I’m not sure why this idea is propagated so widely, but corsets were never intended to be a substitute for exercise and toning. In fact, when people take on a waist training regimen, it often motivates them to work out more often in order to avoid atrophy. I recommend a daily core-strengthening workout if you start corseting – this can actually help you potentially obtain faster results than corseting alone or exercising alone, and it also ensures that you don’t experience core muscle atrophy.
  • Also, when used properly, corsets may actually train you to improve your posture over time, not necessarily worsen your posture. More on that here.

Plus, shapewear can create an environment prone to infections.

  • I’ve talked about corsets and common skin issues here, so yes – if you don’t have good personal hygiene and common sense, and you’re not wise about the fabrics you choose for your corset and liners, there are risks.
  • But I would argue that the risks for skin issues with rubber shapewear is even greater than the risk associated with corsets. The greatest cause of skin issues is the lack of breathable fibers. Many types of spandex/rubber shapewear are designed to make you overheat and sweat, claiming that this is how you lose bloat. Real corsets are not designed to work that way, and they can be just as effective at shaping your figure even when made out of cool, breathable mesh.
  • Honestly, mesh corsets will change your life.

Like everything in life, it’s important to exercise moderation: Don’t wear them too often…. Lastly, choosing the right fit is key.

Hopefully this clears up my thoughts on the anti-shapewear article. I think that the article brings up some valid points, particularly the last one about moderation and proper fit. But by researching corsets properly, acquiring a high quality piece that fits you well, and using it responsibly, you can enjoy corsets (and maybe even other shapewear) and still minimize your risks. Of course, if you have pre-existing health issues, you should see a trusted doctor before corseting, and same goes if you experience any discomfort while corseting.

*This article contains my own opinion and is provided strictly for informational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of a medical physician. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset for any reason.*

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Vollers “Aida” Review and Revision

This entry is a summary of the two video “Vollers Aida underbust review” and “NEW & IMPROVED Aida Corset (Mini Review)” which you can watch on YouTube here:

*****

 

Fit, length Center front is 9.5″ high, center back is 9″ high, side seam is 7″ high (cuts over the iliac crest) – I would consider this a cincher. Modern slim silhouette; this size 24″ corset has an underbust 28″ and high hips of about 30″. But Vollers has a made-to-measure service, you can get this corset made to your specifications for a 25% markup.
Material 2 main layers; outer layer is ivory satin and inner layer is ivory twill.
Construction 13 panel pattern (closed front), panels assembled with a top-stitch and single-boned on the seams (internal boning channels). The original Aida corset had twill channels, while the revised Aida has herringbone coutil boning channels.
Binding Hand-made bias strips of commercial black satin ribbon, machine stitched on the outside and inside (not folded under, as the ribbon has a finished edge)
Waist tape The original Aida had no waist tape, but the revised version does have a partial internal waist tape.
Modesty panel 6-inch wide modesty panel finished in same ivory satin/ twill under the laces in the back, and a modesty placket under the side zipper (the revised version has a boned placket).
Zipper Closure The Aida has a 6″ long heavy-duty metal Riri zipper; the original version had no bones around the zipper, while the revised version has double boning in the modesty placket under the zipper for greater stabilization.
Boning Original Aida had 13 bones total, with none in the center front and none by the zipper. Revised Aida has 16 bones; a large 1-inch wide heavy duty bone in the center front, and two in the zipper’s modesty placket.
Grommets 18 one-part eyelets, size #00, small-to-medium, quite sturdy. Silver finish, and set equidistantly. The eyelets splay outwards in the back and grab onto the back of the twill; they are not coming out but then again I don’t lace this corset very tightly (about a 3-inch reduction)
Embellishment Closed front with black decorative laces; the original Aida corset had a bow at the bottom, while the revised Aida omitted the bow.
Price At the time I’m writing this, the Aida is £195 in the UK, or $310 USD.

Other Thoughts:

Model shows the location of the heavy zipper.

After the first review of the Aida corset, I’m quite pleased that Vollers had decided to make some revisions and improvements to the Aida corset and loan me their newer version for a mini review. The differences in the new Aida include sturdier herringbone weave boning channels (instead of twill); an added waist tape on the inside of the corset (the original had none); more bones including a double-boned modesty placket under the zipper, and a heavy-duty 1-inch bone in the center front; and the omission of the little black ribbon bow in the center front of the corset. The extra bones contributed to a sturdier-feeling corset, and helped to keep the corset’s silhouette more symmetric on the body. I also feel that the extra stability around the zipper would potentially lead to a longer-lasting corset in general.

Vollers mentioned that they wanted to introduce this new line of zip-up corsets to cater to their Burlesque clientele, who need quick and easy access into and out of their corsets onstage.

It shows great integrity in a corset company that they are willing to listen to the ideas of their customers and change their construction accordingly, so I have to thank Vollers for giving me this opportunity to try out their products and share them with my viewers and readers. You can read more about the Aida corset on the Vollers website here.

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The Incredible Craftsmanship of Creations L’Escarpolette Corsets

These corsets were a gift from EgapTesroc for me to study, along with one standard sized JCC Creations men’s underbust corset (reviewed later). Creations L’Escarpolette (“Swing Creations”) is a now defunct brand of made-to-measure corsets that was wildly popular in the early 2000s, which specialized in historical reproduction corsets with stunning two-tone and colourful twists.

The original corsetiere has unfortunately not been heard from since 2008, shortly before the time that I began participating as a member of online corsetry groups and communities. As Joyce was said to move between France and Canada, I was disappointed to have missed out at the opportunity to own a piece from a local corsetiere before she left the corset industry. As her corsets were well-made, had a unique aesthetic and are now limited in number, it has been suggested by some in the community that her corsets may appreciate to the point of becoming heirlooms or collector’s pieces.

Thanks to EgapTesroc, I was given an amazing opportunity to study not one, but THREE incredible custom men’s corsets by Creations L’Escarpolette. I’m so excited to show the fine details of these corsets, from the impeccable pattern drafting, to the tiniest (yet incredibly sturdy!) eyelets, to the copious external boning channels, to the surprise of a little pillow! See the video below to see what I mean. ;)

Heartfelt thanks to EgapTesroc for giving myself and all my followers the opportunity to study these incredibly-made corsets! Click HERE to see EgapTesroc lacing the blue-grey underbust, and click HERE to visit the old Creations L’Escarpolette website to see the amazing galleries of corsets.

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15 Corsetier(e)s I’ll be watching in 2014

As a bit of a more light-hearted post, I’ve decided to expose my personal covet-list. The only rules here are that I can’t have owned a piece from any of these makers in the past, they’re in no particular order, and it’s not necessarily supposed to be interpreted as my list of top 15 favourite corset makers of all time. Some of these I may be saving up for in the future, while others are somewhat pipe dreams to own. Scroll down to see 15 corset makers that I will be following closely in 2014 (no pressure or anything):

Bizarre Design. Photo: Jaap Broeders. Model: unknown

Jeroen Van Der Klis, the brain and skill behind Bizarre Design, engineers some amazing and unique corsets – yet he also has the ability to make even a simple black satin underbust corset look like the most wondrous wardrobe staple you will ever lay eyes upon.

Corsets & More on a client

Scroll through the galleries of Corsets & More for example after example of pure opulence. There is no corset style or design that is too complicated for Doris Müller! She is a master in corsetry, and my favourite discovery of 2013.

Clessidra Couture. Model: Sohui. Photo: Catherine Day Photography

Julia of Clessidra Couture is a bit of a Superwoman. She teaches corset making, she sells corset supplies and kits, she writes books, and somehow she still finds the time to make superb corsetry.

Royal Black Couture & Corsetry. Model: Threnody in Velvet. Photo: Iberian Black Arts

Royal Black can do no wrong. Creation after creation, her designs are increasingly innovative, intricate and awe-inspiring, and there’s no sign of her slowing down!

Anachronism in Action “Lady Loki” corset, on the designer

For years, people scoffed at the proverbial “Basket Weaving 101”. This corset by Anachronism in Action put these naysayers and snobs in their proper place, and completely changed my personal views as to what can be used as embellishment. Not to mention the incredible smooth finish, gorgeous earthy colour and amazing shape.

Ferrer Corsets “Crimson Passion” overbust with cups

Corsets are only made better with cups, and those cupped corsets are only improved by filigree jewelry. Ferrer Corsets offers it all in this fiery piece. My life is complete.

sin_and_satin_ribbon
Sin & Satin ribbon cincher, on the designer

Sin & Satin‘s ribbon cinchers have no side seam, and they’re also embellished with metallic lace. There is nothing to not love, and there are no words for how much I covet a piece like the one on the right.

Pop Antique. Model: Victoria Dagger. Photo: Mask

Temperatures 20° below freezing have me wishing for a cozy, warm knitted sweater corset by Pop Antique – plus, her standard sizes match my custom measurements almost exactly – I feel that it might be fate.

Metallic leather overbust by Atelier Sylphe

Take a historical corset, and a spectacular sculpture that should be in a museum. Put them together, and this doesn’t even do justice compared to the creations of Atelier Sylphe.

Lovesick Corrective Apparel. Model: Jade Vixen. Photo: Christophe Mourthé

Dear Diary, day 1174 without a Lovesick Corset in my possession. They make stunning work, and their studio is an hour away from me – so close, yet so far; my commission inquiries have received no reply so I’m left to pine after their work from afar. Perhaps one day I’ll gather the courage to try again.

Daze of Laur. Model: Laura Rubin. Photo: Jeremy Tavan.

I check Daze of Laur‘s website regularly – if not to see updates of her creations, then to read the little Easter Eggs on Laurie’s constantly changing “title” in the header! (She also studied life sciences in uni and I kinda want to be her friend.)

Clair de Lune overbust by Angela Friedman

Angela Friedman. Make it a household name. Because a well-supporting, properly-fitting overbust corset is not a want, it’s a need.  Just look at that pattern drafting, it’s magical.

Waisted Couture overbust. Model: Miss Mosh.

Even the simplest underbust corsets from Waisted Couture have an incredibly smooth finish with a neat nipped-in waistline. According to a fan and client, her training corsets are also nearly indestructible. I’m more than willing to put this to the test.

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Wilde Hunt Platinum leather bridal overbust corset

Before Wilde Hunt, I had never known that such dreamy, ethereal and romantic pieces could be fashioned from hardy leather. This piece has left me wondering if it’s possible to throw a wedding without actually getting married, just so I can wear something this spectacular.

Dita von Teese for Mr. Pearl

Mr. Pearl. Because no list of coveted corsets is complete without Mr. Pearl. Owning a piece from him is the ultimate pipe dream of this list. He is elusive, rarely spotted in public, and doesn’t leave a trace as to where he has been except for a few polished photos and the appearance of the occasional breathtakingly magnificent piece of art. I can imagine that centuries from now, stories of Mr. Pearl will be spread around the world as he’s promoted to the status of a magical, mythological figure.

Which corset makers will you be watching in 2014? Let me know in a comment!

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Determining Fit & Proportion in Standard Sized Corsets (3 methods)

This article contains the same information as my video, “3 ways to Predict Fit & Proportion in OTR Corsets”. You may watch the video here if you prefer not to read – or you can continue reading below the video.

Measurement diagram for OTR corsets/ consultations
Measurement diagram for OTR corsets/ consultations

Before reading this article, you may want to catch up with some of my other corset fitting articles like “Shape of the Corset Gap” and “Troubleshooting More Fitting Issues“. Those videos and articles had focused on how a corset will look and feel on your body, and how to determine whether it’s a proper fit. However, there are ways to predict how a corset will fit your body even before you purchase it online! Making the most of size charts and fitting information can mean the difference between “fits almost like a custom” and “not what you expected”. It’s of absolute importance to remember that corsets don’t stretch the way most modern clothes do, and your bodies bones largely don’t compress.

The biggest issue I have with OTR corsets these days is that many companies still recommend that you choose your corset size based only on a 1-point measuring system (i.e. “subtract 4 inches from your natural waist”). But this is oversimplified. Different corsets will fit differently on different bodies, even if they’re the same size!

There is no reason why a corset company would NOT provide at least 3-4 measuring points (underbust circumference, waist circumference, high hip/iliac circumference, and then the vertical length of the torso) so you can determine the proportions and the length that will fit your body best even before you buy a corset. These proportions can be determined immediately by looking at the original draft of the corset pattern, or you can do some quick and simple measuring of the final corset to determine these proportions.

When I sell standard-sized corsets (either new OTR corsets or my own pre-made samples) I almost always ask the customer for their natural underbust/waist/iliac measurements and their torso length. I personally check their measurements against the measurements of the corset, and verify that the size they would like is going to fit them well. Doing this has greatly decreased the number of exchanges/ returns requested.

Some businesses already use the 3-4 point measuring system, and they may provide this information in 3 different ways:

1: Using size charts/ tablesScreen Shot 2014-01-07 at 3.52.24 PM

To the right, you see an example of a size chart for a corset. You want the waist of the corset to be between 3-6 inches smaller than your natural waist (depending on your squish level), but you want the rib and hip measurements to be as close as possible to your own natural measurements. This will ensure that the corset cinches the waist and NOT the upper ribs or hips (which are far less compressible), and thereby result in a more flattering silhouette and comfortable fit. Size charts are my favourite way of logging proportions of a corset, because I can check its measurements against my own natural measurements at a glance. Corset businesses that utilize size charts include (but are not limited to): Meschantes, Electra Designs, and Mystic City corsets.

2: Recommending that the customer’s measurements fall within a certain range

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 4.02.58 PMSome corset makers prefer not to use a size chart, but will instead recommend that your natural measurements be within a certain set of measurements. If you are on the upper end of this range, then you can expect the corset to have a larger gap in the back compared to if you were at the smaller end. Although this situation is better than a 1-point system, you may still end up with slightly uneven gaps in the back depending on where your own measurements fall and how large the given range of measurements is. Corset businesses that utilize this system include (but aren’t limited to) Isabella Corsetry, Starkers Corsets ready-to-wear samples, and Morgana Femme Couture.

3: Discussing the proportion (rib spring and hip spring) of the corset, rather than absolute numbers

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 4.08.11 PM
Sizing information provided by Orchard Corset on one of their Level 3 listings

Orchard Corset is an example of a company that simplifies the measurements into a simple set of proportions – for instance, for a Level 3 silhouette corset you may find that the underbust (upper ribcage) circumference is 5-6 inches larger than the closed waist measurement, and the low hip circumference is 10-12 inches larger than the closed waist measurement. (Typically OTR corsets are made quickly so the measurements aren’t likely to be as precise as a custom corset, that’s why you have a general range.) Doing some simple math, this means that for a size 30” corset, the underbust will measure (30 + 5 = 35 inches), and the low hips will measure (30 + 10 = 40 inches).

In the next video/ article of the series (part 2), I will show you how to use size charts properly, to predict whether a corset will fit you or not *before* you purchase it. And in part 3, I will show you how to fairly accurately measure your own corsets. This will help you verify that the corset you just received in the mail has the correct measurements (they match the size chart/ ranges mentioned on the website) and that the corset will be likely to fit comfortably once closed.

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Burleska Corsets Athena Underbust Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Burleska Athena underbust review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length Center front is 14.5 inches high (the longest OTR underbust I have ever tried!) and side seam is 12 inches. Not recommended for shorter torsos. Gentle hourglass / modern slim silhouette. Underbust circumference is 30″, waist 24″, low hip is 36″ (gives an impressive 12″ hip spring).
Material 2 main layers. Fashion fabric is black poly satin, lining is black cotton twill.
Construction 6 panel pattern, fashion fabric and lining were flatlining together, panels assembled using a topstitch. External boning channels (double boned on the seams)
Binding Hand-made bias strips of matching black satin, machine stitched on the outside and hand-finished inside for a couture finish. 6 garter tabs.
Waist tape 3/4-inch wide waist tape made from ribbon, stretching from panels 2-5 (first and last panels don’t have a waist tape)
Modesty panel 6 inches wide back modesty panel (4″ usable space). Two layers, unstiffened, attached to one side of the corset. No modesty placket in front by busk.
Busk 12.5 inches long, standard flexible busk with 6 pins (bottom two closer together). Supported by flat steels on either side of the busk.
Boning 26 bones total, 13 on each side. The flats by the busk in the front and in the back by the grommets are steel boned, but the side bones in the external channels are plastic boned.
Grommets 26 two-part grommets, size #0 or #1, fairly small flange. silver finish. Set equidistantly. Back of the grommets have multiple splits but don’t catch on the laces.
Embellishment 1/8 inch thick round, dense nylon cord. Quite grippy and holds bows well.
Price At the time that I’m writing this: £50 in the UK, or around $80 in the US.

Other Thoughts:

Burleska Athena corset as it is seen on the website

This is the second corset I’ve reviewed from Burleska (the first review you can read here). Two years later, Burleska had contacted me directly and mentioned that their line of corsets have improved and asked if I would be interested in trying some of their new stock. I agreed to trying this Athena underbust as it seemed to have the most unique construction and the most impressive curves! When I tried on the corset, indeed it gave a flattering silhouette, but unfortunately this piece had been plastic boned as well. The Burleska executives didn’t know that they were plastic as they had been told by their own manufacturer that they were steel – so these corsets are currently receiving an overhaul and Burleska says that they will be more careful about this in the future. I taught them the “magnet trick” to check for ferrous substances inside of a corset (like the steel bones) without having to open up the corsets. I’m not upset about this though; it takes great integrity in a company to admit that they were mistaken, to listen to their customers and to commit to changing their product to keep the trust of their clientele. So all is well that ends well; I wish Burleska success in the future and look forward to seeing what new items they design for their upcoming genuine steel boned line.

You can find the Athena corset on Burleska’s website, here.