This entry is a summary of the review video “REVIEW: Pearls & Arsenic Red Swarovski Corset” which you can watch on YouTube here:
Center front is 11.25 inches long, princess seam is 9 inches (3.5″ above the waist, 5.5″ below the waist), side seam is 8 inches and center back is 12 inches.
Underbust 26″, waist 22″, low hip 33″.
Conical ribcage. Comes down low over the tummy, and sweeps up high on the back. This type of corset would fit someone with a high waist.
2 main layers; fashion layer is red satin, with many “garnet” (dark red) and “ruby” (light red) colored tiny Swarovski crystals. The strength fabric (lining) is black cotton coutil.
6 panel pattern (12 panels total). Panel 3 gives space over the hip, and panels 5-6 give plenty of space in the back. For construction: both layers were flatlined and treated as one. Panels were assembled and topstitched (seam allowances on the inside), and internal boning channels (cotton twill) were laid down to cover the seam allowance.
1.25″ wide waist tape, made from single-faced satin ribbon, exposed on the inside of the corset and secured down at boning channels. Partial width (from seam between panels 1-2 to seam between panels 5-6).
Bias tape made from matching red satin, neatly machine stitched on both inside and outside with a small topstitch (may have been stitched in one pass, using a special attachment). There are also 4 garter tabs (2 on each side).
7.5 inches wide and finished in red satin fashion fabric / black cotton lining. Unstiffened, but quilted with many lines of stitching. Attached to one side of the corset with a line of stitching (easily removed if desired), and finished with binding on top and bottom. In the front there’s a slightly stiffened placket, 1 inch wide, finished in red satin, extending out from the knob side of the busk.
10″ long, with 5 loops and pins, equidistantly spaced. Slightly wider (3/4″ on each side) and slightly stiffer than a standard flexible busk.
14 steel bones not including busk. On each side, 5 spirals (1/4″ wide) are single boned on the seams, and 2 flats (1/4″ wide) sandwiching the grommets.
24 grommets total (12 on each side), size #00 two-part grommets with small-to-moderate flange; set a bit closer together at the waistline, no wear/fraying/pulling out of grommets. I see no splits in the back, and the back panel is very good at not bowing or warping (see Final Thoughts).
Strong 1/4″ black nylon flat shoe-lace style laces; they have a bit of string, they hold bows and knots well, they glide well through the grommets, and they are long enough. (I would love to switch out the laces for some lush double-face satin ribbon to match the rest of the corset!)
Although the corset in this review is a sample, Pearls & Arsenic corsets start at $193 USD.
There are hundreds of small Swarovski crystals encrusting this corset, arranged in a gradient of deep “garnet” red crystals at the top and tapering down to lighter “ruby” red crystals towards the bottom. These were all hand-applied by Raven herself, and you can tell it was done with care – just the right amount of adhesive was used and each crystal was cleanly applied so there were no strings or residue oozing out from under the crystals. There was also care to keep the design symmetric on both sides, and to not have any crystals under the loops of the busk so it could be fastened properly. The crystals are also holding on securely and none of them are falling off.
On the center front and center back of this corset, there is a heavy-duty interfacing / canvas / buckram, or some other stiffener that helps keep the center front smooth (wrinkle-free) and flat, and prevents the back steels or grommets from warping or bowing along the horizontal plane. I seldom see corsets stabilized in this way and I found it interesting.
There is a concept (that was popularized by Terry Pratchett in the Discworld books) called lies-to-children which says that we tend to oversimplify concepts and make “black and white” rules in order to familiarize beginners (or kids) with certain concepts before they can move on to understanding the more nuanced reality of these topics. Corsetry is no exception; there are so many “rules” that ring mostly true (like “good OTR corsets contain steel bones and not featherweight”, or “the waist tape’s purpose is to prevent stretching or ripping at the waistline”) but it’s high time we talk about the people who are successfully breaking corset rules – because not all corsets are made equal!
Corset sizes are mostly 20”, 22”, 24” etc, and we should avoid any corsets sold in “street sizes” (e.g. US size 6 / UK size 10, or small / medium / large) because street sizes are arbitrary and not standardized.
A few respected corset makers do prefer to sell their corsets by the S/M/L/XL system.
One of these brands is Ms Martha’s Corset Shoppe (I wear a size Medium in her shop which translates to waist size 22″).
Another maker is Ties That Bynde (I wear a size XS in her shop which translates to waist size 22″).
Jessica, the owner of Ties That Bynde, also wrote a testimony for my book Solaced last year. She’s an immensely skilled corsetiere who has made medical / therapeutic corsets for herself and others, and her corsets have been covered by medical insurance in some cases. Jessica suffered a debilitating car accident and she made several corsets for herself to helped her recover from her sustained injuries, and her corsets have also corrected her scoliosis. The reason that she prefers this sizing system over numbers, she says, is because she sells at conventions where the demographic can be a bit different, and many customers don’t like knowing what their waist size is in inches. They tend to be a bit more receptive to her current sizing system.
Number of layers
Many OTR corsets will boast that their corset has three, four, or even more layers of fabric in their waist training corsets, because in the idea that “many hands make light work”, we also think it’s logical to believe that more layers equals more strength.
I have worn some amazingly strong and comfortable single layer corsets, probably the most well known being my mesh corset from Contour Corsets, but also my spot broche piece from Bizarre Design. Both of these corsets started with premium quality fabrics that were painstakingly cut on grain, and constructed with external boning channels which straddle and reinforce the seams, and each seam is stitched multiple times (zig-zagged in my Contour Corset, and with a twin-needle machine in my Bizarre Design corset) so there is little to no risk of a seam ripping even under high reductions.
If I were perusing Ebay and looking at “corsets” shipped from China for $15, I would be a little hesitant to spend that much if they said it were a single layer corset, because I’ve tried one before and it didn’t do much for me. But a single layer corset made from a specialty coutil or broche, made by a reputable independent corsetiere? I wouldn’t bat an eye at that.
While on the topic of Contour Corsets and Bizarre Design, and how they have engineering backgrounds and like to bend the rules – neither of my corsets from them contain any waist tape.
The waist tape’s purpose is to prevent stretching and ripping of the corset at its point of highest tension (the waistline) and corsets that don’t have a waist tape are unsuitable for waist training.
My Contour corset was my primary training piece through 2012-2013, and it was still barely stretched or eased a fraction of an inch at the waist despite note having a waist tape. (The only reason I stopped training in that corset was because I found it a very dramatic silhouette, and once I achieved a waist of 20″ I decided I preferred to stay at 22″ instead.)
For cheaper quality corsets, having a waist tape is a sign of insurance: if one of the seams fail and the stitching pops at the waistline, at least the waist tape should hold fast because it doesn’t have any seams. But some corsetieres have appeared to construct their corsets in such a way that renders the waist tape superfluous because the corsets are strong enough on their own.
Some corsetieres, like Sparklewren and her Bird’s Wing corsets, would deliberately make her corsets a touch smaller in the waist than the customer wanted (0.5 – 1 inch smaller) – because she anticipated there would be a little bit of ease at the waistline without having a waist tape – however, once that fabric settled, it would more or less be around the size originally requested – so this is how some corsetieres are able to circumvent any complications around not installing waist tapes. The Bird’s Wing corsets are constructed with lapped seams (which are also extremely strong and secure – and because they can be made with a single layer of strong coutil or broche, adding a waist tape in these corsets would be tricky but also ruin the line of the delicate looking antique-inspired couture corset.
Any “corset” on Ebay that shows a hook-and-eye closure, or a zipper on the side or back of the body (especially colored zips with nylon coils instead of metal teeth), are not genuine heavy duty corsets designed for waist training or tight lacing.
Some corsetieres use zippers successfully in their corsets, even their tightlacing and waist training corsets! The strongest zippers have metal teeth – not plastic – and the zip is well-supported with flat steels on either side. The zip will also typically be placed on a seam that doesn’t have much curve (like the center front) and not on a side seam, so that there is no unequal strain on the zip that might cause it to fail.
I believe Amy Crowder of Wasp Creations had once written about how a good quality and well-installed zipper can possibly even be stronger than a conventional busk.
A proper corset must have 4-6 panels per side (8-12 panels total).
I’m sure most of you have done this thing in geometry class where you make a square, and then a hexagon, and then a heptagon, and an octagon, and on and on until you have a polygon that has so many sides that it nearly makes a circle. And theoretically, this is what we aim to do with corsets – to take flat 2 dimensional panels, albeit made from malleable fabric, and wrap it around a multitude of curves. This is where we’ve arrived at the idea that “the fewer panels there are in a corset pattern, the less curvy / the more wrinkly / the more uncomfortable it is.” It would be bonkers to make every corset have an infinite number of panels, so we strive for a happy medium of 4-6 panels per side in most cases, and we can further tweak the fit with gores and fluted panels, like What Katie Did does.
I have seen corsets with two panels per side, like Damsel in this Dress, and I’ve seen corsets with like 20 panels per side, like Sparklewren’s bird’s wing corsets. 99% of the time, OTR corsets will have between 4-6 panels per side.
Each seam is an opportunity to adjust the fit to suit your body, and oftentimes clean seams are more comfortable than sewing darts and pleats, especially when it comes to something as close-fitting as a corset. But I have occasionally worn corsets with four panels that were more comfortable than other corsets with more panels. And more panels does not necessarily mean that the corset will be curvier – the curve depends on how each panel is shaped, not how many there are.
Karolina Laskowska took this idea to new levels by making a corset with only ONE panel! Instead of adding more fabric where she needed ease, she started with her largest circumferential measurements instead and added tucks where she needed to take it in at the waist or over the bustline. It was very clever.
Featherweight boning is awful, Rigilene is the devil, and generally just run away from plastic boning and always look for steel.
There are some people doing amazing things with synthetic whalebone – which is a type of plastic, but it’s from Germany and it doesn’t behave the same way as featherweight or rigilene that you find here in North America. Luca Costigliolo and Laurie Tavan are two corset makers who do beautiful Victorian reproductions and have worked successfully with synthetic bone.
Grommets in a corset should be size #00 (5mm) or #0 (6mm) and have a medium-to-wide flange to prevent popping out over time.
Some older corsets like those made by Créations L’Escarpolette contained grommets / eyelets in size #x00 (an internal diameter of 4 mm) or even smaller, and with a teeny tiny flange, yet they’ve held up to a lot of wear, as these corsets are over 10 years old now (if I recall correctly). Even though the grommets are quite oxidized, none of them are actually falling out because they’re set so tightly.
On the other end of the spectrum I’ve seen corsets with enormous grommets (size 1 or 2), which are almost comically large, but I can see it working with a certain aesthetic.
So you see, although there are standards for most corsets these days, there are always exceptions to the rules. We live in an amazing time where we have access to laser cutting and 3D printing and so many awesome materials, and people around the world can blend their knowledge from previous backgrounds and apply them to the art of corsetry, and that is exciting and amazing.
Standards are usually set for a reason, so it’s good to learn why things are constructed in a certain way and using certain materials – it often comes down to accessibility, cost, tradition, etc.
I’ve experimented a lot with corset making in the past, only to reinvent the wheel and learn for myself why “some things are the way they are”, but that’s all part of the process, and I would assume that almost any experienced corsetiere has done the same. But innovation is the spice of life, so learn the rules as a beginner, so you can learn to break them later. ;)
This entry is a summary of the review for the “Bella” cincher in black mesh, made by Glamorous Corset. If you would like more complete information and side notes about the corset, you can watch the video on YouTube here:
Center front is just short of 8 inches long, the side seam is 6.5 inches and the center back is 8.25 inches long.
Rib spring is 4″, upper hip spring is 5″. The waist does tend to run a bit large / expand in mesh corsets. Offers a gentle (modern slim) silhouette.
The mesh parts are single layer hexagonal-hole “fishnet” style netting (seemingly industry standard for OTR). The front and back panels, boning channels and binding are all black cotton bull denim (a coarse weave twill).
4-panel pattern (8 panels total). Mesh panels were assembled together, and seams were sandwiched by boning channels on the outside and inside. The channels straddle the seams and reinforce the seams.
One-inch-wide waist tape made from single-faced satin ribbon, stitched on the inside of the corset and secured at boning channels. Full width (extends from center front panel to center back).
Matching black cotton twill, machine stitched on both sides. The front was stitched in the ditch and the back has a top stitch. No garter tabs.
5 inches wide, unstiffened, made from 2 layers of black cotton twill. Attached to one side of the corset with a line of stitching (easily removed if desired). In the front, there is a ¼ inch wide modesty placket, also finished in black cotton.
6.5” long, with 3 loops and pins. Heavy duty busk (1″ wide on each side) with an additional ¼” spiral steel bone adjacent to the busk on each side.
18 bones total in this corset, 9 on each side. Double boned on the seams with ¼ inch wide spirals. The bones adjacent to the busk are also spiral steel. The bones sandwiching the grommets are flat steel (probably stainless steel).
There are 16, two-part size #00 grommets (8 on each side). They have a small / medium flange and are spaced equidistantly, and finished in silver. Only a few splits on the underside of the grommets, and due to the choice in laces, they don’t catch too much.
The laces are black, ¼” wide flat nylon shoelace. They are a bit springy, but they hold bows and knots well and they are long enough.
Available in sizes 18″ up to 40″ closed waist.
Comes in black mesh, white mesh, 5 colors of satin, and 5 colors of leather.
Sizes 18″ – 30″ are $79 USD, and sizes 32″ – 40″ are $84 USD.
Only available on the Glamorous Corset website here.
The Bella is quite possibly the shortest mesh cincher I’ve ever tried – so if you have a very short torso and you’re looking for something you can easily sit down in, which can offer lumbar support through your work day without making you overheated, the Bella may be a viable option for you. However, if you have a longer torso, you might experience a bit of “rib squidge” above the corset and below your bra band like I experienced. For people like us, there are longer mesh corsets available (like the gentle silhouette “Emma” underbust, or the curvy longline “Jolie” corset).
The mesh is the OTR standard “fishnet” type cotton netting, which offers breathability and quite a lot of flexibility, while the sturdy double boning adds body and rigidity to the corset for posture support and vertical tension. Do keep in mind that because the mesh can expand, this mesh corsets (like other mesh corsets) can expand 1-2 inches when worn (I find this is true of nearly all OTR corsets with this kind of fishnet material, regardless of the brand), so if you’re looking for a specific waist reduction, you may need to go one size down from your usual size – but ensure that your ribs and hips will fit that smaller size as well.