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Review: Wearing The Genie Bra with Corsets

Disclosure: I purchased these bras at a local store to satisfy my own curiosity, but I do wear them regularly. This article also contains affiliate links which help my blog stay online!

I’ve made a video on Corset Bra Compatibility in the past and the issue with wire entrapment and the “double lift” that comes with wearing conventional bras with underbust corsets.

It just occurred to me that I never made a blog post specifically about my Genie Bra review, although I have made posts about my Enell bras and Knixwear Evolution bra, as well as the Underworks binder. Today I’m rectifying that. Below you’ll see a summary of the video (and some updated opinions about these bras, since it’s been nearly 6 years since this video came out).

There are many similar bras to the Genie bra, like the “Air Bra” and the “Ahh Bra”, and although I haven’t tried them, I imagine they work similarly. If any readers have tried these substitutes, let me know how you liked them (or if you didn’t like them) in a comment below.

While the silhouette is not perfect, the Genie bra helps prevent exaggerated back rolls below my bra band and above a cincher that stops short on my ribs – and because it doesn’t have any underwire, I don’t have to worry about the underwire being shoved into my ribcage from a taller corset, or any underwire slipping overtop of the corset and making my bust look oddly asymmetric. The Genie bra gives less support than an underwire bra (this is to be expected) but gives about the same amount of support as a low-impact sports bra. I can wear it under my fitted tees and it gives a slightly minimizing effect, but I would not do contact sports in this type of bra.

There are also no seams and the bra leaves no marks on my body, and there’s a 2-inch-wide band around the ribs that is also comfortable and long enough to overlap with the top line of my corsets (which helps with smoothing). Since there are no bones in this bra, it means that the band does have a tendency to roll or fold a bit though, so it has its pros and cons.

The bra also comes with bust pads which create marginally more fullness over the bust, as well as nipple coverage – but they’re also removable if you don’t care for these features. My favorite part of the bra is that it can be thrown in the washer and dryer (remove the bust pads first, as they can disintegrate in the wash). Washing the bra helps restore some of its tightness, but do keep in mind that this type of bra will definitely stretch out over time. (By the way, I own these bras in size Small, but they continued to fit me through a 40-lb weight gain and 4-cup size difference, because my underbust / back measurement didn’t change all that much. However, after the weight loss, the bras were too stretched out to wear and I will probably replace them.)

The coverage is moderate; I can wear it with most of my scoop-neck and V-neck shirts, just not with my plunge shirts (although the black one especially just looks like a camisole under your shirt if exposed). The wide arm straps are comfortable on my shoulders, but it means the straps are highly visible under tank tops.

If you’re the type to sleep with a bra, I have also forgotten to take this bra off a few times and found it very comfortable to sleep in, even as an active sleeper that moves around a lot.

While the Genie bra is no longer available at the stores I mentioned in the video, they are easily accessible on Amazon here and because they’ve been out for such a long time, they’ve dropped in price. Check out the Genie Bra on Amazon.

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Comparing Different Mesh Corsets

Over the past little over a year, I reviewed a whopping nine different mesh corsets, and many of them had very different types of mesh (different fibers, weaves, stretchiness and quality), and not all mesh corsets are made equal! It can be a little different to tell them apart on video and confusing when there are so many different terms, so let’s go through the most popular types of mesh for corsets and discuss the pros and cons for each one.

Fishnet

Jolie longline corset in black mesh, by Glamorous Corset (from $74).
Jolie longline corset in black mesh, by Glamorous Corset.

Featured in my past reviews:

This is a very open type netting made with cotton or polyester – it looks a bit like string or yarn twisted or knotted together. It is very flexible, can be a bit stretchy, and usually has a hexagonal shape to it. (As we know from nature, hexagons maximize the area inside each hole while minimizing the materials used for each wall – so the fishnet can cover a large surface area while not using much fabric to do so.)

Pros: fishnet is probably the coolest and breeziest type of mesh, and it comes in many different colors – Mystic City used to sell these with red mesh, blue, orange, green, etc. Orchard Corset regularly keeps these stocked in black and tan (and sometimes white), with occasional limited colors like red, gold, and navy blue. This is the most ubiquitous type of mesh corset, so it’s easy to find.
Cons: this fabric has a lot of give and definitely stretches out over time. Because there’s technically only a few threads holding in each bit of the fishnet within the seams, it can rip over time.

(I don’t know whether you call it a pro or a con, but the net leaves temporary impressions in your skin so when you take off the corset it looks like you have lizard scales. It looks cool but can feel rather itchy.)

Madame Sher mesh ribbon-style cincher

A slightly more tight-knit version of fishnet is used in Brazil, and I noticed that their mesh corsets have smaller, square shaped holes instead of hexagonal – I feel that this might work better for corsets as it has a clear warp and weft to follow.

My Madame Sher mesh cincher is still holding up very well and I’ve worn it every summer for the past 4 years. It can still show a little damage over time, due to the nature of the fabric, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by its longevity.


Corsetry mesh

Featured in my past reviews:

Galaxy Mesh hourglass standard length underbust corset. Available in my shop!

I believe that the newer stock of Mystic City corsets also use this mesh, and this is becoming probably the standard in many custom corsets.

Corsetry mesh is a synthetic fine woven net. It is fairly stiff and slightly reminiscent of the fly screens that you would see on windows and doors (except this is polyester/ nylon, and not aluminum or fiberglass which real window screens are made from).

Pros: corsetry mesh is smoother, stronger, and less likely to warp with wear. You can somewhat achieve a more conical rib with this type of fabric, but I’ve found that it still has relatively more give compared to more rigid, multi-layer cotton corsets.

Cons: this mesh is not as breathable as the holes are smaller (and it’s a synthetic fabric so it can feel plasticky). It can occasionally rip (usually if the seam allowances are not wide enough and it pulls from the stitching. Also, this type of mesh can be quite pokey. If any seam allowances do end up poking into the body, these threads can be snipped off with nail clippers and the rest pushed back under the fabric.

Tips for corset makers on reducing the “pokey” seams while using this type of mesh:

  • Some makers if they’re very particular, they might melt the seams with a small flame or a hotknife, but this can also risk warping the mesh from the heat.
  • Another simple way around this is by sewing the corset with the seam allowances on the outside of the corset (facing away from the body) and putting thick boning channels overtop so they won’t poke through.
  • Vanyanis uses a plush velvet ribbon on the inside to further protect from any pokiness, and she taught Timeless Trends this finishing technique as well when she styled their OTR mesh corsets.

Bobbinet

Featured in none of my previous corset reviews.

“Champagne” underbust made from custom dyed bobbinet, Crimson Rose Corsetry. Photo: WeNeal’s Photography

Bobbinet is almost exclusively used in custom corsets by specialist corsetieres, for very lightweight corsets and foundationwear under couture dresses. It’s been used by designers like Crikey Aphrodite, Morúa Designs, Sew Curvy Couture, Laurie Tavan, Karolina Laskowska, Crimson Rose Corsetry, Ivy Rose Designs, etc.

It’s made from cool and breathable cotton – it flows well over curves and is super lightweight. It has a lot of give, and as such it’s often used in a double layer for extra strength (and a bit more opacity if desired). Because it’s cotton, it can also be dyed – but it’s such a delicate fabric that I wouldn’t train in this. You’re not likely to see this used in OTR corsets.

Tips for corset makers: Ivy Rose Designs made a tutorial on working with bobbinet for Foundations Revealed. If you’re not an FR member and you would like to become one, please use my referral link (there’s no difference in price).


Aida cloth (or Java mesh)

Featured in none of my previous corset reviews.

Summer corset made from cotton Aida cloth (The Bad Button, courtesy of Foundations Revealed)

Aida cloth is less well known, not used in OTR, but some corsetieres have experimented with this for custom corsets, like The Bad Button and Bridges on the Body.

When you look at mesh corsets in the Victorian and Edwardian periods (e.g. their activewear corsets while playing tennis, or the corsets used by British women during the colonialization of India and other places of warmer climates), the mesh they used sometimes looked similar to this. Aida cloth is intended for cross stitching and comes in various weights and counts, so not all Aida cloth is made equal.

Pros: Aida cloth is cotton, so it’s a natural, breathable and cool fiber, and it can also be custom dyed.

Cons: Aida cloth can be difficult to source, and can also fray and shred.

Tips for corset makers: The Bad Button made a tutorial on working with Aida cloth on Foundations Revealed. If you’re not an FR member and you would like to become one, please use my referral link (there’s no difference in price).


Tulle

Featured in my past review: Contessa Gothique semi-mesh sweetheart underbust

Contesssa Gothique tulle semi-mesh corset

This is a beautiful lightweight fabric (think of the stiff tulle you’d find in crinolines / underskirts), but better suited as a semi-mesh corset with plenty of reinforcement. The tulle in this corset is limited to relatively straight panels (not super curvy ones), and the tulle is flanked on all sides – bones on either side (as well as the center of the panel), and even the binding at top and bottom is coutil to prevent stretch or warping.

The waist tape also takes the tension at the waistline, so the tulle is mainly just preventing the flesh from bubbling out of the “windows” but it’s not contributing to the actual reduction of the waist in a significant way.

Pros: it’s pretty, easily sourced, and comes in almost any color imaginable.

Cons: I think if it were forced to take more of the tension, it might risk tearing. The tulle makes for a lovely and delicate look – but I wouldn’t use this for everyday intense training.


Sports mesh

Featured in my past review: JL Corsets / Sultry Confinement “Christine” underbust

JL Corsets “Kingfisher” mesh corset, using 3 colours of sport mesh

This (I’ve been told) is also the type of mesh used by Restyle for their mesh CU underbust, and I think Mystic City has experimented with this in limited styles as well.

Sports mesh is also known as athletic mesh, tricot fabric, or (especially in the US) “football fabric”. This type of fabric is what’s often used in shoes and team jerseys, and also the non-stretch mesh pockets found in luggage and schoolbags, as well as non-stretch mesh laundry bags and gear sacks. It’s made from polyester and can come in a rainbow of colors.

While it may look similar to fishnet at first glance, it behaves very differently – it has little to no give or stretch, and the holes look more circular (or sometimes square), as if they were ‘punched’ out of the fabric (this is what gives it its tricot look) – however, if the holes were really punched out, this would weaken the fabric. Where fishnet looks like the ‘yarn’ is the same width everywhere, the sports mesh will have areas that look thicker and thinner – many of them have an almost ‘checkerboard’ appearance.

It’s a bit difficult to find the right type of sports mesh online, even when trying to use the correct terms and definitions, as fabric sellers on Ebay, Etsy and Alibaba will often use long strings of vaguely related words. If I can find a reliable source for this fabric in many colors, I’ll link it here, but I recommend going to a local fabric store and testing the stretch out for yourself – the right type of mesh should have little to no stretch, whereas fishnet is designed to stretch and give.

But the sports mesh costs only maybe $2 more per yard than the fishnet (therefore costs $1 more per underbust corset, depending on the size), and it comes in as many colors, for better quality and strength – so I would encourage more OTR corset manufacturers to test this fabric.

Pros: Imagine all the pros of fishnet without the cons. Sports mesh has bigger holes more on par with fishnet, so it’s more breathable than the corsetry mesh (which is a “plasticky” feeling fabric). It also doesn’t stretch out or warp as easily as fishnet. Sports mesh can come in a huge range of colors, as JL Corsets demonstrated with the corset to the right.

Cons: while sports mesh is stronger than fishnet, it’s not invincible – where there are holes, there is the risk of it catching on something and damaging the fabric. Also, while I actually prefer sports mesh compared to the fishnet, but I suppose because of the sports connotation some people might think it’s less cute than the fishnet.


Heavy Duty outdoor mesh

Featured in my past review: Contour Corset summer mesh underbust

Contour Corsets blue summer mesh underbust
Contour Corsets blue summer mesh underbust

This is a heavy duty mesh, similar to synthetic outdoor upholstery mesh. The only thing I can compare this to is the type of fabric you’d find on deck chairs or boat seats, but to this day I have not sourced the exact same fabric that Contour Corsets used to use.

Pros: this heavy duty mesh is the strongest type of mesh in this list, and comes in a rainbow of colors (in the video above I showed my gold corset, Strait-Laced Dame has a metallic silver and purple corset, and the one to the right shows the sky blue option).

Cons: this mesh is difficult to wear against the skin, absolutely requires a liner but I pretty much always wear a liner anyway. It takes a long time to form over curves, Fran said that the break-in process for one of her corsets lasted up to 100 hours of wear.


Powermesh

Featured in my past case study: Homemade Sport Powermesh “Corset”

Morgana Femme Couture cupped overbust corset-girdle with brocade and powermesh (from $510)
Morgana Femme Couture cupped overbust corset-girdle with brocade and powermesh

One of the corsetieres who made this famous for corsets and corset girdles is Sian Hoffman. Also Morgana Femme Couture makes an overbust option (shown right) and an underbust option as well.

This is specifically designed to have stretch and give, with mild compression – it has spandex in it. You’d find this more in Merry Widows and girdles as opposed to “real” corsets. However, it has its uses (especially those who love a strong cinch combined with maximum mobility).

The rough version of a powermesh corset I made for myself featured satin coutil front and back, boning channels and diamond waist tap – but never finished the binding on it (it means I can wear it under my clothes and it creates a surprisingly smooth line – and this mesh doesn’t really fray as it’s a knit).

Pros: it makes a very flexible and comfy corset, allowing you a lot of movement.

Cons: are that although it is still a single layer corset, because it’s a finely-woven synthetic material, it can get a little warm compared to the other types of mesh. This corset will definitely not give you a conical ribcage, as it stretches around every natural curve of your body. Also, the bones a not placed relatively close together, there is a risk of parts of the corset shrinking or rolling up in places (which is why it’s most often used in girdles, where the garter straps / suspenders keep it pulled down and smooth).

 

These are the most popular types of mesh and net used in corsets, but if you’d like to see even more examples of mesh, sheer, and summer corsets, (including some made from lace, organza, and horsehair), I have a whole gallery over on this permanent page! Do you know of other types of mesh that are used for corsets that I didn’t mention here or in the gallery? Comment below and let us know.

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“Corset Waist Training” Primer (Romantasy) Book Review

Today I’m providing a walkthrough and review of Romantasy’s newest book, titled Corset Waist Training: A Primer on Easy, Fun & Fashionable Waistline Reduction written by Ann Grogan. This was released in late 2016 and I read through it in 2017.

Differences between the Primer and Corset Magic:

Cover Art for the Corset Waist Training primer, by Ann Grogan (Romantasy.com)

This is a different book to the one I had reviewed back in 2011 (Corset Magic), and there are quite a few differences (and improvements made!) to this new book. I still maintain that Corset Magic is the most thorough publication I’ve ever read on waist training – but it was a daunting read at the time, being well over 125,000 words (over 300 A4-size pages with smallish font, single-spaced). I remember that the search function / page numbers didn’t work with my Adobe PDF reader, making it easy to lose my place.

The Primer is a bit shorter (perhaps closer to 100,000 words, in 4 very digestible parts), more concise, more organized, and easy to search for words and find your place again) in the PDF reader. It has also been carefully edited, proof-read and beta-tested to create a more user-friendly read overall. Resources and links have also been updated from the old Corset Magic version, so they work properly and no longer lead to dead links – so from a technical standpoint, the Primer is a huge improvement!

The Primer is not meant to be a full replacement for Corset Magic, but it definitely helps you get started (hence: Primer). You can still buy Corset Magic for $50 which goes into more detail about what happens to the body when you wear corsets; it’s more heavy on research, and also seems to have additional chapters (e.g. on men wearing corsets). Corset Magic really is a comprehensive resource for the keeners (no shame; I fall into this category too!) but the Primer will still give you more than enough information to get started, and at a more attractive price ($14.95 on this site), it’s a much smaller and more manageable investment.

Like I said in my old Corset Magic review: if you’re not sure if waist training is for you, then it’s wiser to invest [now $15, for the Primer] to educate yourself than it is to spend $300 or $400 on a custom corset, discover that you’re not the biggest fan of wearing corsets or your lifestyle doesn’t allow you to wear corsets, and find that you just wasted hundreds of dollars on a garment you’ll never wear.

 

Some disclaimers before we start:

Oftentimes in this book, waist training is mentioned hand-in-hand with weight loss, and there’s considerable emphasis placed on the obesity epidemic and the importance of losing weight or having a svelte figure. While weight loss admittedly does seem to be the general trend with many people who waist train, I also know of several people who have successfully trained their waists and developed a curvier natural silhouette while staying the same weight or even gaining weight, so I know that training can be achieved independent of weight loss.

So if you’re rocking the plus size and have no intentions of losing weight, there are portions of this book which will not apply as much to you – and try not to take offense to some passages in this book which emphasize weight loss. If you have a history of disordered eating, some concepts in this book may be considered triggering (small portion sizes, calorie counting, food restriction / denial).

Ann does acknowledge the fact that not all waist trainers lose weight, writing on pg 24: “When following the basic waist-training steps outlined in this book, depending on your figure size and shape, it’s not unusual to find that you permanently lose 2″ to 3″ or more from your waist with or without weight loss.” But then also adds: “You also might lose from a few pounds, up to 20 or more.”

Edited to add: since I knew there are a few trans women and non-binary folks who visit my site: in this book there are terms used like “genetic male,” “transsexual”, etc. in reference to trans women. From my understanding, some of these terms are inaccurate and outdated and might be cause for concern – I had emailed the author to suggest using some more updated terminology (AMAB, transgender) but she said she checked with the transgender community in San Francisco regarding her writing and received no negative feedback. Since I’m a cis woman, it’s not my place to police these terms, so I let the subject go. Use your own discretion when coming across these terms in the book.

 

PART 1 (includes Introduction and Ch 1-3)

A peek into the contents and organization of the Corset Waist Training Primer (Romantasy.com)

The Introduction goes into parallels between corset training vs dieting/ starting a fitness regime. One might think it all starts with how tight you wear your corset or how long you wear it (in the former), or how much you exercise or what you eat (in the latter). But in reality, all starts with your mind and in identifying – and setting – your priorities. It might involve a quite a bit of mentally “checking in”, and she says that our default behavior in times of stress (challenging times, emergencies) is particularly telling compared to times when life is smooth sailing. A little mindfulness can go a long way, and she recommends checking in with a waist training coach, having a buddy system, or if possible, even talking to a counselor to identify unhealthy automatic behaviors.

Ann also says that waist training regimens are highly individual and not a “one size fits all” approach, the same way that one person can feel amazing on one diet while another person can do the same diet and end up very sick. I fundamentally agree with this as a nutritionist – if one diet worked for everyone, we’d only ever have one. We all need to find what works best for our bodies.

Chapter 1 discusses some of the many benefits you may experience with wearing corsets – not only physical benefits (better posture, back support, appetite reduction if that’s your thing), but also the comforting aspects of deep pressure, some possible reduction in stress and anxiety, etc.

Chapter 2 is all about the “Corset Question” which is “Don’t corsets hurt?” And obviously the answer to that is an emphatic NO!… as long as the corset is of decent quality, properly fitted to the unique hills and valleys of your body, and you’re wearing it responsibly (which also includes the fact that you will loosen the laces when you feel the need to).

This chapter also goes into various unsavory experiences Ann has had with sensationalistic TV segments and news reports which negatively portrayed corsets, and I sympathize as I have multiple responses to such news segments here on my blog.

Chapter 3 explains how waist training works. Ann provides plenty of before and after examples, showing many of her students who permanently lost inches on their waist, most of them losing a significant amount of weight as well (the most dramatic being one client who lost 50 lbs in 3 months). However, Ann is also quick to mention that corset waist training is not a “lose weight quick” scheme – it requires considerable discipline and consistency, and often a lifestyle change. She says waist training works best if you focus not only on wearing the corset, but changing other elements as well (including what to eat and how to exercise).

But even though this regimen requires control, Ann recommends going into it with an open mind and positive mindset – you don’t want to force the process and end up developing resentment towards your corset or your routine.

 

PART 2 (includes Ch 4-5)

Chapter 4 is a big chapter. It goes into her official requirements for the perfect waist training corset – I remember reading this checklist back in 2010 or 2011 and being very surprised by the amount of scrutiny that went into every detail of the corset. Now, in 2018, I agree that these components are reasonable, and most could even be considered obvious! Some of these requirements include non-stretch tightly woven fabric, strong thread and tidy stitches, steel bones, front busk, 2-part grommets, presence of a waist tape, etc.

She says for best results, get an underbust corset made custom to your measurements, and she goes into detail on how to measure yourself accurately for a custom corset. Above all, Ann recommends you don’t rush into getting a corset.

She is vehemently against OTR corsets (this is where she and I disagree). But what I do agree with is that if someone is impatient about choosing a corset/ they don’t want to put any homework into exploring their options/ they choose “rock-bottom prices” over their own comfort and proper fit, then this person is not likely to be successful regarding waist training over time. Waist training is a long, slow process which requires considerable discipline and control, so if you can’t bring yourself to spend at least a few weeks exploring your options for corset brands, quality, and fit, then you’re not likely patient enough for waist training to begin with.

Ann also discusses turnaround times for corset makers: some may be 4-6 weeks, while others in very high demand might take 6 months to a year (or more!). She also troubleshoots many corset fitting issues, like if the top edge is too loose or too tight, the corset is too long or too short, and she also gives special consideration if the client has scoliosis.

She also discusses client-maker communication – and, should you find anything you suspect is wrong with your corset, to first check that you didn’t lace it too high, too low, upside down or on a slant, and to check whether your demands are unreasonable, like if one stitch is 1mm longer than the others.

Finally, she talks about how to lace up your corset, the seasoning (break-in) process, and beginning your waist training regimen – which takes us to chapter 5.

Chapter 5 is where Ann introduces us to her 13-step system for successful waist training. She walks you through the preparation before you even begin – knowing what to expect, taking your “before” pictures, and writing down your stats. Then she shows you how to set realistic goals for yourself: writing down not only the number of inches off your waistline you want to lose (and/or how much weight you want to lose), but also how long you want your intensive training period to be. She recommends a minimum of 3 months, lacing 6 days out of the week and giving yourself one rest day per week.)

She also walks you through the Roller Coaster method of waist training, and ways to keep striving toward your goals and not lose motivation. Some suggestions she makes include writing a contract with yourself, hiring a coach or having a buddy system, betting money on your success (or having some other kind of reward and punishment system), having a daily ritual and daily journal, and even visualization or meditation.

 

PART 3 (includes Ch 6-7)

The author of the Primer, and Proprietess of Romantasy, Ann Grogan. Corset: Sheri Jurnika. Mascot: Miss Tata

Chapter 6 deals exclusively with food and eating habits, and she recommends breaking up your meals into 6-8 small meals and snacks spread throughout the day, cutting down on refined sugars and processed foods, and taking in more fiber and water.

As I’m a registered nutritionist, this is the one particular chapter where I found I disagreed most, especially regarding certain generic statements e.g. calorie counting (as some people can easily run away with that), and some of the portion sizes mentioned in the book are smaller than I would recommend – but I understand that Ann is discussing this in the context that one may not be able to eat full-size portions while wearing a waist training corset. Ann mentions that she eats quite often (around 7-8 times a day) and requires a considerable amount soluble fiber to keep her own gut happy. Others may eat 4 times a day or whatever personally works for them.
What I do agree with is mindful eating, eating at a relaxed pace if your work/lifestyle allows it, and especially to avoid overeating to the point of discomfort when in a corset. I also agree with keeping a focus on more nutritionally rich foods, and checking in with yourself if you feel compelled to eat out of boredom, stress, or during emotionally challenging times.

Ann also goes into the plausible reasons as to why and how corsets act similarly to bariatric surgery (without the same risks that surgery carries). Ann is quite strict about the idea that food is for nourishment, and although it’s fine to mindfully enjoy what you do eat, she says it’s important not to overindulge or treat food as a crutch, especially during social outings.

Chapter 7 is all about exercise – and in particular, toning and strengthening your core.

There are some lifestyle waist trainers who enjoy wearing their corsets almost 24/7 and they are scared of building up muscle that may interfere with their training, but Ann recommends maintaining your muscle tone in your back and core – her waist training regime doesn’t require a 24/7 schedule (in fact it requires as little as 2 hours a day, up to 8 hours a day – although you can wear your corset for 12+ hours if you desire).

In addition to doing some core-strengthening exercises every day, Ann also recommends taking one day per week off from your corset to make sure you’re not growing dependent on the corset for back support, and this I agree with.

Obviously, we all have different starting points regarding fitness: we have different strengths and weaknesses, different ranges of motion/ flexibility, and some of us may have old injuries that we need to be careful of, so Ann ensures that not all exercises are suited to everyone. But she does illustrate and explain some of her favorite exercises for warmup / cooldown, strengthening the core and back, and improving flexibility.

 

Part 4: includes Ch 8-9 and Appendices

Chapter 8 is about making waist training easy and comfortable. She says there are 3 challenges to waist training: Logistical, Emotional, and Physical.

Logistical issues include which types of furniture to sit on comfortably, and some tips on riding in a car or plane when corseted. She also gives advice on sleeping in a corset, preventing yourself from overheating, how to stealth in your corset, etc.

Emotional issues include impatience, frustration, or excitement around waist training. Whats your emotional state when wearing your corset – uptight or relaxed? Ann says that the goal is to remain a bit detached to the whole process of waist training, “even a bit blasé.” She also gives some tips on how to overcome the judgmental reactions from strangers or colleagues regarding your figure, and how to keep up your personal motivation.

Physical challenges include concerns as to what happens to the body when you wear a corset, and Ann quotes a few studies on pressure on the waistline delivered by corsets (first done in 1887 and repeated again in 1999 with similar results).

Ann has a section on discomfort: how much is normal, and when you should loosen your corset or when you should bear up. She says that training should be challenging, and one should aim for a 6 or 7 on the discomfort scale out of a possible 10, and bear up as long as you’re in good health. I tend to disagree (I don’t like wearing corsets that make me uncomfortable, and I think anything more uncomfortable than a pair of shoes means something about the fit of the corset or the method of wearing it is wrong). Where both Ann and I agree is that discomfort is subjective, bodily autonomy is a thing, and as long as an individual is not causing injury to themselves or others, it’s up to that individual as to how tight or loose they want to wear their own corset.

She also addresses other things like blood pressure, what to do if you have acid reflux, skin problems like itching, bruising or redness (although bruising is not normal and shouldn’t happen), and various restroom issues.

Chapter 9 is on maintenance corseting: once you’ve reached your training goals, how to keep your results while corseting less (if you want. If you like wearing your corset every day then do what you like!).

The appendices can be quite helpful as well; there’s a guide on the difference between different corset silhouettes, a discussion on the difference between tight lacing and waist training, some recipes, a typical measuring guide for a custom corset, and a chart to keep a record of your waist training progress over 3 months.

 

Takeaway:

All in all, you’re receiving a huge amount of information in this book – essentially four books for the price of one. As much info as I described in this overview, it still only covers perhaps 2% of the entire Primer.

The Corset Waist Training Primer answers nearly every question you ever had about corseting (and some you’d probably never thought to ask as well). At $15, it is much more accessible to those with smaller budgets compared to Corset Magic ($50) and it’s more than sufficient for beginners and intermediates.

As Ann and I are both very passionate about corsetry (and also strongly opinionated), take my criticisms with a grain of salt – at the time I’m writing this, there is still no other waist training book on the market has come close to the length, detail and scope as this Primer (with the obvious exception to the even more exhaustive Corset Magic). If you choose to read this book, incorporate the things that resonate with you, and leave the rest (but I don’t have you tell you this; this is true of any book!).

Click here to go to Romantasy’s site and learn more about Ann’s newest book (not a referral link): Corset Waist Training: A Primer on Easy, Fun & Fashionable Waistline Reduction

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Corsets and Rib Removal

This week is an update on corsets and rib removal (rib resection being the proper term for it), because this surgical procedure has been circulating in the news again recently. Back in 2012, I believe I said that there was no medical documentation of anyone in the no one past or present had ever surgically broken or removed their floating ribs for purely aesthetic purposes, and I turned out to be mistaken! Pixee Fox (The Living Cartoon) had three pairs of ribs removed in 2015, and more recently Rodrigo Alves had two pairs removed in late 2017. Since both of them habitually wear corsets, many people have emailed and messaged me to ask my take on this, so this gives me the opportunity to correct what I stated 5-6 years ago.

 

Why Did I Doubt Cosmetic Rib Resection Before?

“The Corset: A Cultural History” by Valerie Steele (2001). Click through to view on Amazon (referral link).

I originally got this information from Chapter 10 of Victorian Secrets by Sarah A Chrisman (it’s still an excellent memoir on corsets and waist training otherwise), and also from Valerie Steele’s book The Corset: A Cultural History which was published in 2001. At the time, Steele couldn’t find any official publication from the 19th or 20th centuries regarding elective cosmetic surgery to remove the ribs:

“Historians sometimes claim that rib removal occurred, but without providing evidence, or they hedge their bets by mentioning the ‘rumor’ that certain women had this operation … It would have been very difficult for a woman to find a trained surgeon willing to undertake such a hazardous operation for cosmetic purposes. Histories of plastic surgery to not mention rib removal.

“Rumors of movie stars having their lower ribs removed still circulate. It would now theoretically be possible to perform such an operation, and someone somewhere may have done it. ‘But there’s never been anything published about it; no one has owned up to performing such a procedure, much less to having had one,’ says Dr. John E. Sherman of Cornell University’s medical school.” (Steele, 2001, p 73-74)

This was obviously in specific context to rib resection as a purely cosmetic surgery, however. Nobody doubts that rib resection has been used for various medical purposes.

 

Medically Necessary Reasons for Removing the Ribs Today

Two pairs of floating ribs (11th and 12th ribs) highlighted in red; note how they don’t wrap around and join in the front. Courtesy of Wikipedia (creative commons).
  • If someone breaks a rib by injury, or has a congenital condition that led to severely deformed and rotated ribs, and there’s a chance it might never be corrected (in the case of broken ribs, they might never heal properly), sometimes the surgeon believes it’s better for the patient to remove it.
  • If there is any cancer that spreads to the bone and it cannot be effectively treated by other measures like chemotherapy or radiation, the bone is amputated.
  • The ribs can also be removed to use in reconstructive surgery in smaller parts of the body. A common place to use these bones is in the face and jaw (after a bad injury or oral cancer, etc.) because using your own tissue is said to have a lower chance of rejection or reaction, compared to titanium plates and the like.
  • Sometimes the upper ribs are removed for medical purposes: the first rib (close to the clavicle (aka collarbone) can be removed in hopes of correcting Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, blood clots in the neck and shoulder, Reynaud’s Syndrome, or other medical complications that might arise from nerves or blood vessels growing around the bones of this area above the collarbone. Some people even have little vestigial cervical ribs that grow out of the neck (this is rare – like being born with a tail).
  • There are also many open surgeries where the ribs are temporarily broken or removed to get at the heart, lungs or kidneys, and then the surgeons usually put the ribs back again.

You can read more about the more common reasons for rib resection on this site.

 

However, Victorians Did Not Remove Their Ribs

The idea that millions of women in the 1800s removed their floating ribs for the sake of vanity is absurd. This was a time before anesthetic was able to be calibrated based on a person’s size and weight – at the time, ether or chloroform was used as anesthetic, and depending on how much was administered to the patient, there was a risk of them either waking up in the middle of surgery, or never waking up again.

Puncturing a lung and causing it to collapse was also very real risk (and is still a risk today) because you’re working so closely to the area, trying to separate bone from the intercostal muscles that lie overtop of the lungs.

Also, people didn’t know about blood types until around the year 1900 – if a patient lost too much blood and needed a transfusion, it was a game of roulette to find a donor that would match their blood type (if one could find a donor fast enough at all).

Germ theory was only really starting to be accepted around the 1880s, so before this time, many surgeons would not sterilize their tools or even wash their hands. Even if a physician were an early adopter of germ theory and did learn the importance of hand washing, it would still be about 50 years before penicillin would be discovered in 1928 (and even then, it wasn’t officially medically distributed until closer to 1940). So infections, complications, and fatalities associated with any surgical procedure (medically necessary or not) were still extremely high.

Remember that surgical procedures were so feared that as recently as WWI, among those who needed life-saving surgery, many opted for death instead – so the idea of many women to voluntarily opt for cosmetic surgery around this time is simply ridiculous and not based in fact.

In fact, a lot of rumors about Victorian period (rib removal surgeries, tightlacers’ spines breaking in half when not supported by a corset, forced tightlacing to 12″ waist circumference by strict school headmistresses, etc.) were actually stories from 19th century fiction pieces and fetish magazines. People forget that fanfiction was still a thing a few centuries ago; not every surviving publication from the era was documented fact. (A great documentary to learn more about the gruesome history of surgery is one called Blood and Guts, a History of Surgery).

Also worth mentioning: a sizeable number of surviving photographs from the Victorian and Edwardian eras have been edited (essentially an early form of “Photoshop”) by painting over parts of the negatives to make women’s waists look smaller, more tapered, and more extreme than they really were. Karolina Żebrowska did a great video explaining this (and giving a very easy modern example), which you can watch here.

An old capture of part of an article “Victorian Tightlacing Myths” by Contour Corsets; showing a doctored photo of Polaire and what her waist probably looked like in reality. Fran explained it better than I ever could.

When Did Cosmetic Rib Removal Start Getting More Popular?

According to Steele’s book (as of 2001), rib resection as a purely elective cosmetic surgery was not something that had been medically documented before. While there are countless rumors of various celebrities having their ribs surgically removed (Cher, Marilyn Manson, Cindy Crawford, etc.) they have never been medically verified… but from my research, around 2006-2007-2008, rib removal has been discussed as a procedure for trans women to create a more narrow torso and waistline.

Here is a video from 2011 by Dr. Aaron Stone performing a tummy tuck, liposuction and rib removal on one patient to create a smaller waist (content warning: very graphic – blood, muscle and bone tissue clearly visible, as well as some genitals).

However, the procedure is invasive that most doctors will not consider performing it. Some patients claimed to fly down to South America to have it performed, as they were hard-pressed to find doctors in Europe or North America willing to do it. And it goes without saying that the surgery carries all the same risks as other major surgeries: risk of reaction to anesthesia, infection, sepsis, problems healing, etc. (And there’s still a risk of collapsing a lung during the surgery and then you’d have to re-inflate it.)

 

Notable (and Documented) Cases of Cosmetic Rib Removal

Pixee Fox (“The Living Cartoon”) sporting a conical rib corset, laced to 16 inches. Click through to go to her website and learn more about her procedures.

We can’t have a comprehensive article on modern rib removal without talking about arguably the most famous case of cosmetic rib resection, which was performed on Pixee Fox, who is another corset enthusiast!  For her “living cartoon” project, she had 3 pairs of ribs removed in 2015 (the four floating ribs and a pair of false ribs above them), which allowed her to cinch her waist down further in her conical-rib corsets. More accurately, according to Fox’s surgeon, her ribs were not fully removed but rather shortened, as he explained in this interview in 2016.

The two lowest ribs (11th and 12th ribs) are “floating” and don’t wrap fully around the ribcage to begin with. If you look at a skeleton, the bottom two sets of ribs are only connected at the back, and can swing like hinges in and out with your breath. According to Fox’s surgeon, he shortened her ribs by removing the cartilage tips on the sides but left part of ribs in the back, around the kidney area.

Another documented case of voluntary rib removal was performed on Rodrigo Alves who had two pairs of ribs (the floating ribs) removed. To prove that it was real, the consultation and surgery streamed on Alves’ Instagram, and Alves was allowed to take home and keep his removed ribs in a jar. Click here for an interview with Alves on This Morning (content warning: his removed ribs are shown around 30 seconds into the interview).

 

My Opinions on Cosmetic Rib Removal

If you’ve followed me for long enough, you know that I prefer to report objectively on corset-related news; especially when it comes to health and medical cases relating to corsetry. However, there was an overwhelming number of requests for my my personal opinion on Pixee Fox and Rodrigo Alves after reading their recent stories in the media. Let me be clear: asking me to gossip and share my personal opinions of people I’ve never met is not very classy.

Regarding my opinion of cosmetic rib removal of the procedure itself: It is not something I would ever consider, and I don’t find it necessary because corsets are able to shift the ribs very dramatically over years or decades (as in the case of Cathie Jung).

Of course having your ribs surgically removed is not an average procedure, and both Pixee and Rodrigo have said that they were never going for average – both of them have said in interviews, in their own way, that they prefer to stand out: they are not aiming to look like anyone else, and they’re each setting records and pushing the limit as to what plastic surgery is able to do. While I wouldn’t recommend removing ribs for purely aesthetic reasons, it’s really not my place to say to other people “Hey, you’re not allowed to do that with your body!” because their body is not mine to begin with.

Considering how difficult it is to spread the message that corsets are capable of promoting self-esteem and body-image, they can be empowering and are a strong expression of bodily autonomy, it would be especially hypocritical of me to drag anyone for having a procedure that they researched thoroughly, responsibly consulted with professionals, and really, really wanted for themselves. I am less familiar with Alves’ experience (partially because it’s so recent), but it is obvious that Pixee Fox had done plenty of research and was aware of the risks; she sought many professional opinions on rib removal before going through with it, as was evident by the fact that so many doctors refused to perform the procedure before she found one that was willing.

Moreover, I have never heard Fox pressure her followers to do the same; she’s never said, “Hey everyone, you all NEED to do this!” Rather, she always says in her interviews, “I’m doing right by me, and you should do right by you.”

Regardless, the procedure is finished and what’s done is done. I’m happy that the operations seemed to have gone well for all three medically documented cases (the trans woman in 2011, Pixee Fox in 2015, and Rodrigo Alves in 2017).

My final word regarding my opinion on all of this: it’s not something I would ever consider, but my opinion is irrelevant. For people who have already gone through with this surgery, whether they’ve “gone public” with it or not – from what I can see they’re not committing any harm to others, and so they deserve the same amount of respect as anyone else.

 

Creating a Smaller Waist and Ribcage Using Corsets

X-ray of Cathie Jung in a corset, demonstrating that she still has all ribs – they have just tapered though years of corset training with conical rib corsets. Click through to see her other scans.

It is entirely possible to achieve a small corseted waist without surgery – Cathie Jung has been wearing corsets for some 40 years, and has a 15 inch waist underneath her corsets – if you look at her X-rays, you’ll see that she has all 12 sets of ribs; they’ve just been contoured and formed over decades of training.

You can also see the same in the skeletons of women who waist trained in the 1800s, and even Rebecca Gibson’s studies of impoverished French women in the 19th century showed that they experienced some tapering of the ribs as well.

So it is possible to achieve an extreme shape with corsets and creating a tapered ribcage with a conical rib corset, while still keeping all your ribs. It does take many many years (possibly decades for some), and it does require that one has a relatively flexible ribcage (flexible costal joints, where the ribs connect to the spine) to begin with. Some people have extremely rigid ribs and don’t tolerate compression on their ribs at all (their ribs would rather bruise than move). With this in mind, I suppose that the motivations of some people for going forward with surgery are:

  1. they don’t want to wait years / decades for results, and
  2. they may have a very rigid ribcage and are physically unable to compress their ribs using corsets.

 

In conclusion, I wanted to come round and confirm that:

  • Rib removal / rib resection is a real surgery.
  • It is used more commonly for correcting pre-existing medical problems or for reconstructive surgery in other parts of the body.
  • It can be performed as a cosmetic procedure on its own, but it is still relatively rare (and secretive) and most surgeons do not recommend it.
  • It’s not a procedure I would consider for myself / widely condone.
  • It was certainly not successfully done in the Victorian era; there were too many risks and medicine was not that refined enough.

 

I hope this cleared up some common misconceptions about rib removal. What do you think of the myths and truths surrounding the procedure? Have you experienced tapering of your ribs from corsets? Leave a comment below!

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Introducing the New Corset Sizing Tool!

This past weekend I made a free corset sizing tool – one that accurately calculates your ideal corset size based off of your measurements, lifestyle, and personal needs (because “4-6 inches less than your waist” sometimes isn’t specific enough.)

After testing this calculator with close to 100 people, it seems to have over 90% accuracy rate. While it won’t replace talking to a real person for their recommendation, and it doesn’t take every life situation into account, it will give you a good place to start.

One more important thing:

Just because this calculator recommends *A* specific size, does not mean every corset in that size will fit you perfectly. (After you find your ideal corset size, you need to find a corset that suits your curve as well! Head on over to the Corset Database for more free tools!)

See the video below for a tutorial on how to use this free tool!

 

In the video I go through four examples:

Example 1: a slender athlete who wants to start waist training. (Timestamp: 1:20)

  • 26 inch natural waist
  • visible abs in front
  • bit soft, fingers sink into side
  • wants to waist train
  • weight fluctuates, with a natural tendency to lose (because they’re doing sports all the time)

This would recommend a size 22” if they want their corset to lace closed, or size 20” if they prefer a small lacing gap in the back.

 

Example 2: someone who works in an office and perhaps has a sedentary lifestyle, but likes to wear vintage clothing and wear a tightlacing corset underneath. (Timestamp: 2:40)

  • 32 inch natural waist
  • bit soft in front
  • bit soft at the side as well
  • interested in tightlacing
  • wants to wear their corset laced closed

This gives a waist size of 27″, which you can correct to a “real” corset size by using the extra question at the bottom. Size up if you have less experience, or size down if you have a little more experience.

 

Example 3: a mother who’s had multiple pregnancies, a lot of weight gain and loss over the years, and suffers from lower back pain. They’re not interested in waist training, but just wants something to smooth over the loose skin of their tummy and support their spine. They might have a similar waist size to the last person but a very different composition, and different needs. (Timestamp: 3:56)

  • 35” natural waist
  • very soft in front
  • very soft on the side
  • wants a corset for back support or pain relief
  • fluctuates in weight, with a natural tendency to gain
  • prefers a lacing gap in the back

This calculates a waist size of 29″ which can be corrected up to 30″ if they have no corset experience. When worn with a small lacing gap, the corset will be just snug enough to hold in their loose skin and support their posture.

 

Example 4: someone starting out a bit larger, who has made a new year’s resolution to lose weight (I’ve been getting a lot of emails like this in the past few weeks!) and wants a corset to last them a little longer through their weight loss. (Timestamp: 5:16)

  • 35” natural waist
  • very soft in front
  • very soft at the side
  • interested in waist training
  • they are actively in the process of losing weight (the wording is intentional here – see below)
  • NO gap at the back (see explanation below for the reason why)

This calculates a corset size of 38″ which will carry their waist training at least several months through their weight loss journey, depending on how much they plan to ultimately lose, and how quickly they’re dropping weight.

Extra notes on this case:

Please choose the “actively and intentionally losing weight” ONLY if you are currently in the process of losing weight – because if you only intend to lose weight but have made no steps to start, clicking this option might not be realistic and might leave you with a corset that’s too small to wear. Clicking this option takes you down a size, so that you don’t have a corset that you shrink out of too quickly. (Same with the other option of intentionally gaining weight, it will take you up a size!) So if you’re actively in the process of losing weight already, you may click that option. You’ll also see a cautionary note pop up on the calculator, if you are changing your weight quickly, so be sure to give this a read!

Then you get to the question for a lacing gap in the back – if you’re already losing weight, we recommend choosing the “no gap” option otherwise it will give you a corset that can be around 12 inches smaller than your natural waist (which is not recommended or safe for beginners).

People with a larger natural waist tend to be able to cinch more. Some experienced corset models have a natural waist over 40 inches and are quite soft, and they’re able to cinch down 8 inches within minutes! If you’re also losing weight on top of that, the calculator will size you down. But do keep in mind that there’s a point where OTR corsets don’t have laces long enough to open up by 10-12 or more inches – also, if the gap in the back is too big, you won’t have the right torque to pull it tighter so it wraps around the body and fits properly.

Hope this tutorial helped! Try out the sizing calculator for yourself and let us know if it worked for you!

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Drafting Corset Patterns Digitally with CAD (Book Review / Storytime!)

The following is a transcript of my video “Pattern Drafting in CAD (Review + Storytime!)” on Youtube. Please note that this post contains affiliate links for Etsy and Foundations Revealed. If you’d like to watch the video and the walkthrough of the Foundations Revealed pattern tutorial, see my video below.

 

Hi everyone!

I haven’t done a book review in a very long time, but I’d really like to change that. This resource I’ll be talking about today, “Corseting the 21st Century Body” by Caroline Woollin – it has given me another skillset I didn’t know was possible for me. I’m gonna try not to wax poetic about this or make it seem too much like an ad, because really it’s not. I paid for this book with my own money, I put in the work to learn and practice it, and it’s saved me months or possibly years of my time, it’s paid for itself many times over, and revolutionized the way I work.

As some of you may remember, I was in a car accident in 2014 which left me with neck and back issues. Ever since then I’ve had a difficult time sewing and even doing things like leaning over a table for long periods of time for tasks like pattern drafting. And when I developed the hourglass and Gemini corset lines, these were drafted by hand, every size was graded by hand, and it put a lot of stress on my back.

The Gemini line was released more than a year after the hourglass line because I worked the old fashioned way – with pencil and paper, then I would trace a paper copy of that most recent rendition of the pattern, and literally have to mail it. If I mailed it rush, signature required, to Thailand, it’s like over $70. And it would still take 1-2 weeks to get there, and who knows if it might be damaged. There’s a lot of risks, and every part of that process takes a long time.

The fastest way to get things done is to go to Thailand, but that is thousands of dollars just in flights, plus coordinating schedules and the like. And I wasn’t able to do that last year during the development of the Gemini line, because I was still finishing up school.

Grading the Gemini pattern, sizes 18 up to 42, in the round rib silhouette and the straight rib silhouette, is 26 individual patterns. And because I was doing it by hand, there were small inaccuracies between each size, and sometimes precision of millimeters is necessary in drafting and constructing a corset.

Amber of Lovely Rats was my MVP in 2016 because she helped digitize the corset patterns for me. I know that this is a skill taught in fashion school, and I know that my dad, being a technician, had used CAD (computer aided design) programs with his work in the past, but I was very intimidated by the technology and didn’t think I’d ever be able to wrap my head around it without formal instruction like a course.

Enter Caroline Woollin, of Corsets by Caroline. She has been working with AutoCAD for at least 15 years, and in late 2016 she published a book on Etsy called “Corseting the 21st Century Body” which is all about using modern drafting techniques to bring a contemporary edge to the traditional art of corset making.

Caroline also has a Patreon where if you give just $5 a month, you’ll get a new corset pattern, already tested, graded to size and everything, every month. Individually these corset patterns sell for $10-20 USD, so getting a new one monthly for just a $5 subscription is a fantastic deal if you’re really keen on experimental corset making and testing out different styles. So she really practices what she preaches and uses CAD heavily in her own corset business.

Corseting the 21C Body, written by Caroline Woollin (Corsets by Caroline). Click through to purchase her book via Etsy.

Anyway, back to this book, “Corseting the 21st Century Body” – it’s a 97 page book, and half of that is on learning how to create corset patterns in DraftSight which is a free CAD program, and the latter half is a bit of instruction on how to construct corsets, but it’s deliberately lightweight in this area – Caroline says that you should already have some knowledge in corset making before you pick up this book because the instruction of actually assembling the corset itself is not fully extensive, the most valuable part is in the pattern drafting. And she not only gives you step-by-step instructions, but she also gives you specific exercises to build up your skills and familiarity with the various tools you’ll need for drafting patterns.

In December 2016 I first cracked open this book and I played around with the program for an hour, realized I was in over my head, and decided to shelve the idea of learning Computer Aided Design for awhile. It wasn’t until April that I gave it another try. I gave myself the goal of going through one page per day, and practicing making lines and circles in Draftsight for like 20 minutes a day. I figure, 45 pages of instruction, it would take me around 6 weeks to get through the book, and then maybe by the end of another 6 weeks of regular practice, maybe I’ll get good enough that I’ll have my first corset pattern drafted and I’d be able to test it. I was going really slow with it, and Caroline said that this is not a skill you can perfect in a weekend. She’s right, I didn’t go through it in 2 days. I ended up getting the hang of it in three days. Obviously I don’t have a perfect knowledge of every single function, but all the tools I need for drafting corset patterns and then a few more.

Caroline is a super sweet person as well, and there were times where I got stuck and felt like I wanted to throw my computer out the window, but she said I could email or message her anytime if I needed clarification. I think there were 3-4 situations where I think I just messed up on the settings and did something silly. For instance, I kept trying to save my patterns as a PDF but they would all be “invisible” when I opened my PDF file. It was just because the layers were accidentally “locked” and had the “no print” icon checked. Most of my frustrations just took the smallest check of a button to resolve.

Remember when I said it would take me an hour to grade each size of a corset pattern on paper? Within a few weeks, I had enough practice that I was able to really precisely grade each size in less than 10 minutes, and that’s with seam allowances, grain lines, labels, color coding, everything.

I was able to sit or stand at my desk, as I was comfortable, and didn’t have to hurt my neck or back. And the best part was being able to instantaneously email the corset patterns to the factory instead of using snail mail which would take 2 weeks. I would make a corset pattern and email it to them in time for them to receive it by 8am (Thailand time). By the end of their work day (which is the next morning for me), they’d have a mockup or sample made. We use a combination of methods for testing the samples – either they would mail the corset samples over to me to check in person, or they could send me pictures of the corsets on their fit models (or I would stay up late and Skype with them during their work hours). By the end of the fitting, I would know what changes to make and was able to send them the tweaked pattern the very next day.

Testing one sample used to take us a month using traditional drafting methods and snailmail, and now we could get the same done in as little as 2 days.

By the end of those 3 months, I didn’t just “Learn CAD and have 1 corset pattern drafted” (as per my original goal). Within 3 months, I had learned and practiced CAD, had 4 corset patterns drafted, tested multiple times, tweaked, perfected, and fully graded! Also, I was able to scan in and digitize many of my old corset patterns lying around – so I could get rid of paper clutter. Everything is much more organized and easy to pull up for reference, and I’m able to more quickly and easily tweak those patterns if I want to use them again in the future.

When I say that this book has revolutionized the way I work and saved me a mind boggling amount of time, and paid for itself many times over, I mean it.

Huge thanks to Caroline for creating this resource. If you have any interest in learning how to draft corset patterns digitally, you need this book. As someone who was literally physically pained by drafting by hand, learning this new skillset was so freeing. Please don’t be intimidated if you don’t have any formal education in computers or technology, we all start somewhere. Visit Caroline’s Etsy shop here.

By the way, the corset pattern I made during this video was the free overbust drafting tutorial from Foundations Revealed, for my personal measurements. If you want this tutorial to make a custom corset pattern for yourself, whether on paper or on computer, click here!

Let me know if you have any questions at all! If you have also read Caroline’s book, let us know what you think of it in a comment below!

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Reflecting on 2017; Looking to 2018

(Please note that this post contains affiliate links – LucyCorsetry may earn a small commission on Amazon and Etsy purchases made through the following links.)

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Today marks six years to the day since I first created LucyCorsetry.com

I admit, at the time I dragged my heels about making it in the first place. My then-boyfriend and several of my online friends had been encouraging me to create a public blog for many months, but I didn’t see the point of it at the time. Back in 2012, Youtube was still profitable (not so much anymore) and I saw having a website as just a way to divide (and thus dilute) my time, energy, and audience.

Finally, I was convinced that a blog would help organize my content and make it more easily searchable, plus it could provide useful transcripts for followers who were hard of hearing and couldn’t make the most of my Youtube vids (2012 was still a time when automatic Youtube Closed Captions were… hilariously inaccurate, to say the least).

January 5th, 2012 was the day that I “bit the bullet” and created this site… and it’s been a bit of a wild ride ever since.

Every New Year since then, I’ve written a personal post about my successes, failures and lessons from the previous year. Click any of the links below if you’re interested in reading my previous posts (which may give more context to this year):


A Focus on Weight and Health

A rather overexposed photo of my Lifespan Fitness Treadmill Desk – my new work space as of late 2016. (This investment changed my life.)

After several years of burning the candle at both ends, I suffered a serious case of burnout in late 2016, following my nutrition graduation. 2017 was the year that I was forced to address my health and prioritize my physical, mental and emotional needs. In less than 6 months I ended up losing 42 lbs (19 kg / 3 st) by treating myself as my own nutrition client and walking an average of 3.5 hours a day at my treadmill desk.

As a result, I was finally able to fit into (and thus review) corsets that I had purchased as far back as 2013, and I felt like a rock star at my family reunions and during several photoshoots this past summer!

While I had initially planned to vlog my weight loss journey on my secondary channel, in the end I chose to stay relatively quiet about it while I reassessed my motives, my personal definition of body positivity, and the kind of positive influence I wanted to have on my audience. In late 2017 I decided to deliberately gain back a little bit of weight in a healthy way, in order to increase my strength and normalize my cycles. I promise to talk about my personal journey in a series of videos in 2018, now that I finally feel ready to do so.


67 videos and over 90 blog posts!

Once upon a time, I had a goal of creating over 100 videos a year. That was stopped in its tracks with a series of injuries starting in 2014, and what essentially became a year-long sabbatical while I was finishing up nutrition school through to 2016. I resolved to catch up as much as possible through 2017, and it was (mostly) successful. In 2017, I wrote over 90 blog posts (some were catch-up posts for videos as far back as 2015, many were for this year, and over 30 are for future posts in 2018). I also uploaded 67 Youtube videos in 2017 (my goal was 52 vids).


Corset Database was Launched

This is probably my proudest achievement of 2017. In reality, the Corset Database project had been incubating between Lori (Bound Angel Designs) and myself since 2014, but the realization was slow-going as we lacked the time, funding, and technical support to make it a reality. Once Sunny joined the team in early 2017, everything fell together quickly and Corset Database was launched in March!

Now Corset Database boasts 137 standard-size corset styles across 36 brands, suiting budgets from $15 to $650. Corsets can be filtered according to the rib spring and hip spring, your desired silhouette, shape of top or bottom edge, whether you need extended sizes (under 18″ or over 38″), location of the seller, or whether you plan to waist train or not.

As proud as I am of this database, I know that it can still use a lot of work to make it faster, better, stronger, and a more comprehensive resource, so I’ll be updating it with even more styles throughout 2018.


CAD: A New Skillset and New Opportunities

Corseting the 21C Body, written by Caroline Woollin (Corsets by Caroline)

In 2015 I collaborated with Timeless Trends to redesign their pre-existing corsets and create the curvier hourglass line.

In 2016 we released the Gemini corsets, which (to my knowledge) is the first of its kind – providing the option of either conical or cupped rib silhouettes for the same general style of corset, according to customers’ body types and taste.

In 2017 I was invited to create more designs for Timeless Trends, and with the help of Caroline Woollin’s expert instruction in her book, I was able to quickly pick up Computer Aided Design (CAD) as a pattern drafting tool. By mid-2017 TT and I finalized the patterns for the upcoming Gemini short-hip corsets (a hybrid between the current hourglass and Gemini corsets, bringing together the best of both worlds) as well as the brand-new Libra corset which is designed for a completely different body type! While production has been pushed back considerably due to factory disruptions, I’m assured that these new styles will be released in 2018!


Three Amazing Photoshoots with Rosalind Guder Photography

Model: Me (Lucy Corsetry), Photo: Rosalind Guder Photography, Corset: Corsetry & Romance, boots from Aldo, blouse and earrings from Vanyanis.

I completely acknowledge the absurdity of “shying away from the [still] camera” when I’ve been a consistent vlogger on Youtube for the past 7 years – but the truth is, I’ve somewhat avoided professional photoshoots between the years of 2014-2017 as I prioritized other projects (and again, with the weight gain in previous years, I didn’t feel quite like myself).

However, when Rosalind Guder contacted me and said that she would be in the Toronto area this summer, I just couldn’t pass up the chance of working with her! I gained a newfound confidence in June and July, working with Rosalind and modeling the amazing Bur Oak ensemble from L’Atelier de LaFleur, plus a few additional pieces from my personal corset collection.

Mina LaFleur herself pulled a few all-nighters and helped style the first of these three photoshoots, and was an amazing assistant the day of. It couldn’t have gone more perfectly, and we all made a fantastic team. It was incredibly fun and I can’t wait for the next time I can work with both Rosalind and Mina!


A Focus on Family

Tibby, my cockapoo, on her 15th birthday, July 2017 (with a smol blep)

In late 2016 I decided to try out 23andMe, and it was a fascinating and eye-opening experience in many ways. However, the most valuable part was finding some of my DNA relatives. Through these connections, my family found huge branches of our family tree, and especially a rich history of our East Indian side. Unfortunately we still know relatively little about our Ghanian, Chinese, and Aztec ancestry (largely due to adoption, Anglicization of names, etc), but we’re more optimistic than we were before, now that we’re in touch with many new cousins.

Throughout the summer and autumn of 2017, there were family reunions on both sides of the family – by pure serendipity, several cousins we had never met before (our ancestors lost touch decades ago, back in Jamaica) happened to also live right in the Toronto area!

In addition to finding new family this year, I also nourished the relationships with my pre-existing family, the family I’ve always known, and gave them higher priority in my life in 2017. I was bridesmaid (and emergency seamstress) to my cousin in her wedding this past year, and I cherished spending time with my siblings and cousins more this year than in previous years. Also, my dog Tibby will be 16 this coming year and due to her bladder schedule and various medications, I haven’t had a solid night’s sleep in well over a year – but I believe that pets are family to the very end, so sleep is a necessary sacrifice in order to comfort Tibby in what is very likely the last year of her life.


Plans for 2018

This is the part where I cringe a bit, because my intentions for 2018 aren’t that much different from my previous plans for 2017.

New Ebook – last year I had the intention of completing my new ebook (a buyer’s guide and beginner’s manual for the corset novice), which had incidentally also been on the back-burner since 2014. In fact, I first made the announcement for this in mid 2016 when I put my consultation service on hiatus! I can only imagine how embarrassed I might be by the contents of that book had I released it in 2014 as intended, as I’ve learned so much more about corsets in the past 4 years. However, it’s gotten to the point where I feel as though it’s a disservice to “hoard” corset knowledge, even though it was through fear of embarrassment that kept much of this under wraps in the past. I have an obligation to share what I know, so this guide will be of higher priority in 2018.

New Videos – there are also videos that I’ve been afraid to film in previous years: research that pertains to Physical Effects of Corseting; more fitting advice; more sewing, alteration, and repair tutorials – the time-consuming and difficult topics! I will also be branching out my video topics in 2018. As I approach the 6-figure subscriber mark, I’m learning how important it is to diversify. I know that followers are also interested in my nutrition videos and haircare videos, as well as more fun and light-hearted fashion videos. I’ve already finalized the 2018’s video lineup, and it’s going to be amazing.

Solaced in Paperback – …. *sigh* I’m ashamed about how long it’s taken to get this finished. Solaced as an ebook has been out for 1.5 years now, and the paperback is beyond late. While there were some hiccups along the way (the person I had chosen to design the internal layout of the book couldn’t follow through; plus I made the choice to replace some stories, and finally dealt with a piracy issue later in the year), at some point I have to acknowledge that finished is better than perfect. I resolve that Solaced will be out in paperback in 2018.

New Timeless Trends Corsets – another resolution from 2017, I had resolved to design more OTR corsets for customers who have neglected / under-served body types within the corset community. The difference this year is that I’ve already done my part of the design process, and I’m excitedly waiting for production of the Gem-short hip and the Libra corsets!

Tying Up Loose Ends – this year I’m “going back to school” again! I clearly have an issue where I can’t stay out of school (don’t worry, I’m not going on sabbatical again this year)! The difference is that these nutrition CEUs are self-led and can be completed as my schedule allows. I’m also much more organized and disciplined than I was two years ago, and have better stamina regarding spinning multiple plates. (Hopefully.)

More Giveaways! – as I approach 100 000 subscribers on Youtube, I’m compelled to give back to this amazing community. In 2017 I had relatively few corset contests and giveaways, and I would like to do more giveaways across all my social media in 2018, including a huge one once I reach the 100k mark!

Here is to an amazing 2018 for all of us. Thank you for sticking with me for the past six years, and I hope to make the corset community proud this year.

 

What are your goals, hopes and intentions for 2018? Leave a comment below, I would love to know!

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Camellia’s Corsets: Short Torso Mesh Cincher / Waspie Review

This entry is a summary of the review for the “Camellias Women Petite Steel Boned Waist Trainer Corset Short Torso Mesh Body Shaper” made by Camellia’s Corsets on Amazon. Note: I purchased this corset with my own money and reviewed this of my own volition. Amazon affiliate links help support my site and the price does not increase for you. 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 9.5 inches long, the princess seam is 8.5 inches (4.5 inches above the waist, 5 inches below the waist), the side seam is 8.25 inches and the center back is 9 inches long.
I chose the size 24″. When I measured this before wearing, the ribcage was 26.5″ (rib spring of 2.5″), the waist was 23.5″ laid flat, (which stretched to 24″ while I was pulling on it with my hands), and the hip was 30″ (hip spring of 6″).
Material The panels are made from what appears to be 2 different types of mesh, but they’re actually attached to one another. The outer one is a honeycomb, fishnet appearance, which we so often see in many other OTR mesh corsets. The layer underneath is a sort of finer-weave mesh, and it has a bouncy, foamy kind of plush feel. The fabric content says 90% polyester, and 10% spandex so it has some give. The binding and boning channels are thin cotton twill.
Construction 6-panel pattern (12 panels total). Panel 1-2-3 converge downwards, and panels 4-5 create the curve over the hip.
The panels were assembled together with seam allowances facing outside, topstitched on the underside – and then cotton boning channels laid down on the outside, single boned on the seams.
Waist tape One-inch-wide waist tape, made from black single-faced satin ribbon and secured down at each boning channel. Almost full width (extends from serged seam near panel 1, to the boning channel by the back grommets.
Binding Black cotton twill, machine stitched with a slight top-stitch on both outside and inside (may have been done on a single pass). No garter tabs, but there are two loops at the top to hang it from.
Modesty panel Just under 6″ wide, unstiffened, finished in 2 layers of black twill, and attached to one side with a row of stitching.
In the front, there is a 3/4 inch wide modesty placket extending from the knob side of the busk, unstiffened and finished in black twill.
Busk 8.5” long, with 5 loops and pins, equidistantly spaced. Slightly wider than a standard flexible busk, around 3/4″ wide on each side, and about the same flexibility as a standard flexible busk.
Boning 14 bones total in this corset, 7 on each side. Single boned on the seams with ¼ inch wide spirals. The bones sandwiching the grommets are flat steels, also ¼ inch wide.
Grommets There are 18, two-part size #00 grommets (9 on each side). They have a small flange and are spaced equidistantly, and finished in silver. Washers present in the back. The grommets at the waist feel very slightly loose in the back after half a dozen wears (2 inch reduction) but have not fallen out yet.
Laces ¼ inch wide, black, flat, nylon, shoelace style lacing (standard workhorse laces).
Price Available in black mesh and white mesh, both $35 on Amazon.

 

Camellia’s Corsets mesh short torso / waspie / cincher, $34.99. Picture courtesy of Amazon (click through for listing).

Final Thoughts:

I was surprised by the curvy, round-rib silhouette it gave, but the fabric is quite moldable to the body because the label states it’s 10% spandex. Although the binding and the waist tape hold the top edge, waist and bottom edge from stretching too much, it definitely has a lot of give.

My corset measured a bit small in the waist when I initially received it, but I could also tell that it did expand over time as I wore it in more – so perhaps they deliberately run a bit small in anticipation of some stretch. If you need considerable mobility, this piece will provide you with that, but expect some ease to also occur over time.

One part I wasn’t aesthetically crazy about was the fact that the fabric gave too much at the boning channels, allowing the steel bones to “flare” away from the body (especially at the hips), creating little spots where they poke out. This gives the impression that the corset isn’t pulled taut against the body, when really the binding is quite snug against my hips but the bones simply don’t lie flat.

Also, the waist tape was found to be uneven on each side at the center front – I would have cared if it were uneven in the back, but as the flaw is front and center, this is unfortunately quite noticeable through the transparent mesh.

The fabric by the back grommets and around the busk seems to not be reinforced with any interlining, which is a concern for longevity. I do see that the grommets are shifting slightly over time as I’ve worn this corset in, although none have fallen out yet. Camellia’s Corsets only recommends 2-3 inch waist reduction in these corsets, so I would not advise this for tightlacing, but more for a temporary gentle cinch and fashion use.

Learn more about the cincher on Amazon.

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Timeless Trends Galaxy Mesh Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review for the “Galaxy Mesh” hourglass standard length corset. If you would like more complete information and side notes about the corset, you can watch the video on YouTube here:

Full disclosure: The hourglass corset featured in this review is one of the four new designs I helped create for Timeless Trends in 2015, and I am a retailer for Timeless Trends. If you’re interested in learning more about the corset and you would like to support this site, I’m incredibly proud to say that the galaxy mesh corsets (and over 100 other styles of TT corsets) are available here in my shop!

Fit, length Center front is 11.5 inches long, the princess seam is 10 inches (5.5 inches above the waist, 4.5 inches below the waist), the side seam is 9.5 inches and the center back is 13 inches long.
When I measured this before wearing, the ribcage was 28.5″ (rib spring of 6.5″), the waist was 22″ and the hip was 32″ (hip spring of 10″). Gently rounded ribcage and cut over the hips, just meeting the iliac crest.
Material Single layer of good quality synthetic corsetry mesh, which stretches less than the “fishnet” style netting in many other OTR corsets. The front and back layers are made from the galaxy mesh fabric which is soft to the touch, like a really soft jersey, not quite flocked but brushed material – and that is laminated directly to cotton twill. The boning channels are also made with this reinforced galaxy material.
Construction 6-panel pattern (12 panels total). Panel 1-2 converge downwards, and panels 3-4 make the curve over the hip.
The panels were assembled together and boning channels laid down on outside – one bone on the seams and one bone in the middle of the panel. On the inside where the seams are, plush velvet ribbon was laid down to protect your skin against any pokey seams from the mesh.
Waist tape One-inch-wide waist tape, made from black grosgrain ribbon and secured down at each boning channel. Full width (extends from center front panel to center back).
Binding Matching strips of galaxy fabric, machine stitched with a slight top-stitch on both outside and inside (may have been done on a single pass). No garter tabs in this corset as they would be visible under the mesh.
Modesty panel By default, TT corsets don’t come with a back modesty panel, but boned and floating modesty panels are available for separate purchase.
In the front, there is a 1/2 inch wide modesty placket, finished in matching galaxy fabric.
Busk 10” long, with 5 loops and pins, equidistantly spaced. Standard flexible busk, which is reinforced with a flat steel adjacent on either side.
Boning 24 bones total in this corset, 11 on each side. Single boned on the seams and also single boned in the middle of the panels with ¼ inch wide spirals. The bones sandwiching the grommets are flat steels, 3/8″ wide, as well as the flat steels adjacent to the busk.
Grommets There are 28, two-part size #0 grommets (14 on each side). They have a small flange and are spaced equidistantly, and finished in gunmetal grey / pewter. Rolled nicely in the back, and washers present.
Laces ¼ inch wide, black, flat, nylon, shoelace style lacing (standard workhorse laces).
Price Available in galaxy mesh, but also a plain black mesh is coming in the future!
Sizes range from 18″ to 36″, $119 USD.

 

Galaxy Mesh hourglass standard length underbust corset. Pattern by Lucy’s Corsetry, styling by Vanyanis, and produced by Timeless Trends.

Final Thoughts:

While the pattern of the hourglass corset was on myself and Sarah (and about 2.5 years old now so nothing new), the stylist, Lowana of Vanyanis, definitely outdid herself on this piece. For many years, TT and myself had said that we might not ever carry mesh corsets – when the factory had experimented with using mesh as a corset material in the past, it was often sports mesh / fishnet style material that’s so popular nowadays, but they hadn’t been able to find a way to have the corset withstand the longevity tests. TT and myself have a lifetime warranty on all our corsets, but most types of affordable mesh simply can’t last a lifetime, and we wanted to be able to confidently stand by our guarantee.

However, during her last trip to Bangkok, Lowana was able to source the same good quality corsetry mesh used by so many reputable corsetieres, and it completely changed our stance on mesh corsets! I can also tell Lowana’s input in the spacing of the boning (one on the seams and one in the middle of the panels for a more even and comfortable distribution), and her characteristic velvet ribbon protecting the wearer from the seam allowances on the inside (corsetry mesh can be “pokey” when cut and the velvet adds a cushion).

If you’re interested in learning more about the corset and you would like to support this site, I’m incredibly proud to say that the galaxy mesh corsets (and over 100 other styles of TT corsets) are available here in my shop!

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Did Victorian Women Break In Their Corsets?

 

Many moons ago, one of my Tumblr followers asked: “Did people season their corsets in the 19th century?”

Short answer:

Not really. But they molded to the body much faster than many corsets made today, and some corsets came out of the factory already seasoned, in a sense.

Long answer:

Victorian corsets were usually single layer and molded quickly to the body

The vast majority of corsets in the 1800s were utilitarian, daily pieces – often a single layer of cotton, with lap seams that were either wide enough to hold a bone, and/or separate channels that were sewn on externally or internally. I have tried some single layer corsets and MANY multiple layer corsets, and single layer corsets always mold to the body faster and season very quickly. If you’ve ever had a mockup fitting, think of how well the single-layer mockup fits you, and how much heavier and stiffer the final corset feels in comparison, even with the same or similar measurements.

I also own some single layer corsets – some homemade, some factory samples, and some that were deliberately commissioned as a single layer like my Bizarre Design corset, and they have all felt fairly broken in after only 1 day.


Victorian corsets had a different construction (and shorter stitches)

In the case of those single-layer homemade mockups or samples that I’ve worn for extended amounts of time, they also started falling apart faster too, mostly at the seams. But why wasn’t this the case in Victorian corsets?

I remember at the Symington museum collections where they have dozens of antique corsets from the 19th century you can touch and study – there were hand-written factory specs of many corsets, but one of them in particular caught my eye because this one said that it was sewn with a stitch length of 26 stitches to the inch (the stitches were less than 1mm long!).

Check out the teeny tiny stitch length on this antique corset, as compared to the busk knobs or my thumb – even in “non tension bearing” seams like the quilting or boning channels!
(From the Symington Collection: Leicestershire County Council Museum Service)

Compared that to an OTR corset today, which has about 8.5-9 stitches per inch. (Of course, thread quality strength matters too, not just stitch length.) With a shorter stitch length, there is less “sliding and redistribution of the threads so you get less of a shear force. And with lap seams, flat felled seams, or seams straddled by a boning channel, these types of seams put much less stress on the thread compared to, say, the sandwich method that is popular today.


Whalebone (baleen) molded to the body with body heat and perspiration

Remember that prior to steel, the corsets contained whalebone which were thinner, lighter and – when exposed to warmth and moisture – the baleen became very malleable and could be bent in pretty much any direction. So when the corset is put on, the warmth and perspiration from the body would soften the corset more – and when the corset was removed, the bones would get the chance to cool and dry out, but could retain the shape of its wearer.

Steel bones do not have these same properties, especially some of the cheaper, rigid, less-comfortable flat steel bones often found in budget OTR corsets.


Side note: Second-hand / hand-me-down corsets were more common than you think!

Anthropologist Rebecca Gibson has studied the skeletons of impoverished French women from the 1800s and she said that it wasn’t uncommon for corsets to be be passed down from mother to daughter, or from mistress to maid – hand-me-downs and 2nd-hand purchases were a thing in the 19th century! So in that sense, the corset was already very much seasoned, but Gibson’s research also showed that just because they were seasoned doesn’t necessarily mean that they fit well – because the corset might not have matched their measurements.


Some corsets were steamed and “pre-seasoned” before being sold

After the industrial revolution in the 1830s, some factories actually steam molded their corsets which is kind of like rapid seasoning before it ever sees a body. Here’s one example from the V&A museum:

1887 steamed and molded wedding corset, Edwin Izod. Courtesy of the V&A Museum, London, UK. Click through for more info.

Quote from this page:

To improve shape, performance and comfort, manufacturers claimed numerous inventions. One of the most successful was the steam-moulding process developed by Edwin Izod in 1868, and still used in the 1880s to create elegant corsets such as this one. The procedure involved placing a corset, wet with starch, on a steam-heated copper torso form until it dried into shape. The result was a beautifully formed corset, whereby ‘the fabric and bones are adapted with marvellous accuracy to every curve and undulation of the finest type of figure’ (The Ladies’ Gazette of Fashion advertisement, London July 1879).

 


Victorians were accustomed to restrictive, non-stretch clothing

Almost all clothing today contain at least a small amount of spandex/lycra for comfort and positive ease. With the exceptions, say if someone puts on a nice work suit with no stretch they think it’s confining enough – imagine when they put on a corset for the first time and they’re introduced to the concept of negative ease! I’ve found that when someone is new to wearing corsets, they have a much more positive association with it if they only wear a corset gently for a small amount of time and build up from there (as opposed to taking 6 inches off their waist immediately and wearing it like that for 12 hours). As Ann Grogan of Romantasy says, “You wouldn’t put on a pair of 6-inch stilettos and run the Boston Marathon, would you?”

Soft children’s corded stays, for no waist reduction – fastened by buttons in front, and contains no bones (not even baleen). (From the Symington Collection: Leicestershire County Council Museum Service)

For this reason, I consider the seasoning process as important for a novice’s body, or probably more important for the body, than it is for the corset.

Victorians, on the other hand, had no stretch in their clothing per se (although pleats and gathers do what they can), and wore stays from childhood. Now, these stays wouldn’t take much (if anything) off their waist, they were corded stays and fastened with buttons instead of laces – but they would be quite snug and be close to fitting their natural waist measurement – such that their waist circumference was probably held more or less constant even as the rest of their body grew.


Tightlacing was less common; light reductions were more the norm

Props to Alexa for pointing this out: Most Victorian women didn’t tightlace, but rather their corsets were worn more for support (bust support and back support), supporting the heavy skirts, and perhaps gentle cinching. So even when worn daily, their wear might not be as rigorous as someone who laces down 6-8 inches and wears it 23/7 today.

This one study from the Victorian era mentions that corsets were typically laced with a reduction of 1.5 to 4.5 inches, with the average being just 2.5 inch reduction from the natural waist (26.5 inch natural waist, and 24 inch corseted waist). When you consider that a reduction of 2-3 inches is recommended during the modern seasoning process, it’s really not all that different from how many Victorians wore their corsets all the time.


How long was a corset supposed to last, anyway?

This antique corset was guaranteed to not break for 12 months! This implies that other brands or makes may not have lasted that long with daily wear.
(From the Symington Collection: Leicestershire County Council Museum Service)

Another thing to consider is how long a typical corset lasted back then. Some corsets boasted that they’re guaranteed to last 12 months, which implies that many other corsets didn’t last that long (but, as we know from Gibson’s research, hand-me-downs were not uncommon so they probably got a few years of use, and they mended and repaired where they could).

Some Victorian women may have bought a new corset every few years or up to multiple times in a year, depending on the family’s wealth, the quality of the corset, and the amount of wear and tear on the corset from the woman’s activities. But they would likely find it unreasonable to expect a corset to last 5-10 years or up to a lifetime, the way that some people consider modern corsets to last.

So although Victorians didn’t having a seasoning regimen the way it’s been popularized today, their corsets were very different to modern corsets. Today, corsets come out of the factories fairly flat, and often contain multiple layers of fabric (often a mix of fibers too, like polyester). They’re decidedly crunchy due to the starch and sizing, and they contain almost exclusively steel bones (which don’t change properties when exposed to body heat), AND also consider the fact that that people today are not used to wearing restraining clothing.

I hope this answered the question as to why seasoning was probably not done during the Victorian era, but was also likely not required.

If you have any comments or questions on the matter, leave a comment below!

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Glamorous Corset “Jenna” Sweetheart Overbust Review

This entry is a summary of the review for the “Jenna” overbust corset in blue satin, 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:

 

Fit, length Center front is just short of 15 inches long, the princess seam is 15.5 inches (9 inches above the waist, 6.5 inches below the waist), the side seam is 14 inches and the center back is 12.75 inches long.
Bust spring is 7″, hip spring is 9″. The silhouette is gentle (modern slim).
Material The fashion fabric is blue satin, and the lining is black cotton twill.
Construction 5-panel pattern (10 panels total). Panels 1-2 give space for the bust, and panels 2-3-4 make the curve over the hip. Constructed using the welt-seam method.
Waist tape One-inch-wide waist tape, secured “invisibly” between the layers of fabric. Full width (extends from center front panel to center back).
Binding Matching strips of blue satin, machine stitched on both outside and inside. Stitched in the ditch on the outside, and topstitch inside. There are also 6 garter tabs (3 on each side).
Modesty panel 6 inches wide, unstiffened, made from satin on the outside, and black cotton twill on the inside. 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, finished in blue satin.
Busk 14” long, with 6 loops and pins, the bottom two are a bit closer together. Stainless steel busk which is very slightly wider and slightly stiffer than standard.
Boning 20 bones total in this corset, 10 on each side. Double boned on the seams with ¼ inch wide spirals. The bones sandwiching the grommets are flat steel (probably stainless steel).
Grommets There are 28, two-part size #00 grommets (14 on each side). They have a small / medium flange and are spaced equidistantly, and finished in silver. There are a few splits on the underside of the grommets, and due to the choice in laces, they don’t catch much.
Laces Black, ¼” wide flat nylon “workhorse” shoelace. They are a bit springy, but they hold bows and knots well and they are long enough.
Price Available in sizes 18″ up to 30″ closed waist (in blue).
For black and white satin, size range is 18″ – 40″
For sizes 18-30″ the price is $79 USD, and sizes 32″ – 40″ are $84 USD.
Available on the Glamorous Corset website here.

 

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A Brief History of Hysteria

The history of the “medical condition” of hysteria is a long, winding, somewhat convoluted one. In its earliest definitions, hysteria was a term to describe trauma or disease of the uterus (hence the word “hysterectomy” to remove the uterus) – or even to describe a vengeful or mischievous uterus that detached itself from the pelvic region and wandered around the body.

4000 Years Ago, Ancient Egypt:

It’s said that the concept of the wandering womb came about around 4000 years ago in ancient Egypt, although the term “hysteria” wasn’t coined until around 2400 years ago by Hippocrates. Now, in general there was some stuff that Hippocrates got right – indeed he’s considered the father of western medicine. But he had some really interesting and wrong ideas about the uterus.
In old Greek, “hystera” (without the i) referred to the womb, which is where we get terms still used today like “Hysterectomy” – removal of the uterus.

2400 Years Ago, Ancient Greece:

Hippocrates lived around 400 BCE, and wrote / taught about the “wandering womb” – that the uterus was not anchored in place but was like an animal with a mind of its own, traveling around inside the body and wreaking havoc on other tissue and organ systems like a delinquent. All the symptoms caused by the womb’s antics is what they collectively described as hysteria.

The wandering womb was said to cause heart problems, liver problems, respiratory problems, it could cause a host of neurological issues, everything from headaches, to epileptic seizures (known as “Hercules’ Disease”), to unexplained paralysis (which might now be classified as conversion disorder).

Symptoms of hysteria include:

  • Sleeping too much, or too little.
  • Becoming disinterested in past hobbies, or too interested or obsessive in hobbies.
  • Showing apathy or lack of care, or having anxiety, irritability and caring too much.
  • Having high libido, or low libido.
  • Being too quiet and mute, or being too talkative and loud.

I think you get the idea. There was a very narrow range of “acceptable behavior” and if a lady swung too far out of that range on either side, she could be diagnosed with hysteria.

1500-500 Years Ago, Middle Ages in Europe:

In the middle ages, hysteria was tied to sorcery, witchcraft and demon possession and so – naturally – of the treatments was exorcism. Hysteria was a disorder of exclusion – if every other known disease had been ruled out and doctors couldn’t come up with an official diagnosis, then they believed that it was a disease brought about by something “intangible” and “not well understood” and therefore a result of the devil. And of course, since women were thought to have brought about original sin (re: Eve and the serpent), women were thought to be either naturally prone to “evil”, and/or more naïve and impressionable to evil spirits. Exorcism often involved physical and mental torture of the patient, and many women didn’t survive this “treatment”.

150 Years Ago: Victorian Era in Europe:

By the 19th century, at the height of Victorian fashion, hysteria had become a blanket term for emotional, sexual or mental disorders suffered exclusively by women. Some people blamed quintessentially “feminine” objects and garments for the disease (like corsets!) while other people thought that corsets helped prevent hysteria. But honestly, when I first started researching the history of hysteria, I was surprised by how little it was tied to the corset (the real history of corsets and stays are only close to 500 years, while hysteria is 4000 years old, so this is unsurprising).

Hysteria was a particularly popular diagnosis in the 18th and 19th centuries – in fact the 2nd most diagnosed condition after fever. According to author Laura Briggs, one doctor in the 19th century had a 75 page publication listing all the possible symptoms of Hysteria (and said that list was still not exhaustive)! It was estimated that 25% of the female population was affected by hysteria in some form or another. So Hysteria was still this vague, catch-all, umbrella diagnosis that could manifest in any different ways (it had hundreds or thousands of different “faces”) – as long as the patient possessed a uterus. If you, as a lucky owner of a uterus, disturbed the peace in any way, you could be diagnosed with hysteria and hauled away to a sanitarium or insane asylum.

We’ve discussed the many “symptoms” of hysteria, but what were the causes?

Some claimed that hysteria was due to the uterus becoming too dry and light. (Did the uterus become a helium balloon and just float off somewhere else in the body??) So doctors recommended ways to keep the uterus moist and weighted…. Except not really, because another source said that hysteria was caused by too much fluid retention in the pelvic region, specifically because the female was not purging her body of “female sperm”. (!?!!?)

In the 1700 and 1800s they also blamed “bad air” for hysteria, so when a woman “got the vapours” it meant their womb was acting up. You might have heard of smelling salts which were used to rouse fainting women (this worked by creating a sharp inhalation reflex, which was said to oxygenate the body), but the salts also were supposed to help with hysteria. Smelling salts were not pleasant in aroma; they were made with ammonia. Taking in the pungent odors through the nose at the top of the body was thought to repulse the uterus so it would be driven down through the body. Doctors also recommended applying sweet perfumes and scents to the groin to lure the uterus back to its assigned seat, so to speak.

As you can imagine, there was a lot of contradiction and nobody could really agree as to what caused hysteria, what the mechanism is, or how to cure it.

The horrific “treatments” in the name of hysteria:

Smelling salts, while not pleasant to actually smell, was probably one of the ‘preferred’ treatments for mild hysteria. Others recommended spreading dung on the upper lip or in the genitals (which is anything but hygienic).

Hippocrates said that pregnancy could keep the uterus anchored in place and prevent it from wandering – but the caveat, he says, is that the action of childbirth could cause the uterus to act up again and encourage it to wander. So, he seems to have implied that regular relations with one’s husband to keep the patient like constantly impregnated would be the answer.

Rachel Maines, author of “The Technology of the Orgasm”, has written extensively about the “treatment” for hysteria involving what we would now consider sexual abuse. Forced vigorous pelvic massages – manual stimulation administered by the doctor, or this task could be delegated to the nurse or midwife. According to this chapter in her book, when doctors complained that they were getting too tired stimulating the patient or it took too much of their time, that’s when sexual vibrators were developed as a popular substitute.

Lucy’s Added Thought: Even though hysteria is millennia older than the Victorian era, perhaps one of the reasons why it seems to be so intertwined with this era (apart from more literacy and more surviving written documents about the disease during the 1800s), is that there seems to be this connotation that compared to all other times in history, the 18th and 19th centuries in Britain seemed to be the most sexually repressed and these values were said to be spread to other cultures and countries around the world through colonialism during this era.

1885: Sigmund Freud and Male Hysteria:

Sigmund Freud was erroneously blamed for the widespread belief of the wandering womb, when really the theory had existed for millennia. When I looked more into it though, Freud started learning more about Hysteria from Jean-Martin Charcot around at the end of the 19th century, around 1885. Charcot popularized the theory that men could suffer from hysteria as well, especially soldiers. Many of the symptoms Charcot described would later be known as “shell-shock” and then post traumatic stress disorder. Freud put forward the belief that female and male hysteria was basically the same thing, related to anxiety neuroses – which was sort of laying down more framework for what we now know as anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorders, and PTSD although that wasn’t what they was called yet.

So in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Freud and Charcot and a few others were working to reclassify many of hysteria’s symptoms into new diagnoses, admittedly a lot of those were also wrong and often harmful and now rejected too – but they did claim that hysteria was a psychological, neurological and emotional disorder presented by survivors of trauma. It was not physical disease reserved only for those who own a uterus, and they promoted hypnotism and talk therapies. Freud even diagnosed himself with hysteria at one point, but there was so much resistance around male hysteria from the rest of the medical community that he flip-flopped and started calling hysteria a “feminine” disease again later on.

Meanwhile there was still a lot of messed up shit happening in the name of “treatment”. It seems that spreading dung on yourself and exorcism had both fallen out of favor by this time (thank goodness), but of course there was still sexual abuse and smelling salts as I had mentioned earlier, they were also injecting things into the uterus, cutting or burning away the genitals with fire or chemicals (Dr John Harvey Kellogg was said to be particularly supportive of female circumcision), using electroconvulsive therapy or shock therapy, among other stomach-churning things. And this was all happening well into the 20th century.

1920 – 1980: The Fall of Hysteria:

Hysteria as a diagnosis plummeted drastically after the 1920s in part due to women’s suffrage, but also a huuuuuge factor was because so many people, men and women, across different countries and cultures, started to present symptoms of PTSD during and after WW1 and WW2 that doctors could no longer deny its association with experience and trauma, and that it had nothing to do with gender. However, hysterical neuroses was still mentioned in the DSM-II in 1968, and was only officially deleted when they came out with the DSM-III in 1980.

 

Like I said before, Hysteria has about 4000 years of history, and it’s a convoluted history. Obviously there were multiple and contradictory hypotheses that existed at the same time about both the cause of Hysteria and the symptoms as a result of the condition, and also there’s a lot of disagreement about the timeline of it and who believed what about it prior to the 1900s. Also it’s worth noting that I am not a historian (I’m trained in modern biology) but I’ve tried to touch on events as fairly as possible in this article and clear up some misconceptions about hysteria.

I’ll post links below if you want further reading on this topic. Comment below and let me know the most absurd thing you’ve heard about hysteria!

 

Links for Hysteria (for further reading):

https://www.jstor.org/stable/30041838

http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/maines-technology.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25273494

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3480686/

Did Victorian era doctors use vibrators to treat hysteric female patients with orgasm therapy?

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Outfit of the Night: Monica Dress (with Gemini Corset)

 

Today I’m doing an OOTD of my Morticia dress from Pinup Girl Clothing. This is the older version with the side zip (I have never tried their updated version which is just closed on the side and you have to shimmy into the dress). I purchased this dress back in early 2014, so this dress is almost 4 years old and is still in good condition.

This has become my go-to “little black dress”. I’ve worn this to business dinners, friends’ weddings, my graduation last year, etc and I’ve been able to dress it up to look more formal, or dress it so it’s more appropriate for business settings, so it’s fairly versatile. This is the size small, and it has fit me at every weight from 125 to 150 because it’s quite stretchy. It’s got some powermesh from the underbust to mid-thigh, so at the higher weight my dress was a bit squeezy (but I’m accustomed to corseting so snug clothing is nothing new).

There are upsides to having a zipper: it makes getting into and out of the dress easier of course, but the downsides include the zip possibly getting caught on all the ruching and breaking the teeth. Also the side with the zipper can look a little lumpy and create an asymmetric silhouette – and I find this to especially be the case if I’m not wearing a corset. If you are corseted, it seems to be a little less noticeable, but the asymmetry is still there.

The neckline is somewhat adjustable, it is not “Elvira” levels of plunge, but it has a fairly defined sweetheart. But if you are more modest, you can pull up the ruched jersey to fully cover your bust, and it tends to stay nicely in place – I’m not typically worried that the fabric is going to fall or shift or move. But if you want to be sure, you can always add brooch in the center front to pin it in place and create a somewhat square neckline.

This dress also has enough support in the bust that I’m able to go braless in this dress. It has a non-stretch satin lining in the bust, and I actually find it’s more comfortable to go braless. The dress kept me very supported – no movement of my bust, even on the dance floor – but some people don’t like the way it flattens their bust, so if you’re in that group, you can feel free to wear a structured bra underneath and it will contribute to more roundness and projection of your bust.

Under this dress I’m wearing one of my Gemini corsets, which has a gently rounded top and bottom to prevent any points showing from under the dress. And like I mentioned when I reviewed the convertible dress from Victoria’s Secret – the plush ruched material, as well as the fact that it’s a matte fabric and a dark color, help to camouflage any edges. But if you want even more of a smoothing effect, you can wear high-waisted control top underwear or tights, which nicely smooths over the edges even under dresses that are thinner than this one. I’m wearing these ones over my corset and under my dress.

This dress is one of the pricier ones I’ve ever purchased, it was $168 USD when I purchased it new nearly 4 years ago. I have to admit, in the past year or so I’ve been buying retro fashion almost exclusively from second-hand buy and sell groups on Facebook. I’m part of PUG Swap & Sell, as well as the Canada Only PUG and Rockabilly Swap & Sell. You have to be ON TOP of it if you want to catch a Monica (especially size small or medium), because those things get snatched up within 5 minutes. But you know me, I love a deal and I especially love second hand clothing because it gives them a new life and prolongs their use before ending up in a landfill.

If you have this dress, what do you think of it? If you’ve tried one with a zipper and without, tell me which you prefer? Let us know in the comments!

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Rebel Madness Waist Trainer Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Rebel Madness Black Waist Trainer Corset 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 inches long, princess seam is 10 inches (5 inches from the waist up, 5 inches from the waist down), the side seam is 9.5 inches and the center back is 12 inches long.
Rib spring is 8″, lower hip spring is 10.5″ (different from the measurements on the website, which states a rib spring of 7″ and hip spring of 9″). Ribs are slightly conical, and the hips are cut up to stop just at the iliac crest.
Material 3 main layers – fashion fabric is a finer black twill, interlining is also lightweight cotton, and lining is a more coarse black twill (may be bull denim).
Construction 6-panel pattern (12 panels total). Panels 1-2 converge towards the lower tummy, panels 3-4 give space for the hips, and panels 4-5-6 give some space for the upper back. Panels were assembled with the welt seam method.
Waist tape One-inch-wide waist tape, installed “invisibly” between the layers. It’s a full-width tape stretching from center front to center back.
Binding Commercially-sourced black cotton bias tape, machine stitched on both sides (probably on a single pass, possibly by using a special sewing machine attachment).
Modesty panel 6.25 inches wide, unstiffened, made from 2 layers of black cotton twill. Not sewn into to the corset – it’s suspended on the laces using grommets.
There’s also a 1/2-inch-wide unstiffened black modesty placket in front, extending from the knob side of the busk.
Busk 10.5” long, with 5 loops and pins, equidistantly spaced. Standard flexible busk, with an additional ¼” flat steel bone adjacent to the busk on each side.
Boning 16 bones total in this corset, 8 on each side. On each side, 5 of them are spirals about ¼ inch wide – single boned on the seams. One of the bones by the grommets is spiral steel (so the back is a but more flexible than usual when lacing up) but the bones at the center back seam, on the outer edge of the grommets, are flat steel. The bones adjacent to the busk are also flat steel.
Grommets There are 28, two-part size #0 grommets (14 on each side). They have a medium flange and are spaced equidistantly, and finished in black. They’re very nice quality (similar quality to Prym brand) and have rolled beautifully – definitely an improvement from the smaller silver grommets used in their old stock of corsets!
Laces The laces are black, ¼” wide nylon cord / shoelace. They are a bit springy / spongey, but they hold bows and knots well and they are definitely long enough.
Price Available in black cotton (reviewed here) and black satin. Sizes 18″ up to 34″ closed waist.
As of 2017, the price is $83 USD. Find it here on Etsy.

 

Rebel Madness black cotton short trainer, $95 USD. Model unknown. Picture courtesy of Awin / Etsy.

Final Thoughts:

Rebel Madness’ corsets tend to be more lightweight and flexible compared to many other corsets at a comparable price range – so although this corset is advertised as a waist trainer, if you are used to your OTR corsets being more on the thick or rigid side, do keep in mind that this will be more lightweight than you’re accustomed to.

The prices of Rebel Madness corsets are also extremely reasonable for an entry-level corset (I’ve noticed that corsets made in Poland tend to be lower in price in general), at $83 in their Etsy shop.

Do you have this corset, or another corset from Rebel Madness? What do you think of it? Leave a comment down below!

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Why Do So Many Corsetieres Go Out of Business?

Almost every month I go through my corsetiere map and make notes on which corset makers are inactive, which have closed down their businesses and websites, and I add new makers that are popping up all the time on Etsy. Like with many craft / creative home businesses, it’s difficult to make corsetry a lucrative career.

Even I took custom commissions for a few years, and while I had no shortage of clients wishing for a corset (I was one of the lucky ones), I had my own reasons for going on an indefinite hiatus.

Because of my corsetiere map, corsetieres contact me when they want to be added or when they would like to be removed. In the latter situation, while I never pry as to their reasons, they often tell me anyway, and many of their grievances boil down to the same main points over and over again.

Although I cannot (and will not) go into the specific set of reasons as to why any one specific corset maker has decided to shut down their business (as that would be betraying their confidence), I can speak generally about it – perhaps discussing this would be helpful in having customers understand that corsetieres are human too, and for other corset makers out there, it can help them avoid the same mistakes.

 

Corset Supplies are Scarce and Expensive

Making a corset is relatively complicated, as far as garments go. There are a lot of specialty components that go into it (like a busk and steel bones) and depending on where you live, sometimes even good quality 2-part grommets are difficult to source. Most people can’t find these at their local fabric shop, and most corsetieres order online. The materials themselves can often add up to at least $50, before you even put your time into making the corset! This is one reason why corsets themselves are more pricey than other, more common articles of clothing.

Many corset makers end up supplementing their income by creating accessories – corset liners are simple and fast to make, as well as storage bags, or boleros, or dresses or other outfits that go well with their corsets. These are not only made from materials that may be less expensive / easier to source, but they typically take less time to make, so the designer can bring in enough to support themselves.


Corsets Take a Long Time to Make (and have a steep learning curve!)

Someone can buy 2 yards of fabric for $20, make a dress out of it in 2 hours and sell it for $50, so she ends up paying herself $15 per hour. Many people wouldn’t even bat an eye at spending $50 for a simple handmade dress. But let’s say you buy corset materials for $50, and spend 20 hours making a corset. If you paid yourself the same hourly rate ($15 per hour), then that corset will cost a minimum of $350, and (while this is actually a very reasonable price for a custom corset these days) so many people are not willing to pay that much.

Too often, fledgling makers enter the scene with competitive introductory pricing, such that some of them are not even paying themselves minimum wage, and this influences the market and drives down prices for everyone. (And we haven’t even gotten into the hidden costs of running a business… see the “Unexpected Expenses” section.)

There are only 24 hours in everyone’s day, so how do some corset makers make more money with the time that they have? A lot of them get help or take on side jobs:

  • More and more corset makers are now holding sewing classes classes, where people come in for a weekend and pay a fee to be taught how to make their own corsets. These classes are seemingly pricey (many start at $300 for a group class, up to and above $1000 for private instruction), but it’s a way for makers to supplement their income. As a student, if you think about the fact that you can buy a corset for $300 or learn to make as many corsets as you like for $300, the price of a class becomes justified (if you enjoy sewing, that is). And for the corsetiere, it’s an opportunity to take a break from the laborious work of crouching over a sewing machine all day.
  • Some makers take on interns to help (maybe once a week), so the interns learn how to make corsets for free without having to pay for a one-on-one class, and in return the maker gets… essentially unpaid labor. (From what I understand, depending on where you live and the type of industry you work in, this is an ethically grey area.)
  • Some fashion schools allow (or even require) at least one semester of free study, co-op experience, or internship. These “private study” semesters can dramatically help local designers, as flocks of students look for corset-making instruction and need to get their minimum hours filled.
  • SO many corset makers ask their husbands or siblings for help, even if it’s just tipping bones or setting the grommets.
  • Some makers even hire a virtual assistant to take care of customer service and admin (because dealing with people is not everyone’s strong suit – more on that later in the “Artists Sometimes Suck at Business” section).
  • Many corset makers go the way of ready-to-wear corsets. After a few years, corsetieres will likely notice that there is a certain “average” of measurements or proportions from their clients, and they can make one or several standard corset pattern(s) that will maybe 60-75% of bodies. Then they can batch out their corsets in bulk, which is much more efficient on time compared to custom corsets – it means you can stack your fabric layers and cut out several corsets at once, you can stock up on the same length bones and busks all the time (instead of cutting them to length or special-ordering them for each corset), and you don’t have to waste as much time switching tasks. However, after awhile, standard sized / stock corsets can be depressing (see the section “Beggers Can’t Be Choosers“).
  • Some corset makers make enough to be able to hire a team to make corsets in a small assembly line – so even when paying their team an hourly rate, since they have specialized machinery and people with specific skills, everything goes much smoother and faster. But of course, that special machinery comes at a hefty price – and training those workers takes time and money too.

Oftentimes when a corset maker burns out and stops making corsets, it’s because they were working alone for so many years without any help whatsoever – they were doing all the labor and admin themselves.


Making Corsets is a Full-Body Workout.

Cutting fabric on the floor; cutting and grinding bones; hammering or pressing grommets; spending hours upon hours in front of the sewing machine – these can be very labor-intensive and can cause injuries if you’re not prioritizing the ergonomics of your work area.

After my car accident in 2014, I wasn’t able to sew beyond very short periods of a few minutes (essentially short mending jobs) because I couldn’t crane my neck down for extended durations. Some people with muscle weakness need help cutting bones or setting grommets. Some people have arthritis in their hands and don’t have great dexterity in their fingers. And if you are sewing 12+ hours a day, almost every day, it can start to create a lot of wear and tear on the body.

Some corset makers do become more skilled and faster at making corsets, and some get better equipment so the process is more ergonomic (but that costs money too).


There Are Unexpected Expenses When Running a Business

Many corset makers only charge for the cost of materials + their labor in making the corset (and corsetieres have a habit of underestimating the number of hours required to finish a project!). But there are so many more expenses involved in keeping your business alive. Here are just a few “hidden costs” in any creative business:

  • Registering your business.
  • Filing for a trademark / copyright.
  • Admin work – bookkeeping, answering emails, etc.
  • Doing footwork / research / testing for the suitability of materials in your projects, or upgrading your skills.
  • Liability insurance for yourself, any employees you might have, insurance on your studio or dwelling, and insurance on your equipment and inventory.
  • Repairs and servicing for your machines / equipment.
  • Electricity that runs the equipment everyday (overhead).
  • Seller fees for Etsy, Ebay, and whatever you’re using to process payments.
  • Web hosting and maintenance.
  • Some countries require that businesses of any size, even the “hobbyists”, file your taxes every quarter. That’s every 3 months! That eats away at your time you’d rather spend Making Things, and some businesses are required to pay taxes every quarter.
  • Hiring a bookkeeper or accountant that knows all the legal stuff around running a business, and what’s claimable and not claimable around tax time (but this is a very wise investment and highly recommended – what I pay my accountant is much less than the amount I save by doing my taxes properly).

A corset maker can raise their prices to cover these fees, but that is a double-edged sword because it means fewer people are willing to buy from a brand that charges more.


Beggers Can’t Be Choosers

When I started making corsets, I considered it an amazing creative outlet. I could make any design, any color, any silhouette I wanted, with any combination of embellishments. I could let my imagination go wild! But when I started taking commissions, it became a case of “10 plain black waist training corsets in a row”, and while I take pride and put care in all of the corsets I make, it quickly became boring, soul-draining work.

Many corset makers now turn away prospective customers who want a plain underbust corset, because these makers only want to focus on luxury or couture work (and that is their right and their prerogative! If they’re able to maintain a successful business while turning away commissions, more power to them!). Other corset makers will take any commission they can get because it pays the bills – and what was once a lovely creative outlet for them has become a sad, drudging job.


Artists Sometimes Suck at Business…
…. Also, Difficult Customers Exist

Another potential issue with bespoke corsetry is that it’s so very personal: it’s designed to fit just one person exactly (even down to their anatomical asymmetries and idiosyncrasies) and the colors, fabrics, and embellishments are to that client’s specific taste. And oftentimes, if that commission is not 110% to the client’s standard, that is the difference between the maker getting paid and not getting paid. Of course, the maker should know this coming into the business – and know what’s fair and unfair in business dealings.

This is where contracts would be useful when taking commissions: be absolutely clear as to what’s included in the outfit / costume / corset commission, what communication and tasks are required of both the maker and the client (yes, some tasks are required of the client, like taking body measurements, being clear about what types of embellishments and how much, giving feedback during mockup fittings, etc), when payment(s) are due, etc. so there is less miscommunication and confusion.

Depending on a corsetiere’s PR skills, one really bad review can potentially ruin a maker’s reputation and put them out of business. (Some corset makers are really really good at making corsets, but their customer service leaves something to be desired.)

Several makers who have owned corset companies for 20+ years have all told me something similar (and somewhat controversial): for better or for worse, when it comes to the corset industry, it’s seldom that a laid back client comes along. While many don’t quite hit “bridezilla” status, occasionally a customer comes close, and the corsetiere has to learn how to be a good businessperson (not just a good artist) and know where to draw the line with “pickiness”: when to either put their foot down and when to cut their losses.

More unfortunately, there are many corset makers who hear nothing but crickets when their clients are happy with their commissions, and they only ever hear from their unhappy customers. This seems to be more universal: no matter what the industry or what the product / service is, unhappy customers are always louder than the happy ones. And this hurts businesses in real ways:

Let’s say a hypothetical corsetiere sells 50 corsets on Etsy. 48 of those customers are happy, and 2 of them are unhappy.

Let’s say only 3 of the happy customers leave 4 or 5 star reviews, but both of the unhappy customers leave 1-star reviews. That makes her Etsy rating look really spotty, close to a 60% satisfaction rate, even though in reality they have a 96% satisfaction rate.

I would not be willing to purchase from a corsetiere with a 60% satisfaction rate, would you? I might even think that they’re stealing photos from other makers and distributing knock-off designs, and the “three positive reviews” might be fabricated / shill reviews, or from customers uneducated about genuine corsets.

If many other prospective customers look at their poor ratings and think along the same lines, that corsetiere’s business suffers – she could be one of the most talented artists of our generation, but some people might never even give her a chance.

So if you purchased something off Etsy or even off a maker’s website and you were happy with your purchase, please consider leaving that corsetiere (or costumier, or artist) a positive review, or a testimonial that they’re able to share on their site – it only takes a minute, and it can really help with their reputation. If you have a bad experience with a corset maker then by all means speak your truth – but when you are happy with your product, also take the time to promote what you love, because some corsetieres’ livelihood depends on your feedback.

 

These are just a few reasons why so many makers decide to shut down their businesses. There are obviously many more reasons than these, some much more personal to the individual – this is why there is an entire industry (books, courses, mentorships, summits, etc) on how to properly run a business as a creative – no one is born knowing this, and most of us are flying by the seat of our pants, learning as we go. But if we’re to stay in business, we must be aware of these things and learn how to avoid them as best we can.

If there are any big reasons that I missed regarding why corsetieres or costumiers choose to leave their businesses, feel free to leave a comment down below and let me know. As always, be respectful in the comments.

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Orchard Corset CS-411 LONGLINE Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “CS-411 LONGLINE underbust (Orchard Corset) Review”. If you want visual close-ups, you can watch the video on YouTube here:

Fit, length Center front is 12 inches long, princess seam is 11 inches (5.5″ above the waist, 5.5″ below the waist), side seam is 10 inches and center back is 12.5 inches.
Underbust 28″ (6 inch rib spring), waist 22″, low hip 32″ (10 inch hip spring).
Material 3 main layers – the fashion fabric is black cotton twill (also available in satin), flatlined to a sturdy cotton interlining, and lined in black twill again. Very stiff interlining in center front panel.
Construction 4-panel pattern (8 panels total). Constructed using the sandwich method.
Waist tape One-inch-wide waist tape running through the corset, hidden between the layers.
Binding Made from matching black cotton twill, machine stitched on both sides. Stitched in the ditch on the outside, and topstitch on the inside. There are no garter tabs.
Modesty panel Slightly under 6 inches wide, made of a layer of black satin and a layer of twill. Unstiffened, and attached to one side with a line of stitching (easily removed if desired).
The modesty placket in the front is also black twill and ¼” wide, extending from the knob side of the busk and not stiffened.
Busk 11″ long, with 5 loops and pins (last two are a bit closer together). Slightly heavier busk, slightly under an inch wide and fairly stiff.
Boning 16 bones total in this corset. On each side, 6 of them are spirals about ¼” wide (double boned on the seams) and then there are two flat steel bones, both ¼” wide sandwiching the grommets.
Grommets There are 24 two-part size #00 grommets (10 on each side), with a small flange, spaced equidistantly. On the underside there are many splits, but they don’t catch much on the laces due to the choice in laces.
Laces The laces are ¼” wide flat nylon shoe-lace style. I find them to be long enough and quite strong, but also rather springy.
Price Available in black cotton, black and white satin, and black brocade (I recommend the cotton finish for longevity and smoothness). Sizes go from 18″ up to 46″ closed waist.
Sizes 18″ to 32″ costs $72 USD  |  Sizes 34″ to 46″ costs $75 USD

 

Final Thoughts:

This was another one of those OTR corsets that I felt really indifferent towards as I took it out of the package, but it ended up giving a surprisingly really lovely silhouette once I wore it in for a time.

The silhouette of this longline CS-411 corset is reminiscent of the original CS-411 with sweeping lines and somewhat conical ribs. The hips are slightly more “cupped” below the iliac crest, however, compared to the original. I also feel that this version is slightly more curvaceous than their standard CS-411, and that could be why it fits my body better – I do have a longer torso though, and I tend to believe that longline corsets are generally more flattering on my body so this could be influencing my opinion.

While this corset is available in a cotton fashion fabric and satin fashion fabric, I would personally recommend the cotton as it’s is sturdier, doesn’t wrinkle as easily, is harder-wearing (doesn’t pull or fray as easily), abrasion-resistant and is generally better at hiding wear and tear.

If you’re not a fan of the springy synthetic “workhorse” style shoelace that comes with this corset, Orchard also carries has some higher quality laces (double-faced satin ribbon and paracord) in an assortment of colors. I personally much prefer their ribbon laces to the standard shoelace style laces, but paracord is said to be the strongest type of cord.

One thing to look out for is that the “bunny ears” are also consistently set high on the waist on Orchard Corsets (sometimes higher than the waist tape and always higher than my natural waist), but this is an easy fix – you just need to relace the corset, and I have a tutorial on that here.

See Orchard’s CS-411 longline corset on their website here, and remember that my ref code CORSETLUCY takes an additional 10% off your order (I don’t get any kickback from this coupon code, so use and share it freely).