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My Experience as a Corset Reviewer

Let me start by saying that I never went through a “corset review” course or was bestowed the title of ‘Official Corset Reviewer of Youtube’. It just kinda happened through my obsession. Here are my answers to some of the most common questions I get as a corset reviewer.

Why did you start doing reviews?

I was a little frustrated with the corset reviews given on websites and Youtube. Most of them were “I like it and it’s pretty” or “it’s really painful” and not much detail was given. It was difficult to gauge exactly what I was getting when I saw a full-body shot of a model in a corset on a website, or the equivalent distance in video. I really wished someone would get up-close and personal and show the details of the corset.

Where did you learn what to look for in a corset?

There were two general places that I learned how to critique a corset – the first was on corset making websites and forums like Foundations Revealed and Livejournal. The second was Romantasy’s book ‘Corset Magic‘. Before I had done my first review on a purchased corset, I had already constructed 4 or 5 corsets myself and knew how much time and skill went into each part of a well-made corset.

In the beginning (before doing reviews), for each corset I purchased I told myself “this one will be the end of all other corsets – I’ll use this one for daily training and it will be my favourite” and inevitably after a few months, I’d want to try something else. It later turned into the aspiration to buy one corset from each major OTR company so I can study their construction and do a review. I thought that this would help the companies’ potential customers decide what was the best choice for them, it would help me and other corset enthusiasts fine-tune their conceptions on “what is a good corset” as well as helping me to make better corsets myself.

Do you get free corset samples?

Corsets are not like makeup or cheap accessories, and I’ve never had a corset company introduce itself to me and simply throw free corsets at me. I’ve always been honest about my arrangement with What Katie Did – I asked them for one damaged item I could buy at discount, and ended up receiving 8 new corsets – one each of underbust and overbust corset styles – in exchange for detailed review (even though I purchased another three from them later on). That was an extremely lucky break, but is certainly not typical. It’s important that my viewers know that I have “something to lose” by having these corsets – it gives them comfort in knowing that I’ll be upset if something breaks, and will give honest reviews. (In reality, my reviews are 90% objective and factual, so how much I paid shouldn’t really affect the review.)

I know more than anyone that corsets are expensive, which is why I include tips on searching out boutiques or waiting for sales (some companies aren’t happy that I do this, but I’m more dedicated to getting my viewers a deal). Sometimes I buy the corsets 2nd hand, which is why they may not fit well or be the right size. After I’d been doing reviews for about a year, sometimes when I approached a company they would already know who I am. I have on two occasions received a wholesale price in exchange for giving a review and permission to use the review, but once again, this is far from typical – and I still sacrificed something. I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination, and I had spent upwards of $6000 in 2011 alone on corsets/ materials/ camera and gear for my Youtube channel last year, the vast majority of that going toward review corsets.

Have you ever been sponsored/ hired/ paid to show certain corsets?

I have never been paid to do any review, or to feature/wear a corset in any of my videos. I have been approached in the past to do videos/reviews exclusively for certain companies or websites, but have declined because I don’t feel right about it. I like the freedom of trying new corset companies/ makers without being seen as ‘betraying’ any one company. I’ve purchased corsets from several companies who greatly dislike one another. And they may not be happy that I did that, but they understand that I’m on a mission to find well-constructed, well-fitting corsets for my own purposes and I put no weight on the makers’ personalities (only their customer service).

How do you know that the company isn’t giving you special treatment or giving you a better quality corset than they usually make?

A lot of the time, I don’t know. However I have been disappointed in ripped seams or popped grommets just the same as anyone else – if that’s a better quality corset, I cringe to think what their “standard” corsets are like. A lot of the time when this happens, I will contact customer service and they will exchange the corset for me, just like they would with anyone else.

Sometimes when I contact a new company, my reputation will precede me and they will be delighted that I’m paying them attention. Other times they may ignore my inquiries or ask me to not review certain products. Being the stubborn person that I am, I’ve sometimes used an alias or asked a friend to order on my behalf if I really want the corset or want to see what they’re ‘trying to hide’.

Have you had any negative experiences with companies you’ve reviewed?

Fortunately I have never had a company come to me and ask/ demand that I take down a review. Usually if there’s an aspect of their corsets that viewers don’t like, they will change the corset or provide an explanation for why they do things or use certain materials. I encourage viewers and customers of the same company to write comments sharing their experiences with the company, since I know that my experience may not be typical.

I do have to be careful about some of my reviews, though. I had been contacted after purchasing and asked to NOT take apart or open up their corsets on camera, or not go into too much detail about construction, in order to protect their trade secrets. I respect these requests. I understand that there is the danger of other makers and ‘knock-off companies’ alike using my reviews to learn how to recreate the garment, and I don’t want to be known for assisting the copycats.  The typical viewer doesn’t need to know every step in how a corset is stitched together to make a decision on whether it’s good quality or not. I’m quite fine with showing the complete process with my own corsets, but I know that others aren’t.

I heard this rumor about a certain company/ companies, blah blah blah…

I haven’t been on the corset scene for more than a couple of years, so I don’t know the whole story of certain makers’ or companies’ pasts, how they conducted their business or what their corsets were like back then. I do know a lot of things about a lot of companies today, and I know that their work changes over time – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. The vast majority of corset makers get along, since different customers go to different companies that suit their body type, their purpose for corseting, their personal style and their budget. But there are also a few corset makers who are quite snarky or dramatic about others’ work or business ethic. Whatever is said in confidence between a maker and me stays confidential, although it has never prevented me from purchasing from a company that I genuinely want to try, or forced me to pick sides.

How do you see your corset reviews changing in the future?

I think my reviews have a pretty good structure, and make it easy to contrast/ compare between different brands and styles. I still have a long list of corsets to still review (I believe 17 corsets now) but I would like to feature more independent, one-person businesses. My personal corset collection is slowly moving away from factory-made items and being replaced with more pieces by individual corset designers. That’s not to say that I’ll get rid of all of my off-the-rack items. I will still do the occasional review from a larger company, and I will continue to support those companies that I believe still do a good job, but I would like to dedicate a decent chunk of my reviews to the creative work of individual corsetieres.

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The Structure of my Corset Reviews

After my interview with Foundations Revealed was released, I received several questions from people wanting me to clarify and expand on my answers, particularly this one I had given in my interview:

 

I have a lengthy checklist of requirements when buying corsets! My structured corset reviews basically outline this list, although I’m more lenient in some aspects than others. For example, I have worn corsets without a waist tape that cinched much more and lasted longer than some other corsets with waist tape. Some of my off-the-rack corsets have impeccable stitching which can only be achieved by someone who has sewn the same corset over and over for months or years, but the quality of the materials or the fit of the corset aren’t up to my standards – conversely, in some of my higher-end corsets I may see a wobbly seam or a pucker, but the corset overall is a beautiful example of artistry. I try to purchase and review corsets from all points on the quality/price spectrum, as I know that my viewers all have different expendable incomes, have different body types and use corsets for different reasons. Having so many corsets also helps me understand why some corsets are priced the way they are.

 

On waist tape

Indeed some of my purchased corsets don’t include a waist tape but they gave an amazing reduction and I didn’t feel that it was going to break. One was a corset made by an ex-engineer who argued that all fabric stretches somewhat, including waist tape. I have also seen the inside of a leather corset made by the respectable Bizarre Design that doesn’t have a waist tape. I believe he knows what he’s doing and if he has engineered a strong corset that finds waist tapes superfluous, then that’s great. But I will still go on using my waist tape in my own designs!

On stitching

Some people will take a magnifying glass to a corset and make sure that there is not one stitch skipped or out of place (my boyfriend is like this with his tailored suits, and will also point it out in my homemade corsets). I can understand if someone is paying many hundreds of dollars for a corset, they may expect “perfection”. However, I’m not that scrutinous. When I was starting my corset reviews, I did go into detail about the stitching – how long the stitches were, whether there were any wobbles or skipped stitches, etc. Now, as long as there are no glaring errors or asymmetry in the corset, a wobble here and there in my purchased corsets doesn’t phase me. In my own sewing, I do try to keep my seams straight within 2-3mm, meaning that if I’m off by 3mm or more, I rip out the seam and do it again (and if I’m working on external boning channels, around 1mm). But I’m *slightly* less scrutinous with purchased corsets.

On finishing (binding, embellishments)

“Finishing” is one of my weak points. I have made a corset that is symmetric in width and height within 3mm, and then messed it all up with the binding. I have spent more hours on binding than I have assembling the panels on some corsets, because I am so terrible at it that I often have to do it three times over. I’ve never tried lace overlay and the few times I did flossing, it turned out abysmal. But with my purchased corsets, I have some that have several funky corners on the binding, or a flossed motif that’s a few mm off. I don’t have a cow about it. Actually, it almost endears the corset because I know that it was made by a human being. Some of the corsets I bought from Corsets-UK had flawless stitching and finishing, but does that mean the worker has incredible attention to quality, or does that mean it was assembled by a mindless drone who’s been making the same corset every day for years? Is it admirable, or is it… boring? It all depends on who you are and what purpose your corset will serve.

That is why whenever possible I try to give completely objective reviews, simply stating the facts and statistics, and let you, the reader or viewer, decide whether you like it. Some consider grommets with large flange a sign of quality and security, while others consider it ugly and cheap-looking. I have my own opinions but I try to allow you to think for yourself let you form your own opinions.

Which parts of a corset do I observe with the most scrutiny?

Strength fabric – Most of my owned corsets have twill or canvas/duck as the strength fabric, and I find it *okay*. Not unacceptable, but I won’t be doing a happy dance. Brownie points if they use coutil. If they simply use interfacing to strengthen the corset, I’m not going to be pleased.

Bones – I’m not one who believes that the more bones, the better necessarily – however if the corset has fewer than 1 bone per two inches at the waistline (that is, fewer than 12-14 bones in one of my standard 24″ corsets), it’s my experience that the corset will buckle and wrinkle (unless it’s a ribbon corset). The corsets I wear most often have about 1 bone per inch around the waist, and are ALWAYS steel. I prefer having spirals on the sides of my corset, although it’s not a deal-breaker if the maker uses all flats.

Grommets – I like the last panel of my corsets to be reinforced so that grommets don’t pop out. Sometimes if the grommets are split and the laces catch, it irks me, but this (for the most part) hasn’t done damage to the corset or me, and I know how to repair this. I like the look of #00 grommets with a moderate flange, although I will also use #0 grommets with a larger flange. It’s been my experience that the smaller the difference between the shank and flange of a grommet, the higher the risk of the grommet pulling out (unless a lacing bone is used). A popped grommet within the seasoning period (first month of wearing) is a deal-breaker for me, even when I can replace grommets myself.

Comfort/ Shape – If a corset is uncomfortable/ painful, I’m never going to wear it and it’s a waste of money. This goes for corsets that are too tubular, corsets that are too extreme and corsets that have odd or unrealistic dimensions/ length. Corsets that twist on me is unfortunately common as my hips are not aligned and I cinch more readily on one side of my body compared to the other, but when I’m doing reviews for others I try not to take this into account as there are buyers who are more symmetric than I am. Whenever possible I recommend certain style corsets for people of certain heights, torso lengths and body shapes, depending on what I believe would fit them most comfortably and what would be most flattering.

In the near future I will write about some of my positive and negative experiences as an unofficial-official corset reviewer.

What parts of a corset do YOU observe with more scrutiny? Let me know in the comments!
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How Corsets Heal: 20 Benefits

Thank you for your interest in learning about the benefits a corset can bring to your life. My previous article, “How Corsets Heal” has gained so much popularity that it has earned a place as a permanent page on my site! You can see the tab above at the top of the page, or you can click below:

Click here to see the new and freshly updated “How Corsets Heal”

The original article was so long that it was getting quite difficult to read, so the new page breaks down the benefits of corset-wearing into three different components – how corsets help you physically, how they can help with mental or emotional issues, and how they can help you in social situations/ how the corset community has a larger societal impact than you think. You can jump to any of those articles below. Altogether, we have now counted over 30 benefits and counting!

Physical Benefits of Corseting

Mental/ Emotional Benefits of Corseting

Social/ Societal Benefits of Corseting

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Enjoying the Corseting Journey and Adjusting Goals

This article is a summary of the video “Corset for YOURSELF: You must ENJOY the Process (+Screw the Naysayers)”. If you would like more complete information feel free to watch the video, available on Youtube here:

*****

Enjoying the Journey of Corseting

“How long will it take me to reach my goal waist, and can I stop corset training once I reach that goal?”

This is a question I receive with disturbing regularity. When I made my previous video, “Permanent Waist Reduction“, I said that once you reach your goal you have to maintain your new small waist by corseting occasionally. This isn’t unique to corsetry. If you go on a diet and lose weight, you still have to eat well and do maintenance exercise to keep your body at that goal weight. If you want to run a marathon, you have to train yourself up to that level – but once you can run one marathon, there’s no guarantee that you can continue to run marathons for the rest of your life if you never practice your running again. Usually, runners run because they enjoy it. Corseters wear corsets because they also enjoy it.

That is why I say that if you really hate the thought of putting on your corset each day, then waist training is probably not for you. This may sound harsh, but if you are honest with yourself about this, it can save you from wasted time, money, effort and tears.

If this is your case, try to think of why you don’t like wearing your corset:

  • Is your corset low quality? Do the bones poke at you; does it pinch your hips or “crush” your chest?
  • Are you trying to reduce your waist too small, and too quickly?
  • Do you generally have claustrophobia? Do you have a problem with having your mobility hindered, even just a little bit?

There are solution to all of these problems, IF you would like to continue corset training. In the first situation, you require a better quality corset, preferably custom fit. This can solve a multitude of issues, and transform your corseting experience from one of fidgeting in pain, to one of a pleasant and supportive hug.

In the second situation, this is obviously user error and you will enjoy wearing a corset much more if you simply slow down, practice some patience and go at a pace that allows your body to respond to the corset instead of resisting it.

In the third situation, you may find it useful to start with a much smaller cincher like the WKD Baby corset, or even start with a wide belt to get you used to having pressure on your waist before you move onto a full corset. There are also front-lacing corsets that you can use if your issue is not being able to reach the laces behind you. There are flexible sport-mesh corsets which allow more mobility than ones made from traditional coutil.

Again, this is only IF you would still like to try waist training again, even after your negative experience with it. Many people decide that corsets are not for them and give them up entirely – that doesn’t necessarily reflect a failure; it only shows that this world would not be so wonderful if we all liked the same thing. But before you say “never again”, do reflect a bit and ask yourself why.

When you enjoy the journey, the process of corset training simply for the sake of wearing a corset, then you find you’re able to wear the corset more often and for more hours each time – which will result in optimal progress toward your waist training goals. You also become less discouraged by fallbacks.

As a comparison – when you’re hiking, it’s a much more enjoyable experience to take your time and enjoy all the various views, learn about all the flora and fauna, and maybe sit by the creek and enjoy a picnic on your way to the top of the hill. Even if you don’t reach the top of the hill (your goals), you will have at least enjoyed your experience and made positive memories, compared to the person who tried to keep their head down and run to the top of the hill, instead twisting their ankle halfway up and never having enjoyed the process from the beginning.

For a more applicable example: when I was sick with a respiratory infection for 1.5 months, I could not corset at all for that time, as I needed my lower ribcage free to clear my airways when I cough. During that 1.5 months, I lost about 2 inches of progress in my corseting. I used to be able to cinch below 23″ and at this time I can only corset to a little under 25″. But I am fine with this. I corset because I like the “hug” of it, and it makes me feel good about myself regardless of a two inch difference. When I couldn’t corset, it was the feeling of it that I missed, more than the figure-shaping aspect itself.

It is also important to figure out a corseting schedule that fits your daily life. If you like to sleep in your corset, then go ahead and sleep in your corset! I personally don’t like to wear a corset to bed, so I don’t. Would I get more progress in waist reduction if I did sleep in a corset? Most likely, yes. However I didn’t need to do this in the past, so I don’t feel that I need to do this now. If you don’t enjoy wearing a corset at any time, don’t wear it. Simple as that. Taking a day off from corseting or not sleeping in your corset does not make you lazy, weak-willed or undisciplined. Remember that we’re talking about an article of clothing and it’s not the end of the world.

Goals:

While it is always good to set goals for ourselves, remember to be a) patient and b) realistic in these goals. If you are starting with a 40″ waist, it is not realistic to set a goal to achieve an 18″ waist within 6 months. You are not in a race with anyone, and you MUST take into consideration your body’s limits. I would not personally recommend reducing your waist more than one inch per month, and once you get to a certain reduction you may find that you are only able to cinch 1/2″ or 1/4″ per month.

You may also find that your goals change over time. About 18 months ago I mentioned that my goal waist was 20 inches, corseted. These days I think that a 20″ waist would be “nice to have” but it is not something I am fixated on. If my body is unable to ever achieve a 20″ waist, I wouldn’t be devastated and I wouldn’t stop corseting out of dejection. I simply love corseting for the sake of it. (Update April 2013: I did achieve the coveted 20″ waist, with the help of my Contour Corset and Puimond underbust – and once I did, I decided that I actually preferred how I look at 22″! Such is life).

Now I do realize that many people seem to think that corseting is a social activity, but I feel the need to remind some that it is not. Corseting and waist training is in fact a very personal activity – only the individual corseter really knows how it feels to be in their body, in that particular corset, at that particular time. If you feel at home wearing a corset and you come across someone who is trying to convince you that it must be the most excruciating thing in the world, simply dismiss that person. Conversely, if you feel that you only want to (or are only able to) corset to a certain size, and you come across someone who tries to bully you into cinching to a smaller size, avoid that person too. You are responsible for your own body, and when it really gets down to it, only you can truly control your laces.

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Tips for Full-Figured Corseters

This entry is supplementary to the video “Plus-Size Corseters” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Larger people can usually tolerate larger waist reduction

If you have a little more to start with, than chances are you can reduce down more than a smaller person. Think of waist reduction as a percentage: say two people are both able to cinch their waists down by 20%. One has a 24 inch waist while the other has a 38 inch waist. The person with a 24″ waist will be able to cinch down 4.8 inches, down to 19.2″. The other corseter is able to cinch down an incredible 7.6 inches, to a corseted waist of 30.4″. Of course, this depends on your amount of visceral fat vs subcutaneous fat, your muscle tone, etc., but chances are if your waist is above 34 inches, you will be able to start with a corset 5-6 inches smaller than your natural waist rather than the recommended 3-4 inches by most corset retail sites.

Larger corseters, larger busts

If you are large-busted, it may be tempting to order an overbust corset for the extra support, as overbusts take much of the bust-related strain off your lower back. However, I recommend that women start with an underbust corset regardless of size, the main reasons being that underbusts are easier to breathe and move around in, they’re more versatile, and they’re easier to construct and get the proper fit, and thus they almost always cost less than overbusts. For more detail about this, watch my video above.

If you order an underbust corset, you will have to wear it with a separate bra. I recommend you have the top line of your corset end at least 1 inch lower than the underwire of your bra, to prevent chafing. Alternatively, wear bras that do not have underwires, such as sports bras, post-operative compression bras. I have personally had success with the Genie Bra (for a short while); it gives support while not giving an unattractive back roll between the bra band and corset. You can also wear your bra overtop of your corset to prevent that “double lift” so you don’t end up with a chin rest, and this also prevents chafing from the underwire.

Remember the law of displacement

Flesh doesn’t disappear in a corset; it has to move somewhere. For many tightlacers (especially the ones that are a little larger to start with) I recommend ordering a corset with underbust and hip circumferences 1 inch or so larger than your natural measurements, so the compressed flesh has somewhere to go.

In terms of the shape of the corset, I recommend corsets with a high back which gently cups around the flesh of the high back instead of giving “muffin-top”, and I recommend mid-hip or long-line corsets which cup the flesh around the hips to smooth out your silhouette.

The number of panels matter (to a point)

My first custom corset only had 8 panels (4 on each side) but currently I prefer my corsets to have 12 or more panels. More panels help to customize the shape of the corset pattern so it fits every contour of your body just the way you want it. More panels also help to distribute extreme curves more evenly so each smaller panel looks closer to parallel in shape as opposed to fewer, larger panels with extreme deviations in measurements – how more narrow panels help is that they allow a smoother line and fewer wrinkles in the corset when done right – i.e. combined with proper sewing techniques and enough bones, which leads us to the next tip…

The number of bones matter (to a point)

Some corsetieres recommend placing a minimum of one bone every 2 inches around the waist of a corset – this means a corset with a 36 inch waist would have no less than 18 bones in it, while a corset with an 20 inch waist may only have 10 bones. This means that not all corsets should be made the same! When ordering a corset, I would advise requesting double boning from the corsetiere – although this will be more expensive, it will eliminate much of the wrinkling and buckling in the corset fabric, allowing for more support, a smoother line on your body, and therefore a much more comfortable experience. If you’re sewing a corset yourself, I would advise placing at least 1 bone every 2 inches around the waist of the corset. The easiest way to do this is likely to place one bone at each seam and another bone in the center of each panel.

Health

Although it is not always the case, larger people tend to carry a higher risk of hypertension (high blood pressure). Combined with a slightly raised blood pressure contributed by tightlacing, one has to be careful to maintain an acceptable level and minimize their risk for stroke. Please monitor your blood pressure carefully, as one can’t actually feel their blood pressure rising. If you experience light-headedness, swollen extremities (particularly legs and feet) or your heart pounding harder than normal when you lace up your corset, do check your blood pressure with a monitor.

In the next post I will go into more detail about corsets and blood pressure, as well as clearing up the “fainting” rumours surrounding corseted ladies.

Lucy’s Little Life Lesson: You’re beautiful at any size.

*Please note that this article is strictly my opinion and provided for information purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of a medical doctor. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset.*

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Welcome!

Welcome to the brand-new LucyCorsetry.com, the official blog (and hopefully, someday-a-real-website) of bishonenrancher.

The blog portion is intended to be supplementary to my YouTube videos, although probably not a replacement. In my blog I’ll summarize information that can be found in my videos, and I’ll be able to post pictures and links that I’m not allowed to post on YouTube. Conversely, anyone who wants more detailed information can watch my videos as I’m able to explain and demonstrate some things much more clearly.

Please keep an eye on this channel as I will be updating this quite often. I will start by making written articles of the YouTube videos I’ve already made, focusing on my ‘Corset Reviews’ and ‘Physical Effects of Corseting’ topics first, then will add new content concurrently with new videos.

Lucy’s Little Life Lesson: Make every day of 2012 count.