When commissioning a custom corset from an independent corsetiere, you are not required to go with a plain black satin or twill corset! There are many different ways that you can request to have your corset embellished. If you can only afford plain OTR corsets, you still have the option of embellishing them yourself! See the video above for plenty of examples, and refer to the glossary below if you need extra help.
Embroidery – these are decorative densely-stitched motifs, usually of larger size. Most embroidery I see these days are machine stitched, using a specialized machine where you feed in a specific file and it creates the design before your eyes (this is how my Lovely Rats corset was embroidered). Those floral brocade designs can be said to feature floral embroidery in a repeating pattern, on top of a base fabric. Of course, in the past, most embroidery was done by hand. Today you can get embroidered patches/ appliqué, and just stitch or glue the patch to the corset or garment later on.
External Boning Channels – some external boning channels are functional, so they serve a dual purpose: to actually hold the steel boning and prevent it from wearing through the fabric, but to also provide visual interest and contrast to the corset. I personally find that external channels are the most comfortable because I cannot feel the channel against my skin – of course, this also means that the corset is more difficult to stealth under clothing because it will be bumpier. Sometimes though, external channels can be “faux” channels and only used for the sake of visual interest, while the real boning channels are sandwiched inside.
Flossing – floss is traditionally defined as “soft thread of silk or mercerized cotton for embroidery.” Flossing in the context of corsetry is often smaller, relatively simple versions of embroidery, that is typically only done at the tips of boning channels and are usually done by hand (although they weren’t always by hand!). Flossing, like external channels, has multiple purposes for a corset: to anchor the tip of the steel bone in place so it doesn’t slide around inside the channel (which can help keep the corset smooth and also prevent the bones from wearing through the fabric by friction over time), and floss can also help to disguise a repair to a boning channel that has already been worn through. Repeating the same flossing pattern on each boning channel can make that “patch” look deliberate, and can add visual interest to a corset. See my corset by L’Atelier de LaFleur for a detail of the special T4-esque flossing.
Yoke/ “Waist Diamond” – a yoke almost like a ‘belt’ that stretches across the waistline of a corset, and usually is in a different color. It also often widens at the front to create a diamond shape in the center front. When this yoke is reinforced with a very strong fabric, it helps to strengthen the waistline (it can function like a waist tape in the best of situations), and the widening at the center front can add more control to the tummy area. The WKD Laurie overbust had a contrasting yoke that helped to hide the waist tape.
Fun Lining – although this isn’t “embellishment” per se, I enjoy when my corsets have a bright, colorful or cheery inner lining. My own handmade Sebastian corset looks like a typical red satin corset on the outside, but on the inside it features some cute “Little Mermaid” novelty print cotton as a lining, which is a fun secret I get to carry with me when I’m wearing the corset. My corset from Tighter Corsets also features a beautiful linen lining, as well as one of my corsets from the Bad Button features lovely silk-fan lining.
Contrast Stitching/ Contrast Hardware – most visible hardware in a corset (busk, grommets, and sometimes aglets) are silver; however you can also find hardware in alternate colors like gold, pewter, black, antique brass, etc so you can match your hardware with the rest of the corset, or with contrasting embellishment. My Sebastian corset has black hardware which matches the black “shot” red fabric used, and also the black contrast stitching I had used on the external boning channels. As another example, my Ref R corset from Tighter Corsets has antique brass grommets and busk to match the soft gold contrast piping and creates a stunning effect.
Lace Overlay – when a corset is completely covered in a layer of lace, this is called lace overlay. Makers create this effect by taking a sheet of lace and flatlining/roll-pinning the lace overtop of the pattern pieces (usually with silk satin or taffeta underneath), then assembling the panels together as one normally would. This has to be done during construction; it would be very difficult to create a lace overlay on an already finished corset. Examples of lace overlay include my Axfords corsets and also my Boom Boom Baby Boutique sample.
Lace Appliqué – like with embroidery patches, sometimes lace can come in pre-cut pieces and motifs that you can place where you choose and hand-sew to your corset – or if you have a sheet of lace, you can carefully cut out the motifs yourself. Some lace is black, white, dyed colors, or contain metallic threads. Some laces are lighter, while other lace is heavier or corded. Some lace even comes with beads and sequins already attached – but you can add the sparklies yourself later on.
Crystals, Sequins and Beads – many people love to bedazzle their corsets with flatback rhinestones or genuine Swarovski crystals (like my Waisted Creations corset or my Totally Waisted corset). These are usually glued on (E6000 is a popular choice, although due to some carcinogen worries, some opt for alternate brands). Beads and sequins are usually sewn on since they typically have a hole through which they can be anchored. As mentioned above, some types of patches, appliqué or lace come already beaded so you just have to adhere the appliqué to the corset and you’re set. Sequins can also come in strings that you can drape onto your corset.
Mesh Panels – mesh is quite functional in itself: it helps the skin breathe, it keeps you cool and dry, and it prevents your flesh from poking out of the “windows” from skeleton corsets – but mesh can also be a type of embellishment as well! When I wear brightly colored shirts or dresses underneath, effectively a corset with mesh panels will “always match” whatever I’m wearing because my outfit underneath will show through. Some others may choose to play around with mesh corsets; for instance, if they choose not to wear a corset liner underneath, then they may opt for a crop-top to cover their chest, but the mesh panels may show their skin underneath. Or you can layer your tops so that it looks like there is a different color under the corset compared to the rest of your shirt. I’ve tried mesh corsets from Contessa Gothique, Madame Sher and Contour Corsets.
Fan Lacing – fan lacing actually started as a functional alternative to traditional lacing, as it condenses all the individual cords in the back of the corset into a pair of easy-to-pull straps. For those with limited strength, mobility or coordination, fan-lacing can help you lace up by yourself. However, in recent years, fan lacing has made a comeback as pure embellishment, such as my cincher by Serindë.
What type of embellishment do you like best? Do you own any corsets with special decoration or embellishment? Let me know in a comment below!