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How to Curve your Corset Busk

 

Today I’m going to demonstrate how to curve the busk of your corset for a more deliberately dished front on the longline corset in the video above.

  1. The first curve will make it resemble more of a spoon busk, so it wraps around and slightly underneath a full lower tummy, and helps pull it up and in.
  2. The second curve will bring in the lowest tip of busk to prevent the look of a distracting “pelvic protrusion”.
  3. The third curve to the busk is creating a concave “dished” profile to make the side-view look more curvy and slender.
  4. The fourth and last curve will push outwards the very top edge of the busk – this will help those who have sensitive sternums, as the top of the busk will put less pressure on your diaphragm / not poke into the solar plexus area.
Do you have to bend your busk?

Not at all! If you already get great abdominal support from your corset, it gives you good posture, and you’re comfortable, and you like the look of the profile, feel free to keep your corset as is!

Can you buy a corset with a pre-curved busk?

Very rarely do OTR corsets actually come already sold with a curved busk – busks are manufactured to be straight, and then some spoon busks are curved or pressed after the fact to give their characteristic shape. WKD used to sell spoon busk Morticia corsets, and I think Corset Story sold quasi-spoon busks that were wider at the bottom but not curved. But usually if you want a corset to come with a busk pre-curved, you will need to go custom and specifically ask the corset maker to curve the front for you.

If you DO want to go the custom route, the corsetieres I know for certain will curve the front busk for you if you ask them, include:

Before you start: Respect the brand / shop policies…

When you can’t afford to go custom and your only option is OTR – in pretty much all OTR corsets, the busk will come straight, and if you curve the busk yourself this means you’re deliberately manipulating the corset – this will, in all likelihood, render any warranty or return policies void and they will not accept the corset, so before you bend the busk, be sure you’re going to keep the corset and not send it back.

Bend each side of the busk separately or together?

You have the option of bending each side separately or bending both sides of the busk together.
If your corset has a boned underbusk that has an extra wide, stainless steel bone under one side of the busk, and the actual busk itself is a very flexible, standard width busk, I would first manipulate the side with the underbusk – then I’d put the busk together and see if curving the other side is even necessary or not, because sometimes a flexible busk will bend to the curve of the stronger underbusk.

If your hands are strong enough, I’d curve both sides of the busk together, clasped closed, so that both sides of the busk have the same amount of curve – this will ensure that the loops and pins will always line up. You’ll want to support the areas where the loops and pins are riveted in, so the busk doesn’t break there or the pins don’t fall out. What you’re aiming for is for most of the curve to occur between each bracket, and not much right at the bracket.

If your hands are not strong enough, you can curve each side of the busk separately – it is the more careful way of doing things, but it also takes longer to make sure that both sides of the busk are curved the same amount, and that all the loops and pins line up exactly.

Does the type of busk matter?

If your corset has carbon fiber bones adjacent to the busk (which will only be included by special order in a custom corset), don’t even bother trying to bend it. It will be too stiff to manipulate significantly with your hands, and carbon fiber is designed to be strong but relatively brittle. Rather than holding a curve, poor quality carbon fiber would rather shatter – so if you want a curve to your front, you will have to remove those carbon fiber bones and replace them with steel.

A wide stainless steel busk and a spoon busk may be more tricky to bend, but it is possible. Flexible standard width busks are relatively easy to bend.

Some extra tips:

Like I said with my other article on curving the back steels – only bend a little bit at a time, try it on, and then if you find you need a little more curve, then take it off and bend a little more, just small amounts at a time. Go with what is most comfortable and compatible with your body, not just the amount of curve that happens to look dramatic and cute, because that might be too much curve for you.

If your hands are too weak to curve the busk on your own, use the curve of your thigh or your knee, or a tailor’s ham. You can try (very gently) to curve it over certain rounded countertops, but don’t bend it too much as to form kinks, and try not to bend it back and forth because bending it too much one way and then the other will weaken the steel. Below you’ll find a guide on which countertop edges are best for curving steel, if you choose to go this route.

The shapes with green circles are the best for curving your busk / steel bones. Yellow is okay (proceed with caution) and avoid the countertops that have red Xs.

For all of the descriptions of the different types of curves below, you can check out the video above for the demonstrations!

 

SUPPORT LOWER TUMMY POOCH (FUPA)

This first example is for those who have a panniculus, which is the medical term for lower tummy pooch, mother’s apron, or (more crudely) a “FUPA”. Curving the busk just a little bit under to cradle the bottom of a protruding abdomen can sometimes help fight that gravity that wants to pull your tummy out from under the corset.

  • You want to create a convex curve at the lower tummy, usually below the belly button. If you need to try on the corset and mark the area lightly with tailor’s chalk, go ahead and do so.
  • Again, focus on curving the areas between the brackets, and support the brackets as you place pressure on it.

GET RID OF THE “PELVIC PROTRUSION” (corset dingdong)

Curving the very bottom of the busk inward will help prevent a distracting point from poking out at your pubic region. (But as a general guideline, starting with a corset that’s cut straight across or at least gently rounded will help hide the bottom edge much more effectively than a pointed or dramatically contoured lower edge.)

  • Here you want to start as low down as possible – if you have a longer busk with fewer brackets (pairs of loops/pins), then you could possibly even start below the last brackets. If not, you can start curving from the area between the last and second last brackets. Curve towards your body.

Just a note: if you have a very low body fat percentage or very flat lower tummy, curving the bottom edge of the busk too much can cause it to jab into your pubic mound or pelvic bone uncomfortably, so be careful here and curve less as opposed to more here, until you get a comfortable compromise.

CREATE A DISH IN THE WAIST

If you find that your corset is too “thick” or flat in the profile and you prefer the look of an inwardly dished front at the waistline, you can create a gentle concave curve.

  • Start right at the waist tape, and unlike the two curves above, focus on curving outward instead of inward. Try not to create too dramatic a bend here – curve the busk a little at a time, and keep trying on your corset as you go. The inward curve does not affect your posture or cause you to lean forward. It should also not put any uncomfortable pressure on your diaphragm.
  • The more dished a corset is at the waist, the more it kicks out the top and bottom tips of the busk. You may need to adjust the bottom edge more to prevent that pelvic region from sticking out.

CURVE OUT THE STERNUM

I deliberately left this one for last, because if you had curved inward the waistline, sometimes that is enough to kick out the top of the busk enough to take pressure off of the diaphragm.

Some corsetieres sew a tiny pillow or cushion to make the top of a busk more comfortable at the sternum like Creations L’Escarpolette, but another potential option is to gently curve outwards the top tip of the busk so it points just very slightly away from your sternum.

  • It is essentially the opposite of the “pelvic protrusion” bend. In this situation, you want to start as high up as possible – above the highest set of loops and pins – or if that is not possible, then you can start curving from the area between the first and second sets Curve towards your body.

 

If you apply all of these curves to the same corset, it will end up looking slightly like an S shape. Again, I’d recommend doing only a little at a time, and keep trying it on. Obviously you don’t want to overdo all of these and end up giving yourself a worse posture than before.

Before and after curving the busk.

 

Hopefully this guide is helpful for you! Do let me know if you have any questions, and if you have any other tips leave a comment down below.

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Corset SNAFU? Here’s how to Repair / Mend (Most Types of) Corset Damage.

 

Several of you liked the video/post I made on corset fitting issues and how to alter your corset to improve the fit, so I decided to make a “Part 2” where we talk about mending and repairing your damaged corset – and when the repair is manageable, or whether you should cut your losses and “sacrifice” the corset to reuse its hardware in a new corset.

Let’s explore the various types of corset damage, one by one:

 

A seam rips in your corset

I’m starting with this one because it’s one of the most extensive types of damage, and it’s the one that corseters tend to panic the most over.

If it’s only the threads that have snapped, and not the fabric itself that has torn or disintegrated, it’s mendable. The “quick and dirty” mending job is to whipstitch that seam very tightly back together by hand. Although this mend is visible, it will be quite strong, and if you wish you can cover it in lace appliqué (and put lace on the other side of the corset to make the embellishment symmetric, so it looks deliberate).

Time needed to whipstitch a seam closed: 20 minutes, depending on the size of the rip. If you’ll be embellishing your corset afterwards to cover the mending job, give yourself extra time.

If, however, you want to repair the seam in a way that no one will know that the damage had ever occurred in the first place, the complexity of this depends on the number of layers and the construction of the corset. It can be a straightforward job in a multi-layer corset with laid down boning channels. But in a multiple-layer corset, you’ll have to remove the binding on top and botom, remove the bones in the area, essentially take apart that corset down to its tension-bearing seams and then put it back together. There are risks associated with this method – if the seam allowances were trimmed small and the fabric has a tendency to fray, the corset may not be able to go back together exactly the same way it did before due to extensive damage to the fabric.

Time needed to take apart the corset and put it back together again: Up to 10+ hours, depending on how quickly you work and how complicated the construction is. Some might prefer to just make a new corset half from scratch.


Broken steel bones

This repair is (relatively speaking) easy peasy. Remove the binding on one end of the corset, just up to the affected boning channel. Remove the broken bone, and measure the full length of the bone. Order a new steel bone online, and the most difficult part is waiting for that bone to arrive in the mail. Once it comes in, simply slide the new bone into the boning channel, then sew the binding back on.

Time needed to replace a broken steel bone: 1 hour (plus a few days / weeks of waiting for the mail).


Bones that are too bendy in the back

Left to right: Heavenly Corsets (Elle Corsets), Xandriana, Azrael’s Accomplice, and Tighter Corsets, all corsets with different types and levels of bowing, for different reasons.

While this isn’t “damage” per se, it can absolutely cause one grief when trying to lace up and remain laced. The bones might kink and poke into your back, or the lacing gap may bow or warp. In this scenario, you can absolutely replace the bones with stiffer ones if you like (see above for the process). If you don’t want to mess with the boning, try adding more grommets in between between the pre-existing grommets (especially at the waistline), as well as tightening the boning channels if they’re too loose and allow twisting or twirling of the bones within the channels. I have a whole video / article on how to do these modifications here.

Time needed to replace bendy steel bones: 1 hour (see above)
Time needed to add extra grommets: Perhaps 20 minutes if you know what you’re doing.
Time needed to tighten the boning channels: 10 minutes, plus a good quality zipper foot.


Broken busk

Busks come in a multitude of colors, like these by Narrowed Visions. If you’re going to be replacing the busk, why not spruce up your corset at the same time with a colored busk? (Click through to Etsy).

The knob / pin / peg of the busk is basically a rivet that was hammered into a tiny hole within a steel bone. Therefore, it’s theoretically possible to get a rivet setter and hammer it back in (or find another rivet of the same size and use that instead). If you lost the knob, if the knob isn’t staying put, and you can’t find a rivet, you can try to get a little screw that somewhat matches the size, and screw it into the busk (use a flat nut or bolt in the back, and obviously get the type with a flat tip and not pointy).

Time needed to install a rivet or screw to replace the busk pin: >1 hour.

If you wanted to completely replace the busk, this is possible with corsets that have a reasonably “self-healing” fabric (i.e. not materials that show perforations, like leather or vinyl). To replace the busk, first order your busk and ensure that your new busk is the same length as your old one, with the same number of loops & pins, and they align in the same spots. If the knob side of your new busk can fit into the loop side of your old busk, this cuts your work in half because you only have to replace the damaged side.

Remove the binding and the anchoring seam (do not touch the center front seam), take out the broken busk, and replace it with a new busk. Sew your new anchoring seam, then put the binding back on.

Time needed to replace the busk with a new, identical one: 30 minutes per side.

Another thing you can do is get rid of the busk altogether.

Time needed to make a closed-front corset: ~ 1-2 hours.
Time needed to replace the busk with front lacing instead. ~ 2-3 hours.

Bonus: What if the loop side of the busk isn’t broken, just bent?

This type of damage on the busk is most often due to not fully loosening the laces in the back before attempting to undo the busk, so that one has to twist and struggle to unclasp the loops and knobs. As long as the corset is sufficiently loosened in the back, the busk should easily undo.

For the bent loops, these can be gently hammered or bent straight again, taking care not to make the loop “ziggly” or bending it too far in either direction. For the knobs/ pins, I would not ever recommend hammering them as they may lose their anchor and fall out.


Bones that have worn through their boning channels

Lovely Rats Corset featuring external boning channels and also flossing on each channel – both great ways to protect and prevent bones from wearing through the fabric.

If you’re just starting to notice a bit of wear or thinning along the fabric, you can floss the ends of the bones to prevent them from sliding around and preventing further damage.

Time needed to floss a boning channel: Give yourself like 10-15 minutes per motif, depending on your experience level.

If the bone has already worn a hole through the fabric, depending on how much it’s damaged you might need to patch over it or add external boning channels to cover it up. With external boning channels, this is your opportunity to get creative – use matching channels for a subtle effect, or decorative / contrast channels to spruce up your corset. To make the repair look deliberate, whatever you do to one side of the corset, also do to the other side.

If you’re going to add external channels, you’ll have to remove all the bones from that channel (or the whole corset, if you plan a major overhaul). This is a good opportunity to a look at the bones and be sure that they’re properly tipped and not sharp. If the bones were incorrectly prepared, you might have to take all the bones out and tip them properly and put them back in, which might extend your project by an hour or two.

Time needed to add one external boning channel: ~ 1 to 1.5 hours.
Time needed to add external boning channels to the whole corset: ~ 3-4 hours, depending on number of channels, and removing and putting on the binding again.


Grommets that have fallen out

Once the fabric around a corset has become so frayed and damaged that the grommets are falling out, you have no choice but to reinforce that fabric and / or use different grommets that are larger and have a wider flange.

The hardest part is sourcing your grommets and a matching setter that will set the grommets properly and not smush or crush them. If you already have these on hand and you don’t care about the grommets being all the same size or style (say you just want to replace the one grommet in the back), then it will be a super easy job.

However if you want all your grommets to match, you’ll need to take pliers and remove all the grommets one by one, and (preferably) add a reinforcing interlining in the back panel which will help the grommets stay in more securely

Time to change 1 grommet: 10 minutes
Time to remove all grommets and put in new ones so they all match: at least 2 hours (1 hour to remove the grommets, another hour to put new ones in). For a longer corset with more grommets, give yourself even more time.

 

I think I’ve covered most or all of the possible SNAFUs that can happen regarding corset fitting or damage that can be altered, modified or repaired.

If there were any I missed, let me know in the comments below! Also, if there were any (practical) modification or repair videos you would like me to make in the future, feel free to comment and ask.

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6 Different Types of Corset Front Closures

See the video above for an explanation of several different front closures for corsets – or read away below!

HOOK & EYE

The Goddess Longline bra can be partially folded under to accommodate for an even lower back.
Hook and eye closures are usually found on bras and bustiers, not corsets. (This is the Goddess bra, click through for more information.)

You will pretty much never see this in a genuine, off the rack corset (or a couture one, for that matter). If you see a garment marketed as a waist training corset and it contains hooks and eyes, I personally wouldn’t trust it.

If you are making your own corsets, this form of closure is easy to source and fairly inexpensive. I’ve seen it done (recently) in a viewer’s homemade gentle reduction corset, but it was supported by steels on both sides, and still had a lacing system in the back – this allowed the wearer to fasten up the hooks and eyes with zero pressure on them until they were ALL fastened, and then they tightened the corset using the laces in the back. This can take a long time to fasten and unfasten!

One concern is that the little metal hooks can bend, warp and break if they have uneven pressure on them. If one breaks, you have a few others surrounding it that might be able to support it temporarily, but once the garment has uneven tension, more hooks will be at greater risk for also warping and breaking. The entire row of hooks and eyes would be inexpensive to replace as you can purchase them in a tape – but for me personally, I overwhelmingly prefer a busk.

 

BUSK

Busks come in a multitude of colors, like these by Narrowed Visions (click through to the Etsy shop)
Busks come in a multitude of colors, like these by Narrowed Visions (click through to the Etsy shop).

This is like your bread and butter closure for corsets. Loops on one side, and knobs (aka pins, aka pegs) on the other side, each side supported by a bone. Busks can come in a multitude of lengths, widths and colors.  My friend Nikki (Narrowed Visions on Etsy) sells several lengths of heavy-duty busks in a rainbow of colors, as you see above!

The bones are strong and help support the abdomen, and the busk can fasten and unfasten in seconds once you get used to it. But when a knob breaks, you either have to replace it with a screw or a rivet, but more likely will need to replace the knob side of the busk with a new one.

I also have a video on how to completely remove an old broken busk and replace it with grommets to make it a front lacing corset.

 

FRONT LACING

Electra Designs made this cincher which is laced both in the back and in the front. They can be individually adjusted to your comfort.
Electra Designs made this cincher which is laced both in the back and in the front. They can be individually adjusted to your comfort.

In a previous Fast Foundation article, I discussed why wearing your corset backwards is usually not a good idea because of the way panels are individually drafted to contour over a different part of your back or abdomen.

But a corset that is deliberately front-lacing can be good for people with arm weakness, inflexible shoulders or just aren’t very coordinated when fiddling with laces behind their back.

A corset that has only a front lacing system and back closure will need to be loosened a lot and you’ll need to shimmy into it: either pull it down over your head, or step into it and pull it up from your feet.

I would personally not recommend a high-reduction corset that is closed in the back and laced in the front, as it personally caused some discomfort around my floating ribs after a while and I had to purchase a new waist training corset with back lacing.

 

ZIPPER

Wearing my Contour Corset under my sweater tunic and toddler belt.
My Contour Corset (metal zip closure) is strong enough for a dramatic silhouette, but incredibly smooth under my clothing.

Some of my favorite corsets have zippers, like my Contour Corset. A front zip should have metal teeth, it should be made to military specification, and it should be flanked by steel bones. The stitching around the zipper should fail before the teeth do!

The right zipper can be just as strong as a busk, and can also be zipped up and unzipped in seconds once you’re accustomed to it. Another nice thing about zippers is that they can be more discreet under clothing compared to busks.

However, those bustiers sold in Halloween shops that have a nylon coiled zipper and no supportive stays supporting them, so the fabric wrinkles around the zipper from stress? Expect them to fail if you lace them too tight.

But even if you use the best quality zippers – like with any other garment, if you break the zipper or lose a tooth in the zip, just replace the whole thing.

 

SWING HOOKS

black cashmere swinghooks long hourglass corset
Hourglass Cashmere Longline corset with Swing Hooks, available through my shop (click through).

Swing hooks are neat, and they’re very very decorative, but very high profile and will not hide well under clothing. I first saw swing hooks used by Lucy of Waisted Creations, many moons ago. She even made a tutorial on Foundations Revealed on how to insert them yourself! After that, it spread like wildfire and you saw corset supply shops selling the swing hooks, and different OTR companies started selling corsets with swing hooks.

If you plan to use swing hooks in your own corset, it’s best to put a swing hook at the waistline where there is the most tension. If you don’t, the fabric in the center front will gape, and even the bones in the center front might bow a bit if they’re not high quality.

 

CLOSED FRONT

Angela Stringer Corsetry mesh and floral longline overbust model Victoria Dagger
Closed front corsets allow for a beautiful unbroken line, but they’re less convenient. Corset: Angela Stringer. Model: Victoria Dagger. Photo: Chris Murray.

Closed front corsets have no opening, but rather are stitched completely closed. Similar to the front-laced corset, it will require you to shimmy into it! This takes some extra time, and if you have anxiety or claustrophobia I might not recommend this style – because it also takes time to get out of it. But this is the smoothest option under clothing if you want to “stealth” your corset under your clothes.

Which corset closure is your favorite? Do you know of any other closures not mentioned here? Leave me a comment below!

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Corset Jewellery

Vanyanis Engraved Busk loop Jewellery

The corset has been the inspiration behind iconic photographs, songs, body piercings, and various other art pieces, but I’d like to take a moment and create a gallery to highlight some of the lovely corset-themed jewellery, accessories and adornment. If you have a corset enthusiast in your life and you’re looking for a holiday gift for them, perhaps these will give you a few ideas:

 

Corset Inspired Jewellery

LadyTigerLily modelling the tiny pewter busk earrings by Silent Songbyrd
LadyTigerLily modelling the tiny pewter busk earrings by Silent Songbyrd
Detachable busk earrings by Silent Songbyrd
Detachable busk earrings by Silent Songbyrd, worn as a double piercing in one ear

There are only 5 people in the world who own these tiny detachable busk earrings: Silent SongbyrdLadyTigerLily, RandomCorset, The Steel Boned Baker, and myself. Byrdi was the genius artist who created and cast these earrings in pewter – each miniscule busk peg made from the head of a pin, and each busk being unique so the corresponding half of each earring can only be matched to its partner. They can be worn with the busk half in each ear (as LadyTigerlily shows above), or if you have multiple piercings you can wear them together. Although they’re not available for sale currently, I’ve suggested that Byrdi market these someday, as they would make a lovely gift for corset enthusiasts – if they are eventually made on a larger scale, I suggest wearing them with your hair up! See the earrings modelled by us Youtube Corset Vloggers in our interview at Orchard Corset!

 

Vanyanis Engraved Busk loop Jewellery
Vanyanis Engraved Busk necklace and earrings set, $285 AUD

Another friend of mine, Lowana from Vanyanis, has created these beautiful pendants and earrings fashioned from her new line of laurel engraved busks, which are the only busks of their kind in the world. The busks are originally sourced from German Wissner busks, some of the finest quality busks made today – each busk loop is then individually engraved and the contrast black color set using a modern annealing process in Australia. Lastly, the busk loops are detached from the busk with the greatest of care and a jeweller attaches the busk loop to the jump ring and hung onto a solid sterling silver necklace or earring hooks. I find them to be a beautifully mysterious “understated statement piece”. Those who know what a corset is will almost immediately recognize the busk loops as they are, but those unfamiliar with corsetry will simply consider it an ornate keyplate. Amazingly, this jewellery supports four different artists – the busk maker, the corsetiere/designer, the engraver and the jeweller.

 

Spiral steel structured necklace by Forge Fashion
Spiral steel structured necklace by Forge Fashion

Abbey, the woman behind Forge Fashion in New Zealand, is a corsetiere, costumiere and jeweller who has had her works modelled by celebrities like Lady Gaga. She creates stunning and elegant pieces with extra spiral steel bones, like this necklace. Her Etsy store can be found here.

 

Vollers Corset armcuff
Vollers “Downtown” Corset Armcuff, £325
Vollers corset necklace / choker
Vollers corset necklace / choker, £325

Vollers Corsets have had corset-inspired jewellery for many years, made in silver by a local jeweller exclusively for the oldest corset manufacturer in England. They have busk-themed and lacing-themed bracelets, rings, necklaces and even little busk-loop cufflinks options, and these are not your delicate costume jewellery – these are substantial, as you may derive from the photos! Unfortunately these listings no longer appear to be on the Vollers website, but last summer I spoke at length with Corina regarding their themed jewellery and their availability – if you’re interested in any of these pieces, I would encourage you to contact Vollers via email.

 

Miniature jute corset pendant made by Too Sweet
Miniature jute corset pendant made by Too Sweet – recreation of the original work by Snowblack Corsets
Recreation of RetroFolie's "Mucha" corset - pendant made by Too Sweet
Recreation of RetroFolie’s “Mucha” corset – pendant made by Too Sweet

Too Sweet from Poland is an incredibly talented designer who makes miniature versions of her favourite corsets – featured here are recreations of Snowblack’s “My Secret Garden” corset, and Retrofolie’s pattern matched corset featuring Alfons Mucha’s “Primrose and Feathers” (which I particularly love, as it’s a pendant inspired by a corset inspired by a painting). See more of Too Sweet’s creations here!

Jewellery for your Corsets

"Carmim Passion" adorned cupped overbust, made by Ferrer Corsets in Brazil
“Carmine Passion” adorned cupped overbust, made by Ferrer Corsets in Brazil
Custom cup jewellery for Ferrer's "Carmim Passion" overbust.
Custom cup jewellery for Ferrer’s “Carmine Passion” overbust.

I’m in love with this jewelled corset by Ferrer Corsets. The Carmine Passion corset is a radiant red cupped overbust with gold busk and grommets, and amazing sparkling golden wire “flames” with attached red and clear stones adorning the cups. In the second photo you can see how each piece starts with a curved base similar to the underwire of a bra, with small loops to sew it to the corset. Each one is built up and made to curve smoothly around the cup – and of course, would be made to order to fit the wearer.

 

Detachable corset chain by Institut Corsetologie on Etsy
Detachable corset chain by Institut Corsetologie, £35
Detachable Corset busk charm by Institut Corsetologie on Etsy
Detachable Corset busk charm by Institut Corsetologie, £5

Institut Corsetologie has an Etsy shop that sells one-of-a-kind adorable ornaments to add bling to your corsets, including little hanging tokens that can be hung from your busk, or dangling chains of multiple charms. They are made with your corset in mind, and Miss K ensures that the non-sharp pieces won’t catch on the outer fabric for your corset.

 

Sarah Chrisman, author of "This Victorian Life" and "Victorian Secrets" wearing her Chatelaine
Sarah Chrisman, author of “This Victorian Life” and “Victorian Secrets” wearing her Chatelaine

While not a piece of jewellery specifically for the corset, the chatelaine has a long and rich history amongst Victorian women and have been used to denote the status of the woman wearing it. Indeed, “chatelaine” means “woman of the house” (derived from the French word for a house for nobility, chateau) and the woman was the keeper of all the keys! While at first a glorified keychain, the chatelaine was later used to hold sewing tools, perfume, and other small tokens and notions, sometimes gilded and jewelled. Even if a chatelaine became heavy, the support from a corset would help distribute the weight. There have been a several proponents for bringing back a variation of the chatelaine, allowing people to hang their clutches, wallets and handbags from their corset – with style, of course! See my 2011 video of how I made my own chatelaine, or pick up a copy of Sarah Chrisman’s newest book (where she describes how she made her own chatelaine as well), “This Victorian Life“!

 

Do you know of any other corset jewellery, or do you make your own corset jewellery? Let me know in the comments and it may be added to this list!

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Can you wear your corset backwards?

Orchard Corset CS-426 red cotton

There are quite a few people out there who, if they decided to corset, would not be able to reach around and access any laces behind them – these may include people who may have limited mobility or strength in their arms and shoulders, or those who may use a wheelchair. Since front-lacing corsets are so few and far-between, it’s not uncommon for me to get the question, “Can you turn a regular corset back-to-front and wear it as a front-lacing corset?”

Truthfully, I wouldn’t recommend it. Your body is not symmetric from back-to-front. In the front of your body, you have your peritoneal organs and soft tissues; you have to worry about the corset being rigid enough to hold in the tummy and keep your abdomen supported and flat. Many people are also concerned about the corset being long enough to support the lower tummy, but short enough to be able to sit down comfortably in it.

In the back, you have your retroperitoneal organs, and a good corset will not affect these organs. The corset should be high enough in the back to prevent muffin top, and the bones in the back edges should be strong enough to support the grommets, but flexible enough to contour to the natural curve of the lumbar spine, and avoid pressing uncomfortably into the tailbone or the bum area.

So what happens when you wear a corset back-to-front? I demonstrate in the video below with three different corsets: a longline underbust, a mid-hip underbust, and a cincher. Watch the video below to see the conclusions.

Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 10.44.05 PM

Longline underbust corset (CS-426 from Orchard Corset), worn the right way:

  • The sturdy busk in front keeps the tummy flat.
  • There is this contoured shaping at the underbust and lap area.
  • There is the flat steel boning that is a little less rigid than the busk – so it can conform to your lumbar curve, but still support the grommets. 

Longline underbust corset, worn backwards:

  • The lumbar curve is mostly lost from the rigid busk – it’s forcing me into an unnatural posture.
  • I feel a little unsupported from the laces now in front; the laces are bowing at the lower tummy.
  • I feel a bit more pressure on my hips in the front, and less pressure on the back.
  • The cut on the top and bottom edge is too long in front so I cannot sit comfortably, and the contouring looks ridiculous from the back.
  • I feel that I cannot expand my lungs quite as much as when the corset is worn the right way around, because of the awkward/ unusual pressure on the back of my ribcage, and less in the front.

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Short-hipped underbust corset (Timeless Trends “Spring Delight” standard underbust), worn the right way:

  • Tapered panels in the center front cause the bones to converge towards the lower tummy and give more support.
  • At the bottom edge of the corset, there is less pressure on the sides (hips) than in the front.
  • Although the bones in the back are still less rigid than the busk, these bones are more sturdy than the bones used in the longline underbust.
  • There is some contouring of the top line to curve under the breasts, but not that much contouring at the lower edge.

Short-hipped underbust, worn backwards:

  • The support from the tapered panels has been lost from the center front, so I feel less flattening of my lower tummy and more pressure along the front hip. However, due to the sturdier bones compared to the last corset, I don’t feel as much bowing in the center front.
  • The rigid busk is not conforming to the natural curve of my spine – there is a gap between my spine and the corset.
  • The length now in front is slightly better compared to the last corset, but the contoured line in the back is still a little ridiculous and it accentuates my back fat. We need to try this experiment one more time, with a corset that’s nearly identical from back to front. 

Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 10.51.31 PM

Last try: Cincher (Orchard Corset CS-301, which has no contouring under the bust), worn the right way:

  • This corset is very short, and there is no contouring under the breasts or over the lap, so it shouldn’t look that bad when worn front to back.
  • There are only 4 panels on each side of this corset, and the shape of the panels are nearly identical from front to back, so I’m curious to see the fit.

Cincher, worn backwards:

  • This one is the least conspicuous when worn reversed (but it’s probably still a good idea to hide the busk in the back)
  • Busk is still not laying flat to my lumbar curve, and the bottom edge of the busk is poking into my sacrum uncomfortably.
  • The corset is angled a little bit, so that the now-front of the corset is not covering my tummy all the way.
  • There was a tendency for the bones by the grommets to bow in a ( ) shape. I felt that I needed a stiffened modesty panel to properly support and flatten the tummy.

Conclusion – although it is certainly possible to wear a corset from front-to-back and wear it as a front-lacing corset, it is not the most comfortable or flattering experience. If you require a front-lacing corset, would recommend commissioning a corsetiere to make you one specially, or I would recommend modifying a corset to replace the busk with some front lacing, so you can still wear the corset the right-way forward, but avoid complications with fit and comfort. However, wearing a corset upside-down, when more comfortable and more flattering for an individual than right-side up? That is still fair game.

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Orchard Corset CS-411 Underbust Review

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

Fit, length Center front is 10″, shortest part is 8.5″. It’s a shorter corset that fits closer to a cincher on my body. Gives a moderate hourglass shape – this is a Level 2 silhouette, so the ribcage is 4″ bigger than the waist, and the hips are about 8-9″ bigger than the waist.
Material 3 main layers – the outer coarse-weave poly-brocade fashion fabric, flatlined to a sturdy cotton interlining, and lined in twill.
Construction 4-panel pattern (8 panels total). The shape of the panels is very similar to the cincher by Isabella Corsetry, although the contours are slightly less, the ribcage and hips a little smaller. Constructed with a slightly modified sandwich technique.
Binding Binding at top and bottom are made from commercial black satin bias strips, machine stitched on both sides. There are no garter tabs in this corset.
Waist tape One-inch-wide waist tape running through the corset, hidden between the layers. I did not check to see if there was glue used in this one (see my CS-426 review if you want to know more about that particular corset).
Modesty panel There is a modesty panel on the back, made of a layer of black satin and a layer of twill. 5” wide (~3″ usable space) and attached to one side with a line of stitching.
Busk Slightly heavier busk, slightly under an inch wide and 9” long, with 4 pins. It is fairly sturdy; less bendy than a standard 1/2″ busk.
Boning 16 bones total in this corset. On each side, 6 of them are spirals about 3/8 inch wide and then there are two flat steel bones, both ¼” wide sandwiching the grommets.
Grommets There are 20 2-part size #00 grommets (10 on each side), with a small flange, spaced equidistantly. On the underside every grommet is split and quite scratchy, but they don’t catch on the laces so I can’t complain.
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 – you just have to tug a little harder to get the corset to stay closed because of the elasticity of the laces. However, Orchard has some higher quality laces (in several colours) available on their website – I very much prefer their ribbon laces to the standard shoelace style laces.
Price Currently $69 USD.

 

Final Thoughts:

Although this particular fashion fabric is not available to purchase through Orchard Corset (as it was a prototype), the cut of the corset, construction methods, and other fabrics/ materials should all be the same – so in this review I’m really commenting on these features as opposed to strictly the shell fabric.

I very much prefer this style of thicker poly-brocade compared to the thin shimmery satin shown in my CS-426 corset review. I found that satin had a tendency to wrinkle easily, when the satin started to pull in places, you could see the crossweaves of coral and brown threads and the wear of the corset was quite apparent. The satin also pulled and frayed easily where it had caught onto things (keep it away from any hooks, scratchy/sharp edges, or especially velcro!). This brocade is sturdier, doesn’t wrinkle as easily, is harder-wearing (doesn’t pull or fray as easily) and is better at hiding general wear and tear. A bird told me that Orchard may begin stocking all-cotton corsets in the future, which would be an even better choice for those looking for regular support.

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Black Mesh Corset Case Study

This entry is a summary of the video “Case Study: Homemade Mesh ‘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 11″ high, and I drafted this corset to be very curvy: underbust about 32″, closed waist 23″ and hips 34″. The elastic mesh also contributes to the extreme shape and curviness.
Material Heavyweight powernet (quite stretchy) for most of the panels, and black satin coutil for the first and last panels, the boning channels and the diamond waist tape.
Construction Essentially a 6-panel pattern although the last panel is separated into two to make 7 panels. First, the powernet panels were sewn together wrong sides together and flat-felled with the bulk being on the outside of the body. Then I added the center front coutil panels, with the diamond waist basted in front. The diamond extends into a waist tape, which was basted at each seam, then I secured the external channels down on top of it. The back coutil panel went on last, then I added the busk and bones, and lastly serged the top and bottom edges.
Binding There is no binding on this *yet*. I had serged the raw edges to keep them from fraying. This allows the mesh to stretch. Conventional binding would not allow the top and bottom edges of the corset to stretch. However I may later add an elastic or mesh binding.
Waist tape The diamond detail made from satin coutil extends into a waist tape that is slightly more than 1 inch wide, and placed on the external side of the corset, secured down at the boning channels.
Modesty panel I didn’t make a modesty panel for this corset because I designed it to close completely at the back. There is a small modesty placket in the front by the busk.
Busk A standard flexible busk, 1/2” wide on each side, with 5 pins, 9.5″ long. Although it is quite flexible, having 3 layers of satin coutil surrounding the busk makes the front panel quite sturdy.
Boning 20 bones total in this corset (not including the busk). On each side there are eight 1/4″ wide spirals in external channels, then a 1/2″ wide flat steel on the center back edge of the grommet panel, and a 1/4″ steel on the “inner” side of the grommets.
Grommets There are 26 2-part size #00 grommets (13 on each side). I used self-piercing grommets to insert these, placing the grommets closer together than I normally would and making sure the grommets are snug between the two flat bones. So far they have all held up well.
Laces Some old black cotton shoe-lace style. More lightweight than nylon laces but not as strong. I just used whatever I had lying around.
Price This corset was quite time consuming due to the flat-felled seams and external channels and waistband. Also the powernet and satin coutil were both expensive materials. If I were to remake this corset (with a more pristine finish) it would likely start at no less than $280.

Final thoughts:

This is an extremely comfy corset. I also feel that I’m able to very easily cinch down in this corset – I wish I had drafted it to be another inch or two smaller! The powernet is forgiving of curves and makes my asymmetric hips look symmetric, while giving me absolutely zero pinching or discomfort.

The only disappointments I had with this corset was a) the asymmetry in the diamond detail, and b) the rough finish of the serged edges. I may end up adding binding to this corset (either elastic or mesh) although that would somewhat ruin its ability to be worn inconspicuously under clothing, and I’m not sure how even elastic binding would bring back the dreaded muffin top which is currently so nicely avoided.

Overall I think this experiment turned out much nicer than I had anticipated, and I think I will use this as a sleeping corset in the future! However I do need to practice my “finishing” of corsets, even when they’re experiments or prototypes.

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How to Fasten your Corset Busk

Depending on the brand, some corsets have trickier busks than others. I have some corsets that clasp up in two seconds, while other ones I’ve struggled for 5-10 minutes to get those last few knobs and loops to match up. Sometimes I would bend the busk this way and that way, or lay down on the floor, or end up doing some kind of strange acrobatics to clasp up the busk… usually by the end of the struggle, I’d be exhausted and sweaty.

If this is you, have no fear! I’ve finally unlocked the secret to fastening virtually any corset busk. ;) Here are the steps:

  1. Loosen the laces as much as possible. There should be no “slack” in the bunny ears at the waistline, and the gap in the back of the corset should be as wide as it will go.
  2. Wrap the corset around yourself. There should be absolutely no struggle, in fact it may be so loose on you that if you let go, it may even slide down over your hips.
  3. Start by clasping the 2nd bracket from the top. If you do up the very top or the very bottom one first, then it can result in the busk acting like a “hinge” which makes you lose control.
  4. After that first clasp (2nd from the top) is done, take the knob side of the busk in your left hand. Fold the fabric back behind the busk bone itself so you can pinch the busk between your thumb and fingers.
  5. You should then be able to use your thumb behind the knob side of the busk to keep it straight and push each knob through the corresponding loop.
  6. Some people notice that the very bottom bracket or clasp is the most difficult to fasten. One lovely viewer has suggested sticking your arm down inside the corset with your left hand, palm facing forward (away from you) so you can grab onto the bottom of the busk and fasten it up.
  7. Once you have finished all the lower knobs and loops, go back up to the top and fasten that one as well. Sometimes when you are fastening the lower ones, you may observe the top ones starting to undo themselves. That’s okay, just fasten them up again at the end.

And you’re done! You can now tighten the laces as much as you find comfortable. This method has never failed for me, even on my most difficult corset busks.

When taking off your corset, once again loosen the laces as far as they will go. I find it easiest to start by undoing the bottom bracket and working my way up to the top. Be careful not to struggle and pull the loop directly away from the knob until the little “rivet head” of the knob can be sure to not catch onto the loop. Too much upward pressure in this direction can result in the knob popping out of the busk bone, even in the highest quality German-made busks!

To see a demonstration on how to clasp and unclasp your busk, see this video:

Happy lacing!

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“Disco Armadillo” PVC Ribbon Cincher Case Study

This entry is a summary of the video “‘DISCO ARMADILLO’ PVC Ribbon Corset”. If you would like more complete information and side notes about the corset, you can watch the video on YouTube here:

***

This was my first attempt at sewing a corset from vinyl. I have to thank Marta “Snowblack” for her wonderful  Foundations Revealed tutorial on sewing leather and vinyl corsetry. Just a few things that I have learned about handling vinyl:

  • The material stretches (so you must back it with coutil) however it does not drape like most other fabrics.
  • It is also not a self-healing fabric, and will show all pinpricks. Therefore you should pin your panels only in the seam allowances.
  • Using a teflon foot (or a piece of tissue between the vinyl and the presser foot) will help the vinyl to feed smoothly without dragging or sticking to the presser foot.
  • Lastly, feed dogs will leave permanent marks into the bottom of the vinyl, especially if it has a metallic foil finish. Putting tissue or masking tape on the underside of your fabric (where your seam line will be) will protect your fabric from the feed dogs digging in.
***

Here is the overview of my Disco Armadillo, in typical review form:

Fit, length Center front is 10.5″ high, and I drafted this corset to be very curvy: underbust about 32″, closed waist 24″ and hips 34″.
Material Just two layers; the outer PVC ribbon and the inner coutil.
Construction 5-panel pattern – three vertical panels at front/side/back to hold the bones, and two ribbon panels. I learned how to draft a ribbon corset from Sidney Eileen’s ribbon corset sewing tutorial. The coutil panels aren’t “ribboned” like the outer pieces; rather they are in one piece. Most seams are topstitched as I was afraid that lockstitching would cause the PVC to become too perforated and tear apart. However at the busk, seams were lockstitched nonetheless as it looked better. Some edges of the ribbon were left raw, as folding those edges under would be too bulky.
Binding There is binding at the top and bottom of the vertical panels only; the ribbon panels do not have binding. I also left the inside edge of the binding raw – this is normal with binding made out of leathers or vinyls.
Waist tape Ribbon corsets typically don’t have a waist tape; a horizontal piece of ribbon running around the waist will act like a waist tape anyway.
Modesty panel I didn’t make a modesty panel for this corset because I designed it to close completely at the back.
Busk A standard flexible busk, 1/2” wide on each side, with 5 pins, 9.5″ long. Although it is quite flexible, having 3 layers of PVC ribbon surrounding the busk makes the front panel quite stiff and sturdy.
Boning Only 8 bones total in this corset (not including the busk), only boned on the vertical panels. There are two spring steel bones sandwiching each row of grommets at the back, and an additional two bones on each side panel, all 3/8″ wide.
Grommets There are 20 2-part size #00 grommets (10 on each side). I used self-piercing grommets and a new press to insert these, and they work very well with the PVC. I placed a layer of heavy canvas in the grommet panel to give the grommets more to “grab onto” and to prevent the PVC from stretching. There are no splits and the grommets are holding up quite well with regular use.
Laces I used some 100% nylon purple paracord – it’s extremely strong (holds tension up to 500 lbs) and has no stretch, is resistant to fraying but has a tendancy to twist. You will definitely need a square knot or bow (not a round one) to keep your corset securely tied at the back.
Price Ribbon corsets in general are not particularly difficult but they are time-consuming and require a bit of pre-planning. I would most likely place a typical satin-and-coutil ribbon corset at around $150. However, because the PVC ribbon is extremely challenging to work with and also quite expensive ($10/meter when not on sale, and this corset used 9 meters), I wouldn’t remake this corset for less than $250.
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CorsetDeal Blue Sweetheart Overbust (“Oiseau” style, chiffon hips) Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Blue Sweetheart ‘Oiseau’ overbust (with chiffon hips) 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 11″, from peak of the bust to the bottom is 14″ and the sides are about 15.5 inches. I’d recommend this corset for someone with a very short torso, or 5’2” or under. The silhouette is a very gentle hourglass – it does cinch me in a couple of inches, and the chiffon on the hips creates the illusion of wider hips which may be great for those who are looking to fill out any boyish figure.
Material Blue areas are 2 layers – the outer brocade and the inner cotton twill. On the hips, there are three layers – black satin covered in the gathered chiffon, and once again lined in the black cotton twill.
Construction 6 panel pattern. Panels are top-stitched at the seams, and then internal boning channels laid down, made of black twill.
Binding Binding at top and bottom are made from commercial black satin bias cut ribbon. It’s machine stitched on both sides, folded under nicely on the front and then topstitched to catch the rest of the binding on the underside. Also has 6 garter tabs.
Waist tape Internal waist tape made from 1” wide single-faced satin ribbon. It’s secured down at the boning channels. Far too high to actually be useful for me.
Modesty panel Unboned modesty panel, 8 inches wide made from polyester pinstripe on the outside and black twill on the underside. No placket beneath the busk.
Busk Slightly heavy duty, almost 1″ on each side. Stiffer than a standard flexible busk. 14″ long with 6 pins.
Boning 14 steel bones in this corset not including the busk. Single boned on the seams. The two bones that curve over the bust are made of spiral steel; all the other bones in this corset are spring steel. The bones on the sides stop well above the hip, so this style may be comfortable for those who don’t like the feeling of bones over the hips in longline corsets.
Grommets There are 24, 2-part size #00 grommets (12 on each side), finished in nickel. The grommets are sturdy with moderate size lip around, there is no fraying around the material, they’re not pulling out.
Laces Black flat nylon braided shoe-lace style. Very strong, grips fairly well. It has a little bit of spring. They are resistant to fraying and catching.
Price Currently $164 USD (£105 in UK).

 

Final Thoughts:
I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting when I bought this. It looked amazing on the website. I thought that the chiffon would simply accentuate the waist-hip ratio, but I wasn’t anticipating that the chiffon pieces would come up so high on the torso – in profile, the fluffy chiffon pieces actually make my abdomen look as if it’s protruding. It also doesn’t help that, in order to keep everything PG, I have to hike the corset up so that its waist tape is 2-3 inches above my natural waist. This is both uncomfortable and it looks terrible with my figure. On a person with a smaller bust and much shorter torso, I think this corset would sit better.

For those interested in trying a corset from CorsetDeal, I’ve found a coupon for 20% off anything on the CorsetDeal site here (aff link).

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Orchard Corset Maroon Underbust (CS-426) Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Orchard Corset Maroon Underbust (CS-426) Review”. If you would like more complete information and side notes about the corset, you can watch the video on YouTube here:

Fit, length Gives a nice hourglass shape – this is a Level 3 silhouette, gives the most extreme curves. Center front is 13″, shortest part is 10.5″. Longline corset that comes over the hips. Quite comfortable.
Material 3 main layers – the outer satin fashion fabric, flatlined to a sturdy cotton interlining, and lined in twill.
Construction 6-panel pattern (12 panels total). The shape of the panels is very, very similar to the Josephine corset by Isabella Corsetry, although the contours are slightly less, the ribcage and hips a little smaller. Constructed with a slightly modified sandwich technique.
Binding Binding at top and bottom are made from matching maroon satin, double-thickness. I like how it’s very narrow. It’s machine stitched on both sides, folded under nicely on the front and then stitched in the ditch between the corset and the binding, to catch the rest of the binding on the underside.
Waist tape One-inch-wide waist tape running through the corset, hidden between the layers and glued to the lining.
Modesty panel There is a modesty panel on the back, made of a layer of satin and a layer of twill. 5” wide and attached to one side with a line of stitching, reinforced with glue.
Busk Standard busk, half an inch wide and 11” long, and 5 pins. However it’s less bendy than other busks of the same width, which is one perk.
Boning 22 bones total in this corset. On each side, 9 of them are spirals about 3/8 inch wide and then there are two flat steel bones, both ¼” wide sandwiching the grommets.
Grommets There are 24 2-part size #00 grommets (12 on each side). They have a medium lip around. They’re spaced equidistantly about 1” apart. I see some fraying and coming away of the fashion fabric around some of the grommets around the waist. On the underside every grommet is split and quite scratchy, they catch on the laces, the modesty panel and my shirt.
Laces The laces are ¼” wide flat nylon shoe-lace style. I find them to be long enough, a little springy but that’s alright because they’re still strong – you just have to tug a little harder to get the corset to stay closed because of the elasticity of the laces, is all – not a big deal.
Price Currently $95 USD, but you can save 10% by using the coupon code CORSETLUCY

 

Final Thoughts:
I really do like the shape this corset gives; it’s quite curvy (especially for its price). I wish they hadn’t used so much glue in the manufacturing, and that they could spend just a little more on higher quality grommets.

Lastly, one thing that made me PO’d (perhaps not the company’s fault but the shipper’s fault) was that I bought it on sale (around $59) but when it was shipped to me, the value on the package was stated as the original $95 which resulted in my having to pay higher duty/taxes coming into Canada. I ended up paying nearly as much in shipping/duty than I paid for the corset itself! International customers, be aware of this before you buy.

*** EDIT January 2014 – it’s been a couple of years since this review, and a few things have changed. Orchard Corset’s newer stock has higher quality grommets with fewer splits, and they recently introduced all cotton corsets, which are more sturdy than the satin ones and much less prone to coming away at the seams or having the bones pop out. Additionally, the owner of Orchard Corset mentioned that several years ago, they had placed the value of the parcel as product+shipping, which is why the price was so high and I was hit with duty. These days, OC says that they only place the value of the merchandise (the literal price paid for the corset itself) as the value of the parcel, and they don’t include the shipping price, so duty should be much lower for international customers.

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“Wrinkly Pig” Corset Case Study

This entry is a summary of the review video “Wrinkly Pig” Corset Case Study”. If you would like more complete information and side notes about the corset, you can watch the video on YouTube here:

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Note: the following are the differences between the “Wrinkly Pig” and the “Tickled Pink” corset in terms of construction:

  Wrinkly Pig Tickled Pink
Fusing Fused the brocade to a layer of woven fusible interfacing, then flatlined that to coutil. Fused the brocade directly to a layer of coutil using “Heat n’ Bond” (fiddly sheet of glue, I don’t recommend it).
Roll-pinning Everything was flat-pinned, not roll-pinned. Some roll-pinning was done on the side panels.
Seams Lock-stitched seams; allowances were not trimmed or clipped at curves. Seams were trimmed and flat-felled.
Boning channels Double-boned at the seams, sandwiched between two layers of coutil. Single boned at the seams, used external boning channels (cuts down on wrinkles slightly)

***

And here is my review:

Fit, length Decent curves. Used to be a slightly long-line corset but I later shortened the hips so it is more of a cincher now. Center front is about 11″ long.
Material 4 layers including the interfacing: brocade fashion fabric fused to interfacing, then flatlined to interlining of coutil and another lining of coutil.
Construction 6-panel pattern. Seams were lock-stitched (stitched twice) at the seams, the allowances were pressed open. The brocade/interfacing/coutil flatlined panels were all assembled, then the coutil lining was assembled. The layers were then stitched together at first/last panels, flipped right-side out and stitched in the ditch between panels and also secured at boning channels.  Bones are sandwiched between the two layers of coutil.
Binding The binding at top and bottom are made out of commercial hot pink cotton bias tape, machine stitched on both sides.
Waist tape 1” wide twill tape between the coutil lining and interlining, stitched invisibly so it’s not noticeable.
Modesty panel Suspended modesty panel made from brocade fused to twill, and stiffened with plastic canvas. 7″ wide.
Busk A standard flexible busk, 1/2” wide on each side, with 5 pins, 9.5″ long.
Boning 22 steel bones in this corset not including the busk. The seams between the panels are double-boned (except the seam closest to the grommets with ¼” inch wide spirals, and there are a pair of flats sandwiching each column of grommets.
Grommets There are 30 2-part size #X00 eyelets (15 on each side). They have a medium flange around and are spaced out 3/4 inches apart. No pulling away of fabric yet but they are very small so many types of fat cord is hard to thread through.
Laces 1/2″ wide double-face satin ribbon, baby pink in colour. About 5 meters and not really long enough for my tastes. I think I may change out the laces for some longer ones.
Price If I were to re-make this corset, I would roll-pin the panels and also use wonder-under or stitch-witchery to directly fuse the brocade to a layer of coutil to eliminate wrinkling. Keeping other construction techniques the same, I would likely charge around $260 USD for a corset like this.
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Gallery Serpentine Victorian Underbust Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Gallery Serpentine Victorian Underbust Review”. If you would like more complete information and side notes about the corset, you can watch the video on YouTube here:

Fit, length Victorian Hourglass shape, nice moderate curves. Center front is 13”. Stops just at the upper hips, it is not longline. One “pro” is the unique feature of how low the corset stops on the back, it curves nicely over the top of the bum instead of cutting into it. One “con” is how distended my torso looks in profile.
Material 3 main layers – the outer satin, a thick cotton non-woven interfacting as interlining, and black twill lining.
Construction Made from a 4-panel pattern. The satin and the heavy interlining are either flat-felled or fused together (depending on whether the interfacing was fusible or not), then those panels are topstitched at the seams. Bones are placed either in the seam allowances between the panels, or internal channels are made with twill tape.
Binding Binding at top and bottom are made from black satin bias tape. Folded under nicely on the outside; on the inside the raw edge is serged to prevent fraying and just stitched down flat.
Waist tape None.
Modesty panel None. To get a modesty panel costs another $15 from the website.
Busk Standard busk (flexible), half an inch wide and 12” long, and 6 pins.
Boning 12 bones total in this corset, 6 on each side. All of them are plastic. These are heavier-duty polypropeline bones but I would still prefer steel. To get the steel bone upgrade costs another $15 from the website.
Grommets There are 18 2-part size #0 grommets (9 on each side) and have a medium flange. They’re spaced 1.5” apart on the top and bottom and are spaced closer together (1” apart) at the waist for better cinching control. Grommets are very sturdy, no popping out, no fraying. However I would have preferred to have 10 more grommets because lacing down is difficult on the top and bottom. On the underside there are no splits; they’re nicely set.
Laces The laces I received with this corset are reportedly not the original laces. The laces I got are 1/4″ wide single faced satin ribbon, quite slippery and difficult to grip. The laces that I have read now come with the corset are black shoelace-style laces.
Price Currently $190 (AUD) for basic fabric and standard sizes. $210 for made-to-measure, and add $10 more for Asian brocade fabrics. Note that steel bones/modesty panel also cost extra.

Final Thoughts:
This… was not my favourite style. A lot of people noticed that my review was blasé. Perhaps my review would have been more fair if I had spent some extra funds to get a made-to-measure item with steel bones, but for financial reasons and accessibility, this was the right option at the time. I doubt I would buy from them again, but I guess I should never say never. Many of their happier customers have contacted me to say that their corsets are much more flattering, better constructed and include things like a modesty panel, so perhaps there are several makers for that company and there are inconsistencies between their products. I will give them the benefit of the doubt, however this one simply did not go well with my body type and looked unflattering on me. I ended up altering this corset by adding steel bones and a modesty panel.

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Isabella Corsetry “Josephine” Underbust Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Isabella Corsetry Josephine Underbust Review”. If you would like more complete information and side notes about the corset, you can watch the video on YouTube here:

Fit, length Dramatic curves, extreme hourglass. This is a longline corset coming over my hips. The center front is 13” high; the shortest part of the corset is 10.5″ hiugh.
Material 3 main layers. The outer fashion fabric is black satin, then there’s a layer of twill as interlining and another layer of black twill as lining.
Construction Made from a 6-panel pattern (so the corset itself is 12 panels total). It looks as though the coutil panels were lock-stitched at the seams, the allowances were pressed open. The layers are joined together by stitching in the ditch between the panels and also by making boning channels. The stitching is perfect on the outside, but the seams are wiggly on the inside. The lining does not float. Bones are sandwiched between the two layers of twill (lining and interlining).
Binding The binding at top and bottom made out of black satin bias tape machine stitched on both sides; it’s small on the outside, then folded under and machine stitched in the ditch, in the seam between the corset and the binding itself, to catch the rest of the binding underneath.
Waist tape 1” wide twill tape between the lining and interlining, invisibly stitched.
Modesty panel There an unboned modesty panel in the back made from two layers of just satin. Slightly over 6” wide.  Easily removable if you want to remove it. No modesty placket on the front.
Busk A heavy duty busk, slightly under 1” wide on each side and 11” long, with 5 pins, it’s EXTREMELY stiff. Keeps the front very straight.
Boning 22 steel bones in this corset not including the busk. On each side there are 9 spirals about 3/8” wide, and they’re mostly double boned at the seams except for at the back between panels 5-6. By the grommets they also use about 3/8” wide flat steels; very sturdy.
Grommets There are 30 2-part size #00 grommets (15 on each side). Black finish to match the rest of the corset, they have a medium lip around and are spaced equidistantly. Functionally they’re very sturdy, no popping or pulling away, whatsoever. On the underside there are no splits – much nicer than the grommets used in Isabella’s Bat cincher.
Laces 1/2” wide black double satin ribbon. They’re very nice, strong, pretty, glide through the grommets nicely and also seem to hold the bow well with little slipping out over time.
Price Currently $175 USD for immediate line. For other fabrics (made-to-order) it’s $250, and for custom fit/fabric it’s $360.

Final Thoughts:
This corset continues to be one of my favourite off-the-rack underbust corsets. It’s comfortable and gives a crazy curvy silhouette – to this day, I think I have gotten more compliments when wearing this corset than with any other off-the-rack corset. It’s relatively affordable compared to other major brands out there. The only con I could say is that Isabella is quickly gaining more and more recognition and thus she’s becoming busier, so wait times have been increasing for her corsets! However, I’m happy that she’s overflowing with commissions; I think her work should be credited. I could definitely see myself commissioning another piece from Isabella in the future.

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Heavenly Corsets Wasp-Waist Training Underbust Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Heavenly Corsets “Wasp-Waist” Training Underbust Review”. If you would like more complete information and side notes about the corset, you can watch the video on YouTube here:

***

Note: the following are the differences between the “standard” wasp-waist corset and the “training” wasp-waist corset:

  Training Corset Standard Corset
Materials Always made in coutil, with an inner layer of twill, and a cotton lining layer Either a layer of outer fabric (unless coutil) with an inner layer of twill and cotton lining layer OR if you chose coutil, a single layer of coutil and a cotton lining layer
Boning double boning throughout 6 fewer bones than the trainer
Busk wide solid steel busk standard steel busk
Modesty Panel included NOT included
Seams triple-stitched seams double-stitched seams

***

And here is my review:

Fit, length Dramatic curves, “wasp-waisted”. This is a longline corset coming over my hips. The center front is 12” high. Measurements (both circumference and vertical) were taken to fit my body; quite comfortable with no pinching. One issue with the bones in the back bowing outwards and twisting so creates a gap at the waistline.
Material 3 main layers. The outer fashion fabric is red satin coutil, twill interlining and lightweight cotton lining inside.
Construction 6-panel pattern. It looks as though the coutil panels were lock-stitched (stitched twice) at the seams, the allowances were pressed open and zigzag stitched again. (Some people may not find this aesthetic but if it makes for a strong corset then I don’t mind.) Bones are sandwiched between the satin coutil and the twill, and the cotton lining is primarily floating.
Binding The binding at top and bottom are made out of commercial red satin bias tape machine stitched on both sides; it’s folded under and stitched in the front and then topstitched to catch the back.
Waist tape 1” wide twill tape between the lining and the twill interlining. Stitched down horizontally across all the panels of the lining (so is not invisible but still cannot be felt).
Modesty panel Unboned modesty panel, 4.5 inches wide made from satin coul on the outside and lightweight cotton on the underside. No placket beneath the busk. (I would have preferred a slightly wider panel.)
Busk A heavy duty busk, 1” wide on each side, with 5 pins, it’s quite stiff and it’s 11” long.
Boning 22 steel bones in this corset not including the center front, ALL flat bones. The seams between the panels are double-boned (except the seam closest to the busk) with 3/8 inch wide flats (slightly wider than ¼”), but on the outer edge of the grommets in the back those bones are ½” wide flats.
Grommets There are 20 2-part size #00 eyelets (10 on each side). They have a medium flange around and are spaced out 1¼ inches apart. I would prefer for them to be spaced closer together and there be more of them, but functionally they’re sound; no pulling away or fraying of the fabric. On the underside there are no splits.
Laces  ¼” wide flat braided cotton laces, NOT nylon. They’re easy to pull and they grip well, not much wear so far. Cotton laces are sometimes prone to snapping so should be replaced more often, however I’ve had this corset for about 9 months and haven’t had to change the laces yet.
Price Currently £160 ($250) for the 23/7 waist training wasp-waist corset, or £120 ($185) for the non-training wasp-waist corset.

Final Thoughts:

I received a mixed reaction from this review. A few previous customers of Elle came forward and told me that they didn’t like certain aspects about this style of corset, such as a wobbly stitch line here or there, or the fact that she uses all spring steel bones. I put all this into perspective. Back in 2012, I hadn’t found a more affordable 23/7 training piece, and the materials used (including English coutil) are quite high quality. From what I can see, the primary stitch lines (the straight ones, holding the panels together) are straight and even, and although the zig-zag stitching (which is technically the 3rd stitch on each panel) does veer a bit and is not aesthetically pleasring, it still serves its purpose – to further reinforce the panels together. At that point in the construction process, it has no effect on the overall shape or measurement of the corset.

This did not come as a surprise to me, because I asked Elle a thousand questions before I ordered (and she was quite patient with me every time). The purpose of this corset (for me) wasn’t meant to be pretty or be shown off on a regular basis, it was meant to be strong.

Edit December 2014:

It’s been about 4 years since I ordered this corset, and nearly 3 years since the review – truthfully, I had forgotten about this corset review until recent events brought it back to my attention.
How did my corset hold up? The seams remained strong and none of the bones wore through their channels, but the very flexible bones in the back by the grommets became annoying, so I ended up switching them out for stronger (but more narrow) 5.5mm steels from Vena Cava. I also added more grommets between the pre-existing ones in the back of the corset for better control (the size #00 self-piercing grommets that fit the C-Step 2 machine are a decent match), and changed the lacing style. This was the only issue I experienced with my corset. However, other clients of Elle have had different experiences than myself, and I encourage you to read some of the comments below so you can gain a balanced view before deciding.

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Isabella Corsetry “Bat Cincher” Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Isabella Corsetry Bat Cincher Review”. If you would like more complete information, detailed close-ups and side notes about the corset, you can watch the video on YouTube here:

Fit, length Dramatic curves, I would say “wasp-waisted”. This corset starts lower down on the ribcage on me so I have room to move and to breathe, yet this is a longline corset coming over my hips. The center front is 11.5” high.
Material 3 main layers. The fashion fabric is a custom-printed cotton which is interfaced. There’s a twill interlining and another layer of black twill for the lining.
Construction 4 panel pattern. This constructed in what seems to be the sandwich method; each layer was assembled individually and then the layers were stitched, wrong sides together, at the seam of each panel. Bones are inserted between the two layers of twill (being the lining and interlining).
Binding The binding at top and bottom are made of lime green satin bias tape. Each curve between the peaks of the “bat” shape are individually bound. It’s stitched neatly on the outside, and then just folded down and machine stitched again in the “ditch” of the first stitching.
Waist tape 1-inch-wide waist tape running through the corset between the layers (inserted invisibly).
Modesty panel None.
Busk A heavy duty busk with 5 pins, it’s quite stiff and 1” wide on each side. 11″ long.
Boning 16 steel bones not including the busk. The seams between the panels are all double-boned with ¼ inch wide spirals, and then 3/16 inch wide sturdy flats on each side of the grommets.
Grommets There are 26, 2-part size #00 grommets (13 on each side). I’m very impressed at how well the grommets have held up. None of them show any sign of pulling out whatsoever, despite the fact that every one is split along the back.
Laces Came with ½” wide ivory double-faced satin ribbon which has held up remarkably well.
Price Bat cincher available as “made to order” for $225. If you want custom fit, the closest other corset is the “Vamp” at $350.

Final Thoughts:
This corset is cute as a button. I adore the crazy fabric print (although that is to be credited to the original person who commissioned this corset) and the cut of this corset is crazy curvy. I’m still impressed by how curvy Isabella managed to make this with just four panels per side. I did have issues with this corset, like a wobbly binding seam here or there, and the split, small grommets, and admittedly the flesh over my ribcage did give a “muffin top” over the top edge (that may have been because it was made to another girl’s measurements and not mine) – however, when comparing this corset to the Josephine, there is a great difference! I know that the Bat cincher is a couple of years older than my Josephine corset, so I have the unique opportunity to see how the workmanship of a corsetiere has changed and improved in a short time. This is why I don’t want to say “never” in terms of ordering twice from a (fairly reputable) company. If I have reason to believe that their work has improved, I will sometimes give them the benefit of the doubt even when my previous experience wassn’t 100% positive or as expected.