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How Vollers Makes Their Corsets: A Factory Tour!

Welcome to the detailed tour of the corset factory in Portsmouth England from back in 2015, where we’ll see how Vollers Corsets makes their corsets.

A surprising number of tools and attachments used in this video were the same ones used 50 or even nearly 100 years ago, and it’s a bit like walking back in time, seeing how their workroom is optimized to make a simple underbust in as little as a couple of hours.

Don’t let that fool you though – each machine (and the machine’s operator) is specialized for a specific task, and many of their employees and members have been working with Vollers for decades. This means that they are highly skilled at what they do, and it also means they’ve seen how the family-owned brand has grown and changed – and how some parts have stayed the same!

While the various parts of this video were filmed out of order (and several different corsets were being assembled at once, so you may see the corset style change), I’ve tried to organize it here chronologically in order of how a corset would normally be assembled.

If you’d like to skip ahead to any specific part of the assembly process, use the time points below. Enjoy!

  • 0:25 Antique corset patterns
  • 1:25 Cutting the corset patterns
  • 1:40 Corset busks of various lengths
  • 1:45 Cording panels (sent to a processing house)
  • 2:30 Organizing WIP (work in progress) corsets for different orders
  • 3:30 Cutting spiral steel bones to length and adding on U-tips
  • 4:50 Sewing on the boning channels (twin-needle machine)
  • 5:45 Inserting the steel bones
  • 6:00 Installing the busk (both sides)
  • 7:30 Sewing on the binding (single pass using a binding attachment)
  • 8:20 Securing the binding with a bar-tack
  • 8:45 Modesty placket & modesty panel (back flap)
  • 9:50 Inserting eyelets
  • 11:00 Lacing up the finished corset

What parts did you like about the corset assembly process? What parts would you do differently? Leave a comment below!

And click here if you’d like to see the Vollers Corsets Interview, or click here to go to the Vollers website.

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England Adventures: Oxford Conference of Corsetry (OCOC), Interviews, Factory Tour & More!


At last, after 2 years I’m sharing with you some highlights of my trip to England, and what you can expect at the Oxford Conference of Corsetry if you choose to attend in the future.

There were unfortunately some restrictions placed on what could be photographed or filmed and what couldn’t, and so I filmed very little in 2014 (the first year I attended). In 2015 I filmed a little more, after seeing what other attendees freely filmed / photographed without getting a slap on the wrist – but here’s a nonexhaustive list of limitations (just so you won’t be underwhelmed by the lack of footage in the video above).

  • At Jesus College, where conference was held, you’re not allowed to portray it in any way that could be considered an advertisement.
  • You’re not allowed to show certain signs or crests or logos in video or photography.
  • Regarding the conference itself, I was respectful of attendees who didn’t want to be shown on camera (but when you’re at a conference you’re constantly surrounded by people).
  • I would have loved to do a dozen corset reviews or interviews at the conference as well, but I was not allowed to favour the work of any one maker over the others (if I interviewed one, I would have to interview all of them, and there wasn’t enough time to do so).
  • You’re was also not allowed to film the models or photographers when they were at work.
  • Obviously you’re not allowed to film the workshops in their entirety, as that could be giving away the presenters’ trade secrets.

So what was left that I could film included old architecture and gardens, the backs of people’s heads, tiny snippets of talks, and piles and piles of corsets (of course, the corsets were the whole reason I was there!). I’ve pulled together what I could here, and in this video I’ll also be talking about what I got up to before and after the conference (in both 2014 and 2015).

 

Corset Pilgrimage, 2014: Oxford, London, Leicestershire, Birmingham, Bath

Lowana of Vanyanis (right) and myself in the car (also with Jenni of Sparklewren in the front seat), all of us excited to head to OCOC 2014!

The location itself felt like I was staying at Hogwarts. I’m not certain if there are any buildings in Canada that are quite as old as those in Oxford, and I felt a combination of reverence and the heebie-jeebies. You could choose whether you wanted to share rooms with a friend or whether you wanted your own place (I recommend bunking with a friend – it’s less expensive as well). When you check in at the college, they assign you your room. Attendees are all scattered around the college, you’re not all in one giant rez.

At the conference there’s always a room with a corset pile on a giant table. Corset makers can bring their corsets and label them and leave them here for the weekend for all other attendees to study and try on (if you allow trying on of your corsets). This room is locked after hours so your belongings are protected. Again, I was not allowed to conduct any interviews or corset reviews at the conference, but I did do a couple of interviews (Beata Sievi of Entre-Nous in Bath, and Lowana O’Shea of Vanyanis in London) after the conference in 2014.

Autograph for Christine Wickham from Mr Pearl. It reads, “To Dear Christine / Love is the Messge / Love has no time or space. / Mr Pearl”

There was also a table set up for Christine Wickham, of Ariadne’s Thread, as it was her crowdfunding that helped me afford to travel to England to the OCOC in the first place. Christine passed away unexpectedly in July 2014, just a few months after the campaign ended, and a month before the Conference of Corsetry. I commissioned Sarah Chrisman to hand-bind a book with blank pages, and anyone could come and write a note to Christine or to her family.
I ended up bringing the book 2 years in a row, and at the conference in 2015, the one and only Mr Pearl signed her book.

On the Saturday night, there is a dinner gala where you can dress up in formal or semiformal wear, and many of the corsetieres wore their own creations.
In 2014, the special guest and keynote speaker was Autumn Adamme of Dark Garden, and how her business had evolved over 25 years.

Some of the classes and workshops in 2014 included:

  • Drawing inspiration from architecture and nature, guided by Alison of Crikey Aphrodite
  • Couture hand finishing techniques by Ian Frazer Wallace of Whitechapel Workhouse
  • Studying antique corsets including the bird’s wing corset, with Jenni of Sparklewren
  • Grading different sizes for standard sized collections by Marianne of Pop Antique
  • Working with Worbla and other interesting materials with Barbara of Royal Black

Let’s rewind a bit and talk about going to the Symington corset collection in Leicestershire before the 2014 conference. I made plans to meet Lowana of Vanyanis at the airport, and we made an appointment to study some of the antique corsets in their collections. It was simply amazing; we were allowed to touch the corsets with clean bare hands. See the video for many examples of the corsets we studied there.

This antique corset has teeny tiny stitches – about 25 per inch – and it was considered impressive if the corset lasted 12 months before needing replacement!
Corset courtesy of the Symington Museum Collections in Leicester, UK.

After the museum, Lowana and I went to Birmingham to the Jewellery quarter and spent a day at Sparklewren’s studio. Marianne of Pop Antique was there too, and Lowana hired Inaglo Photography for a day there. I also had a small turn in front of the camera.

After the 2014 conference, I toured different parts of London and Bath – parts with Lowana and Beata, and parts solo. I was particularly excited to visit the roman baths, because my grandmother visited them in the 70s and loved them so much. I’m named after my grandmother but never met her, and it was of an odd importance to me that I walked the same areas she did when she visited England over 40 years ago.

Again, if you’d like to see the interviews I did in Engand in 2014, click here for Beata Sievi of Entre-Nous in Bath, and Lowana O’Shea of Vanyanis in London.

That was the summary of my whirlwind 2014 England trip! Continue reading to learn what I got up to in 2015.


Corset Pilgrimage, 2015: Oxford, London, Portsmouth

Joni (Rainbow Curve Corsetry) and myself (Lucy Corsetry) hugging a really, really old tree somewhere near the fields where Harry Potter’s Quidditch games were filmed.

The Oxford Conference of Corsetry in 2015 was structured similarly to the year before. That year I was only in England for about 5 days, so there were fewer opportunities for tourism, and the itinerary was a lot more jam-packed. I arrived just hours before conference festivities began on the Friday, so I went walking in downtown Oxford with some other corsetieres like Sara of Exquisitely Waisted Designs, Karolina Zarzycka with the label of her own name, Dee from Luscious Pearl Designs, and Joni from Rainbow Curve Corsetry, and we checked out some different sites where Harry Potter was filmed. Later that evening all the attendees went to Bill’s for a casual meetup and grub before lectures and workshops started the next day.

This year, I decided to share a dorm with Laurie Tavan, and as we’re both quiet people who completely nerd out on the minutia of corsetry and aren’t afraid to help each other out, she was the perfect roommate for that weekend.

Again on Saturday night, there’s a semiformal dinner, and the keynote speaker for 2015 was Immodesty Blaize, who gave an amazing performance and then gave a beautiful speech afterward.

Workshops and classes in 2015 included:

  • 3D printing and other interesting materials with Barbara of Royal Black.
  • Pattern matching workshop conducted by Autumn Adamme of Dark Garden.
  • Question and answer period with Mr Pearl.
  • Building your own website and SEO with Fionna Pullen.
  • There was also a class on integrating corsetry into other clothing (led by Ian Frazer Wallace of Whitechapel Workhouse) – arguably the class I was most excited about on the itinerary that year – but that particular year, attendees were divided based on skill & experience level, so not all makers were allowed to attend all workshops. This is the one detail that I would change in the future with OCOC; if all attendees pay the same amount to attend the conference, they should all be able to sit the workshops they’re most interested in. Attendees only learned that we were segregated into different classes after we had already paid for our tickets.
Katie Thomas (right) and myself in the WKD London boutique.

After the conclusion of OCOC 2015, I spent two days with Katie Thomas of What Katie Did. She showed me the headquarters in London, where all the amazing lingerie and corsets are stocked for online orders, and showed how their business operates on the back end – from testing samples, to online customer service, to working with celebrity stylists, to order fulfillment. I also learned about the “What Katy Did” books and the history behind the name, and also we took a trip to their boutique on Portobello Green and saw how they ran their shop. I also got to try on a few corsets, and of course Katie and I sat down for an interview! If you’d like to see the whole interview, click the link in the cards, or in the description below.

Katie’s family also took me to Basildon park, a gorgeous estate where they filmed parts of Downton Abbey. I’m so grateful to Katie and her family for housing me for a few days and showing me such hospitality.

After two days with Katie’s family, I took the train south to Portsmouth where the Vollers family kindly put me up for two nights, and allowed me to tour their factory and see how one of the oldest corset companies in the world runs their business and makes their corsets. They have lots of nifty tools machines, which you can see in this detailed video. Naturally, what would a visit be if I didn’t also interview Corina and Ian, the owners of Vollers corsets?

I wore Vollers Veco corset dress to the formal dinner at OCOC 2015, and then visited the Vollers factory after the conference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After leaving the Voller family, I went straight to the airport and flew home.

Unfortunately I was not able to make it to the 2017 conference of corsetry, but from the sound of it and all the pictures, it seems like it was their best year yet.

Many thanks to the coordinators and presenters at OCOC, Christine Wickham, Lowana, Jenni, Glo, Beata, Katie, Laurie, the Voller family, and everyone who made my two trips to England as wonderful as they were. The next OCOC meetup is in 2019 and I’m determined to attend again – and hopefully spend a little bit longer time there to take in more of what England has to offer.

 

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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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Interview with Vollers Corsets (Ian & Corina Voller)

In September of 2015, after attending the Oxford Conference of Corsetry, Ian and Corina Voller (Vollers Corsets) invited me to stay with them for a few days and see their factory in Portsmouth, England. They are the current owners of the longest surviving corset manufacturer in England, and it was incredible to see how their facilities and their company has evolved over time – and what values have stayed the same.

See the interview below, and use the timestamps below the video to jump ahead in the video if certain questions interest you more.

0:55 Tell us how you got started. I understand that Vollers was first launched by Harry and Nelly Voller in 1899 – do you know why they had such an interest in corsets at the turn of the century?

3:50 During wartime or around the 70s and 80s when the corset was less popular, how did your factory stay up and running? Do you manufacture anything else here apart from corsets?

6:50 How have your patterns and styles changed over the years? Do you have any corsets to compare then vs now?

8:20 What do you think about the recent corset revival in the past several years? Have you needed to make any changes to cater to the new clientele, for instance those interested in waist training?

10:05 Since your company has survived for so long and has a long-term view of the corset industry, what do you think will happen next?

11:00 Tell us a bit about your employees and how the construction process is run smoothly. How are tasks assigned?

13:20 How many hours does it take to create a single underbust corset in your factory, and how many hands does it pass through?

15:20 What is your favorite part about working in corsetry? What is your least favorite aspect (the most boring task, or a certain pet peeve about the industry)?

16:25 Who is your target market? Who do you love to sell to?

19:30 Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Huge thanks to Corina and Ian Voller for hosting me for a few days, giving a tour around the factory, and agreeing to sit down for this interview! Readers can learn more about Vollers Corsets on their website.

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Review: Veco Corset Gown by Vollers Corsets

This entry is a summary of the video “Vollers Veco Corset Dress Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

 

Fit, length There is not much I can say in the way of measurements, as this dress must be custom made to each client’s measurements. It is so form-fitting. When Vollers was making this dress for me, I provided them my bust, underbust, waistline, high hip, low hip, and length of my body from waistline to floor (as well as what height of heel I planned to wear with this dress!).
Silhouette is a mild hourglass, as most of Vollers corsets tend to be. I like the coverage of the dress and the height that it reaches under my arms and around the back – my bustline is supported and secure, and I don’t have much spillover around the back.
Material Fashion fabric is magenta satin with a fused overlay of black lace. Interior lining (strength fabric) is black cotton twill.
Construction 6 panel pattern – the first three panels swoop down in a V shape over the front hip in a slightly Edwardian style fashion, and then at the iliac level, the panels sweep out again to provide fullness over the hips. The 6 panels go down to the floor, but the skirt portion has 4 gussets (on each side) below the knee to add flare and create a trumpet silhouette.
Binding Commercial black satin ribbon at the top, and a simple overlock stitch along the bottom of the skirt (this makes it easier to modify the length if you wanted it hemmed, and Vollers mentioned that adding binding to the bottom affected the drape of the skirt too much).
Waist tape 1 inch wide ribbon waist tape, exposed on the inside of the corset. Partial waist tape, starting at seam 2 and ending at seam 5.
Modesty panel Matching, unstiffened panel attached to one side of the corset. Slightly over 6″ wide (will cover about 4.5″ gap in the back). It extends nearly the entire length of the dress. I would NOT advise removing the modesty panel as it would expose your bum beneath the laces of the dress. The modesty placket in the front also extends down to around the knee area, and contains some hooks and eyes to help the dress stay closed below the busk.
Busk 13 inches long. 6 loops + pins, bottom two are a bit closer together. Heavy duty busk (1″ wide on each side). Below the busk, heavy-duty hooks and eyes continue down the rest of the dress.
Boning 14 bones total, 7 on each side. Single boned with 1/4″ wide spiral steels, and there are four flat steels in the back sandwiching the grommets.
Grommets There are an incredible 112 single part eyelets in the back of the dress! size #00, with medium flange. Finished in silver, and there are no washers in the back. Vollers ensures that the eyelets are industrial strength (used in boots) and they have a lifetime guarantee on their corsets.
Laces Black flat shoelace style lacing – no spring, very strong, long enough. There are three separate sets of laces (top to hip, hip to knee, and knee to bottom). See the discussion below for how I laced into this dress!
Price £950, made to measure – however, Vollers has a 25% off coupon for first-time customers when you sign up with their mailing list.

 

Lucy Corsetry posing in the Veco corset dress by Vollers.
Lucy Corsetry posing in the Veco corset dress by Vollers.

Vollers is the oldest corset manufacturer in the UK (I believe their family has been in the corset business since 1899), and are based in Portsmouth, England. In August 2015, had the pleasure of meeting the current owners, Ian and Corina Voller and visiting their factory. I will post more on my interview with them later, but for now let’s focus on the Veco dress, which is by far my favourite creation of theirs.

The Veco dress is available in two colors: “American Beauty” which is gold with black lace, and “Fuchsia Brocade” which I reviewed here. Vollers does invite customers to provide custom fabrics, but they do ask that you send them a sample of the fabric beforehand so they can determine if it is suitable to be made into a corset.

The bones of the corset do not extend down the entire length of the dress; the most structured part of the dress resembles a normal hourglass overbust – the bones start at the top edge around the bustline, and stops at the iliac crest to allow the wearer to sit or crouch comfortably. The boning channels themselves do continue down the rest of the length, and the channels themselves add some structure to the dress despite not containing any boning below the hip.

I adore the shape of the skirt; how it’s form-fitting over the hips and thighs and then flares out in a trumpet style below the knee. Extra skirt gussets create more fullness below the knee, and it moves beautifully when I walk.

For those curious as to how I got into this dress: it is possible to put it on by myself, but it is much easier with a second person! First I loosened the top two sets of laces (from the top of the corset to the hip, and from the hip to the knee) until it was loose enough in the back, and I opened the busk and the hooks and eyes (only down to the knee) so that I could step into the dress. I tried to keep the hooks and eyes from the knees-down closed, to save time.

I then fastened the busk, and then did up the smaller black hooks and eyes on the modesty placket (from hips down to the knees), before doing up the heavier duty hooks and eyes overtop of those smaller hooks. These two sets of hooks and eyes fasten in opposite directions so it doesn’t matter which way you twist or turn, you should not become exposed. Once all the hooks and eyes were finished, I tightened the top set of laces so the corset sat securely at my waistline, and then tightened the middle set of laces over the hips and thighs. Try to find a happy compromise between having a reduction in your waistline, and having it loose enough so that you’re able to move and sit down comfortably. For this last lacing part, this is where extra help from another person comes in handy! They can also tuck the bow of the laces underneath the X’s so as to create a smoother line in the back of the corset.

Learn more about the Veco corset dress by Vollers here.

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Where to Buy Corset Dresses

This gorgeous plunge corset dress embellished with lace and crystals was designed by Viola Lahger (Sweden). Model: Insanitea Photo: Josephine Jonsson.

This post is a duplicate of the permanent page Guided Galleries –> Corset Dresses. The guided galleries are part of the corset brand research tools, which are designed to help prospective corset customers shop more wisely. This post may be out of date in the future, please refer to the permanent page linked above to get the most up to date information.

Beyoncé Knowles in a Thierry Mugler gold corset dress
Beyoncé Knowles in a Thierry Mugler gold corset dress

Corset dresses are highly specialized garments, which can be used for foundation under other dresses (such as those that Puimond provides for other designers to “build upon”), for weddings, or for clubbing / other fun events. They can act like combination shapewear, supporting the bustline and allowing the use of strapless dresses overtop (rather than using a strapless bra), cinching in the waist (instead of using a cincher), and smoothing over the hips (in lieu of a girdle).

Searching “corset dresses” on Google tends to yield poor results because many clothing lines simply offer dresses with boned bodices. True corset dresses (a structured garment where the back of the dress laces up the entire length) are sometimes not that easy to find, but they come in several variations which I’ll try to cover in this gallery.

*Corset makers, if you have made a corset dress and would like your work showcased in this gallery, please email me a photo of your best work and include a 1-sentence description and website or shop URL. Safe-for-work photos are preferred! Thank you!

A bride in Morùa Designs (who works in both the US and UK) shows off the back of her stunning corset wedding dress.
This floor length dress is boned down and laced to the knee, and expertly sculpted in true Bizarre Design fashion (Netherlands). Model: Dena Massque. Photo: Me-Chiel.
This gorgeous plunge corset dress embellished with lace and crystals was designed by Viola Lahger (Sweden). Model: Insanitea Photo: Josephine Jonsson.
Sparklewren (UK) is experienced in making incredibly smooth and ethereal custom corset dresses, here shown with detachable stole. What an enviable hip spring.
This floor-length corset gown by Royal Black (Austria) laces to the knee and is cut for serious curves. Model/styling: Červená Fox, Photo: Julian M Kilsby (ShadowFlux)
Bibian Blue (Spain) always has a selection of corset dresses in her various collections, like this Lys Ensemble with printed angels and handmade flowers, €695. Model: SINderella Rockafella. Photo/styling: Iberian Black Arts
KMKDesigns Located in MN, can make custom corset dresses to order in many styles, this mermaid style corset dress is made from blue silk with hand stitched lace and rhinestones.
KMKDesigns, located in MN, can make custom corset dresses to order in many styles; this mermaid style corset dress is made from blue silk with hand stitched lace and rhinestones.
Puimond (USA) makes awe-inspiring corset dresses, ranging from simple and sleek to highly customized like this ensemble estimated at $10,000.
This stunning corset dress with sheer fluted skirt by Persephone Corsetry (UK) won the Young Designer Award in 2014. Photo: Stuart McClay. MUA: SC Makeup. Model: Michaela Crompton
This stunning corset dress with sheer fluted skirt by Persephone Corsetry (UK) won the Young Designer Award in 2014. Photo: Stuart McClay. MUA: SC Makeup. Model: Michaela Crompton
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The Swallowtail Corset Dress by The Bad Button (USA) features a fully corseted form from shoulders to hips, while freefloating layers of silk gauze create the illusion of a wings when walking. Model: Samantha Jean Moore. Photo: Aesthetic Aperture
This sweet and lovely Lolita underbust corset dress features a full skirt to accommodate a blouse and petticoat underneath. By Skeletons in the Closet Corsetry (Netherlands).
This sweet and lovely Lolita underbust corset dress features a full skirt to accommodate a blouse and petticoat underneath. By Skeletons in the Closet Corsetry (Netherlands).
“The Love Warrior”, designed by Maison Moginot (France) with help from Mr. Pearl, is dripping with jewels. Model: Amanda Lepore
This audio-sensitive fiber optic dress lights up when the music gets loud! Designed by Rachael Reichert in NY, USA.
Contessa Gothique Design recently shared this radiant plunge, full-skirted corset dress – those curious to make their own can also read her 2-part tutorial on Foundations Revealed.
Stunning lattice-embellished corset dress made by Lace Embrace (Canada)
Designer Maya Hansen (Spain) always includes at least one corset dress in her collections. This one is modelled by Porcylin.
Red sweetheart corset dress with black lace appliqué, a custom design by Sweet Carousel Corsetry (Canada).
Scoundrelle’s Keep has four different styles of corset dresses, including overbust or underbust, long skirt or short. Currently shown is the Evangeline corset dress for $500.
While not likely available for purchase, I cannot complete a gallery of corset dresses without this piece by Ziad Ghanem (modelled by Immodesty Blaize, Fall 2010)
While not likely available for purchase, I cannot complete a gallery of corset dresses without this piece co-designed by Ziad Ghanem, made by Ian Frazer Wallace and modelled by Immodesty Blaize (Fall 2010)
This Jessica Rabbit inspired mini corset dress was designed by Orchid Corsetry (UK). Model: Miss Anne Thropy. Photo: Damona Art.
Atelier Sylphe (France) made this lovely zippered and ruffled creative corset dress, modelled by her client (Virginie).
Marvelous Mayhem (USA) makes both full-skirt and fitted custom corset dresses
Vollers Corsets has a few different corset dress styles, but my current favorite is this Veco floor-length custom dress for £950

*Please note that I have not personally tried every corset brand in this list, nor do I necessarily endorse every company on this list. This is for informational purposes only.

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Corset Connection “Summer” / Vollers “Nicole” Underbust Review

Vollers Nicole Corset 1891 longline

This entry is a summary of the review video “Corset Connection “Summer” / Vollers “Nicole” 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 Center front is 12.5 inches. The length is almost the same all the way around the corset. Very much a longline corset – comes over the hips; I personally find it a bit difficult to sit in – recommended only for those who are tall/ with a long torso. Modern slim silhouette; very gentle curves. Circumferential measurements: Underbust 28″, waist 22″, iliac crest 28″, low hip 32″.
Material Fashion fabric is black 100% polyester satin; lining is a black cotton-poly blend twill.
Construction 7 panel pattern, but extremely unique. Two panels above the waist, two panels below the waist, one central “belt” panel, and then center front and center back longer panels (see video for details). Top-stitched between panels. Corset has internal boning channels.
Binding Commercial black satin ribbon, machine stitched on front and back (not folded under, as the ribbon is already finished/ won’t fray on the edges). 4 garter tabs, and this corset also came with garters.
Waist tape The “belt” panel is in one piece and effectively acts like a waist tape would.
Modesty panel 6 inches wide, unstiffened, and covered in matching black satin/twill. Secured to the corset with a line of stitching (removable). Front modesty placket made from black twill under the knob side of busk, and satin flap over the busk helps to hide the busk overtop.
Busk Standard flexible busk, 11″ long and ½ inch wide on each side, with 5 pins (lower two pins are closer together). There’s another ½ inch wide bone on either side of the busk for reinforcement.
Boning 16 bones total in this corset. There are 10 spiral bones (5 on each side), single boned between the panels. ½ inch wide flat on either side of the busk, and in the back there are ¼ inch wide flats sandwiching the eyelets.
Eyelets Vollers uses 1-part eyelets instead of 2-part grommets. 28 of them total, and set equidistantly. There is no washer on back and the eyelet is perforated to split. Vollers says these eyelets are used in heavy boots so will take quite a bit of stress without pulling out.
Laces 1/4 inch wide black flat braided shoelace style laces. Resistant to catching or fraying; minimal stretch or spring, and hold the bow well.
Price £150 on the Vollers website (as the “Nicole” corset), or $290 on the Corset Connection website (as the “Summer” corset).
Vollers Nicole Corset 1891 longline
Vollers Nicole Corset 1891 longline (“Summer” corset from Corset Connection)

Final Thoughts:

Corset Connection is an official retailer/ distributor of many different corset brands, of which Vollers is just one! This is the reason why this particular corset goes by two different names. Customers in the US may find it easier to purchase from Corset Connection because of shipping times and not having to deal with currency conversion or taxes/duty. Those in the UK may find it easier to purchase from Vollers, for the same reasons. Please note the “Summer” is the name of the corset; it is not intended to be a description of the corset (as in, not strictly to be worn as a corset worn for summertime). This corset is not available as a ventilated or mesh corset.

This corset is one of the most uniquely patterned corsets I have ever tried – with a 7-panel pattern fitting together more like Tetris blocks as opposed to all vertical panels, and having one seamless “waistband” or belt panel take the role of the waist tape, I loved studying this piece to see how it was constructed.  Unfortunately this pattern was very much not suited for my figure, and would be better for someone both taller and with slimmer hips than I have. I would be very curious to know how this pattern would be altered, should one opt for the custom-fitted version on Vollers’ site.

Another feature I appreciated in this corset was the busk cover which allows you to hide the hardware – this would potentially help with “stealthing” a corset under clothing, as the bumps and the shininess from the visible loops and pins would be concealed.

I do prefer corsets that are more heavily boned, and that have two-part grommets instead of one-part eyelets, however for occasional wear (not waist training) it would likely be alright and give a lovely slimming silhouette reminiscent of a 19teens figure. Do note that unless you choose the custom-fitted option, Vollers specializes in a mild, slim silhouette; not a dramatic wasp waist. Those in the UK can find the “Nicole” corset here, and those in the US can find the “Summer” corset in stock here.

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Vollers “Aida” Review and Revision

This entry is a summary of the two video “Vollers Aida underbust review” and “NEW & IMPROVED Aida Corset (Mini Review)” which you can watch on YouTube here:

*****

 

Fit, length Center front is 9.5″ high, center back is 9″ high, side seam is 7″ high (cuts over the iliac crest) – I would consider this a cincher. Modern slim silhouette; this size 24″ corset has an underbust 28″ and high hips of about 30″. But Vollers has a made-to-measure service, you can get this corset made to your specifications for a 25% markup.
Material 2 main layers; outer layer is ivory satin and inner layer is ivory twill.
Construction 13 panel pattern (closed front), panels assembled with a top-stitch and single-boned on the seams (internal boning channels). The original Aida corset had twill channels, while the revised Aida has herringbone coutil boning channels.
Binding Hand-made bias strips of commercial black satin ribbon, machine stitched on the outside and inside (not folded under, as the ribbon has a finished edge)
Waist tape The original Aida had no waist tape, but the revised version does have a partial internal waist tape.
Modesty panel 6-inch wide modesty panel finished in same ivory satin/ twill under the laces in the back, and a modesty placket under the side zipper (the revised version has a boned placket).
Zipper Closure The Aida has a 6″ long heavy-duty metal Riri zipper; the original version had no bones around the zipper, while the revised version has double boning in the modesty placket under the zipper for greater stabilization.
Boning Original Aida had 13 bones total, with none in the center front and none by the zipper. Revised Aida has 16 bones; a large 1-inch wide heavy duty bone in the center front, and two in the zipper’s modesty placket.
Grommets 18 one-part eyelets, size #00, small-to-medium, quite sturdy. Silver finish, and set equidistantly. The eyelets splay outwards in the back and grab onto the back of the twill; they are not coming out but then again I don’t lace this corset very tightly (about a 3-inch reduction)
Embellishment Closed front with black decorative laces; the original Aida corset had a bow at the bottom, while the revised Aida omitted the bow.
Price At the time I’m writing this, the Aida is £195 in the UK, or $310 USD.

Other Thoughts:

Model shows the location of the heavy zipper.

After the first review of the Aida corset, I’m quite pleased that Vollers had decided to make some revisions and improvements to the Aida corset and loan me their newer version for a mini review. The differences in the new Aida include sturdier herringbone weave boning channels (instead of twill); an added waist tape on the inside of the corset (the original had none); more bones including a double-boned modesty placket under the zipper, and a heavy-duty 1-inch bone in the center front; and the omission of the little black ribbon bow in the center front of the corset. The extra bones contributed to a sturdier-feeling corset, and helped to keep the corset’s silhouette more symmetric on the body. I also feel that the extra stability around the zipper would potentially lead to a longer-lasting corset in general.

Vollers mentioned that they wanted to introduce this new line of zip-up corsets to cater to their Burlesque clientele, who need quick and easy access into and out of their corsets onstage.

It shows great integrity in a corset company that they are willing to listen to the ideas of their customers and change their construction accordingly, so I have to thank Vollers for giving me this opportunity to try out their products and share them with my viewers and readers. You can read more about the Aida corset on the Vollers website here.

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Where to Buy Ribbon Cinchers

Note that this post is a copy of the same one under the “Research Corset Brands –> Guided Galleries” menu. It is part of a collection of articles to help corset enthusiasts shop more wisely.

While ribbon cinchers are not the best choice for waist training, they are lightweight, fun, and when constructed correctly they can give considerable waist reduction! Some historical sources mention that ribbon cinchers can be used during sleep or while horse riding. Today they can still be used for the same purposes, or worn over clothing as a great statement piece.

Pop Antique Vixen ribbon underbust, from $329

Pop Antique makes some of the curviest ribbon cinchers I’ve ever seen. The corsetiere, Marianne, includes a waist tape on the underside which is almost never seen in other ribbon cinchers; it helps to strengthen the corset where it takes the most tension – at the waistline. These corsets are made from double-faced satin ribbon, which is strong, non-stretch and come in a bevy of colours.

Ribbon cincher from Orchid Corsetry

Orchid Corsetry also makes strong custom-measured ribbon corsets from double-faced satin ribbon, and can be patterned to give gentle curves (above) or to give almost a wasp-waist effect. Bethan can make these cinchers curved (above) or pointed, multi-tone or single-colour, simple or embellished with crystals or other details as you see here.

Silvia Alphard Couture Victorian Steampunk ribbon corset, $305

Silvia Aphard Couture is an Italian corsetiere who primarily sells through Etsy. Her gorgeous ribbon corsets are also made with wide double-faced satin ribbon and coutil. Silvia’s corsets are made-to-measure and available in several colours.

sin_and_satin_ribbon
Sin and Satin standard ribbon cincher

Sin and Satin from NYC makes some of the most unique and gorgeous ribbon cinchers in standard sizes 18″ – 36″. They’re different in that they have no vertical side panel, which means uninterrupted contouring from front to back. They can be styled to your liking using petersham or satin ribbon (or even adding eyelash lace, seen above right) and they’re cut for devastating curves, boasting 11″ hip spring and 8″ room for the ribs.

Kiran-Lee Swing Hook Rainbow Patchwork Corset, $290

Kiran-Lee is another underestimated corsetiere on Etsy, based in London, England. Her ribbon-style corsets are fun and different, like this patchwork design made from recycled fabrics and old saris. Each of Kiran-Lee’s designs are one-of-a-kind.

Axfords C210 ribbon underbust, £95

Axfords Corsets offers an affordable standard-sized ribbon corset (style C210) in white, black or two-tone (seen here). It’s made from Petersham ribbon (also quite strong) with satin vertical panels, and a flap to hide the busk loops.

Vollers “Storm” ribbon cincher (shown in leather), £195

Vollers Corsets also has a standard sized ribbon cincher called the “Storm” (style number V50) which is available in various shades of petersham ribbon. They also offer leather ribbon (shown above) which is interesting! This corset can also be upgraded made-t0-measure for a fee.

Versatile Corsets Ribbon underbust (shown in purple glitter PVC) $158

Versatile Corsets also makes interesting ribbon cinchers in standard sizes or made-to-measure. They specialize in funky PVC ribbon, with almost any satin or brocade you like for the vertical (boned) panels. If you prefer a little less rigidity with the same look, Versatile can also make these cinchers with elastic strapping.

Madame Sher mesh ribbon-style cincher, $220

Madame Sher has many gorgeous ribbon-style cinchers to choose from. Most of the styles are not genuine ribbon but rather made from horizontal strips of satin, denim, leather or mesh (shown above, on yours truly). Since they can be made from nearly any material, there is incredible room for creativity here. My review of Madame Sher’s mesh cincher can be found here.

Ms. Martha’s Geometric underbust, $175

Ms. Martha’s Corset Shoppe offers this “Geometric” ribbon-style cincher in leather and in silk, with several two-tone selections: black/brown, black/red or black/white. These cinchers are standard sized for natural waists 18″ up to 52″. My review of the Geometric cincher is here.

I tried my own hand at a few ribbon corsets and found them rather fun to make! Although I don’t take commissions for ribbon corsets, I’ve shared some tips and tricks on how these were created. Click the photos below to see my case studies on how I constructed them.

*Please note that I have not personally tried every corset brand in this list, nor do I necessarily endorse every company in these guided galleries. This is for informational purposes only.

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Ready-to-wear corsets made in the US and UK

Note that this post is a copy of the same one under the “Research Corset Brands –> Guided Galleries” menu. It is part of a collection of articles to help corset enthusiasts shop more wisely.

Many of my readers wish to start with an affordable OTR corset, but they may feel moral or economical obligations to purchase from the US or UK, as working conditions are generally better regulated here than in developing countries. For conscientious corset shoppers, the following list features some well-known corset manufacturers or businesses that have at one point or another stated that their corsets are produced locally and are highly likely to employ corsetieres under fair working conditions.

UK Corset Businesses:

Axfords C210 ribbon underbust corset, £95

Axfords Corsets is one of the UK’s oldest corset companies, having been in business since 1880. Their standard-sized corsets are made by a team of corsetieres in their facility in Brighton England, but they still have a competitive edge on the industry due to their reasonable prices. Axfords also sells some men’s corsets that still maintain a masculine physique.

Vollers Paradise overbust (1808) in white satin and lace, £295

Vollers: The Corset Company has been around since 1899 and also employs corsetieres in Portsmouth, England. Their corsets are usually standard-sized but they do offer a made-to-measure service for a markup. As of July 2013, they have also established a lifetime guarantee on all of their corsets.

Morgana Femme Couture MF1323, starts at £310

Morgana Femme Couture is a relatively recent corset manufacturer, but they have made a huge impact on the corset industry with their affordable prices for custom couture pieces. All of their corsets are made in their UK atelier, including their ready-to-wear, standard-sized pieces available from their Etsy shop.

US Corset Businesses:

Romantasy Custom Fundamentals line: Victorian underbust by Jill Hoverman, $285

Romantasy Exquisite Corsetry has been in business since 1990, and the president, Ann Grogan, is one of the world’s most respected modern corset mentors and educators. Romantasy offers both in-stock corsets and custom corsets, standard-sized or made to measure, and every corset is quality-checked and wrapped by Ann herself. The Romantasy corsetiere team proudly featured notables such as Michael Garrod (True Grace Corsets) and Ruth Johnson (BR Creations), and Romantasy continues to employ talented corsetieres in the US today.

Versatile Corsets Valerian overbust, $438

Versatile Corsets had its beginnings in “Versatile Fashions by Ms Antoinette” in the 1990’s. After the company had switched hands to Cameo Designs some years ago, their quality has only improved and have dressed performers like Mosh, Ru Paul and Dita Von Teese. Versatile’s corsetieres have always been based in California, USA, and have over 20 years corset-making experience. They offer both standard-sized and made-to-measure corsets, and carry a small stock of ready-to-wear pieces.

Meschantes Thunder overbust, starts at $255

Meschantes Corsetry was established in 2000, and makes their corsets in their North Carolina studio in the USA. The business offers custom-fit corsets in 21 different styles and literally hundreds of fabrics, and they also offer deals on their RTW corsets in their Etsy shop.

Period Corsets Victorian reenactment corset, $725

Period Corsets employs a team of corset makers based in Seattle to make some of the most gorgeous historically-accurate corsets I’ve ever seen, basing their pieces off genuine vintage patterns. They have made some modern/contemporary corsets for the likes of Madonna, Fergie and the base corsets in Victoria’s Secret fashion show, and they are also regularly employed by opera houses – but they also offer standard-sized and custom-fit corsets from 16th to 20th centuries on their regular site and their Etsy shop.

Isabella Corsetry Edwardian overbust (immediate line), $199

As of the last several years, Isabella Corsetry‘s pieces have been hand made in California. Isabella is ‘home’ to the famous Josephine underbust, which is said to be the curviest of OTR corsets (having the largest hip spring I know of) and is also strong enough to stand up to daily wear. The business offers ready-to-wear corsets in a variety of colors and styles, and also accommodates custom/ made-to-measure orders.

Dark Garden Risqué Sweetheart overbust with lace, $505

Dark Garden Corsetry & Couture was created in 1989 by Autumn Adamme, and like Ms Grogan she also employs a team of talented corsetieres in California, having included respected designers like Anachronism in Action and Pop Antique. Dark Garden offers corsets for men and women alike and accommodate both ready-to-wear and custom-fit pieces, promoted by celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Kelly Osbourne.

*Please note that I have not personally tried every corset brand in this list, nor do I necessarily endorse every company on this list. This is for informational purposes only.

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Vollers “Paradise” 1808 Velvet Overbust Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Vollers 1808 Velvet Overbust 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 13.5 inches, the apex of bust to the bottom is almost 17 inches. Comes a bit over the upper hipbones, and the bust is deliberately cut high. My bust is secure as the fabric comes up and over much like a bra cup does. Gives very gentle curves, only nips the waist in 2 inches on me.
Material 100% cotton velvet on the outside and a poly-cotton twill on the inside.
Construction 4 main panels. Stitching between panels is topstitched, bones are in internal twill boning channels.
Binding Velvet ribbon, machine stitched on front and back.
Waist tape None. Vollers recommends you order the corset 2-4 inches smaller than your natural waist.*Addendum: This particular style doesn’t come with a waist tape because the velvet has a tendency to stretch, and so the waist tape would eventually cause a ridge that is smaller than the rest of the corset, where the waist tape lays. However this style apparently does come with a waist tape if another fashion fabric is chosen.
Modesty panel Back lacing protector is unstiffened and sewn onto one side of the corset, velvet outside and twill inside. There is a modesty placket underneath the knob side of the busk, made from twill.
Busk Standard flexible busk, 12″ long and ½ inch wide on each side, with 5 pins. There’s another ½ inch wide bone on either side of the busk, sewn invisibly in probably in the seam allowance. This stiffens the front but you can’t see the stitching for it. Additionally, there’s a hook-and-eye hand sewn at the top to prevent the bust area from gaping.
Boning 14 bones total in this corset. There are 8 spiral bones (4 on each side), and 6 flats. Like I said before, there’s a ½ inch wide flat on either side of the busk, and in the back there are ¼ inch wide flats sandwiching the eyelets.
Grommets They don’t use grommets, they use 1-part eyelets. There is no washer on back and the eyelet is perforated to split. Vollers says these eyelets are used in heavy boots so will take quite a bit of stress without pulling out.
Laces about half centimetre wide black flat shoelace style laces which are tightly braided. They’re slippery through the eyelets but the laces grab onto themselves so the bow doesn’t slip out easily. Resistant to catching or fraying.
Price Varies greatly with materials used: £195 ($306 USD) in the velvet finish, £165 ($260) in satin finish, £215 ($338) in sequin fabric.

Final Thoughts:

What to say about this corset? A lot of different parts in this corset I either loved or wished were different, and not much middle ground.

Parts I LOVED

The fit of the bust. It was incredible. This was one of the very few overbust corsets I tried that not only gives a daring plunge in the center but also the cups of the bust comes up and over the breast, holding it firmly in place with almost no chance of popping out. It gave a wicked 1/4 side view. I also loved the neat construction of the busk and supporting “invisible” bones. The hook and eye at the top of the bust was a really nice touch. I also loved the quality of the bones and the laces.

Parts I wished were different

Although I loved the fit of the bust, I wished that there was more contrast in the waist. If I were to order this corset again I would probably have gone for a custom fit so I could achieve a greater waist reduction. On the other hand I’m not entirely certain that the corset would have withstood more tension because there was no waist tape. I wished that there were a waist tape in this so I’d feel safer about achieving greater reductions. And even though the 1-part eyelets stayed put nicely and never frayed for me, I would have just psychologically felt more comfortable with 2-part eyelets or grommets. I have to wonder if the eyelets gripped onto the velvet better than other materials, since it’s more plush. Had I ordered the brocade or satin, would the eyelets have held up as well? I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say that their eyelets should grip any and all fabrics as long as they are set as well as they had been in mine.

A note on corset/ hair compatibility

Although it’s not at all the fault of the makers whatsoever, in retrospect choosing the velvet was a bad idea just because of my hair. Velvet loves my hair and my hair loves it. Therefore whenever I wore this corset with my hair down, my hair would wrap all around me and I would soon become entangled. Therefore I only recommend a velvet garment for someone with shorter hair or one who tends to wear their hair up.

You can find the V1808 corset on the Vollers website here.