Remember, friends, these are all my own ideas, derived from my experiences and opinions. You are more than free to disagree with me, just be sure to do it tastefully and without petty name-calling! Peace on earth, good will to men!
Ahem. Obviously I want every woman in the world to buy a corset from my company. Plain and simple. I'm not going to lie. I truly do want your business and want your body in one of my pieces. However, if you decide NOT to buy from us, for whatever reason, I DID want to help you out with a "Corset-Buying-Guide." Now, for obvious reasons, I will not be suggesting other companies from which you can purchase corsets. That doesn't exactly help me to pay my mortgage. But, the basic principles and ideas here should definitely help you out with whatever company you would like to support.
A few quick words before I start. Every woman's body is COMPLETELY different. No two one of us are alike. Think about how astounding that is! This means that, as much as I hate to say it, some women would benefit from other companies more than mine. It is quite impossible for me to make every single woman happy with the fit of their corset, when you take into consideration varying sizes between bust and waist, lengths of torso, shoulder heights and widths, COMFORT levels, personal tastes, applications, physical limitations and afflictions, and so many other variables that there's not enough time tonight for me to tackle them! I foolishly TRY to help every woman to be as satisfied as possible with their purchase, and it's an extremely personal, profound desire and passion of mine....however, as I said...I just can't possibly "do it all."
I do believe that there are some fundamental features that all corsets need to have, whether they're front-lacing, back-lacing, overbust, underbust, latex, lingerie..you name it! Here are a few key things to look for, and this should hopefully make your searches MUCH easier!
1. Do NOT Fall Victim to Plastic Boning!!!!
Let me explain. I don't ALWAYS think plastic boning is the devil. It can be used strategically in places where lighter structure is needed, such as stand up collars or shoulder pieces, reinforcement for curving lines (as long as there is good metal present as well!) and even cool structural pieces coming off of a well built corset. It DOES have a good place. However, your corset should not be entirely made of plastic boning! Plastic Boning *Bends *Pokes through fabric *folds in half *never stops irritating!
I have so many customers that can attest to this, it's not even funny. So many women have come into my booth with bruised, swollen, red, and even BLEEDING marks on their stomach from the dang plastic boning warming up, wrinkling, coiling, and digging. Now, I have seen some fine pieces made from thick cable ties, but those are generally strategically placed, burned on the edges, and there is about 20-40 pieces of the boning spanning the corset.
Wouldn't you rather see your body transformed, supported, elevated, and glorified? You don't want to look cheap and wobbly. Trust me!
2.Different TYPES of metal boning
The first image above is SPIRAL steel boning. The second is SPRING steel boning. You may not know the difference, and hopefully the corset company will tell you out right which they use, and in which places. Spiral steel is like a coil of wire, flattened into pieces that are cut to different lengths and then tipped at the ends. It is FANTASTIC for dancers, who need movement, because it not only bends front to back, but also side to side. However, if your corset is constructed entirely of this boning, ESPECIALLY right in the spot where it laces up, this can feel as wobbly and lasagna-noodly as freaking plastic! Once again, unless you are a dancer, acrobat, or someone who needs tons of movement (back bends, flips, you name it) you most likely should stay away from corsets constructed entirely out of this stuff. I've found that most traditional corset companies use a combination of this AND spring steel to get the proper shaping. As for my company, we never end up using spiral steel. My corsets are primarily for body transformation and shaping, thus I use the highest quality spring steel along with the combination of my trademark fiberglass rod busks.
Spring Steel is truly awesome! It keeps its shape, and as its name suggests, it "springs" back into shape pretty easily. Lots of my customers find that this boning will permanently bend to their shape. For my own personal preference, I usually bend my boning back gently after I wear the corset, but that's just me. The only downfall here is that there ARE cheap versions of it out there. I had a company from China that sent me samples, urging me to buy in bulk from them. It would have cut my cost for boning by 90%!!!!!!!!!!! People, that is huge! Yet, when I tested the samples, I bent them back and forth only a few times, and they snapped. Not to say that the higher quality boning I use has never ever snapped (I think that in about 30,000+ corsets that my company has sent out into the world, I've only ever had about 2 pieces snap, and HOLY CRAP, these customers are hard on their corsets. Not too surprised. ;)
3. Good Fabrics
My approach here is a bit different from other companies. Traditional corsets are generally made of about 4-5 layers of fabric, because a lot of them use silk and light brocades, which are beautiful, but NOT structural. You have to line, interline, and put a layer of cotton duck or coutil in there to make sure that they don't give you the finger. You also have to use a layer of wide tape around the waist to ensure that the waist won't collapse. With my corsets, we use two layers of high durable, quality tested (by me...by ramming, ripping, and revolting!) upholstery fabric, and then in the front, by the grommets, there is another THICK layer of fabric that we actually adhere to the outer fabric with industrial adhesive. This ensures that the grommets won't rip out, because the layers sandwiched in between are glued together, right down to the tiny fibers. I've found that with a combination of beautifully fitting patterns, AND the layers of upholstery, these things can literally take as much of a beating as....well...a couch.
4. Grommets that don't suck!
There isn't a good enough profanity in the world for these little puny grommets that rip out the second you tie a ribbon through them. They are made of one little piece of metal that sort of coils around in on itself. You CANNOT stop these from ripping out. I've heard that there are a little bit more heavy duty eyelets that actually don't want you to suffer, but unless you have a professional setter, BEWARE!
Oh, but look at THE BEAUTY of the brass grommet to the right! It has a back washer, and the long fluted metal part curves AROUND that washer, holding it all in place. With our company I'm very proud of our pneumatic grommet press that cost $3,700, and was worth every penny! It hardly ever has problems setting, and is hooked up to a large air compressor. Whatever company you choose to go with, just be sure that they have the two-piece grommets, set professionally! Hand-setting DOES work, but it can have possible misfires, just because humans are...well...human.
5. And finally, Made in USA
The main thing here is that getting the perfect fit can be hard, especially when people are really worried that things won't fit, and so they fudge their measurements, reasoning that "oh, I don't want it to be TOO tight..I like comfortable things" and so they get this enormous corset that flops around on their body. You should not have a problem with fit if you follow the directions on every different corset site to the best of your abilities! But, once you start saying in your brain, "But, my jeans size is 29, and I NEVER wear jeans that are 26...so I can't order a 26" corset" , that's where fitting issues come in. It's my experience that women think they're BIGGER than they are, in the corset world, about 95% of the time. The only times that they think they're smaller is when they've tried on a corset from another company, where there was a 7 inch gap that they couldn't see from the back, and the corset salesgirl proudly pronounced them a "19 inch waist!" (when really, they're a 26 tight waist, but the 19 inch corset has a 7 inch gap..make sense?)
Phew! I've been all over the place here, which is generally how I talk anyhow! Hopefully you were able to follow, and this will help you pick a perfect corset for your figure! I want you to have one that will just wear forever and make you feel like a billion bucks (tax exempt!). With my own company, I can stand behind the fact that we DO answer questions to be the best of our abilities, I AM very honest and forthright, I WON'T try to sell you on something that isn't right for your body, I DO offer repairs and alterations for your changing body, and I DESPERATELY want you to feel beautiful, rich, luxurious.
Quick last story, then I'm done. I wanted a pair of cowgirl boots a couple years ago, and I asked my customers on facebook which brands they liked best. I got a resounding applause for Ariat boots, and after I bought my first pair, I can see why my customers were such fanatics! Holy LOVE! They are crafted with such artful care and precision, with clearly fine materials, but the COMFORT is the main selling point for me. I've never, in my whole life, been able to wear a pair of shoes and be on my feet for these dang long 14-16 hour days at festivals without pain and suffering in the end. My feet would hurt so bad that I literally could not walk to the bathroom from my bed in the hotel (mostly just crawled..). These boots changed that. They offer the support, and even though I still am occasionally a little sore at the end of the day, I can still walk, function, and love doing festivals.
However, the price tag is...well...plentiful on Ariats. There was a vivid turquoise pair (shown above) that I wanted soo badly, but I found a cheaper brand, selling that color at a price that was literally less than a third of the Ariats. I argued with myself...I reasoned back and forth...I told myself that I was being a rich, snobby girl, and that SURELY, a pair of boots that STILL cost $100 would be good "enough" quality. I bought the cheaper brand.......oh, profanity. I wore them for about 3 hours and they were as bad as wearing 6 inch heels. My feet ached, where chafing, and bleeding. That had never happened with my dear Ariats, even when they were brand new! I didn't have to even break them in! They loved my feet from the start! Guess what? I don't wear the other boots. They just sit there, a cruel reminder of when I was too cheap, and didn't remember to go with the company that I trusted! I blew a big chunk of money to get what I DIDN'T want, so NOW the ariats will be even MORE expensive because I had to learn my stupid lesson first. Blast!
It's ironic. You "PAY" for being cheap.