Thursday, July 11, 2013

Buying a NON-Crappy Corset 101

          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!!!! 
I know, I know. You're shopping for something, you KNOW what the high end version costs and what attributes it has...but, dangit! Look how CUTE this one is! Look how CHEAP it is! Holy face!  You could buy FIVE of the cheaper one for the price of just ONE of the more expensive ones!! Can there REALLY be THAT much of a difference?
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
Clearly, this won't make my international customers happy, but let me explain. I DO love the idea of keeping money in your country, patriotism, and all of that, but there is a HUGE reason to stick WITHIN your own country when buying corsets.  If there is a fitting problem, which, unfortunately, can happen REALLY easily with corsets (remember that whole thing about different bodies and comfort levels...it's a thing.) it can cost an enormous amount to ship corsets back and forth. I always feel TERRIBLE when anything goes wrong with my beloved international customers! Whether it's the fact that sometimes they randomly have to pay enormous customs fees ( I had a lady that paid 80 pounds, JUST to get her corset from customs in the UK) or the fact that it's just so expensive to even get the corset anyhow, I can see a lot of benefits from buying within your own country. I'm not willing to put my company on the line and lie by marking my corsets as "gifts" and so my gals are subject to the laws and rules of their own country. I have been asked to do this hundreds of times, and I've had people rip me a new hole because I wouldn't lie for them, but friends....it's not worth it.  However, that's a whole different topic.

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.


  1. Absolutely true that you get what you pay for. I consider several items in my wardrobe as worthy investments that I don't skimp on - good bras, good jeans, and good shoes. I'm going to wear each of these (hopefully) hundreds of times, so the cost per use is still tiny even if I pay a bit more. I can't imagine buying cheap shoes that pinch and fall apart, or a cheap bra that doesn't support me... these are worth the cost to get what I want. My partner doesn't get this, because to him, "jeans are jeans" and "shoes are shoes." I'm not looking for $700 designer stilettos, but I will pay a couple hundred bucks for good shoes that last and treat my feet right.

    When it comes to corsets, I want something that will make me look awesome AND hold up to the sort of wear I'm going to put them through - hot faire days, dancing, walking, car rides, port-a-johns, etc. Plastic boned bodices, even nicer ones, just don't do the job. By the end of the day, the bottom edge of my corset would be rolled up like a duck bill. Again, I consider your pieces investments - I will wear them season after season, and they won't wear out or injure me.

  2. Speaking of different torso lengths, I've noticed that the 2 of my 3 corsets are just slightly shorter than I would like them to be, BUT, I love you too much to try some other company. How am I supposed to get over that???

    Also, this year at Radcon there was another vendor with corsets. They were backlaced, and also would give your body a completely different shape than your corsets. Sort of like a concave curve, instead of an hourglass shape. I try to go into every room and to every booth at Radcon, and for some reason I was disgusted with this vendor. I looked at one of the corsets and it looked SO FLIMSY! I watched several people try them on and none bought anything from them. I almost wanted to try one on to see if they were uncomfortable, but at the same time the vendors just weren't as welcoming as you are, so I didn't. They never talked to me at all, even though I was in there for several minutes (I was with a friend and his sister was trying on the corsets, so we were waiting for her for a while before she told us we could leave her behind).

    I think I was originally not interested simply because you were there first, but then after a while their entire attitude really hit me that I didn't trust them.

  3. Great post! So informative! I tried my hand at making a corset using a Simplicity pattern a couple years ago ("How hard could it really be?"), and that poor thing has every issue that you outlined above! It looks pretty...but that's about it. =/ Such a fan of professionally made corsets now, and so far yours are my favorite! Saving my pennies until I can get another corset from you! <3

  4. Fistly, I would like to say I know that women of every size deal with body issues. When I met you last year the first thing you said to me had me blushing and near tears... IN A GOOD WAY!! You asked what size I was looking at and when I told you a 38 (because of my very large bust) you said, oh no, at least a 36, maybe a 34. This had me looking at you like you were crazy, but grateful for the boost in confidence. Next you helped me pick out a beautiful pattern and exclaimed as you were lacing me up that this corset was going to make my boobs look 'even more fantastic' than they already did. For a woman constantly feeling judged by her weight and figure, your attitude, tone, general love of helping women feel beautiful is refreshing and so incredible. I tell everyone I know who even mentions a corset about you. In related news, about 6 years ago I bought a beautiful back lacing corset from a company out of London, I honestly have no idea which one, but I have worn it next to never. In a year I have worn my beautiful Vixen at least half a dozen times. When I left your booth, I was standing straighter (not just because I couldn't slouch;), I saw strangers looking at me, taking in the beautiful outfit and my own confidence. I always speak with love and pride of the day that you sold me the most beautiful piece in my wardrobe, and I cannot wait to get another.
    Thank you so much Michelle.

  5. The nice thing about your corset is that they are cheap (cost wise) compared to other good name corset makers, but they *feel* expensive. Best of both world, IMHO.
    Plus, they lace up in the front. As a single girl, that is really the biggest selling point! I like being able to dress myself.

  6. I adore your corsets so much, but with my body right now I cannot make your front lacing corsets work for me.. my size changes daily from side effects of diabetes and today I'll be a natural 22" waist and tomorrow I'm a 27" (this change has actually occured in a 24 hour period).

    with that said, I own as many of your cropped pieces and skirts as my wallet will allow so that I can still wear something that makes me feel absolutely amazing with my back lacing corsets.

    my Damsel collection is fairly large still even without corsets being in the mix (which makes it more impressive because I have to have many more pieces to make up the space)

    you are definately a temptress though, making me want all your corsets in every size so I can wear it no matter the day :)

  7. Michelle it was so good to see you at the Scottish festival tonight. I love your corsets and I love that you sell to women of every size!!! Thanks for being a business woman who actually makes other women feel awesome about themselves!!! You have so much talent and I love seeing your business grow and evolve. See you in a few weeks at the Steampunk Fest!

  8. I've given up trying to pinch pennies on stuff, it never pays out in the end. I've bought my husband boots and shoes from Walmart, Target, etc because we could afford to drop $$ on his shoes. I did the same thing for myself, and had the exact same issue you did with your boots. Now we buy ONLY high quality shoes (I shelled out the cash for some Doc Martens this last time around). You pay the good money and those shoes will last TEN times longer than going the cheap way.

    I've applied this to everything now. Stuff for the house, everything. QUALITY, it's in the price tag guys. Shop sales and be coupon grubbing lunatics! :D

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  12. As someone who has given a seamstress a helping hand on waist cincher dance costumes, I can totally agree with everything you describe. We did use coil boning but that was because the dancers needed to leap and climb giant spider webs on stage. We did everything to specification but when it came time for the fittings, the female dancers complained about exactly what you described: not stiff enough at the part that laces up. If they pulled it tight enough to the shape they wanted, the edges got a bit wobbly. We tried to explain to the company ordering the costumes that spring boning would be the way to go, but they wanted to save money. It irritated us to have to do that to the dancers. I'm sure the production company soon learned their lesson, too.
    Oh, and plastic boning? Not just no, but h*** no!
    I see it this way: A corset isn't simply a garment, it's a machine! Precision and quality construction are soooooooo important or you can get injured.

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