I was recently asked some advice on purchasing a corset for the first time. I have had some interesting experiences with my 6 corsets, so I decided to give more than some links.
So in true and proper Sarah-talks-way-too-much fashion, here is my story about corsetry:
Black Leather – 26″ – Custom – 2005
I purchased my first corset in 2005. It was ordered online from Meschantes. It is a black leather overbust. This first corset was to see how I liked wearing corsets, with the intention to begin tight-lace corset training. Josh took my measurements as per directions on the website. We ordered the “Diva” corset without the optional lacing details (they messed up and made the corset with the top lacing, and we decided that since it was otherwise fine it was not worth waiting another three months for a replacement corset, so we did not complain about it.) On their current site the corset I ordered is listed as “Thunder”. We paid around $450.
Their pricing is much less now than it was 8 years ago. The quality was fantastic and while it shows a lot of wear, this corset is still in fabulous shape. Meschantes gets a high recommendation from me, even though the corset I received has never fit me.
Why has the leather corset never fit? Because of measurement errors. Starting out with the worst possible mistake: wrong bra size. I think it was two years later (so around 2007) when I actually found a bra that fit me properly. For 11 years I fell perfectly into the category of women wearing the wrong bra size. It really does make the biggest difference in your comfort and physical appearance. So when filling out the measurement sheet we put me down as a 34C, when at the time I was around a 36D or DD. Thus, the cups of the overbust have always been too small. Second major error came in length. I slouch. When we were taking measurements for the busk (center chest to pelvic bone) I stood up as straight as I could. At least, that’s what I thought I was doing. We found out very quickly after receiving the leather corset that the measurement we took was 3″ short. I would now recommend (for those who slouch or hunch and even those who have good posture) to see a chiropractor right before taking corset measurements. Now, I have a super long torso, and corsets have made this ever more obvious. Many of my friends have tried on this corset, and it fit them fine, just as an off-the-rack one would do.
Because of the intention to begin tight-lace training we ordered the corset 6″ smaller than my natural waist size instead of the recommended 4″. (There are only two times I wore it within 1″ of being closed). The waist size on it was never an issue for me.
I never wore my black leather corset for waist training. The cup size being too small was an issue to me, but it did not look bad because we could leave the top portion of the corset looser and it worked. The corset being too short was an issue only in that it created a bubble of fat under the bottom of the corset instead of holding everything in place. Wearing tight jeans would fix that. The reason I refused to wear the corset as an undergarment or in public at all, was pointy boobs. In all pictures and examples on the website the chest appeared smooth and rounded. The corset I received has very sharp points on the cups and I hated looking like I had a pointy chest. It was an extreme embarrassment to me. So this really expensive garment became a costume piece. Something to let friends try on at parties.
All photos I have of wearing this corset during the years it fit me (before excessive weight gain) were lost with my hard drive crash. I found one photo of me in it on my old myspace page.
I also have one photo that I used as an avatar once upon many years ago. It is super tiny because it was used as an avatar. This is the tightest I ever had the leather corset.
Plus this one photo from a friend’s “Princess Party” at the Olive Garden restaurant. I did not have anything nice enough to wear, so I decided to wear my old choir dress. However, I could not get the skirt zipped up because I was nowhere near the same size. I decided to wear the corset even though it did not fit well. So here I was with a busting chest and bare shoulders, surrounded by girls in their pretty dresses, all modestly covered. I felt extremely exposed. I probably would have been more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt.
Oh, and in college I created a woodcut of a corset. This was taken directly from a photograph of me in this corset, so technically I think it counts as a photo.
White Satin – 24″ – Off-the-rack – 2008
In 2008 I received my second corset. A 24″ white satin underbust corset from a highly acclaimed British corsetry shop…just can’t remember which one. Josh found it on clearance ($60 instead of $200) and decided that for the price it was worth the risk of it not fitting me. It is about 4″ too short, and at the time of purchase was 8″ smaller than my natural waist. I have worn it nearly closed a few times, but there is usually a 4″-6″ gap in the back when I wear it. I never did wear this one on a regular basis as over the years I have only gained weight and not lost it. The large difference in waist size makes it difficult to wear for long periods of time (not having actually trained for tight lacing, and for me wearing this corset is tight lacing). Not to mention it being too short allows for pinching skin between the top of the corset and the bra line, as well as the same unsightly roll of fat underneath just like the black leather corset.
However this corset seems to fit most of my friends better than anything else I own. I think about 13 people have tried on this corset, and I’m the only one who it is too short for.
Again, I do not have many pictures of me wearing this corset due to the lost hard drive. Here is a picture of me from Anime Banzai 2008.
And I managed to scrape up a few pictures from a Halloween party in 2008 (thanks to friends keeping copies of photos).
This corset is what gave Josh his fantastic girly figure as Princess Peach in 2011.
White and Black Coutil – 30″ – Custom – 2008/2009
The third corset I acquired was another custom made piece. This one was truly intended for waist training and weight loss. While at the anime convention Nan Desu Kan in Denver, Colorado 2008 I found a corsetier, Seams Like Magik. Seeing her creations in person I was very impressed with her quality. To my dismay, I discovered her at the end of the last day of the convention and she did not have time for me to place a custom order. However, when I mentioned I was from Utah she said she would be there within a month for another convention.
Josh and I attended Mountain-Con 4 in September solely for the purpose to meet with Jane and order me a corset. We had a special escort into the convention so that we would not have to pay the entry fee. They made sure we were expected, escorted us directly into the dealers room and then escorted us out when we were done. She took my measurements, I picked out the black and white coutil so that it would be fashionable enough as an outer garment, but strong enough for a waist-training under garment.
I received my custom black and white corset in January 2009. I cried. My first garment that I had been measured for was completely wrong. It was 7″ too short. My overbust corset was the correct length for an underbust, except the center waist was in the wrong place for it to be an underbust. I took pictures and sent them to the seamstress.
She agreed that something had been messed up. I returned the corset and she made me a new one based on the original pattern and my photographs. I received the second corset in April. It was a tiny bit too long, but too long is easier to fix than too short. She did not want to go off of pictures for this correction, so a few weeks later as she was traveling the convention route she took a slight road deviation from Colorado to Washington to go through Salt Lake City. We met at a truck stop off the side of I-15. She quickly put the corset on me, made some markings and continued on her way. A couple weeks later I received my newly altered corset; a perfect fit.
It took close to a year to own this corset, but I experienced some of the best customer service of my life. The quality is fantastic, and I did speak to her about possibly ordering future corsets from her. The problem (for me) is that she only makes one style/shape of corset. It is the silhouette she has created, and what she has her success from. I think that’s fine, but I do not need another corset with this same silhouette.
Because I do not like the way this corset looks under regular clothing (odd boob shelf appearance) it did not work as a waist training garment for me. It looks great as an outer garment, and has always fit me better than any other corset (only exception being my wedding dress). This corset still fits me well, and as I have lost a few inches from the time it was made to present day, I can wear this one fully closed with minimal effort. If I ever achieve my goal weight, this corset will no longer fit me.
Blue Jacquard Front Lacing – 34″ – Off-the-rack – 2009
I bought my fourth corset on e-bay for my Halloween costume. I found a really cool looking corset that was super cheap, it has a halter top with lapels, tails, and front lacing. The construction looked good, but as it was under $50, and intended just for Halloween, I was willing to risk it being poor construction. Poor construction is right. The boning is plastic, which I was not surprised to find out, but plastic boning just does not hold the intended form as well as metal boning. The general construction and seams were good. The shape of it is fantastic (as you can see in the photos). The first problem came when I tried it on. The corset was intended to cinch me in, and it could not handle the stress of being tightened to the point of actual corseting. The grommets began to tear out within a minute of wearing it.
Thus began double corsetry for style only. I had to wear my black and white corset for shape and structure, and then wear the blue pirate corset over the top as a costume piece only. In the following four pictures I am wearing the black and white corset underneath the blue corset.
When I wore the corset for my sister’s baby shower in 2012 it was the first time I was able to wear it without a corset underneath. This corset was made to be worn by someone who only needs something snug, not for actual body shaping.
The second problem came when I wore this corset to its first convention, Anime Banzai (the two images above without the handkerchief shirt). A girl complimented my corset and asked where I got it. I happily supplied that I found it on e-bay for a really good price. Her face fell and she said, “Oh, it’s one of those knock-offs.” She then proceeded to tell me about the person I had purchased my corset from, and about the lady in Utah working out of her home who created this beautiful design. I bought my corset from the manufacturer Von Lancelot. (I am happy to report that after a deep internet search a few minutes ago this seller no longer exists, however there is much speculation that they have begun working under a different name using new designs.) Von Lancelot is one of those despicable companies who steal designs from small custom shops and outsources the labor to China. My particular corset design came from a local Utah corsetier Damsel in this Dress, which made it all the more recognizable at a Utah convention as a rip-off.
I had happened across her online store once before this encounter. I had loved her beautiful silhouettes, and I was very impressed that her goal was to create corsets that fit large busted women. Her corsets were out of my price range at the time I found her site (in the average of $300-$400 for a custom corset). So after just one look around a webpage it is no surprise that I did not recognize that the cheap e-bay store was selling the exact same corsets at a fraction of the price. After my conversation I really felt ashamed. If it sounds too good to be true, it needs to be googled to death to find out the truth. 😉
Earlier this summer (2013) I stumbled upon Damsel in the Dress once again. Josh and myself were wandering the Utah Scottish Festival when we happened upon her booth. It made me really happy to see her business absolutely booming. She now has a huge selection of pre-made corsets and accessories for sale at conventions, and on her etsy store. As well as selling and creating custom orders as well.
I felt like a little spy because I wanted to try on one of her corsets, but for the wrong reasons. If I had just wanted to try one on without intention to buy, that’s different. But I wanted to try one on to be judgmental. By 2013 I have had 8 years of corset wearing experience and it only takes me a moment to have an accurate opinion about corset quality and structure. From wandering her booth, looking at and feeling all of the different shapes and patterns I had mixed feelings. I needed to actually wear one. It took a day and a half to get myself to ask one of the assistant ladies to help me try one on. I’m not sure what it was about me, but I was in the booth three separate occasions on those two days and I was passed over for assistance about 9 times. Their customer service was great as I watched them dealing with all of the people around me, but I seemed to be invisible.
So I tried on an underbust corset with a 4″ reduction. Here is my take on Damsel in this Dress. The designs and shapes offered are very custom and different from the norm that is out there. The fabric is thick and helps with support. The stitching and general manufacture of the corsets is very high quality. If you are looking for a fabulous costume piece, and you find a corset here that you love, you have my full endorsement to purchase it. However, if you are looking for tightlacing I advise you look elsewhere. All of her corsets are front lacing, and there are only five bones in the corset including the two in front alongside the grommets. She does offer additional boning as an added option when ordering a custom corset. I was disappointed at the amount of structure that is left up to the fabric. She uses upholstery fabric only, so it does add support, but I had too much mobility. At the festival I saw over 40 people wandering about in her corsets. They really look fantastic. For those who only need a tiny bit of cinching to hold in that little bit of tummy, these are great. The tiny stick girls wearing them had the appearance that the corset was too bulky for them, I assume because they are thicker than most corsets. But for those of us with some bulk, larger bellies and heavy fat that does not like to be held in, there is just not enough support. They are so close, just so close, to what I would consider exceptional. They are strong enough to cinch in that 4″ reduction, but not strong enough to keep you from slouching, not strong enough to keep you from bending at the waist a little, and I just can’t look past that enough to buy one. (The thought of buying one of the pre-made corsets has crossed my mind now that her production is big enough that I could get one for about $100, but my long torso demands custom.)
Cream Flocked Velvet Chevron – 30″ – Custom – 2010
When Josh and I began planning our masquerade ball I knew my dress would have a corset incorporated into it somehow. I contacted a fantastic seamstress and good friend to see if she would be willing to make my dress for me. She was swamped, but referred me to an undergraduate at WSU who was studying costume design. Thus I was introduced to Katrina, the amazing girl who created the fantastic dress that everyone loves.
We began by exchanging online photos of designs we liked. After a lot of brainstorming and work, Katrina presented me with some sketches. They were great, but just did not look like what I wanted. In great hopes of not being offensive I offered to draw up a design. I did not have a clear idea in my head of what I wanted it to look like until I saw her designs. So I took her sketches and reformed them into what I saw. Then she turned my drawing into reality.
We went fabric shopping together in Salt Lake City, which is one of my all-time favorite memories of shopping. I gave her the white satin corset to use as a base corset form. The white satin corset is still my favorite piece when it comes to shape and silhouette. I explained that it was too short for my torso, and that I wanted less reduction at the waist so that it would actually close at the back and would not be as dramatic of a figure. Sexy corseted silhouette, but not wasp-waisted.
I bought the grommets, white corset laces, and white crinoline. Katrina dyed the laces and crinoline purple. I found some gorgeous purple leather and made the belts for the dress. She worked her magic, and after some fabulously fun fittings in the costume studio at Weber State I had an amazing dress and corset.
You have now seen the only underbust corset I have ever worn that is the correct size for me.
I wore my wedding dress for the second time at Steamfest 2013. I added a few details to the dress: bloomers, leather pouch, barometer, and a miniature top hat that I made to match.
Black PVC – 24″ – Off-the-rack – 2012
I think by now you may have realized my habit of buying corsets that are way smaller than my waist size. So here is a little bit of general corset knowledge for you. For most first time corset wearers it is advised to buy your corset 2″-4″ smaller than your natural waist. The 4″ reduction is assumed to take a large period of time to reach. As with any waist training, you should tighten the corset to snug, then slowly tighten it more and more. Depending on the person slowly can be hours for an inch, or years for a vast waist reduction. From the first time I ever put on a corset it was obvious that I corset very easily. As long as the garment fits well enough I corset down 4″ comfortably. A 6″ reduction for me is about 3″ for most people in the realm of comfort. A few times (I think 3?) I have reached an 8″ reduction, usually with starting at 4″ and working on tightening over 6-10 hours.
So when you see the extreme differences in corset size, while over the past years my waist size has not changed dramatically, it is because I am odd, and I skipped the proper training sizes. 🙂
While designing my Halloween costume in 2012 I decided that I wanted a corset for my costume, and none of my current selection would work. I found a corset on ebay that looked perfect, and was only $90 ($76 for the corset and $14 for shipping). Based on previous experience I researched the seller until I was satisfied that she does create her own pieces. I was extremely pleased with the quality for the price. The owner of Mystic City Corsets designs and patterns her own corsets, then she outsources them for production so that she can sell them at lower prices. I purchased a black PVC underbust corset at a size that was smaller than I wanted. The quality was very good. I did have a small hole occur as one of the bones poked out through the bottom of the casing. It just means that the boning is not capped. For the price it does not bother me at all.
I ordered the 24″ corset because I was placing my order really close to Halloween. This was the style I wanted and they were sold out of most sizes. The two sizes available to me were the 24″, and the 34″. As the 34″ was only 2″ smaller than my waist I voted for the 24″. I knew that it would not fit quite right, and that it would not be anywhere near closed in the back, because it is the same size as the white satin corset. But because of the white satin corset, I knew I would be able to wear it, and I could get more reduction out of it than 2″. Plus, this way if I ever reach my weight goal, it will still fit me.
I have not worn it since Halloween, but as I lose more weight I’m sure it will see a lot more use.
There you have it. 6 corsets in 8 years. Wow, until I wrote that sentence I had no idea that I had bought a corset nearly every year since the first one. Looks like I need to get on the ball and buy 2 more before the end of next month.