Category: corsetry

The importance of comfort & fit

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this want, well, rather a need to learn things, I find myself constantly muttering “But… why is it/does it/doesn’t it…?” over so many topics, sure, it sometimes gets me into hot water as it seems that not everyone is appreciative of my inquisitive, yet logical questioning, but many creators and creatives are the same, we dont just accept that ‘that’s how things are’ we want to know WHY its that way, is there a way to change it, make it better, improve it.

Earlier on in my blog I spoke about how this very trait brought me into the world of corset making, how many OTR corsets didnt fit me properly (being short and chunky) how it wasn’t fair that I should have to conform to the clothes on offer, rather than the other way round. How my wedding evening was spent bathing an open wound, and sporting a rather impressive set of bruised ribs on honeymoon caused by snapped a bone & sub-par metalwork used in a cheap corset.  My now husband muttered those 6 words “You could make a better one…” and thus the seed was sown.  4 years on, many books, tuition courses and interactions with other corset makers and I now offer out my services.

That same inquisitive nature of mine has struck again, this time, my frustration lies with bra’s, and I’m not alone, apparently 76% of women wear the wrong size bra, with reasons ranging from deliberately buying a bra too small thinking it’ll give their smaller boobs a better lift, through to people who believe their boobs are so big, that there surely isn’t a store that will sell one big enough.  One anonymous friend (please dont hurt me) said that her bra shopping consisted of “going into <insert shop name here> and buying the biggest one they have.

milliondollarbra

My own personal experiences have been less than positive, with one notable time where, determined to get one that fitted and didnt leave my boobs wobbling around like half set jelly, I booked a fitting with a ‘professional bra fitter’ at a large well known department store.  The ‘fitter’ measured me, added the time old +4 (which has its roots in the 1950’s vanity sizing and the fact that the stretchy materials we use in today’s bra’s simply were not available 65 years ago) and came out with a size (46B) and the minute she said it i knew it was wrong, but I went along, as you do.  Unsurprisingly, the bra was ludicrously large, I could have used it as a makeshift slingshot – whilst i was wearing it – needless to say the fitter was not impressed at my humorous quips, and went back to get another size, this time coming back with a 36C – again, I knew this wouldn’t fit, I’d put on a few stone since I was that exact size a decade ago, needless to say when this too didn’t fit with the opposite issue – I’d managed to acquire 2 more sets of boobs in as many minutes, 2 under my armpits and 2 on my back – this time, the fitter was determined to put me in my place: “If you just lost a stone your bra’s would fit so much better!” How mortified was I? How dare I not conform to a piece of clothing? God forbid that I question her ability as a bra fitter, who cannot fit a bra.

I pushed this incident to the back of my mind until it came to THAT time again, it was time to buy some more bra’s, I *thought* my bra fitted OK until I started reading up on it, I was dreading that sizing minefield again, how would I know what size I was? clearly I couldn’t trust the only bra fitter in my area for miles, and so I joined a few Bra Making groups on social media, Well, I’d had this same dilemma with corsetry, so why not bras? and so it started, I started asking questions, reading articles, realising that the +4 method that is often used simply isn’t applicable to a lot of women today.  there’s a great article here by Fuller Figure Fuller Bust, but essentially:

  • The materials used in 1950’s were quite rigid, and not stretchy like what is available today (Spandex wasn’t invented by Du Pont until 1958, and wasn’t introduced into clothing until 1962).
  • Fuller figures, combined with elastics might not need an extra 4″ of give in a bra that’s added onto the band size ‘by default’.
  • Slimmer & more athletic figures conversely might actually need those extra 4″ of give, as having such a rigid bra might feel very uncomfortable.

I wont even go into the mathematics of it all! It’ll only serve to confuse, and I dont want to pretend that I know THAT much about bra fitting at this point, because I really dont, and this post is more about a regular gal, giving her experience and opinion, but suffice to say whilst the media tell us about how bad it is to wear an ill-fitting bra, the importance of comfort and fit, they then demonstrate this with a poorly fitted bra in so many cases? How are us mere mortals supposed to know what fits us when we get all these mixed messages? When the majority of everything we see/told is also wrong? When those same media outlets then release video’s like this one The History of the Bra – Styles From Every Era where practically every bra the model wears was badly fitted.  What I would suggest is to measure yourself, and go shopping, try on several sizes, push misconceptions aside (as I did today) I am of the ‘fuller’ figured, so I looked at both bands in a 38 (my actual UB measurement) and those in a 42 (the +4 method), I swept aside cup size assumptions (me, and E cup? get away!!) and did as an experienced bra fitter friend I spoke with told me to, start at the 38 and go up the cup sizes if the band is comfortable.  I’ve actually found that by doing this I’ve struck gold (well, for this particular brand anyway) and found my perfect bra in a DD cup… I’m pretty thrilled!

Which brings me onto the next chapter of the bra journey, now that I have information to hand, Ive bought patterning books, Ive got links to Bra making sites, I might well be looking into making my own bras! how fabulous would that be? to be able to have those skills? and hey, to be able to make a bra & pants that go perfectly with an underbust corset? after all, we all love a bit of Matchy Matchy!

matchy matchy

 

Embroidery

One of the newer projects I have been working on is getting my embroidery machine up and running.  I’ve had a domestic embroidery machine (a Brother 750e) for a few years now, but admittedly, I’ve not done a whole lot with it! I had a play at first, then shoved it in a corner when i started getting a bit confused over the plethora of stabilising fabrics, which types of threads were okay, which often ended up snapping or leaving a large amount of pilling in the machine parts and clogging them up… and I was, at times, rather busy doing corset orders to be able to sit down and learn… however! I decided to try and make time, and I have started! Once I feel confident in that I have mastered the basics, its certainly an additional feature I plan to incorporate into my corsetry! think of the limitless possibilities! I may (if I figure it out!) learn how to make my very own unique lace pieces… I could have lace in ANY colour I choose and I wouldn’t be stuck to offering the very limited range often found in craft stores/online (i.e. black, white, cream with bits of navy or red here & there if you’re lucky!) fancy a bit of Orange lace? heck why not, How about some Lime green lace? hell yes! Shocking neon pink lace? you betcha!

So to start with, ive made a few practice pieces of embroidery using designs by Urban Threads, now dont worry! ive checked their licensing requirements and confirmed that essentially the good folks over there will let you use their designs on ANYTHING! whether its personal or stuff to sell on, those cool guys are fine (so long as you dont sell on the actual templates in their ‘raw’ form – that’s not cool.)  Anyone who doesn’t know who Urban Threads are should check them out, be warned, they are gorgeous! and you can also download the templates for hand embroidery too if you dont have a machine. so any and all of those cool and frankly beautiful designs could be included in your next corset order!

Here are the designs I’ve done so far, and i will likely make these up into sample cinchers to go in the shop at some point, and ill add more pictures as I complete them.    11896028_746573308804267_6980709440605913691_n11889488_10153485905352254_5834758306254639429_n

You Charge HOW MUCH?! (aka The true cost of bespoke corsetry & clothing)

how-much (1)

It’s a phrase that, regardless of how many times corsetieres, dressmakers & assorted craft people alike hear it, it still stings, it still makes you doubt yourself, it still makes you feel you have to justify your craft – even yourself.  It never gets easier to hear, regardless of how you handle it to the outside world – phrases like:

  • Wow… that’s more than i thought….
  • Oh, it’s rather expensive.
  • I can get a corset for £30 from (insert imported online retailer here) – why are yours so expensive?
  • My friend who knows  someone who will make me one for free if I buy the fabric.
  • You must be very good to think you can charge so much.
  • I thought this was just your hobby?

Its not JUST limited to corsetry, ask any dressmaker, any person who makes bags, brooches, knits jumpers.. they’ll all tell you about ‘The Expression’ the expression when some customers get told how much their bespoke item will cost to make, the expression when all manner of thoughts are running through their head whilst attempting not to say something negative – that usually ends up being negative anyway – The expression that tells you that the chances are, this person is not a ‘crafty’ person and has no real grasp of just how much raw materials cost, let alone that you will *gasp* want to pay yourself a wage for working. Working you say? but surely this is a hobby?

Its both – I have no paid outside employment, Yes, I enjoy what I do – sometimes (when things go effortlessly right, when the seam ripper is NOT my eternal friend, when my sewing machine behaves…) but I need money, I need money to buy the raw materials, I need money to pay my mortgage, my bank manager likes it very much when that happens… There is also the question of equipment, machines, space, raw materials, training, research… to give a rough idea of what I have spent monetary wise in the last 3 years, purely related to corsetry, I have a little (non exhaustive) list:

  • Sewing Machines – 1 x Overlocker (serger) £200, 1 x Embroidery machine £800 plus software £1000, 1 x steam iron (with reservoir & stand) £200, 2 x (vintage) Singer machines (cheaper than buying an industrial Juki), plus servicing and electric conversion kits £300

Total Est Cost: £2,500

  • Training courses & Qualifications – Level 1 & level 2 NVQ in Fashion & Textiles plus expenses = £500 (other courses in the pipeline but not paid so far approx £1000), 3 x Courses (so far) on Pattern Drafting, Underbust corsetry techniques, Overbust corsetry techniques (3 x £250) = £750, plus travel/petrol = £150 approx, plus accommodation 9 nights approx = £630

Total Est Cost: £3,030

  • Books/Memberships – Like any craft or hobby, a good supply of books, research, website memberships and so on is vital.  I have a bookshelf full of, and dedicated to corsetry and related topics that are there so I can refer to them if I need tips on historical accuracy, the look of the time, how to do certain techniques and so on – Historical fashion books, modern designers, Le More Illustre books, pattern cutting, embellishment technique books, dressmaking, specific corsetry authors.. plus monthly membership fee’s to online resources. Again an estimation of what I’ve spent on these over the last few years.

Total Est Cost – £2000

  • Misc Hardware/Tools – Various pliers, Bolt Cutters, Eyelet setting press, Awls, Rotary Cutters & blades, cutting Boards, Sheers, Tailors Hams,  task lighting, pattern card and papers, Spiral steel boning of various thicknesses, flat steel bonings, various sizes of busks, eyelets, boning end caps…I can’t even begin to think how much ive spent here, but its safe to quote a figure of around £1800 but likely more

Total Est Cost £1800

  • Misc FabricsANY crafter will attest to their ‘Fabric Stash’ (including secret stashes hidden from their significant others) these are not only those “oooh pretty” fabrics that are randomly picked up, fabrics on sale, but staple fabrics that you *know* are asked for frequently, so a good stock of basic fabrics, cottons, drills, duchesse satin’s, silks, tafetta’s.. plus the inevitable stock needed of medium weight calico for client mock ups, and that corsetry necessity (and expensive) coutil fabric needed for the strength layers which can cost anywhere between £9-25 per meter) having gone through my current fabric stock, i’d say there is several thousand pounds worth of stock, and this is a continuous outlay.

Total Est Cost £3000

  • Misc additional corsetry materials – More materials you say? heck yes! these include corsetry lacing, bias bindings, bone casing tapes, waist tapes, herringbone tapes, fancy laces (£25+ per meter easily), swarovski’s, crystals, beads, studs/spikes and all manner of fancy, pretty things and sewing threads (Gutermann is the more expensive, but having tried others, they just aren’t strong enough for the demands of corsetry –  a 1000m reel of plain white thread is almost £9 in the shops) I’ve probably missed a lot of things here but you get the idea!

Total Est Cost £1000

  • The last and final outlay, the one no one like to speak of, the losses that need to be factored in and absorbed. Craftspeople the country wide will speak of their naivety in the fledgling business beginnings over those people who didnt pay or only partially paid for their item right down to those who paid, received their item then immediately did a chargeback, Ebay/Etsy type sales where the buyers then claims it wasn’t ‘the right shade/colour’ or it was damaged (dare I say, after wearing it for the posh do they wanted it for) and issue Paypal disputes… and so, these extra costs of what is essentially theft are inevitably re-absorbed into the final cost of the items.

So even here, the total monetary cost of what I’ve spent is before I’ve even sewn a stitch, before I’ve actually sat down, spent any time researching, drafting a pattern for a client, or done any actual work at all. It’s safe to assume that all in all, drafting a pattern, alterations, fittings, down to the finished completed corset can easily take (me) 3 x 8 hour days, Sure, I’m not the quickest, but here you get an idea of the time taken – so even on the UK minimum wage  (which often isn’t applied in our attempts to compete with cheaper imported corsets), would equal £156 just on wage costs alone.  I know of corsetieres who spend 180 HOURS alone on handstitched beading/lace on their beautiful corsets that are more like works of art – if they also charge minimum wage for that on top of the normal rate for the basic corset, plus material costs your easily talking £1500+ and that’s before you’ve factored in the years that they spend learning, training, equipment costs, overheads, shop rentals, we have to find our own ‘Pension Pot’ and our own ‘Holiday Pay’… Luckily in the UK we have the NHS to cover health bills… other countries, that’s another expense…

Now I’ve bored most people to a semi-sleep state by my ramblings, the short answer, is that corsets require specialised skills, specialised equipment and materials to produce, and as a niche item, they are done in small, often individual quantities.  I’ve tried in the past to reduce my prices to compete with ‘fashion’ corsets from High Street Stores or other imported online retailers, but it’s impossible, But I realise that now, and I no longer wish to devalue my skills or my time by trying to compete.  When people Buy British, or come to a locally based, self employed corsetiere or craftsperson, they are doing so much more than paying for a well made, quality item – they are putting back into the British Economy, they are helping to pay for other small businesses to stay afloat, not just those that supply my corsetry materials, (for example, I don’t buy meat from a supermarket chain, I support my local butcher, I buy my fruit & veg mostly from the local markets) your custom to these people might also pay for a child to have ballet/karate/extra maths lessons, College or Uni… It doesn’t just disappear into a tidal wave of Multi-Million Pound Annual Profits –  Isn’t that enough to give you a lovely fuzzy warm feeling inside when you think about it?

Welcome to our new blog!

Well, what can i say! I’d be lying if I said this was my first blog, there have been others, but they have been more along the rambling, ad-hoc type postings that chartered my first footsteps into the world corset making, with other randomness thrown in for good measure.  This new one, is specifically for my brand, Curvitude Corsetry.

Now, I must stress that although this is aimed mainly at my fledgling business, there will still be big slashes of my trademark humour, sarcasm and general bonkers attitude, it wouldn’t be me otherwise! I’ll never pretend to be something other than what I am! There will be glamorous images, some posh and descriptive wording, but really, dont be surprised if there’s some zany and odd posts on here too!

I’m hardly going to portray an image of an immaculately manicured and dressed lady smelling of Lily of the Valley who has Bach gently playing in the background, whilst sewing corsetry for a client (It kinda happens… occasionally… ?!) When the real image is me, in sweatpants, with no make-up on, swearing under my breath after whacking my thumb with a hammer whilst setting eyelets, whilst a heavy/black/classic metal CD grunts away in the background (Most likely of scenarios) It makes me relevant and edgy… or something.

Here on this blog im going to treat you to a more ‘Behind the Scenes’ experience, client pictures, stories, maybe a few info-articles, links to video’s and step-by-step project insights – I often do these if im tackling a new type of corset design, it not only helps me to vent (as we all need to occasionally!) but helps to chart progress, and give prospective clients an idea of how the different corsetry shaping and designs will REALLY look.

Anyway, enough of my rambling introduction!

Claire