Whist ive not posted in a while (smack my hands!) I have been very busy behind the scenes, some of you might know that I used to run a separate WordPress blog, well, this has now been merged into my new website (which is here, of course!) Now that everything is in one place, I can do updates, keep you informed of sale items and show examples of my work ALL IN ONE PLACE! which is pretty ace! and I do have some samples that will be ready to take pictures of and advertise on here at a discounted price. keep your eyes peeled!
Like many specialist industries, Fine corsetry is one of those niche talents, many of us work for years at our ‘hobby’ to get to where we are, I personally have only been doing this for 4 years which is a mere hiccup in the timescale of some other corsetieres, some were lucky enough to be able to study fashion at college and/or university, some have spent time on unpaid (or minimally paid) internships, volunteered for other makers, whilst others basically slugged it out for years, subsidising their corset making with other paid work. One thing I can say with all certainty is that regardless of whether we studies by book, by web, or by educational means, its cost us all many thousands of pounds of our own money to be able to do what we do. Which leads me to the point of this blog post:
Is it any wonder why we get a bit narked when someone outright asks us to give away our methods, our suppliers, our time, our skills… to someone who cannot grasp the basic functions of the Library/Google?
Somehow the laws of etiquette flew out of the window in the age of the internet, I reluctantly acknowledge that yes, I was around (just) before the internet was ‘mainstream’ I was in my teens when I got a Commodore 64k, (64K of Ram… can you imagine that now?!) with its tape deck, where you typed line upon line of code so that you could see “Hello World!” come up on the screen in the vain hope someone… anyone would reply (but never did)
But back in the day, and heck even now… would you for example, stop a solicitor on the street and demand free legal advice? would you ask a plumber to fix your leaky shower… right now, for free? would then you ask that plumber for a list of his suppliers so you can bypass him/her and get all your materials cheaper whilst your at it… and then send a barrage of messages to them asking them how to do it when you cant figure out how to plumb in that shower on your own? Of course you wouldn’t! But yet… and corsetry is by no means alone here – its fine to do precisely this? In the last few months, I have personally seen a lot of this happen, a few such examples are:
- “Did you draft that pattern yourself, if so, can i have a copy?”
- “Tell me what pattern number it is and where do I get one?”
- “I want that corset, where is the link/who did it (name is literally plastered ALL OVER the photo)
- “Please can i have a list of your fabric suppliers?”
- “I want a corset made for me for a shoot, you wont be paid but think of the exposure!”
- “Oooh that (Vintage/French/Imported) Lace is gorgeous, do you have any left over that i can have… i’ll pay post!”
- “I want someone to teach me how to make corsets, I want someone in the <insert country/area> so i can get step by step instructions and be able to come to your house if i get stuck… for free… obvs!” (??!!)
I’ve had people wanting me to guide them through “someone else’s” corset repair, or corset construction via Facebook Messenger on four separate occasions, one even got very mad, sending a barrage of messages, accusing me of being ignorant and snotty when I didnt respond to their demands and threatened to spread lies about my work (that they’d never seen) because I refused to give them one-on-one online tutorial and support (for free of course) I wouldn’t even say that I am anywhere near the standard of some more accomplished makers that I know of… I certainly wouldn’t be confident of being able to teach a novice how to start when in general conversation they ask “What do you mean by straight grain?”.
People seem to have lost the art of wanting to find out things, to absorb information as and when it comes along, lost the art of experimenting, and getting it wrong… ‘happy accidents’ if you will, rather than go to the library, or buy a book on corsetry and reading it, or going onto Google and typing a question (and God forbid have to look through a few search results!) they would rather go onto social media and ask their question where they could wait hours or even days for a subjective answer (and often several different ones) The whole Google issue troubles me, I dont understand why someone would sit for hours waiting for a forum reply to a question like:
When Google literally told me in less than 0.51 seconds that there were several local suppliers I could go to. I could even get some basic corsetry tutorials online in the same amount of time (of course nothing will ever beat one-on-one in person tutorials like I was lucky enough to experience) and 4 years on, I’m still teaching myself, pushing boundaries, techniques, reading…
The whole way we have of effective communication (or lack thereof) has changed and yes, times change and we need to change with it, but since when did that equal demanding? Where did the expectation of free ‘stuff’ even become a thing?
Again, on other craft forums I am a member of (I am also a fairly apt pencil drawer, general sewer & knitter) I see openly rude demands for free things, people telling other crafts-persons that they want personalised bespoke items but they wont pay for them “until I see it in my own hands” Would they demand that Studio for example (mass produced personalised gifts) send them lots of things before they will pay up? would they place a big order with, say, Amazon, and refuse to pay until Amazon delivered all of their stuff for their approval first? of course not… so why the sudden lack of etiquette when speaking to individual corsetieres and crafts-persons? What happened to make this acceptable?
There are many arts and crafts that are (or were) a dying art, just several decades ago many people would sew their own clothes as a matter of course, everything was cooked from scratch, often even grown in the garden, if you wanted to learn something, the internet wasn’t there, it was either passed down through generations, or you learnt yourself or paid someone to teach you – Now we have cheap clothes on hand whenever we want, you can have a full Sunday roast at the sound of a PING!! if you really want without lifting barely a finger, and Google is there at a keystroke and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find out or learn anything without having to find your local library (if there is even one left in your area) Such easy to have references should be treasured, and the people who keep old crafts alive should also be treasured. Please, if you are reading this, do your own little bit to bring a little bit of etiquette back, tell/show a crafts-person how much you appreciate what they do, whether its someone who spent several days knitting your newborn a new hat and jacket, to someone who spends days/weeks making a corset just for you… appreciate what they do, and try not to utter “is that your best price”.
The other day I posted the first part of this, what is NOT a corset featuring those, quite frankly, ugly car tyre innertube contraptions. So today I’m going to go onto what is a corset – but first, im really sorry to break this to you all, but so long as i draw breath, I will never consider one of these to be a real corset – ever.
This particular one is an infamous Corsets UK/Corset Story/Corset Wholesale/Corset Deal/ Punk 69/ whatever other domain they can get their hands on ‘corset shaped(ish) garment. Yes it has a few separate panels, Yes it has a busk, Yes, it has lacing at the back, and yes, it has steel bones (sometimes). Aside from the sheer tackiness of the item (this would count as something a rather naive, and soon to be EX boyfriend might present to their lady on Valentines day perhaps) There are a few things about this piece that should instantly raise suspicion as to why is might not be all that great to not only wear, but might not do what you expect a real corset to do – cinch you in at the waist:
- These are made in Pakistan/China. whilst some good things come out of Pakistan/China, have you ever looked at the difference in body shape? Western women are, by hereditory and diet/nutrition more rounded, and curvier than say, a Chinese woman. This is not to say ALL western women are curvy, and ALL Chinese Women are slim & boyish, but you get the idea. This could explain why so many of this companies ‘corsets’ look like tubes, and have no real curve – dont let those photoshopped pictures fool you!
- Have you ever wondered why a corsetiere in the UK will charge you anywhere from £150 upwards and well into the thousands in some cases, for a corset, yet Corsets UK et al can sell them for £50 or LESS? its not because we are greedy, its because we we have a UK minimum wage per hour which is more than some of these places pay their workers PER MONTH.
- The materials we use are top quality, to give you an idea, I have just finished a commission where i used a ‘spoon busk’ that spoon busk alone cost me £28. However, several corsetieres I know, including myself (pictured) have actually cut apart these imported ones to find them full of scrap metal, electricians tape and other things: I doubt the sum total of the busk was 28p.
SO, NOW I’VE FINISHED RANTING ABOUT THOSE TUBES, LETS LOOK AT REAL CORSETRY!
There are so many other designers that I absolutely adore and aspire to be as good as, that this blog post would go on forever, so ill stop with 4 (including my own work of course) and simply say that:
if you want curves like the ones that a real corset will give you, save up your pennies and buy a real corset!
Many corsetieres work off bespoke made of order’s but there are still a few companies who sell off the rack corsets that are real corsets, and are suitable for waist training and tightlacing (yes, there IS a difference and many people do get the two confused) and this is something im going to discuss soon – probably in my next blog post.
Now, where are those Hob Nobs again?
Its the one topic that often incenses corstieres the world over, when celebrities, glossy mags and the people who read them – and BELIEVE them, jabber on about #WaistTraining, about how bad corsets are for you, how uncomfortable and sweaty they are, how painful they are… and then, you see it – the picture of the ‘Corset’ they are actually talking about:
Images Courtesy of Hourglass Angel & What’s a Waist/Kim Kardashian
Immediately my blood begins to boil, frustration levels rise, my anger toward celebs/glossy mags increases tenfold who do nothing to dispel the myth of corsetry, particularly modern corsetry where we have learned so many new techniques, new ways and materials for construction, more understanding of how the body works, (and doesnt) we have learnt from the methods and mistakes of the 15th centrury onwards.
You would think that journalists and article researchers – note that word, RESEARCHERS, would actually do even a tiny bit of tangible research into their articles, instead of their lazy journalism of copy & paste, perpetuating centuries old myths, scaring readers half to death with un-researched ‘facts’ before telling them that essentially “Its okay…because Kim Kardashian does it.” I recall one glossy promoting Kim Kardo’s latest post pregnancy HEALTHY diet to its readership which advised that the breakfast plan was:
- 1 Glass Hot water with squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon of Ghee (for those who dont know, that’s clarified butter where the milk solids are removed, popular in Indian cooking)
wait… what? clarified butter? they want me to get a tablespoon and dig in and eat clarified butter for breakfast?! Sorry love, but screw that, I’ll stick to my shredded straw, im sure thats WAY more healthier that a mouthful of clarified butter…urgh.
These facts alone are why i’ve basically given up on the glossies, they are basically stupid, lazy, celebrity obsessed journalists who dont like basic facts to get in the way of a good photoshopped picture. So lets take a typical comment, (not researched at all, just copied and pasted from the <insert brand of rubber tube here> and dig a little deeper (but not too deep yo!)
- they compress your core, ramp up perspiration, release toxins, and metabolize fat. Does it? does it really? Yes, it will squish you in, I agree there, but really, does it just make you sweat more, thus lose bodily fluids faster which are IMMEDIATELY replaced as soon as you chug a glass of water post-wear/workout. Sweating naturally ‘releases toxins anyway so nothing special there, and please do explain how this rubber garment itself, metabolises fat other than how your body well, normally metabolises fat?
- The tight fit also restricts your abdomen, reducing your food intake during the day. – as would any super tight fitting garment – have you even managed to eat comfortably, or shoved that Big Mac to one side because the waistband on your jeans is digging in when you sit down?
then whilst reading the comments under the glossy articles.. apart from the general body snarking, horrid comments and general misinformation are these types of remarks – all basically reading and believing whatever the magazine tells them, all believing they are wearing corsets *sigh* :
…Corsets are very tight and extremely uncomfortable, painful OMG….
….Corsets are the ones you string up and pass out if you have it too tight.
…my skin has been bruised very badly by this corset, ill never wear one ever again…
….Corsets can snap your ribs, which then puncture your lungs and can kill you…
…”Sarah Gottfried, an integrative physician and gynecologist told us: “The problem is that when you constrict your waist, your organs have to go somewhere…corsets push your lungs up….”
Er… what? silly me… and heres me thinking your lungs were actually under your ribcage, buy hey who am I to question the ‘opinion’ of a Gynecologist? oh wait…
Whilst its true that wearers can often feel ‘constricted’ in a corset, even REAL corset, rest assured your lungs are not being shifted anywhere. The shock words are also rife in the articles particularly the word “compress” as in the ‘corsets compress your organs – making the reader think all manner of horror stories and visions but really, put into context:
Corsets compress your organs!!!
- So does Pregnancy
- So does basic movements such as leaning over or bending. (temporarily)
- So does Yoga (particularly Nauli Kriya) (thanks Lucy – she goes into much more – and better technical data on her post on shapewear here
So I guess that before I finish Part 1 (I dont want to witter on too long) its also time to drag out that old Victorian drawing that so many corset haters drag out year after year to attempt to bolster their zero researched arguments:
There we go, because corsets are BAD!! this drawing tells you so! (Like, I could draw a picture that looks zero like your mom and say “Thats your Mom that is!” and it must be true) there is absolutely no artistic licence here at all, there is of course, staunch medical evidence to back up this ‘drawing’ they did medical X-rays and everything…didnt they? Erm, no. However, a German quiz show did recently do an MRI scan of what happens – See the Youtube video here of Lucy (Bisonenrancher) discussing the show and the results HERE which pretty much blows that old Victorian drawing out of the window and we are all eagerly waiting to see if they do a follow up to this experiment.
Next Time I’ll be discussing happier things and what IS a corset… for now, I could murder a cup of tea and some Hob Nobs…
Its an interesting question, with a very interesting, if amusing answer!
Whilst this is a ‘business’ blog, I still want to retain the element of personal thoughts, events and feelings, I dont want it to be a rigid, ‘businessfied’ efficient page of no personality. Since my early twenties, I began wearing corsetry and more adventurous get ups (thanks to a LOT of soul searching, and the break up of Marriage #1) I would buy RTW corsets (shop bought, ready to wear, standard size) and these came from 2 companies, Vollers, and Axfords. the fit was okay, the comfort factor was also fine for RTW, but, being standard sizing, it was never going to be perfect, and let face it, there’s not a whole lot of people out there who conform to a standard size all over – I NEVER have, even though I’ve been many different sizes, I’ve been underweight, I’ve been average weight, ive been slightly overweight and ‘obese’, yet one thing remained consistent, my ‘well defined’ bottom and hips – yes, even when I was underweight, this ‘Baby got Back’! To get jeans to fit my bottom, there would be several inches of gape at the waistband, and this inevitably made other RTW garments including corsetry difficult, and the bigger I got, the bigger my butt got, but I still retained a waistline, which in corsetry gives me quite a decent ‘Hip spring’ and made RTW corsetry more and more difficult.
Spin forwards to 16th April 2011. This was my wedding day (#2) to my wonderful soulmate David. Like many brides I’d planned on losing a LOT of weight, and which I inevitably failed, I’d lost some, but not enough to fit into the corset I’d bought for the big day and so, in a mad panic, 3 weeks before the day and the dawning realisation that my wedding corset just wasn’t going to fit, I delved into the ‘dark side‘ of corsetry, I knew it wasn’t great, I knew it would probably be rather uncomfortable, but I also knew I could get a ‘Plus-Size’ corset and it would be delivered in time – I ordered a corset from CorsetsUK.
It arrived within 7 days, it fit (kind of) and it was uncomfortable. the day of the wedding arrived, and I rapidly began to realise that the longer I wore this ‘corset’ the more uncomfortable I was getting, and then discomfort turned into actual PAIN. Now, I need to point out that I’ve worn corsets for a number of years, and I’m no lightweight when it comes to pain, I’ve had Arthritis since I was diagnosed in my early 20’s, I’m ‘used to’ pain, but this was different, my lower fixed ribs were aching, the bones were digging in my ribs, my hips and my lower lumbar… but the moment when I first though “I’m sure I MUST be able to make something better myself (even though I’d barely sewn since school) was this conversation, with the registrar, just before the ceremony:
“Are You sure you want to get married? … You look VERY uncomfortable… You are not being forced into this marriage against your will?”
Sweet Lord, I was looking THAT uncomfortable, the registrar actually thought I was involved in a forced/sham marriage?!! I had to explain to this registrar that I was fine, and it was actually the corset that was making me uncomfortable… Wow. Anyway, the ceremony was perfect, just how we wanted (instrumental Guns & Roses – November Rain in the background) and I managed to keep the corset on, longer than my shoes! but I’m sure the copious amounts of alcohol that night numbed the pain somewhat!
When we left the venue for our honeymoon suite, the anticipation building of that delicious moment I’d been waiting for ALL DAY… the moment of sheer unadulterated bliss when I could unlace this damn corset and get it off me! What I wasn’t expecting were the deep gouges where the bones had been pressing against my ribs, the blue bruising was already evident along my rib cage, down the ribs on my back where one of the bones had snapped, and the deep bruising and once bleeding cut in one of my hips, where a ‘bone’ had cut through the fabric, and into my skin. This corset had injured me, and I’d only been wearing it for a period of around 10 hours. I hadn’t taken photos (and looking back, i really wish I had) but the bruising was still there toward the end of our honeymoon.
Not long after that, after some employment related issues, I lost my job, and with the money I received in settlement, I paid for several courses so that I could learn corsetry, even after such a bad experience, I still loved corsets, as I know myself its NOT the corset that is the bad guy here, its the cheap sweatshop factories producing these tube like garments in vast numbers, garments that are geared more toward the Asian build (slender, with little hip/waist ratio) and the Transgender community which bears little resemblance to the typical Western woman of today. By training in corsetry, I could not only make my own corsets that actually fit ME, but I could in time, offer my services to other people.
Its always going to be hard to convince people who want to buy corsets, that they should invest their hard earned money in a well fitted quality piece that will last them, that won’t hurt, that FITS, but all I can do, is tell it how it was for me, there are lots of people out there that will always take cost over comfort, but all I hope is that in time, people will see the benefits of good, locally made, bespoke corsetry over cheap imported corsetry – hopefully before another Rana Plaza type disaster happens.
I thought I’d start off my new blog by harking back to one of my first ever corset makes.
A long time friend had heard of my desire to start making corsetry, and was incredibly supportive. She did a lot of role-play and was looking for someone to make her a new corset for her outfit and this is the result! This was made before I’d even gone on any corsetière training or courses so it was very trying at times, with the limited resources and information that I had acquired at that point.
I’m amazed that, as my first piece, it fitted so well – I do recall that I has so many issue with how to figure out how to attach the fake buckles to the front of the corset, that they were all assembled and attached with hand sewing! Its made from a black vegan suede fabric, and black cotton coutil with spiral steel boning. Id managed to find a good supplier of coutil and boning in the UK that I still use now, and it was though her, that I found out about the training courses she offered. Not long after making this first corset, I saved my pennies and paid for several courses and quite simply, I haven’t looked back since!