Tag Archives: boning

A Piece of Victorian Fashion History

I like to wear many hats, do many things, mix it up: personally and professionally.

In addition to working for Dark Garden, I also eat fire, retouch commercial photos, choreograph plays, model fashions, bartend events, drum for an all-girl psycho-folk-neo-clown band, and restore vintage clothes on Haight St. While this all may sound like an incredible amount of occupations to the averagely-employed individual, it’s all in a day’s work for the the modern hustler with an old soul and youthful spirit.

They're like:
They’re like: “Try it on! Try it on!” They treat me like a goddamn Barbie.

One day on Haight St., we came across an epic piece of fashion history that forced my jaw to drop to the floor: a black crystal encrusted, mutton-sleeved jacked with an elaborate, H. R. Giger-esque spine. It is dating from the late 19th’s century, the time in poor Queen Victoria’s reign when her love Alfred had died and she decreed her subjects were to be in mourning wearing predominantly black — for over twenty years. Would I have loved to live in this time, when black was not a style choice or “othering” device from the norm but contrary a national “uniform”: a daily reminder of the impermanence of happiness, that love is a fresh cut flower, all too ready to wilt and brown? Yes, yes I think I would have, still. But that’s just me: paint it black. Paint it all black.

The inside structure of the jacket is standard for garments of the time, but it blows my freaking mind. Bones every 3/4’s of an inch, and where the casings are worn — oh, it’s only 130 years old, what’s a little wear and tear — I can actually examine the bones themselves to discover: BALEEN. FUCKING: baleen. Yes! 

Whalebone
Whalebone

Corset stays, now generally made out of steel (acrylic if you are broke or don’t know any better) used to be made out of “whale bone” or baleen — actually the screen-like teeth of the whale. And I got to touch it!

waist tapeAdmittedly, this thing isn’t a corset. It is a garment one would wear over a corset. But notably, it has a 20″ waist. For those that don’t know: that’s super small.

Once I managed to cease drooling, my coworkers thought it would be fun to try on turn-of-the-century day outfits. Because, you know: why not.

boater

The Truth about Spiral Steels

There is a lot of misinformation out there on the interwebs about spiral steels, so please allow me to clear the air: while a fantastic option in certain circumstances, they are not objectively better than flat steels.

Image
A flat steel above a spiral steel bone.

Spiral steels are named such because they are literally comprised of tiny flattened spirals, as opposed to flat steels: a solid piece of steel. Spiral steels are very flexible, making them an excellent choice for fashionable burlesque dancers, trapeze artists, contortionists, and other performers for whom range of mobility is of upmost importance.

While the flexibility of spiral steels is a boon, the fact that they can’t support the form in the same way flats do is a bust. I have corsets for daily wear made with both and frankly, sometimes I prefer the structure and support of the flat steels. However, the spiral steels are more forgiving on my ribs as I drive on long commutes. There are definitely reasons to have both varieties in your corset wardrobe, but the fact that some corsetiers are purporting that one is infinitely better than the other for all occasions is absurd.

Image
Demonstrating flat vs. spiral steel boning supportive quality.

Unless you are a tiny acrobat person, spiral steels may not be for you. Corset size 26″ and up would need extra bones put in if they wanted spiral steels, simply due to the fact that the ultra bendy bones would eventually flare out of shape unless they had some back-up (it’s not you, darling. You are perfect the way you are. It’s the bones).

Another hazard is that the spirals get kinks in them all too easily. Bend over to tie your shoe too quickly? Pick up a lucky penny too excitedly? You’re fucked. Terror strikes in my heart whenever I carefully lean over in my spiral steeled corset for this reason.

I love my spiral steel corset! But it was definitely a considered choice when I had it made for me. So don’t get scooped up in the verbiage some corsetiers will feed you about the all-reaching superiority of spiral steels that they use exclusively in their fashions. Variety and options are better, right?