Though I may seem all Dark Garden, all the time, there are many corsetiers out there whose work I admire and point of view I respect. I hope to expand my corset wardrobe to include all my esteemed fashion-crushes, but for the moment, allow me to pay humble hommage to one of them.
Fran is a one-woman business who makes corsets especially for waist trainers and tight lacers (she uses the terms interchangeably, whereas I find the two to have uniquely specific meanings. A dedicated post on this controversial delicacy will come later). She is highly respected in the corset community, having tastemakers such as Lucy’s Corsetry cheerleading her awesome product. Understanding asymmetry on a personal level, she specializes in anatomical corsets, and in fact seems to eschew ready-to-wear sizing all together: from her corsets to her tank liners!
While putzing about on the blogosphere for corset nerdery, I came across this gem of particularly articulate sincerity in one of her vlogs, the topic of which is how to best communicate in the ordering process. I thought it was well worth a share:
For me, tight lacing is just sort of a part of my life, as it has been for a long time. Nothing really fantastic about it, or fetishistic about it, for me. It’s just part of me. And for tight lacers, that’s really what it is. Even if it does start out as a fascination or a fetish thing, if you do it every day, it becomes something more. Not necessarily just a ritual, but a part of you, like the food you like, and the car you drive, and the clothes you wear. Something that ends up defining you in a lot of ways.
Fashion corsets are like Vampires: they are among us.
Often concealing their identity, fashion corsets keep their evil secrets of sweat shop origin and very limited functionality in the shadows and yes, they will suck you dry.
After futzing around with poorly made garments, having invested significant cash, a person may begin to think to themself: perhaps corsetry isn’t for me. Perhaps there is no answer to my issue, no holy grail at the end of my epic quest for fashion, support, and relief…
Be not swayed by these charming imposters, for they merely promise to be something they are not — the real deal is out there, and its addition to your wardrobe can be a total game changer.
Last night I was watching popular reality TV show Double Divas. I love that show, because it’s all the fun parts of being at work (you know, lingerie, boobs, interesting people) only I get to drink a bottle of wine while enjoying it. Also, it’s in the South, which is basically a parallel universe to a Californian. All of this, plus the antics of harmlessly insane middle aged boob-experts makes it a fun watch.
But last night they said a thing or two on a subject that I a happen to be an expert. And I have a thing or two to say back: never wear fashion corsets for back support.
In season 2, episode 2, they meet a professional horse racer lady (her official title, I’m sure. Right there on her business cards) who needed bra help. They did their altruistic duty of making a big sale on national television, and further suggested a customized waist cincher for back support while she is riding.
This actually is a great suggestion. In the 19th century, officers in The Cavalry would wear corsets for back support while horseback riding. A well patterned and constructed steel boned corset can be a suitable replacement for a back brace (under advisement from your physician, of course). During a high impact activity such as horseback riding, extra support can be beneficial to the spine and also help prevent immediate and long term back pain.
HOWEVER, what the divas came up with was not a proper cincher that should ever be expected to perform any sort of supportive or shaping duties. It was an elusively imposterous fashion corset.
This particular “corset” was made with what looks to be elasticized fabric, plastic boning, with hook and eye closures. For the layman: No strength, no shape, and no support.
Based on this, I speculate that their qualifications for knighting a garment a “corset” is that it sits on a belly and laces up the back. *shivers*
Does this look like back support to you?
Which silhouette would you prefer to rock, for equestrian purposes or otherwise?
Now you can see the folly of “fashion corsets”!
A corset that can be sucessfully applied for shape wear, waist training, back support, or erotic restriction will, by its very nature of functionality, have the following qualities:
– Non elastic fabrics (cotton-poly, silk, or leather, for example)
– Steel boning (which allows the garment its supportive architecture)
–A busk (steel “buttons” in the front: the strongest closure.) *in some cases a corset will have a flat front with no closure*
– A well-made pattern, curvaceously shaped to accomodate the bones and organs of a real human body …only dress forms are shaped like this ) (
That’s not to say that these fine garments can’t be fashionable, the distinction is that fashion is not their only purpose for being.
Anyway, I hope none of you watched Double Divas and then ran out to Victoria’s Secret to get your new super supportive back brace. Have fun with your clothes and be safe: I would hate to hear another horror story of poorly made corsets injuring fine folk due to false promises!
I used to know nothing about anything. I was as green as spring grass (and twice as fresh). I didn’t have a trained eye or focused vision; I just liked what I liked and wanted what I wanted.
At the time, I thought any steel-boned corset was the real deal. I was also broke and so even $150 for a garment sounded exorbitantly expensive. “Anything for love,” I thought, and bit the bullet. What I wished I knew back then is that investing in poor quality, uncomfortable garments isn’t worth the “half price” cost. I couldn’t wear it for more that a couple hours at a time before getting incredibly uncomfortable or cranky. I had sores on my skin from where it dug into my hips and ribs. Youch!
Once I started wearing well-made corsets, everything changed. I found that compared the terribly uncomfortable contraptions I had been trying to force myself into, a well made garment made me look and feel so good I never wanted to take it off again. Now I comfortably wear a corset for about 8-14 hours a day.
Here are some before and after pictures: before and after I knew any better about corsetry, evidenced in the silhouette:
Here I am in my first steel boned corset, which I ordered off the internet from “Corset Heaven” in the UK. I went for it because of the ridiculously cheap price and because the description said it was a waist training corset. Years later, as a corset professional, I can now say with assured authority that not much about this corset makes it appropriate for waist training. You can see that it is actually cutting into my hip, creating an unflattering (and uncomfortable) line. The point in front comes down so low that one is constantly aware of the corset when one sits. Most importantly, it does nothing to train the waist. Notice how it is shaped like inverted parentheses: ) ( as opposed to the ideal S shaped curve. Put bluntly: I look like a tube. A cute tube (this was in my youth), but a tube, none the less. I couldn’t wear this thing for more than a few hours max before I would bark: get this f*ckin thing off me! And this is also why I hate corsets with paracord. It looks tacky, callouses the fingers, and digs into the skin.
The fabric colors of my first Dark Garden corset was very similar to the one I ordered from Corset Heaven — it was as if I was trying to fulfill the vision. However, the two could not be more disimilar in terms of quality of construction or shape. You can see for yourself the difference between the two garments in resulting silhouette alone.
Whereas I was eager to start waist training around the time I ordered from Corset Heaven, I was discouraged at the bulky, poor fit — and a disconcerting lack of a waist! After being over $100 in the hole on the idea, it didn’t feel good to have a crap quality garment. And so I didn’t actually start my waist training journey until I got my hands on a Dark Garden waist cincher. This picture was taken on Day 1 of training, which happened to be at the Bay Area’s annual Dicken’s Faire.
At Dark Garden, we have an antique Edwardian dress form, which showcases what a lifetime of corsetry might achieve. It looks a little beat up, but hey, it’s literally 100 years old!
People and adverts from the era: check out their silhouettes!
Can you imagine being at that party, surrounded by gowned hourglasses? I think I would swoon.
You may have noticed by now that I’m into historical research, but I’m not exactly a costumer. For me, it’s a lifestyle, a body mod, and a fashion statement. In the mainstream, it is also a nearly extinct Western feminine tradition to which I cling, to the point of idiosyncrasy. What does corsetry mean to you?