Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Word about the Dedication and Realities of Modern-day Corset Makers

I am gratified to see that some of my corset enthusiast friends, corset educators such as myself, and corsetieres have resonated to my preceding blog on the topic of evaluating the  fit of a new corset.  This leads me to offer what I hope will be encouraging words to them, and to provide in my next blog additional information on fit specifically regarding proper positioning of the corset on the body.

A corsetiere commentator made two important points. One of her clients was initially displeased with the fit of her new corset and precipitously took to the social media airwaves with negative comments that the corsetiere felt reflected poorly on her business. After properly seasoning the new corset, the client later posted that the corset fit quite well (proving once again that brand new corsets never, ever fit perfectly the first few times you try them on!). The commentator appropriately appreciated and considered the feedback, even if not the unfounded content of it.

I’ve had exactly the same experience and it was initially quite upsetting. (I suspect that women business owners tend to react with more sensitivity to these matters than do men since we are conditioned to “please” more than men.) Over time I decided that occasional comments like these are inevitable for any business, but usually reflect poorly on the commentator. I’ve always believed that if in personal and professional words, actions, and products we consistently do our best, are honest to a fault, and continually improve over time, learning and listening to feedback as we move forward, then our reputation will stand the test of time with reasonable clients. Note that I say “reasonable” clients. Not everyone is your client, nor is your core business to deal with pleasing every unreasonable person.

Jill and girlsSecond, a word about “normal life chores” that challenge most custom corset makers today who pursue their art and craft with enormous commitment of energy and passion, but with very little pay. Most are not affiliated with Parisian haute couture houses, but are the epitome of “multi-tasking moderns”  who work at home in small workshops and juggle family and home responsibilities. Our ROMANTASY corsetiere Jill pictured left with two of her three children, works at home while both Sharon and Sue are new moms with young babies.  In addition, Sharon teaches part time at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and is Assistant Costume Department director as well.

Fancy websites can lead the uneducated visitor to believe corset makers and educators lead extravagant or leisurely “artsy” lifestyles — but that’s a rarity. Quite a few work a second job in order to make ends meet, or are improving their skills or education by studying for an advanced degree. When it comes down to it, most corset makers end up earning about $10 per hour for their product. Surprising? It’s true!

I’ve always loved this photo of dear Michael Garrod once on our ROMANTASY team, now passed on and surelyMichael in studio making corsets for the angels! After he retired from a weather-forcasting job in Britain, he  taught himself to make corsets at home as do most corsetieres today, painstakingly making thousands of corsets to hone his craft and become one of the world’s most famed corsetmakers. He confirmed to me that most corsetier’s such MP_glideras he, work for the personal reward of creating quality, rather than material wealth. Sometimes he even took a weekend or two off to pursue his other retirement era-passion, that of being a glider pilot. Certainly one earns the right to have a few days off from time to time?

Custom corsets don’t materialize instantaneously as do ebooks ordered from Amazon. When corset makers fail to respond within seconds or even a day to a client email, they might have taken the weekend off to attend to a sick child, or might be dealing with a personal health matter or family tragedy. I once dealt with an irrate client whose corsetiere had delayed by a few days in shipping out his completed corset because her mother had just passed on. Even so, some clients seem to have no compassion or understanding of the human condition, and more’s the pity.

Sometimes corset makers don’t want to appear complaining, or believe it their right to hold private these personal matters, thus no satisfactory explanation might be offered to the client. It’s likely most beneficial to the clients’ ultimate interests  if they remember that a few months of corset production time will be rewarded with years of wear. There is certain ultimate reward if they remain patient and assume the best under the circumstances of delayed response, even while pursuing the information they need and deserve. All any corset business owner can do when encountering impatient clients is do their best, note the matter and move on, trusting that their quality and good works over time will speak for themselves.

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Evaluating the Fit of a New Corset – Part I; Patience, Initial Lacing, and How to Approach Your Corset Maker

I’ve been working on updating Part II of my Corset Magic waist-training manual, and wanted to repeat some newly added information for you. Recently many folks have been asking about the topic, so here you go:

Post-Sale Evaluation of Fit and Quality

While you should expect quality in your custom corsets, beware of expecting more than any human can deliver. This is an issue I have confronted from time to time, one that requires delicate discussion so that customers have reasonable expectations. After all, your corset is made by a human being and not by a robot on a production line. Small variations are to be valued, not eschewed, because they demonstrate that your corset is hand- and machine-made custom for you. For example, you may expect neat, evenly spaced stitching, but taking a microscope to the stitch line to identify five that exceed the length of all others is clearly beyond the bounds of reason. Trust me, it’s been done.

In addition, you should note and remember a critical point: corsets never fit perfectly the first time you try them on. Never! While you can lace them tightly to test the initial fit for gross or notable irregularities or discomfort to discuss immediately with your corset maker, some of those might simply disappear after a few wearings or a few weeks of wearing your new corset, as fabric eases, boning takes on your torso shape, and your body become more accustomed to relaxing into the rigid garment rather than fighting it. A perceived discomfort may disappear, so don’t be too fast to judge.

Michie, my enthusiastic, full-figured client from New Zealand found that after two weeks of steadily  seasoning her corset six days a week, the initial discomfort she felt when she sat down (the side front bottom edge seemed initially to dig into her leg crease area), completely disappeared. We decided that the fabric had eased and the boning had molded better to her torso, plus she began choosing straighter-backed chairs and elevating the corset just 1/4″ higher on her torso upon our advice, rather than choosing  squishy couches in which to sit. Had she rushed off after the initial few days of wearing her corset to have the lower edge of her corset elevated by her corsetiere, that would have been an unnecessary expense for her, and likely would have  increased the risk that the side front of her tummy flesh might squish out the bottom edge.

As said, the best way to know what to expect regarding quality and consistency in production techniques is to see up-close-and-personal other examples of corsets made by your chosen corset maker before you order from him or her. The best way to judge how your individual body will adjust to a rigid corset and feel when wearing it for a few minutes or few days (but not weeks later), is to try one on, even a readymade size. What you see and what you try on, is, in most cases, what you should expect to get and how you should expect to initially feel when wearing your new corset.

But even then, you can’t be one hundred percent sure because that too, will change over time. Sorry, but it just cannot be specified with precision if the fit is perfect during the first week you receive your corset.  Every single individual “takes” to corseting individually! Some people will feel more breathless than others, some more bothered, some immediately more comfortable with the corset on than off. Some will sweat more and huff and puff more than others. Experience with corsetry makes a difference. Seasons of weather make the difference. The “monthlies” make the difference.

The point is, don’t give up on your new corset, and don’t jump to a complete conclusion the first few wearings of your corset. However, at the same time do not delay getting back to the corset maker to discuss your concerns or perceived problems with the corset quality of it, in order to find out if you really do have a basis for concern and possible amendment of your new corset, at the maker’s cost. Wait too long and the expense may be yours. ROMANTASY gives clients two weeks to test the fit and after that, we make repairs and adjustments at cost plus a bit that the client pays.

When questioning potential corset makers about their experience, or when discussing what you perceive to be problems, do give the maker the courtesy of reasonable time to sort out the facts, analyze the alleged problem, perhaps examine the actual corset on your body in jpg pictures or in real time, and respond appropriately in a reasonable time.  “Reasonable” might be a few weeks or even a month, depending.

I know it’s frustrating to think you have waited what might seem like an inordinate amount of  time for your corset, and have paid more than enough for it. However, you want your issue resolved and the corset maker to do the right thing by you, right? Thus, there is seldom, if ever, justifiable cause for you to discuss your concerns in haste with anger and distrust. That is likely to get you nowhere, especially when dealing with a very small businessperson who might have less to lose by ignoring your temper tantrums than you have to gain by engaging in them.

Sure you can sue, but is the cost of your money and time truly worth it, versus having a reasonable discussion with the maker to see what can be done? Sure you can easily “trash” the reputation of a maker on Yelp reviews or other — but do you really want to risk getting a reputation as an unreasonable client to be avoided by other makers if you move on to order from another business? The corset community is very small and word gets around quickly not only about unprofessional corsetieres, but also about high-maintenance clients who should be avoided.

Remember too, How to test fit of corset bottom edgeyou will never know the full facts on the other side of your complaint, especially regarding a craftsperson working alone in a home workshop, tending to all the vicissitudes of life just as you are. Try to have a bit of compassion and patience as you sort out the fit of a new corset, and I guarantee you that you will be well rewarded  99 percent of the time. The goal after all is to get what you need, right? and not just to ruin someone Example how corset will fit initiallyelse’s day and also not get what you need.

While these aren’t the only issues to check regarding proper fit of a new corset, they are the initial two issues to consider. Pictured above left is the technique to test the fit of the bottom edge. You should always be able to get eight fingers under the bottom (and top) edge of your corset in order to avoid flesh squishing out the bottom or side under your corset. The back gap should be more or less parallel, perhaps closer at the top and bottom of the corset wider at the waistline in a new corset as you season it. Pictured right is how the initial lacing of a new corset might look from the back view.

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Filed under Custom Corsets Suitable for Waist Training, General Waist Training Information, Quality Corsetry