As promised here are a few comments and illustrative photos answering questions regarding fit that clients sometimes send after receiving their new corset. The focus of this blog is on positioning the corset properly on your torso in order to come to a fair and accurate conclusion. Some of these issues may seem obvious, but even to experienced corset-wearers, they sometimes are not.
FIRST, BE SURE YOU PUT YOUR CORSET ON RIGHT SIDE UP
I can’t help but chuckle when I hear from a corset client who insists that their fully-custom brand new corset doesn’t fit (and some get quite agitated over this alleged issue), only to find they had the corset on wrong side up!
If a client has a question regarding fit but cannot come to visit me in San Francisco, I always request jpg images of the corset from the front, side and back, so that I can have visual confirmation of any perceived problem. Over the years I have had five clients allege this problem (including one person well experienced in corset wear, pictured below right in the blue BR Creations corset; you can see the garter loops peeking out of the “upper” edge of the corset. That’s a dead giveaway that the corset is on upside down, right? But this client did not notice!). They send images of their corset worn upside down, including one muslin fitting image pictured above left of an overbust corset! Look carefully and you can see the sweetheart or valentine shape of the bosom, at the bottom front edge of the corset!
I also remember encountering a rather smug young lady in the ladies room of a convention I was attending, wearing her overbust red leather corset upside down. Yes, it covered her bosom, but just barely, and the corset squished them quite flat. That was the first clue to me that she had it on upside down.
Then I noted the bottom edge of the front of the corset clearly evidencing bust cups with fabric wrinkly from the excess and jutting a bit away from her hips. I wanted in the worst way to get a picture of that strange site, but resisted. Instead I complimented her on the lovely leather in her corset, but gently suggested that she might want to turn the corset upside down on her torso to see if she could get a slightly better, more comfy fit….Another time at a corset fashion show I was sponsoring, one of my pretty models pictured right, came on stage wearing her Civil War pushup corset upside down. I had not been able to preview all models before they came out, and was rather horrified at the sight! I like to think no one in the audience noticed…
How else can you tell if a corset is “rightside” up? If your corset has a label, that is usually placed at the upper edge in the back. If you have a busk, the clip will be on the right side with the stud on the left side. Look at the blue corset to the right below, and you will see that the clip is on the left and the stud is on the right.
But the busk might not tell the entire story, so be careful. I have had three different corset makers deliver a corset (two of the corsets, mine) with the busk installed opposite the norm, that is, with the clip on the left and stud on the right. That makes no technical or functional difference at all, and thus you should not be concerned, other matters being equal.
You will see pictured left, my adorable longline Edwardian in brown linen, provided as an initial sample about four years ago by Jill on our ROMANTASY team. She’s an awesome young corset maker with superlative artistry and fit after some 8 or 9 years of experience making corsets. To the right below is the second of my sample corsets by a student who had recently graduated from a fashion academy, but who never came onto our team. The third situation the involved the very same thing by a corset maker having 22 years experience in the couture sewing business with about a quarter of that in making corsets.
Furthermore, I’ve seen a corset by Jean Paul Gaultier shown in Vogue magazine, showing exactly the same issue!!!! Did he make a mistake, or was this intentional? We’ll never know.
Will this kind of error be justification for you to ask for your money back? Most likely not and it would be a waste of time to pursue litigation and a judge’s opinion, because the corset will function just fine, as said, and the issue would not really amount to a critical element of artistry, either.
It’s clearly no shame for a corset maker to install a busk in this fashion because of the above points.
SECOND, POSITION THE CORSET CORRECTLY ON YOUR BODY/TORSO
What is “correct”? Neither too high nor too low from the waistline which is normally the narrowest part of your body -but not always!
Look at images pictured of clients wearing their corsets too high on their torso. You can see that the bosom is being artificially elevated by the upper edge of the corset, and the tummy is much in evidence below the bottom edge. When they were advised to simply pull the corset down a wee bit, the tummy was properly covered and the fit became more comfy with less pressure on the lower ribs.
If you note this issue, take the corset off and put it on again but lower on your torso, or lean to one side and gently tug down (rather, breath air into your ribs) to lower the corset on your body. Be sure to keep the busk vertical in front.
Another friendly, wonderful, full-figured client from New Zealand, wrote that her new corset lower edge was touching her leg bend when she sat down, and thus, irritating her. She was sure that the corset was made too long vertically. However, I advised her to wait a bit and keep seasoning the corset, sit in a straighter-backed chair rather than slouch or lean on a couch, and also elevate the corset by a scant 1/2″ on her torso. Those steps solved the problem and she wrote back that the corset was indeed a perfect fit!
THIRD, LACE THE CORSET CORRECTLY ON YOUR TORSO
More times than not, what is “correct” for an initial lacing to test fit, will have the upper and lower edges of the corset in back a bit closer than you will be able draw in the waistline pictured right. Of course you may not be able to get the upper and lower edges closed as did the client pictured. A gap of 2-3″ at the top and bottom and a gap of 4-5″ at the waistline is not a problem but is to be expected in most cases.
Thus, the proverbially-advised “parallel gap” in back will not be immediately achievable until after a period of seasoning. Just be sure you pull the waistline close enough to force the waistline boning flat against your back and not permit the bones to twist in the casings and dig in; ouch! See image pictured left.
I like to say that the back gap exists for you to “jigger” your lacing to provide the best fit over time, and best fit over time will likely vary by eighth and quarter inches. Even the most meticulously measured custom corset may result in a wee bit of upper edge “toothpaste,” but just opening up the upper edge by 1/4″ to 1/2″ might entirely make the issue disappear!. This is a much more advisable and reasonable solution to perceived “toothpaste”, rather than insist that your corset maker add more material to the upper edge, something they may not be willing to do since it constitutes a major, labor-intensive task. If you provided the measurements, then they may well and reasonably refuse to make such a change.
Furthermore, once you season the corset after 10-20 or more wearings, you might note some slimming of your torso and molding of the boning to your torso shape, and then if your upper edge of the corset has been expanded with more fabric added, the corset will become loose, also not a good problem to have.
May you really cinch down the corset to test the initial fit, closing down the upper and lower edges entirely? You may, and it might be easy to do, but then you will likely encounter that dread “toothpaste” problem. Recently I had a client send images of a corset she was convinced was made too big around the top and bottom edges. When I advised her to loosen up the top and bottom edges to allow a 2-3″ gap with a 4-5″ gap at the waistline during the seasoning process, she did so and lo! The toothpaste issue disappeared as I had anticipated.
FOURTH, POSITION YOUR BOSOM CORRECTLY INSIDE THE CUP OF AN OVERBUST CORSET
Some time ago I had a Bay Area client who had ordered an 18th century corset, call me to say her corset we had mailed her, did not fit. The perceived problem was that her bosoms had disappeared.
She was close enough to come back for an in-person evaluation and arrived with the corset on. I immediately saw the problem. She had not reached inside the cup to lift her bosoms heavenward, and I advised her to do so. Lo! There were the lovely ‘girls’ now properly positioned and looking fine.
Brides are appropriately concerned about presenting a perfect image on their wedding day. Not long ago a bride called me after her wedding to tell me that her corset had been a tiny bit loose at the top edge on her wedding day, but that had not constituted any real problem. However, I had taught her when she picked up the wedding corset, to practice and keep the gap parallel in back as she laced down. When she sent a back view photo, I saw that she had not pulled the upper edge of her corset tight enough to provide the firm bosom support she desired. Yet another bride was testing her corset before the wedding, and sent me the pictures to the right. Take a look at the far right image showing a poor bosom fit (very loose top). After I advised her to lace up, lean over, and pull up ‘the girls,’ she sent me the lovely image of a perfectly fit corset on the left.
In sum, if you think you have a fit or construction issue regarding a new corset, it’s far better to check the positioning of the corset on your torso, then ask questions of your corset maker first, not assume that the problem was due to a mistake on their part, and then be embarrassed by finding out that the mistake was yours in the first place. The point is, ask questions and work with your corset maker or business to first gather the facts and allow a reasonable amount of time for the corset to be analyzed and a response to be formulated by them. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you will be much more satisfied by this approach, than by rushing to judgment.