Part of evaluating the fit and quality of a new, or any, corset, concerns visual aesthetics. In a prior blog we have discussed quality and fit issues of adjusting the corset properly on your torso, and a bit about how to enhance your wearing comfort. In the future we will address other elements of fit and quality in order for you to evaluate a new corset.
To begin, let me stress that in large part, visual aesthetics concern a matter of individual preference.
What is considered artful or beautiful can differ dramatically from person to person. That is one reason why it pays to take your time and view as many of your chosen corset maker’s products as you can, in person if you can, but certainly thru closeup photos posted on their website.
That is also one reason that you can’t just take the word of someone else, or a “Yelp” or “Angie” review as to whether this or that corsetiere is “good” or makes a quality, “beautiful” corset. Complaints that sometimes circulate about this or that corsetiere or this or that experience, should always be taken with a huge grain of salt. One person may have very low expectations as to neatness of their product, while another may be inclined to take a magnifying glass to measure the length of each stitch! Of course the latter practice is patently ridiculous, but trust me, I’ve had it happen on a few occasions over the past 23 years.
Nor can you assume that the corsetiere knows what you like and don’t like or what you personally consider “beautiful”. Whenever you give a corsetiere some artistic leeway, know that her vision might not at all coordinate with yours! The operable term before you place your order and send a deposit, is: “speak up now, or forever hold your peace.”
Above all, note what we say in our terms of sale, if you order a corset by one of the ROMANTASY team:
14. CORSET QUALITY STANDARDS (QS), & DETERMINATION OF PRODUCT DAMAGE: We take great pride in creating your product which is manufactured in the USA by seasoned artists. Our quality standards typically far exceed general industry standards. However, as with any hand-crafted product such as a Persian rug, you may find minor variations in handiwork between products, even between those made by the same corsetmaker or seamstress. Variances are to be expected & provide a unique aspect to each corset that we manufacture. Such uniqueness attests to the hand-crafted nature of your individual product, & it is greatly cherished by our clients. The same is true for custom garments. Consequently, we reserve the right to determine (1) if any alleged product defect falls outside of our QS or general professional standards in the field, (2) if damage is substantial & not just a minor aesthetic variance that lies within our limits of acceptability for quality hand-crafted products, or (3) if actual damage is from either client misuse contrary to the W&C Instructions or is indeed a true latent materials or construction defect. Variances may be seen in person at a Corset Salon/consultation or on our extensive website, or you may request our 14-page online standards list to review.
Yes, in an excess of caution, I once prepared a visual of 14 webpages in case someone wants to really be quite sure of what they will be receiving, and the precise measurement standards or variations we apply at ROMANTASY for stitch lines, seaming width, binding and other. If you’re curious to see these pages, just send us an email.
Some elements of visual aesthetics that you can reasonably expect from an experienced and reputable corset business, include matters regarding:
– fabric – texture, smoothness, color, pattern and placement
– finish of the binding, busk area, back grommets, and lining
– thread, stitches, and stitch lines – color, length, and how straight
– embellishments including garter embellishments
– grommets – spacing and evenness
– lacing cord – type and color
Some of the above topics are also related to durability, but some are purely aesthetic matters. Since these topics can get quite lengthy and every relevant detail can’t be covered, I’ll just do my best and deal first with fabric.
FABRIC (and laces)
You may check out our detailed web fabric page for more information and pictures of the variety of fabric and lace classifications:
I mention this because on some of the imported readymade corsets I’ve seen, the fabric may appear to be just fine, but soon enough with not much corset wear, especially if the corset is worn underneath clothing, the threads begin to spread apart and the fabric frays. It’s tough to say how long fabric should hold up and not fray or show signs of wear, but pictured right is a store-bought polysatin corset worn regularly as a foundation for over a year. The client wanted a particular color of gold, and so we consented to use this fabric since our cotton-backed satin in inventory, did not come in this particular shade of gold. But store-bought fabric frays and shows wear sooner than does the cotton-backed satin we recommend and use for many of our basic waist-training corsets. Satin is often chosen for foundation wear because clothing slips more easily over satin than over cotton which tends to “stick”. Yet satin will often “wrinkle” naturally and not lie smoothly on the torso (see the perfectly suitable and pretty pink and burgundy satin corsets by Sheri Jurnecka pictured below right). To some, this is objectionable, to others it’s a minor matter. Cotton corsets and sometimes cotton-poly blend corsets, tend to lie smoothly on the body. What do you prefer?
“Hand” or feel of various textures of fabric varies, depending on what composes the fabric: satin, cotton, silk, polybrocade, and other, and type of each.
Remember too, some corsetieres don’t work in a particular fabric even if you adore it. Sewing with or on different fabrics requires different types of sewing machines and equipment. Sometimes it’s just a matter of what fabric the corsetiere prefers to work with and how she (or he) wants corsets to look to represent their brand and business.
I once sent a bride out to shop for her “ivory silk” yet she came back with black velvet! First off, velvets differ, some being cotton, poly blend, or silk and more or less suitable for corsets, and second, we had to change her corsetiere because the one she wanted to make her corset from our team, didn’t work in velvet at all!
Don’t forget to consider binding that secures the top and bottom of your corset. It can be in the same fabric of your corset, or in a different one, including different in color. Note that the binding on Sharon McCoy Morgan’s standard overbust Victorian corset in ivory and royal lambskin pictured below, was simply the blue lambskin reversed! Binding can be patterned or not patterned (see the cute dark blue denim Edwardian corset by corsetiere Jill Hoverman pictured above using a red print cotton for the binding). Some corsetiers offer only one type of binding, some offer more. I tend to like Petersham (ribbed) binding, but some don’t.
Smoothness and Shine
Some adore the feel of slick satin or lambskin, but prefer it to be matte (a bit dull), while others love it shiny (the royal blue lambskin in Sharon’s corset is shiny). Some prefer the natural fibers such as rougher linen (no shine) or smooth silk duchesse satin (some shine; yes, it’s called ‘satin’ but is 100% silk! Go figure that one….you can see a scarlet silk duchesse satin-with-partial beaded lace-overlay corset by Sue Nice pictured to the right below).
Cotton to some is boring as a concept for corsets, but I once found a lovely, slick ‘tuxedo’ black cotton that was quite soft to the touch and lovely to behold. Coutil 100% cotton also tends to be very soft to the touch but is quite expensive and most available in the marketplace is woven in and imported from England. Sadly, my local fabric store never replaced the tuxedo cotton I once found, so only one of our clients ever benefited by choosing it from a sample I sent her.
Personally, I generally don’t like the “hand” or feeling of fabrics woven with lurex threads (that make a corset glitzy or shiny looking), and a smooth touch is important to me. When I use a fabric with lurex threads in my corsets, I normally limit the amount of that fabric, as in my spectacular blue and green peacock feathered Lily corset by former ROMANTASY corsetiere Michael Garrod, pictured here. Only certain panels used the lurex-threaded fabric while others use silk or satin.
How about to you? Let your corsetiere know!
As for color, remember that some find a monochromatic color scheme vs. mixed colors to be beautiful, some find pastels preferable to jewel tones. Where you place a particular color on your corset can visually reduce or expand your waistline if you wear the corset over clothing as fashion wear. You can see how choosing different colors and their placement make a different visual impact in the black and red satin corset by Sharon Morgan pictured below, and also on this webpage: http://romantasyweb.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=R&Product_Code=Colors+of+Fabrics+in+Design&Category_Code=cgi
Pattern and placement
More than once I have had a client bring me fabric that has a large repeating pattern on it. I mean by that, if it has a rose (or a small bee or a large circle seen in the examples to the left and right below), each rose is about 2″ across and repeats. Or they bring a smaller rose pattern with the roses very widely spaced with lots of plain, unpatterned fabric between.
Note that corset pattern pieces are each quite narrow, especially at the waist and especially for slim tight-lacers. Where the corsetiere places each pattern piece on a repeating patterned fabric can completely avoid showing a single rose in the above examples–unless you request your corsetiere to employ what I call “mirror matching” or if she does it automatically as standard practice.
That means that they do their best to even out the pattern and make one rose appear on one side and a mirrored rose to appear on the other side of your corset. Note how the bees and the circles are matched both vertically and horizontally in the black and the red silk corsets both by our corsetiere Sue Nice. Note she even matched the bees in her underflap under the busk. She is a true mistress of precise artistry when it comes to mirror matching!
But do you want the rose (or circle or bee) to appear at your waist, at the top, or at the bottom of your corset? Speak up! If you don’t specify, the corsetier will, and fairly so, just use his own opinion, and it might not be your opinion or what you envision.
In the case of mirror matching, it takes more time and talent to lay out the pattern, and it requires up to twice as much fabric with a good bit of fabric waste. Some corsetiers may include an upcharge for the additional labor and fabric involved, so be sure to ask when you place your order. If you are shopping for your own fabric, be sure to purchase double what you might otherwise provide, just to be safe.
I’m sure there are many more relevant comments regarding this topic of quality in visual aesthetics, so please feel free to comment on what you consider to be “beautiful” in your corset fabric. We’ll discuss embellishments later.