Costumery Week Special - Corsets

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By MyntKat
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As part of the Costumery Week to highlight this amazing Artisan Crafts gallery, I am posting themed interview specials every day during this week. I am also posting features and specials as part of this week, check them all out here.

Today's Special is all about Corsets.

What are corsets?
Corsets are a clothing item that sits tightly around the torso. There are three main reasons for wearing corsets, medical reasons (for example to stabilize the back), for figure shaping/changing reasons or for purely aesthetic/fashion reasons (these are usually rather loose fitting corsets or even tops that just mimic the look of corsets but don't actually act as one).
Today we are focussig on traditional corsets which are figure forming and usually include boning (usually metal boning for high quality corsets, plastic, wood, cane and other materials can also be used) for stability and strength, lacing in the back and often closures in the front. Corsets should be fitted to the individual wearer for maximum comfort and great fit. They can be constructed from a variety of fabrics and come in a great range of styles. Embellishments can give a corset a whole different look, too.
Corsets have been worn by men and women throughout history but today are mostly associated with women. Corsets can come in a large variety of different styles like the waist cincher (small corset just covering the waist), underbust (sitting right under the breasts and extending down to the hips), overbust (covering the breasts partially or fully and extending down to the hips), long corsets that extend over the hips and can in rare cases go all the way down to the knees and even neck cinchers which are made to look like corsets for the neck (but usually are slightly loose fitting). Corsets can reduce the waist to achieve an hourglass figure or can reduce the breast and hips to achieve a straight silhouette, depending on the style and needs of the wearer.

Today I would like to introduce three of the many sewing artists here on dA who create gorgeous corsets. If you check out the costumery gallery, you will find an abundance of amazing works by fantastic artists.


Hello! Could you please introduce yourself?
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:icontrinitynavar:
Trinitynavar : Hi my name is Abbey, I am 33 and live in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Currently I have a day job making costumes professionally, in my evenings and weekends I devote time to my own personal project 'Forge Fashion', which is largely costume and corset based. Just like all little girls I started out hand sewing clothes for my dolls and advanced from there... as far as corset making goes.
When I was in my late teens I made a couple of corsets for friends attending a school ball... of course at this point I had no idea what I was doing, and simply used the commercial pattern provided (bumbling along following the instructions found in the packet). As the years went by I found my self increasingly more interested in corsetry, attempting quiet a few more before I finally went to Polytechnic to do a 18th Century Corset Making class with Karol London in 2003. Since then I have enjoyed other related classes and had the benefit of my current employment (6 years) for further learning.

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:iconlillysworkshop:
LillysWorkshop : I'm 28 and my girlfriend Stephanie is 25. We are both originally from southern California and met here in Las Vegas four years ago.
I first decided to create a corset last summer after Stephanie and I went to Comic Con. I've always admired Victorian fashion and the corset is my favorite article of clothing. I taught myself how to sew, from a number of books I ordered off the Internet and there is a plethora of information and old patterns available online if you know where to look. At present I consider costume making a hobby; it is too soon to tell if I want to turn it into a career.

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:icondaisyviktoria:
DaisyViktoria : My name is Daisy Viktoria. I currently live in Los Angeles and have been making corsets off and on for the past 7 years. My mother taught me to sew as a child, and corsetry came along later. Costume design has always been a huge hobby for me, and I've recently started taking it to a professional level.

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Tudor Lingerie by DaisyViktoria Utility corset front view by LillysWorkshop Cleo shoot - Under Bust Corset by Trinitynavar
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What types of corsets do you create and which do you prefer?
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:icondaisyviktoria:
DaisyViktoria : I make all kinds of corsets. I started with historical designs and made underwear corsets for myself and other reenactors. I now make overbust, underbust, front busk, front laced, special crazy designs, you name it. I love to use brocades, satins, silks, and other exciting fabrics.

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:iconlillysworkshop:
LillysWorkshop : Right now all the corsets I create are based very closely (in construction not appearance) on something you might find in the 1870s. I prefer corsets of this era, as they create an appealing hourglass shape and are generally found to be more comfortable. I make both underbust and overbust corsets, and all my corsets have panels. My corsets are based on historical patterns that have been modified for modern sizes. I use brocade, synthetic leather and cotton coutil (a durable fabric that is specifically for corsets). For the bones I prefer spiral steel except for the center front and center back where I use spring steel to ensure the pressure is evenly distributed over the spine and abdomen.
I have a number of other designs that I am working on and that I hope to make available soon.

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:icontrinitynavar:
Trinitynavar : Basically I make all era and style of corsets... each offer their own set of challenges, but at the end of the day they are all enjoyable to make in some way. Corset making supplies are limited in NZ, so often I have to order my bones and busks from overseas. I tend to like at least three layers, and have found the right weight canvas to be a suitable substitute for Coutil. I work in all fabrics, pvc, leather, brocade, velvet... even corduroy :)

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Steampunk Photo Shoot by Trinitynavar Neo-Victorian skirt by LillysWorkshop Kristina by DaisyViktoria
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Can corsets really be comforable?
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:icontrinitynavar:
Trinitynavar : Definitely!! It really comes down to the cut of the corset, and a custom made corset is made to personally suit the figure of the wearer, thus it can be like a second skin, lol... well almost, maybe a better description would be like comfortable armor that makes you stand up nice and tall. :)
Style wise some body shapes are suited to certain styles more than others. For example: I have a small bust and tend to suit longline underbusts which push my chest up from underneath and give me a lovely waist line (creating a great illusion - the whole purpose really)!

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:icondaisyviktoria:
DaisyViktoria : Absolutely! If a corset is made to your measurements, it should always be comfortable. To get the most comfortable corset, you should have it custom made. For short notice orders, I try to stock corsets with some varying shapes to accommodate a range of body types. You should always be able to breathe and move around comfortably if your corset fits properly.

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:iconlillysworkshop:
LillysWorkshop : Most of my friends and customers would agree that corsets can be comfortable. In fact, some of them say they feel awkward when they aren't wearing a corset! I usually recommend that first time corset wearers not reduce their waist by more than three to four inches and wear it for only a few hours at a time until their body learns to adjust properly. The most important factor when it comes to comfort is the fit. I think a lot of people get turned off by corsets because they purchase an off-the-shelf model which is most likely made to some standard size. As most people are not a standard size (i.e. a size 14 miss at the bust and a size 16 miss at the waist) a custom fitted corset is the best way to go.
Material can certainly have an effect on comfort. But it is a difficult question to answer as there are many styles of corset. Were you making a period corset you would want a very sturdy material like coutil, however a fashion corset made from a stretch material like PVC would most likely be more comfortable but provide very little in the way of shaping your torso. Inevitably, you end up with a tug of war between structure, comfort and appearance, part of what makes corset making a fun and challenging endeavor.

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Kristina II by DaisyViktoria Tribal Underbust Corset by Trinitynavar Hunter green corset by LillysWorkshop
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When you create a corset, how do you go about it?
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:icontrinitynavar:
Trinitynavar : I either start with a base pattern or draft according to a set of measurements. Often I make a mock up to check everything is working out before I get the fashion fabric under the machine. It starts out like a shell and slowly grows into a sturdy, fully constructed garment.

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:iconlillysworkshop:
LillysWorkshop : I start by looking at historic drawings or watching period films. I then look at existing patterns that I have or that are available in historic publications such as De Gracieuse (with every issue from 1862 to 1936 available online) and see how I can adapt them to the corset I have in mind. I draft the patterns by hand with a ruler, compass and selection of French curves. I then make a series of mockup in the size of a friend or family member making adjustments with each iteration. Once I have a finished mockup that I know fits a certain size I can scan it into a computer drafting program and grade it to any size.
Most of the sewing is done on a machine. The only hand stitching I do is basting, although I spend about as much time on that as I do on the machine. The machine I use is a Singer 201. I prefer this model because of its all metal parts and extreme reliability, unfortunately no one makes them like that anymore.

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:icondaisyviktoria:
DaisyViktoria : I have several patterns I have drafted based on historical garments. For custom corsets, I base my shapes on my patterns and do a series of calculations to create the proper sized pieces. Then I sew it all together with love, and we have a corset!

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Forest green corset by LillysWorkshop Meng by DaisyViktoria Phootshoot with Miss Tempest by Trinitynavar
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Where do you get your materials?
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:iconlillysworkshop:
LillysWorkshop : I do a combination of online orders and in store purchases. Online ordering can be a bit of a gamble; sometimes the fabric arrives and it is a beautiful surprise, such as the copper brocade and black synthetic leather. Other times you end up with five yards of flesh colored moleskin that looked much browner in the picture. I'm still looking for a way to use that! I also like to shop around at stores here in Las Vegas. I prefer smaller local owned stores than the big name ones, as they are more likely to have something unique and have superior customer service.
While I am always looking for good deals on materials, I try not to compromise on quality. A good quality cotton coutil can easily be found for $30 but it can also be found for $10.

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:icondaisyviktoria:
DaisyViktoria : I order my steel online, and I buy most of my materials in downtown Los Angeles in our lovely fashion district. I often have limited edition fabrics because their stock changes from time to time.

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:icontrinitynavar:
Trinitynavar : I am very inspired by fabrics, I prefer not to set limits on how I source it. I use the internet, fabric stores, second hand shops and I am prone to recycling if I see an idea emerging from something else - it doesn't matter if it's a blanket, curtain, cushion or bag, I will make it into a corset if I can (one track mind huh). I really like to try and keep my work unique, obviously some looks are generic and you will see a lot of corsets in similar syles.....but more than anything I think of it like art, so I only like to do small runs (if I am repeating my work at all).

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Ileana by DaisyViktoria 'Lucy' Photoshoot by Trinitynavar Black overbust corset by LillysWorkshop
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Do you have any tips for beginners?
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:icondaisyviktoria:
DaisyViktoria : You need a lot of patience, especially in the beginning. Corsetry is something best attempted by those who already have a firm grasp on sewing because it is such a precise art. You must stick with it and work carefully through the process.

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:iconlillysworkshop:
LillysWorkshop : I highly recommend "The Basics of Corset Building: A Handbook for Beginners". When I was starting out this book was a valuable resource, and still is! Aside from a means of setting grommets there are no special tools required for getting started in corset making. The best place to start would be to pick a commercial pattern from fabric store and start there. You'll learn a lot going through the steps and have a pretty good idea where you want to go from there. The biggest lesson I have learned is to not compromise on material quality. When I first started I was intimidated by the high cost per yard of coutil and spiral steel and experimented with plastic bones and other fabrics. In the end they fell apart or otherwise did not work as intended. Just keep at it and look at what others have done. I have been making corsets for a year now and am still discovering new things all the time.

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:icontrinitynavar:
Trinitynavar : When your start out I think it is great to use a commercial pattern, one that's trusted and comes with good instructions. One of my personal favorites is 'The Dore' by Laughing Moon.
It's also valuable to join an online commuity like 'Corsetmakers' on Livejournal so you can interact with a variety of other corsetmakers.
But the main thing which I find myself saying to people regularly is:-
'If you can sew a straight line then your are as proficient as me already... the rest comes down to experience, the more you try and make new things the more experience you will get - so go for goldn and try everything at least once' :D

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The Steampunk Adventurer II by LillysWorkshop Madame at the river by Trinitynavar Astharoshe by DaisyViktoria
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Which corset are you most proud of and why?
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:icontrinitynavar:
Trinitynavar : They all begin with as a wisp of an idea in the fog and then develop into a full story by the time as they become manifest, so I guess in some way I am proud of everyone of them. Corsets can become a complete addiction, corsets can be art and corset can be made out of nearly anything!

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:iconlillysworkshop:
LillysWorkshop :
The steampunk adventurer by LillysWorkshop
My steampunk utility corset is currently the corset I am most proud of. I originally designed this one for Stephanie. I wanted her to have something that was a cross between a neo-Victorian themed corset and one of those vests you see fishermen wearing. The idea was that I would no longer have to carry all of her belongings when we went to conventions and it has worked out beautifully. It is also the one I get the most inquiries on, daily in fact. I am still improving it since I started selling. The satchel has changed in size and shape to accommodate more content and bigger hands. I am working on a better design for the belt pouches as well.

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:icondaisyviktoria:
DaisyViktoria : It's so hard to choose just one! I am particularly fond of this one:
Glittering Esper by DaisyViktoria
The entire thing is hand beaded. It took forever to make, and I just love it.
As far as regular corsets go, I'm quite fond of this one:
Steampunk Elegance by DaisyViktoria
It's just black, but it has elegant details, and it just goes so well with everything. This design is also for sale on my website.

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Male Steam Punk Corset by Trinitynavar Hanna II by DaisyViktoria Turquoise Steampunk Corset by LillysWorkshop
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Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this special feature! I hope you go on creating amazing corsets for all of us to enjoy. :)

Cheers,
MyntKat
Published:
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Comments12
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DaisyViktoria's avatar
Exillior's avatar
FAVOURITEST. ARTICLE. EVER.

I fully forgive you making me fave yesterday's articles ;P
Shyada's avatar
:drool:

Corsets ftw! :la:
LuthienThye's avatar
gorgeous corsets!!
OtisBee's avatar
oooouh corsets. me likey. :icongivemeyayplz:
Lilyas's avatar
I am a sucker for corsets! :heart: :D
You have done a great job with this article!
FionaCreates's avatar
everyone's a sucker for corsets XD
NatalieKelsey's avatar
Gorgeous, informative article! :D I love the look of corsets.
bodaszilvia's avatar
beautiful corsets!! i :love: them though i don't wear them (i prefer comfy clothes)
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