In the Beginning
Born too late, or late bloomer? I think I am both, loving as I do the fine art of calligraphy and the gentle hug of corsets. Computers came into my life late and only by business necessity, although I admit to certain pleasure in corresponding with new friends and corset enthusiasts from around the world via email.
I never knew the early joys of restriction possible only with a true corset, as my great grandmother most assuredly did. My earliest recollection of foundation garments is shyly watching each morning as my grandmother hooked her longline heavy duty elastic "corset" purchased from the Sears catalog, then proceeded with her daily toilette. If I think hard enough I probably can remember her fragrance, gardenia if I'm not mistaken. And I'll always remember licking the spoon later that afternoon as she finished dropping chocolate chip cookie dough on the baking sheet. It was the one indulgence my mom would permit during our yearly visits with "Mamaw".
In high school my mother gave me the then traditional signs of passage into womanhood, an unconstructed bra and my first pair of one inch heels. Sometime around then I also got my first long leg girdle and stockings which I wore to class everyday. I always liked that contraption, never complaining as some of the other girls did.
Little did I suspect then that after women's lib came and settled in, after I gained a measure of professional competence as a State trial attorney and certain personal security in my forties, I would discover my love for tight lacing corsets.
A Mysterious Society
I am fascinated by the certain mystery that accompanies corsets, those who make them and those who wear them. Corset enthusiasts seem to compose a kind of vague special society, a sorority or fraternity whose members experience diametrically opposed urges to both foster corseting while at the same time delaying or preventing access by those who would perpetuate stereotypes, and ridicule or scorn both the garment and the wearer. Corsetiers charily dispense obscure and intimate information, such as the delicious sexual innuendo of what direction garter ribbons properly face. Tight lacing devotees frequently mask their faces in frontal photographs or consent only to photography from the rear. Some won't risk exposure to the hysterical reaction that so called "feminists" and muck raking journalists like to foment. Such shyness is a bit of a shame, for the proud history of the corset deserves public applause as both garment of sensual desire and fashionable elegance. Others of us seem oblivious to prejudice and criticism, proudly wearing our corsets over dresses as a glamorous badge of freedom, fashion and courage.
But all must pay dues, be they private or public, and demonstrate continued devotion to the garment in order to be admitted to the society of corset enthusiasts. The price, however, is generally easy to pay.
An Easy Love Affair
Once adorned with a made to measure perfectly fit and comfortable garment, a love affair is in the making. Many of us experience growing urges for the corset's embrace, aesthetic satisfaction in rich fabric textures and colors, admiration for the niceties of straight seams and sturdy construction...not to mention certain narcissistic pleasures in one's own and others' admiration of an unusually narrow waist. It isn't a difficult progression to soon desire another style and another color, to taste the wears of another corset maker, and to sing the praises of this "everything that's old is new again" garment. Thus, we aficionados begin a lifelong corset collection and intimate exploration of the nuances of profile, fit and feel created by this or that particular corset style.
What is truly a mystery and difficult to understand is why individual corset makers who have painstakingly learned their craft by individual studies or collegial consultations, aren't more aggressively tutoring assistants. They craft their goods carefully and lovingly, alone or with only a few assistants, in private homes and small workshops. Fashion academies are of little help; one basic bodice class is the most that one sees in modern curriculum. Yet designers debut one breath taking corseted gown after another on the runways of Paris and Milan. Boutiques such as ROMANTASY can hardly keep up with the demand for more moderately priced custom garments for wedding foundations, fashion and fetish wear, sensual lingerie or clubwear.
What is not a mystery is that the resurgence of interest in corsets and tight lacing is growing. Vollers, the well known English corset company employed 26 fulltime corset makers when I visited their plant in fall of 1996. Almost every issue of Voque or Mirabella or Allure magazines features a stunning corset gown or boned bodice. Brides are enamored with the stunning silhouette possible with a corset. At an exhibit during the spring, 1997 Bridal Faire in San Francisco, we distributed over 500 corset pamphlets and displayed three exquisite wedding corsets designed especially for us by B.R. Creations and Sheri Jurnecka Creative Corsets. Three brides to be placed orders that same week for wedding dresses incorporating a visible, tight laced corset bodice, and several orders followed.
In fact, ROMANTASY's custom corset orders have almost doubled in just over a year, and to keep current with that demand, we debut six new tight lacing or fashion corset makers and costumers with this catalog.
We trust you will appreciate their unique contributions and support them, as well as our regular corset makers. We also hope you will continue to share your personal stories with us, which for newcomers, will surely constitute your admission ticket to the magical mystery tour and society of corset enthusiasts.
Ann Grogan, October 1997