FROM THE EDITOR
ROMANTASY WAS PLEASED to host about 50 guests at our bi-annual visit by Michael Garrod, owner of True Grace Corset Co. in London, on May 31, 1999! We were joined by 12 models including Isabella's two daughters! Robby helped me to prepare a lavish brunch with English trifle (Michael supervised preparation the night before, of course, and she used real Bird's English Pudding, a newfound treasure for me!), rice pudding, ham, strawberries and sugar and champagne mimosas.
Wanda, our sales manager, looked stunning as both hostess and model, in her new crimson ballgown dress and Sue Nice's new black brocade Victorian corset. Christine, ever an effervescent personality when she works part-time in our boutique, also hostessed along with staff person Elizabeth.
The show was an ecclectic combination of dramatic, humorous, tender and edgy "skits". New corset maker Isabella, her hubby, his sister, and Isabella's two girls played in a wedding scenario, with Michael taking the role of happy father, walking his "bride" (in Isabella's gorgeous button-front bridal corset and ensemble) down our "aisle". We took advantage of the enthusiasm of a new customer, Dante, who had installed a new credit card system the week before. We needed a priest and he was the IT BOY for a moment of tender glory during our wedding skit! I think he really enjoyed the wild and wacky event and his ROMANTASY stage debut!
Robby of course looked stunning in Michael's lace covered longline Lily corset worn with a 50's style custom-coordinated ensemble, and feather hat!
Here comes our
first model . . . Ann!
Playing a different role than normal, I came off the podium as production manager, to model two corsets: my latest favorite from Michael, a gorgeous and glitzy lavendar satin and sequined Lily with ballgown skirt by Sue and bolero jacket by Isabella (hat by me!), and . . . my latest favorite corset by Isabella, the cute pastel print and bottom lace ruffle "Sabrina". As you see, I chose a completely "kooky" look for my last appearance with the fetish girl crowd: Gogi in Sheri's hot pink reptile leather Valentine, Monica in Sue Nice's fuzzy leopard Victorian, and Chelesa in Michael's red rubber Victorian.
Look for most of these lovely models in our third corset catalog, now in the planning stages with a spring production schedule. And look for the appearance of our wonderful corsetmakers as well. We were gratified to have FIVE of our corsetieres attend the fashion show, and we appreciate their support!
Well, spring is over, summer is in full force and quite noticeable in most parts of the USA (heat!), and many changes are in store for ROMANTASY, as you will see below. We thank our many, many boutique customers who have visited us over the nine years we've had a storefront. Remember that you can always call us (415-585-0760) and make a private fitting appointment in San Francisco and for a Trunk Show to see the new style corsets and be measured for your corset!
A happy group of Romantasy corsetmakers welcomes MP Garrod on May 31.
Left to right: Sue, Sheri, Michael, Ruth, Isabella and Ann (in new "Sabrina" corset by Isabella)
We love you all and look forward, as ever, to hearing from you and sharing your experiences with corseting.
--Ann, Wanda, Christine and Elizabeth
SELECT NOTES FROM MR. GARROD'S PRESENTATION AT 'CORSETS AND CONTRALTOS'
Ladies and gentlemen! I am delighted to be here again in San Francisco, and to meet my many friends here. This is indeed a distinguished gathering of people, some of whom have come hundreds of miles to be here. I am flattered! I would also like to recognize Professor Edelman from Stanford University and The Arts Institute, and I believe that Ms. Esther Herschelle, former founder of The Arts Institute, known as Louise Salinger Fashion Academy is also in the audience. Thank you for attending this fine Sunday morning and sharing it with us at ROMANTASY Exquisite Corsetry.
I was here just over 2 years ago and on that occasion, I talked about the wholesale trade in corsetry in the U.K., and how it declined by 1985 to about 2% of what it had been before the Second World War. All the major manufacturers such as Symingtons and Spirella went out of business, and with that most retail corset shops in the country. I indicated then that the remaining manufacturers of corset components, such as the busk, would more than likely disappear by the year 2000.
From 1985 to 1999 there has been a further decline of corset wearing by the public in general. It has virtually reached the point in the U.K. where your back lacing, front busk corset is no longer available from a shop or even mail order firms. I know of only one company making such items, along with others such as roll ones and girdles, and that is Coopers in Ashbourne. I can see no hope for the future in this particular area as the younger generation would not dream of dressing themselves in such garments. . . . The public has been totally brainwashed by years of adverse comments.
Today we have Coopers, Vollers and Axfords left in England, the only significant wholesale traders. Together they employ probably no more than fifty cutters and machinists. Apart from that I doubt there are more than a dozen individual makers doing made to measure corsets. Compare that with 14,000 in the years before the Second World War!
What are the plans of True Grace? it has been my personal crusade to try, in my own small way, to keep the few remaining component manufacturers and stockists in business. Without them everything goes under. I cannot do this on my own, so I am constantly trying to persuade others to take up corset making. I have been instrumental in three people starting up to date.
Although I have been making corsets now for almost 20 years on a commercial basis, I am still learning the trade! I never went to any form of school of college ot learn about pattern making, cutting and stitching, so have largely taught myself. It is my aim to constantly improve my work, but not to expand the business as such . . . quality, not quantity is my motto!
Thanks to the influence of the lady who models for me, Pandora Gorey, I have now been asked to supply samples of my work for a 3 month exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, in the year 2000. This is alongside work by such people as LaCroix, Mugler, Galliano, McQueen and Westwood! This is indeed a great honour and hope that the choice is justified. The chief curator there is Valerie Steele, who is probably well known to most of you through her famous book Fashion and Eroticism.
Let's be clear about one thing! Corsets have been in existence in some form or another for thousands of years . . . I am certain they will survive!"
INTRODUCING "SHERI'S SINCHER"
AN AFFORDABLE NEW TIGHT-LACING CORSET STYLE
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Thank you for your help, but my budget does not allow for me to spend over $50 on the corset. I will continue my search on maybe another level. Again, thank you very much for your time and kind attention to my situation. -- Kfirstname.lastname@example.org
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THANKS FOR CHECKING OUT OUR SITE! I am glad you share our love of corsetry. Even with a limited budget, there are many ways to approach the topic, and receive better value for the dollars you invest. You may be pleasantly surprised that you can afford a quality, tight-lacing corset sooner than you may think!
As you will now know, ROMANTASY Exquisite Corsetry is reducing our overhead and transforming our business in order to also reduce our prices. Because we take only private fitting and consultation appointments after September 1, we can pass our operational savings on to our customers with lower prices! We start celebrating that process with the introduction of a new tight-lacing style at the best price-point in the world: the "Sheri's Sincher"!
Sheri's Sincher may just fit your present needs so that you do not need to delay gratification. Basically it is a shorter Victorian by Sheri, quite an accomplished costumer, made of black or white satin sides, with fancy fabric front and back (jewel tones of black, burgundy, blue or gold [add gold] brocade, and pastels in pink, peach, lavender, ivory, light blue or light green pastel brocade), lining, and lovely coordinating organza front-laces (and sturdy back laces). It is quite finely finished with black or white trim and sturdy grommets. We won't guarantee the exact pattern of the brocade, but you can specify green, burgundy, black or blue for the brocade.
It will fit standard waist sizes of 23", 25", 28" and 32" (add four inches to those natural waist measurements; thus, our fourth voluptuous size fits a natural waist of 36" to 38"). The first day that Sheri delivered her new style to the boutique, we sold one on the spot to a customer in the store. She was impressed with both the fit and the evident quality (steel boned, tight lacing, brocade front, lined!) and design, plus the "extras" of fancy fabric and beautiful, feminine organza ribbon!
Now for the good news: it is priced at $195 including shipping! This is truly quite unbelievable and I don't think you will find the quality or pricepoint anywhere else in webtime or real time.
If Sheri's Sincher does not seem to live up to your dreams for a fully-custom corset, we encourage you to begin a small savings program, and Xmas is coming up . . . it may be possible to request friends to "chip in" for something you truly desire! Recently, ROMANTASY had a man customer come in with an envelope marked "My Corvest Fund"; he had diligently saved money for six months to purchase that custom item! We applauded his commitment!
Finally, in making your decision, may I invite you to read the June-July newsletter just past, the first letter from a customer in the We Get Letters column, talking about how "pricey" a corset is, which is your concern. I wrote a rather detailed explanation of that issue, which does deserve consideration. It might be helpful to you.
Please stay tuned to our site for more great corset photos and web re-design soon. If you wish to be posted, kindly sign our confidential mailing list (go to home page, scroll to fan that says Mailing List).
We sincerely hope we have been helpful to you with new ideas about how to obtain a quality corset.Thanks for your contact with ROMANTASY, and don't give up your love!
A VISIT TO AXFORDS, CORSET MAKERS
From left: Stuart, Karen, Constance (C&S Constructions),
Pandora, Arthur, and Michael Hammond of Axford's.
(NOTE: Michael Garrod, our recent California visitor and owner of True Grace Corset Company, prepared this article last fall. I have not had the privilege of visiting Axfords, but hear many good things about its owner and business. About four years ago I did visit with and meet Ian Voller, who at the time employed about 25 corset makers, and continues to this day in business in Portsmouth, England. ROMANTASY does not import or offer either company's corsets primarily because of distance and resulting increase in prices, and also because we specialize in custom work, not readymade corsets.)
A PARTY OF SIX PEOPLE, consisting of representatives of True Grace and C&S Constructions, Mrs. Pandora Harrison, Miss Karen Wright and Mr. Arthur Beale, made an official visit to Axfords Corset Works in Brighton, England, last fall.
The "works" consist of an unassuming semi-detached, four floor building in Centurion Road, and gives no indication whatsoever from the outside of the activity within. The owner is currently Mr. Michael Hammond, and he employs six full time workers.
Axford's workshop, Brighton, England
Axfords is one of the few survivors of the catastrophic decline of corset wearing in the seventies and eighties. Companies employing 100 or more were quite incapable of remaining in business, even though desperate attempts were made to diversify and economize. It was left to the smaller fry such as Axfords an Vollers to pick up the pieces, but even they only just managed to survive.
Axfords was established in 1880, and was based in London until about 40 years ago near Victoria station. It was operating then as a shop., selling menswear and a small line in corsetry (hence the well known expression, "Victoria's Dream;" Ed. note: We wonder if there is any connection between the USA major lingerie company and slogan "Victoria's Secret"? ROMANTASY has never felt threatened by this company, because we tell the secret that Victoria is trying to keep--and it's custom corsetry!) It subsequently moved to Brighton 40 years ago.
Left to right: Pandora, Constance, Karen, Stuart and Arthur
Michael Hammond took over from his mother, and after realizing that the market for corsets from overseas was untapped, abandoned the shop and switched to all corset production nine years ago. It has thrived ever since.
The company now depends to a large extent on the export market, which is a total reversal on what was happening to companies in general in the UK before the collapse occurred. It was found that "Made to measure" was not a profitable operation and is now entirely "off the peg." Stock normally consists of 3,5000 items, though due to underpricing in the last year or so it has been reduced to 2,000. Having substantial stock means rapid response to incoming orders and is usually achieved within 24 hours. There are some twenty different patterns used for corset construction ranging from waist nippers to strapless basques and corsetlettes. There are two specifically for male wear. They also do suspender belts (garter belts), Victorian underwear, maids wear and wigs.
Colors available are white, pink, red, purple and black. These are mostly in satin, but PVC and leather are held. Lace trim is standard on some items. Suspenders are fitted to most styles, and any number is acceptable; we saw a special order with forty six attached!!
There are five lady machinists and one male operator. One of them has been with the firm for forty years. Mr. Hammond is seeking experienced machinists, having space available for two more. Taking on additional workers clearly requires an increased turnover, but the market would appear to be there.
Expansion, as such, is not currently envisaged by Axfords, even though business is good. Nobody can forecast what the next five years will bring, whether it be an upturn or a down turn, and expansion without a guaranteed increased turnover is too risky.
The visit was a great success and we were all made to feel very welcome. Two of our lady attendees were corsetted, and received admiring glances from the workers who were unaccustomed to seeing corsets worn at the works. Much useful information was exchanged, and one hoped that the temporary disruption of normal activities was felt worthwhile by the management.
WE GET LETTERS
Thank you for taking the time to write that kind and supportive letter back in the fall. I think the main reason I didn't respond sooner is my continuing confusion about gender. After that wonderful experience you and Monica gave me I thought I'd be less confused, but nothing's become clearer. Well, maybe that's not entirely true, as I do know now there's got to be room in my life for both genders. Finding the balance, though, is not easy. So, I don't know where I'm headed exactly, but I do know I'm not losing what I found that Friday evening at ROMANTASY. I'm looking forward to the BR Corset, and I'm looking forard to my next visit to San Francisco. I do like your new web site presentation and it was good to see that testimonial from Kaye included! Take care and give my best to Monica. Love, Kaye 12/98
'Tis been a while but I'm very satisfied with the corset I received. Still 31'' with best posture I've had in my life. --CWF June, 1999
|Hello Ann and Robby,
I wanted to tell you how much we enjoyed having you at our meeting a few months back. You were one of the best and most popular speakers we ever had.
--Nicole Barlett, Secretary, Neutral Corner, San Diego, CA Fall, 1998
I have been following ROMANTASY for a while and to me, you are my ideal of what a woman should be. I hope to hear from you soon. Bright Blessings, SB 6/18/99
Thank you for all your (and David's) help and kindness. I am glad I decided to go to the club with you. I hope to do it again sometime soon. I have already put much of your advice to good use with positive results! I will be bringing my wife by sometime this summer. Love, Bobbi 6/14/99
Part 2 of the August/September newsletter
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We thank Michael, Kelly and all our writers for sharing their questions and photos and articles with us. Please send more, as we love to feature you and know what's happening with those who share our love. Bye now, from Ann, Wanda, Christine and Elizabeth . . . see you in cyberspace!
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