©1999 ROMANTASY Corset Boutique
Want to Learn to Make Corsets and Don't Know Where to Go?
In truth, I have never had any professional instruction, and have just picked up bits of information along the way assisted by books I have bought. It was by mere chance that I met Iris Norris at Gardners in the seventies, and it was through her I found out some crucial information. So where can one go? The quick answer to this, is nowhere! That is, not if you want to learn how to make strong corsets for the purpose of tight-lacing. If you go to a fashion college they will probably teach you the basics of making corsets for stage, film and television work, but none of these will be anything other than simple construction with no long term wear in mind, let alone tight-lacing!
So how can anyone learn the trade? Quite frankly, the only answer is to become an apprentice to an existing corset maker (what is called "work experience" these days) who can afford the time to show you what to do. If you are lucky enough to find anyone prepared to do this (and I don't use the word "lucky" lightly), don't expect to get a salary! Training is hands on, and the overall result is a slowing of production, not an increase. I know! I've done just this with a young lady and it takes a lot of time and effort to demonstrate everything I do. Two weeks is not enough, four might just be adequate, but only "just."
What happened in the past, you might ask? In the days of mass production, involving as much as 1,000 workers full time, they undoubtedly took on apprentices who started at the bottom of the ladder. Let's say, making up suspenders (garter). They'd do that six days a week for six months, and once they could make up 500 a day, they'd be taught how to fit the busk of a corset. Another six months, maybe. After a few years in the factory they might have been involved in most, but probably not all of the processes in corset construction. Nobody on the factory floor would ever make up a complete corset on their own. This approach to learning corset construction would have been far too lengthy, incredibly boring, and after fifteen or twenty years of drudgery, you'd want to do anything BUT corset making!
Undoubtedly the only learning process was by work experience with the small corset makers. Indeed the smaller the better. Obviously some background experience would have been essential prior to making an approach, and the same would apply today.
It is somewhat unfortunate that corset makers "keep their cards close to their chests!" Many are reluctant to pass on their knowledge to anyone else, the consequence of this being that most of the expertise of the turn of the century has simply disappeared. All of them had their own styles and assembly techniques, and they weren't going to pass on their secrets to competitors!
It's just about the same today as then. I have on occasion written to a retired, skilled corset maker for some help in corset construction, but the are not interested once they have gone into retirement.
On many occasions I have examined corsets from 100 years ago, and I marvel at the accuracy of construction and the amazing cuts they produced. To copy these is almost impossible as far as I am concerned, and I would almost be prepared to bet that nobody in the trade now could actually reproduce an exact copy.
Who can the modern apprentice turn to? I can quote one example of a young lady from Switzerland, who has worked with Mugler, Lacroix, and Cadolle in Paris, then moved on to London where she worked at Rigby & Peller (corset maker to the Queen). She is now working with Basia Zarzycka in the Kings Road (London) making corset -style wedding dresses. You have to be pretty keen to follow a route like this, and you will need financial subsidies in the process.
Don't even think of going to a corset factory such as Axfords or Vollers (volume production). They only want machinists in a mass production process, and if they do train you up, it is with their interest in mind, not yours. They'll want you to stay on permanently, not set up in opposition.
In conclusion, if you can find someone who is experienced in the trade, and is prepared to show you what to do, you will be very, very lucky. It's really a case of learning the basics, studying the subject though books, and then having a go once you have the essential machinery and the necessary stock. You won't be able to do this without initial capital, and if you are like me, you will only run a successful business if ti is operated on a part-time basis in conjunction with another job.
Ed. Note: It is unfortunate that a corset maker of Mr. Garrod's skill and generosity of spirit in mentoring young seamstresses, lives so far from California. However, our European readers may be interested in learning that he hails from just outside London!
by Ann Grogan
Many medically-trained people are prejudiced against corsetry and still subject to commonly held stereotypes about them. Clearly, these prejudices and stereotypes are the result of unexamined gossip and rumor, inaccurate "history" of the corset, rare cases of reported "physical damage," and failure to investigate and obtain the facts relating to custom corsetry, that is, corsets made to measure and comfortably fit each individual body.
One can also speculate as to other harder-to-prove bases for these prejudices, such as possible economic gain when we seek relief through purchasing drugs and medically-prescribed supports, and possible attempts to retain power and influence by the medical profession.
All that being said, the bottom line is that anything taken to the extreme can cause extreme damage. Likewise, everything in moderation can be helpful.
For example, when I get a painful back spasm flare-up, I ice it the first day, then use my heating pad, and immediately when I have to stand up and walk around for a while, put on my beloved Simple Pleasures Waist Cincher, moderately laced, to support my back muscles while they relax and heal from the spasm.
I am convinced that I have actually done away with taking drugs for pain when I follow this regime. Less money for the drug company. Less money for my physician. But I have learned to heal myself. When the spasm is reduced, I wear my corset 6-8 hours a day snugly laced. I then can tolerate a Victorian (longer version of the cincher). I exercise/stretch/walk almost every day, massage my waistline to increase circulation after taking my corset off, and try to maintain a healthy diet as well.
In 9 years of wearing corsets more or less in this manner, and on an average of 4 days per week, I have reduced my waist permanently from 24" to 22 ½". Wanda, my former saleslady, reduced her dress size by three sizes in slightly over a year, and I had one customer who lost 2" in 6 weeks of wearing her corset snugly laced during dinner, and not letting out the laces!
I am also now able to reduce my waist temporarily while wearing a corset for about 4-6 hours, to 18". This is all in the name of drama, fashion and ego, of course...and I admit it! I love the occasional admiring glance and favorable public attention. And I love doing my personal best and all the while feeling warmly embraced, as if a lover's arms were entwining my waistline and torso!
As for muscle atrophy or dependence on my corsets, I have none. I verify this on my "days off corseting", by observing if my back gets tired after some hours and "wants" its corset or not. So long as I can go 3 days a week without any ill effects while not wearing my corset, I believe that I am not "hooked" on it.
For those fetish tight-lacers who have extreme waists, who indeed are "hooked" and wear a corset daily up to 23 hours a day--and there are a few in this country who do-I have heard that their muscles indeed have atrophied, and they are dependent on the corset. So long as you don't go this far, or very far in this direction, you have nothing to fear.
In conclusion, please consult with your own personal physician or orthopedist, and continue your excellent questioning and research. When you are ready to try a corset, please remember ROMANTASY Exquisite Corsetry for the world's widest selection of corset makers and styles, and expert consultation regarding the best style to meet your needs!
But beware....you might get "hooked!"
by Ann Grogan
To most observers, and for most standard American body sizes from dress size 8 to 14, corseting elicits certain interest if not commentary, when the natural waist is reduced by five or more inches. If the drama of that reduction is noteworthy, then six to ten inches surely elicits neck-craning and gasps of disbelief.
But are these gasps of admiration, or horror? Is such extreme reduction considered by most people to be beautiful, or ugly? Examining the paradoxes inherent in extreme waists seems most appropriately to begin at home, with my own ambivalence and confusion over the issue.
Eight responses sum up my feelings about it, and I hope my readers will send in their responses as well. I offer them with the certain knowledge that my opinions may be controversial, but controversy has never been something that this legally-trained corset aficionado has avoided!
First, extreme waists are not normal. Hardly anyone could argue that they are. Extreme waists are not only out of the range of experience of 99% of the populace who are unaccustomed to seeing a two inch, much less five or more inch waist reduction, and certainly out of the norm of regular corseting practice and reduction achievement, as well.
Second, I personally admire to the max, those who accomplish such restriction, especially my personal acquaintances, colleagues and famous friends, Cathie J. and M. Lourdes, the latter featured on the cover of the True Grace Corset Catalog, and hopefully, soon in the third ROMANTASY Exquisite Corsetry Catalog to be published in February 2000!
I compare extreme waist reduction to running the marathon: those who accomplish it are in my opinion, slightly or possibly, completely daft, but nonetheless admirable for their tenacity, commitment, obvious pain in the doing, and actual success of their dedicated efforts!
Those who accomplish it deserve even more applause when they accomplish it from internal motivation and drive, without the benefit of a partner to provide dedicated, daily encouragement.
Third, I think extreme waists are not particularly aesthetic or attractive. I think the human body at a reduction of 10 inches more or less, looks deformed, transformed into a caricature, somewhat in the way drag queens characterizes women. True, the simile is not a totally apt one, since drag queens can remove makeup and easily re-enter their male role in society, while tight-lacers cannot. Their commitment is total and entire, even if the result takes them to the outer edges of their art.
Fourth, what is considered aesthetic or ugly is not only personal to the viewer, but is a matter of degree. Where do I draw the line about what turns from enhancing the female figure in a pleasing way, into a displeasing way? Probably a maximum reduction of seven inches will do it for me.
Why? Because the body looks like it will break in two pieces, and that psychically hurts! I imagine at a deep level that MY body will break in two pieces. Since I have struggled for over 30 years with occasionally excruciatingly painful back problems, the thought agonizes me more than perhaps for other people.
Fifth, I also admit the possibility that at a subconscious level, I am jealous.
And sixth, I get discouraged when I spend too much time thinking about or viewing such waists; I know I will never get there, whether I want to or not. Or, at least, I know I will likely not make the personal commitment it takes.
When others focus intently on such extreme waists and lavish praise on them, it makes me feel like chopped meat.
Seventh, extreme waists unfortunately often contribute to, rather than dissuade from, the popular opinion that corseting is painful. Nothing could be further from the truth when a custom corset is constructed to follow individual body contours and is moderately laced. Countless hours are spent by those of us who love corseting, in convincing doubting Tomases and Tomasinas that corsets can be comfortable!
Eighth, I believe extreme waists run contrary to my personal and professional goal of spreading the good word about modern-day custom corsetry. I want to increase the desire of both women and men to wear corsets, yet extremism sometimes frightens those new to their own desires to lace. It fetishizes the corset, and without any further action on the part of the wearer, may send an unintended message or tap subconscious feelings that extreme waists must be the goal of anyone who wears corsets.
Why this is true has always been a curiosity to me. At least to Americans, I have observed that to see an extreme thing, is to automatically imagine oneself in that extreme position. I will leave it to psychologists to tell me why.
As a purveyor of corsetry, I want to remove barriers to a love affair with the corset. Perhaps for some, extreme waists promote corsetry. But for the majority of our customers at ROMANTASY Exquisite Corsetry, we encourage moderation and realistic expectations in terms of either temporary or permanent waist reduction.
Please click here to read about ROMANTASY's waist training coaching program to enhance your own tight-lacing progress.