Why Aren't Those Handmade Custom Corsets
The first issue involves fit. Note that a new corset at first will feel rather stiff. However, it will become more comfortable over time as the steel stays mold to your body, as the fabric eases, and as your body becomes more attuned and comfortable with a form-fitting, boned garment. Do be patient, and keep wearing your corset according to proper 'seasoning' or 'breaking in' instructions we will provide with your garment. The garment should fit you without major lumps and bumps, gaps or pinches or wrinkles. It should not torque or turn on the body. Will wrinkles ever appear? Minor ones certainly may! Will it ever torque? Not unless you have failed to tell your corset maker that you have scoliosis, or not unless inadvertently neither one of you notices a smaller left side of your body from the right. Will a corset ever pinch? Perhaps on occasion. Bodies change. We expand; we contract; we bend to accommodate stiffness, soreness, growth. Corsets shift on the body and sometimes require a bit of padding when a hipbone seems to be irritated (try a piece of 1/4" foam rubber for temporary relief). No corset can snug to the body with absolute comfort and skintight perfection, especially if you move around in your corset rather than stand stock still.
Third, the edges of the top and bottom edge trim should be neatly tucked under so that they do not show fraying of the fabric, or an unsightly lump at the top edge of the busk or edge of the back grommets.
Fourth, the grommets should be evenly spaced one from the other and even with the back edge of the corset. They should be installed to be smooth on both sides, not only on the outside with teeth showing on the inside, which teeth can easily bruise skin or fray fabric over time.
Fifth, corset panel pieces should be approximately the same size on each side, as you view the corset straight on. If the fabric is printed or in brocade, some corsetmakers match the fabric pattern (called "mirror matching") and some do not, and some charge extra for this production service, but you must request it. However, failure to match fabric pattern unless requested, is not a sign of imperfection; some clients prefer the random, free-form 'look' of fabric designs. When placing orders, clients should ask if mirror matching is included or excluded in the base price of the corset, and whether it can be ordered for an additional fee.
Sixth, trims should be as you ordered. If you wanted a monochromatic (all one color) corset, then trims should closely match or coordinate with your fabric color. What you are showed as a sample, or what you see on the website, should be what you receive, if that is the order you placed. Some artistic license by the corset maker must usually be tolerated if you have not been precise when you ordered your corset, but some clients are more demanding than others, and should let us know that at time of ordering. We will inspect all completed corsets, and expect close color matching for monochromatic colored corsets. We once rejected a corset and asked for its remake, where our maker independently elected to apply a brocade boning casing when the standard provided for display in our boutique showed a satin boning casing, so that our client properly expected satin to be delivered. The corset was lovely, but not what our client desired, thus, at our expense we promptly remade her fine corset properly, to her ultimate and complete satisfaction.
Seventh, minor variations are to be expected and even cherished, in a hand-crafted corset. It is always better to specify every possible detail of the corset you desire in the corset order form, but sometimes each possible variation is difficult to cover or anticipate. Most reputable corset makers or distributors will rectify at their expense, a substantial variation from your order, but will hesitate or charge you if they deem your complaint to involve an insubstantial "defect." or "quibbling" over colors.
It is true that I have seen corset makers improve their techniques over time as they get practice, or improve when they "buy up" to a better type of sewing machine or add the proper foot. And it is true that on rare occasions, I have asked a corset maker to address a quality issue before I feel comfortable delivering the finished product to our customer.
Sometimes human errors just occur despite our best efforts on customer's behalf, and such errors may result in additional delay. Even the Post Office gets into the act and may lose or delay orders or delivery times! But even the most experienced corset maker, order taker or even the Post Office, cannot--repeat CANNOT--guarantee absolute, perfect perfection! This is, after all a hand-made garment made in major part by human hands and not by robots.
It's the same issue when one chooses to have a calligrapher versus a computer, create a certificate or address a wedding invitation envelope. Human beings cannot create perfect repetition of penstroke, and the beauty of handmade letters inheres in the vitality and energy, even slight imperfection, behind the basic letter structure created by the live human scribe. If customers prefer absolute perfection, perhaps a better investment might be readymade garments cut and sewed 50 at a time designed for the mass market. But we think you'll appreciate the vitality and uniqueness of a garment that is primarily hand made especially for you by craftspeople in the old tradition--something to be respected and cherished--both the garment and your talented maker!
ROMANTASY debuts new corset styles at tea party: The Butterfly and the Scallop Trollop Cincher by the Costumiere, and the Millennium Cincher by Sue Nice
Twelve guests joined Ann and the corset maker on Sunday afternoon, November 14 in sponsoring an old-fashioned tea party to view new corset styles and share their love of corsets. Neighbors from the Glen Park area including owner Susan of the Bon Dia Spa (pictured here trying on corsets) which Ann frequents for massages and facials, were excited to attend. We even had a guest from Tri Ess, the President Barbara Anne Coombs, all the way from Coral Gables, Florida! She was in town for a conference and saw the announcement on our website and made a reservation. We enjoyed meeting her, and she loves the Simple Pleasures Victorian she ordered!
Guests were met at the front door by "butler" Phil Smith, a longtime friend and model for ROMANTASY's fashion shows and corset events. "Can't think of a better way to spend my Sunday afternoon than meeting and greeting Ann's corseted guests," says Phil, who is awaiting delivery of his first "corset," the handsome "Corvest" designed by Robby and made for Phil especially in Christmas red star brocade with matching handkerchief. Stay tuned for photo!
I had a difficult time deciding what to wear, if truth be told, as I have so many great corsets. But I started with ROMANTASY's lovely pearl-embroidered Point Counter Point cincher over Sue Nice's long blue ball gown skirt, topped with a pearl-encrusted Ann Taylor overblouse (shown above this newsletter). I changed later into a fanciful butterfly strap corset shown above, worn over a floor-length grey taffeta skirt, a perfect combination, don't you think! It was one of the favorites with the guests, with its special tiny lavender butterfly embellishments and an unusual bottom hem design. This style may be ordered in a sophisticated gold satin and lace body with pale palomino chiffon straps, bust inset and bows.
Guests enjoyed Ann's special English Triffle and rich rice pudding, plus Catherine's tomato aspic and deviled eggs, along with their ice cream punch. Guests also enjoyed a special 15% holiday discount on orders placed that day, and there were others who seemed a bit overwhelmed with the choices and decided to think about it for a few days.
From another corsetmaker: "First off, these are custom made, meaning the pattern is made to fit each client's individual specifications and personal body measurements. Second, they are not manufactured in some factory by underpaid and abused workers, but are generally carefully constructed in small or home workshops. Third, depending on the corset style, each corset takes about a full day to produce, some take even longer. How much would someone pay for a full day's work? Especially, when that someone is purchasing a completely custom made and original style? At a designer boutique on the Champs D'Elysee or Rodeo Drive, I'm certain the client would pay far more for an original custom garment.
Recently, I bid a wedding dress similar to a gown found in a bridal magazine. When I checked the original gown's price it was close to $5,000, yet our ROMANTASY bid was less than half that....for total custom work! Plus there is the material charge, outer fabric, inner lining and inner facing, bias trim, boning, front busk, grommets, back lacing and lacing tips, laces, other embellishments...and so on. Really, I think that corsets are "cheap" for what is being received in return."
Remember, that corset makers have to carry inventory of supplies, from fabric to grommets, bones and busks. Even for a small home- based business this can amount to $15,000 or more! The fittings to make a corset are darned expensive: some customers are surprised that the clip front busk costs anywhere from $9 to $30 for busks over 13 or more inches!
A very distinguished corsetmaker to Romantasy for many years, Mr. Michael Garrod of True Grace Corset Company, once explained it this way: "It is generally very unusual for any business to reveal its financial policy...but True Grace is an exception, as I am only working part time in retirement and do not depend on the income from my corset business for a living. I have carefully analyzed my business expenditures and income for the last four years and although I won't reveal the precise figures, I can state the percentage of overhead in relation to gross income before tax.
Apart from stock purchases which run between $7-8.,000 a year, there are many other costs which amount to approximately 50% of gross income. They include: bank charges, postal insurance, printing and stationery, postage and packing materials, travel and promotional exhibits, modeling fees, accountants' fees, scissors and other small but essential equipment, thread, Post Office box fees, computer and printer supplies and upgrades, office equipment and business entertainment. hus, half of the gross income disappears in these costs, and that's before the "Tax Man" commeth! In the UK, he gets 20% minimum. At the end of the day, True Grace realizes only a 30% return on gross income. Could this possibly be a "labor of love?"
There are two additional factors not yet addressed: staff wages and premises rent or cost. Larger firms with outlets have to be highly efficient in production methods to break even, using labor saving machinery and employing their workforce to best advantage. Single manufacturers who operate primarily in home workshops, like True Grace do not have these enormous overhead problems to concern them, but remember--in the made-to-measure custom market, it is difficult to operate at speed and duplication is very rare indeed! Each garment is typically unique.
I have not yet mentioned the actual cost of materials which go into the average corset and this has mounted from about $10 in 1985 to about $33 in 1999 and represented only about 15% of the total cost of a custom corset. The remaining 85% for labor covers everything else required to run the business and produce a corset, plus produce a desired profit or net income level.
Finally, if the corset maker is distributing his or her creations via a retail outlet to make them more accessible to the customer, but not selling direct via mail order or internet, they have to attempt to reduce the cost in order to sell wholesale so that the retailer is able to make a small profit/income in return. I trust these comments will be helpful to answer Ann and her customers' most provocative and excellent question!"