The "Ask Andy" Column is an opinion Column and may not necessarily  reflect the views of  McPete Sez

August 2008

The McPete Sez Mail Bag
From our Readers  
To our Readers
For our Readers
        Some of our readers will have the answer.  
Remember, our readers are in the same Industry.    
Retailers, Manufacturers and Sales Representatives

As a designer, producer, educator, and corset enthusiast dedicated for 18 years to bringing top quality tight-lacing custom corsetry and fact-based corset education to market, I write to join my lamentations to those of your reader who complained in your last "McPete Sez" issue about the inferior quality of costumes flooding the market. I congratulate her for including details. This will certainly alert store lingerie buyers (I used to be one when ROMANTASY had a retail lingerie boutique rather than online custom corset business with personal fittings in San Francisco) about specific defects to keep an eye on and discuss openly with sales reps when attending lingerie shows.

I only add my caution to buyers at such shows who may also see samples of what I call "wannabe" corsets of dubious quality, also now flooding the wholesale marketplace, especially during the past two years. I'm not speaking about corsets by Vollers or Axfords, both English manufacturers with long and superior reputations regarding quality of their wholesale corsets. For readymade corsets, theirs seem to have the best possible fit using good-quality English fabrics, and selling at the most reasonable prices.

Of course, I think ROMANTASY's single wholesale corset-cincher, the Simple Pleasures, is an even better buy. I'm complaining about almost illiterate email solicitations I receive  about two or three times per month and growing, obviously emanating from certain non-English speaking countries, touting readymade wholesale corsets. I'm always surprised at the obvious lack of research in this shotgun approach: it's entirely wasted effort on their part because aside from our standard-patterned Simple Pleasures and Point-Counter-Point cinchers and one other by corsetiere Sue Nice, our team of multiple and multiply-talented corsetieres  have always specialized in made-to-measure corsetry and corsetry ensembles.

I am however, more than surprised when I examine images nearly always appended to these new e-solicitations or marketing pieces, or visit the websites mentioned. In all cases garments are produced in Thailand, Pakistan, and less frequently, in China. I'm certain about my conclusions when I see the actual garments ordered by clueless lingerie buyers for sale in lingerie or specialty stores by equally clueless salespeople, or sold by sister vendors at exhibits I attend.

Not to leave out department stores in my rant. For example, several years ago I saw pictured a lovely corset by designer Stella McCartney, for sale at Nordstrom's, perhaps my favorite department store. I called for details, but the salesperson to whom I spoke was completely flummoxed and had no idea if the boning was steel or rigiline, or what I meant when I used the term "busk". On another occasion upon arrival at my Christmas relief job in the lingerie department of Neiman Marcus, I closely examined a new designer-label "corset" displayed proudly on a manikin, with bones poking out of split seams, edges rolling over, fabric bunching at the waistline, and elastic side gussets obliterating any possible figure-shaping ability of this--gulp-- $1300 "corset"!

To be specific about these ubiquitous so-called "corsets" and so your readers know what else to keep an eye on, I am routinely shocked by: 

(1) inferior, loosely-woven and stretchy fabrics that will soon fray or shred, 
(2) poor quality lining, if any, 
(3) uneven stitch length and wobbly stitch lines creating uneven tension leading to stitches popping, 
(4) wide bone casings permitting bones to turn and dig in during wear (ouch!), (5) inartistic, non-matching vertical lengths of pattern pieces in front or back, also leading to torquing.

Even worse, these "wannabes" nearly always create the ubiquitous "U-shape" at the waistline when worn. Thus, as the generally uneducated and unwitting wearer laces down, the bottom edge presses down on her anterior femoral nerve and sooner rather than later will lead to dangerous numbness in her hips and legs, not to mention the inevitable squishing out and lumping of flesh in the tummy and derriere below the garment's bottom edge.

I might not be so livid about this alien invasion if I didn't know about the conclusive, fact-based, and medically-affirmed advisability of the hourglass corset shape to place even pressure around the entire torso for comfort, safety, and hygiene (less skin wrinkling and trapping of moisture).

And I'm saddened because I know the consumer is the only one to lose in the end--errrr, or, "in the waistline"--since these inferior corsets technically can tolerate no or very little waistline reduction, yet will certainly raise unrealistic expectations of substantial figure shaping, good fit, comfort, and durability that the product will surely not deliver. Because sales are not accompanied by adequate or accurate verbal or written consumer information and full disclosure about the limits of the garment, how it may compare to a real custom corset, or how to properly wear, fit, and care for the garment, sales of "wannabe" corsets perpetuate non-factual, incorrect, and antiquated prejudices against real, custom-fit corsets.

More's the pity because custom corsets, or even high quality, well patterned readymade corsets chosen wisely for fit, will not pinch, dig in, roll over, bunch up, torque, twist, rip, reveal bones, and shred with only a few wearings. 
by Ann Grogan, Proprietress, ROMANTASY Exquisite Corsetry

Response to the comment above:

"Thank you for letting somebody with authority talk about the corset market in this country. As for every other product, "price" has (not always) dictated quality. Wholesale buyers are uninformed about quality and buy only by price. All they are getting are unhappy customers. I have been representing two German lines of corsets here in this country. Thanks." -- Franz Pass, Pass Distributing & Sales (8/19/08)

*Disclaimer - The McPete Sez Mail Bag is a comment column, and does not necessarily reflect the views of McPete Sez.  Vulgar or offensive language will not be posted.

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