Corsets are a great way to add flair and structure to a costume (or even a muggle outfit), but they are not something to jump into uneducated. I'm not talking about waist training here, just about safety and a basic comparison of some different popular brands. If you are interested in waist training, I really suggest checking out Lucy Corsetry and The Tightlacing Society (a Facebook group) for info. If you have health issues that make you concerned about wearing any sort of corset for any reason, it is always a good idea to talk to your doctor before jumping in.
If you follow me, you know that most of my costumes begin with deciding which corset to feature. My first corset was purchased around 2009 at Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival to the tune of $300, and I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into other than something pretty. The vendor actually did put his foot on my back to tighten it. Here is where I tell you not to ask or allow someone to do that to you, especially with a brand new piece. You can injure your corset or, more importantly, yourself. I don't recall the name of the vendor and my corset has no maker tags in it. It is, to date, the most expensive corset I've ever bought. Don't be like me. While I do love that piece, please do your research and make sure you're buying from a reputable company that makes quality products. Just because something is expensive, doesn't mean it's a well-made, trustworthy piece.
My first corset. Sorry, I don't have any great pictures of it. This is the Ringmaster outfit my mom and I made for it. That's hubby as Cobra Commander on our first Halloween as a couple.
Don't be afraid to ask around and find out where other people you know or follow have gotten their corsets from and what they think of them. I was one of the first of my friends to get into them, so I didn't have this luxury. The pieces I bought after my RenFest corset were from Corset Story. Back then, you could get them for really, really low prices. I still didn't know much other than that I liked corsets. Corset Story is pretty prevalent now, but they are not a maker that I would recommend, especially for the prices they retail at now. I've talked to too many people who have had problems with the boning popping out, breaking, and actually injuring them (as in badly enough to scar). If that isn't enough, they really don't give you a very nice shape. While their stock photos may show them being very nicely hourglass shaped, that is not the reality of them. There is no waist definition. You just kind of looking like you're squished in a really big Chinese finger trap tube. For some shape comparison, here is my friend, Octavia, in a Corset Story piece, as compared to the stock photo of it. It was her first corset.
Do you notice how much less curve this piece has on an actual person? These next pictures are with a cincher from Timeless Trends.
I also want you to look at the stock pictures in comparison to each other. The Timeless Trends piece looks so very uncurvy until it gets on a body. Photos of corsets on a white background are easier to photoshop that pictures of a corset on a body. If you check out Timeless Trends' website, you'll notice that they do provide stock photos of their pieces on models. Now check out Corset Story's website. Pictures of their corsets on people are few and far between. There are definitely none available on the individual listings. You always want to be able to see a piece you are interested in on people, not just a background.
These next photos are of Octavia in a costume corset by Heavy Red.
As you can see in the stock photo, this corset is kind of a demi-bust, but depending on your shape it may or may not actually sit like that. Octavia is a busty girl, so it sits down lower on her than the Heavy Red model, which makes this long piece extra long for her and it's not very comfortable. This is why it's a good idea to really look at the corset you're thinking of buying on actual bodies.
So, what else should you learn before you buy a corset? You can tell by now that they are not all created equal; a lot of that has to do with boning. To say it simply, STEEL. You want steel. There is no room for plastic or acrylic boning if you want to actually look nice. Those are inferior materials that break easy, give poor support, and just do not look nice. There are two different types of steel bones: spring and spiral.
And now for more about why you don't want a Corset Story piece. They use none of the aforementioned types of boning. Their bones are steel, but they are hard, barely flexible sheet or scrap steel. Between this and their curve-lacking pattern, it's no small wonder they make people look like they have less curves with it than without. So, while they have attractive designs, you're better off going with a more simple corset and embellishing it yourself. Bonus: you won't look like everyone else!
Measuring yourself correctly is key. Different brands may want different measurements taken in different ways. Read their FAQ and if you still have any questions, don't hesitate to contact them and ask questions to make sure that the piece you get is the best fit and style for you. Don't tell them that your measurements are smaller than they really are. Pretty much everyone wishes that they were skinnier, but wearing things that are too small for your body is never a good idea, especially when they're corsets. You can end up hurting yourself. If you live near a place that sells corsets or you know that a maker you like is coming close to you soon, there is nothing like a live fitting to help you find the piece that will work best for you. No one knows their work better than the creator!
Once you have your corset, it is tempting to put it on and lace it down as tightly as you can for the most dramatic shape. Don't do it! Your corset needs to warm up to you and you need to get used to it. Put it on so it's comfortable and once you're used to each other, snug it up a little bit at a time. If something hurts, that's bad. You don't want your corsets to hurt. Don't be afraid to reach out for help if something seems wrong.
Good brands to start with:
Damsel in this Dress
There are lots of other brands that I am looking forward to trying, so keep an eye on my blog! ;)
Don't think that you can't wear corsets at all if your first one doesn't work for you the way you want it to. There is no single corset style that works for every body. There is some trial and error here. I'm pretty sure most people who have bought corsets have had several that simply didn't work for them. It happens and it will be OK.
Have you worn a corset before? Let us know what it was and your experience with it in the comments! If you have any questions that I didn't answer, ask me in the comments or on Facebook! I promise to answer them as best I can!
If you ever watched Clueless and didn't want Cher's computerized closet, then you may just want to skip this whole post. I, for one, have been longing for that sucker since my pre-teen years. OK, so these closet apps aren't really intended for costumers, but let's be serious here, my blog demographic probably cares way more about our costumes than our muggle clothes. Not that I'm saying you can't use these apps for your normal person wardrobe, either, just that that is not my primary motivation for downloading them. The only thing I've used on the computer that would compare is Polyvore's website, so you may see me compare to that at times. My ratings will be putting them in the order that I like these specific apps. ((Side note: There are a couple of apps geared towards guys. I didn't choose any of those to see how they stack up against these ones, but they are out there!))
The apps that I am going to be testing out are Stylebook, Pureple, Stuff N Style, TRiFT, ClosetSpace, and Stylicious. My phone is an iPhone 5s and, really, I don't get very much into app usage, so if I'm excited about these, you'd best believe that it's probably worth being excited about. The app names below will be linked to their websites if you are interested in getting them.
I am not receiving any money or anything by doing this review and comparison, no one asked me to do it. I saw a need and felt like I could fill it. #1 will be the highest rated, #6 is the lowest.
This was the first one I downloaded because some gals in a costuming group I admin on Facebook had brought it up a couple of times, so I figured it must be worth checking out. Perks, I guess? Stylebook says that you can send items from your closet to your friends to help you figure out outfits, but only if they are on the same wifi network. I really wish that there was a way to see what your Facebook friends have in their closets, especially since my motivation for using these apps is costuming. This app can back your closet up to your cloud storage, and it is currently not available for Android.
The "Help" section was easy to find and I read through at least the beginning of it to figure out how to use the thing. It was a very long and in-depth guide. I do confess that I decided to purchase this app on New Year's Day, and, while I don't drink, I do admit to having stayed up pretty late and then getting up early with my little guy, so I was pretty tired and not in the mood to immerse myself in that. They do recommend taking pics against a solid, contrasting color backdrop because you're going to be editing the background out. If you're anything like me, the editing part is going to be kind of tedious; I almost wish that I had just edited them in Photoshop on my computer, then sent them to my phone. Polyvore's website editing is easier, too. If you're sitting there going, "Well, I just won't edit them," think again. You need to remove the backgrounds so that when you experiment with making outfits they can layer and you actually get the effect of seeing what the outfit will really look like, like Polyvore.
Once you save your photos, you can input info for each item like color, fabric, size, brand, season, whether it's currently lent our or at the cleaners, and how much it cost. The only bits there that really interest me are what size it is (especially for corsets since I have a range of sizes over several inches) and item cost. Why item cost? Once you have your looks made and saved, you can add them to the calendar so you know how often you use it, as well as your cost per wear. I like that idea because you can decide whether or not it was a fiscally sound purchase, but you also have the price on hand in case you ever decide to sell or trade the piece. I do like, especially since I'm adding unconventional wardrobe items, that Stylebook allows me to add new and different categories. I doubt I'm going to find an app that already has a section for me to add my corsets. ;) It also gives you options for different classifications for your looks you create and lets you add new ones there, too (which is good because there was no Steampunk category)!
Stylebook will keep track of your most worn pieces, as well as things you've never used, and the items you've gotten the best value out of with their "Style Stats." When you're prepping for a trip, you can make a packing list with this app so that you don't forget any of your important costume components (I can't guarantee you won't leave behind your pajamas or toothbrush, though).
Probably the feature of this app that I would use least is the "Style Expert," which houses various style articles like "How to Define Your Personal Style," "30 Days of Fall Outfits," and "How to Decorate Your Office." Interesting bits under that header, though, include the "Valet," which is a clothing care guide and reference, and "Michael Duru Clothiers" where you can actually send questions about fit to expert tailors, and contains information on things like finding a good tailor and dry cleaner, and more! I don't see myself using the "Shop" feature of Stylebook at all. I don't like to use apps for shopping to start with, and, as I keep saying, I want this app primarily for costuming stuff, and I doubt I'll find much in there any way.
Current Apple App Store Rating: 4/5
My Rating: #1
Adding items to this was easy, but making new categories was a little bit more involved than Stylebook. Pureple actually suggests that you use stock images from the web instead of your own (more on that in a sec). It can't edit your backgrounds for beans, and doesn't seem very good at recognizing the item in the pics (see the witch hat in the pic below-- if I edited out any more background, it started to remove the hat). You also can't rotate your pics once they are added, which you'll notice in my pics here in a sec. This app does have an option to suggest outfits for you, but I don't think it really takes colors or anything into consideration, just gives you random things together. These were two suggestions it gave me to go with this skirt. The first one? LOL, no, totally not viable. The second one... maybe? But, probably not.
Part of the problem here is I had to put corsets, vests, and jackets in with tops, because they don't initially give you all sorts of different categories. You can add your own categories, but I didn't realize that until I did some digging. It would be a lot easier to add categories as you're adding items like Stylebook lets you, rather than add items to wrong category, then go back and change it all to the correct category once you've figured out how to add it.
The intriguing bit of this app was that it would allow the other community users to build outfits for you from your closet. Unfortunately, this isn't entirely true. The community can only access items in your closet that you add from the web, not anything that you take pics of. For costumers, that's a problem. We make stuff; we buy handmade; we thrift. OK, so, I doubt ANYONE is going to be able to find EVERY article of clothing they own in web pics, regardless of whether your goal is costuming or not. The only way I can maybe see around this is if you want to have a site just to add pics of your stuff to and then upload to the app, but that is just waaay too much work. It's already a lot of work to get photos and add them. I think this is a huge failing for this app because it renders that cool feature useless.
With Pureple you have the ability to pimp yourself out as a stylist or to hire one to help with your looks. Unless you can somehow scout out a stylist who is into your type of costuming, this is another feature fail for me. Not to mention that there are lots of Facebook groups where you could get style advice for free. If being or hiring a stylist is up your alley, it would seem that you need to do that from Pureple's website; I haven't found anywhere in the app to do that. You can also add your items to your wardrobe from the website, but I wasn't able to get it onto my phone from there, so I don't think that feature works very well. Basically, this seems like a pretty basic app made by people who don't really know how to give consumers what they really want.
$1.99/Month Paid Features: No ads, cloud backup, multi-device syncing.
Cost: Free OR $1.99/month
Current Apple App Store Rating: 4.5/5
My Rating: #3
3. Stuff N Style
Items were easy to add to this app, but you don't get to add prices, and you can't add your own categories, which is a deal breaker for me-- where do my corsets go?? Stuff N Style would rather see you organize things by hashtags. I don't really do hashtags to start with, and I'd rather just have accurate categories right off the bat. Another fail was their editing. Once your pics are uploaded, you can't rotate anything, and editing out backgrounds is not easy either; it was such a pain that I just left them in. This is the result after I tried to remove the background on this corset.
This app does have an interesting feature where a stylist will put together a look for you from your own items. My estimate for a look is two days, but it took three. This is the result I got, even though I asked for them only to use items from my closet. The only thing here that is mine is the shirt, so I guess you can add other items even if the requester asks you not to? That's lame. What's the point of asking people to only use your closet? Admittedly, Muggles might be confused by my stuff, but still, you could try a little harder. Maybe I don't like your fake hipster glasses, but if I was going to style you and you own them, that gives me a clue into what you like and I might include them. Meh.
You can save your outfits and add them to the calendar, but Stuff N Style doesn't give you any statistics like how often you've worn something or give you packing lists. This is a very basic app.
Current Apple App Store Rating: 4/5
My Rating: #4
TRiFT...hmmm.... what can I say about TRiFT? I disliked this app so much that I didn't even upload anything. Instead of taking pictures of individual items, they want you to take pics of outfits actually on you. Unless you have a full length mirror and like to have your phone/camera in all of your pics when you're trying to plan your outfit, this is just a bad set up. As much as we all like to play dress-up, this is just way too much work when there are other apps out there that don't make you have to do that. The way TRiFT works to make your new outfits reminds me of those fashion plate drawing things all little girls had where you choose the bottom and the top, no, really. In TRiFT, it lets you swipe through the tops, bottoms, shoes, and even your head, to create your outfit. Weirdness. Basically, this app wants you to take a photo of your outfit every day, but it doesn't do anything to organize stuff, so if you really are a chronic OOTD person who really does that EVERY DAY, you might wind up with a lot of pics in the app, but you have to scroll through EVERY.SINGLE.ONE. to make a new outfit.
Current Apple App Store Rating: n/a (app has not recieved enough review yet on the app store)
My Rating: #6
You will notice at this point that I got tired of apps not being able to rotate my photos and just went and did that myself. ClosetSpace made me kind of mad because in order to add your items it makes you input the brand, at least one color, as well as where and when you bought it. Additional information you can add to each item is how much it was (and if you bought it on sale), size, fabrics, patterns (which, if I'm going through all of this work already, why don't they have damask??), and how well it fits. "Item Style" is the category and, while you can't add your own, it is quite extensive and does include corsets! POINTS! You will recall me saying at the very beginning of this journey that I really doubted that I'd find one with them already there! ClosetSpace does not want you to edit out the background for your items, just crop them.
When you make outfits, ClosetSpace it lets you add occasions, which is obviously great for costumers because things you wear to Conventions, etc, may not necessarily be appropriate for "Night Out" or "Workwear". When you make an outfit idea, this app just makes a collage of your items. I'd rather see them displayed as an outfit like Polyvore or StyleBook instead. If you get tired of seeing your items small on your phone, you can access your closet on their website, too.
If you don't want to pay for StyleBook, I would say that ClosetSpace would be an acceptable second choice.
Current Apple App Store Rating: 3.5/5
My Rating: #2
This app is very basic. It doesn't even want to crop your photos when you upload them. Yeah, I get that you can do that stuff before adding it to the app, but, honestly, you don't know that until you try and it's kind of frustrating. The categories are "slim pickin's", leaving a lot to be desired, and you cannot add your own. Once you add an item, you can go back into it's info to add things like brand, size, and price. I'm not sure why you can't just do that when putting the item in to start with, though. When you create an outfit (they call them "Looks"), you just select your items and arrange them in a simple collage. You can add info to the outfit such as occasion, season, and style, but, again, your options there are super basic.
The other features of Stylicious include a shopping section, full of high-priced designer items, and an inspiration page, again populated by looks beyond the means of most mortals.
Current Apple App Store Rating: 3/5
My Rating: #5
I am surprised that Polyvore or a big fashion magazine haven't attached their name to any apps that help with real outfit planning (Polyvore does have two apps, but neither are geared towards using your existing wardrobe). Stylebook is the app I'm choosing to stick with and feel that it was worth the pittance of $3.99 for the better features. Which app are you choosing? Let me know if the comments and don't forget to join me on Facebook!