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!