What I say to clients and customers
I love seeing clients for the first time when they come to commission their dream corset - often, they come to me with one in mind, and leave with two on the table!
I try to keep a stock of sample corsets in all sizes for people to try on. It really is very difficult to convey the range of fit and comfort available in corsetry - each maker has different patterning processes, different formulas, and different priorities when it comes to fit and aesthetic. Luckily I veer between a very average size 10-14 so all of my samples are either made in that size - 24-26" finished waist, or in a smaller 'model' size which is suitable for my more slender clients at 20-22" finished waist.
My obsession is maximum drama with maximum comfort. People say "how can you breath?" ... Ok, well your lungs aren't in your waist - that's the first thing. Secondly, corsetry is for the most part an illusion. When cut skilfully a corset will make you look wasp waisted and elegant, and it will make you feel tall and 'contained', but it will not alter your proportions all that much. There should be no pressure points, no pain, and certainly no problems with breathing. If you have breathing problems in a corset, find another maker.
Many corset makers prefer what is called a 'cupped rib' and a 'bucket hip'. I feel this is an easy way to create drama. To me, it is not elegant or beautiful (personal opinion). Yes, the modern body requires some 'cupping' over the rib when corsets are used 'casually', but the trick to achieving a graceful silhouette, is to make sure the 'rib room' looks smooth and graceful. In the same manner, the illusion of more hip spring can be done with what is called a 'bucket hip' - some people like that look, again, I prefer a more elegant line. The trick is to achieve that level of drama without the shelf. It's much more difficult. My personal thought is that if you have a corset with that 'clumsy' silhouette, you may as well just wear a tight belt. Much less attractive, and much less comfortable.
"To put on a corset properly is as much of an art as to make a corset properly"
The comfort of a corset therefore depends upon the corsetiere's ability to create an even pressure over the torso, so that everything feels supported. This is why I do not believe in handing out what I call "micro-measurements" - when potential customers ask for each measurement of the finished garment at bust, waist and hip. This does not in any way, shape or form convey how the corset will work and how it will fit. Your own body determines that. Some corsets have a very wide range of fit and like I said, each maker has a different method - range of fit in ready to wear corsetry is directly related to level of experience. You can see this very clearly from the following picture taken in one of my classes where a student brought with her a standard sized toile from another maker. Both of these corsets measure 22 inches at the waist, yet one closes, and one clearly does not. The one which closes is made (by the student) using my method of patterning and distribution.
The secret lies in how the places above and below the waist are shaped and distributed - there is no set formula for this, there is no rulebook. If you want a good corset maker to take you seriously, please never ask them for micro measurements for their ready to wear (standard sized) corsetry. At best, it conveys a lack of trust in their ability (I wont tell you the 'at worst' bit of that!). If the corsetiere offers a returns service, then you can simply return the item if it doesn't fit how you would like it to, and find a maker who's aesthetic is more compatible with your ideal - there are plenty to choose from.
So, in short, those are things I talk to my customers about. Along with all the fun bits like choosing fabrics and discussing design details!