What is a corset sample?

My lovely students Charlotte and Catherine having fun with an impromptu corset trying on session.

My lovely students Charlotte and Catherine having fun with an impromptu corset trying on session.

A corset sample is a corset made to test a new design idea, use up scraps of fabrics, test new construction methods, or to use during a fashion shoot. In short, a corset sample (or any fashion garment sample) is a test.

I use sampling for all of the above. Some of my samples are gutted and go straight in the bin, some never see the light of day but are kept as a reference (usually of how not to do stuff!) and the good ones are sold.

Corset makers all over the world hold sample sales infrequently to raise funds to further their work. We sell our corset samples at prices which are far far below their market value in terms of quality and expertise. If we could afford to keep sample corsets on the shelf until someone came along to pay full price for them, we would - but we cant. Needs must. My last sample sale funded a photographic shoot for my next collection. No sample sale funds = no shoot = no progress for my brand. I have to pay the model, the photographer, and the makeup artist. Not only that, I have to get to the shoot which is often far away. My every day expenses are the same as yours, and as I don’t work from home, I also have rent and utilities to pay on my studio.

The samples that are sold in any sample sale, are not perfect - there may be the odd squint stitch, a mark on the lining, it may be that they have been worn by a model a few times and show signs of wear. When I sell samples I make sure that all the ‘faults’ are pointed out, and the history of the garment is explained in the product description along with the sizing chart they were made to. As most samples are made for young models, it follows that most samples come in small sizes. But not all of mine do. I’m my own fit model and I’m a UK size 10-12 wearing a 24-26” corset, so you will frequently see samples from me in those sizes.

Most of my corset samples are made to my standard sizing chart which has over time, proved to be extremely wide ranging and extremely reliable. I’ve tested the chart over several years of teaching several hundreds of women and clients both male and female. I know my RTW corsets give a near perfect fit and that is why, if you purchase one of my brand new corsets at full price, made within that size chart (ready to wear), I offer a guarantee that it can be exchanged if the sizing isn’t right. I have yet to exchange one single corset. Even if you are one size either side of the ‘optimum’ fit in the size chart, the corset will fit, and if it doesn’t, then the reason is probably due to a vast size difference - in other words, vanity measuring.

Model Becky came to try on a bunch of samples and took some away to model

Model Becky came to try on a bunch of samples and took some away to model

Samples sales are different. I do not offer refunds or exchanges on them. Corset samples are sold at a hefty discount - sometimes more than 50%, sometimes less than the value of a mock-up. This is because I need space for new stock and new ideas. Samples are always tried and tested for size on real people - be they models or people who pop into the studio and try things on, or myself, so I am as confident in their sizing as I am in my ready to wear range which is sold at full price.

The thing is, I am a very small one woman business, not a catalogue. I cannot sell sample items on approval because I simply do not have the resources to process returns - it takes an awful lot of administration and marketing time which will detract from other work that I do and also work for full paying clients, all of whom are paying a premium for my undivided time and experience. In short, samples are sold at very reduced prices because they are stock clearance and because there are no returns, this is the trade off and it’s standard practice throughout the fashion industry. My terms and conditions do clearly state this.

To keep all my businesses going therefore, I have to implement the terms of my sales very strictly - they are there for a reason. You wouldn’t go to your day job and expect your employer to ask for some of your wages back just because they didn’t like what you did that day, so please please respect that independent artisans need to set their own working conditions, and where very reasonable and transparent terms and conditions are in place, they are there to protect an income. We are not Amazon, or Asos or Debenhams, or some other faceless multi-national. Everything we do has a very definite purpose to ensure our survival and independence. If The House of Fraser can’t stay in business on the high street, what do you think it’s like for us small traders?

Intern Hannah also trying the grey corset.

Intern Hannah also trying the grey corset.

I don’t want to put anybody off buying a sample. A sample corset is a great way for beginner corset wearers to get their hands on quality corsetry that they may not want to splurge full price on immediately, they are a great way for followers of a brand, who can’t normally afford bespoke work, to get their hands on a piece made by a favoured maker, and they are a lovely way to top up an existing corset collection or to try a new maker you have no experience with. All great. In return for your confidence in their work, an experienced corsetiere will give all the possible information to help you make the right choice before you purchase. Where a sample is ‘different’, these things are pointed out - ie: Low bust line, wider than average hips, fuller bust, smaller bust, mark on the back, modelled 6 times, etc., This information is willingly passed on to the potential customer via the product description. It may be really boring to read through all this info in a frenzy of excitement, but trust me better to take that time, than to regret it later.

If you are thinking of purchasing one of my samples, please do check all the information given in the product description, and read my pages on Sizing and this page for Fit (where I mention the concept of vanity measures). If you are unsure about sizing, I am always always available to give help and advice, so just ping me either via the contact page here, or via my Facebook Page. I have no shortage of people passing through this studio trying on my samples - I know they fit well. I know when and why they don’t fit well and I pass all of that information on.

It is very rare for me to receive a request to return a sample but when that happens, I must say that it is the customers responsibility to read all of that info and check the returns policy before any purchase is made - even if you have to message me personally to triple check. Whilst I am a reasonable person, I adore what I do, I love my clients, and I’m truly grateful for the business that comes my way, I am not a factory. Every moment of my working time has to be accounted for and whilst I will go out of my way to help my customers and clients, I absolutely must stick to my terms and conditions where samples are concerned, because I believe in my product, and I believe in my business.

 
testimonial from happy customer who purchased the grey corset above, from the last sample sale in 2016

testimonial from happy customer who purchased the grey corset above, from the last sample sale in 2016

Same corset, different girls.

Same corset, different girls.

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