I read somewhere that some people can find the corset ordering process quite complicated and challenging and so I thought I might put my thoughts down here on the different services I offer, why they are priced how they are, and what each option entails. This could be long but I'll try to make it simple!
Firstly I offer three services. Ready to Wear (RTW), Custom/Made to Measure, and Bespoke. So which one is best suited to you and why?
Ready to Wear
Ready to Wear corsets or 'off the rack' corsets, are exactly what they say on the cover. Ready to Wear now - pick them off the (virtual) rack, and go. They are corsets made to a standard size chart with no options for alteration or custom fitting. This is the quickest option for people to choose if they want a corset soon. All corset samples are made to my 'RTW size chart'. RTW corsets are the cheapest option because you can simply order, and I will make. I don't have to worry about cutting a special pattern, I just select my standard size pattern, cut it out, sew it up and send it off. I can do this in half a day. Therefore the costs are much lower. You get a quality hand made-to-order corset, which will have an excellent fit, and is fully returnable within 7 days if there is something you don't quite like about it, be that fit, fabric or something else.
What is a Ready to Wear Size chart?
A RTW size chart is a set of 'average' sizes which clothes can be made to. All high street clothing is 'ready to wear' but not all rtw is created equal. There are different demographics for different outlets. For example, Top Shop will have a different size chart to Marks and Spencer because of their different demographic audience. Top Shop caters largely for teenage girls and young women, while M&S has a much older demographic. Women change shape throughout their lives depending on a whole range of things including age, fitness level, hormones, lifestyle, number of children (or not) etc., etc., And clothing companies will base their charts around the type of customer most likely to shop with them. For this reason, an average size middle aged woman who fits an M&S size 12, is unlikely to fit into a Top Shop size 12, and vice versa. RTW sizing in corsetry is a bit easier since we are only dealing with the upper torso! Having said that, RTW overbust corsets can be a challenge because busts have a whole new set of rules to consider! Nevertheless, it is true that most people who have a waist size of xxx will have a corresponding bust and hip size, and that is the simple explanation of how we get standard size charts.
My standard size chart has been tested over nearly 10 years while i've been teaching corsetry to a whole range of ladies of all different sizes, body types and age from 17 to 70. My underbust corset fit is second to none, while the overbust corset fit, goes right up to a UK size 22 (corset size 32) before we need a toile just to check the bust fit.
Click HERE to see the size chart and further info about my sizing system.
Pro's and Cons of RTW
With this option you will get a very good fit - some people will get a perfect fit! It depends how close you are to the measures on the chart although with the compression built into the corset, combined with the 2" lacing gap to allow for standard size fluctuations, there is quite a bit of leeway.
note: The fit of the corset is dicated by the the distribution built into the corset - the amount of rib and hip room, and the comfort is dictated by where that is. This is the bit that differs between corset companies and therefore the reason you will find that some brands suit you better than others. This is mainly based on style which is in turn, mainly based on demographic.
This is therefore an excellent option for first timers who are either new to corsetry or who want to test out a maker before committing to fully bespoke, those with regular'ish proportions, and people who are on a budget. The corset will look spectacular and only you will know it isn't a 'bespoke' fit.
RTW is not suitable for those with certain figure anomalies, such as prominent rib cage, asymetry, or men.
Custom/Made to Measure
This option is a little more expensive because it includes a mock up. So the corset is made to an existing rtw pattern but with alterations made from your personal measurements. So if your hip is a bit bigger or smaller than average, we can change that, if your bust is bigger or smaller than 'average' we can change that, if you have a prominent front rib, we can incorporate that. It means altering the existing ready to wear pattern to your exact measurements, making a mock up and sending it off to you for a remote fitting, or fitting it to you personally in the studio if you live nearby. In person fitting is always best but remote fitting is fine too.
Obviously this type of corset takes more time as there is a bit more work involved. I have to alter the pattern to your size, then make a fully boned mockup from plain coutil, tweak the fit it to your body while you are wearing it, and then make up the real corset in the fabrics and finish of your choice within the options offered. This option is basically RTW with a fitting to make sure you get the best fit possible and it will suit those with a slightly bigger budget, and those who have figure anomolies such as a prominent rib cage, a short waist or a long hip which tends to require more length below the waist.
Pros and cons of Custom Corsetry
You get a perfect fit based on your personal measurements, and while you can alter the top and bottom edges if you want to, the style lines are fixed, therefore it's not bespoke, the corset pattern is one that already exists, but you will get a bespoke fit and a bespoke 'style' corset in that it will be hand made to order, in your choice of fabric.
Bespoke corsetry is where a unique design and pattern is made just for you, to your personal measurements. You work with me to decide which style lines and shapes you like best, and then which fabrics and embellishments you would like the finished garment to have and you can even choose the style of construction, whether the corset is lined or not and a whole range of other options.
Bespoke corsetry is therefore the most intense process. First we will meet in person or over the internet, to discuss your design, and I will provide sketches, fabric swatches etc., and offer advice on the best ways to execute the design. I will then draft a pattern from scratch based on that consultation, and make a first mock up from Calico. After the initial fitting, we will probably need a second fitting to tweak fit, lines, and other details, and only when the toile is absolutely perfect, will work start on the final piece. The method of construction will depend upon the design and the preferences of the client. All sorts of finishes are possible, from a smooth layered and luxurious couture finish which is particularly beautiful on wedding gowns, to the simplest of constructions for lingerie. Every detail is agreed with the client before work commences and of course these pieces are often richly embellished by hand which also takes time. Bespoke corsets are true heirloom pieces, they are made with a much finer level of detail and they are the most expensive option. Suitable for special occasions such as weddings, balls, and important events, or where there are other figure anomalies. This is also the best option for male corsetry.
Pros and cons of bespoke corsetry
With bespoke corsetry you get to design every aspect of your corset or ensemble but there is an associated cost ofcourse, and this is based on the extra amount of time and materials it takes to make a couture heirloom garment which, with care, will last for many generations to come.
Why do I need to provide measurements?
Put it this way, the more measurements you provide, the better results are yielded even with ready-to-wear corsets! Beware of any corset maker who only wants your waist size and a couple of other measures to make custom corsetry, whilst RTW can be dictated by waist only, custom corsetry - made to measure - cannot.
The rule of thumb is this - the more custom a piece the more information is required. So at the very minimum, if you ordered a RTW corset from me, I would want your Bust, Waist and Lower hip measures so that I could double check your size on my standard chart. For custom and bespoke corsetry I want all of the above plus a bunch of vertical measures including your back (spine) length.
If you come to me in person, the process is effortless because I do all the measuring. However if you are unable to do that, I provide comprehensive instructions to all of my customers with diagrams! The only thing that can then go wrong is what we call "vanity measures".
What is Vanity Measuring?
Often people are transfixed on having a certain waist size. Perhaps it's because their grandmothers used to say "when I was young my beau could get his hands right round my whole waist" ... In 1943, that was probably true, not least because of war rations! Also because maybe in those days your grandma was only 18. I know I am guilty of having an unrealistic vision of size in my mind because of the glamorous stories my Nana would tell me when I was little! Seriously though, the reasons for vanity measures, in reality, are many and varied and I do get the odd client who provides me with vanity measures. How do I know? Because I fit hundreds of women a year and I myself sit right in the middle of my standard size chart. I am also middle aged so I know the other 'problems' that come with advancing years, and I can not only spot them, but I can circumnavigate them too. I have a good eye, a lot of experience, and I can tell. If you give me vanity measures, your first toile will not fit. Your second toile will fit, despite the vanity measures and - within reason - the waist size will be the desired waist size, whether that is the size I would have recommended or not. Unless they are severely out of proportion, I will never tell you that I think your measures are wrong because your reasons for giving me those can be complex and i'm certainly not going to call you a liar. I will take the information in and diplomatically work with it the best I can, however, I don't recommend this route. Giving accurate measures will always always always get the best, most comfortable results and in most cases, you will only need one toile which keeps the cost down.
For more info on my sizing philosophy and to see my RTW size chart, please click HERE and if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below!