Doing It Right: Buying a Custom Corset, Part I
So you're developing a corset obsession. Maybe even a corset fetish. The more you see people in beautiful, curvy corsets, the more you want one that fits you perfectly. You've heard all about how a custom corset is as different from an off-the-rack corset as condom sex is from fluid-bonded sex. You want to encase your body in an armature of seduction and see the reptile-brain response humans have to an hourglass silhouette. You want to have a piece of intimate wear custom made to your specific measurements, designed to modify your body alone to its most dramatic potential. You may have also heard that custom corsets are really fucking expensive, and don't always fit like you dreamed they would. You may have lurked on corset forums and read about disasters, errors in pattern-making, seamstresses who take people's money and never deliver the corset, custom corset companies that vanish from the face of the earth. All of this happens; all of it has happened to me in the course of buying more than a dozen custom corsets.
The thing is, a custom corset really is worth the trouble and expense.
And I'm here to share with you my experience and advice, and to tell you that especially if you have a naturally curvy figure with a big hip-to-waist ratio, a properly fitted custom corset is the most flattering and elegant garment you can own—and a well-made one will last for many years.
First, let's talk about what you want a custom corset to do for you. Do you want a corset that will cinch you in under clothing and give you the appearance of a smaller waist? Do you want to start waist-training, perhaps ultimately going for the practice of 23-hour-a-day corset wearing that reduces your actual waist size? Do you want an overbust corset to wear as a top to formal events, or an underbust corset to wear over fancy dress?
If you want a corset to wear under clothing, you will want it in a beige-tone color, made of lighter-weight fabrics.
The best, sturdiest corsets are made with a layer of coutil, a special thin but tightly-woven fabric that is made to resist stretching along either its warp or weft. Coutil is made of cotton or a cotton-viscose blend and is breathable but very strong. It comes plain and in simple patterns; differing degrees of starched finishes; is mostly available in black, white, beige, or peach; and is very expensive.The coutil is actually the first reason your custom corset will be expensive; it's also worth it. A corset to wear as an undergarment can be either an overbust, which will support your boobs so you don't need a bra, or an underbust, which draws in your waist and can also flatten your stomach and, if high-backed, can smooth bra band ridges on your back. Your undergarment corset can be made of three layers, as most outerwear corsets are, or two; two-layer corsets are usually made of an outer layer of coutil and an inner layer of cotton lining.
What if you want to start waist training, also known as tightlacing? It's a long-term and time-consuming process, and you may want to find out how you like the "permanent hug" feeling of being laced into a custom corset for a whole day before you even consider it. I like the simple explanation of tightlacing here, but ignore the part about Vollers readymade corsets being okay to start a tightlacing program. This new blog also has some good info on training. If you're committed to waist-training, consider a training corset in an underbust style of plain coutil with heavy boning, reinforced stitching, and an underbust.
If you want a corset as fancy-dress outerwear, a good choice is a three-layer corset with a cotton lining, coutil structural layer, and exterior "fashion fabric"—silk brocade being most common, often fused to the coutil with interfacing. Some corsetmakers fuse the fashion fabric to a layer of cotton duck with interfacing and call that a three-layer corset, which is sketchy. Not all corsetmakers use coutil; there are some very good ones who don't- but coutil is sturdier than cotton duck or twill.