For some time, I’ve been thinking that it would be fun to do a corsetry Q&A session. I know from conversations with new clients that a lot of the same questions come up regularly, which suggests the information isn’t easy to find online. I have tried to cover a lot of popular topics in this blog but not everyone has the time to trawl through years worth of posts seeking their answers! (incidentally I do have a corset information hub at the footer of the website- do click here for a nice summary of links you might find useful!)
I had also pledged to do more with video for the business this year as I know I’ve neglected it in the past- so, long story short, we now have a YouTube channel! It’s very new so your support is especially appreciated, you can subscribe here if you’re feeling generous!
So, feeling a little like the new kid at school, I asked what you wanted to know about corsetry in general, my work in particular, and anything else you had a burning question about! I was so overjoyed at the response, and had a lot of fun answering your insightful queries. Some of you who know me a little better will know I’m fairly techno-phobic so learning to edit video has been a real learning curve. Added into the mix were seemingly endless technology issues from a broken data transfer cable, to the limitations of my smartphones video capacity, and a sudden loss of internet for days at a crucial moment! There was plenty of colourful language and self medicating with chocolate biscuits.
I have some ideas for the next few videos but I’d really love to hear from you if there’s something you’d like me to focus on in future. I want to talk to you in more depth about the tools I work with, walk you around some of our most popular corset styles in the shop, some instructional videos on self lacing and measuring for a corset perhaps! But please contact us if you have any ideas.
Well, without further ado, here’s Orchid’s first corsetry Q&A! It’s very long so in the comments I’ve listed times each new question starts, so you can fast forward to where you want to be.
When I say the words “Valentine’s Style” to you, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Novelty lingerie? red and pink shiny satin? fluffy handcuffs maybe? There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but perhaps it’s not very personal to who we really are. Whether or not you celebrate Valentine’s it’s a great excuse to break out those special pieces in your collection and remind yourself why you fell in love with them in the first place! Even if it’s just you and you’re not leaving the house. In fact especially if that’s what you’re planning!
I thought this would be a nice opportunity to share some of my favourite looks from our standard size range along with some styling tips if you feel like playing around with your trusted ensembles! All photography is by Sally Sparrow and models are individually credited.
Miss Deadly Red certainly is a sweetheart too! She wears our Seirian Luxe waspie with lingerie from Playful Promises (discontinued) I personally love an unashamedly romantic lingerie set, dainty pastel shades flatter a lot of different skin tones and there is a classic pin-up feel to it which always makes me feel nostalgic for ice cream sodas and carousels. Our Seirian Luxe is a great way to add a bit of edge to a look like this because the hip cording adds structure and texture, and the strapping gives a hint of mischief! Just enough to keep it seductive and tantalising!
Styling tips- If you have a really specific coloured corset and finding matching lingerie is giving you a headache, look to neutrals and complimentary colours instead. This pastel pink would look fresh and airy with ivory lingerie, or soft and tonal with pale grey!
Blossom And Buttercups knows how to pull focus! She wears our Eirlys waspie with Honey Birdette suspender belt, Bettie Page bullet bra and jacket by House Of CB. My favourite thing about this look is the mix of styles- A touch of showmanship with the jacket, vintage glamour from the bullet bra, curves and drama from the waspie with a contemporary twist from the strappy suspender belt and garters. Also- how underrated are fishnets with a look like this? I feel like this is the start of a super villain costume.
Styling tips- Don’t be afraid to layer your pieces and experiment with clothes outside your lingerie drawer! I’m a huge fan of bodysuits with corsets, especially if lingerie heavy looks aren’t your thing! I would love to see this ensemble with some draping body chains or maybe our Morgan harness.
Erin Williams is the epitome of sophistication in our Meriel overbust corset with leather and lace skirt from Edge O’ Beyond. Sometimes simplicity speaks loudest, especially when you have so much detail to drink in on your corset! This Valentine’s style is one you could take out of the house (albeit with bravery, as the skirt has sheer sides!) and I think it perfectly blends the craftsmanship and romance of the lace corset with the more suggestive elements of leather and mesh on the skirt. An outfit for cigarette holders and cool-as-ice sangfroid.
Styling tips- Mix textures and details- if you have a corset or lingerie with a lot of embellishment or pattern then teaming it with something complimentary but plain can really let it take centre stage!
Well, I couldn’t leave out our Seirian now, could I! Sally Sparrow wears our classic Seirian with Inira lingerie with help from Diego the cat. Red lingerie is certainly a Valentine’s style staple but I think the fetish inspired edge to this makes it stand out from the crowd. Our Inira lingerie layers so well with this corset, and the strappy elements overlap so deliciously. This look is playful but bold, full of sensuality and confidence. If it was a cocktail it would be a Mai Tai.
Styling tips- A must have accessory for this look is our Branwen garters! These are a new addition to our collection and are great to add in for those times you don’t want to wear stockings but want the lines of the suspenders to stand proud.
Miss Deadly Red again! wearing our Vala underbust in Hibiscus pink silk with her own black lingerie. I feel this photo perfectly shows how to style our ultra curvy Vala underbust. The mesh panels offer you a great opportunity to show off detailed high waisted underwear, changing the opacity and the lines on display. Although we’re looking at a pink silk corset, often shown as submissive or retiring, it feels powerful and daring. The lace detail adds a little art deco aesthetic but the whole feel is architectural and strong. I feel this outfit is channelling Sofia Loren, don’t you?
Stying tips- Think about the ways you can break up the lines on the body to emphasise the waist, the hips, to frame your bust. Some lingerie looks will work better than others with your frame, and especially if you bring a corset into the mix! Colour contrast is another good way to do this- using a bolder colour at the points you want to highlight!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of lingerie delights! The beauty of our designs is how many pieces can be mixed and matched across ranges- if you want one last Valentine’s Style tip, look at our Inira and Caron ranges- they can be swapped around to your heart’s content! If you have any queries, we’re always really happy to advise, just drop us a line.
Every year I try to make sure I share a little review of what’s passed. Partly for anyone who takes an interest but also I find it a huge help to force myself out of my constant “What Next” goal driven mentality and with a screech of brakes, remind myself of all those little moments that made me feel so lucky to spend another year in this wonderful job.
I’ve been so delighted to see more fetishists finding us for their intimately realised bespoke corsetry. These commissions really mean the world to me as they come from a place of great trust from the client and allow me to explore more deeply the possibilities in structure and elegance with elements such as locking devices and nuances in fit that create different experiences for the wearer. Here’s a piece that absolutely had to make it into the review! A punishment corset made for a male submissive. It weighed nearly 2 kg and was designed to be heavy and rigid, challenging to wear due to a wasp waist and pipe stem cut. The continuous boning made it a sculptural piece to handle and wear, and the interlocking waist straps were subtly elegant and architectural!
In May we held our second selfie competition! The winner was Amethyst Skye who staged an elaborate photo shoot with a captive in tow! She put so much effort into her entries, and I love how playful some of these shots were. I truly appreciate the creativity and originality my clients bring to their self expression!
There was also a thrilling moment which I’m only now relating to you- I had a call from Vogue magazine asking for a corset to shoot with the incredible photographer Tim Walker! You may have seen his exhibition at the V&A Museum recently! They had seen the piece they wanted and with approximately 24 hours notice (due to my travel plans as I was about to leave the country!) I attempted to remake it using only what I had in the studio! I was able to post it out on my way to the airport but sadly it didn’t get used. This is always the way with publications- there are no guarantees! I’ve been lucky in the past and had my work shot by Mario Testino and featured in the main fashion story for British Vogue, so that goal has already been hit but… I would so have loved to shoot with Tim Walker! This is the corset I remade in that frantic time period!
What review is complete without a fan girl moment! In June I woke up to discover that the beautiful Miss Miranda had danced for Lady Gaga wearing our Perle Luxe underbust corset! There is a phenomenal video where Lady G is helping Miranda out with her suspenders and truth to tell, I’m still not over this moment! Watch it here!
We released our Creation Stories too! A unique opportunity to mark a special commission with a creative scrap book documenting the process of making your corset. This makes a perfect memento for brides, where the connection to the process can run very deep! They are completed with creative writing about the techniques and stages of construction.
And of course, the most recent development of note- we finally released our standard size overbust for our made to order collection! If you haven’t met the Meriel yet then where have you been?! These stunning corsets feature elegant Chantilly lace that blooms dramatically across the body. I’m deeply proud of them and have been so pleased by the reaction they’ve had so far! Here’s the first custom version I’ve made, specially sized for the wearer with a silk satin overlay in deep red, with a matching corset bag for ultimate indulgence!
Normally I would end a review with some goals for the upcoming year and there are some that I want to keep to myself just for now. However I can share that our aims to keep driving our own standards of consciousness and ethics with regard to the environment are ongoing and at the forefront of all decisions! read more about this here. I also want to focus on showing off some of our more dramatic bespoke skills as well, as the made to order pieces have taken so much of my attention while I built up the shop. There will still be more to come but it’s been a while since I just got creative for the fun of it, and I know from your responses that this is something that excites you too! I want to make more videos of our commissions too- time pressures often mean I don’t always get to record my work properly before it gets posted but a video is such a great way to share my feelings about a piece as well as to show detail and angles! What would you add to our review? is there a moment we’ve shared that stands out to you? get in touch and tell us all about it!
It’s no coincidence that sustainable fashion is on my mind as Black Friday dawns. We’ve all seen the facts. The fashion industry, and fast fashion in particular are named as one of the biggest pollutors. If you want to understand the major issues in a succinct way, this article may interest you. So today, when discounts are showered upon you to quiet that voice in your head that asks “but do I need it?” our gift to you is not a markdown but an assesment of how we are contuining to change our practices, so that we can take less from our planet.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about our efforts to treat our resources with care- here’s my first post which covers the main areas of our studio practice, briefly:
All our corsets are made to order. This means no excess stock, no wasted pieces in sizes that don’t sell. When we cut fabric, it’s because we’re making your beautiful corset!
Fabric scraps from our efficiently laid out pattern pieces are saved, Some of these are reused within the business and the rest are saved for other enterprises- We are currently looking to work with other sustainable fashion brands or waste spinners who create new yarn from textile scraps!
If we already have the fabric you want in stock- you aren’t charged for it! This encourages use of materials that might otherwise sit around gathering dust for years.
We have designed products specifically to use up smaller pieces of leftover materials that are regularly used in the studio, like our Isolde neck corset! More on this later.
Keeping packaging to a minimum. Our bespoke orders go out in cardboard storage boxes designed to be kept, with cardboard mailers that can be easily recycled.
Then To Now
The biggest change I’ve made at Orchid is one that you have all shared in and contributed to- your orders go towards our 9 Trees subscription for carbon offsetting! 9 Trees is an organisation local to me who are planting and managing native trees in the UK designed to work within their landscapes and provide biodiversity, habitats and spaces for us all to enjoy. There are similar organisations out there but having met with one of the directors I am reassured that these trees are not just popped in the ground and forgotten, they are nurtured throughout their lives and you are kept up to date with their progress! There is due to be a site planted about 30 minutes from Orchid HQ, which feels like a wonderful thing for us to support, given how the landscape here has inspired me my whole life. Please do visit their site to learn more about what you’re helping them achieve.
I’m happy to say that I am seeing change in my suppliers as well as in our own studio. Our main supplier of components now sends every order in paper mailing bags, our silk supplier uses plant based biodegradable polythene to ship our orders, we can now buy ribbons made from recycled plastic, on cardboard reels! Each of these changes earned a happy dance from me! And if this sounds insignificant in the face of the challenge before us, know that we can do nothing without these initial steps. And every time I see a company make these changes, I make sure to support them wherever I can. Sustainable fashion isn’t about doing everything perfectly, it’s about making changes and building on them.
I’ve also made a switch in our packaging- Your shop orders now go out in corrugated paper mailers instead of jiffy bags! These new biodegradable mailers can be composted, recycled or reused, which is a big improvement. As before our shop orders are wrapped in tissue paper with our ink stamp of approval, so your corsets journey to you is entirely plastic free.
Building on our initial plans to create products designed to minimise waste, we have two designs coming out any minute which will be limited edition to allow us to focus on using dead stock fabrics! If you haven’t come across this term before it means a fabric that has been discontinued or left over from industry use. Sustainable fashion brands are turning to this sourcing option more and more! I consider this to be a really valuable way of minimising our impact as it does not add to the increase of demand, or use further resources for manufacture. I also think this has the added effect of keeping things fresh- a style has to be reinvented as it sells out and can never be allowed to grow stale. I hope we will be able to do more of this in future!
Our business was never a very problematic one in terms of waste but every time a decision is made I try to run it through a conscious process. Is this necessary? Can it be made more efficient? Can I reuse instead of recycle? By taking this through small exercises like saving up packaging sent to us from suppliers to give away for local reuse, bulk buying items where possible, or delaying a supplies order so that it can be added on to a larger one in the near future, I’ve seen my non recyclable or reused items dwindle to practically nothing.
The big thing I want to focus on next is finding sources for our silk fabrics and luxury trimmings that are more sustainable or use more natural dyeing processes as I’m aware that this is a huge part of the issue with our industry as a pollutor. The stumbling block I’ve come across with this in the past is meeting our quality standards for the end product but I hope there is more we can do on this front. Our main fabric is cotton coutil, and it’s nature as a specialist fabric with dwindling factories left who supply it means that alternative sources using organic cotton or more responsible dyes is non existent. However I will be writing to my suppliers to ask if this is a suggestion they can pass on.
I honestly believe that these are the things that will help us survive as an industry, because at some point our worldwide culture of more, faster, cheaper simply cannot continue. Hard decisions will be made and priorities changed. As a luxury brand we do not offer essential items like tools, food, medicine. But what we do offer is something that our clients connect with at a deep emotional level, as well as something that sparks imagination, passion, connects us to our sensuality and helps us realise identities that are fundamental to our sense of self. I want to keep making corsets for as long as you come to me with a story of how you waited years to make this call. For as long as I see the thrill in your eyes of opening that box. For as long as I see you proudly loving the skin you’re in. Please share your ideas for improving our approach to sustainable fashion, what elements matter the most to you? We are always looking to learn more and do more!
It’s time for some bra talk, my dears (and perhaps a little moan as well.) Recently I put up a grumpy old lady rant about lingerie sizing, sparked from an observation of how lingerie brands who target a specific group (eg small back size, full bust) receive so many attacks for not catering to every individual’s own needs, rather than deserved praise for expanding the overall options available. I know this topic has been addressed before, but I did want to post something for the people who don’t currently understand how the lingerie industry works, and why, being a 32GG, you can’t just buy a good fitting bra at any old brand.
First off, lets talk about about what the industry calls “core sizing” which is back sizes 32-38 and cup sizes A-D. Straight away you may be realising that this is not that broad a spectrum of sizes, especially by modern standards where for instance, wearers might have had breast augmentation, so you can expect a bigger difference between back and cup size. I personally do not fit into core sizing! However, it does cover 16 different sizes, all of which have a minimum order per style and per colour with manufacturers. All these individual sizes have to be transported, stored, given retail space if it’s a high street store. All this adds to the costs and detracts from overall profitability if a certain size isn’t popular. So once you start adding in sizes that fall outside this core range, you risk investing in something that will leave you with unsold stock and less profit to invest in your next collection.
Next, it’s not as simple as just scaling up the design from a 34B to a 42KK. A bra supporting fuller, heavier breasts does need different design and engineering to be comfortable and fit well. A great instance of this is a British lingerie brand I love called Beija. Each design has three sizing groups (with indivdual sizes catered to within it) all with variations to make that style better suited to it’s wearer. Their X bra is for petite busts, is wireless and light. Their Y bra is made for B-D cups and features a more typical wired fit. Their Z bra is for DD-G cups, and seems to use more technical fabrics for support, sometimes thicker strapping, which believe me, you notice when it isn’t there! I recently had my first bra headache and let me tell you- spaghetti straps and E cups are not good friends! There can also be cost implications to less common sizes, possibly needing the manufacturer to create bespoke underwires because standard ones aren’t available in that size. Knowing what I know about underwires, this is no mean undertaking. I could write a whole blog post on it, but I imagine it’s very dull fare to anyone who doesn’t have to know this stuff!
So now we understand why some brands will not be able to afford or justify expanding their size range (not to mention that some are clothing retailers who do not specialise in lingerie) let’s look at how a brand chooses the size ranges it does cater to. When a brand starts up they will ask themselves who their target customer is, and this will include a body profile. They may be quite an athletic brand dealing mainly in core size sports bras, they may choose to specialise in the fuller figured woman, maybe women with small ribs and full cups. Whatever the body type of the woman they wish to sell to, they will have to pick a limited range of sizes for the reasons given above. The chances are that they will have done market research with women who match their profile and their size range will be based around that information. Unfortunately this may mean that you fall either side of that sizing, and will not be able to purchase from them. It’s important to know that this is not the brand choosing to exclude you for any reason- they just had to draw the line somewhere, and demand means that right now, they can’t justify expanding it any further.
The good news is that the internet means you’re never far away from finding a new brand that is absolutely perfect for your needs. The best advice I can give is follow lingerie bloggers who match your body type (and ones who don’t- you find amazing styling ideas with these people!) A few of my favourites are-
These women all have vastly different styles, from luxury fetish to cutesy-everyday, and there are hundreds more, all sharing their finds! Maybe you’d even like to share your own thoughts.
But I guess the real question we’re all asking is how can we encourage brands to stray into our sizes, especially when we’re *just* on the cusp of fitting their gorgeous designs!
People need to stop with the accusatory, angry comments when they can’t buy from a certain retailer. Remember they can’t possibly please everyone and if they included your size someone else would still be feeling hard done by.
Instead you need to make sure that you encourage them in their good work- tag friends who are the right size for the brand and who you think would appreciate them. If they are making sales they have more profit to expand.
When you find retailers who sell your size BUY IT FULL PRICE! I cannot stress enough what a difference it makes to meetings when you show that certain sizes only sell at a discount. This implies it’s not really worth continuing with.
You can absolutely comment to express your wishes, but just think about how you would receive the following comments after you’d worked hard and invested huge amounts of money to release a collection.
“Only up to a FF? That’s supposed to be big? What about H cup and over? Nothing for me, as usual with most companies” (actual comment taken from a specialist brand’s post)
“Love this! @Mybigbustedfriend” this would look stunning on you. Can’t wait till they start selling K cups, I’d wear this style all the time”
Speaking as a designer, we all do our best to meet the varied and high expectations of our customers, don’t forget, at the end of the day, we really want to make a sale to you! So let us know what you want without making us feel defensive about our limited resources, or the things we haven’t been able to do yet. Support the brands who are trying to meet your needs, and offer your feedback about what you wish you could buy from them!
Finally, a list of designers that I think deserve recognition for trying to cater to a broad range of sizes! (please note that I have not personally bought from all these brands or been paid for promotion)
Helen Kukovski– Stocks sizes 28AA- 44K but will also custom make you a bra at no extra charge!
Curvy Kate– Awesome lingerie brand specialising in D-K cups with a great range of styles.
Playful Promises– On trend, and a brand whose inclusivity is renowned! Sizes 30A to 44H
Lara Intimates– A sustainable brand, that uses deadstock fabrics with a zero waste policy! Size 26A to 36I