Cinch With Stealth – Welcoming Back Heledd

It’s been almost 2 years since (just after releasing my new stealth underbust style Heledd) I realised I had to shut shop. Not completely and not forever, but with a flurry of new and complex bespoke orders taking up an increasing amount of my focus I made a difficult decision that turned out to be the right one. Stopping orders on my made-to-order standard-size corsetry, where there was an expectation of speedy turnaround, and throwing myself fully into the deep and challenging bespoke work that was finding me.

Knowing that this really limited the people who would be able to afford and access my work was a hard choice, bespoke simply isn’t realistic for everyone, and let’s face it, sometimes it’s not the smart choice! If you’re just starting your corseting journey and don’t know what to expect, you might not feel confident to make the investment of time and funds into bespoke just yet.

It was with these sorts of clients in mind that I designed Heledd. She’s not a flashy broad, she’s versatile, a daily companion, incorporating the best of what I use on my bespoke clients daily wear stealth corsets to keep them discreet under clothing, with the convenience of a prêt-à-porter style. You will now be able to quickly and easily select your size and colour (we’re always just an email away if you need advice) and have your corset winging its way to you in the next post! No waiting lists, no fuss, just beautiful construction, ethically made.

I’ve been working with a talented team right here in Wales developing a beautiful refined finish on these pieces. This is my first foray into prêt-à-porter garments, so I’m starting with a small first run while I work out what our most popular sizes and colours are before we expand into more styles and an extended sizing range. So if you weren’t able to find your size this time do let us know, it’s very valuable for our next steps!

Heledd stealth corset in black with an hourglass cut.

Increasingly I hear from clients that they want to use their corsets as foundation wear, a boost to their silhouette under a work suit, a wedding guest outfit, or an everyday ensemble where they just want to feel confident and supported. With this in mind you want to be able to tightlace without visible corset lines, and we can help with that!

You can now read about the style in full here (and order yours if you like, naturally) but this style is cut for curves and comfort, with minimal bulk for stealth-friendly foundation wear. Seams are smooth, the silhouette is flowing and flattering, and there is an hourglass cut to the ribs for wearability for new tightlacers. The idea is that you can begin your waist training journey with this style, turn to her for making that favourite outfit *pop* while you collect the compliments, rather than enquiries about your underwear! She’s also just a sleek, versatile corset that you can style up any way you choose to. A simple black Heledd over a floaty dress with a Matoro Sari belt or harness bra layered on top? Devastatingly glam.

I hope that some of my bespoke clients may even find that Heledd is a good addition to their tightlacing regimen, some basics to add into a regular lacing schedule, or even an extra corset to test out nighttime training. As I’ve written before, it’s advisable to have at least two corsets when tightlacing 23/7, so you can air one out while you wear the other, preventing perspiration being trapped against the skin for too long.

Quite aside from how flattering and comfortable a style this is, I wanted to start with Heledd as our production “virgin” because of the deceptive simplicity of this design. There is nowhere to hide with Heledd, all the construction details are in full view, so I knew if we could get this right, we would be starting from a solid foundation for all our future pieces. I’ve been able to work alongside the team in house for sampling, and it has been an eye-opening process, watching the 44 years of experience of the head seamstress pour into this project. I have learned so much in those walls and came away from our sessions fizzing with ideas.

Some of you will know how important UK manufacture is to me, and there is a whole blog post in the works about our traditions here in beautiful garment making, even within my lifetime (Ever heard of Laura Ashley? It used to all be made 30 miles from where I live!). But being able to work with a Welsh team that are as perfectionist about their craft as I am is a deep privilege. In the past when we’ve discussed having corsets made out of house I have felt concern about how much I would really know about working conditions for the people involved in making the corsets, the logistics and carbon footprint of working overseas at scale. A million things felt too unknown for me to truly feel confident and happy about going down that route. Knowing the names and faces of the people involved, being able to deliver the components myself, supporting our local economy, all these things solidified my resolve to push forward with this big step.

If you’re still reading I also want to give an honourable mention to Sally Sparrow Photography and our model Cariad Celis for their stellar work on our campaign photoshoot, the results of which you’re enjoying in this blog post! My favourite thing about working with Sally is how a shoot evolves on the day. I usually have a vague concept of what I’d like the images to look like, but as this isn’t something I’m usually especially wedded to, we will often follow the muse, the light, and the moment to something far greater than I’d imagined. This was one of those days, where our wonderful location kept dropping gifts at our feet. A pool of light in the majestic stairwell (I could have shot there all day) Wood panelling that perfectly toned with two of our corsets, and a little library ladder that brought back all my “Beauty and the Beast” joy as a child. Our model Cariad was an absolute trooper as well, arriving early so we could catch the morning light and seemingly reading Sally’s mind half the time! An undeniably graceful, enigmatic presence on camera and a sweetheart to boot. It was a wonderful day seeing the designs come to life on her.

I hope you find the Heledd stealth corset is the companion you don’t know how you managed without! I’m extremely proud of her and I look forward to seeing all your “where’s the corset” selfies with smooth curves under your favourite outfits.

Heledd stealth corset in dove grey, worn with matching lingerie.

3000 Miles: The Tale Of An S-Bend Corset Dress

A common first question I get from new prospective clients is “how long will it take?” A perfectly reasonable question! Most of us have never had anything made to our specifications before and the process can seem very obscure. Anyone who has asked me this question in recent times has got a gradually longer lead time as my workload keeps increasing, but most commissions do not have the backstory that I am about to share with you. Ladies, Gentlemen, Non-Binary Angels, let’s talk about a very special corset dress, for a very special gentleman.

The Beginning

Way back in Spring 2019 I had an email from a new client (who I’ll call O) with a strong vision. “I have been fascinated with corsets ever since I was a child” he told me. O described a long held love of period corsetry, with a focus on the early Edwardian S-bend style, with its flowing lines, and graceful poise. For those who are unaware, an S bend corset encourages the wearer to hold themselves in a tilted fashion, with a very straight front and hips back, bust and rear full and rounded. It was popular at the turn of the century and misguidedly designed as a “health corset”, but in reality the design put a lot of pressure on the abdomen and the unlikely pose it encourages the wearer to hold could cause spinal issues. But its romantic, dainty image has captured the hearts of many a corset lover, who aims to use them safely for occasional wear, I might add!

At the time, O had quite limited experience with off-the-rack corsetry that hadn’t really satisfied his longing for something transformative, and I suggested that going straight from this to an S-bend might be a little ambitious. He agreed, and we decided our first project would be a training corset for him to get used to the feel of a “proper” corset and become more experienced with tightlacing. By the end of the month he had driven across the country for our first meeting, feeling apprehensive but excited about beginning the journey towards the corset he truly dreamed of.

O was kind enough to share with me a little about his awakening to corsetry as a child. He remembered a moment of watching a film about knights and princesses of yore, and being fascinated by the costume, the exoticism of the styles. Perhaps even daring to wonder what it might be like to wear something so precious. Our starting point was more modest; a plain black sateen coutil corset designed for sturdiness and practicality, but O was patient enough to see the benefit of starting slow.

Male client wearing a black training corset next to an antique corset mannequin.

Dreams Of “The Show-piece” Corset

As 2020 brought its trials along, O and I began to work on a design for what we would term “The Show-piece”. A corset dress that drew from the best of the S-Bend design elements, but extended lower down the body towards the knees. This piece would focus on exaggerating and framing the derriere, with a little help from some padded shorts that O had found! Our design incorporated the characteristic S-Bend feature of rigid steel bones running straight through sweeping diagonal seam lines to create a flat fronted corset that can feel much more severe to wear than curvier, Victorian inspired designs.

Design sketch for an S bend corset dress

Working with O and liaising with him about ideas and hopes for this commission was a delight. He is endlessly respectful, open, and intelligent in the way he expresses himself, and clearly takes such solace and joy in his corsets. He has told me that his Orchid training corset is his “holiday in a box” and described the feeling to me. “I love wearing the corset, the feeling of security is lovely, and the constant reminder that you have to think about your movements. My body shape is unbelievable and I love that too. I really had a connection with the past, the transformation of the wearer’s ability to carry out everyday tasks without the constant reminder of the corset – I could barely concentrate on anything! It really is a holiday in a box! Perhaps you could advertise as such for people isolating on furlough!”

Toiles, And Mastering The Curve

By late 2021 with lockdowns (and my workload!) easing we were ready to fit O’s first toile. I had decided to start with a regular corset dress style (not S bend) so that I could draw onto the toile the exact lines I wanted the seams to follow, while taking my cue from O’s body shape in the corset. “What a wonderful experience it was! I cannot thank you enough. Such a lovely morning being looked after, and my first toile will be something I never forget. I cannot believe the shape you made me, with the straight front really surprising me.”

I think you can already see the period inspired silhouette coming through! We had adjustments to make, mostly elongating the corset for more coverage over the chest, and tightening the corset up below the buttocks to really showcase the fullness there.

From here I created the S bend corset dress pattern, ready for our second toile. This was a deeply satisfying process, translating the cut up toile into smooth curves and elegant lines! But I hadn’t quite bargained on how much of a difference changing the seam lines would make to our fit, as well as introducing the rigid steel bones at the front of the corset. The second toile needed far more adjustment than I had expected. But we were still encouraged by the look and feel O was experiencing, and agreed to a third toile fitting. Many commissions need three toiles to get things “just so”, and a corset dress can be quite complex to fit. So I wasn’t too dismayed by this, just disappointed not to be able to get O to his result any quicker!

But at last, earlier on in 2022 we were finished with our fittings and ready to get O onto my ever extending waiting list for construction! The corset dress itself was challenging in different ways to make. The sheer size of the piece meant rearranging my studio in order to be able to cut and sew it! One learning curve was learning how to use a bench grinder as I needed to cut custom length flat steels for the corset due to the length. Typically, I would be mostly using spiral steel, which is easy to cap by hand at the ends, but flat steel needs the ends gently rounded before coating with plastic for protection. Here’s a glimpse into that process!

Laced At Last

It was September by the time O arrived to collect his commission, almost a year exactly since our first toile fitting! Two and a half years since we first spoke about the project. Collections can be emotional moments for my clients, and it was clear that this was for O too. When I answered the door he was shaking, though still his usual warm and friendly self. He carefully took his new corset dress out of its box, surrounded by tissue paper and saw the piece he’d been dreaming of for so long. I began to carefully lace him in, letting the corset begin to hug and sculpt his curves, and letting the warmth of his body make the corset supple and turn it into a beautiful second skin. He told me how much calmer he felt as soon as the lacing began to tighten, how safe and secure. I could see it in his face, it was an incredibly rewarding moment, and I felt deeply honoured to be able to create that feeling for someone so receptive and appreciative. O pointed out that his Fitbit told him he was in rest mode while we were lacing him in, it truly was a full body response.

Before O came, we discussed taking some photos of him wearing the finished corset, I had prepared some lighting and a small set in my conservatory where the natural light was best, and just in time, the sun blessed us! It was my first time shooting and directing a subject on my own (without my guide Sally Sparrow by my side) and it was a wonderful experience, the perfect completion to our journey together. O did so well with posing, and had brought along an ensemble to compliment the corset. Despite my concerns that on a first fit (before seasoning the corset) we might not have the ideal fit for the photos, it really worked rather well, there was something rather wistful about the images and a little dreamy.

If I had Another Life

As our time together drew to a close and O packed away his things he said to me “Do you know, I’ve worked out that since our first meeting I’ve travelled 3000 miles coming to see you” That was quite a realisation! The dedication he had shown to this project extended far beyond the financial investment, or the time spent discussing ideas and swapping sketches. The corset itself, so much more than metres of silk, lengths of steel, thousands of individual stitches. This has been a journey in and of itself, years of longing, nervous expectation, the trust he put in me to share his passion for corsetry, and desire for an exquisitely feminine piece of his own. It encompasses so much of both mine and O’s fierce love for this art, it spans a global pandemic, and everything that gave and took from us. It is a moment captured in thread and miles and stories shared.

I’d like to leave you with O’s words, after lacing up at home. “The S bend really is beyond what I thought possible. There really is nothing like the feeling wearing a bespoke corset gives me, and this is so special. The whole anticipation while I am preparing, then the process of lacing and the final result is like nothing else. I love being held in place, slowed down and not being able to concentrate on anything else. It’s restriction, but in a sensual loving way that brings such a feeling of serenity and joy. The S bend especially, as movement is so restricted, and I cannot do much except stand around looking decorative – which is the whole point. I cannot wait to try it on again. If I had another life, I would lace every day. “

Black Friday, And A Little Moment Of Slow Creation.

Black Friday done right, a slowly made bespoke corset.
Halo Haynes wears the Artemis, shot by Artype Visuals

A Sprinkle Of Gold Dust On Black Friday

Black Friday is here again, folks! Brace yourselves for a whiplash turnaround after a global conference where we all agreed to consume less, and prepare for a frantic climate of deals and discounts. As in previous years, Orchid is not participating. I know from the wonderful reaction I’ve had from clients that you support this, and I feel so grateful! I fully back any independent brands that choose to take part, we all have to make a living after all. But for me, it stands against what I am for with this business. And that is making exquisite things slowly, with consideration and heritage. This with the understanding that someone will cherish, and feel empowered by each stitch and hand-tipped bone. You can’t rush that.

I thought long and hard about what to do as part of my quiet Black Friday non-observance this year. And I thought it would be fun to share with you a little of the process behind the velvet curtain. Or in my case, up the stairs in my attic lair! This is actually a piece I made at the start of 2020, and I photographed the different stages with the intention of making a little video of it. Naturally, this is something that fell by the wayside during the intense workload that came with the lockdowns. However, as it’s a corset that people still have a big reaction to, I thought it was worth reviving the idea! Scroll down to the bottom if you just want to watch the video without the chat.

The Artemis corset as an initial sketch with fabric selections.
Starting out with a sketch and some silks.

Sicily, Lockdowns and Silk Satins.

The original plan with this corset was for it to be a statement piece for the wonderful model Artemis Fauna, who was planning a photography trip to Sicily. I designed the piece with classic Goddess themes in mind. Soft warm shades, delicacy, richness and femininity. I also set myself the challenge of working with what I had in the studio, so this piece was designed around some remnant pieces of silk satin that blended together beautifully and had the desired effect of lending a feeling of otherworldly grace.

Sadly, as we journeyed towards March it became clear that Artemis was going to have to cancel her trip as airports closed and travel shut down. It was devastating for her, as such a significant part of her work was made impossible overnight. Thankfully, she has been able to shoot with it since! Here is a beautiful shot by David Brown from earlier this year.

Artemis Fauna in a lavish bespoke corset, shot by David Brown.
Artemis Fauna, shot by David Brown Photography

We were also lucky enough to send this corset to other models and photographers. There was a beautiful set from Halo Haynes and Artype Visuals which I thought should feature in the video, as they showcased the dreaminess of the corset so nicely! It’s a real joy to see how different artists interpret your work and bring out something new.

So without further ado, I give you the making of Artemis, from sketch to shoot. I hope this gives you some insight into the layers of technique involved in corsetry. And remember to shop small and slow this Black Friday!

Video- Unboxing A Precious Locking Corset

Close up of locking corset straps

Ready for some more locking corset related fun? It’s been such a long time since I sat down to write to you. Yes, the shop is still “shut” though we are accepting orders from patient folk who don’t have deadlines, so the list isn’t getting much shorter! Aside from a half plan to open for a day on our 15th birthday next month, it’s looking likely that we’ll stay shut for a while, catching up! I feel very lucky to have my order books so hectic with your unique and beautiful commissions. Thankyou for your trust, I never take it for granted.

So, as a result of me locking myself out of the studio today I’ve finally edited a Youtube video I filmed last November! There are one or two more locking corset videos already filmed and plenty more to come, looking at the commissions I have waiting to be completed! This piece was made for a male client and follows a similar style to the first locking corset I shared in January 2020, a stripped back design featuring graceful interlocking straps. The main difference with this corset is that it has the soft touch of luxury silk satin both outside and in! The silk lining to this corset is hard to photograph due to the number of bones (more on that later) but the soft stroke as you run your fingers over it’s rigid construction is absolutely delicious.

This is another corset featuring continuous boning, whereby I fit as many bones into the corset as possible. On this piece, that totalled 78 steel bones, an impressive 25 metres of spiral steel boning! Naturally this made for an extremely heavy and armour-like corset, and with corsets like these, sometimes the weight plays a part in the fun for the wearer. The corset also uses a stiff and sculpted spoon busk for lower abdomen support and a fully steel boned modesty panel.

One of the reasons I made this video in the way I did was that I thought it would be nice for people who haven’t yet had the pleasure, to experience the frisson of unboxing a bespoke corset. When you sign for your package and feel the trepidation of what comes next, we may have been working on your commission together for months, or even a year. There is so much expectation, and curiosity, perhaps even a little reverence for something we have both invested such time and resources into. Parting the tissue paper, feeling the tactile surface of your new corset for the first time, this is a first encounter with your new second skin, and it shouldn’t be rushed.

Without further ado I invite you to join me in a serene, joyful few minutes of exploring a new corset for the first time, I hope soon you can experience it first hand! If you’re ready to breathe life into your new corset, you know you can always contact us to discuss ideas.

Hitting Pause- A Temporary Shop Hiatus

Heledd corset, rear view, new in shop

As I turn over the “back in 10 minutes” sign on the virtual shop door I thought it was worth putting up a explanation for anyone who missed my earlier social media post. If you are wondering what’s going on, I’ve made the difficult decision to temporarily close the online shop as of Sunday 11th April. What this means is that made-to-order styles like our Seirian, Perle and Adara will not be available online for the forseeable future. The reason for this is that I try to keep the shop at a 4-6 week turnaround and right now, I can’t hope to keep up with that on my current waiting list! Demand means I’m currently booking in July/ August work so in order to make sure everyone gets the service they deserve I will reopen the shop when I’ve got better turnaround times to offer to you lovely people.

You can still place bespoke orders as usual (bearing in mind the long lead time!) and if you’re happy with the wait on delivery you can send me a message at any time to get added onto that list! Naturally, if you already have an order placed with me that still stands.

Needless to say, I’m still here doing what I’ve always done, and just to prove I haven’t been idle, I released a new style last month! You can check out Heledd here, a standard size stealthing corset suitable for daily wear, with multiple options to help you get a great fit.

Model wears Heledd corset in grey

Last but not least, I’ve added a new item to the shop that will remain live during the shut down. A bespoke design pathway! When you enquire about a bespoke order and we have worked out the basic details I will be asking you to purchase one of these to take us to the next stage of design development. It’s not an extra charge but a downpayment of sorts on the time taken to work on your ideas, taken off your final balance payment when you place your order. This allows me to give my focus to clients who are ready to commit to the design process as time is so short these days. Thankyou to everyone who has embraced it so far! Seeing how you readily value my time and energy has been really touching. Including some people who have purchased one before we’ve even spoken! I feel endlessly blessed with the clients I have gathered in this little nook of the internet! You’re good eggs, as my gran would say.