A Personal Project- The 20 Panel Corset.

Splitting up the panels

Running a thriving independent brand rarely leaves you with a lot of time to experiment, but I’m forever uncovering things I want to try my hand at! So last Summer I finally knuckled down to something I’ve wanted to work on for a long time- an extensively paneled corset.

For those who aren’t familiar with how a corset creates shaping, it is not, as many people imagine, the boning used but in fact, it starts with the way the pattern is drawn. This comes from how the body dimensions are distributed through a pattern, and the point at which the corsetiere chooses to grade a line in or out. It makes a huge difference, and accounts for why cheaper off-the-rack corsets disappoint their wearers! Time spent with the pattern is never wasted, and the more panels you use (up to a point!) the more subtlety and flow you can create with the shaping.

If you’re unsure what I mean by “panels” (I often find the term confuses customers) I mean the individual segments that make up a corset- the vertical seams mark the edges of each panel. Splitting the fabric of a corset up like this is what allows us to shape the dramatic curves at the waist. More panels means that at the waist, where the tension in a corset is at it’s greatest, the fabric is split into smaller sections, reducing the stress on each individual panel and seam. A larger panel is more likely to show strain or even stretch if not given additional support.

Corset in construcion

If you’re still with me, then you can probably see why the idea of playing with additional panels held practical appeal. There is also something very appealing to me about a corset that displays such architectural elegance. The lines of a corset like this would be very beautiful to my eye. And it would give me a chance to play with altering a patterns design and observing the effect it had, using the same measurements distributed in a different way.

I wanted to work on fitting to my own body so I started by taking some photos of myself without a corset to show the effects the first toile had. I am 5ft 10, and usually around a size 10. I would describe myself as moderately curvy- I have a full bust and as my high school textiles teacher once told me, “child bearing hips”. Thanks Mrs Hopkins.

The first toile (a test version of the corset) was made to our classic 12 panel style. This is an extremely versatile and comfortable design and has been well tested over the years! The initial results seemed pretty good- I had opted for a 4″ reduction on my 27″ waist with a gentle hourglass cut. Immediately I could see that I would want more reduction as it was not curvy enough for my tastes and I was comfortable enough to reduce by another 2″.

One thing we look for on toiles are wrinkles- they either indicate too much slack or too much strain, and tell you where adjustment is needed. You can see from the initial figure pictures that I am slightly sway backed, and those wrinkles indicate where the curve of my back has left a hollow in the corset. You can also see below that there was slack in the lower hip that needed taking in.

The other two pictures show me experimenting with the plunge height and style I was planning. I knew I wanted a dramatic, swooping Edwardian line but I wanted it to flow with the lines of my body for a flattering effect. I always prefer to draw these things directly onto a toile while it’s being worn!

This left me at a stage where I could make my alterations to the original pattern and plan where I wanted to create my new panels. Again, I chose to draw these directly on to the toile. This let me try the corset on and see where the panels would sit on my body and allowed me to simply cut up the toile along these new lines to make my new pattern. I chose to make a 20 panel corset because this seemed a good distribution for my reduced waist size and gave me a nice even 5 panels for each quadrant of the corset.

Splitting up the panels

 

The second toile shows very well how redistributing your panels (as well as changing your front panel height and waist reduction) can really play havoc with your fit! I suddenly had a lot more wrinkles, including stress lines around the high hip and a different set of back wrinkles. The plunge at the centre front meant that the panels joining onto it needed to be made smaller in that area to avoid it pulling back on itself as you see on the toile. I had made adjustments for this already but until you see the results on the body you can’t know if you’ve judged it correctly.

I’ll be completely honest. I should have done a third toile for this. But I had an event coming up that I needed to wear my corset for, and time was running out. So in a case of “Do as I say, not as I do” I made my tweaks with some resewing on the second toile, and moved straight onto my final corset! Luckily it worked out pretty well. Not perfectly, but I really like the finished garment. I chose a simple construction of mink coutil with contrast black waistband and symmetrical embellishment of black Chantilly lace. I wanted a feel of flourishing growth within the restraints of symmetry (I usually embellish organically) and the simple, classic tones of mink and black play well against each other.

20 panel corset in progress Decorating the corset with lace. The finished corset.

I have had a great reaction to the look of this corset- and I don’t think it’s just the lace! I could really see the possibilities for taking a corset pattern in this direction, and it’s something I intend to play with more in the future. Though preferably on another human being, because the added complication of needing eyes in the back of my head did not make this task any quicker or easier! If you find yourself dreaming of architectural corsetry then do come and talk through your ideas with me!

2017 In Review- A Year At Orchid.

Grey and black Adara corset

Here we are again friends, we wave 2017 off in a fanfare and think about our goals for a new year! At Orchid there has been a lot to celebrate, though I won’t pretend there weren’t a lot of difficult days inbetween! But I did want to share our year with you, a behind the scenes glimpse into life at the studio, and all the adventures we’ve enjoyed along the way. Thankyou to everyone who has joined us for the ride! Your support and interest make it all possible.

January

In the cold dawn on a new year, I began designing our Heartland collection, following a move back to my motherland of Wales in December. From the start I had a strong feeling about the designs, which felt cohesive and bold, and really just ran out the end of my pencil! I also began making plans with my web wizards at Moghill for a new streamlined website with a more accessible online shop. I felt so invigorated with plans and ideas for the business, and was excited to make them a reality.

Sketches for our AW17 Heartland collection of lingerie.

February

My 30th birthday! Working between Wales and England was starting to take it’s toll as I had a 3 hour daily commute to the studio and was trying to find a way of setting up a workspace in Wales. But every challenge is an opportunity, and while plans for that were underway I was using my train commute through the valleys to work out ways of accommodating the requests for wholesale orders I was starting to get from overseas boutiques! Cue the lovely Amy joining me for a training day!

Amy on a training day

March

At last- after 3 months of commuting I found a place to set up with space to move production! This left my lovely Shrewsbury space free to dedicate to client fittings, while allowing me a moment to redesign my workspace, with standing height bench for pattern cutting and pinning. I can’t begin to tell you what a difference it makes at the end of a long day without stooping! Having an extra 3 working hours back in each day meant I could get back to sampling the new Heartland collection and plans began to develop for the new website!

New studio work room

April

April was just packed with lovely orders, and fun photoshoot collaborations! A huge joy of the job is the unexpected combinations that clients bring my way, such as this ribbon corset, made in grey coutil with alternating fuschia and deep teal grosgrain ribbons. I will admit that I couldn’t quite picture the result when the client decided on it, but I had a feeling it would be stunning!

 

May

Speaking of joys of the job- in May I worked on a second corset for a very special client. We began working together in 2016 and in collaboration with the ladies occupational therapist I designed a corset that would work with her mobility limitations. My client was a wheelchair user and needed a corset that would offer great back support but be easy for her care team to put on every morning, we came up with a fully front opening and adjusting design. She liked it so much that in May this year, she ordered another in black!

Specialist back support corset

June

June was a tumultuous month for Britain. Still reeling from the Manchester bombing, we saw an attack on London, just days before the general election. I felt so proud of how our citizens reached out to those who were affected, donating blood, making cups of tea for the dazed survivors and opening their homes and businesses as shelters. In amongst the hatred of a few individuals, a nation came together. And of course, we carried on sewing.

Red silk overbust corset for a male tightlacer.

July

Well by this point, I had the Heartland collection complete and ready to go. But I had made the decision that I wanted to wait to release it until the website was finished, as the new shop would make such a difference to how people experienced it. So cards were still close to the chest! I passed my driving theory test (a “now I’m 30” resolution!) and these lovely ladies came to try on some corsets and get measured!

trying on corsets

August

My best friend from college, Emma, got married, and asked me to be her best man! I had the great pleasure of making her wedding corset, which was inspired by the Napoleonic uniform of the 95th Rifles- or Sharpe, if you’re a Sean Bean fan! Her husband is in the Navy, so they were both in uniform! A truly beautiful day, that ended with the Perseid meteor shower.

Sharpe inspired wedding outfit

September

Inbetween client orders I try to find some time to experiment and develop my skills. I finally finished the 20 panel corset I’d been making for myself (full blog post to come!) and embellished it in time for a charity Ladies Day I was speaking at. We raised money and awareness for Crane Counselling, which is building a nationwide service, based in Shropshire. I also gained my first US stockist! You can now buy our corsetry at the gorgeous Anya Lust!

20 panel corset with lace applique

October

Everything was gearing up in October. The site was nearly ready to launch which meant long nights of adding products, learning new systems and rewriting pages! I also took it upon myself to design a few extra pieces for Christmas, including our Isolde neck corset, which is designed to reduce our waste of luxury fabrics even further and add something different to our standard size collection!

Isolde neck corset close up

November

It was with great pride that we launched our new website and the Heartland collection! I’ve been so thrilled with the reaction to the new designs. It seems that many of you share my own favourite set- the Adara! There were some lovely orders taking advantage of our custom colour corsets. Oh and one other small thing… after nearly a year of lessons, I passed my driving test first time!

Adara lace waspie

December

December is always crazy, even in the slow fashion sector! The week before we broke up for Christmas was a real challenge. Making sure that January’s clients were ready to go when we got back to work, ensuring couriers got overseas parcels, and running headlong towards the last posting dates! When it all came to a close I was feeling victorious, but really quite run down, so it was really rather special to have a bit of a Christmas miracle.

You see, I’ve missed out an ongoing saga that has been running since August. I put an offer on my first home which was accepted! Through all the intervening months there has been a long struggle with mortgage applications and all the legal stuff that accompanies house buying. No stage of this has been easy, and at the end of the working year there still hadn’t been a final confirmation on the mortgage. I was resigned to there being no more progress till January, but on Christmas day, I heard that they had finally approved everything! As sorry as I feel for that person, working at 5pm while everyone else was sleeping off their dinner, it meant the world to have that piece of the puzzle in place!

So although we’re still waiting on a few more details, it seems pretty certain that in 2018, I will be able to move Orchid to a permanent home studio! This will change some of the ways we work on fittings with clients but the freedom and security I can now look forward to is very exciting- I look forward to sharing the adventure with you!

Attic space

Slow Fashion Ethics And Low Waste Production In The Studio

Slow fashion in progress- bespoke corsetry
Work in progress- moulded silk before it greets steel.

‘Tis the season of shopping, excessive packaging and glitter everywhere! If that sounds a bit “Bah Humbug” let me reassure you- I blimming love Christmas. But seeing piles of sparkly wrapping paper in the trash always makes me conscious of the ecological cost of holiday traditions, so I felt inspired to share the positive story of how we’re trying to fight the wastage of the fashion industry at Orchid.

Corsets- The Definition Of Slow Fashion

Bespoke corset and lingerie set in white silk.
A bespoke order with asymmetric silk detailing and matching lingerie.

I think slow fashion is a buzz word that we may not all fully understand. Put simply, slow fashion is about a move away from disposable clothing and garments with built in obsolescence. A move towards long term investment in your wardrobe that doesn’t tread on the workers behind the label. Developing countries are not always able to supply safe working conditions and fair pay whilst meeting the price demands of big high street names. However there are some great brands like Dorsu in Cambodia setting the standard for high quality clothing that supports great working conditions and proper pay. Read to the end for more awesome slow fashion designers you may love!

To me, corsets from independent makers are the perfect example of slow fashion at work. At Orchid, there is just me working on your order, through communication, pattern cutting, construction and even the post office run. I have other people who work on my website etc, but the actual labour takes place in my home studio looking out over the Welsh hills. This means no uncomfortable feelings about “who made my clothes?” and knowing that you are supporting the 21st century version of British manufacturing. The cottage industries and small enterprises who exercise their craft with pride. That also means taxes paid in this country, not profits hoarded overseas!

A corset is also, by it’s nature, an heirloom item. It has been crafted to your specifications, we have worked on it together through emails, in person fittings, and swatches through the post. You have deliberated between two perfect shades of blue, and we’ve planned each component to work for your body and requirements. This year I’ve had the pleasure of many past clients returning for new corsets, one of whom had been using their last corset for 7 years! I call that good value for money, and good care of the resources that go into creating a luxury garment.

Low Waste Production

Isolde neck corset close up

The thing that always held me back from outsourcing elements of my work are questions about waste. When I cut a corset, I am careful to lay all my pattern pieces in such a way that the materials go as far as possible. This makes financial sense- silk satin is £50 a metre, and some of the lace I use is well over £100 a metre. But also, from manufacturing of fabrics to ordering them in from overseas, there’s a large carbon footprint in what ends up on the cutting room floor. It’s unavoidable that there will be some waste when you cut a garment but here’s what I do to minimise that impact.

Any pieces that may be used for cups or short waspie panels on a future order are obviously saved. In the fitting room I have a waterfall of vividly coloured fabrics to choose from, many of which are saved from previous orders. If we have it in stock- you aren’t charged for it. This encourages clients on a budget to choose from the beautiful things that we already have rather than shipping new exotic items across the ocean. Little scraps are saved back for colour swatches for clients or the many patchwork projects I keep meaning to do! I also send packs over to my sister for craft at my nephews’ playgroup, and save up my empty cotton reels for making toy car wheels on rainy days! It might sound silly but little changes can have a big impact when we all take part.

Lately I have started to design new products that use up the awkward off-cuts of luxury fabrics that I can’t bear to throw out but were too small to be useful in a meaningful way. This is how the Isolde neck corset was born! The silk bobbinet (mesh) I use for hot climate corsetry and lightweight shapewear comes in quite narrow widths, and I’m often left with a few inches on the end of a piece that will never be used in a regular corset. These sections are perfect for the delicate panels of a neck corset, and now, when I’m cutting out a waspie and see a space inbetween pattern pieces, I’m cutting out spare panels for the next Isolde order! The silk satin channels that hold the boning also allow me to use short bias lengths of this luxury fabric without cutting it from a new piece. So we have a sensuous new product where I don’t need to charge the client for material costs, and a little less waste makes it’s way to landfill. Everyone wins.

Lastly- I do try to keep packaging at a minimum. I want you to feel the thrill of opening our beautiful branded boxes, but I also hope that you keep them after the unboxing ceremony! They make great wardrobe organisers, and stop your corset laces getting tangled with the rest of your collection! Incidentally, all our boxes are made locally in the West Midlands, supporting a company that has been running since 1926, and that gives me a really good feeling! You will often find a thankyou card in with your order and a business card or two, but I don’t send you reams of postcards, catalogs or stickers as experience says, these tend to end up in the bin! If you’ve spotted a way you think we could improve things further it would be great to hear from you- let me know your thoughts about UK manufacture and what matters to you in the brands you support.

Slow Fashion Brands You Will Love

slow fashion gown
A Katherine Davidson gown, shot by Sally Sparrow on Abigail.

Katherine Davidson

Katherine Davidson is an elegant designer maker based in Merseyside who has a very clever line focused on the capsule wardrobe. She offers a foundation dress that’s made to your measurements at a very reasonable price, which can be reinvented again and again with the accessories and layers she is constantly adding! I am proud to own a KD piece, and can vouch for the craftsmanship, value, and love that she puts into her work.

Chyvonne Le Monnier

More ethical than slow really! An original and fun alternative lifestyle brand with great designs and real principles. Chyvonne only brings in limited runs of each product and works with ethical producers to make them. She is conscious of sustainable fabrics and biodegradable packaging, but the garments are anything but worthy! I own a ClM hoody and it is my FAVOURITE because I’m a tall woman, but her pieces are tailored  and ultra long so I don’t end up with an annoying midriff gap or look like I borrowed my brothers clothes!

Sisters Of The Black Moon

I really wanted to mention these guys because a) they feature truly wonderful independent designers and artists and b) As a graduated goth I really love their grown up, high fashion witchy look. Using luxurious materials with most pieces being handmade to order in America. They have recently run a project making gorgeous jackets from recycled leather which really excited me. I plan to become a customer very soon!

Maude Nibelungen

If you don’t know of Maude yet, you will LOVE her. She hand knits perfectly imperfect garments including gorgeous open weave stockings, lingerie and sensuous intriguing cover ups. She is utterly unique and a fascinating designer running her brand in Canada. One of her pieces is currently winging it’s way to me across the sea!

Who are your favourite ethical brands?

2017 Winter Gift Guide

Well The Weather Outside Is Frightful…

Whatever you’re celebrating this Winter, everyone loves to open a touch of luxury! Our gift guide this year showcases some of our new styles, including a growing range of ready to wear corsetry and some very decadent fetish inspired lingerie. Arranged for every budget, we hope you unwrap some of our handmade treasures this year.

But My Dear, You Look So Delightful…

Budget £10-£50

 

Gift Vouchers

Did you know that our gift vouchers start as low as £10? Choosing a size dependent gift for someone can be difficult, so if you’re stumped or have missed our shipping deadlines then you can purchase the value of your choosing and receive a code that can be used online within 24 hours.

Accessories

Speaking of size dependent dilemmas- our chokers (£20) and masks are one size fits all! With colour selections to personalise your order, a seductive treat to open is just a click away.

Our corset storage bags are just £20 and are the perfect gift for a corset addict! They allow you to organise your collection and hang them up in the wardrobe away from tangled laces and other nightmares. Colour code the bag to the corset with our custom colour options!

We have two lingerie harness styles to choose from as well! The Morgan harness is our newest addition, with a refined bondage look, featuring a triple drop of ascending size ovals. For a more delicate style, try our En Régate harness. These pieces start at £35.

Since We’ve No Place To Go…

Budget £50- £100

Accessories

Looking for something seductive and decadent? A French lace mask and choker set (£57) could be your answer. Match your colours and metalwork for a luxurious package, sent in one of our branded gift boxes.

New for Winter this year- the Isolde neck corset (£80) is the ultimate in fetish indulgence. Made in couture silk mesh with silk satin accents and double O ring detail. The swooping shape and elegant design will make this a treasured gift for years to come.

Lingerie

All our lingerie separates come in under £100! Why not try our new Adara suspender belt style with a pair of silk stockings? or our Acquiesce harness bra, which can be styled over clothing or worn alone for a sensuous encounter.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

Budget £100-£200+

Lingerie

We have released three exciting new lingerie sets for Winter, starting from £155 for a bra and panties. Look at the Caron, Adara and Inira styles for boudoir inspiration. Caron and Inira can be mixed and matched for a personal set!

Corsetry

We offer standard size corsetry with custom colour options from £200. Choose from our Perle mesh underbust in ivory or black or our brand new Adara waspie. All have multiple fabric and trim options to personalise your order, and our sizing chart makes it easy to get the right fit for first time wearers! Why not add a matching corset storage bag to complete the gift?

Bespoke corsetry is not out of the question for gifts, but it can be tricky to plan if we don’t have an existing pattern for your recipient! But fear not, our gift vouchers can be used towards a bespoke order and will give your loved one a wealth of choice across our site.

If you’re still not sure you can always contact us to ask for some recommendations for your budget and preferences, we’re happy to help you find the right gift! Have a magical holiday, friends.

Heartland- A Love Letter To Wales

Adara suspender belt back

Coming Home

Heartland is born from a challenging year of personal change and upheaval. A significant part of all this is the move back to my home, my heart, Wales. I was born here, I’ve never strayed far from the border, and every time I am lost in her landscape, I am filled with energy and contentment. Wales is a country that breathes poetry, that nourishes the soul, that overwhelms the senses, whatever season you greet her in.

When trying to express a direction for the new collection, it was this love that I came back to, I wanted the theme to reflect the passion, the boldness the inspiration that I find here. The Heartland collection uses traditional Welsh names to identify the styles, each with a delicious meaning that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as the designs themselves.

Inira- Meaning “Honour”

Shop the Inira frame bra
Shop the Inira thong

A striking lingerie set, encompassing a harness bra that frames and flares around the body with detailed thong in lustred satin. Large oval rings clutch at clusters of straps, making the bra ideal for layering over clothing for a distinctive fetish fashion appeal.

Options- available in scarlet or black, with you choice of silver or gold metalwork.

Adara- Meaning “Bird Catcher”

Shop the Adara quarter cup bra
Shop the Adara Panties
Shop the Adara garter belt
Shop the Adara waspie

The standout look from Heartland, featuring a sensuous collection of quarter cup harness bra, alluring panties and our first garter belt which overlaps and entwines in the most seductive fashion. Crossing straps and cut-away areas highlight the body in elaborate lace flourishes. This collection also includes a made-to-order waspie with many custom options, allowing you to collate a matching set that you can truly treasure.

Options- Lingerie available in Black or ivory, with your choice of silver or gold metalwork. Corset has extensive custom options.

Caron- Meaning “Loving”

Shop the Caron bralette 
Shop the Caron cage panties

A full bralette set with cage back panties. The triple strap waist belt on the panties frames the waist and echoes the bold styling on the strappy bralette. Made in a lustrous satin with strap and mesh features.

Options- available in black or ivory with your choice of silver or gold metalwork.

Morgan- Meaning “Seashore”

Shop the Morgan harness

The ideal style-up for an outfit. The ascending sized ovals create an arresting effect peeping out from under clothing, and team up well with a corset ensemble. A fetish inspired look that can be built upon or played down depending on your style.

Options- available in black or ivory, with your choice of silver or gold metalwork.