Behind The Scenes- The Creation of a Bespoke Corset

The finished corset in it's Orchid Corsetry branded box

I often speak about my passion for the engineering side of corsetmaking, but it occurred to me that many clients don’t understand how their bespoke corset is made in the first place. When the beautiful Edith Emerald asked me to take some behind the scenes photo’s of her commission for her blog it seemed a perfect opportunity to share some of the techniques that I use in the studio, and that you may never have realised play a part in your corset’s existence.

Pattern Drafting

When you send over your measurements, we use them to draft you a unique pattern that responds to your individual body lengths and circumferences.

Pattern drafting stages, where a bespoke corset is shaped and styled.
This shows two stages of the patternmaking process, the working pattern (paper) where the dimensions are laid out in basic form and the production pattern (cardboard) where the style lines and shaping are fine tuned.

Cutting Out

This process differs depending on whether you are having a double coutil corset, a four layer corset, a summer mesh corset or a single coutil layer with fashion fabric and lining like Edith, but each seperate layer is cut with care from your pattern, taking care to follow grain lines in the fabric so as to retain the strength of the weave.

Cut layers of fabric ready to be sewn into the main body of the corset.
The three separate layers have all been cut out, a base layer of cotton coutil, a duchess satin fashion fabric for a silky finish and a light cotton lining. This will make a sturdy but lightweight corset suitable for summer use and for discreet wear under clothing.

Pressing

Once the panels of the corset have been sewn together and the sizing carefully checked it’s time to press the work so far, using steam, heat and pressure to get the desired sleek effect over the contours and seams. In many ways, this is where the magic happens!

A corset being pressed.
I always dedicate a good amount of time to pressing a corset. First it’s pressed from the inside, using a tailors ham and wooden clapper for a sharp finish on the seams, and then from the outside with a cloth to protect the fabric. Each seam is allowed to cool completely before it’s moved to let the fabric take on the moulded curve I’m pressing into it.

Basting and boning channels

Because Edith’s corset used a single strength layer (the coutil) we are using boning tape stitched inside the corset to securely retain the steel boning rather than stitching the channels through multiple layers of cloth as we would do on a 4 layer corset. This is hand stitched (or basted) into position to allow for the most effective and attractive top stitching.

Internal boning channels are hand stitched in place before going under the sewing machine so that the stitching can be done from the top giving the neatest possible finish. When the channels are stitched the tacking is unpicked leaving perfect, secure boning channels.
Internal boning channels are hand stitched in place before going under the sewing machine so that the stitching can be done from the top giving the neatest possible finish. When the channels are stitched the tacking is unpicked leaving perfect, secure boning channels.

Cutting and tipping steel bones

No corset would be complete without it’s steel skeleton! many people don’t realise that the steel boning is not there to reduce the waist (this is done at the pattern making stage with how we shape the panels) but in fact to hold the fabric taut and prevent the corset wrinkling and folding under pressure at the waist. The boning gives tension and support to the figure but does not actually change your waist shape.

Spiral steel bones being cut and tipped.
After the boning channels are stitched all the spiral steel bones are individually cut and tipped to ensure accuracy and also in order to use a higher tension of boning than is available pre-cut. This particular steel gives a lovely firm hug that is resistive but comfortable to wear.

Attaching and handsewing binding

With the bones inserted, the corset is nearly complete except for binding the edges…

Machine stitching bias binding on a bespoke corset.
Here you can see the first stage of attaching the binding which finishes the top and bottom edges. This is machine stitched from the inside ready for hand finishing later on, which gives a neat and visible stitch free result.
Handsewing bias binding on a corset.
One of the final tasks is to hand sew the binding closed from the inside of the corset. This means that no stitching is visible and is just one of the many little hand finishes that make a bespoke corset so special. It will usually take around an hour and half for this stage of the corsets construction.

The finished corset

The finished corset in it's Orchid Corsetry branded box
With all the labour complete, it’s time to package the corset and send it off to it’s new owner! This corset uses a hidden zip for a front fastening, and is made in beautiful ebony duchess satin.
Duchess satin is incredibly hard to capture on camera, it's lustre is subtle and glowing but you may just have to take my word for that! However I was delighted with the graceful curves this corset held even while not being worn.
Duchess satin is incredibly hard to capture on camera, it’s lustre is subtle and glowing but you may just have to take my word for that! However I was delighted with the graceful curves this corset held even. while not being worn.

You can read more about Edith’s adventures here, and find on her on Instagram for her latest updates and stunning vintage inspired portraits.

SS15 collection- En Plein Air

Model wears grey waspie and matching lingerie

We couldn’t be happier or more proud as we release our first seasonal collection! SS15 responds to the theme of “En Plein Air” or “Yn Yr Awyr Agored” in my native tongue of Welsh. In the process of building up a portfolio of designs inspired by the great outdoors this became an increasingly personal body of work, drawing on specific moments that I treasure from the rugged and breathtaking landscape that I grew up in, as well as adventures from more recent times, including a glorious day at Aberdovey harbour with my love when we had just met. I wanted to draw from the sentimentality that these places can hold for us against the raw power and thrill of nature, the way that our human lives interplay with the timeless landscape.

Choosing our team for the photoshoot wasn’t all that hard when it came down to it. I have been looking for an opportunity to work with Julian Kilsby for some time, a photographer based in Birmingham whose reputation precedes him in every sphere, and this seemed like the ideal time to draw on his talents. Julian and I share a love for Guy Bourdain’s darkly sensual fashion photography, and this allure is really visible in his work to date. We talked about some models whom we were both excited by and agreed wholeheartedly on Miss Miranda. Miranda and I have previously worked together on our Gilded Cages collection, and I was so pleased that she could join us on this project. Every image I see of Miranda has an iconic feel, and I often refer to her as my muse because she really seems to wear the mood of each photoshoot like a second skin, weaving her own artistry with that of designer and photographer.

The final styling of the photoshoot sets were a complete surprise to me- I simply told Julian a little about what I was bringing along with a few in-progress photographs and he worked his own way into the theme. He saw that although we were talking about a shoot inspired by nature we would be working indoors (it was February after all!) and that we had an opportunity to play with the artificiality of the scenario (another link back to Guy Bourdain) by allowing a little of the studio into the scenes- a light left in shot, the back of the sets used to show the 2D nature of it all. But the real magic comes in with a combination of Julian’s subtlety and cleverness with lighting and Miranda’s delicacy with pose and presence. For me, it’s only on second appraisal of the images that one starts to pick out these details, what is initially viewed as a vibrant moment captured with a beautiful woman at the heart of it becomes something more complex and dynamic. A layer of concepts and perceptions that is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

No collection I have ever produced has been perfect. There are many compromises that have to be made in order to get all the pieces together in time, and SS15 is no exception. Are there things I’d do differently next time? Absolutely. I made a few last minute changes to pieces that didn’t work (boning accents on First Light!) and experimented with new construction techniques that I will probably not repeat (alternative flatlining method on “Silhouettes at Sunset”) but as a body of work I feel that is my strongest offering so far, especially as it’s the most ambitious project I’ve ever attempted, with 6 separate looks including full lingerie sets! I’m trying to move onto a stage in my career where instead of trying to hide mistakes, I embrace what I’ve learned from them and take it for experience. After all, what is a photoshoot for, if not an excuse to stretch your boundaries and experiment!

I hope you enjoy En Plein Air. It’s been a pleasure from this side of the sewing machine.

Postcards From The Orchid Corsetry Studio- February 2015

Black mesh lingerie set in a box.

In the postbag from the Orchid Corsetry studio this month- shows, shoots and final touches.

It has been nothing if not action packed this month! Alongside reworking elements of the lingerie range to fine-tune fit and elegance, we were busy taking part in a catwalk event in aid of Severn Hospice, a wonderful organisation in Shropshire that is in constant need of support in order to continue it’s good work. Alongside Shrewsbury based designer Lyuba Carpenter and milliner Laura Cathcart, we presented an evening of high class couture, showcasing casual tailoring, evening wear and bridal. You can see our beautiful model Rhiannah wearing our ivory silk Edwardian underbust corset in this month’s images, and get a flavour of the evening! We were delighted with the funds raised by the evening and hope that all who attended enjoyed themselves.

The end of February also saw us setting off for Birmingham with a suitcase full of corsetry representing months of work and planning, ready to shoot with Miss Miranda and Julian Kilsby! The events of the day will require their own post complete with the soon to be released images, however for now, we can share some of the behind the scenes footage from a day that went exceptionally well. My experience of photoshoots is that so much hangs in the balance, and expectations are high. It can be a pressured environment in which there may have to be compromises as the realities of time intervene in our visions, however having a great team makes these elements manageable, and helps to over-ride my niggling concerns with confidence in a greater overall result. As a perfectionist I am rarely entirely satisfied with the work I bring to a shoot, but thanks to the magic brought to the day by Miranda and Julian I can look back and feel content that we have created something beautiful and exciting. I eagerly anticipate releasing the collection for your enjoyment!

Grey lace "Clouds" bralette
An image of our “Clouds” bralette on a mannequin, made in delicate grey corded lace with halterneck and cross-over back straps.
Black mesh lingerie set in a box.
One of my favourite sets of lingerie from this collection- “Dusk” made in daring but elegant sheer mesh with lace borders and keyhole-back panties. Seen with our new branded lingerie boxes!
Model wearing ivory corset and feather stole.
From back stage at the catwalk event, the beautiful Rhiannah is wearing our ivory and sage Edwardian underbust with a feather stole and lace skirt.
Six corsets and lingerie sets waiting to be packed.
The day before the shoot all was unnervingly organised, with every outfit from the new collection laid out on the studio table, ready to be packed up and taken to Birmingham!
Model wearing a marine and ivory silk underbust corset with ivory silk lingerie.
A glimpse from behind the scenes, with Miss Miranda in our “En Régate” set. A 12 panel underbust corset in marine and ivory silk, worn with matching ivory silk lingerie and harness.
Model wearing ivory sheer corset and lingerie.
Another behind the scenes shot of Miss Miranda wearing our “First light” 14 panel underbust corset with ivory “Dusk” lingerie. First light is made in a filmy ivory mesh overlaid with silk boning accents and shimmering beaded lace.

Postcards From The Orchid Corsetry Studio- January 2015

Detail shot of the marine and ivory silk "En Regate" underbust corset.

In the postbag from the Orchid Corsetry studio this month- New Year’s goals, plans under way, and the big reveal begins.

As promised, the new year has seen us beginning to trail glimpses of the new collection of corsetry before the official release of SS15, including the first views of our upcoming lingerie range which has us really excited and extremely busy making plans for alternative colours available and refining the finishing touches. At first, the underwired bra will be available in sizes 32A-38D, with a flexibility on back size and sister sizing of cups due the styling of the piece but we are asking you to get in touch with us if your needs are not catered to this season so we can judge demand for future releases. We are aware that fuller busted women often feel disappointed that more brands don’t provide for them, and operating as an independent designer means that we are more challenged than the “big names” to provide a wide range but we always consider you, and endeavor to please wherever possible.

January has always been a time when we hear from our waist training regulars, in search of a new goal or aesthetic, but also when we meet a new crowd of eager tightlacers, ready to make their first steps towards bringing corsetry into their lives. The new year started with a bang, and below you can see one of the classic waist training underbusts that have gone to join their new owner this month. If you are considering your own waist training journey, you may find this article helpful.

A beige coutil training corset.
A beautiful silhouette makes this everyday training corset an exceptional piece for any collection. This is made for a client looking for discreet wear beneath clothing on a regular basis, and everything about it is tailored towards invisibility and a seamless integration into your wardrobe.
Detail shot of the marine and ivory silk "En Regate" underbust corset.
First up from SS15, “En Regate” is a 12 panel underbust corset cobwebbed with graphic flowing lines that interlock and wind intimately around the body. An Orchid signature piece of cool contemporary expression.
A close up of Orchid Corsetry's strap-back bondage bra
We will be offering colour variants on our new lingerie collection, and the fresh marine tones used in our “En Regate” corset will also be available in a rich ebony black silk, matched with gold fixings. This underwired, strap-back plunge bra is all about sleek lines, firm structures and suggestions of elegant bondage.
Grey coutil waspie with blue lace detail.
“Clouds Over Stormy Skies” is a minimalist, structured waspie made in soft grey coutil with flashes of indigo Leavers lace and blue central stitching on the double boning channels that run across the surface of this corset. Accompanying lingerie will echo the cool grey tones and the delicacy of the lace.
Close up of the new underbust corset "First Light""
“First Light” responds to the current barely-there cellophane trend. A 14 panel underbust made in sheer mesh with ivory silk accents and drapes of fresh, sparkling beaded lace that lend clarity to an otherwise soft and misty piece.
A black cupped overbust corset on a mannequin.
And last but not least, we have a sample cupped overbust we made for one of our mannequins in the studio. A simple piece to showcase the architecture of the corset, made in black boutonniere coutil with subtle tulle lace softening the bust and hip lines of the corset.

Postcards From The Orchid Corsetry Studio- December 2014

A front view from a pink silk locking collar.

In the postbag from the Orchid Corsetry studio this month- surrendering the keys, buckling up, trials and tests, and silhouettes at sunset.

December has been a month dedicated to pushing ahead with work on our SS15 photo shoot, and we were thrilled to have the four main pieces of corsetry completed and waiting for their accompanying lingerie and accessories as we close for the year. January will now be much more relaxed, with plenty of time for the waist training kits that will be starting our clients on their 2015 goals. We will begin to showcase the key looks already completed throughout January so stay tuned for the first views!

We also have a more extensive view of the collar we shared at the end of last month, which was a cherished project that gained a lot of interest from clients old and new! Projects like this give us a great opportunity to showcase another side of our aesthetics and to be playful with materials, something that will always feed back into our more classic pieces.

Black chantilly lace applique on a dusky rose satin.
A first glimpse of the work going into SS15 piece “Silhouettes at Sunset”-Chantilly lace being pinned into place, ready for hand sewing.
A front view from a pink silk locking collar.
A pink silk collar with lock-on lead and black lace and ribbon detailing.
Back view of locking collar
A double locking buckle finishes this collar, which is a perfect blend of feminine softness and steel hardware.
A close-up from a blue ribbon corset.
Midnight blue satin and grosgrain are layered in this ribbon corset, an “in-progress” shot showing the hand basting stitches that help create neat, sharp lines.
A toile being fitted to a mannequin.
A visit from a fellow couturier, Lisa Nelson, resulted in some impromptu draping on the stand, creating a special something for our wasp-waisted mannequin Genevieve! More to come soon.
Keys in an Orchid Corsetry box.
“The Keys To The Kingdom” A very special parcel, wrapped so that the keys are the first thing to be presented to the new owner.