Quarantine, Business As Usual, And How You Can Support Us.

Well. What a strange time to share with you. For those of you who are in quarantine (most of us across the world I suppose!) I send soul hugs. we are social animals and it’s so poignant to be left avoiding our loved ones for their own safety. It’s also a worrying time for us all financially, as we look at an indeterminate period ahead of us where our working lives are uncertain. I am counting myself as very fortunate that for the last two years I have been working from my home studio, with everything I need around me to be creative and productive, even if quarantine measures are tightened further in the UK.

I have been truly touched by the number of new and old clients who have been in touch with orders, checking in on me and also confirming that they are still going ahead with their planned commissions, so I thought it would be worth letting you all know how things are working here, and what may change as this situation develops.

Close up of colour blocked corset

 

I hope it goes without saying that all expected safety precautions are being taken very seriously here during quarantine, we are still able to help with fittings and measuring by video call but are no longer welcoming visitors to the studio. I am social distancing and keeping the work area clean. Current advice suggests that the coronavirus can survive for 24 hours on cardboard and 72 hours on plastic so although our mail services have lots of safety measures in place you may wish to consider leaving packages somewhere safe for these periods before enjoying them and washing hands thoroughly after receipt.

Despite the quarantine I am still running my business as normal- I have all equipment needed to work on your orders and my main supplier also works from home so is suffering no interruption to business. I do have reserves in my supplies but the main thing looking to the future is what restrictions may be placed on mail services. I will keep everyone informed on this front but at present we are able to serve you much as we always have!

Your orders have never been more welcome as we try to weather this storm. I know that many of our supporters are not in a position to spend money on a new corset right now but if you did want to help us here are a list of our products from £10-£50!

£10- Gift Vouchers We offer digital gift voucher codes so even if the mail is interrupted in your area we can still send these to you for last minute gifts!

gift vouchers

£25- Chokers. Our Aures tassel choker has been proving really popular lately! We also have our classic Trinity choker which is simple and elegant, adding a minimalist edge to any outfit. There is one last limited edition Betsi choker left in our ready to ship section as well!

 

£25- Corset storage bag. Available with custom finishes to match your corsets! These are the perfect way to keep your beautiful corset protected and hung neatly in the wardrobe without damage from hangers. You can even pop a little lavender or a few rose petals in so they come out beautifully scented!

£30-£35- Suspenders. We sell sets of 20mm wide or 30mm wide suspenders which can be made to hook on or clip onto your corset! There are some lovely colours available and gold or silver hardware to choose for most options.

£35- £40- Harnesses. I just love how these can be used to style up an outfit! Our Regate harness has a simple lariat style and comes in 4 colourways. Our Morgan harness has a more layered look and comes in ivory or black.

£40- Valour lace mask. Available in three different lace colours, this delicate mesh mask is the ultimate boudoir accompaniment! A little baroque finishing touch to your ensemble.

£50- Branwen garters. These are one of our newest additions, and though we have 3 colours on offer we can source custom colours for these glorious strappy accessories!

Thankyou so much. If you are unable to buy with us at this time please keep interacting with our social media (we’re still suffering under Instagram and Facebook’s puritanical approach to lingerie!) and sharing our posts with your friends, helping small businesses stay visible is a huge part of staying strong right now! Quarantine is such an important tool in fighting this sickness and we all need to stick together in helping it be effective so keep listening to the latest advice and please be careful of any popular articles being shared on Facebook that haven’t come from official channels. There is so much misinformation but if something is TRULY effective in preventing infection you can bet it will be on our major news channels first!

Welcoming In The Roaring Twenties! 2019 In Review

Meriel Overbust with black lace

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!

Working towards Sustainable Fashion In Our Studio Practice

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.

Beaded applique overbust
Sheer mesh corset with beaded lace embroidery

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.
Golden silk corset with ribbon lacing

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.

Ivory Flame and Gingerface model in ribbon corsets
Ivory Flame and Gingerface wearing plant dyed silk ribbon corsets shot by Sally Sparrow

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.

Feminine Corsets for Men
Scarlet silk corset with flossing.

The Future

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!

Six Simple Ways To Make The Best Of Corsets

Miss Deadly red wearing a Seirian waspie

Miss Deadly Red shot by Sally Sparrow Photography

Before you have built up a collection of corsets that would make Dita Von Teese shiver with delight, you might find yourself looking for ways to make the most of what you have, or even reinvent them a little as you go along!

Shadowlands underbust corset
Shadowlands underbust corset in scarlet silk and black lace.

Step One- A little TLC.

It might sound obvious, but as most corsets aren’t suitable for washing, it can be easy to forget to do the boring maintenance steps that keep a piece looking new! If you don’t have time to dry clean, remember to air your corset out over a chair after wearing and wipe over the lining with a lightly damp cloth to refresh it. If you need a bit more freshness then here’s the professional’s tip- mix vodka with a splash of water in a spray bottle. Set it to a fine mist and LIGHTLY spritz the lining only. Once it’s dried you’ll find the bacteria has been killed off! Don’t forget to use a lint roller on the outer surface of the corset to spruce it up again!

ribbon corset
Vibrant grosgrain ribbon corset.

Step Two- Choose Wisely.

If you’re only just beginning your career as a corset addict the temptation is to buy something outstandingly lavish in your favourite shade of jewel tone green silk. But I always advise making your first corset the most versatile it can be, even if it seems a little… pedestrian at the time. Something that will serve as discreet underwear, chic outerwear, and team effortlessly with your main wardrobe staples. Don’t forget to choose fabrics that are forgiving and durable, like coutil! Most of our clients go for something in black but if you wear a lot of white shirts you will want something as close to your skin tone as possible to hide a corset underneath! A piece like this will cover enough bases that it will be a while before you “need” another corset, though need is a very subjective concept!

mesh corset
A cotton mesh corset in pale gold. Practical and graceful!

Step Three- Accessorise.

Once you have your capsule wardrobe “3 in 1” corset you may find yourself wanting to give it a different feel for the night. I maintain that you never get bored of the classics but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some variety! Items like harnesses can be layered over the corset to create more texture, line and detail and will instantly alter the feel of a corset. My personal favourite touch is a body chain- delicate jewellery style chains that loop around you to frame your figure in a gorgeous manner. Think Greek goddess with delicious curves!

Sinopa Rin in the Vala corset and Morgan harness
Sinopa Rin in our Vala corset & Morgan harness, shot by Francis Kinsella.

Step Four- Get Crafty.

If you want to create a more permanent effect, particularly if you have older corsets that you can spare from daily use, why not start to embellish? It’s easier than you think to stitch on a lace applique, an area of beading, maybe even get some Swarovski crystals and create a sparkly masterpiece! You might find that upcycling a corset with a movie on in the back ground is exactly what you were missing out on. If you’re willing to have a go at something more ambitious why not try this hack from Lucy’s Corsetry, altering your corset to have lace up hip panels!

Decorating the corset with lace.
Embellishing a mink coutil corset with Chantilly lace.

Step Five- Re-lace.

One of the biggest giveaways that corsets are “well loved” is the state of the lacing! Over time it gets uneven, twisted and broken down by the tension of tightacing. Especially if you have ribbon instead of cotton lacing! We do sell replacement lacing here but if you’re in a hurry, unlace the corset, iron the lacing/ ribbon flat again and re-lace carefully, making sure to get the bunny loops at the waist even! Here’s a helpful video if you’re not sure how to do it. If you’re replacing your lacing, why not opt for a contrast colour to revive the look of your corset?

Lacing corsets
Replacing corset lacing with ribbon can update your look.

Step Six- Storage.

If your special occasion corsets are going back into the cupboard for an extended stay, remember to pack them away with love so they come out looking their best! Make sure you took care of step one’s cleaning and freshening suggestions before you pack away. Our bespoke corsets come in branded boxes that are perfect for stopping the laces tangling up with other items and stacking neatly away from dust and damage. However if you want to see what you’re looking for without opening 10 different boxes then we do sell corset storage bags which are designed to hang up in your wardrobe, made of clear mesh (and can be customised to the colours of your corset for easy identification) so you can see at a glance what pleasures await you! For an extra special touch why not put a little dried lavender or rose petals in a bag along with your corset? They’ll come out smelling like Summer!

storage bags for corsets
A corset bag is an ideal way to neatly keep your collection on display!

Did we miss out your favourite tip? Let us know your essential guide!

Photo Story: Studio Life

studio life

When I think about it, studio life is really my happy place! It’s an arena of challenge and small victories, layering unique aesthetics, trial and error, and midnight eureka moments! It is buckets of tea, contemplative practices, refinement and continual development and learning. I feel so lucky to walk up the stairs to my busy, often messy and creatively chaotic workspace every day! So as I look ahead to the businesses thirteenth birthday I thought it would be nice to share a little glimpse into working practice in the studio, illustrated with photography from Sam Irvine. These photos were actually taken in my previous studio but very little has changed apart from the view from the window!

Cutting Out

You never quite get past the excitement and mild anxiety of marking and cutting a new piece of luxurious cloth. It’s the moment of no return, the start of your adventure. Many of my corsets are formed from two, three, or even four different layers of cloth, an elegant fashion layer of vibrant textured silk or smooth, cool satin. Robust cotton, woven as densely as can be to support the tension of the garment, and a light soft lining to protect the skin. Each must be cut and marked individually, layered and stitched to act as one unit, strength, beauty and comfort combined.

Inserting The Busk

Corsetry is full of tools, components and materials that are completely unique to the craft. The busk is one of my favourite examples. You’ll never find this remarkably simple and effective item anywhere other than in a corsetiere’s kit bag! It was developed in the industrial revolution and remains mostly unchanged, bar a few upgrades such as a glittery finish or a smooth rust proof coating to the steel. The main reason I love it so much is that choosing the correct busk type is crucial to the comfort and fit of a corset. You may need a spoon busk to smooth and support a post partum stomach, a flexible busk with a little reinforcement for a slender figure without much waist reduction. Whatever your requirements, there’s a transformative busk for you!

Stitching

There’s something very meditative about spending a lot of time at the sewing machine- you have to remain focused on your task but the rhythm of the steady stitch, the hum of the motor, the timing of easing a pin out just before the needle hits it is quite ritualistic and draws you into a reverie of it’s own. My machine is nearly 50 years old and she doesn’t look so fancy these days, but she’s been my reliable friend since the first days of the business and we continue to take care of each other.

Pressing

Though it may look like it’s “just ironing” pressing is one of the quieter arts of studio life. It has an array of trusty tools, untreated wood “clappers” “tailors anvils” and sawdust filled “hams” help you to compress the steamed cloth into sharp lines or set into rounded curves, letting it slowly cool under the weight before it can be moved. This step can’t be hurried, and when given time, it transfigures flat cloth into devastating hourglass curves.

 

Handsewing

I always finish my bespoke projects by handsewing the bias binding closed at the top and bottom edge of the corset. This final stage of attention and care is one of those indefinable elements that elevates a piece of work to looking precious, and different to something mass produced. This is a labour of patience. It can only be done with time and care so I put on an audiobook, or an album I’ve been waiting to listen to, and absorb it as stitch by stitch, the project draws to a close.

Studio life this week revolves around working on two new photoshoot samples for a Sally Sparrow workshop in between your commissions! The time pressure is on but it’s exciting to be trying out a few ideas that I’ve been working on behind the scenes! I hope your week is filled with creativity and happiness.