Lockdown, Locking Corsetry And Punishment Corsets

Close up of locking corsetry

Something has become very apparent to me over lockdown. It announced itself with tentative emails from new clients, most of whom were complete newcomers to corsetry as well as to my door. These weren’t practical daily wear corsets they were seeking either- questions about elaborate locking corsetry, punishment corsets and decadent fetish pieces came up again and again. As these clients began to explain their stories, and talk about what had lead them to finally making contact after a life of curiosity, I realised we had all been given a bit of a wake up call.

lose up of cupped overbust

When our routines and our plans and our security were summarily cancelled a few months ago, some of us took a look at ourselves in this new hush we found ourselves in. We began to question why we’d been denying ourselves things that held our hearts so fast. I don’t want to seem glib here, as I know that for some of my clients, corsets are something fun that they indulge in, and there have been serious hardships and sacrifices made during this crisis. However I also know from nearly 14 years of working with trans clients, crossdressers and fetishists that corsets can be a part of a deeply fulfilling practice of self actualisation and acknowledging a part of themselves that is absolutely vital to their well-being and happiness.

Close up of locking buckles

The frank and open conversations I was having with these new clients kept returning to emotions, to roots of this long held passion or self knowledge in childhood- seeing a particular actress on stage or a style of nostalgic dress that has fascinated them for a lifetime. And yet, those dreams have been subdued for years, put to one side in order to fulfil other people’s requirements from them, or perhaps from trepidation of the unknown. However, this catastrophic shock to the system in whole and our lives in particular has left us reeling, and questioning something simple and profound of our secret hearts. If not now, then when?

sketches for locking corsetry

I would also add that something I frequently hear from my fetishist clients is how this other world they build for themselves (or with a partner) is pure immersive escapism, and how during times of stress it can be a refuge to open a drawer full of transportive garments and items. How the touch of certain materials is enough to push away a hard day or the smell of leather change a mindset. One client calls his corset from me “a holiday in a box!” It strikes me that there can never have been a time so fitting to have the means at home with which to lose oneself so completely.

 

There was one hurried video I published to YouTube back in January that seemed to be the siren call to all these new enquiries. It was a commission from late 2019 featuring a locking punishment corset for a male client, with locking panels inspired by a Edwardian bathing corset! You can see it here-

Something about this corset has really captured imaginations, or possibly just a new audience as I’ve tried to reach out through this new platform a little more. It was so commonly referenced in new enquiries that I started to keep a tally! The thing is, I’ve been so eager to work on corsetry like this and had come to believe that there wasn’t really much demand at the level I work at. These pieces are seriously labour intensive (my most recent commission used 20 metres of steel boning which all had to be individually cut and tipped into around 60 bones) and there is an unavoidable cost attached to this. Not to mention that I really dream of working on locking corsetry with an opulent, couture approach, which makes the process even more exclusive. Working with exquisite French lace, lovingly handstitched to jewel toned, gleaming silks- the juxtaposition of delicacy and luxurious indulgence against a hard working and well engineered fetish corset.

I’ve been delighted to find not only imaginative, creative clients through this process, but also some who share my vision for blending a detailed and lavish aesthetic with sleek locking mechanisms, so there will certainly be some exciting pieces to show you in the coming weeks and months! but in the meantime, here is a second video of a different style of locking corsetry, fully removing access to the lacing and fastenings. I’m fascinated by the subtleties involved in making these deeply personal pieces- every tiny decision has a lot of thought and intention behind it.

Another interesting note is that most of my new commissions have needed to be built for self locking! Either because the client plans to use it entirely unaided, or because they are sometimes away from their partner and need to be able to follow orders remotely. I will be releasing another video soon showing how to self lock your corset if this is of interest to you! However I have also been looking into some very interesting technology that could play a part for couples using our locking corsetry! Watch this space!

If you have questions about your own locking corsetry commission then please feel welcome to contact us.

Corsetry Q&A Video, And Our New YouTube Channel!

Image credit- Sinopa Rin shot by Francis Kinsella

For some time, I’ve been thinking that it would be fun to do a corsetry Q&A session. I know from conversations with new clients that a lot of the same questions come up regularly, which suggests the information isn’t easy to find online. I have tried to cover a lot of popular topics in this blog but not everyone has the time to trawl through years worth of posts seeking their answers! (incidentally I do have a corset information hub at the footer of the website- do click here for a nice summary of links you might find useful!)

I had also pledged to do more with video for the business this year as I know I’ve neglected it in the past- so, long story short, we now have a YouTube channel! It’s very new so your support is especially appreciated, you can subscribe here if you’re feeling generous!

Silk underbust corset with suspenders, corsetry Q&A

So, feeling a little like the new kid at school, I asked what you wanted to know about corsetry in general, my work in particular, and anything else you had a burning question about! I was so overjoyed at the response, and had a lot of fun answering your insightful queries. Some of you who know me a little better will know I’m fairly techno-phobic so learning to edit video has been a real learning curve. Added into the mix were seemingly endless technology issues from a broken data transfer cable, to the limitations of my smartphones video capacity, and a sudden loss of internet for days at a crucial moment! There was plenty of colourful language and self medicating with chocolate biscuits.

I have some ideas for the next few videos but I’d really love to hear from you if there’s something you’d like me to focus on in future. I want to talk to you in more depth about the tools I work with, walk you around some of our most popular corset styles in the shop, some instructional videos on self lacing and measuring for a corset perhaps! But please contact us if you have any ideas.

Well, without further ado, here’s Orchid’s first corsetry Q&A! It’s very long so in the comments I’ve listed times each new question starts, so you can fast forward to where you want to be.

Valentine’s Style Guide 2020

Miss Deadly red wearing a Seirian waspie

When I say the words “Valentine’s Style” to you, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Novelty lingerie? red and pink shiny satin? fluffy handcuffs maybe? There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but perhaps it’s not very personal to who we really are. Whether or not you celebrate Valentine’s it’s a great excuse to break out those special pieces in your collection and remind yourself why you fell in love with them in the first place! Even if it’s just you and you’re not leaving the house. In fact especially if that’s what you’re planning!

I thought this would be a nice opportunity to share some of my favourite looks from our standard size range along with some styling tips if you feel like playing around with your trusted ensembles! All photography is by Sally Sparrow and models are individually credited.

Model wears a pink silk waspie for a valentines style showcase

Miss Deadly Red certainly is a sweetheart too! She wears our Seirian Luxe waspie with lingerie from Playful Promises (discontinued) I personally love an unashamedly romantic lingerie set, dainty pastel shades flatter a lot of different skin tones and there is a classic pin-up feel to it which always makes me feel nostalgic for ice cream sodas and carousels. Our Seirian Luxe is a great way to add a bit of edge to a look like this because the hip cording adds structure and texture, and the strapping gives a hint of mischief! Just enough to keep it seductive and tantalising!

Styling tips- If you have a really specific coloured corset and finding matching lingerie is giving you a headache, look to neutrals and complimentary colours instead. This pastel pink would look fresh and airy with ivory lingerie, or soft and tonal with pale grey!

Model wears black mesh waspie with suspender belt

Blossom And Buttercups knows how to pull focus! She wears our Eirlys waspie with Honey Birdette suspender belt, Bettie Page bullet bra and jacket by House Of CB. My favourite thing about this look is the mix of styles- A touch of showmanship with the jacket, vintage glamour from the bullet bra, curves and drama from the waspie with a contemporary twist from the strappy suspender belt and garters. Also- how underrated are fishnets with a look like this? I feel like this is the start of a super villain costume.

Styling tips- Don’t be afraid to layer your pieces and experiment with clothes outside your lingerie drawer! I’m a huge fan of bodysuits with corsets, especially if lingerie heavy looks aren’t your thing! I would love to see this ensemble with some draping body chains or maybe our Morgan harness. 

model wears overbust corset with lace detail

Erin Williams is the epitome of sophistication in our Meriel overbust corset with leather and lace skirt from Edge O’ Beyond. Sometimes simplicity speaks loudest, especially when you have so much detail to drink in on your corset! This Valentine’s style is one you could take out of the house (albeit with bravery, as the skirt has sheer sides!) and I think it perfectly blends the craftsmanship and romance of the lace corset with the more suggestive elements of leather and mesh on the skirt. An outfit for cigarette holders and cool-as-ice sangfroid.

Styling tips- Mix textures and details- if you have a corset or lingerie with a lot of embellishment or pattern then teaming it with something complimentary but plain can really let it take centre stage!

model wears red waspie with mesh panels, holding a cat. Classic valentines style

Well, I couldn’t leave out our Seirian now, could I! Sally Sparrow wears our classic Seirian with Inira lingerie with help from Diego the cat. Red lingerie is certainly a Valentine’s style staple but I think the fetish inspired edge to this makes it stand out from the crowd. Our Inira lingerie layers so well with this corset, and the strappy elements overlap so deliciously. This look is playful but bold, full of sensuality and confidence. If it was a cocktail it would be a Mai Tai.

Styling tips- A must have accessory for this look is our Branwen garters! These are a new addition to our collection and are great to add in for those times you don’t want to wear stockings but want the lines of the suspenders to stand proud.

model wears a pink silk and black lace corset

Miss Deadly Red again! wearing our Vala underbust in Hibiscus pink silk with her own black lingerie. I feel this photo perfectly shows how to style our ultra curvy Vala underbust. The mesh panels offer you a great opportunity to show off detailed high waisted underwear, changing the opacity and the lines on display. Although we’re looking at a pink silk corset, often shown as submissive or retiring, it feels powerful and daring. The lace detail adds a little art deco aesthetic but the whole feel is architectural and strong. I feel this outfit is channelling Sofia Loren, don’t you?

Stying tips- Think about the ways you can break up the lines on the body to emphasise the waist, the hips, to frame your bust. Some lingerie looks will work better than others with your frame, and especially if you bring a corset into the mix! Colour contrast is another good way to do this- using a bolder colour at the points you want to highlight!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of lingerie delights! The beauty of our designs is how many pieces can be mixed and matched across ranges- if you want one last Valentine’s Style tip, look at our Inira and Caron ranges- they can be swapped around to your heart’s content! If you have any queries, we’re always really happy to advise, just drop us a line.

An A To Z Of Corsetry Terms For Beginners

Salleh Sparrow and Georgia A wearing Orchid Corsetry and Katherine Davidson

It seems that one way or another we are lucky enough to get a lot of beginners just finding their feet with corsetry at our virtual door. The world of corsets is a funny one, full of archaic terms and odd calculations.  But it’s also a really welcoming community, full of people with a shared passion and a wide variety of experiences, and I hope you find a happy little family here.

The Lingo

I hope to grow this into a little series, so to start us off what could be better than building up our vocabulary?! As beginners, nothing can make you feel excluded like people using words you don’t fully understand, so let’s call this your reference library for all things corset, or your babel fish if you like your geekery as I do.

If a word is in bold it’s because it has a description in our list should you need to reference it!

Bespoke– If you’ve spent a little while on our site you may have spotted that we have two different sorts of corset that we offer at two different prices. Bespoke and Made to order.  Bespoke is our more exclusive (and expensive) option and it essentially means that all elements of the corset are chosen by you, and that it is made from a unique pattern built from a large number of your own measurements. There will likely be fittings and toiles to ensure comfort and a flattering fit. For a beginners first corset you may not feel this is necessary, but clients who waist train or take a significant waist reduction will quickly need to move onto this option! It’s an opportunity to create a deeply personal piece with levels of comfort that simply cannot be achieved any other way!

Fetish Luxe Collection
Anita DeBauch shot by Sally Sparrow photography

Boning – We still call the corset supports and the process of inserting them “boning” even though it’s been many years since we stopped hunting whales for their precious baleen. Nowadays, if I talk about your corset boning I’m more than likely talking about flat and spiral steel, as illustrated below. Some people think that it’s boning that creates the waist reduction but you can now correct them! Boning prevents the corset from wrinkling at the waist under the tension of tightlacing. It also gives support to the compressed body, and can play a part in adjusting your posture.

Busk – The busk is the front fastening you will come across on a lot of corsets in my shop. It consists of two steel bones, one of which has hooks riveted securely on, and the other has studs to meet them. The patent for the first busk was registered in 1829 and we have not altered it much! There are many different types but this is more than likely what is inside your corset. They make it much easier to get in and out of your corset on your own and as they come in a wide variety of colours and functional styles, they play a part in the beauty and support of your finished garment!

busk description for begginers

Corsetiere– This is the proper term for the person who makes your corsets! Corsetmaker is also fine, but doesn’t corsetiere feel nicer to say? If you want more of a glimpse into my job, here’s another blog post for you.

studio life

Cinch– You may hear about waist cinchers (a type of corset, usually intended for light waist reduction) or asked how much you “cinch” down by. This is effectively another term for waist reduction, or the action of reducing your waist!

Blush silk ribbon corset from rear

Eyelets – Technically we use the higher quality “grommets” for the lacing section of our corsets, but eyelets is the better known term. These metal rings are set into the fabric to reinforce it sufficiently for us to reduce the waist and tighten the lacing time and time again. In earlier styles, hand embroidered eyelets were used until the metal eyelet was invented in 1828, meaning corsets could be laced tighter than ever before, without fear of tearing of the fabric.

Made To Order – This is where most beginners will start their corset wearing journey with us. These corsets are significantly cheaper than bespoke pieces because they are made to a standard size pattern, meaning they will fit most people pretty well! These corsets are a great way to test the waters, experiment with styling your corset and have some fun! Being made to order means these corsets are not sitting, waiting to be posted out to you – we give you lots of options for you to create your perfect “pick and mix” corset look and then make it once you’ve ordered it. This allows us flexibility if you have any special requests or need sizing on the pattern tweaked to work better for you!

Off The Rack – Also known as OTR or RTW (ready to wear) we sell made to order corsets instead as we like to offer you lots of choice, but OTR corsets are also made to a standard size pattern, typically mass produced and ready to be popped through your letterbox! Again, these are a fun way for beginners to experiment with corsetry if you don’t have any specialist fit requirements.

Corset information- A perle mesh corset
Perle in dove grey, a perfect corset for beginners

Standard Size – Fun fact – there’s really no such thing as a size 10. Every clothing store has their own special set of measurements based on market research which are used to develop their clothing patterns. For instance, their target market might be curvy and full busted, or more petite making the body lengths shorter. In our case, our patterns are based on 13 years of bespoke client information, trying to create styles and sizing that will work for our main groups. It won’t be perfect for everyone, but my experience of fitting and selling these corsets is that they are very versatile in providing a flattering and comfortable fit.

Valentines waspie with Inira lingerie
Sally Sparrow and Diego!

Tightlacing – Here’s a useful term. Tightlacing is the insider word for wearing your corset, for me it tends to infer that you wear your corsets regularly but you do not waist train. However the practice of waist training is really tightlacing daily with the intention of greater figure alteration!

Miss Deadly Red wears the Rosette pink Seirian Luxe
Miss Deadly Red wears the Seirian Luxe in Rosette Pink shot by Sally Sparrow

Toile – Pronounced “twarrrl“! If you’re having a bespoke corset you will likely come across these! Essentially a toile is your intended corset pattern made up in a basic fabric in order to test the fit, comfort and style in real life. A good friend of mine says that “measurements are a 2D version of a 3D reality” and she’s absolutely right! A toile lets us see where we need to develop and improve from what the tape measure told us. A toile will likely be very rough and simple to look at, but it is the key to unlocking a corset that feels like a second skin.

Training Corset – Generally speaking, a corset intended for waist training tends to be bespoke as it needs to fit the wearer really well to be comfortable for long hours of daily wear. We will put a lot of thought into engineering it to be durable, suitable for the environment of the wearer (it may need to be used in a hot climate or worn discreetly to work) and ensuring it offers the right type of support for the amount of reduction being taken and any other requirements the wearer has. Training corsets can look very simple but there’s a lot of knowledge and skill in bringing the right corset to the right wearer!

Male Corsetry

Waist Reduction – When you’re asked to calculate your waist reduction we’re talking about what the corset is built to cinch you down by. For beginners buying their first corset this is more than likely to be 2-4″ or 5-10cm but a lot of factors can alter this. Confused? We have a sneaky tip to help you find your ideal starter reduction – take your tape measure and note your natural waist measurement.  Then slowly cinch down until it’s no longer comfortable for you (remember that your corset will distribute the pressure more evenly) this second measurement will indicate your potential corseted waist size!

Pink silk Edwardian underbust

Waist Training – You may have heard people talk about their waist training plans. The goal is to create semi-permanent figure modifications through wearing your corset consistently over time (see Tightlacing) Waist training means that you can slowly build up the hours you spend in your corset and subsequently wear a smaller waist size of corset. It is about patience, dedication and persistence. It’s not for overnight results or quick wins! But if you want to achieve a dramatic silhouette, this is the route to it. We sell starter waist training kits which are a great way to care for yourself while you embark on this process. Some beginners do go straight onto waist training but for most it’s a more gradual approach!

Back view of chantilly lace overbust

 

Did we miss out a term you’re curious about? Let us know! We’ll be happy to add it. What would you like our next beginners article to focus on?

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.