Focus On A Bespoke Corset Commission

Bespoke corset with matching silk lingerie

A journey into waist training

Ever wondered what it’s like to order a bespoke corset? To work with a craftsman to create something uniquely yours, never to be repeated? Here’s a very special commission I worked on recently. Made for a male client who had never even tried a corset on before he contacted me last Autumn.

My client was looking to begin waist training, and wanted corsets that were lightweight to fit discreetly under clothing. Initially he was interested in an overbust style but after looking at his requirements I recommended an underbust. This would fit better with his lifestyle and would prove easier to camouflage as underwear. He decided on a waist training starter kit, including an Edwardian underbust and ribbon corset with suspenders and a camisole. These pieces would be made in a way that kept bulk at a minimum whilst remaining sturdy and suitable for regular wear. The concession to this being the choice of using silk ribbons for the ribbon corset! Silk ribbons are not as durable as the grosgrain ribbons I would usually use for these pieces. However they are incomparably luxurious and feel wonderful against the skin. There is a very special lustre to the colours in these ribbons!

We discussed how he would like the corsets to look, and he knew he wanted them to have refined feminine styling. He chose a palette of pale pinks, golds and peach but gave me control over the final choices on fabrics. This was a wonderful opportunity for me, as I love creating soft, feminine looks. Being able to create something precious for this first time corset wearer was a real privilege. We agreed my choices would be a surprise, and I began selecting glowing silks that belonged in a wealthy 19th century ladies trousseau!

Silk, lace and lingerie

My client was able to visit the studio for a personal fitting where I took his measurements. We talked a little more about the style for the corsets, but mostly about his travels through Europe! Fittings aren’t essential for most underbust corsets as I can work from measurements sent in using our instructions at home. However it’s a great chance to efficiently make most of the decisions needed for a bespoke corset order. For some people these meetings can be a little nerve wracking. Particularly where they are unfamiliar with corsets and are expecting someone far scarier than me to be behind the door! But tea and biscuits usually prove that we’re all good friends nice and quickly.

Another result of the fitting was my client choosing a set of our lingerie to be made to match his Edwardian corset. He chose our En Regate set- an underwired bra, delicately strapped panties and a lingerie harness. These would work really well with the colour schemes I had devised and made the set even more complete!

Edwardian bespoke corset in progress

I settled on a rich coral peach silk with a smooth finish for the underbust. It was a great weight of silk to use for the matching lingerie and had a lovely gleam to it. During our meeting we had also talked about gentle colour contrasts, so I decided swirls of symmetrial ivory lace applique would be used to highlight the centre front and hips with graceful motifs. The lingerie looked romantic next to it in the peach silk with ivory strapping. The silk ribbons were very hard to choose- so many exquisite shades, each suggesting a different direction. But in the end I opted for a combination of creamy ivory and tarnished gold, set against silk panels in a dusky rose shot gold dupion.

Unwrapping a treasure

From the fitting to completion of the corsets was around 5 weeks- a little slow thanks to the Christmas rush! but as my client preferred to collect the corsets rather than have them posted it was a while till I was able to present them! I am always excited but nervous to hand over any order- will it meet the vision the client had when they came to me? But especially so when I’ve been given free reign over design on a bespoke corset. I pray that I haven’t misjudged their brief, and that they receive something they wouldn’t have thought to ask for, but have a connection to all the same. Judging by the message I received when he got them home I hit the mark!

“Hi Bethan, WOW, beautifully exquisite creations!

You truly are talented at your profession, thank you for all that you have done for me. I am amazed at how they feel when worn.”

How would you feel if you had opened the box to find these corsets?

Waist training kit with matching custom lingerie
The completed waist training kit with matching lingerie.

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.