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?

Competition Time!

Competition winner Amethyst Skye in a green corset

Spring is here! And we’re having a little competition to celebrate reaching 40,000 followers on Instagram! If you’d like to win a £200 Orchid Corsetry gift voucher then now is your chance to get snap happy! A few simple steps for your chance to enter before 30/4/19-

  1. Take a picture in your favourite Orchid corset, lingerie or accessory. It can be a selfie, taken by a friend or even a professional photographer if you like!
  2. If possible share the picture on social media (though we do accept email entries too) tagging us @OrchidCorsetry on Instagram and Orchid Corsetry on Facebook and use the hashtag #OrchidSelfie
  3. Tell us how you feel when you’re wearing the garment! Do you feel powerful? graceful? confident? sensuous?

Competition winner Amethyst Skye in her teal overbust corset

Some top tips for entries that make an impact!

  1. Be creative! Choose a beautiful or unexpected location for your shot- sometimes a dramatic backdrop is right around the corner!
  2. Get friends involved! Either helping to take a great photo or even posing with you! Couple shots are very welcome!
  3. Lighting is key- make sure we can see what you’re wearing!
  4. Remember we want to see ALL our clients! It would be lovely to see some of our male and trans clients strutting their stuff this year!
  5. Be aware that we may share entries on social media so feel free to disguise your identity if that’s what you’d prefer to do.
  6. Multiple entries welcome! The more the better!

The images in this post are from last year’s competition winner Amethyst Skye, with most photos taken by Diana Suder.

Remember- the deadline is the 30th April so don’t delay- shot today!

Competition winner wearing corset in a library

Pricing, Projects, and Christmas!

Green silk Edwardian underbust

Christmas Orders

Each year, the last order dates for Christmas sneak up on me! We’re skipping merrily through October and then suddenly I’m all booked up till Christmas and I don’t know where the time has gone. I had plans for a gift guide this year but by the time it was appropriate to post it (I hate bringing these things up too early!) We had so few spaces left for realistic on-time delivery that it seemed rather pointless. To be clear. at this point you are welcome to order but we can no longer guarantee that your order will be be completed in time for last post dates. Smaller items like chokers or harnesses are ok but corsets and lingerie will be sent in January! We still have gift vouchers though, if you missed the boat!

Close up of suspenders on Perle Luxe
Perle Luxe

Pricing

However there is still a reason to get your orders in now if you can, as in January we will be raising our prices by around 10% across bespoke and made to order pieces. I have mentioned this in passing on Social Media but for those of you who have found us more recently I have put this off for over 3 years now, despite our costs going up. I’m reluctant to raise prices as I know how much of an investment corsetry is for our clients, many of whom are not wealthy but are passionate about supporting our work. Please know that we truly appreciate the choices you make! But I trust that the craftsmanship and care we take with our client’s requests will continue to speak to the true value of what we do. Please feel welcome to place orders through the online shop or contact us for your bespoke requests if you want to secure your 2018 prices. Remember that bespoke quotes given now will only be valid until the end of December, and you will need to pay your deposit before then to secure the quote.

Ivory Flame shot by Gill McGowan

Looking Ahead

I’m looking forward to 2019 and working with clients old and new! I intend to spend the Christmas break (21st December to the 7th January) thinking about the creative direction of the business. I love what we do but I feel that I’ve lost some focus on designing in what I can only describe as an “authentic” way. The pieces I’ve made that get the greatest response from you are the ones where I was really digging into my personal aesthetic and influences but somewhere along the road last year I feel that I fell into a bit of a ditch of trying to predict the market instead of being true to my own instincts. I’ve never been a commercially minded person (despite the need to make a living!) and to me this really is an art form, it’s my main creative outlet and it still brings me so much joy. So I want to have the bravery to return to that scary, vulnerable place where you face the public with a piece of your soul, asking those people to join you on a journey where you haven’t quite picked an end destination but you have planned a scenic route. And you packed cookies.

As always, thankyou to everyone who has been with us so far, you are great travel companions! May your holiday be happy and filled with loved ones, whatever you choose to celebrate.

Beth

 

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

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.