Feminine Corset For A Male Tightlacer

A side back view of the overbust corset

We had a wonderful reaction to this vintage inspired overbust commission recently, though what not many people knew was that this generously curvaceous silhouette was made for a male tightlacer!

The finished pink overbust corset in the Orchid studio, complete with suspenders.
The finished corset in the Orchid studio, complete with suspenders.

This rose quartz coutil corset was created for a long term client, who always selects deliciously dramatic designs and I think this particular one may be my favourite to date. The corset is designed to fit over Priscilla’s padded form, but a sweeping waist reduction is still achieved, creating a silhouette that feels like a classic Victorian illustration of the idealised femme.

A side back view of the overbust corset
The dramatic curves of this sculpted corset are perfectly proportioned.

Priscilla came to me with a bag full of milkshake-pink hand dyed coutil and images of 1950’s corselettes, intrigued by subtle details such as satinised cups on matte backgrounds and stitch detailing, looking to create a hybrid that incorporated the rosy femininity of the Dior era lingerie with the structure and shaping power of a corset.

A close up showing detail of cup cording and continuous boning.
Detail of cup cording and continuous boning.

The corset is made in four layers- a central core of canvas with a fashion layer of spot coutil and herringbone coutil lining, 50 steel bones are fanned through the body, accentuating the contours and curves whilst giving exceptional support.

The ballet slipper peach satin cups are corded to enhance the roundness of the bust and the same satin binds the bust and hipline edges. The corset uses a spoon busk front fastening and has 8 removable suspenders in this beautiful rose pink.

A close up of pink suspenders with gold fittings
Suspenders made in pink elastic with warm gold fittings.

I think a great deal of the charm of this corset lies in the simplicity, letting the drama of the hourglass silhouette take centre stage. This also highlights the construction techniques, with the continuous boning and cording adding texture and catching the light beautifully.
Working with this male tightlacer to create a vision of femininity was a real delight, and the end result was even more beautiful than I could have imagined. I hope we have an excuse to make something similarly romantic and resplendent very soon!

A close up of the corset laced with pink satin ribbon.
The perfect shade of pink satin ribbon to lace the corset.

A Guide To Ordering Your Bespoke Bridal Corset

An ivory coutil overbust and underbust corset for a returning client.

It’s such an honour when a bride selects you as the maker of… well, anything intended for her wedding day, because you will be contributing to one of the most memorable days in a persons life, something they may have been dreaming of since childhood, and you have a chance to help them create a truly personal and meaningful occasion. This is one of the great joys of the job, and every year we take on a select number of bridal corset commissions to help weave that web of poise and elegance, and more often than not, it all starts with the underwear.

An ivory coutil overbust and underbust corset for a returning client.

Corsets as bridal underwear

Many of our brides have already lost their heart to an exquisite gown by the time we meet, and their needs are for a garment that will offer some light figure shaping and control with good bust support so that they can avoid the straps of a bra showing. The most popular style for this set of needs is one of our cupped corsets, which offers a more natural, rounded bust shape than the more traditional princess seamed overbust and is a really comfortable style for long periods of wear. The cups are drafted especially for each clients bust, and the lower half of the corset will be made using the panel style that best suits the individuals figure and needs for the day. This allows us to be really responsive to the requirements of the client and to create a bridal corset that is flattering and supportive in all the right ways, and can even be the starting point of a love of corsets for newcomers!

Timescale is the main limiting factor in pieces like this- a cupped overbust is our most involved style where individual engineering is concerned, and we advise clients to expect three toile fittings at our studio in addition to the initial consultation and measurement taking. At present we only offer this style with in-house fittings, so as to provide the very best service possible.  Naturally, the times involved are dependent on how flexible the bride is in attending fittings, but on average we ask brides to plan for beginning the process in earnest at least 3 months prior to the date the corset is required. You would be surprised how quickly that time goes!

This brings us to the main issue we see with bridal underwear commissions- all too often we only hear from our client 6 weeks before her dressmaker needs to see her in all her underwear for the initial fitting or alterations. For many of us, a wedding dress will be the first garment we’ve ever had made from scratch, or had to order 6 months ahead, and it comes as a shock that everything needs to be set in place so early for the process to run smoothly. Shoes and underwear affect the fit of a garment so much more than most of us will realise at the early stages of planning a wedding, and when you bring a corset into the equation the entire fit of the dress is being challenged as proportions are redistributed and your posture is straightened and held snugly in place. There is a lot more for the dressmaker to do than simply make the gown at the reduced waist size, so your underwear should be considered at the same time as the style of dress you intend to commission or buy.


Detail from a Wedgwood blue satin corset with cream lace over and under-lapping boning accents

Bridal corsets as part of your wedding ensemble

It’s become increasingly popular to wear separates instead of a traditional bridal gown, and a corset and skirt combination can be a really great approach to this contemporary bridal styling. A bridal corset is a perfect base for delicate, detailed embellishment of many different types, including trailing organically styled lace appliques, several gently toning shades of silk to highlight the silhouette and create a more architectural aesthetic, or even twinkling clusters of crystal emerging from the hip-line or descending from the bust. Our clients almost always request overbust corsets for this style of outfit (though underbusts or waspies can be used to great effect with Grecian style gowns, or draped sari’s) and the most popular style is our princess seamed overbust which is considered the more classic overbust design, with cuirass style paneling and romantic sweeping lines that lengthen the torso. Fuller busted clients can still opt for the cupped overbust for support and a more personalised approach to the shaping, and either style can be made to give more coverage around the chest and shoulders with a draped halter-neck, or tailored strap.

These pieces usually require a collaboration between the designer of the skirt and ourselves, often including fine details such as purchasing the silks from the same roll so as to avoid any colour variations where a perfect match is required. Again, dates will be crucial, and may be led by whether the skirt maker requires the corset completed for any stage of their fitting or construction process, toiles will still be required for the princess seamed overbust, and a minimum of 3 months should be allowed from first consultation to the required date of completion. These corsets tend to be more demanding from the design and embellishment side, and clear concepts of your wedding theme or desired aesthetics for the bridal outfit will help us to make the corset an integral part, or even a centre-piece of your celebrations.

Soft champagne hues of a silk ribbon corset

Losing weight before the wedding

Our experience with brides over the years has taught us that most women aim to begin a new diet or exercise program leading up to the wedding day, and whilst we understand the drive for a healthy start to your new married life, it is important to consider your goals as early on as you possibly can.  For a corset being created especially for a single event, we cannot work with measurements that are expected to change dramatically. It’s often assumed that because corsets lace up, there is adjustment in the piece, and that it can accommodate you at a smaller size. Whilst this is true, and allowances can be made for more every-day items, the fitting process for a bespoke item of this nature relies on stable body sizes, most particularly for cupped overbust corsets, as the cup shape is drafted to your individual size, and weight loss will inevitably affect your bust-line or volume. Put simply, a corset primarily made for one special day has to be measured and cut to one size. If we allow for weight loss that is not achieved in time, or if the weight loss affects the figure in a different way than predicted, the corset will simply not fit well, and our main goal is to provide you with a beautiful garment that exceeds your needs in every respect.

With this in mind, an ideal situation would run as follows. Let us say that it is August 2014 when you decide on a 1st September 2015 wedding. You already know that you would like a gown by a certain designer, and they have informed you that it will be a 6 month lead time, and you will need your shoes and underwear ready for fittings and alterations 6 weeks before the wedding. This means that you require your corset from us by mid July at the very latest, and with us requiring a minimum of 3 months from first consultation and measurement taking to delivering your finished corset, we would need to meet you in person around mid April, if not earlier. Let us say that you would like to lose half a stone for the wedding day. Allowing a month for you to monitor your new stable weight, you would need to have reached your goal-weight by mid March so that when we meet you for your first consultation, every measurement we take can be relied upon as a fair representation of your size.

Rear view of teal silk cupped-overbust corset.

We still encourage new brides to contact us well ahead of time to make appointments, discuss ideas, and just so that we know to expect you! In particular, our summer bridal demands can be intense, and as there are limited spaces available the earlier we know about your plans, the more options we can make available to you.  An example might be ordering in designer lace from overseas, or sourcing a difficult colour match in your desired fabrics. Even if you fear you are too late for the corset you had originally envisaged, don’t be afraid to give us a call to discuss your needs- we may have an alternative suggestion for you to help you create your desired ensemble, or we may be able to work around your deadlines. Either way, you will find a friendly reception and a creative mind to share ideas with as you dream of your special day. We’ll look forward to hearing from you.

Postcards From The Orchid Corsetry Studio- September 2014

Rear view of teal silk cupped-overbust corset.

In the postbag from the Orchid Corsetry studio this month- birthday celebrations, swan-like elegance sculpted in both ivory and ebony, and cupped corsets galore!

September is always a significant month for us, as on the 6th, it is our business birthday. This date marked 8 years since we began this journey, embarking on a dream of couture and finely sculpted curves, and it was a real pleasure to take a few moments celebrating everything we’ve achieved, and the wonderful people that this path has brought my way.

This month has also been full of wonderful commissions and consultations for Orchid Corsetry. Work flow is at full tilt heading through Autumn, as we work on new pieces for returning clients and welcome a number of newcomers to the studio for discussions about their unique creations- I’ve had the pleasure of seeing familiar faces light up as they try on their latest corset, and fresh ones full of excitement at the dreams about to be realised. Our re-engineered cupped overbust corset has not been officially released yet, as it will be one of the styles that we plan to shoot for SS/15, but this bridal season demanded that it be made available ahead of time, so we have been taking commissions for this most advanced style in droves. You can see some of the results and the early stages that go into making these pieces this month, as the first sample piece has been completed. Just a preview for now though- I wouldn’t want to spoil your appetite.

Orchid Corsetry's 8th birthday cake.
To celebrate our 8th year of couture corsetry, we ended the day with a cake inspired by my favourite cocktail, the Aviation. This is a prohibition era combination of gin, violette and a maraschino cherry, which made a fabulous vegan-friendly cake, though the icing is ample proof of why I am a professional corsetiere and an amateur baker.
Waspie corset in black herringbone coutil.
I really love making our waspies. They are a 14 paneled design, and are a great vehicle for bolder fabrics or design flourishes than one might typically choose on an everyday underbust, however, as with this piece, they still look great as a simpler architectural piece. This piece is the second I have made for the client, and a first foray into the busk and 14 panel style for them. The sweeping shape of this corset is kept simple in plain black herringbone coutil with double boning on each seam for a firm and supportive “hug” each time it is worn.
Rear view of teal silk cupped-overbust corset.
It was high time we got a cupped corset sample together for our new mannequins, so here is a preview of the rear. This piece was made in a teal silk taffeta chosen by our Facebook followers a few months back, and uses delicate fronds of layered silver and gold lace to create a regal and striking effect. The boning is laid in double surface channels, centre stitched with a flash of metallic gold that catches the light.
An ivory coutil overbust and underbust corset for a returning client.
I just found time to capture these two corsets while waiting for them to be collected by a regular client who has been with us for several years. With a delicate, feminine and retro styling, they matched in perfectly with the other lingerie collections they will accompany from day to day. The overbust is styled as a corselette with chunky straps and a high, pointed bust-line, and had the most graceful and swan-like beauty when worn.
Two sample bras ready for a bespoke fitting.
Due to the technical challenges of achieving a really critical fit with a cupped overbust corset, we begin our fitting process on the first consultation with the trial of our own draft of cup sizes (made in the same materials as our corsets) in order to assess the sizing and needs of the client as early as possible. Slowly we are building up a “bra library” of different sizes to make this possible, as with this client’s visit, where we tried both a 32E and 34D for size. A little extra work at the start, but it all contributes to a vastly improved understanding of each client’s unique requirements.
Training corset in nude coutil with zip fastening.
Awaiting dispatch, this is a classic nude coutil training corset, made in our 12 panel underbust style with the intention of ultimate discretion beneath clothing. It uses a single sturdy layer of herringbone coutil with a zip fastening and fine satin cord to cut down on bulk and visible outlines under fitted outfits, and will provide a comfortable and supportive underwear staple for any wardrobe or lifestyle.
A close-up of cup detailing on a cupped overbust.
Another cupped overbust that has gone to it’s new owner this month. This piece uses a three part power-bar and balconette cup to offer great lift and cleavage, with a chiffon halterneck piece to frame the finished effect beautifully. This commission began with the glorious green and black swirl brocade, and developed with subtle touches such as the softening picot lace trim at the bust-line, and the ruffle of brocade that fastens the halterneck. The beauty of these pieces is the ability to balance fine-tuned technical design choices with a finish that flatters the wearer, and offers excellent support and shaping.

Postcards From The Orchid Corsetry Studio- August 2014

A princess seamed overbust in silver and purple silk, with accented panels.

In the Orchid Corsetry postbag this month- new arrivals (both for us and our clients!) experimentation and new design flourishes, as well as a glimpse of what is next in line for us as we set up our winter into spring plans.

Our main bridal work is drawing to a close for the year, and it’s been wonderful to work on so many pieces designed to be worn as part of the bridal ensemble, as our contribution to a wedding is often never visible to the guests! This has taken up most of August’s order book, but we still found time for a few beautiful pieces for our regular clients as well as a few moments to complete a sample piece that has been sitting accusingly half finished in the cupboard for too long! With a brief pause between this very busy period and the usual flow of training corsets and costume pieces that come through our doors, we are also planning ahead for a photo-shoot that we hope will take place early next year. This will refresh the Orchid Corsetry website images and add to the heritage of brand artwork that we’ve been steadily investing in over the last few years. If you’re not in the industry it’s hard to get across just how much love and energy goes into each and every photo-shoot that takes place, whether we’re shooting two looks or ten, but I’m excited about the chance to showcase our latest styles and ideas for you all to consider as you plan your commissions.

A close up showing covered eyelets on a pink corset
This is one of three corsets ordered by a returning client from overseas. She was keen to keep the delicacy of the beautiful fabrics she’d chosen as paramount, so we made fabric coverings for the busks and eyelets on her corsets. I love the neat and sleek effect it has, and may well use this again on some of our own designs!
Our new mannequins installed in the Orchid studio.
An exciting new delivery for us this month- our two new mannequins made to co-ordinate with our current linen covered wasp waisted mannequin Genevieve. These are in two different sizes for exhibiting some of our existing pieces, and from left to right in the front row you can see our Edwardian underbust with matching bra, our 14-panel silk mesh training-corset with silk camisole, and a cupped overbust in Chantilly lace.
A close up showing the pattern matching of a peacock motif fabric on an underbust corset.
This commission was based on the clients desire to have something so beautiful that she would be inspired to wear it every day, so together we built up this design, using an elaborate peacock motif fabric matched over the centre front and back seams, embellished with tiny azure Swarovski crystals in the eyes of the peacock feathers. We also toned the busk and eyelets to the gilt detailing that runs throughout the fabric.
A princess seamed overbust in silver and purple silk, with accented panels.
This piece has been awaiting completion for some time. It’s a sample that was designed for our wasp waisted mannequin, and gave us a chance to use the gorgeous simple lines of the princess seamed overbust to create an architecturally beautiful corset. The purple silk taffeta was used to exaggerate the natural heart shape of the neck line, and the plunging back edge, whilst using a single silk covered boning channel to intertwine with the different seams, flowing with the lines of the body and the embellishment.
A set of three corsets embellished and ready to go to their new home.
It was great to hear that the set of three corsets for our client mentioned above reached their destination towards the end of the month! This lucky lady received a cupped overbust, Edwardian underbust and waspie to add to her collection of Orchid corsets, each and every one a beautifully feminine concoction.
The beginnings of a corset design being sketched out.
As the month draws to a close we begin putting into place the designs that will form the core of next years photo-shoots. The first one is due to bring together several different elements of design that I’ve been toying with behind the scenes, so watch this space for teasers and updates!