Corsetry Courses and Workshops - how to spot fakes
|It came to my attention over the weekend, that the content on my School of Corsetry webpage for Sew Curvy Corsetry Courses, has yet again been copied verbatim by a sewing teacher jumping on the corsetry bandwagon, but as usual, being unable to understand the content enough to be able to deliver it herself in a meaningful way.|
This last case was one I actually spotted last year when the owner of said establishment, apologised profusely and promised to rectify the situation immediately. A year down the line, and here we are again. She didn't rectify it, and the offending copy is still on her website. It should have been removed immediately, so obvious is the plaigarism and intellectual property theft.
The one on the left is the copycat, on the right is my own copy written more than 6 years ago.
But how do I know all this? The usual way I find out. Their students are coming to me deeply dissatisfied at having attended the 'fake' course and asking me to teach them. Properly this time. They have been so confused that they haven't even been able to verbalise what they were taught when I asked them!
The first was a novice to sewing so one might think perhaps she was too new ... but the most recent is a seasoned fashion designer, and she is just as mystified.
In view of this, I thought I'd write a fool proof guide on how to find and research the best corsetry teachers and courses and how to spot a fake corsetry course from a mile off.
First of all, and most obviously, look for pictures.
When you find a corsetry course, are there any pictures advertising said workshop? If there are pictures what are they? For example, I have recently seen courses advertised using pictures of factory made corsets from chinese manufacturers. If a teacher has no work of his or her own to show, then don't go there. It's as simple as that. How do you know where the pictures are from? Image search on Google if they look even mildly 'product' like.
So, there are pictures that seem to be of corsets made by the person presenting the course. Yay! But lets be sure about this .. Is it a picture of a corset, or is it a picture of a bodice that looks like a corset?
If it's a proper corset, there will be a definate hourglass shape, it will be an extreme looking shape if displayed on the correct type of mannequin. If there is a 'normal' shape on a regular mannequin, it's not a corset.
Expect to learn how to make a bodice that looks like a corset.
A real corset on a wasp waisted mannequin. An authentic corset will not fit on a regular mannequin smoothly. You need to look for shape if you want to learn how to make a genuine corset.
How many pictures are there of actual corsets? One? Two? Lots? This is important. Corset making is addictive - if someone is qualified to teach corsetry, they will have ALOT of corsets to show in the pictures. Whether they are good or not is a matter of taste and judgement.. if you don't like them, find a teacher whose work you do like. The important thing is that there are pictures of proper corsets, preferably on people. Even more preferably, on people in prior classes.
Once it is established that the pictures in the course description have indeed been made by the teacher, and that they are proper, shape defining, waist reducing corsets, you need to make sure you know which one you will be making on the course. This should be clearly stated.
The teacher should have a pattern you can follow. Yes. You need a pattern. I'll come to patterns later. If it isn't clear which corset/pattern you're making, those Spidey senses should be going off.
Are there pictures of a class in progress?
If not, why not? It may be the teachers first class, but honestly, i'd expect a few action shots because most people who teach corsetry will have started off small, perhaps with a few friends and/or collegues. There should be pictures of corset making in action or proud owners wearing their freshly made corsets. If there isn't, ask yourself why there isn't.
If all that checks out, check the copy.
The course description should be coherent and make sense.
If you're unsure, or you want to double, triple and quadruple check, just copy and paste some of the text into google and find out if it appears anywhere else. If your text appears below another bunch of identical text, then it's a copy, because google will always prioritise the original text. Which actually makes copying somewhat pointless in the first place.
If a teacher cannot write their own course description, it is highly likely they can't teach their own content either! It's all very well saying "that's how all corsets are made" but it isn't actually. Everyone does things differently and there are enough professional corsetieres in the world teaching corsetry their own way with their own course descriptions, with excellent work behind them. I should know, I made a whole Conference for them and part of the creative process for a corset maker is finding these processes that work for them. If you can't describe them yourself, you can't do them, and you certainly can't teach them.
|A few years ago, a state run higher education establishment copied me. They absolutely refused to admit liability because litigation, but they swiftly removed the content and the 'teacher' of that course was given no more work. Their excuse was "she worked for McQueen" .. Sorry, what? She still copied my work. What did she do at McQueen? Wash cups? draw roses? scrub the floor? Who knows. But the fact that Alexander McQueen himself had his corsets made by Mr Pearl in Paris, tells you what you need to know about that.|
Now lets talk about patterns...
Corset pattern drafting is an extremely complicated business. It takes a whole day to teach my method and that's before we've even looked at half a metre of calico for the toile. There is maths involved. There is much head scratching and brow wrinkling. My mantra during my corset pattern drafting courses is "don't worry, keep going, trust me, it'll all make sense in the end" ... They keep going and indeed by the end of day two, it all makes sense in the end. That's how long it takes to teach the very BASICS of effective flat patterning for corsetry. Draping corsetry on the stand is even more complex in some ways so don't accept that as an easy way to do it.
In short, any corset making course which promises to 'draft your pattern from your measurements and make a corset in two days" is rubbish. It's not possible. It just isn't. Trust me on this. I've been teaching for nearly 10 years, I'm good at relaying complex information in a simple way, but teaching corset patterning is very very hard and it just isn't possible to teach a class how to produce a good bespoke pattern that fits, in one day.
|These gorgeous four ladies came to the last pattern making course I ran last summer - I only ever teach it on request these days because it is so hard. It took them two days to get here. You know, they are all clever girls. Kath on top left has been to several of my classes and is very familiar with corset making, Chris top right is a high flying professional, Danute bottom left is the head couturier of a very famous couture house, she can drape things you can't even imagine, and Renee bottom right is literally a Rocket Scientist. These are the patterns they created over 2 days. And we were all exhausted by the end of it!|
There is only one course I know which will teach you how to make a proper corset pattern followed by a proper corset. It takes a very intense 5 days, and it is my own Summer School course. There may be others that I don't know about, or some in Higher Education or costume courses, but even they are not so specialised. Top designers leave corsetry to the pros - that's why we have Mr Pearl.
How much should I pay?
A good corset making course will cost. I'm sorry to say this but you get what you pay for. Anything under £300 for 2-3 days will not be worth the paper your money is printed on. Why? Because corsetry is a skill. It takes years of obsessive study to learn and perfect. To teach it, you have to be able to answer any question that is thrown at you. More importantly, you have to be able to demonstrate why that is the answer, and if you can, give alternatives and promote discussion, and inspire further investigation. This valuable skill should not be handed out free. Yes, there's a place for free tutorials on the internet and there are plenty of them, but I have yet to see a single professional corset maker (myself included) who gives their trade secrets away for nothing. You don't go to work for free, so please don't expect this sort of specialist knoweldge to be cheap.
Craft studios, sewing teachers and fashion designers who do not specialise in corsetry cannot teach it.
So where to learn?
Costume corsetry - on the whole - is not the same as authentic, body modyfying modern corsetry but there are some good costumers who can teach historical corsetry and some who can teach both. There are plenty of proper corsetieres all over the world who teach corsetry. They may not even advertise. It's always worth an ask. And better to learn from someone who's work you love - and therefore to support that work, than to spend money on a bandwagon.
So my main advice here, if your'e looking for a course, check the points I mention here, check the testemonials, check everything out thoroughly. If you can't find a course near you, or one that looks authentic, then find a working corsetiere who's work you like/admire/respect and ask them. You have nothing to lose. You'll flatter them even if they say no. But they might not say no. And then you'll be helping sustain and support a beautiful art for future generations to enjoy.
Here is a list of people I know who teach corsetry and who I would wholehearteldy recommend over any 'design school' , or craft outfit who do not specialise in corsetry.
The Oxford School of Corsetry - my own teaching practice, based in Oxfordshire, UK, and the only place in the world dedicated fully 100% to teaching many different types of corsetry including one day masterclasses, private tuition, and entire summer schools.
Crickey Aphrodite - based in Scotland, teaches classes whenever she can find a suitable venue. It's worth keeping an eagle eye on her website. She will also teach in your own home or teach indviduals in her home.
Morua Designs - based in Chicago. Teaches perhaps once a year but it's a top notch class and very sought after.
Vanyanis School of Couture - based in Australia. I myself mentored Lowana's early teaching practice and she, like me runs classes regularly at different levels and has many happy returning students.
Skeletons in the Closet - based in the Netherlands offers classes occasionaly, keep a check on her website.
Prior Attire - based in Bedford. Izabela sometimes runs courses on how to make an authentic Victorian corset to go under your costume.
School of Historical Dress - Based in London also run the odd corsetry course although these are very old fashioned - even using vintage machines and other antique techniques. These courses are what they say on the tin - for realy history geeks! You wont find a modern corset here or many modern methods. But they are real authentic corsets which do the job.
Oxford Conference of Corsetry - a bi-ennual gathering of the worlds top corsetieres from Mr Pearl down. Meet here to discuss techniques, share knowledge, make friends and have fun. For all levels of corset maker, be they hobbiyists, professionals or icons! The next conference will be in August 2019.