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Category: Corset making

  1. Corsetry Courses and Workshops - how to spot fakes

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    advanced corset class 17 2 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.

    copycat corsetry courses

    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.

    green and black3

    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.

    Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 15.10.53
    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.

    Corset patterning class 17 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.

  2. Valentines Inspiration

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    rosy red corset with gold busk
    Red rosebud coutil corset with golden busk and golden eyelets.  A perfect combination of colour and style.

    It's nearly valentines day and we have lots of RED things to celebrate!  Here's a few little pallets of inspiration for your valentines projects.

    First of all, we got some beautiful Rosebud coutil in a rich red.  I can't help but call this "Rosy Red" coutil - it's just so rosy and so red!

    Rosebud corset coutil in red

    We also have a bright red satin - this has a more 'orange' tone than the rosy red which is definately a blue toned red and ofcourse there's the staple favourite rosebud coutil which is black with red roses.

    valentines corsetry inspiration
    Red satin coutil paired with a selection of black guipure trims.
    Also pictured are red knicker elastic which can be used as a frilly trim
    and our red picot binding which is just gorgeous and so easy to use.

    Our red accessories all go beautifully with all red and red patterned coutils - our sturdy plastic zips come in a few lengths and are very good for corsetry.  To use them, stitch them in the CF of the corset as you would any other zip, but make boning channels either side of the teeth (the zip fabric is wide enough to do this with our 6mm flat steels) to keep the front nice and straight.

    valentines special corsetry inspo

    Red zips, black busks, suspenders clips, and red roses.

    Trim your corsets with red satin binding, or picot edged binding, or even red grosgrain ribbon which is my new favourite type of binding.  The picot binding is super easy - you just sandwich the edge of your corset between the fold of the binding, clip down with wonder clips, and stitch down.

    Couldn't be easier!

    grosgrain binding
    Red 25mm grosgrain ribbon is a) a perfect match for the rosy red coutil and also a lovely way to bind a corset.  I also use it as a waist tape.

    To use grosgrain ribbon as your binding, take the appropriate length required, fold in half and press with an iron - not too hot as the ribbon is polyester and will distort if the iron is too hot, then fold the edges in towards the centre crease and press.  This is what I call 'extreme binding' because it makes a very thin but very elegant binding - you have to be quite confident to give it a try but practice makes perfect!

    Our black lacy trims are all perfect for your classic red and black boudior feel and all are easy to use.

    And to celebrate Valentines properly, we've introduced 3 special edition valentines corset kits which are limited in number and will only be available until 14 February!

    Victoria Valentine corsetry kit Saucy Sophia kit Sophia Valentine Corset Kit

    The "Victoria Valentine" kit includes rosy red coutil, red trimmings and our pretty Victorian style velvet ribbon and lace trim.  This will make a pretty Victorian style mid - overbust corset (depending on bust size).

    The "Saucy Sophia" corset kit includes rosebud coutil in red and black, with red trimmings, suspender elastic, and suspender grips.  This will make a beautiful lingerie / boudoir corset

    The 'Smooth Sophia' kit includes red satin coutil, a gold busk with gold eyelets, red trimmings, and some pretty "little crowns' guipure lace trim in black.

    To finish, we have some super silky flossing thread new in!  It's the Seta Real brand which is my favourite and comes in lots of colours now which will go with all the red things!

    What will you be making for Valentines?

    Links:

    Buy your Valentine a corset kit:  Valentines Special Corset Kits

    Video Tutorial : How to use wonder clips with picot edge binding

  3. Inspiration - Sand and lace

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    finished bridal corset sand coutil with ivory net

    As you may know, I only stock products at Sew Curvy that I myself would use - and therefore I like to use them too.  I sometimes have so much inspiration that it's hard to focus on one idea at a time - such is the creative mind, and I imagine that if you are reading this, you are like that aswell!  So, for selfish reasons, not least because i've discovered that making things for fun is good for my stress levels, I've decided to indulge myself a bit and make some inspirational blog posts using materials from the shop.

    Being a shopkeeper I have to stock practical things as well as pretty things, and sometimes certain colours can seem a bit 'hmm' until you've played about with the possiblities; our Sand herringbone coutil is one of those 'hmm' items and probably one of the most difficult colours to pair up so that's where i've started! 

    ivory net and bows

    The sand coloured herringbone coutil on it's own isn't exactly inspirational - It's an odd colour truth be told - made for the medical market to replace what is now the vintage staple corsetry colour "tea rose" which is that salmony pink shade so common in corsets and girdles from the 1940's right up to the 70's, and which was the go to 'nude' of old.  Well this 'sand' colour (also once known as 'nude' and in Europe known as 'skin') is the replacement.  For medical corsetry, this colour was thought to be more compatible with a more multi-racial range of skin colours. 

    I call it 'sand' because it isn't like any skin colour i've ever seen, unless you count American Tan, but it is like a rich honey shaded builders sand.  It goes beautifully with ivory and also black as a base 'skin' tone type colour - it can melt away underneath a sheer underlay, and under ivory, becomes a very pretty bridal option. 

    In my first project,  i've teamed it up with our floral lingerie net, and two of our pretty guipure trims, along with a white busk and a cute little bra bow from the bra making range.  I like to mix and match shop supplies so that they are good for multiple uses and when I started stocking bra making supplies, I visited the warehouse to ensure that I could pick products that could be used for both bra making and corset making in a number of different ways.

    cutting out with no turn of cloth

    The most exciting thing I have to tell you about this project is that there is NO ROLL PINNING !!  Why?  Because the lace fabric has a slight stretch to it, so if you incorporated turn of cloth as you would a normal non-stretch fabric, you might get a bit of unsightly bagging.  Fabric with a slight stretch can cope very well with turn of cloth so no pesky fiddling about with those seam allowances and no tedious pad stitching as some people do. 

    Simply cut out both layers of your corset pattern at the same time, and stitch the coutil and lace together within the seam allowance.  Easy peasy and an excellent place for beginners to start with multi-layer corsetry!

    inside with garter tabs and bias boning channels

    I can't bear waste (ha!), and in my classes I teach what I call "fabric economy".  With this in mind I can literally use almost every single scrap of coutil from half a metre or a metre - whatever i'm using to cut the pattern.  Because 12mm bias strips, which I use for boning channels, are only 2.5cm wide before being processed, you can get alot out of the surplus material around the corset pattern and  when you're paying anywhere between £10-30 for a metre of fabric it pays to be thrifty let me tell you - especially with the more expensive coutils such as the rosebud coutil.

    In this picture you can see that i've used self made boning channels from 2.5cm wide coutil strips, and I've used 15mm satin ribbon stitched into the binding as detachable suspender loops. 

    Using matching coutil for your boning channels gives a single layer corset a very tidy interior negating the need for a separate lining and therefore making sure you end up with a light yet strong and durable corset.

    bias maker and strips of coutil

    I use the Prym bias binding maker for making the bone casings because it has a wide gap in the 'nose' - other bias makers can't take the thicker coutils, and I find that this little maker works very very well.  You cut your strip of coutil on the bias OR on the straight grain - it doesn't matter as long as you use a bias strip over particularly curvy bits.  Then you feed your strip through the little thingy, pin the end of the tape to the ironing board, and pull the contraption along your strip until you have a double folded peice. 

    I'll be making a video on this as soon as it stops raining!

    The bias strips are then used as boning channels and everything is stitched down with my 'wonder thread' - Guterman no 722 - it is literally invisible on a very wide range of fabrics!  Jenni Hampshire of Sparklewren fame discovered this and I've also been a devotee of the colour ever since... It literally disappears into any neutral coloured fabric including a number of the coutil we have at Sew Curvy:   Mink, Sand, Biscuit, ivory/gold rosebud, nude/silver rosebud, dessert orchid brocade, biscuit spot broche and small weave herringbone.  Amazing!

    bow and white busk

    The corset fabrics are all set off rather nicely with a white busk and a little cream bra bow.  Unfortunately, our black and white busks are currently on limited stock as my coloured busk project is on hold - basically the original factory mucked it alot of things up and i've been talking to another local place who have yet to provide samples for me.

    Here are some other palette ideas for the sand herringbone - black spot net, with black 'little crowns' guipure and either a Victorian style guipure with our 'latte' satin ribbon woven into it (good for lacing too) or the black tulle 'scrolls' trim.  Both look pretty and all of these options will go with our suspender elastics very well.

    black net and ribbons black net and scrolls trim

    SO! if you want to have a go - you can do this with any corset pattern at all, and these are the ingredients I used to make this cute little nude underbust.  All she needs now is a name - I think "Daisy" seems quite apt.


    Estimated material cost for a 22" corset approx £40 (excluding tools) if you had to buy everything - but see what's in your stash and have a play! It's good for the soul.

    shopping list 

     

     

  4. Victoria corset project

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    Victoria steelboned corset

     

    Here's a corset I made recently when testing out a few components on site, not least the recently released Victoria mid bust corset pattern.  I've adapted the pattern slightly by changing the shape of the top line slightly, and adding some suspenders.  I re-drew the bottom line of the corset so that at each point where I wanted a suspender, the line flowed nicely into the elastic ends.  That's all I did, so it was pretty easy peasy.  

    It's a single layer corset - the boning channels are made from scraps of the same coutil (offcuts from cutting out the pattern!).  These are cut into 2.5cm strips and then run through the Prym bias binding maker to make boning channels.  I cut the coutil on the straight grain as this is best for scrap use and for stronger boning channels, however if you had a particularly deep curve over the hip (using another pattern perhaps) then you may want to use a bias grain for your self made bone channels.

    With regard to sizing of the Sew Curvy patterns, go with the waist size first - it is easier to adjust the top (bust) and bottom (hip) than it is to use the correct size for those and then adjust the waist - so this is opposite to what a normal dressmaking pattern will tell you.

    The components I used for this project are all listed with links here:

    back of the Victoria corset