Interview with Sew Mag
Tell us about yourself - have you always been interested in sewing and corsetry?
I have always been interested in sewing and making things, and my interest in corsetry began out of necessity 6 or 7 years ago, when I needed one for a burlesque style outfit. I looked at corsets I would like to buy, decided they were far to expensive at two or three hundred pounds a piece, and as I was a reasonably competent dressmaker, resolved to make one instead as I really didn’t like the alternative, cheapy, plastic boned corsets which were widely available in the goth section of Camden Market! In conversation, a friend mentioned that kits were available on the internet. I bought one, and my first corset was made. It was rubbish - unwearable! But I had gained enough enthusiasm and experience to try another, which worked fabulously well, and which I was able to wear - and feel amazing in! Thus, an obsession was born!
When and why did you set up the business?
I set up Sew Curvy at the end of last year because I had an idea that, what with the vintage and burlesque revival, there may be other ladies out there like me, with basic sewing skills, who are creative and have their own design ideas or who cannot justify the expense of a bespoke corset, but may like to have one!
There are kits on the market, but they are not packaged like mine. I wanted my kits to be an ‘experience’, a treat ... I was inspired by pictures of corset boxes from the victorian era, and I thought it would be lovely to receive a kit, beautifully packaged in tissue paper and ribbons, just like corsets would have been in their day. A gift to yourself, or someone else, it doesn’t matter.
More that that, I wanted the website to be a useful resource for beginners, so that unlike me, beginner corsetiers do not have disastrous first corsets! Nowadays, there is plenty of information on corsetry on the web, but whilst they give plenty of inspiration, they don’t give basic, practical information - how to sew a bone channel in a straight line, how to mark your pattern, how to insert a busk, how to best fit your corset. You have to dart about here and there and refer to many many books in search of information most of which is quite technical. My site is intended to be a one stop shop which demystifies the art of making a corset - it’s a work in progress, I have lots to add still.
Had you ever used many/any corset kits before you set up Sew Curvy Corsets?
Yes, I bought a corset kit when I started out. It came in a plastic bag. There were no instructions outside of the pattern. It was just a collection of metal rods, fabric, and notions which came from a website that had no handy tips or advice, or even links. In those days, there was no such thing as a sewing blog, or a live journal community. Corsetry was a notoriously secret thing! There were webrings which you had to be professional to join, and not many people were interested in making either clothes or corsets. I could follow the pattern, but I had no idea how to do simple things like sew a straight bone channel to best effect, or the best way to mark up a pattern etc., I learned from patterns, books, experience and error, and it took a very very long time.
Why did you decide to sell kits rather than specialising in individual items?
My website/shop is part of a whole ‘beginners’ concept. I wanted to make it easy for people to discover corsetry. Most people - even really experienced seamstresses that I know, think that corsetry is difficult, and ofcourse, it can be if you are designing from scratch. However, to work from a commercial pattern is less challenging and the creativity and satisfaction to be found in sewing a corset is limitless! Building a wearable corset - whether it be for underwear, outerwear, club wear or for the bedroom, is simple. The underbust corset is particularly easy as there are no busty curves to navigate and you get the most fantastic shape from them.
Do you get much feedback from your customers on the kits - do they find the (often scary) process of making their first corset easier because they had everything there ready to make?
My customers always comment on three things: 1) Wonderful idea for a kit - no consternating over which supplies to get from where, 2) great website resource with so much practical help, 3) Beautiful packaging. I wanted my customers to have much more than the ‘plastic bag experience’ that I had. I wanted the box to feel like a corset box would have in the old days, and the recipient to feel the same sense of excitement they must have felt then, when opening the box that they knew would contain some crispy new underwear adorned with pretty lace and ribbons - just like modern underwear today. It’s exciting! The prospect of being able to sew yourself curvy!
What sorts of kits do you offer - have you got any new designs coming up?
I offer a wide range of different corsets designs for ladies - over bust, under bust, easy, moderate and more challenging. All boxed kits contain everything you need to make a fully boned Victorian style corset.
I also offer kits without bits, for people who are perhaps making a second corset from a pattern they have already, or who have some fabric to use of their own.
I do Gentleman’s kits too - which are very popular - think Maralyn Manson! Also “Mr & Mrs Kits” which I also added to the selection by popular request! These contain the Laughing Moon Underbust pattern, and all materials needed for one gentleman’s corset and one ladies corset made from that pattern.
Along with all components available separately, plus a growing range of trims and embellishments, I also offer an ‘Essential tool kit’ which contains tools and notions which I consider to be extremely helpful when building a corset.
Future plans include offering a bespoke pattern drafting service, where I will draft a corset pattern to the customer’s exact measurements, and pack it with the components required to make it. This will result in different, more individual designs and shapes being available with less guess-work involved when it comes to the ‘fitting’ stage.
I am also planning many more tutorials, some more basic ones (how to lace a corset properly) and also some tutorials on embellishing ideas - how to apply rhinestones, how to make a ruffled trim, how to floss (embroider) your corset etc., It’s a work in progress!
Finally have you got any tips for any of our readers who may want to make their first corset (and so invest in one of your lovely kits?)
Corsets were invented and developed long before great pattern cutting skills were discovered, before the age of couture. They are really just a series of shaped panels sewn together. The Royal Worcester Corset Co., in America was started by a man who knew nothing about sewing or clothes, or fashion, but who had spotted a gap in the market, and so with the help of a model, set about making a ladies corset that he could manufacture for the masses. By the late 19th century, his company became one of the biggest suppliers of corsets in the world. It’s a true story of ‘practice makes perfect, and anyone can do it’!
If you can sew a straight line, you can sew a corset. My kits make it easy because you have everything to hand and no guesswork! All you need to provide is a little patience, some imagination, the result will be a handmade, bespoke corset, embellished and fitted to your exact specification, which will last a lifetime, give you super glamourous uber curves, and which, if the equivalent was bought in a shop, would cost you hundreds of pounds.