Advanced Corset Design
The Fashion eZine - Corsetry

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Corset Design Classes

By Charles Moffat - March 30th 2009.

I met today with 27-year-old fashion designer and corseteer Carrie Hayes (known by her students as Carrie the Corset Lady) and talked about the finer details of corset design.

Sounds complicated? It can be. 80% of corsetry is perfecting your pattern design and according to Carrie Hayes it takes a lot of time and effort to get into the business. Why is this? Its because generally speaking a lot of corseteers don't want to share their tricks of the trade. Its a bit like the Magicians' Code and not sharing the secrets of how you do something.

But if that's the standard, Carrie Hayes is breaking it. She's the teacher of the Advanced Corset Making class in Toronto Canada, the first class of its kind in North America. For $375 Canadian, designers get a 3 hour session every Thursday for 8 weeks and get taught all the accumulated tricks of the trade Carrie Hayes has picked up.

(Note: The photos used on this site are from Carrie Hayes' Advanced Corset Making class.)

Normally to learn corsetry a person has to learn by taking apart corsets and putting them back together again, plus old books on the history/design of corsetry. Its not an easy field of fashion to get into, and its also one of the most challenging.

Carrie learned corsetry the hard way and has been making corsets since she was 17 and growing up in Wiarton Ontario (home of famed groundhog Wiarton Willie). She later went on to study fashion design at the International Academy of Design & Technology in Toronto for 2 years, followed by 8 years in the fashion industry and now runs her own business creating fashion collections.

The young and stylish entrepreneur says she likes difficult things and loves a challenge, part of the reason she was drawn to corsetry, which relies much more on a hardy construction and pattern design than regular fashion design. Normally clothes is designed to fit the body, but with corsetry your aim is to reshape the body using fine stitching, fabric, glue, metal (and for traditionalists whalebone), but at the same time it has to fit well.

Carrie says you can tell the difference between a well-made custom corset and a run-of-the-mill mass production one because anyone can see gaps and ill-fitting problems. A well-made custom corset will also be significantly more comfortable to wear and have a good snug fit, whereas a generic corset bought in a fetish shop won't fit properly and can be quite painful.

Seeing that there was demand for it, Carrie decided she wanted to teach a course on how to make corsets, becoming in 2007 the first person in North America to teach a course on advanced corset design. Today she gets contacted by people all over Canada and the United States looking to take her course and was even asked "When are you coming to New York?" Sorry folks, Carrie is staying in Toronto, but if you're absolutely serious about learning corset design you can always visit Toronto and take the course.

And if you can't visit Toronto, Carrie recommends checking out your local corset designers, giving the advice: "Buy locally, because you will get better quality and check out their past work for gaps and ill-fitting bits to see how professional they are." She also recommends fellow Toronto designer Puimond Yee, whom Carrie says "does an excellent job".

"If people show you their best work and it looks bad that is a warning sign to steer clear, because what about everything else they didn't show you." - Carrie Hayes.

There's a lot of amateur corseteers out there apparently, and Carrie has taken on the task of helping to educate new corset designers in hopes of creating a new generation of innovative corset designers who will share what they've learned instead of hoarding it.

Carrie's courses have a max of 10 students and in addition to the $375 for taking the course you will also need approx. $80 to $100 CDN for materials. (Note that this is still less than buying a custom-made corset, which typically can cost between $600 to $900.) Carrie recommends new corset designers focus on using silk for their corsets and try PVC and leather later on after they've developed their skills more.

Carrie's students come from all walks of life, including working-mothers, fashion designers, gothic fashionistas, fetish-PVC fans and transgendered men. Her teaching style is informal, but she has a strong emphasis on being detailed, informative and helping her students to design and create a quality end product.

Corsetry Glossary

The construction of a quality custom corset is what truly sets it apart from modern day run-of-the-mill factory corsets. Using quality materials the corsets are carefully stitched together with steel boning and strong tight lacings.

For people who know nothing or little about corsets it helps to have a glossary to have a better understanding of what to look for when buying a corset, and also what to watch out for.

The fleshy part of the front body from the waist down to the groin. Abdominal Cavity.

The most important of the cavities of the trunk, from the corset fitter's point of view. It contains the stomach, intestines, liver, spleen, pancreas, and kidneys.

Abdominal Development
Development of the abdomen beyond the normal line. It is considered more delicate to speak of a large or small abdominal development than of a large or small abdomen.

Abdomen, High
Development of the abdomen beyond the normal line at the waist level.

Abdomen, Pendulous
An accumulation of fat or a relaxed condition of the muscles causing a roll of flesh to hang over the groin.

Belt, Girdle or Waspie
A girdle is the old fashioned name for what is now commonly called a belt or waspie. The corset is designed to control abdomen, buttocks, and upper thighs. According to current fashion, may extend over any portion of the body between diaphragm and middle thighs. May or may not fasten through.

A lightweight, shallow type of brassiere. Brassiere. A support for the bust.

Modern boning is used in a variety of modern day garments however unlike traditional boning it is made of plastic. The construction of which deforms and over a short space of time warps due to wear and washing losing the garments shape.

Known as "Stay or Stays" In Victorian Times these would be made of Whale Bone. These have been replaced in traditional corset making by "Sturdy Flexible Spiral Stainless Steel Inserts" and "Flexi Stainless Steel Inserts" which are tipped to prevent fraying when fitted inside the garment. These maintain the control in the corset without the discomfort. The flexi steel is a straight flat steel which is used in the back of the garment to give support without too much deviation. The spiral steel inserts are made of a woven wire construction this is for flexibility and these are used in the side and the front of the garment to allow full movement whilst maintaining shape and form.

Brassiere, Deep
A bust support which extends below the root of the breasts, perhaps as low as the waist. Suitable for heavy busts.

Unlike modern corsets which use a hook and eye fastening front some corsets use a narrow steel busk. This is a metal clasp constructed of two full metal stainless steel plates one with metal pegs fixed to it, the second with an overlap hook. These are sewn into the garment which gives a sturdy front fixing whilst maintaining the shape and form.

General term used in referring to the upper part of the body including the breasts.

Bust, Dropped or Pendulous
A condition of sagging in the breasts.

Bust Development
Size of the bust. See note on delicacy under Abdominal Development.

The soft fleshy portions of the body upon which we sit.

Chest Cavity
Upper cavity of the trunk, above the diaphragm, containing the heart and lungs.

This is an alternative to boning which was used in place of whale bone. For anyone who prefers it cording can be used as a replacement for "Steel Boning".

A garment combining the functions of both belt and brassiere–that is, covering the body from above the breasts to below the gluteal fold. Also called an All-in-one or One-piece foundation.

This is the fabric normally used in traditional corsets and sometimes forms the inner layer of modern corsets. It is a very sturdy crisp woven fabric made in a herring bone pattern and is referred to as "Traditional Corset Fabric".

The large mushroom-shaped muscle dividing the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. The term is used, however, to mean the part of the front body between the breasts and the waist.

Term used to describe those types of corsetry composed wholly or mainly of elastic fabrics.

Flossing is the term used for embroidery usually used on the boning castings (Stitching around the boning). It is a decorative feature which can also been anywhere on the corset.

Each corset comes with loops so garters (suspenders) can be attached. Should they not be required then this would be stated on ordering. Many people prefer not to have them.

Gluteal Fold
The fold between the buttocks and the thighs at the back. Groin. The fold at which the thighs join the lower abdomen at the front.

Some modern corsets use heavy gauge two piece grommet eyelets on all of our corsets which are fixed through three layers of fabric. These are used for the threading and holding of the corset lacing.

The difference between the measurements of the waist and the hips.

In traditional corsets "Lacing" forms an integral part of the forming shaping and maintaining of the figure. Lacing is made of strong cording which is looped and tied at the rear of the garment. In modern day garments lacing is generally no longer used, this means that the shape of the garment is fixed and cannot be adjusted to the body shape.

Modesty Panel
This is a panel which covers the area exposed at the back of the corset around the lacing. In many cases this is not required and normally is asked for.

An elasticated girdle with crotch to separate the thighs. Its particular advantage is that it can be worn without stockings and not ride up the body because it is anchored by the crotch-piece. Also, it permits great freedom of movement, and on both these counts is highly popular with juniors and women who engage in sports.

Pelvic Cavity
The lowest of the three body cavities, containing bladder, rectum, and reproductive organs.

The bony framework of the lower part of the abdomen.

Posture, Postural Tone
The balance with which the body is held. Postural tone is said to be good when the stresses on the various muscles are correctly balanced so as to hold bones and organs in correct position.

A circular elasticated belt without bones, which can be stepped into and rolled up the body.

Belt or girdle of which the fastening extends only part of the way down, so that the garment has to be stepped into. A Step-in has no fastening.

The difference in the measurement round the thighs when changing from a standing to a sitting position.

The part of the body between the root of the breasts and the hipbones. Trunk Length. The length "as the crow flies" from the shoulder to the gluteal fold.

Corset Wearing and Care

Lacing Up
For the first fitting it will require a second person to make the adjustments. Start by laying the corset flat with the back facing you. Loosen the back lacing sufficient to easily wrap and close the corset around you. Fasten the front busk starting from the waist upwards.

Once this is done the second person will then draw the lacing to your shape. Once this is done and tied off you will then be able to remove and re-fit the corset without adjusting the lacing.

After Wear
To prepare your corset for wearing on the next occasion. Take a damp (not wet) cloth to the lining, remove any surface body oils and air out your corset in a dry cool place. Then admire it until your next time of wearing.

Quality corsets are constructed with metal boning so it is highly recommend specialist dry cleaning only of your corset. The use of water may cause discolouration and water marks.

Should you acquire a traditional corset cherish it as it is a stylish sophisticated garment which will give you many years of pleasure.

Corsetry Links

The History of the Corset & Brassiere

Gothic Corset Shops

The Corset Waist: A waist is a terrible thing to waste

Chastity Belts & Corsets: The Next Thing in Fashion?

The Modern Corset

The Gothic Fashion Directory

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