An Interview with Autumn Adamme of Dark Garden Corsetry

Established by Autumn Adamme in 1989, Dark Garden has been referred to as ‘the Godmother of modern corsetry’. Designing and hand making corsets from her studio and store in San Francisco, Adamme and her team have cemented Dark Garden as one of the most popular corset markers in the USA, if not the world. She has been Dita Von Teese’s primary corset designer for the past 15 years and has also made corsets for Kelly Osboure, Pamela Anderson and Christina Aguilera.,


 

What makes Dark Garden corsets unlike other corset makers?

Originally only a destination shopping experience, Dark Garden is the only corset and wedding gown maker in the United States where a person can walk into the retail shop and be measured and fitted for a custom corset or custom gown by the very people that will be creating the garment.
In addition, because I came to corsetry because I love corsets and enjoy wearing them, I know how it feels to wear one – what feels good and supportive, and what can make a corset uncomfortable.
Corsets have a terrible reputation for discomfort and restricted breathing – and this can be true, but not if the corset truly fits. I love to wear corsets but don’t like to be uncomfortable, so I spent a lot of time working out the patterns and construction of the corsets so I could honestly tell people that they’re comfortable.

Why do you think the corset has become popular again this past year – do you think it has anything to do with the current ‘body ideal’ of Kim Kardashian’s hourglass figure?

I think the sudden mainstream interest in waist training comes from the influence of first, Jessica Alba, then Kim Kardashian. That said, over the last 25 years I’ve seen the interest in corsets ebb and flow a bit, but for the most part simply increase as people realize that they’re not torture chambers if made well, and that a corset really can improve your figure and posture, and can be a fantastic accessory to many types of outfit.

What makes a good corset?

First and foremost a good corset is about fit. Corsets have the potential to be uncomfortable  in a number of ways. If they’re too tight all over, it’s true, it’s hard to breather, but if they are comfortably snug throughout, with sufficient room for hips, ribs and bust, they are wonderfully supportive. By the same token, if they’re only tight at the waist and don’t support ribs and hips, they’re not comfortable. Seam lines should not curve drastically around the body, but flow harmoniously, and the waist curve should be spread out over several seams. The stitching should be even and small, the boning should be steel, and the fabric should be stable and comfortable. In addition, the grommets where the corset is laced shouldn’t be spaced more than 7/8″ apart, and must have a bone between them and the edge of the corset. If the corset has a busk, it should be moderately flexible and the loops and buttons should line up perfectly. There are now a few corset makers working with cheap, brittle steel. This can actually snap and cause damage to the body as well as the corset.

Why do you think people enjoy wearing corsets so much and what would you say to someone thinking about trying waist training?

My clients love wearing corsets for a number of reasons. The ones that I hear most often is how empowered they feel and that they love having a defined waist. “Oh my God, look at your waist!!” is the phrase I hear people’s friends shriek as their friend comes out of the dressing room to show off.
Many of us feel safe and comforted by the corset, like being hugged by someone that loves you. The pressure of the corset honestly is like that of a good hug.
As for trying out waist training – it’s amazing how much the body can be manipulated, but make sure you go for quality and a good fit. Try to only buy from a reputable company with years of experience. Corset making is quite an art, and “custom corset makers” come and go quickly, because it’s not an easy business to be in. In addition, try to buy from someone who actually wears what they’re making – it’s the only way they can really know if their corsets are comfortable.
If you’re scared to try it but are really curious, buy a corset that’s the right size and wear it for fun. If you enjoy that, then you can contemplate starting to train. It’s not for everyone, and there’s no shame in discovering you’re one of those people that doesn’t love corsetry. But if you do – prepare yourself for some attention!

Advertisements

Is Corsetry Anti-Feminist? An Opinion From Lucy’s Corsetry

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The wearing of a corset is – by its very nature – restrictive and during the height of its popularity, was subject to debate during the Victorian Dress Reform and Corset Controversy. Some claim that even in the modern day, wearing a corset can be considered anti-feminist due to its origins whilst others believe that its been reclaimed by its use in modern fashion and the context it’s worn in has completely changed – women can choose to wear one, rather than it being expected of them.

Lucy, owner and editor of Lucy’s Corsetry, weighed in for Get Waisted with her opinion:

I don’t consider corsets to be any more anti-feminist than a bra is today, because for 500 years the corset acted as exactly that – breast support. In their origins in the 16th and 17th centuries, these garments were hand-sewn, stiffened with reed, straw or even paper at times, and the eyelets were hand-finished with stitching and not metal. These “payres of bodies” (as they were called at the time) were less solid than we think them to be, they were not mass-produced so they were designed to fit the wearer, and lacing them too tightly could risk the cord ripping right through the eyelets.

As fashion and technology evolved, so did the corset. The invention of the sewing machine and the production of metal eyelets in the 1830s meant corsets could be constructed stronger and laced tighter. Corsets were anchored snugly at the waist and flared out at the hips in order to fulfill an additional role – to act as a scaffold to disperse the weight of the petticoats and skirts. Without the corset, the skirts would weigh down and cut into the woman’s hip bones, which is far less comfortable than wearing a corset. In a 19th century letter quoted in Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines, one man stated that as much as he despised the corset, he must admit that for as long as the bell skirts remained in fashion, corsets would be necessary to support them.

This kind of commentary was not unique, either – there are several existing news columns featuring men rejecting the corseted aesthetic, and women themselves perpetuating the fashion. Unfortunately it’s become the sensationalist fan-fiction from works like the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine that seem to have survived history and perpetuated the idea that men had full control over their wives’ and daughters’ waistlines – the stories submitted to this magazine were often tongue-in-cheek, when not entirely fictional.

As Liz from the Pragmatic Costumer wrote:
“…the myth of young girls being stretched and strapped into extremely tight corsets originates in fetish literature popular during the 1890s. It’s kind of unsettling that many modern folks consider antique child pornography to be fact.”

Regarding outdated concepts: The corset as we know it today may become passé again – it’d been said that whenever a garment or accessory is approaching a peak in fashion or trendiness, the next stage is often obsolescence. But I believe that other iterations of the corset will always pop up again in the future. Modern back braces have their origins in corsetry, and indeed some corsetieres trained in orthopedics or medical prosthetics are able to make functional yet beautiful textile braces, and some are even willing to work with insurance companies.

People wear corsets for different reasons. Some do find the corset sexy and appreciate it merely for the aesthetic, but others require back support for medical purposes, and yet others use it for deep pressure therapy to combat their anxiety, depression and PTSD. For as long as these conditions exist, corsets have a role to fill.

I don’t discount the millions of women who strove for the freedom to not wear a corset – in fact, I’m very appreciative that due to the feminist movement, I have the choice to wear corsets or not wear them on any given day, just as I have the choice to wear make-up or go bare-faced, to wear high-heel shoes or running shoes, or to wear skirts or yoga pants. Because of this, it makes my choice to wear a corset that much more special. More than the garment itself, the freedom to choose is what’s most empowering.

An Interview with Julia Bremble of Sew Curvy

Get Waisted spoke to Julia Bremble, the one-woman powerhouse of the UK corset scene. She owns corset and sewing supply shop, Sew Curvy, she is the’headteacher’ of Oxford School of Corsetry  designer of her own bespoke corset brand Clessidra, organiser of Oxford Conference of Corsetry, a huge, annual, weekend-long convention for corset-makers and corset-lovers alike and she even finds time to blog about her corseted exploits.


When did you first become interested in corsets and what made you interested in them?

About 10 years ago. I needed an outfit, wanted a corset, decided to make one. I bought a kit, and have been obsessed with them ever since. This is how most people get into corsetry.

Considering the evolution of the corset over the eras of strict Victorian, Hollywood Glamour, Burlesque, Pin Up, Goth, Fetish and even it’s use in modern fashion, why do you think the corset has become popular again over the past year and so – but this time in a much more mainstream way? (Do you think it has anything to do with the current ‘body ideal’ of Kim Kardashian hourglass figures or maybe the modern mainstream interest in pin up, vintage and burlesque fashions?)

The first records of corsetry being used as body modification date back to c.2000BC in the Minoan culture where it is evident from their art that athletes wore thick leather bands around their waists to make them appear more shapely This is the beginning of corsetry as we know it, it did not start with the Victorians – there were many ages and fashions before them who used corsetry to create the fashionable silhouette of the day. However, the classic archetypal hourglass shape was created by the Victorians and it is this shape combined with the flatter Edwardian shape that informs modern corsetry today.

Corsetry has never ever not been popular, it has always been to do with fashion. We feel more exposed to corsetry currently because of the Burlesque scene (which in itself is far from ‘new’, even in it’s current incarnation it was underground for long before it was mainstream) and the current fashion for vintage and hand made. However, many corsetieres of today have been in business for a very long time. Autumn Adamme, the Godmother of modern corsetry, started her label ‘Dark Garden’ 25 years ago in San Fransisco. It was she who bought corsetry out of the underwear drawer and made it into outerwear. Today’s corsetieres have much to thank her for. Velda Lauder was also a pioneer for modern corsetry, she started her business in the early 90’s from Kensington Market in London. The fashion for corsets as outerwear were underground in the clubbing scene for decades. Designers such as Gaultier, Mugler and McQueen (themselves veterans of said scene), through their infamy and their famous clients, merely bought this new way of wearing corsetry into the public eye but it was around long before they thought of it.

As far as I know, Kim Kardashian (I have no idea who she even is) does not wear corsetry and certainly she has absolutely nothing to do with the current mainstream popularity. Famous women who bought modern corsetry to the mainstream through their designers, were more like (in order of appearance) Madonna (JPG), Dita von Teese (JPG/Pearl/Dark Garden), Isabela Blow (McQueen), Kylie Minogue (JPG), Beyonce (Mugler) (in fact most of the aforementioned designers use Mr Pearl to create their corsetry).

Certainly current fashions for Pin-up and Vintage has helped corsetry into the mainstream where importers of cheap chinese corsetry are doing well.

What makes a good corset and what should a first time waist trainer/tight lacer/corset wearer be looking for?

A good corset is always hand made. There are many things to look for in good corsetry and these depend upon the maker and the materials used. It’s impossible to give a definitive list. However, it must be borne in mind that a dedicated corsetiere will make corset patterns for the modern figure – we are not the Victorians – whereas mass manufactured corsetry will be made using standard patterns, with cheap materials. Most mass produced corsets cost as little as USD$5 each wholesale, wheras a proper handmade corset made with quality materials by a trained corsetiere will cost anywhere from £200 upwards – the materials alone will cost nearly £50. If you can buy a mass produced corset for $5. wholesale, imagine how much the workers who produced it are getting paid? Mass produced corsetry is not only bad for the body but it is totally unethical.

What would would say to someone thinking about trying waist training for the first time?

Find a good corsetiere to help you.

How has the Oxford Conference of Corsetry gained in popularity since it’s beginnings in 2013 and what can we expect from the 2015 event?

When OCOC started we had 25 delegates. OCOC15 has space for 70 delegates and most of the places were sold a week after going on sale. This year we have couture expert Ian Frazer Wallace of The Whitechapel Workhouse giving a workshop on integrated corsetry, other special guests are Barbara Pesendorfer of Royal Black Corsetry who will talk about 3d design, Autumn Adamme of Dark Garden, and Europe’s top showgirl and burlesque performer, Immodesty Blaize.

Why did you start the Oxford School of Corsetry and has it been popular?

I have been teaching corsetry for the last 6 years. Oxford School of Corsetry is just a formal name I have put in place this year in order to expand my repetoire of classes (from beginners to advanced) it was necessary to make a dedicated website. I have students who come to me from all over the world including Hong Kong, Norway, France, Germany, Poland, America, Australia and all parts of the UK. It therefore seemed appropriate to make my classes into a ‘school’ because as far as I know, I am the only person in the world who offers such a wide curriculum of corsetry based lessons.

The ladies who come to my classes are not all wanting to become corset makers. For the most part they are very clever women (teachers, engineers, accountants, scientists are very frequent!) who love to sew but need something more challenging than simple dressmaking to work on. Other students are historical re-enactors, tailors, professional costumers, fashion graduates, school leavers who want to do costume at college, ladies looking for a change in career and the odd burlesque performer who makes her own costumes. I’ve also taught men.

An Interview with Bethan Billingsley of Orchid Corsetry

 

Orchid Corsetry was founded by Bethan Billingsley seven years ago when she was just 19 years old and had taught herself how to create corsets through much trial and error. Her work is highly sought after by creators and collectors alike as her inspiration spans all eras from classic Gothic, familar historic Edwardian and Victorian silhouettes, silver screen starlets and burlesque showgirls. Each corset is meticulously handcrafted in the Orchid Corsetry studio in Shewsbury but each corset is admired around the globe. Get Waisted got the chance to ask Bethan a few questions about her work.

 


When did you first become interested in corsets and what made you interested in them?

My earliest memory of wanting the figure a corset creates was being a small child watching Disney films, and asking my mum when I would look like Belle or Aurora – I soon learned that this wasn’t a likely event, but when I became involved in gothic culture as a teenager, I rediscovered that love of a Victorian silhouette, and the poise and whimsy that accompanies it. I was 13 when my friend found a “corset” in a local store, and it was passed around us all with wonder. I was enthralled by its (in hindsight, modest) abilities to transform the body and create a new persona. You felt so different when you wore them, exotic and rare, and part of another world or another age. I suppose it all boils down to escapism in a way! Now, it’s the architecture and engineering that keeps me going, as well as finding them an endlessly varied template of creative output. I draw on my father’s technical background in engineering as well as my maternal links with sewing and craft to get a greater understanding of this beautiful garment, because there is always something new to learn.

Considering the evolution of the corset over the eras And it’s use in modern fashion, why do you think the corset has become popular again over this past year – but this time in a much more mainstream way?

I think a quest for physical perfection fuels a lot of interest in the corset as a functional garment- people have been made aware again of the very real effects it can offer as a foundation garment, and communities around Facebook and personal blogs allow newcomers to feel part of an exclusive or elite club. I see more requests for training corsets to be worn under clothing than anything else at present, though bridal and special occasion wear still forms an ongoing part of my work, and I think always will. However the most recent waves of interest seem to stem more from the “”underwear as outerwear” trend, which has seen fetish inspired lingerie take a front seat with harness bra’s and corsetry featured very visibly. I suppose we could put this down to the “50 shades” phenomenon but I feel it’s led more by celebrities, like the Katy Perry and Madonna shoot last year, as well as Dita Von Teese’s own lingerie brand, with her being a great advocate of corsetry and fetish couture.

What makes a good corset – what should a first time waist trainer/tight lacer/corset wearer be looking for?

The wonderful thing about the rise in interest over the last 10 years is that there are now a lovely cluster of independent designers working at a variety of price ranges as well as the well known budget brands such as Corsets UK. Bloggers such as Lucy’s Corsetry are great spokespeople for finding something of good quality for your budget, rather than saying that you must pay above a certain amount or it’s not a “real” corset. I think that working with an independent designer gives you greater accountability and a more personal interest in your experience as a buyer, which tends to lead to better value, but there are a few things I think are essential for any budget.

  • It MUST have steel boning. Plastic simply won’t last, or hold your shape.
  • It MUST have a suitable strength layer. Many cheaper corsets simply use a layer of satin or cotton drill which stretches under use and undoes all your good work. Coutil or certain types of tough canvas are classic choices for durable corsetry.
  • It SHOULD have a waist tape. This is another method of ensuring that the waist does not warp under pressure and over time. Certain types of multiple layer corsetry can be made stable without a tape, but most need one.
  • It MUST have two part eyelets (grommets) between two spring steel bones (not spiral steel) or set into a lacing bone. This is the only way to avoid eyelets breaking through your fabric when under pressure.
  • You MUST be comfortable in it. If you are experiencing cramps, rubbing, poking or bruising then the corset is not right for you, if possible, try it for a while in store, walk around while you get used to how it feels on you. Every brand of corset is differently sized, so don’t expect the same results at different stores.

There are very few hard and fast rules as everyone works differently, and as you go up the food-chain, standards and expectations are raised, but if looking for these things in your corset, you should avoid the usual pitfalls that shorten the length of your corset or decrease your joy in it.

What would would say to someone thinking about trying waist training but is scared to try?

I suppose I tend to meet people after they’ve done their soul searching, but I still usually need to bust a few myths about not being able to breathe, or experiencing poor health as a result of long term use. The most encouraging piece of news I can offer is that every newcomer I’ve had through my studio has fallen instantly in love with the sensation, the posture, the new view of themselves. Corsets mean such different things to each of us but I hear so many people talking about how comforting it is to wear theirs; how it’s like a hug that lasts all day and how they feel armoured against the world. You have nothing to lose by trying them, and possibly, everything to gain.

The Four Corset & Waist Training Blogs You Should Be Following

Proper corset lacing making you loopy? Mystified by modesty panels? Read, watch and learn from the internet’s most prolific corset bloggers so you can get tight with tight lacing.


Lucy’s corsetry

The go-to corset aficionado and recommended by everyone from The Lingerie Addict to Orchid Corsetry, Lucy’s love and knowledge of corsets spans years, having first become interested in corsets from a very young age. “When I was 6, I came across the movie Gone with the Wind. I couldn’t stop staring at the costumes; the ladies all looked like dolls come to life, which – to any young girl – was a dream come true.” Lucy then made her first ‘real’ corset at 18 and began to wear corsets on a regular basis throughout university as she studied Biochemistry. Her passion for both science and corsetry is reflective in her writing and YouTube channel, as many of her posts focus on the health benefits of corsetry – it’s not all just about pretty lace and tiny waists!

Where to start reading:

The Orchard Corset Blog

Run and written my popular American corseterie Orchard Corset, this blog  focuses on beginners, their Corset 101 series answering any and all burning questions you may have about corsets and waist training. And for any queries you may still have – they answer reader-submitted questions on video regularly over on their YouTube channel. Most importantly, for those readers thinking that corsets are to be worn only in the boudoir, or under clothes to hide their waist training escapades, their Wear-It Wednesday series shows how you can incorporate your corsets into everyday wear. So if you’ve paid good money for a handmade, gorgeous corset – learn how to show it off!

WHERE TO START READING:

The Lingerie Addict

Photo Credit: Poc Photo

Photo Credit: Poc Photo

PURPLE_41-386x580

Photo Credit: Lydia Hudgens

As the world’s largest blog dedicated to the fashion of intimate apparel, it’s hard to believe that The Lingerie Addict started out as a place for Cora Harrington just to sound off about one of her great passions. “For me, the appeal of lingerie is in allowing people to express their identity, particularly when that identity may be unavailable, inaccessible, or otherwise impossible in their outerwear or day-to-day life.” Quoted as a lingerie expert by major news outlets and with her blog hitting 750,000 views a month, Cora blogs about corsets and lingerie in a way that makes it accessible to people of all shapes, sizes, budgets and genders.

WHERE TO START READING:

The corset channel

Photo Credit: Sew Curvy / Facebook

Photo Credit: Sew Curvy / Facebook

For those that are more D-I-Y than B-U-Y, Oxford-based Julia Bremble blogs about her many corset making exploits as owner of corset and sewing supply shop, Sew Curvy, ‘headteacher’ of Oxford School of Corsetry “The only dedicated place for learning the fascinating art of corsetry in the UK (if not the whole world!)”, designer of her own bespoke corset brand Clessidra and organiser of Oxford Conference of Corsetry, a huge, annual, weekend-long convention for corset-makers and corset-lovers alike.

WHERE TO START READING:

Interviews with Julia Bremble, Lucy of Lucy’s Corsetry and Cora Harrington are all featured in the Get Waisted main feature.