In my previous post on this topic, I gave some general guidelines on corset buying and mentioned the first two places I think you shouldn't buy a corset. Today I'll tackle my opinion of the most popular online seller of steel boned corsets:
Corset Story or Corsets UK
The bottom line is that I wouldn't recommend purchasing a corset from their store, for a few reasons.
1. Shape - All of their corsets are made from the same general pattern. It has very little curve that at best gives a gentle backwards parenthesis shape. For many/most women, this shape is actually LESS curvy than their natural one. It's a corset shape that I would only really recommend for very straight boyish figures (I would say thin, but I've known thin women with curvy hips and small waist), or apple shaped figures that want to get their shape closer to a straight up-and-down shape.
But generally, when I see someone in a Corset Story corset, I think, "Wow, your shape could be so much curvier and you could look better!" I really, really have grown to hate that the vast majority of women in corsets these days all have that same, boring shape. All of our bodies are vastly different. Trust me, when you start making corsets you realize how much variation there actually is, even between two people who wear a similar size. And custom corsetry, or even OTR (off the rack) corsetry made along different patterns and chosen wisely, celebrates those differences. Everyone is going to be comfortable in a different style and shape of corset, because our rib cages are different, our waists are positioned differently, and we squish differently. So I resent that Corset Story forces people into a One Shape Fits None mold.
Lastly, of course many of us have specific body types or features that mean we just aren't going to be comfortable in a Corset Story corset anyway. I am too busty to comfortably wear them, and my hip spring is so huge I could seriously hurt myself if I tried to lace down in one of them. Many women report they have pain in their hips or on their hip bone when they wear OTR corsets. This is because they are not curvy enough and don't have enough room in the hip. This is also why it is absolutely NOT recommended that anyone try to waist train in a Corset Story corset. You cannot get a serious waist reduction from their corsets because there is not enough of a difference between the waist and the hip. I often have women ask me how I get such a waist reduction and the truth is that I'm not doing anything other than wearing a custom, well-designed corset. It shows off my natural shape and cinches me at the place I am most squishy. If I put on a CS corset, it would look WAY different. (See this photo of a side by side comparison of someone in a CS corset and a high quality OTR corset.)
2. Bones and Materials- I've never purchased or worn a CS corset, but I've handled them and had friends wear them, and been fairly impressed with their weight and durability. But I've only recently learned more about what they are actually made from.
Corset Story is very vocal about the fact that their corsets are steel boned, but that's mostly all they will tell you. (I'm excluding their "fashion corsets". They are similar to the Ebay corsets discussed previously. Do NOT buy them.) Maybe I'm naive, but I assumed that their steel boning was the same type of steel boning that corsetieres use. I was wrong.
First of all, the majority of the bones in any CS corset are not spiral steel. Spiral steel looks like this. It is extremely flexible in all directions and will not develop any permanent bends or curves. Most quality corsets are made predominantly with this type of steel. It allows for very curvy shapes, and is very comfortable. It also lasts forever because it doesn't develop curves or bends.
The other type of steel that corsetieres use is called flat steel, spring steel, or white steel. It is made of spring steel, and usually is coated with a white substance to prevent rust. It comes in lots of different thicknesses and strengths, but is also generally very flexible, but only in one direction. It is therefore used at the front and back edges of corsets for stability and support. Over time it can develop permanent curves or bends, but it takes quite a bit of wearing to do this, as spring steel will "spring" back to it's original shape much of the time.
This steel is the reason (beyond patterning) why there is so little curve in CS corsets. It makes them very stiff, and does not yield to the shape of the body in the way actual corset steel would. It doesn't allow the freedom of movement that spiral steel does, will put much more pressure on your ribs, and be more painful. It may (may!) be a reasonable cheap alternative to corset steel, but you should know that just because something says steel, doesn't mean it's the same as more expensive options.
As for fabric, the strength of a CS corset come from twill and from various interfacings they put inside their corsets. Twill is pretty standard for low-cost OTR corsets, though it's rarely used by independent corset makers, at least as a primary strength fabric. It's not as strong or as durable as either cotton duck or especially coutil, so again, know you're not necessarily getting the same quality and you might elsewhere.
3. Price - When I first became aware of Corset Story, their corsets ran from $60-90 each. At that price, I thought they were fair. They were better than some of the alternatives out there, and good enough for a cosplay that wasn't going to be heavily worn.
But these days Corset Stories prices keep going up. It's not uncommon for their corsets to cost $160-200. For that price you can get a much better corset, either OTR or made-to-measure. I think it is far better to get a plain, versatile, high quality corset that fits you well and is comfortable, made with high quality materials. You can always embellish it or add to it, or dress up AROUND it. Corset Story sells some attractive, highly embellished corsets. But where they skimp is in materials, construction, and shape. Which are the really important parts of a comfortable corset.
4. Conformity - Let me be blunt: I'm freaking tired of seeing the same corsets on everyone! It's so bad that I think 9/10 corsets I see on people at conventions are Corset Story corsets. And usually it's the same 3-4 designs, sometimes in different colors. It's even worse in the steampunk community, where it feels like 30% of women are all wearing the same exact Corset Story Corset.
Our community is supposed to be about individuality of expression, and it feels like there's a uniform that requires women to own one of the CS steampunk corsets. Look, I thought they were pretty stylish when they were released, too. But you really don't want to be wearing the same thing as a quarter of the women in the room, do you?
Maybe you can't make your own (although it's easier than you think.) Maybe you can't afford a custom work of art made just for you. But you can alter a corset to make it your own. Here's how I altered a OTR black canvas corset before I started making my own. I added that front panel and buttons.
So all that having been said, you can still go buy a CS corset if you want. But know what you're getting and try not to pay too much for one. They're ok for occasional wear, if you have a fairly standard figure, or don't need much curve in your corset. I'm not going to shame you for buying or wearing one if I see you around.
But the way I see it, buying from CS means you're probably going to get a corset that isn't that comfortable, doesn't fit you all that well, doesn't make you look as good as you could be looking, isn't made from the best materials or in the best conditions, and is comparable in price to other, better corsets.
I do think it's ironic that you will probably see ads for Corset Story on this blog. I didn't chose those, they just show up since "steampunk" and "corsets" are big words around here. And feel free to click on them to see what I'm talking about (I'll get a fraction of a penny). But then I recommend you go elsewhere to buy.
Note: These same corsets are sold on many different websites and by in-person vendors, so it is important to know what you are getting no matter where you buy. Do your research!
Next week I'll talk about where you SHOULD buy corsets (in my opinion).
See the rest of this series:
Corset Buying Guidelines and Where NOT to Buy a Corset, Part 1
Where You SHOULD Buy a Corset, Part 1
Where You SHOULD Buy a Corset, Part 2