Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Where NOT to Buy a Corset, Part 2: Corset Story or Corsets UK

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

My opinion on Corset Story (I'll use that name, since I'm in the US) has changed a lot over time.  A few years ago I would have encouraged you to shop there and said I think their corsets were a good option for someone on a budget.  But things have changed my opinion over the years.

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.

CS corsets are boned with steel, but it isn't either of these types.  It is flat steel, in that the boning is made of flat pieces of steel.  If there is any spiral boning in a CS corset, it is usually only 1-2 bones, usually only the ones over the bust.  (Their "waist training" line apparently is made with spiral steel and that is the only difference. The shape is still not waist training appropriate.)  The rest of the boning is very stiff steel, but it's not standard corset steel.  It appears to be laser cut from steel sheeting or scrap steel.  Now, beyond this I can't speak to what it actually is.  I've only seen pictures of it on the internet, and I don't know exactly what their bones are made of or where they source it.  But it is emphatically NOT standard corset spring steel made for the purpose.  It is not the same thing you would get in a handmade corset.

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


  1. Not so hot...yet I still purchase them for work...ultimately, you can't beat $30 for a "corset" that'll be worn a half dozen times by a finicky actor (or, more commonly, dancers...), that'll look ok from 50 feet on stage. They serve their purpose....

  2. I have to agree with you -- I hadn't thought about it before, but you're right, the boning in the Corset story corsets is different and the shape is not as shapely as a corset I bought from Meschantes. I got my CS corsets for $40 a piece, which isn't bad for costuming, but I'm glad I got my all-purpose, basic black from Meschantes -- the shape is fantastic. Was hoping the CS corsets might have a better shape once broken in, but I guess not.

  3. Both of my corsets are from CS and I haven't had much of a problem with them. I think I got two of the better quality ones because I did spend a good amount on them. My only complaint is that my underbust isn't long enough, but that's mainly my fault for not thinking about my large birthing hips haha. Anyways, I think I'm gonna save up my money to get a custom one done. That'll be a while though. But my CS corsets did achieve what I was wanting which was bring my ribcage in a bit. My figure is now much more hourglass and it's obvious so I'm happy. They do help with my back since I'm standing all day for work. I love your articles though and I enjoy reading them. Being 18 and just beginning my life with corsets I find it very resourceful and informative. Thank you!

  4. I used to love them until I pulled the boning out of one
    I'm now getting my own custom made from
    8-10 weeks but its worth it for the proper hip sizing, so sick of corsets that end right where my hips start and spend the whole day grinding on them
    also dont hate time-less trends they have some of the shape problems but they use proper boning so there not bad for a cheap comfier option (have there black cashmere underbust my most comfortable corset so far, that is until my morgana gets here)

  5. Great post and interesting to see people not buying from one of the biggest corset sellers on the market. I am also a corset seller, getting rid of all acrylic corsets and only going to sell steel boned corsets.
    Keep up the great blog posts

  6. I used to have a CS corset. It was really cute, but after a couple of wearings the boning stayed warped into the shape of my waist. It never fit very well and I couldn't lace it up tight enough. To be honest, I didn't really expect much from it for $85, so I wasn't too disappointed. If all you need is a cheap corset for costume wear, something that will last through a few Halloween parties or cosplay events, then CS corsets are good enough. You can buy one on sale and use it while you're saving up money for a really good corset. When I get a new corset--one that's custom made from a better company-- I won't spend under $250 for it.

  7. Finally someone telling it like it is! I also bought a corset from those stores and they sucked! You know your stuff, good corsets are steel boned and usually cost upwards of $150.

  8. I'm so glad I read your article, I was just about to "continue to checkout" on 2 corsets for the price of 1 at CS, and the only thing that stopped me was my browser throwing up a message preventing me going to checkout. So I did a review of CS and yours was the best review I read. I also appreciated the other reviews describing poor quality and trouble receiving goods after purchasing, but your review alerted me to the fact that you can purchase a better quality corset for the same price. As a male crossdresser quality and size means everything when I'm trying to achieve a female silhouette. Sorry if I offend some by entering this women's domain, but I love dressing and clothes, and I've come to understand why women love shopping so much, there's so much gorgeous stuff out there. And as I've progressed I can feel the pain you go through negotiating your way through all the sizing dilemmas out there, goodness me its a nightmare sometimes. Anyway, great article and thanks for the recommendations, I'm looking forward to purchasing a quality corset now.

  9. One correction ... CS waist training corsets (item number starts with WT) do have 24 spiral steel bones according to their website. And prices have gone back down to before $100. None of the others are worth even looking at from my experience.

  10. It depends what you are wearing a corset for, if it is for shape and tight lacing/ waist training then obviously a custom made corset is the only way to go. However I would not spend hundreds of pounds or dollars on a corset I use simply as back support for work or gardening. I use an underbust corset to stabilize my joints as I have hyper-mobilty joint disorder. It gives instant pain relief. I have an underbust spiral boned corset which gives me a surprisingly small waist considering Im using it for gardening, it often gets covered in mud!

  11. I've had several people come to me for corsets after trying CS corsets. Their CS ones caused so much pain! And in some instances, bones poked through within two wearings, and weren't tipped in any way at all. I remember one black satin corset that was poly satin and cotton. That's it. So of course the bones went through the cheap satin.

    The overwhelming majority of my clients want all spring steel. It DOES limit movement more and forces the torso to stay straight, but that's exactly what most of my clients want, and it's what I personally prefer for my own corsets. But they MUST be tipped. I also tend to use twill as OUTER layers since my clients usually prefer that look to the herringbone of coutil, which ends up as an interlining. I've gone with as many as nine panels on each side. It's fun stuff. :)

    But OMG, when I see CS corsets... I often ask people what they expect from a finished corset that costs less than I spend on supplies alone.

  12. Hey, I just wanted to know if you have any good recommendations for RTW corsets in the UK, as the problem is with trying to get a corset over here is that mostly the CS corsets are the best you can get(shocking, I know), without paying massive shipping charges. The thing is that customs, handling AND shipping fees can turn a well-priced corset into an overpriced one, and if it doesn't fit perfectly the returns are pricey too.

    1. Honestly, I don't really know. You might check out FairyGothMother: or possibly look at Lucy's corsetmaker directory:

    2. I bought three of my corsets from, back when they were the only corset company with an online store (2002/3). They're a well established, UK based corset company that makes premium quality corsets which have lasted a very long time! Axfords is another UK company that makes corsets of a very high quality, but you have to keep in mind that both these companies are pricey. You really get what you pay for with corsets though, considering my Vollers corsets have lasted almost 15 years (and I still wear them) I think they're worth the investment. I was lured in by the corsets at recently, and bought an underbust for 25 quid. I'm not too sure about it, it hurts my ribs a little, but otherwise seems okay. It should be okay for occasional wear though.

  13. Earlier to give details only one things to know, that Corset-story is not a manufacturer, they get the items manufactured in India and china based manufacturing units. Even one of the manufacturer within them is also a seller on the website by the name of Corsetdeal. Both of them is creating propaganda to get the customer involved in purchasing the corset online. even some of their designs are copied from another available online stores and some of the exclusive stores. the quality of bones they are using assuming that not a single customer will get it opened and never complain about the same.

  14. I could never look past a Gallery Serpentine corset... I have bought 3 of them in the past (Not because they fall apart but because I wanted different styles) and I am about to buy my 4th! They are a bit more upmarket in terms of pricing but for what they are their pricing is really reasonable. They also have really beautiful, strong lacing cord and big eyelet holes which means I can cinch super tiny without any hassle..

    I'll put the link in below for anyone interested.