Monday, May 25, 2015

Corset Review: Corset Story Black Label Instant Shape Corset

The most popular post on this blog is Where Not to Buy a Corset, Part 2: Corset Story.  It's so popular, it apparently attracted the attention of Corset Story themselves.  I was contacted by the CEO of Corset Story and asked if I would review their newest lines of corsets.  They feel they have taken steps to improve the quality and address some of the problems myself and other corset blogger have pointed out about their products.

Intrigued, I agreed to give an honest review in return for receiving two free corsets, one in the "Instant Shape" line and one in the "Waist Taming" line.  After thinking about it for a bit, I decided that knowing I have a very difficult to fit figure, maybe I should involve someone  else in the testing.  I chose my friend Susan, who has recently started performing burlesque.  She and I are both plus-size, but have very different shapes, so I thought it would be interesting to see how these corsets fit us.  We both chose our size based on the Corset Story website sizing guidelines and recommendations.
Product photo from the website.

I'll be starting with the Instant Shape today.  This is the lower level item, ranging in price from $80-95.  The one we ordered was the Classic Overbust with Halterneck Strap.  Corset Story's advertising claims these Instant Shape corsets "helps your waist look one size slimmer and more shapely, instantly."  They also state they are not intended to reduce the waist by more than 2 inches.  The big change from their previous standard corsets are that they are now advertising spiral steel boning instead of the heavy flat steel they previously used which made their corsets so stiff.

Because my guinea pig took her corset home with her, I didn't tear it apart to see what was inside.  However, CS conveniently includes an example of the boning on the tag of the corset.  This is nice, I'm really glad to see they are not being evasive about their materials.  So here is the boning from the Instant Shape card next to the boning from the "Waist Taming" card.

See how itty bitty that bone on the left is?  The one on the right is what I would consider a "normal" 1/4" spiral steel bone.  I've never seen anything like the little skinny thing on the left.

 The website refers to these as 4mm spiral steel.  To check, I measured it, and yup, that seems pretty close.  The regular one is 7mm.  So this is really light boning, and there's not very much of it.  It's exaggerated by the fact the example I got is a size 22,   One bone on each seam can be enough for a smaller size, but those seams get pretty far apart in the larger sizes.  I always prefer having at least one bone in the middle of the panel for larger sizes.

In addition to the boning, this corset feels lightweight and flimsy all around.  The exterior fabric is a nice color, but has a cheap feel to it.  The interior fabric is a thin twill, and it feels like those are the only two layers in the corset.  The seams and bones are reinforced with interior twill casings that feel pretty secure, though.  If a bone works it's way through the fabric I would imagine it would come out the front rather than the back.

But because it's fairly lightweight, this corset doesn't have very great potential to reshape a figure.
 It's also not very curvy at all.  According to the size chart, this corset should fit my bust and hips while being too big for my waist.  When I tried it on, I was able to close it all the way, and it was too big for my waist while being still uncomfortably tight on my hips.  But I knew this wouldn't be a good fit for me, which is why I had Susan.

Susan has some comparable measurements to me and would sometimes wear the same clothing size, but our figures are very different.  I'm a natural hourglass while she has a rounder, apple-shaped body.  In the past I've mentioned this figure as one that benefits from the more cylindrical corsets made by Corset Story, so I was trying to fit my model to the corset for the testing.

So you can see that the shape of this corset is pretty straight.  There's a little curve over the stomach and hip, and more in the back hip, but it's still pretty cylindrical.  The other thing that jumps out are the wrinkles.  These are caused by the corset not having enough support for the forces pulling on it.  A corset this thin, with this little amount of boning support is just going to have wrinkles.

The bust looks particularly unsupported to me, as well as probably being a bit too big.  While I think Susan could go up in size in the waist and hips I worry it would make the bust way too big.  I asked her how the bust support felt and she said sort of ok, but if she was going to wear this as outerwear, she'd feel the need to wear some other support underneath it, like a half-cup bra.

The back view shows how poorly this actually fits, though.  The lacing is strong nylon lacing, but the corset just wouldn't really take much more cinching than this. You can see the boning buckling where her body is not really fitting the panel shapes.  And there's still a large gap here.  As I said probably a size up would have been better, but this is a good illustration of how it can be hard to get a good fit buying online.

Susan was of the opinion it could probably go tighter, but I was honestly afraid of the thing ripping.  I think she could get more a cinch with a different corset, but this one just doesn't have the strength for that.

That all being said, we measured her waist with and without the corset, and this was a 2.5 inch reduction, which is right at or over what the company promises this corset is up to.  And it does do some smoothing of her figure.

Susan intends to use this as a performance piece in her burlesque work, which means it probably won't be worn more than 30 minutes at a time, which I think is appropriate to the quality.  It's not something I'd recommend trying to wear all day or regularly.   She reported it felt pretty comfortable while on.

So, what is my opinion?  I'm not impressed.  I wouldn't recommend buying one of these Instant Shape corsets.  For one thing, the sticker price of $95 is way too much to pay for this quality.  But even at half that, I just don't think it's really worth it.  Even for a costume piece, I'd be wary of these.  They don't stand up to much reshaping at all, if they fit you in the first place.  Plus most cosplayers I know wear their corsets all day long and I don't think these are really up to that.

I also wonder how many wears one of these has in it.  The boning is spiral steel, if really WIMPY spiral steel, so it shouldn't warp as quickly as plastic, but steel this thin can get a kink in it and become uncomfortable.  As far as construction quality, I noticed some threads hanging off here and there on this, so I wouldn't be surprised if some of the stitching failed sooner rather than later.

I'm just not sure that there is really an ideal customer out there for this level of corset.  I understand that people new to corsets don't want to spend too much, but there are better quality corsets out there for less money.  I would definitely recommend going for a plainer, cheaper, sturdier corset over a more decorative but weaker, flimsier corset.

But my Corset Story reviews aren't over!  I have another, far different corset to review, the one I picked for myself.  And you may be surprised by my opinion of it.  Here's a little preview...

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