For those who are new to corsets, the process of sifting through tons of websites trying to determine which retailers truly deliver the quality they promise, can be daunting to say the least.
So, I've gone ahead and compiled a list of things to look out for. This list will cover what to look for and also which traits are clear indicators that you should consider looking elsewhere.
First, let's begin with things you should absolutely, hands-down, without a doubt steer clear of:
Any steel boned corset under $50
Unless we are talking about a limited time, one-day-only type deal or sample sales, any un-used/new corset that promises to be steel boned but costs less than $50 is probably too good to be true.
At most, it has a metal busk front closure but the bones are acrylic or worse yet, they are completely acrylic boned and they're just trying to pull a fast one on you.
Any steel boned corset promising to be made by hand by a "skilled corsetiere", but costs anything under $150
This is a tricky one, because some retailers will argue that their corsets are indeed made by hand...they will just casually leave out the part where they are made by hand, in bulk, somewhere out of Asia.
Now, absolutely nothing wrong with corsets made in Asia but what does upset me is when a retailer will try and convince you that their product is made somewhere out of Europe with only the finest fabrics and steel...blah blah blah!
Give it a try: email any corset retailer selling their corsets for under $150 & who claims that their corset is not made in China, Pakistan, India, etc. and ask them for details about where the corsets are made. If they are smart enough to not get themselves into any sort of legal trouble, they will have to come clean and at the most, promise you that the patterns/designs are originally from, I don't know, France, let's say, but that they aren't in fact made in France.
Any steel boned corset claiming to be custom made, but costs anything under $180
And I'm low-balling here: most custom made corsets are at least $200 and up.
Let's say you reach out to a retailer because you want to know if they will eventually stock your size and they come back to you saying something like "Just for you, we will have one 'custom made'. Please send us your measures...", they are full of baloney. What they will actually do is contact their manufacturer and have them ship one out in a size which the manufacturer already carries...the retailer is simply not carrying it because sizes that are either smaller than a 20" or greater than a 30" tend to cost more per unit.
Brief: this does not constitute a "custom corset".
Now for what you should look for:
At least 10-12 steel bones for a steel boned corset & at least 20-24 steel bones for a waist trainer
Anything less than 10 steel bones in a steel boned corset will probably not be able to cinch your waist by the promised 4" to 5" and frankly any "waist trainer" with less than 20 steel bones is simply not a waist trainer. Anything less than 20 steel bones will not cinch your waist by that much and still fit you properly throughout the rest of your trunk.
Corsets sized in inches
Any corset retailer selling "steel boned" corsets with sizing that goes by S, M, L, etc is probably not selling steel boned corsets at all. Fashion corsets do go by S, M, L, XL, etc but what defines a fashion corset is the fact that it has acrylic bones and not steel bones.
A combination of flat and spiral steel bones
Many off-the-rack (OTR) corsets will only have 2 spiral steel bones and frequently only in their overbusts. This is because flat steel bones can be less costly than spiral steel bones. Now, whereas flat steel bones are great right along side of the front busk closure and at the very back where the grommets are situated, for the rest of the corset you probably want spiral boning. Spiral boning curves much better to one's body vs. flat steel bones that can cause discomfort, or worse yet they can bend and ruin the silhouette you purchased the corset for in the first place.
Steel busk front closure
Anything with a hook and eye closure is not worth your money. Hook and eye closures are exactly like those little hooks that fasten your bra. They are delicate and are not intended to bear the tension that a corset will deliver.
Zippers are sort of a grey area. Some people love zip front corsets because they find them far easier to fasten than a busk, however I don't agree. Zippers are not a type of fastening intended to bear major amounts of tension. Have you ever seen what happens to a zipper when it is pulled and busts open? Yup, it won't zip anymore, so its either buh-bye corset or hello costly repairs...frankly, both suck.
Twill lining is very important. It doesn't need to be 100% cotton, but you probably want at least a cotton/poly blend because one of its purposes is to offer breath-ability to the wearer's skin. It also reinforces the corset, especially when it is fused for strength to the outer fabric or shell, making it much more sturdy and certain to last you longer than a corset with no lining or a cheap synthetic lining.
Oh, and if you've shopped corsets before, I'm sure you'll have noticed that loads of other corset retailers will claim that their lining is "fused for strength", right? Lots of them are not being truthful. If indeed the lining is fused for strength, you shouldn't be able to rub the shell and the lining together or pinch them apart.
Modesty panels are not a requirement and some may even argue that they are a matter of personal preference. But the cool thing about a modesty panel is that you don't need to use it to cover your back if you don't want to; instead, you can simply fold it inward but this way, at least you'll have one if ever you decide you would like to be a bit more covered.
Also, they can provide added comfort to the wearer. When the laces are directly on your back, it can cause chafe.
So unless you are getting a custom made corset and you have requested to not have a modesty panel, I personally find it to be a very cheap way to save a few bucks when a retailer does not include one in their design.
Here's the thing: waist trainers will generally not have a waist tape. Having between 20-24 steel bones provides plenty of support and structure and that alone enables it to cinch the waist in by 6" to 7". However, a steel boned corset should always have a waist tape. Steel boned corsets will generally have 10-16 steel bones, and while the bones provide the structure and rigidity to cinch the waist in by 4" to 5", the waist tape provides additional support, which helps the corset maintain its shape. Without a waist tape, a steel boned corset will eventually stretch out and lose its shape.
Good, honest photographs
Whether the image is cropped to only showcase the corset or if it is on a live styled model, you generally want the image on a human form...not a mannequin.
When the corset is photographed on a mannequin, you don't really have anyway to determine what the corset will look like on a body.
Beyond that, I always recommend that you use your judgement. For example, if you visit a website that doesn't look professional but the photographs are gorgeously styled and look high-end, then you're probably looking at stock photos purchased off the manufacturer or some completely unrelated third party. In short, if this is the case, you won't be getting what you're looking at when your order arrives.
Love of Corsets.
Wife, mother workaholic & entrepreneur. I do my best to bring you regular content via this blog, but as you can see from my archives, it doesn't always work out that way (see above, where I mention the whole "mother" thing).