As a longtime lover and collector of vintage, everyone has come to know (and expect) the kind of dresses I favor – namely, a fitted waist and a twirly skirt. The classic 1950’s Dior New Look-inspired silhouette with a perfect sugar spun waist. So, it will come as no surprise that I also have a growing collection of undergarments that can help me achieve the shape and structure I love in many of my dresses.
Now, corsetry can range from incredibly expensive, bespoke pieces, to incredibly cheap options that may not deliver the results you want. I’m here to help you navigate the treacherous waters of corsetry and share my experiences with a brand I’ve recently become more familiar with: Orchard Corset.
I was incredibly excited when I started chatting with Orchard Corset about reviewing some of their pieces – I had heard others rave about them, but had admittedly never given them a whirl for myself.
What To Look For When Buying a Corset
My perusal of their website ticked a number of boxes immediately: firstly, their corsets are steel boned (don’t be fooled by cheap imitations! If they don’t have steel boning you are going to get a flimsy bustier or decorative waist cincher at best). They came in a variety of fabrics and colors and they were incredibly reasonably priced. Most of the steel boned corsets I clicked on were between $59-$79 – and ranged from standard (that cinch down to between a 16″-32″ waist) to plus sized (that cinch down to between a 34″-46″ waist).
They sent me two different options to try: Steel-Boned Longline Underbust Satin Corset (in white) and the Steel-Boned Underbust Mesh Corset (in black). In terms of sizing, Orchard Corset has some great resources (and customer service) to help you figure out your size. In general, you want to purchase a corset that is ~4″ smaller than your natural waist. So, at a 27-28″ waist, they suggested I go with a 24″ corset in the white satin and a 22″ corset in the black mesh, which had a bit more give. Here’s a great link to an easy way to get your measurements and figure out the sizing that’s right for you.
One thing I absolutely loved was the option to have a longline or a short corset. As one of life’s fabulously Beanpole-statured Women (with an underbust-to-waist measurement of 10.5″), my torso matches the rest of me. So, I knew the longline versions were going to be the ones for me. But, for you petite ladies out there who struggle finding a corset that doesn’t dig into your legs when you sit – the short might be your savior (which is ideal for an underbust to waist of 7″ or shorter).
Here are the two corsets in action – shown as I was in the process of breaking them in:
Now, I own a few corsets, but all had previously been the overbust variety. Ladies, I am a COMPLETE underbust corset convert. Not only did it give my girls amazing lift, I was so excited to be able to wear my own bra with it! Getting the waist cinch I wanted while wearing my tried-and-true t-shirt bra was like the best of both worlds. Trust me – your bosoms will thank you…
Lacing & Seasoning & Cinching – Oh My!
For those who are new to corsets, one of the most important things to do when yours arrives is to properly season it. If you are unfamiliar with seasoning, this basically means that you need to break in your corset by wearing it for an hour or so a day, increasing the time of each wear progressively over time. This is essential so that the boning slowly takes on the shape of your body. Think of it as though you and your corset need to come to an understanding…
In the images above, I had only seasoned it for about a day, and you can see there is still a gap between the corset and my body (this is totally normal). Orchard Corset has some incredibly helpful videos on how to properly season your corset – including a seasoning schedule!
So, I spent about a week seasoning each one – basically I would get myself laced in, and wear it for about 1-2 hours each day as I was going about general business around the house. Each time, I would cinch it a bit tighter (and noticed my posture was miles better!). By the end of the week, both corsets fit my curves perfectly – there were no longer any gaps at the top and the bottom and I felt I would be confident wearing them with a wiggle silhouette.
After it’s properly seasoned and you want to lace yourself in quite tightly, there are a few tricks I learned:
(1) You want to make sure the corset is fully loosened before putting it on – if you don’t, you may damage the busk and reduce the long term wear of the corset. Don’t stress if you feel like you have to let it out all the way – this is normal and doesn’t mean you’ve ordered one that’s too small.
(2) Once in, slowly tighten by pulling the middle lace loops at the center back. Personally, I find I get a better cinch by crossing the laces behind my back and pulling them. Then, starting from the top down (looking in a mirror helps!) start pulling on the crossed laces, tightening as you go, and reducing the slack with the center loops. Then repeat from the bottom up (to help visualize this, Orchard Corset has a great video). Keep adjusting the modesty panel as you go to avoid bunching – it should fully cover the back.
(3) Make sure the sides of the corset are parallel to each other – this can be a bit counterintuitive. When I first wore a corset, I thought it should be in an hourglass shape (i.e., narrowest at the center), but you actually want to get an even cinch along the length of the corset. The shape itself and the boning will do the work of narrowing your waist.
(4) Be patient – the first few times of lacing yourself in takes FOREVER. You really do need to come to an understanding with your corset – the longer you wear it, the easier it’ll be for you. The more smoothly the laces will move through the grommets, the easier the clasps at the front busk will work. One thing I personally struggled with was getting it properly tight on my own – thankfully, Mr. Dressed stepped up to the plate and lent a hand (he was actually quite a pro by the end!) But, I’m getting the hang out of doing it on my own.
I decided the best way to see the difference these corsets made was to see them in action while wearing the same dress – one without a corset, and one with. I noticed that when wearing the corset, in addition to the waist being smaller, the proportions of my bodice were changed, where the bust was also pushed up more than a standard bra, lengthening my already long torso. It’s also a posture game changer – though I will definitely need to get used to having a more restricted torso (Mr. Dressed had to buckle my heels cause I had NO hope).
This is an amazing wingbust dress handmade by She’s Dynamite – worn au naturale, sans corsetry:
I then laced myself up and compared the same dress while wearing the corset (in these photos, I’m wearing the Steel-Boned Longline Underbust Satin Corset) – I was amazed at what a noticeable difference it made.
The overall effect and shape I was able to achieve with both corsets was amazing – there was a noticeable slimming of the waist and the curve it gave me from waist to hip was gorgeous. I felt amazing wearing it and could hardly believe how comfortable I was, despite taking nearly 2-2.5″ off my waist (I got it down to just under 26″, but I’m sure with continued wear that will decrease further).
I can tell the Underbust Satin Corset will be my go to under clothing for special events – dresses skimmed right over the fabric and it was a bit more of a dramatic silhouette. But, for more everyday wear, the Underbust Mesh Corset is great – it has a bit more give to it, and I can tell the mesh is going to be so appreciated once it starts to get as hot as NC summers are rumored to be…
Overall, I was thrilled with my experience – from the process of selecting the right size for me, the customer service, the helpful videos, and the amazing quality of the corsets. They also included some beautiful garter straps and additional satin ribbon corset laces with my order, which definitely adds an extra layer of luxury and some additional vintage flair.
I can tell that the next steps for me are to practice – both in wearing one more regularly and in learning how to cinch myself in when the Mr. is not available. Like with most things, all it takes is time and determination.
Both the Steel-Boned Longline Underbust Satin Corset and the Steel-Boned Underbust Mesh Corset retail for $75 on the Orchard Corset website – they offer free same-day shipping in the US (though they also ship worldwide!) and an amazing 30-days no hassle returns and exchange policy. If you’re interested in giving one of their corsets a whirl, Orchard Corset is offering a coupon code exclusive to my readers. Until June 6, use code “dressed” to take 12% off your purchase (can only be used on regularly priced items; clearance items are not eligible). You can also keep up with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – they often have specials deals and promos and are always sharing helpful videos. I seriously got an education while writing this post just from scrolling through their video links and tips.
Have you worn a corset before? Thinking about trying one for the first time? If you have any questions about corsets or my general experience, feel free to ask away in the comments below!
Lip Color: Schiap