I recently encountered a paragraph written by John Ruskin, which provides some common sense approach to price and quality:
"It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money -- that is all. When you pay too little you sometimes lose everything because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot -- It can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better."
Sometimes a person new to custom corsetry or even ready-made steel boned corsets admires our corsets on display. She may be shocked when we quote a low end front busk cincher price of $200 and low end custom corset cost at $350 and more. Alas, it seems that American women are accustomed to paying $50 for a plastic boned "teddy" that gives way in 6-10 months and does absolutely nothing to control any figure challenges such as "that tummy thing" (see the last issue of newsletter) or enhance the waistline.
While we recognize that an investment of between $200 and $500 for a corset can seem pricey or even extravagant, that determination depends on your individual analysis, your personal budget, and your purpose for corseting.
If you are going to wear a corset once a year or just once, even a $50 ready-made corset can be expensive ... $50! If you wear that ready-made corset several times and the bones bend permanently or break, the fabric shreds at the waistline when it is pulled in, or the grommets pull out when you lace down, then $50 is expensive to my mind -- for that particular garment.
I can't tell you how many times I have had customers call me after purchasing a so-called "corset" at a competitor or well-known national lingerie shop, only to complain that it shredded upon tight lacing or pinched or twisted.
Even if you wear a readymade corset frequently with success and tight-lacing, but it does not fit properly, then it probably will eventually torque or turn and become uncomfortable. Furthermore, if it does not fit properly, it will not provide a shapely, smooth and aesthetic silhouette.
For example, there may be gaps between the bottom hem and your hips, or bunching around the waist as fabric moves toward the tightest point, or gapping at the ribcage instead of a snug fit all around.
In addition, inexpensive corsets or low-end corsets should be examined for even stitching, whether the boning casings are neat and parallel, whether the top and bottom trims are neat at the edges and turned under so threads don't fray and show.
All that being said, if a ready made corset does meet your standards of quality, durability, fit and aesthetics, then there certainly is no reason to spend $200 more for a custom garment.
Second, can a person "do as well" with ready-made corsets?
That depends on your purpose of corseting. We always ask our customers that question. If the purpose is to attend a one-time Halloween party after which the corset will sit on the shelf or put on consignment in a resale shop, then of course, you will not want to invest in a $400 garment. And you likely can bear up under excruciating pinches and tweaks for the evening of glamour and glitz.
However, if your goal is to aid in a weight reduction program, achieve a waist reduction of over four inches either on a temporary or permanent basis, or look absolutely glamorous in public when you wear your corset over an evening gown to the opera or ballet, then you will want to invest in a custom garment that skims over every body curve with no pinching or twisting or gapping.
It is only when a corset is basically comfortable and well fitted that you can wear it for long hours for permanent waist training. And I don't care what you say, a custom garment well made lasts at least twice as long as a ready-made garment worn for the same length of time and same number of occasions.
I cherish my 8-year-old red satin "work horse" corset by BR Creations. I have had Ruth replace the velvet trim twice and now must go back and beg her to replace the grommets in back, as the steel bones are just now starting to rub through the fabric edges. Quite frankly, I can't bear the thought that this familiar old friend, well broken in and in love with my body and It with her, might have to part ways. Not yet, if I...and Ruth, can help it!
My dear correspondent has given me permission to use the below photo and while he may not particularly appreciate the purpose, I use it to illustrate the limitations of a ready made garment which he seems to prefer.
Please note the irregular and non-parallel boning casings stitched in black thread on pink satin, the uneven top and bottom trim, the lack of a true hourglass waist (see BR corset page for true hourglass silhouettes), and the wrinkling of the satin along the front panel, and curving up of the bottom edge. At least that is what I see in the snapshot he sent me. Please click on photo for detailed view of what I mean. And please don't tie your corset laces in front; they can rub and damage the fabric over time!
This London-made corset by mail order may be inexpensive when compared to a given corset maker's custom made corsets, but in no way can it be compared with the quality or fit or durability of the garment. It is like comparing apples and oranges: just can't be done in my opinion.
In addition, I wore a ready-made ribbon corset over a summer dress today and received many, many compliments from passersby and colleagues, even though it gapped a bit at the ribcage and did nothing to create the impressive hourglass waistline I normally crave, pursue and love to show off! I just couldn't find my Simple Pleasures and it was too hot to wear my BR, so I compromised with the ready-made one.
Fit long distance is very, very easy if you measure properly. Our advice for individuals without someone to measure is to take our order form and go to a tailor, or dressmaker. Sometimes the dry cleaners will have a seamstress on staff to make hems or repairs and that person can take you in the back and, for a small fee, complete the measurements for you.
Fit for overbust corsets complicates matters a bit; we simply will not guarantee fit without a personal or mail order muslin fitting. However, our corset makers will mail a muslin to you with full instructions for marking, pinning, and mailing it back to us. This will in most cases ensure a very good fit for overbust styles.
We hope this helps you think through your choice of corsets: perhaps it's worth it to wait a few months, seek holiday or birthday financial contributions toward your first custom corset, and go for the gold of custom!
Please also consider the words of M. P. Garrod, one of Romantasy's and the world's finest former custom corset makers, on the issue of costs of custom corsetry:
"You may be surprised to learn that corset-makers do not make a lot of
money. At the end of the day, True Grace realizes only a 30% return on
gross income. Could this possibly be a "labor of love?"
I have not yet mentioned the actual cost of materials which go into the average corset and this has mounted from about $10 in 1985 to about $33 in 1999 and represented only about 15% of the total cost of a custom corset. The remaining 85% for labor covers everything else required to run the business and produce a corset, plus produce a desired profit or net income level.
Finally, if the corset maker is distributing his or her creations via a retail outlet to make them more accessible to the customer, but not selling direct via mail order or internet, they have to attempt to reduce the cost in order to sell wholesale so that the retailer is able to make a small profit/income in return. I trust these comments will be helpful to answer Ann and her customers' most provocative and excellent question!"
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