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DESIGN ELEMENT: FABRICS
[READ ONLY PAGE - Updated 11/18/15]


INTRODUCTION:

ROMANTASY corsets and elegant garments are constructed with a suitable high quality of fabric to insure durability over time and with long wear. Some decorative fabrics and embellishments such as lace overlays, appliques, beading, braid, feathers, and rhinestone trims are delicate and therefore must be treated with greater care.

Corsets generally require the strongest fabrics possible, especially for the lining, in order to withstand the substantial stress of lacing down over many wearings. You will place pounds of pressure at the waistline as you lace down; it is amazing to realize that can amount to from 60 to 90 pounds.

We treat delicate fabrics as overlays over a more structurally-sound cotton corset. That treatment is pictured right in the gorgeous scarlet corset. Our corsetiere applied a delicate beaded silk chiffon as a front and back overlay over silk duchesse satin, then attached a row of lace trim along the top of the bodice. Such a corset worn as fashion outerwear may even last a lifetime and become an heirloom.

Either delicate or sturdy corsets will last many years:

  • With proper seasoning,
  • By wearing them as outerwear or as foundation wear over a protective camisole,
  • By dry cleaning them,
  • With sturdy corsets, by carefully hand-washing them according to steps we recommend to minimize the chance of rust,
  • With decorative corsets, by wearing them over clothing.

We offer an extraordinary range of fabrics, colors, and patterns from numerous national and international suppliers. Our Elegant Line of corsets permits maximum choice in fabrics, rendering it impossible to list everything. However, it's important to note that certain corsetieres specialize in one type of fabric, or may decline to produce corsets in another fabric. We will advise you on that matter.


HOW TO SELECT A FABRIC; REVERSIBILITY:

Consider the main purposes for which you are ordering a corset. A bridal corset may be in pale pink or ivory silk while an evening corset ensemble could be in fuschia and black satin. A waist-training corset for foundation wear would likely not include ruffled lace trims and rhinestones.

Determine what type of fabric you prefer. We explain the detailed classification of fabric midway down on this page for the connoisseur, however, we will advise you on more standard, sturdy fabrics if you prefer. Many of our clients choose our excellent and lovely cotton-backed satin, pictured below. This entails only a modest upcharge over our standard sturdy cotton twill included in our base pricing.

Narrow your color and pattern preferences to a first and second choice, inasmuch as some fabrics may not be available when we go to market, even if you see that same fabric in a corset pictured on our website.

Consider if you will reverse your underbust style corset or not. If so, then choose a lining color and fabric accordingly. Our corsets come standard lined in sturdy black, ivory, or white cotton twill. Other fabrics are available, but may require an upcharge for additional labor or fabric costs. (We recommend that you never reverse an overbust corset because this will weaken the more sharply bent cup boning.)

If you have a particular color vision, please send us a sample we are to approximate. The same applies to a particular fabric vision or need. You will readily understand that requesting a "blue" corset becomes confusing when you consider that "blues" are available in the marketplace as teal, sky blue, royal, peacock, grey-blue, light-blue, midnight, navy-and other shades of blue! Even one "black" fabric can differ from the other. One might appear dark, another bluish, and yet a third, grey.

Of course we are always happy if you decide to leave the precise shade of "black" up to our artistic sensibility and what we can find in the marketplace to meet your general needs.


COLOR AND PATTERN PLACEMENT IN DESIGN:



You might have heard of the effects of "color blocking" popularized about 2014 in fashion news to slim the figure. The same effect applies to colors and pattern placement in corset design.

Note the art principle that light advances or looks larger, while dark recedes or looks smaller. This is why many brides in white gowns believe they look heavier than normal. Thus, if you wish your waistline to look smaller in a corset, you might choose a dark color for the underarm panels and a lighter color for the front (and back) panels. Even the reverse placement works the same way! How many front panels you choose for the light color impacts the waistline. Fewer panels of light (one on either side of the front busk rather than two on either side) and more of dark (two underarm panels per side rather than one), shrink the visual waistline. However choosing one panel per side of the front busk to be in a lighter or patterned fabric, will not show off the fabric as well as choosing two panels per side of the front busk. The black and burgundy 1901-style corsets pictured above demonstrate that principle.


SUPPLYING YOUR OWN FABRIC:

Occasionally we are able to accommodate our Elegant Line clients who prefer to supply their own fabric. Basic and Fundamental Line Corsets at a more moderate price point, provide images of a more limited range of fabrics available on the online ordering pages.

Kindly take to heart the wise words set forth at the bottom of this page by our experienced corsetieres. Fabric should never be purchased or submitted without first discussing it with us, and sending us a swatch to test for suitability.

We cannot be responsible for the cost of fabric that may entail an additional charge for overlay, mirror-matching of patterns described below, or other special handing.

Large patterns may not show well on a corset because the individual pattern pieces are relatively narrow. Extra labor and fabric may needed to mirror-match the pattern on both sides of the corset. Note how corsetiere Sue Nice mirror matched the large circles in the red fabric and the small bees in the black fabric. She also mirror-matched the fabric used on the busk underflap!



* * * *For the fabric connosieur, we follow with a detailed discussion regarding classifications. * * * *

CLASSIFICATION OF FABRICS:

Fabrics may be classified according to how they are created or come into existence. We will use this as our primary classification below:

  • natural fiber (silk, rayon, leather, latex/rubber, linen, or cotton)
  • synthetic polyester fiber (nylon, Dacron), or
  • natural fiber blended with synthetic fiber.

Fabrics may also be classified by:

  • Texture or pattern, such as brocades or linen.
        Brocade is a fabric with a raised, all-over interwoven design or pattern giving an embossed effect, often emphasized by contrasting surfaces and colors or threads. You may choose a polyester, silk, or silk-poly blend brocade. Note that some poly brocades are of a dull or "matte" finish, and some are shiny or a combination of shiny and dull. Please specify which one you prefer, although not all colors are available in both finishes. This fabric is sometimes called "broche" in European countries.

  • Finish, such as matte or shiny.
        For example, you may like satin for your corset but prefer the matte version. For example, we can use the matte inside of our shiny cotton-backed satin for the body of your corset and use the shiny side only for the binding. Remember to look carefully at standard fabrics provided to determine and carefully specify what you prefer when you order.

  • Specialty, viewed right, such as beaded, with payettes (shiny circles covering underfabric), fringed, embroidered, and other.


FABRICS - NATURAL FIBER

Rayon Satin-Cotton-backed ("CBS"):
(View stock samples below)

Rayon as a natural fabric, however, Wikipedia states that it is "semi-synthetic" fiber that is manufactured from regenerated cellulose fiber. The outer shiny satin is in smooth finish while the inside is knitted with matte cotton. It is a very popular choice for both foundation and outerwear fashion corsets, but rarely found in typical fabric stores and then, usually stocked only in ivory or black. We order from an American manufacturer, and usually offer 14 colors (black, red, chocolate, burgundy, navy, royal blue, medium sky blue, pale pink, ivory, silver, white, blue-purple, forest green, and rich peach). We can dye a particular color for a modest upcharge; please inquire.

Other satins in polyester of lesser quality at less cost per yard may be available upon request. However, we encourage our clients to select from our cotton-backed satins if possible, because of their quality and strength. Note the corset shown at the right; white threads of wear after a few years of wear, now show through this gold polyester satin. Outer clothing has literally "rubbed the satin raw."

100% Cotton (Twill, Duck, Denim, Coutil, and Velvet)

These strong fabrics are typically used for corset lining, but are sometimes chosen by clients for the outer fabric if they desire a "work horse" corset for serious waist training.

Cotton fabrics in general have excellent "breathing" qualities for comfortable wear in hot climates. However, note that a two- to four-layer corset will always raise the core body temperature a bit, no matter the fabric chosen.

These fabrics are comfortable, tend to lie flat in the final corset when worn (whereas satin will frequently show some natural wrinkling no matter how well the corset is constructed), and are suitable where a fancy or elegant appearance is not a major factor.

Twill:
A diagonally-woven rather thick cotton fabric usually in matte finish.

Duck:
(View representative samples right)
A square weave fabric with a matte finish. View primary color choices for duck fabric here.

Denim:
(View representative samples right)
This fabric often has visible channels in the vertical weave and can have a matte or shiny finish. However, beware that many denims in the marketplace today include some percent of stretchy spandex and are unsuitable for waist training. Today denim can often be found in an amazing and lovely variety of patterns and colors, even with embroidery, shown right. However most modern denims include some Lycra which defeats the purpose of corseting and waist training. Always request 100% cotton denim with no Lycra.

Velvet:
(View representative samples left)
This fabric has short, dense pile with a matte finish. According to Wikipedia, velvet pile is created by warp or vertical yarns and velveteen pile is created by weft or fill yarns. Velveteen is a shorter pile. Velvet can also be made from other natural fibers such as linen, mohair, and wool, or from synthetic fibers.

Coutil:
This is a traditional corset fabric in one color, typically with a herringbone weave (roof-top pattern, some with dark flecks). The herringbone can be narrow or wider. This fabric dyes well for custom orders. There can be shrinkage of up to 4% in some coutils. Coutils also come in polyester satins and patterned brocades. Coutil is an expensive fabric, and upcharges may approach $60 or more per corset style. Clients should request this specialty fabric if desired however the upcharge is $100 per corset due to the fact that we use a coutil from Germany or England, which is the best we have found.

Clients may read online that only coutil is suitable for tight-lacing corsets. However, we do not agree. In fact, for years Mrs. Johnson of BR Creations corsetry made tight-lacing quality of corsetry using single- or double-layer cotton-backed satin. The critical factor regarding any fabric is its strength.
100% Silk:

Silk comes in many textures, weaves, and finishes from smooth to nubby, and from shiny to matte (dull).

Dupione:
(View representative samples below)
This is a linen-like nubby, textured fabric with a matte finish, often chosen for bridal corset ensembles. While we offer dupione in your choice of over 200 colors, some jewel-toned as shown here, some more muted, it is not the strongest, most durable fabric to choose for tight-lacing corsets or for those who have a very large hip spring measurement (difference between derriere and waist). Accordingly, we add an upcharge for use of dupione as your chosen corset fabric.

Duchesse satin:
(View representative samples right)
Despite its name, this is a 100% silk fabric. It is a popular choice for evening and bridal corsets and ensembles. It has a nice "hand" and heavy weight, and comes in matte finish and limited but lovely colors such as blush, cafe au lait, eggshell, grey-blue, white, and scarlet pictured in the corset at the top of this page.

Taffeta
(View representative sample right modeled by Marcia)
This is a lighter weight fabric that is not suitable for tight-lacing corsetry unless treated as a delicate overlay, but is suitable for ballgown skirts.

Velvet
This silky-soft fabric has a deep pile that is luxurious, and translates into a lovely corset or ensemble. It can be solid in color, or patterned in geometric designs or with soft watercolor effect, or multi-colored.

Leather:

There are various kinds of smooth or patterned/embossed leathers (pig, lamb, cow, goat, sheep), and various finishes (shiny or matte) that are suitable for corsetry. Upon request we are happy to source and send swatches of embossed or painted leathers giving unusual effects such as alligator or snakeskin, geometric or nature designs, and other. Leather is a durable fabric but somewhat hot when worn for some time. It's not the fabric of choice for a waist-training corset that requires many hours of continuous wear, but is more suitable for a fashion or fetish image and wear. Leathers mold well to the body and corsets are typically lined with cotton or cotton-backed satin. They are typically lined in cotton or cotton-backed satin to prevent excessive stretching, though some minor fabric easing will occur. Leather corsets should be worn, cleaned and conditioned much like a fine leather purse. Due to the need to very carefully choose hides suitable for each pattern piece of the corset, and purchase sufficient quantity of hides at one time, we do not accept customer's hides for use.

Garment leather or cowhide:
(View representative sample in the rainbow corset right)
This leather is usually the standard in corset construction, typically from a cow. It is usually supple and has from bright sheen to no sheen at all. Some hides are super-soft, akin to lambskin, but never as silky to the touch. It comes vat dyed in numerous striking colors.

Lamb
(View representative samples right and below)

Lamb is an incredibly soft, luxurious, silky leather that typically requires two or more hides to complete one underbust corset. Thus cost becomes a factor in selecting this type of leather. It comes in a wide range of colors from jewel to pastels. You may also choose a pearlized finish, or standard shiny finish.

Metallic leather:
(View representative samples right)
These leathers can be cow or lamb in a wide range of glistening colors. They combine well with garment leather or even fabric and lace overlays for an interesting "look." Great care must be taken to choose a hide where the metallic finish is substantial and will not easily crack, peel, or rub off, although these results are possible with wear.

Patent Leather:
The effect of patent leather in a corset is similar to that of PVC, although the durability of leather is legendary compared to PVC (see below). Some ROMANTASY team members will work in patent leather, normally black, although other colors are available. Because this is very delicate and difficult fabric with which to work, extra tedious attention to details of stitching and finishing, an upcharge will be involved.

Heavy Lattigo Leather:
(View sample left)
This leather is appropriate for more "fetish style", tubular-shaped or "U-shaped" corsets, or for Training Belts.


Latex:
Some corset companies construct corsets in latex or rubber. At this time ROMANTASY does not provide corsets in this fabric.

100% Linen
(View representative samples left)
Linen has a textured appearance and feel with perpendicular threads in the weave. It is preferred by those interested in historically-correct or period corsetry from the 1800s when linen was a popular fabric. Many colors are available.


FABRICS - BLENDS OF NATURAL FIBERS WITH SYNTHETIC FIBERS

This is a blend of cotton, silk, or linen with polyester fabric with a dull or matte finish similar to 100% cotton. It has good "breathing" qualities and is very durable.

Poly-silk patterned Chinese brocades:
(View representative samples left)
This is a blended silk and polyester offering a wide range of patterns and colors available. There are two qualities of Chinese silk brocade on the market. We choose only the higher of those for maximum durability and strength. Note that some readymade imported corsets in Chinese silk, which we call "wannabe" corsets, may look lovely but they typically use the lighter weight silk.

Poly-cotton Velvet, or poly-silk Velvet
Mixed synthetic-natural fiber velvets are available.

Poly-cotton
This is quite a suitable fabric for tight-lacing corsets. It may be in solid colors or in patterns, and is typically in a dull or "matte" finish.





FABRICS - SYNTHETIC FIBERS

Taffeta
(View representative samples right)
A crisp, lustrous fabric that is lovely when used in full ballgown skirts with matching corsets. It is too lightweight to use for corsets without heavy lining or innerfacing. Taffeta comes in a solid color, or "changeable" signifying that it changes into a different color depending on the angle of view.

PVC:
(View representative samples right)
Some ROMANTASY team members will work in shiny plastic material "polyvinylchloride" or "PVC", normally red or black in color. We can occasionally source more exotic colors such as eggplant, hot pink, race car yellow, bright orange, and other. We advise caution in choosing PVC since this fabric will or may tend to peel or crack over time, often in only a few years. This fabric is usually selected more for costume or fetish-style corsetry, not for serious waist-training corsets, since like leather, it is not as durable or breathable as other fabric choices.

Velvet
Synthetic velvets have been developed, mostly polyester, nylon, viscose, and acetate. Nylon is a generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers known generically as polyamides, created by DuPont Co.
Some velvets add spandex (Lycra is a brand name for spandex, also created by DuPont Co.) for additional stretch--never a good quality in a fabric selected for corsetry! See image of velvet above.

Faux Fur
(View representative samples right)
Fur suitable for corsetry should be of fairly short pile, but comes in a variety of animal prints or solid colors.




WISE WORDS FROM OUR CORSET MAKERS

"Silk can be tricky. I use the dupioni silk basically as an overlay and cut pattern pieces in only one direction of the weave, otherwise the silk can easily split along the grain. As a single fiber it is the strongest of all, but it's hard to find a heavy weave dupione, most likely because of the production expense. Of course, cotton being a cheaper natural fiber, is more cost-effective to use to manufacture heavier weaves. That's generally why all "work horse corset" fabric, especially for tight-lacing corsets that are expected to lace down many inches for many continuous hours and days of wear, is generally cotton. Silk taffetas are usually good bets for a fancier corset fabric (Ed. note: clients with large hip springs or fuller-figures, may want to avoid these fabrics which tend to be on the lighter, less supportive side). However, in general I don't like using regular acetate taffetas. They are hot to wear, and don't stand up well to wear over time. By the time I treat taffeta as an overlay for construction purposes, the body just can't breath with that synthetic 'stuff' on the outside." -- Sharon McCoy Morgan

"The uninitiated might well think, with the plethora of fabrics available in the large stores these days, that the corset maker's supplies were healthy. The truth is, they are not. At the turn of the 19th century, when the production of cotton fabrics reached its peak, there were 80,000 looms operated by about 20,000 firms in England alone! A substantial proportion of that output was geared to supplying a very large corset industry, and the demand was for high quality, strong cloth. This was made both for the outside surface as well as the lining of corsets. A gradual decline in consumption of corset cloth took place during the 20th century, making a nose dive in the 70s and 80s. This had catastrophic consequences, resulting in most corset manufacturers, as well as suppliers, going out of business by 1985. Few remain in existence. The most important aspect of a corset, especially if it is subjected to tight lacing (Ed. note: we define "tight lacing" as lacing a garment so that the natural waist is reduced four or more inches for six more more hours at a time, day-in and day-out for a year or so, when this is challenging to the wearer), is that it will withstand usage over many months--if not years. It is not enough to have a lining material which is strong, combined with a lighter weight outside--it will not last. The lighter fabric has to be backed, preferably bonded, so that there is no possibility of it coming under tension and breaking. The corset maker of a century ago would not have had problems like this to overcome!

"What we can buy in the shops these days is fine for constructing dresses and the like, but as a material for a corset you can write most of them off as useless. I have learned through bitter experience that even an interlined corset, with a lightweight nylon covering outside, is at risk of failure at the seams. Supplies of corset weight materials, specifically brocades and satins, are very limited. In the United Kingdom the choice is down to only a handful of designs, and these mainly exist in black, pink or white. Other colors are very rare indeed. There are isolated sources within Europe, but here I have so far found only three suppliers of good quality materials--I have paid as much as $45.00 a meter (about $60US per yard) to get what I need! The situation with lining materials is totally different. Even though the demand for corsets by the public in general is now almost non-existent, corsets still require surgical supports.

"I was told by a manufacturer I visited recently that the demand for this type of corset remained unchanged, so that the coutils (similar heavyweight weaves) are still easily obtainable. So--if you are lucky enough to have a corset in a quality brocade, do not be surprised at what it costs; You are lucky to get it at all! If your corset is made with anything else, then it may not survive heavy wear."-- Michael Garrod, True Grace Corset Company


"One of your customers sent a piece of silk fabric for her corset. The width was 30". However, the repeat in the design was 7", but because the pattern layout for her corset was longer, it became a 15" repeat (that was required). I used 1.75 yards. This will give you an idea of the amount of fabric necessary when a large print is involved, in order to mirror-match the pattern." -- Ruth Johnson, May 15, 2003




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