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FABRICS AND FABRIC PLACEMENT IN DESIGN
[Updated 3/23/15]

INTRODUCTION
A. Introduction
B. Classification of Fabrics
C. How to Select a Fabric
D. Supplying Your Own Fabric
E. Fabric Placement in Design
F. Wise Words from our Corset Makers


A. INTRODUCTION

ROMANTASY corsets and elegant garments are constructed with only the highest quality of fabric available in the marketplace to insure durability over time and long wear. Of course, some decorative fabrics and embellishments such as lace overlays, appliques and beading, and braid, feather and rhinestone trims applied to your ensemble are much more delicate and therefore must be treated with greater care.

With proper seasoning of a new corset according to instructions we include with your corset, by wearing your corset as outerwear or as foundation wear over our CorPro (protector tube), and by carefully and gently hand-washing (requires particular care to minimize the risk of rust) or dry cleaning both corsets and garments, you may extend their useful lives, possibly for years and years. A more decorative corset worn as fashion outerwear may even last a lifetime!

Because we are a full custom corset company, we offer an extraordinary range of fabric colors and patterns ordered from numerous national and international suppliers. Some specific corset styles, and our Basic and Fundamental Lines of Corsets offer limited fabrics. Some of our team corsetieres work is some fabrics but not in others. However, our Elegant Line Corsetry entails few fabric limitations. Thus, it is impossible to show or list every single color or fabric available on this or any other webpage. Please inquire about what you desire if you do not see it listed here.

Corsets generally require the very strongest fabric possible, certainly in the lining fabric, to withstand the substantial stress of lacing down over many wearings, and the stress of many pounds of pressure you will place at the waistline as you lace down (please read below, some well-taken advice from three of our corset makers). It is amazing to realize that that pressure can even amount to 60 to 90 pounds during one wearing! Thus, we strongly advise that you forgo choosing flimsy or delicate fabrics, unless you are prepared for additional charges for us to treat these fabrics as overlays over a more basic, structurally-sound cotton corset we construct first. You may see just that type of construction shown here in the gorgeous scarlet silk duchesse satin corset where our corsetiere, Sue Nice, applied a delicate Indian silk chiffon beaded lace as a front and back overlay, plus a row of matching lace trim on the top of the bodice. Back to Index


B. CLASSIFICATION OF FABRICS

Fabrics may be classified in at least four primary ways. We classify fabrics on this page according to how they are created or come into existence: (1) natural (silk, rayon, leather, latex/rubber, linen, or cotton), (2) synthetic polyester (nylon, Dacron), or (3) 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 (non-shiny or dull) or shiny. For example, you may like satin for your corset but prefer the matte, non-shiny version. Or as shown in the peach corset pictured left, you may ask us to use the inside of our 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 which you prefer, and carefully specify what you prefer.

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

(1) FABRICS - NATURAL FIBER

Rayon Satin - Cotton-backed ("CBS"):
(View stock samples below)
We classify 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 knitted with matte (dull) cotton on the backside. 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 our inventory from a special American manufacturer, and usually offer 14 different color choices: black, red, chocolate, burgundy, navy, royal blue, medium sky blue, pale pink, ivory, silver, and white, blue-purple, forest green, and rich peach. On occasion we will entertain your request to dye a particular color for a modest upcharge; please inquire.

Satin - polyester:
Other polyester satins of lesser quality and less cost per yard may also be available upon request, but we encourage our clients to select from our cotton-backed satins if possible, because of their quality and strength. Please note the corset shown at the right; white threads of wear show through this gold store-bought polyester satin (not cotton-backed) after only a few years of foundation-wear. Outer clothing has literally "rubbed the satin raw." It would likely take many more years for this kind of intense corset wear for such damage or weakness to appear on cotton-backed satin, if ever. Of course, your level of wear and care for your corset, will affect this issue.

100% Cotton - Twill, Duck, Denim, Coutil, 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. While we used to say that any 100% cotton will always be more durable over time and wear than satins and silks, we decided to be more specific in our language, after some discussion with Lucy, an accomplished corset educator from Canada (bishonrancher): It depends on the quality of the fabric!

In other words, some twill is lighter weight and/or more open in the weave -- and exactly the same thing is true with duck, denim, and coutil. I've felt some coutil that to me, feels like thick cardboard, and is not very attractive to my personal sense of aesthetics. As stated in the very first sentence of this page, our team members choose the highest suitable quality cotton in the marketplace based upon their professional experience. The final choice in fabrics up to the client's preferences.

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

These top-strength fabrics are very 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), but are suitable where a fancy or elegant appearance is not a major factor.

Twill:
A diagonally -oven rather thick cotton fabric usually with a dull finish.

Duck:
(View representative samples right)
A square weave fabric with a matte or non-shiny 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 dull or shiny finish (beware: some denims have a bit of spandex in the weave and are therefore too lightweight and stretchy for serious corsetry or 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. Note that some "coutils" also come in polyester satins and patterned brocades. Note that the suitability of this fabric for a corset depends upon weight and weave, as it does for twill, denim, or duck.
As of 2013 there has been some discussion in the growing online corset community to the effect that coutil is the most appropriate fabric for waist-training quality corsetry for outside fabric and/or for lining, however we do not agree. We find that the appropriate duck, twill, or even our cotton-backed satin used as lining (and appropriately bonded or interfaced) results in a corset that will stretch not at all or minimally, even after hours and hours of continuous wear.

Ruth Johnson, our former famous team member from Mt. View, who sadly passed in 2010, traditionally made her corsets in cotton-backed satin on the outside, but lined them in the same cotton-backed satin. She did not bond either fabric and never used interfacing. Not once over the 15 years we worked with Ruth, nor in our personal corset wear of her corsets, did we ever hear about or experience stretching, other than at most 1/4" or less, with a five or six-inch waist reduction after hours and hours of wear.

Some easing of any fabric used in any corset will likely occur, but a fabric will settle down in terms of "stretching" or "easing" after some time. Afterwards the threads may wear on their surface (satin earlier than coutil or twill) and eventually fray, but without further "stretching." Thus, the evaluation process regarding suitability of any fabric should be more nuanced than following generalized opinion about the matter in the online community. Not many of our clients have ordered coutil because it adds an approximate upcharge of about $40-50 per underbust style, or $50-80 for overbust styles. Top corset-quality coutil is usually manufactured in Europe and accordingly, the importation duties add cost. Clients should request this specialty fabric, if desired.


100% Silk:
Silk comes in many textures, weaves, and finishes from smooth to nubby, and from shiny to matte (dull).

Dupione:
(View representative samples left)
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 "satin," 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 (dull) finish and limited but lovely colors such as blush, cafe au lait, eggshell, grey-blue, white, and scarlet, seen in closeup at the top of this page, right. You may also see the scarlet color represented in the corset shown at the top of this page, right.

Taffeta
(View representative sample left)
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)on leather that is 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 samples 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 left)
Lamb is an incredibly soft, luxurious, silky leather that often takes 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, and they glisten and sparkle, also coming in a wide range of colors. They can be combined 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 some wear of metallic leather corsets.

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. Some ROMANTASY team members will work in patent leather, normally black, although other colors are available.
Because this is very delicate and difficult fabric to work with, requiring extra tedious attention to details of stitching and finishing, an upcharge will be involved.

Heavy Lattigo Leather:
(View sample right)
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.

(2) 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 however, 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 and use what you think is the same fabric we use, however they do not. They use the lower quality fabric that will shred or wear sooner rather than later.

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.






(3) 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 left)

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. Back to Index

C. HOW TO SELECT A FABRIC; REVERSIBILITY

You should start your fabric selection by considering 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). Then determine what type of fabric you prefer, and narrow your colors 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 the fabric in a corset pictured on our website.

You should consider if you will reverse your underbust style corset and if so, then choose a lining color and fabric accordingly (most corsets are lined in black, ivory or white cotton; other fabrics as lining may or will require an upcharge for additional labor or fabric). We recommend that you never reverse an overbust corset because this will weaken the more sharply bend cup boning.

If you have a specific color in mind for your first and second choices, it would be best for you to first request an actual swatch of fabric from us, or send us a paper sample of the color we are to approximate. You will readily understand that requesting a "blue" corset is rather meaningless when you consider the following "blues" available in the marketplace: teal blue, sky blue, royal blue, peacock blue, grey blue, light blue, midnight blue, navy, and other shades of "blue!" Even "black" can differ; one might be dark black, another blue black, and yet a third, grey black. Of course, we are always happy should you decide to leave the ultimate color choice up to us; we promise to exercise only the highest of artistic standards on your behalf.

Please note that once you select style, fabric and trims, and your order becomes final and we place the order with your corsetmaker, or if we go fabric shopping upon your authorization and make a purchase for you, then any change you make in fabric (pattern or color) will or may incur a Change Order fee of $50 and possibly the cost of the fabric purchased. Note also that corsets made for the fuller figure, or fabric requiring careful mirror-matching of larger, distinct patterns, will or may require a labor upcharge and well may require more fabric than usual; please read the comment below from corsetiere Ruth Johnson. We will let you know about these matters once we have your final swatch, or final fabric selection. Be aware of the issue and possible consequences of mirror-matching large patterns which you can read about in the next section below. Back to Index


D. 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 those ordering and information pages. When desiring to supply your own fabric, kindly read and take to hear the wise words set forth below, by our former corsetier Mr. Garrod of True Grace Corset Company, and by Sharon McCoy Morgan on our ROMANTASY team. Fabric should never be purchased or submitted without first discussing it with us, and sending us a swatch to test for suitability.

You will add to, or take years of wear off your gorgeous corset, depending on the skill with which you select the quality of your fabric. Please submit a fabric swatch in advance of your purchase; we cannot be responsible for the cost of fabric that may entail an additional charge for overlay, mirror-matching of patterns (see below), or other special handing or Change Orders. Note, too, that some corset makers choose not even work with certain fabrics. For example, after we had carefully advised one bridal client, she went out to purchase ivory brocade, but came back with black velvet -- a fabric her chosen corsetmaker did not accept. At first, we feared the cost of the velvet would be a total loss to the client, but we were able to change her corsetmaker to another member of our team who worked in velvet, and completed the bridal corset perfectly!

Note that any such administrative change necessitated by our client's independent actions, will or may incur a $50 Change Order fee.

Regarding patterns, remember that large patterns may not show well on a corset because the individual pattern pieces are relatively narrow. In addition, to show a large pattern or even a very regular small pattern, extra labor and time plus extra fabric may need to be taken to match both sides of the corset, called mirror matching. Note how corsetiere Sue Nice has mirror matched the large circles in the red fabric to the right, and the small bees in the fabric to the left. Sue even mirror-matched the fabric used on the busk underflap. Back to Index


E. FABRIC PLACEMENT IN DESIGN




F. WISE WORDS FROM OUR CORSET MAKERS

From Sharon McCoy Morgan, Altered Tyme Corset Company for ROMANTASY:

"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."

From Michael Garrod, True Grace Corset Company:

"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."

From Ruth Johnson, May 15, 2003:

"One of your customers sent a piece of slik 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."

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