We've all seen the articles on lingerie blogs about what constitutes a "real" corset or what the differences are between corsets and bustiers and merrywidows and girdles and shapewear and so on. (See The Lingerie Addict.) An experienced corset maker or wearer will rattle off a whole list of reasons why one brand produces a better product than another, how one garment is priced too high and another too low, and so on... So what does it all matter, anyway? Is there really such a difference, and can it really be worth the hassle of finding a true corsetmaker? Can it be worth the expense?
Now, of course there is a time and a place for inexpensive clothing: for a one-time costume, when you're in a rush, when there's no other choice, if everything else is cost prohibitive... But if you ask me, everyone should have that one special piece in her closet that goes above and beyond. Maybe it's that beaded cocktail dress that gives her an extra boost of confidence, or those killer boots that look fantastic and still manage to be comfortable. Or maybe it's a handmade corset. And maybe she's the only person who will ever see that corset, but does it ever make her look and feel like royalty!
So what is it about Angela Friedman corsets that puts them into that Wow category? Yes, they're hand crafted in the USA of the highest quality materials and are tested and constantly improved to make them even better. They feature intricate designs, bold colors and textiles, and blend vintage fashion with a contemporary aesthetic. And they're even available in ready-to-wear sizing! But it's all about the details... And what details really matter in the world of high-end corsets?
Even the most beautiful Italian silk can be made into the most hideous corset if the fit is incorrect. Many commercial corsets and even designer RTW corsets are made from pretty atrocious patterns. We've all seen them: they barely nip in the waist, they flatten the bust and shove it up somewhere around chin level, the bones cut in to all of the fleshy areas, and they chafe and scratch the skin. No wonder corsets get such a bad rap!
But at Angela Friedman, the fit is key. Extra small or extra large, these corsets hug the body and even create curves! The bust is lifted and supported, the waist gently compressed, and the wearer is comfortable and able to breathe deeply and fully.
You can't make something out of nothing, and good quality materials are quite costly. When costing becomes an issue, typically the materials budget is severely reduced to save every penny. At Angela Friedman, we pride ourselves in never reducing quality of materials, and though our price point may be higher than some would like, we refuse to change that policy.
The inner structure of the corset is 100% cotton English coutil, which is much more tightly woven than it's domestic counterparts. This sturdy fabric is what prevents the corset from stretching or distorting, and its natural breathability ensures the wearer's comfort. The fabrics on the outside of the corsets are also natural fibers, whether Korean silk, French brocade, or Italian damask.
Speaking of the inside of the corset, here's a photograph illustrating the part that you can't normally see. In this view, you can see the coutil inner layer as well as the seaming and bone casings that hold the support of the garment. You can also see the cotton waist tape that runs horizontally along the middle of the corset, which will prevent any stretching of that tiny nipped-in waist. Angela Friedman corsets are constructed with double-stitched seams, which ensures that the garments will not tear or stretch over time. If worn and cleaned carefully, they will literally last for decades.
4. Steel boning
Since the boning is such a key component of a corset's structure, high end materials really matter in this area, too. Cheap corsets usually feature the telltale plastic boning, which may look decent straight out of the box, but after even one wearing, the heat and moisture of the body will warp the plastic in the most unnatural ways. Plastic boning will then retain these awkward curves and bumps forever. But steel boning, while still pliable and comfortably bendable, will not retain any permanent warping. Each of Angela Friedman's corsets has between 22 and 32 pieces of steel boning in it, along with a steel busk closure at the front.
5. No wrinkles
While primarily an aesthetic issue, I think it's an important one to bring up... Well-constructed corsets don't have a wrinkly mess around the waist! It sounds simple enough, but upon paying close attention, this is where even highly-regarded and established brands frequently mess up. There should be no bunching of excess fabric or seams eased into one another along the curves.
A well-made corset should be smooth, smooth, smooth. From top to bottom, along the waist and over the bust, every curve should be a smooth transition, and there shouldn't be any bunching or crumples of excess fabric. The bones should be positioned to be fairly tight within the casings, pulling the corset taut vertically, and the fashion fabric should be rolled neatly around the inner layer to accommodate for the turn-of-cloth.