[I purchased the Mae corset at What Katie Did’s London boutique under my real name with my own money. Timeless Trends generously provided the Hourglass corset for review. I was not compensated for this post, and all thoughts and opinions are my own.]
So, whoops, I’m covering corsets all backwards on the ol’ blog here. Normally when people start wearing corsets they start with off-the-rack and then gradually move to custom, but I started with made-for-me corsets back in my acting days and then went fully-bespoke with my Angela Friedman Irene Adler corset (the editorial is here, and here are Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the custom-corset process), so let’s just proceed in a backwardsly fashion and chat about corsets that you can buy off the rack for your general corsetry/costume needs.
Since bespoke luxury corsets are not attainable for many budgets, and since they’re not exactly the sort of thing you’d want to wear everyday, many people start with simpler, more affordable options. Especially with Halloween on the horizon, I know lots of folks who don’t regularly waist-train or wear corsets every day are still interested in wearing one as part of a costume, but with so many options, it can be hard to figure out where to start.
I’m pleased to have the chance to take a look at styles from two of the best-known and best-respected OTR corsetry brands. What Katie Did has a passionate cult following, both for their vintage-inspired lingerie and hosiery as well as for their corsets. They offer a huge range of corset shapes and styles, plus lots of customization options. Timeless Trends has recently partnered with Lucy of the fabulous Lucy’s Corsetry to develop a new Hourglass collection specifically for those with “extreme curves”, or dramatic waist-hip ratios, who want to emphasize or create a super curvy shape. So lets dive in!
IMPORTANT NOTE: I am neither qualified nor inclined to answer questions of health and safety when it comes to corsetry and waist-training. I feel comfortable saying that in general you’ll want to pace yourself in terms of how long you wear your corset and how tightly you lace it, but if you have specific questions relating to diet, exercise, and corset safety, please check with your medical provider or consult a corsetry expert like Lucy’s Corsetry, whose exhaustive archives cover all sorts of topics related to wearing and caring for corsets. Relatedly, I’m not going to give super precise measurements about which corset took how many inches off of what part of my anatomy, because honestly I find that aspect of corsetry boring and triggering. Wheeee here we go!
SOLID BURGUNDY HOURGLASS CORSET BY TIMELESS TRENDS
The Solid Burgundy Hourglass silhouette corset is designed for extreme curves. Crafted of an outer layer of lovely two-tone burgundy polyester fabric and lined with two layers of black 100% cotton, it features an interior waist tape, a stiff busk with five fastenings, steel spiral bones, six loops at the interior bottom edge to attach stocking garters (not included), and beautiful burgundy ribbon laces at the back. I particularly like that the lacing is satin ribbon instead of cotton cord. There are some folks who strongly prefer one type of lacing over the other, but I mostly like the ribbons because they’re pretty? I’m a woman of simple pleasures.
This is one of the most affordable waist-training corsets out there at $99, and I’m pretty impressed with the quality. The stitching and construction are clean and polished, the corset feels sturdy and built to last, and the rich burgundy fabric has a lovely sheen. One thing to note is that this style does not include a modestly panel to lie under the laces, so you will see a fold of skin when the corset is tightly laced, and the ribbon laces will lie directly against the skin. If you are sensitive, you may want to invest in a corset liner of some kind to protect your skin from irritation and to protect the fabric of the corset from the sweat and oils of your body (this is also a good idea if you plan to wear the corset daily, as a liner will help to extend the corset’s life).
I took a series of measurements following instructions from Timeless Trends and received a corset in size 26″. This was a bit astonishing to me, as it’s a good 6-8 inches smaller than my natural waist, depending on what my weight is doing at any given point. I have to fully loosen the laces before the corset will even fasten around my body– the waist is seriously small. The general rule of thumb (again, again, again, people have VERY particular personal preferences when it comes to corsets, so this is just a “hey if you’re getting started here’s a thing I’ve heard” piece of advice) is to allow at least a 2″ lacing gap the first time you try a corset on. With the Timeless Trends corset, that gap is more like 4-5″ on me, even after several periods of wear and some recent weight loss.
My first thought on lacing it up was “yikes–this corset is way, way, WAY curvier than I am”. The waist is SMALL, and it curves in so quickly and dramatically that I feel like it’s compressing my ribcage uncomfortably. I don’t like to lace myself up very tight on the first wear of a new corset, but in order to get the hips to come close to fitting me I had to lace it pretty firmly. In addition to the shape not being the best fit for me, this is also a stiff, heavy, aggressive corset, which makes the shape incompatibility feel more pronounced. I carry weight in my stomach and waistline, not my hips and rear, and the hip spring is just too generous for me.
I know for a lot of people creating a silhouette with a tiny waist and pronounced, voluptuous hips is the whole point of corsetry, but it’s such a contrast to the way I picture my body that I don’t feel comfortable wearing it, both physically and from a body image point of view. I thought about sizing up to a 28″, but then the hips would be too full. While the mismatch between my body and this corset means that this isn’t the best style for me, I imagine it will feel pretty different for those with more natural hourglass figures. For a review from someone with a more pronounced waist-hip ratio than mine, do check out Marianne’s review for The Lingerie Addict. Lucy also has a great video up comparing this style to an earlier, less extreme corset. Finally, how stunning is this review from Style or Else?
The Hourglass corset required a serious breaking-in period, especially since I don’t have a naturally super-nipped-in waist. The first two times I wore it I remember thinking “ouch, I can’t imagine wearing this outside of my apartment, even down to the laundry room.” It just felt too intense to me– I didn’t like how the full hips ended higher up on my body so that my belly pokes out underneath, I didn’t like the too-constricting feeling through my waist (and ribs), and I reeeeally didn’t like the look of all my fluffy bits being shoved over the top of the super-stiff busk in the back. The top of the back of the corset rises to just below my shoulder blades, and all the squish that’s being displaced from my waist spills out over the top edge. While I’m short-waisted and so don’t think the extra long hourglass shape would be right for me, I still feel like I want a little more length in the body to provide a little more lower-belly coverage and upper-back support. I felt like I couldn’t move in this– sitting was uncomfortable, bending over was uncomfortable, even reach up to get something out of a cabinet was uncomfortable. I don’t need to perform acrobatics throughout the day, but I’m still pretty active and mobile, and I dislike how restricted and stiff I feel wearing this corset.
Bottom Line: For $99, this corset offers great quality and a classic design at an extremely reasonable cost. Unfortunately, the Hourglass line isn’t a great match my body shape and my active lifestyle, but I think this would be a fantastic option for someone with a naturally more curvaceous figure. It’s also worth noting that this shape is available in multiple shades of “nude” for those who plan to wear one every day.
MAE STANDARD UNDERBUST CORSET BY WHAT KATIE DID
I had the advantage of being fitted personally at the What Katie Did boutique, so the fitter could easily assess my body type and select the best style for me. We started with Morticia, a super-curvy (and super-popular: see Fuller Figure Fuller Bust’s review here) shape, but quickly determined that it wasn’t right for me, for many of the reasons that made the Timeless Trends Hourglass corset not quite right for me. Taking my height, waist size, and narrower hips/rear into account, my fitter suggested trying on Mae, and as soon as she laced it up I fell in love and threw my vacation budget to the winds.
Mae is an underbust corset with a smooth, even line on top and a more moderate waist-hip ratio. It features a hidden waist tape, a black polyester satin outer layer of fabric, and a double lining of sturdy black cotton twill. There are five fastenings on the metal busk and twelve flat and spiral steel bones, and the corset laces up the back with black shoelace-style lacing. The top and bottom edges are bound with black satin, and the corset features a generous modesty panel to lie under the laces plus six loops at the interior bottom edge for attaching stocking suspenders. Instead of tightly cinching the waist, the silhouette is a little more relaxed, perfect for someone like me or for someone who doesn’t want extreme curves every day. Two gores create beautifully contoured hips, so that the corset sits lower on the body and closely hugs and shapes the tummy and hips without compressing them. I love that the hip spring isn’t SUPER DRAMATIC, because I prefer the more streamlined shape on me. The stitching and construction are clean and polished, and the corset feels sturdy and designed for long-term wear. For another perspective you can check out Lucy’s review of the Mae corset here.
I purchased a 30″ corset, and from the first wear it fastened with a 2″ lacing gap. I do wonder if I should have purchased a 28″, as it seems to break in quickly, and I worry before too long I’ll be able to lace it fully closed; my lacing gap is currently about 1.25″ after just a few wears. That quibble aside, the Mae corset fits my body really, really well. The length is a good match for my tall-but-short-waisted frame, the waist sits at the right places so that the corset isn’t compressing my ribs uncomfortably, and the hips sit smooth and flush against my body. I find it easier and quicker to get myself laced and unlaced in the Mae than in the Hourglass corset, which required lots of squeezing and pulling and adjusting. The fit though the hips and lower belly feels fantastic– I love the feeling of having slightly more coverage and support, the bottom edge doesn’t dig into my squishy bits when I sit down, and it creates a much smoother line under clothes.
As I mentioned above, I’m pretty active, and the idea of a wearing a corset all day, no matter how perfectly fitted to my body it may be, holds little appeal to me (me personally! I know lots of folks love wearing their corsets daily, it’s just not my thing). However, for special occasions, like performances, Halloween, or parties, I think corsets can be really fun (and feel really good). Mae is absolutely a corset I could see myself wearing out of the house for a special occasion. It feels good on my body, I feel like I can sit and move around comfortably, I like the shape and support it gives me, it doesn’t dig too dramatically into my squishy back, and the black color makes it super-versatile. While it compresses and reshapes the way any corset does, Mae feels like a firm hug, rather than a rigid vice.
Bottom Line: While What Katie Did’s off-the-rack corsets are on the slightly more expensive side, the quality is absolutely outstanding, and the Mae corset in particular is such a good match for my style, my body, and my activity levels that it makes the price absolutely worth it.
I hope this double review was helpful! As with bras, there is SO MUCH information (and misinformation) out there, it can be hard to know where to start if you’re new to corsetry. Going from the bespoke to off-the-rack was interesting and surprisingly helpful for me when it came time to write this review, since I knew what it felt like to have a corset tailored precisely to my anatomy, which gave me an advantage when figuring out if these brands and styles were the right shape or size. It’s sort of like with bras– when I wore the wrong size for years, the first time I tried the “right” size felt strange and wrong. Similarly with corsets, it may take a few tries to figure out which shape works best for you. And it’s not all about your waist and hips measurements! Flared ribcages, torso length, spine curvature, lifestyle needs, even injuries or chronic conditions can all affect your corset preferences.
I guess I should figure out a Halloween costume, shouldn’t I? Any suggestions? Will you be wearing a corset this Halloween?
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Corset 1: Solid Burgundy Hourglass Corset by Timeless Trends (c/o, $99), available in sizes 18″-38″. Many other colors and prints available here.
Corset 2: Mae Standard Corset by What Katie Did ($229.50), available in sizes 18″-34″. Also available in Forest Green, Sailor Blue, Cream, Peach, Deep Red, White, Purple, Corn Blue, Red, Pink, and Silver Grey. Also available in a curvier ‘Extreme’ shape.
Bra and Brief: Evie by All Undone (c/o, £89/56), available in sizes 28-34 D-GG and XS-L.
Photos: Studio Rezin