Recently, something Billie Eilish posted on her Instagram surpassed a million likes in six minutes. While this may have had a lot to do with the post being her British Vogue cover (and her status as the voice of Generation Z), there was another element to the image that might also account for its popularity: a custom Gucci corset.
Corsets are the antithesis of casual clothing and, by consequence, an emblem of how we hope to dress in the post-pandemic era. “I think as people get more excited about being able to go out again they are looking to enjoy dressing up,” says Rosie Evans, founder of an eponymous brand with a strong focus on corsets. “Historically inspired fashion and a more feminine aesthetic has also become really popular over the last year,” she adds. “The corset is the perfect garment as it combines both those aspects.”
Corsets aren’t just appealing for aesthetic reasons, however. “The feeling when wearing a corset is like nothing else,” believe Kate Donald and Rosemary Lambert, founders of sustainable lingerie brand, CREASE. “By accentuating your curves and pulling your spine upright, [a corset makes] you stand taller and feel powerful in your figure,” they continue. “Reclaiming this power allows you to play and have fun with your body.” While comfort has been king throughout coronavirus, “now is the time to take delight in wearing clothes that encourage you to explore and discover different parts of yourself,” say Kate and Rosemary.
So, what are the best corset brands? And how do you even style a corset? Read on.
Georgia Chambers founded Umore as a matter of necessity: “I have a huge love for vintage Dolce & Gabbana and Vivienne Westwood corsets, however I could not afford them so I started making my own out of my kitchen,” she explains. “I kept getting compliments on them and Umore was born.” Given that all Umore corsets are made from designer deadstock fabrics such as Roberto Cavalli leopard print and “tweeds from the Chanel manufacturer”, these compliments are unsurprising. As for styling, Georgia prefers to wear a corset “over a vintage slip with one side of the slip dress tucked under the corset to make an asymmetric hem,” something we will be trying ourselves imminently.
Corsets actually exist in contrast to what CREASE usually offer as a brand. “Our current collection was heavily influenced by the notion of comfort,” say Kate and Rosemary. As we come out of lockdown, “a collision can be felt between the nests in our homes and outside spaces,” they continue. “It's this collision that inspired us to explore and experiment with corsetry.” For Kate and Rosemary, “the beauty of corsets is [that] they’re extremely versatile.” A look they favour in particular, however, is to wear a corset “underneath a loose suit with trainers,” which is at least one way to make an entrance when you finally return to the office.
“I started making corsets after graduating in 2018,” says Rosie. “I was working as a painter and decorator’s assistant and felt really uninspired, so I planned a little project based on historical clothing.” After sharing this on Instagram, she “started getting requests to make custom corsets” and has since made two exclusive corsets for the latest Bethany Williams' collection. Like Williams, “sustainability is possibly the most important aspect of” her brand. This means “using as much secondhand and upcycled material as possible, keeping quantities small and made-to-order to avoid waste, and using ethically and sustainably sourced and produced new fabrics.” One of Rosie’s favourite ways to style a corset is with loose jeans or long skirts to contrast with the structured top. Well, you have to be at least somewhat comfortable as lockdown restrictions ease.
Once you’ve stopped gawping at an Immoral London corset, a pleasant reality sets in: you too can order one. And, given that Aimee Belle Johnson also works with fabrics that have been sourced by clients themselves, it might even be superior. But fabric is not the only choice that must be made. There are sleeves to be considered. A decision to be made between a square or curved bustier and a longer or cropped basque, not to mention what direction to take the lacing and braces in and whether or not you want certain trimmings like beads and lace. Exhausting, but worth it for perfection.
A corset by Alice Pons is our recommendation if you value – something relatively close to – simplicity. After graduating from London College of Fashion in 2018, the designer established her brand to create ‘corsets for the modern woman’, but that’s not all: her collections also feature skirts (amongst other things) for anyone wanting to be dressed head-to-toe in Alice Pons.
As Georgia Chambers of Umore previously implied, Vivienne Westwood corsets – particularly of the vintage variety – are among the most desirable in existence. Because of this, they tend to be expensive. We would if we could, though.
For the creative director of Agent Provocateur, Sarah Shotton, “a corset is great because it can be used as underwear in a contouring way or it can be used as outerwear.” If it’s the latter that appeals the most to you, she suggests styling a corset – specifically the Mercy corset, which is a bestseller for the brand – “with jeans, leather trousers, a mini skirt, or even a rubber pencil skirt.”
Dion Lee’s eponymous brand isn’t a corset brand per se, but the abundance of corsetry in his collections is something to behold. Here’s to sexy minimalism.
Silk brand Valle&Vik started making corsets for two reasons: “in part, it is based on Princess Diana’s famous revenge dress and also inspired by a year in lockdown,” says the brand’s founder Silje Vallevik. “With limited freedom to be bold and wear statement pieces, I really felt there was never a better moment to drop The Revenge corset,” she continues. “To me, corset dressing is power dressing at its finest.” Agreed.
For Justin Ruddle, head of design at MIMII London, post-lockdown dressing “is all about confidence and can include many silhouettes but corsetry is certainly one of them.” While corsets tend to have a reputation for being uncomfortable, MIMII London corsets “have either mesh side panels or jersey panels at the back so they offer a good amount of stretch and comfort for everyday wear,” Justin explains. “Members of our London team wear them to the office over T-shirts.”
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