After months of looking longingly at the selection of corsets on Orchard Corset's website, I sold a few clothing items and suddenly had a bit of extra spending money (isn't that an awesome feeling?). I did a lot of research- apparently not quite enough, as you'll see later- and decided on a size 22 in a black pinstripe CS-411 style underbust corset.
Ordering was easy, the free shipping (same day if you order by 6 PM EST) was a nice perk, and the package arrived only two days after I made the order. That was very impressive considering the estimated time of arrival was a week later. In my haste to actually see the corset, I forgot to take a picture of how it came. It was neatly rolled up in tree-printed tissue paper with a sticker holding it together. It also came with an order/return form, detailed instructions about how to put on, lace, wear, and care for your corset, two business cards with a discount code for a future purchase, and a nice touch- a signed customer appreciation card. I never needed to contact them, but I have heard nothing but good things about their customer service, and the attention to detail alone was impressive.
The instructions were very thorough, but if you can't find some information,
you can often find it on their website or blog.
My first reaction upon unrolling the corset was panic. It just looked so tiny. I couldn't ever fit into that! I breathed a bit easier when I realized that it came fully bi-directionally laced... and completely laced shut. I already knew I would have to wear it with a gap in the back. Phew! The materials felt durable and the corset seemed sturdy and well-made. If you're looking for a more in-depth review of the actual corset construction, there is an excellent one on Lucy's Corsetry.
I've had some trouble when lacing getting the modesty panel smooth and centered,
but I don't think I'd feel comfortable without it.
Despite wanting to put it on immediately, I made myself unlace it and follow the lacing directions so that I would know how to do it in the future. Then I made myself carefully read the instructions sheet. Then I put it on (albeit loosely, basically just resting on my waist- see picture below) and thought, "Huh. I guess I overestimated how curvy my body is." As you can see, the corset flared out and left gaps at the hips and at the underbust. The fact that this made me think there was something wrong with my body rather than shrugging it off as a garment simply not being right for me is a sad testament to the way women are conditioned to think about themselves. So I want everyone to say it with me: clothes should fit you; you shouldn't fit the clothes.
Keep in mind that in these pictures, the corset isn't paired with outfits,
just what I wear it with around the house.
It turns out that the curve of this corset makes it more like a Level 3 in Orchard Corset's "silhouette level" system, even if it is labeled Level 2, and I probably should have read their blog post about that issue. I had ordered assuming that it was made for moderate/enhanced Level 2 curves: while my hips at their fullest point measure about 10.5/11" more than my waist, my upper hip where a standard-length corset would sit is only 8" larger. I wondered if I should send it back. I knew that you should never over-tighten or pull in too much when breaking in a corset, so I decided to give it a chance and see what happened once it molded to my body and I could close it a bit further. I wore it for about 1.5 hours a day for a week and then reassessed my original conclusions. And boy, am I glad I did:
Yes, it's almost impossible to take a picture of your own back without a mirror.
Also, I guess I never notice how square and minimizing the Masquerade Rhea is from the side
because of the view from the top :-).
I love it! It certainly forces me to correct my posture, which is great, because my posture is dreadful. There is indeed a slightly V-shaped gap in the back, but nothing very noticeable. If you have larger hips than I do, it might be worth searching other sites that have corsets with gored hips or larger hip pockets. Most of Orchard Corsets Level 3's- their curviest silhouette level- measure 10-11" (or 11-13" for longlines) more at the bottom edge than at the waist when completely shut.
There are a few other fit issues. I have an average-length torso, and my boobs are set low on my chest, so I suspect I don't have enough distance between bust and hips to accommodate a longline. This one already pushes my bust up enough, in any case. So this corset is -about- long enough but is still unfortunately just short enough to create a bit of upper back and lower tummy bulge. I suspect this could be ameliorated with smoothing shapewear, and I've seen some suggestions to wear a bra with a thick band underneath as well.
Although I haven't yet found one in my size, a longline like
Freya's Just Flew In would probably be ideal.
Curvy Kate's Tease Me has worked best so far.
Again, I was tempted to blame my body for these (minor!) problems. Why are my upper back and shoulders so broad? Why is my stomach so weirdly shaped? Why don't I have 0% body fat so that this can't happen? Why don't I fit this corset perfectly? This was crazy talk. Clothes should fit you; you shouldn't fit the clothes. I don't buy a hat and then think that my head is somehow "wrong" if the hat squeezes my head but fits someone else just fine. I simply think we might have differently sized or shaped heads! I shouldn't blame my body for not fitting into certain shirts, or pants, or dresses, or corsets either.
If I ever have more opportunities to actually wear a corset, I can see investing in a custom-made overbust one. Even though this is the only corset I've tried, I doubt that I could get a much better or perfect fit in an off-the-rack one. And that's OK. It doesn't mean that my body is bad or abnormal if it doesn't fit into OTR clothing, especially such a specialty item. While this one isn't perfect, it's still lovely, comfortable, well-made and wearable, and I would definitely recommend checking out Orchard Corset if you're in the market for an OTR corset.
* ... What? You mean women don't usually fall for pickup lines even if they're math-related?