Here are some key things to look for when buying a corset.
1. Is the corset designed to Shape the body or is it just for show? Many items refered to as corsets are not corsets in the traditional sense they are just tops or lingerie items.
2. Does it have a front closure and what is it? A real corset will have either no front closure- only back lacing, a lace up front as well as back with the laces supported either side with steel boning or a steel busk closure on the front. If it has hook and eye, hook and eye tape or eyelet tape it cannot be laced too tight or will quickly come apart after a few wears.
3. What type of boning is used? The options are: Flat steel, Spiral steel, plastic or polyester. Even if not intended for shaping or waist reduction a corset at least needs some sort of boning at the seams to support the garment so it doesnt bunch up, so polyester or plasic boning is usually used for costuming or fashion pieces. A real corset used for waist reduction and figure shaping will have steel boning. Spiral steel bones are more flexible than flat steel and are prefered by some people as they can be more comfortable. A corset with spiral steel boning will usually still have flat steel bones on the centre front and back.
4. The lace up back. A couple of things to take notice of, firstly what is it laced with? ribbon, rattail and other thin lacings are not ideal for tight lacing. The laces take alot of strain when you are tight lacing and are a very important factor in the overall contstruction. The best option is flat woven laces, second option round woven laces. Secondly, what is it laced through ? For tight lacing corsets it has to be a 2 piece grommet construction. They will take alot of the stress of tight lacing off the fabric and will last a long time. Eyelets will tear out very easily and separately attached eyelet tape is not strong enough.
5. The Fabric. a) How many layers of fabric is there? 2 is enough if they are corset coutil (specifically designed for corsets) or strong fabric, sewn so that the grain of the fabric runs across the waistline rather than down the garment. for lighter fabric or where the grain cannot go across the waistline (due to a pattern that has to go up the right way) then there should be 3 layers, usually interfacing to reinforce the outter layer will suffice. b) What type of fabric is used? As already mentioned fabrics intended specifically for corset making are the most ideal but most non-stretch fabrics can be used. Stretch panels are sometimes used with the stretch going up and down for to conform to the bust without flattening it. The important thing is to make sure there are no panels of stretch fabric where the stretch goes around you perticularly at the waist line.
6. Finally, is the corset neatly and professionally finnished? Is it overall aesthetically pleasing? does each side of the corset match up perfectly at the closures? and is all the visible top stitching neat?
Thanks for reading my guide! It's barely the tip of the iceberg in the world of what to know about corsetry but I hope it helps anyone corset buying on ebay!