Corsets made to measure at Manchester’s Kiku boutique
- Credit: Archant
If you thought corsets were just for stiff Victorians and burlesque dancers, think again. A Manchester boutique is leading the way
Think corset and the chances are you picture a Victorian lady having her waist laced until she faints onto the nearest chaise longue. But the corset is making a comeback - and a Manchester company is changing those old perceptions.
Lynn Mckay runs Kiku, a boutique in Manchester's Northern Quarter, which is one of the few places in the UK where you can have a luxurious corset made to measure.
Lynn has almost 30 years' experience in the art of corsetry and has provided corsets for photo shoots and catwalks and also stocks a range of ready to wear corsets. But in recent years she has seen a marked increase in the number of clients ordering a bespoke corset who are prepared to travel many hundreds of miles to take advantage of her skill: it isn't unknown for clients to travel from Europe. But why do women want a corset in these days of emancipated fashion?
'Women want the choice and they may decide to have one for a variety of reasons, quite often for the sheer pleasure of wearing a beautiful, surprisingly comfortable, garment, she said. 'Many clients don't want to hide it away under clothes, they wear it as a stunning piece of clothing in its own right. Stars like Madonna and designers such as Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier have heightened awareness of just what gorgeous and high-end fashion items they can be.
'Brides may want one to wear as a bodice on their wedding day, others want to wear one as an eye catching top and of course, as burlesque becomes ever more popular, so does the corset.'
Lynn who also supplies corsets for those who want to improve their posture, but some despairing mothers of slouching teenage daughters have been frustrated because Lynn won't provide a corset for anyone under the age of 16.
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She also has clients who want to wear a corset in order to 'waist train': a term which means that gradually, over time, the waist will naturally shrink a little although in order to achieve that, the corset does have to be worn every day.
Of course, many clients just want the ultra-feminine shape that a corset can bestow.
'It's not about altering the shape, but about gently emphasising it which it does by making the waist a little smaller. By pulling in the waist, the bosom and hips will naturally fall into place. All the pressure is on the middle section but the ribcage is never constricted. It accentuates shape for those who want an enhanced natural look.'
Lynn begins the process by carefully measuring the client and when she's confident she has the right measurements, she settles herself at her workstation at the front of the boutique, scented with lilies, and begins to cut out the pieces; often using authentic 19th century patterns.
Lynn chooses dupion silk, which is then lined with a traditional herringbone coutil fabric before inserting different types of steel to give the corset shape, strength and flexibility.
'If the client has asked for customised colours or decoration, I make sure these are done perfectly. Sometimes, clients bring in sentimental items such as a feather that belonged to a mother's bridal bouquet that they would like to be incorporated or they might ask for something special to them, such as having a rose embroidered on to the front.
'Then it's time for the ribbons. These are always double-sided satin and I typically use six to eight yards per corset, although that can be reduced at the fitting stage.'
Lynne swears it is perfectly possible to learn to do up the corset all by oneself with a little practice, a refusal to be flustered and some patience. So no need for the maid to have her knee in your back while she laces you in.
'Lots of people think they won't be able to do it and fear they'll literally tie themselves in knots but if you can fasten a bra, you can do up a corset and before too long, you'll wonder why you ever doubted yourself!'