Cheap Corsets: Are they any good?

Cheap Corsets: Are they any good?

Cheap Corset = False Economy?

What's the difference between a cheap corset and a more expensive one? When it comes to purchasing your first corset there is a lot of choice out there. There are a lot of promises made, but what really is the difference between buying a corset from a brand that specializes in quality corsets, and taking a chance with Wish, AliExpress, eBay or Amazon?

If you're new to retro style hosiery, or hosiery of any kind, then the terminology can be confusing - but help is at hand!

Check out our guide to hosiery and all will be revealed.

Cheap Counterfeit What Katie Did Corsets on Alibaba

cheap what katie did corset
cheap corset on ali express and wish

In a world of fast fashion there is a lot of private labelling going on. ‘Private label’ means that a factory makes an item and allows a brand to put their own label in it.

Private labelling does sometimes happen in the world of corsets too. When I started my corset career at Skin Two in the late 1990s, we sold Vollers and Axfords corsets with a Skin Two label. Many other shops did the same, but it’s now less common as more corset brands have appeared.

This means that the same item might be available from different brands. People might presume that the same applies to corsets. Thinking perhaps designer brands buy private label cheap corsets from the Far East on wholesale platforms, such as Alibaba, and sell them on at a huge mark up as their own designs?

Further confusion occurs when platforms such as Wish, AliExpress, Alibaba and eBay are unable to police counterfeit images. Traders will steal images from reputable  

corset brands (as seen above!) and use them to promote their version which will be completely different from the original. It’s something we’ve suffered from a lot at What Katie Did when we made fancier designs. It was one of the reasons we decided to focus on simpler designs which were less attractive to counterfeiters.

We’ve all seen articles about wedding dresses purchased from Wish looking completely different to the image. There are increasing articles about items purchased from fast fashion brands where the version worn by the model or influencer looks very different to the version received by the customer.

It’s getting to the point where a lot of consumers could presume that the designer corset brand is just using clever Photoshop. Not only making their corsets look desirable but that the garments sold by Wish/Ali/eBay are exactly the same, which most definitely is not the case!

vamp extreme corset by what  katie did
vamp corset by what  katie did
vamp extreme corset by what  katie did

What To Look For When Buying A Corset

The first rule when it comes to corsets is that you generally get what you pay for. At What Katie Did, we class our corsets as mid-market. They’re designed for daily wear, made with good quality fabrics and components with accurate and neatly finished stitching. We also design them to suit different body shapes: it’s not just about the waist!

While there are a few cheaper corset brands that make totally acceptable corsets, you can't be sure that the fabrics or finish will be as good. And if they don’t mention hip or rib measurements then you won’t know if they will fit your body shape or not.

The second rule when it comes to corsets is that they are sized by reduced waist size, not dress size (reduced waist means the size of the corset when fully closed, so a 24” corset will measure 24” inside). If a corset is sized by dress, or simply S, M, L then it will not be a proper corset. This is because the waist measurement is the most important thing when it comes to corsets.

I wanted to dive into the world of cheap corsets myself and by doing so, I bought a corset from Wish. I selected a corset that I was hoping would kind of look okay to the untrained eye. After all, to cinch a corset all you have to do is pull the strings right?!

While pulling on the corset laces will tighten your corset, this doesn’t take into account the shape of your body and if the corset is cut either too straight or too curvy for you it won’t fit. In my case, the Wish corset was too straight so it squeezed me into a very straight up and down shape. It felt very tight at the top of my ribcage and hip, with no compression on the waist where it’s really needed. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a corset that’s too curvy for you on Wish/AliExpress but if you do, the corset will flare at the top of the rib and hip and is unsuitable for your body shape. Always check your rib and hip measurements, as well as your waist when purchasing a corset.

It’s pretty standard for even the cheapest Wish/AliExpress corset to be sold as ‘steel boned’. Steel boning is preferable to plastic (with the exception of faux whalebone) as it springs back into shape. Once a plastic bone bends or breaks it stays bent or broken. The steel bones don’t add shape to your corset, they’re just placed to keep the corset structure in place and stop it folding into itself. A large quantity of steel bones does not guarantee a good corset! Although my Wish corset was sold as ‘steel boned’, the boning inside was actually plastic.

If you are interested in the quality of fast fashion shaping pieces, whether or not you're looking into buying one, take a look at my Wish Waist Trainer review.

My Wish corset: Looks can be deceiving

Cheap Corset Components: Busks, Bones and Eyelets

Another thing you need to look for in a corset is the material the busk is made from. It should be Spring Steel, a type of steel that has some flexibility to spring back into shape as the name suggests. When you first wear a corset the busk will feel very rigid, but after time you will find yourself able to bend a little and the rigid steel busk will break after time. With excessive bending over, and I mean for many many months, a spring steel busk will wear overtime and potentially break. But it will last a lot longer than plain steel. If you are only wearing your corset for special occassions, then there is no need to worry about the busk. It's only when you start considering waist training do you need to consider how to keep your corset in the best shape possible.

Another important thing to consider are Eyelets. The eyelets are the pieces on the back of the corset that the lace run through and with lots of pulling and tightening, they're put under lots of stress. All well made corsets use two piece eyelets which are smooth on both sides so the laces run through them easily. If the eyelets aren’t inserted properly, they can fall out making your corset unwearable.

With my Wish corset, it was no surprise that the eyelets immediately showed signs of wear. Yu do get what you pay for when it comes to a corset! What was a huge surprise was the plastic boning that was positioned on either side of the eyelets. There should be a flat steel bone on either side of the eyelets that keeps the lacing panel straight as you tighten it: as you can see from my video the flexible plastic bone made it extremely difficult to tighten the corset.

To sum up, if something looks too good to be true it generally is. If you are looking for a cheap corset for a fancy dress party then a corset from Wish/AliExpress might work for you. But if you are looking to wear a corset regularly then it will be a false economy, especially in this Wish corset trial as it was falling apart after just trying it on!

Cheap Corset Shopping Checklist

  • Good: Corsets sized in reduced waist size generally in inches
  • Good: Rib and hip measurements given for corsets. This is not a deal breaker if they’re not online, customer service should be able to provide them.
  • Good: Mention of different body shapes
  • Good: Contact details of seller and returns policy
  • Avoid: corset pictured as a still life on a cut out white background
  • Avoid: picture showing only one front view
  • Avoid: any mention of a free thong with your purchase.

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