Marilyn Monroe and other actresses of her era seem to be endowed with impossibly beautiful hourglass figures that are guaranteed to turn heads. Nowadays we just don’t see a figure like Marilyn’s, above in ‘River of No Return.’ Diet and exercise, personal trainers and plastic surgery are easily available to much of the public, but if you are wondering what might be missing from the equation, it’s time to examine the corset.
Few things are as sexy as a beautiful corsetted midriff, as seen below in the photo by Kevin Duda. Made with opulent color and magnificent lace, corsets are what screen sirens of a bygone era wore when they wanted to look outstanding, with that curvy hourglass shape.
Traditional corsetry, however, may bring to mind a painful process or an uncomfortable manipulation of the waistline, but modern corsets reveal that nothing could be further from the truth.
Autumn Adamme, pictured below in the photo by Joel Aron, is owner of San Francisco’s Dark Garden Corsetry and Couture. She stated, “A bad corset hurts and a good corset actually feels supportive, like a comforting hug.”
Corsetry–custom corsetry, in fact, is Dark Garden’s specialty, and they do it well. Stated burlesque sensation Dita Von Teese, pictured below, “Dark Garden has been my go-to corset maker for the past 15 years, making all of my stage corsets, apart from the ones Paris-based master corsetier Mr. Pearl has made.”
“Our corsets are made to fit modern bodies as opposed to Victorian bodies,” Autumn said. Most corset makers are starting with historical patterns, she told me, and you can’t really put a woman of 2014 into a corset from 1860 because their proportions are different due to lifestyle changes. Women of today do not start wearing corsets at age five, as they did historically. As a result, modern women have rib cages that have expanded differently. In addition, the modern woman is much more physically active, which also affects bone structure and musculature. “The Victorian shape had very slender ribs with a really narrow back and a wider front, because women’s posture was affected,” said Autumn.
Autumn is a stunning visual oddity from another place and time. Her passion for the unique, the feminine, and the beautiful is perceptible immediately when you step inside her petite boutique and behold the wearable art that engages the mind with fantasies that can actually come true.
“The beauty and fashion industry tend to be very focused on making us feel bad about our perceived flaws,” she told me. “We at Dark Garden invite people to see themselves in a new light, to feel better in their bodies, to see their inner bombshell beauty.”
Women of any size can discover their own hourglass shape at Dark Garden, where they fit to a 55-inch waist and up to an H cup! And Autumn, a maestro in fashions of the unexpected, blends refined with risqué, making her the ideal candidate for creating custom corsets and couture, as well as memorable one-of-a-kind wedding gowns.
In addition to Dita Von Teese, other celebrities have donned Dark Garden’s gowns and corsets, including Christina Aguilera, Pamela Anderson and Kelly Osbourne.
A corset will make a woman look better in clothing, and it also improves the curvatures of the waistline permanently through a process called ‘waist training.’
Dark Garden’s Euphrates Dahout, above, in the photo by John Carey, told me that she has lost four inches from her original waist since she started waist training a year and a half ago. Many celebrities, such as Jessica Alba, have used waist training post pregnancy to whittle their waistlines. “I wore a double corset day and night for three months,” the actress said, “and it worked.”
Not only do corsets make a remarkable difference in the body’s silhouette, but they are often used as an alternative to medical back braces, Euphrates said.
Of course you can find lingerie that claims to be corsetry almost anywhere–Victoria’s Secret stocks ‘corsets’ from around $60 all the way up to $300+ while Agent Provocateur sells them of higher quality from $660-$990, but none of them will shape the body and cinch the waist the way a true corset will. The corsets you see in boutiques are simply lingerie masquerading as corsets, and they will not give you the dramatic results of a genuine corset.
“The Playboy corset for Dita [above], was done in conjunction with Catherine D’Lish,” Autumn told me, “as was my peacock feather-covered corset,” she said. Yes, you read it correctly: Autumn has a custom corset covered with peacock feathers which retails for $4,000!
“Catherine D’Lish spends months on the embellishment of corsets,” Autumn said. Lesser decorated corsets can cost as little as $500. But finding a beautiful corset does not have to be even that expensive. A basic cinched black poplin corset at Dark Garden costs $275.
Dark Garden also stocks fab goodies both old (such as vintage stockings wrapped decorously in waxen envelopes) and new (including the recently-launched eponymous lingerie line by Dita Von Teese.) In addition you will find unique jewelry from Compass Rose Design and fabulous vintage-inspired hats by Tricia Roush of House of Nines Designs.
I stopped by the intimate boutique, world-renowned and frequented by men and women of all shapes and sizes, to do a little investigative reporting.
Sales associate Danielle helped me shimmy into several corsets–this is a job best done with assistance at first, but I was told by Euphrates that the process becomes easier and eventually self-sufficient with practice.
Many women find the process of buying their first corset “transformative,” Danielle said, and I wasn’t really sure exactly what she meant until I found my true love: the black Dark Garden ‘Risque Cincher,’ with sheer panelling, in the photograph by Joel Aron below.
And oh, my, I fell hard! Transformative, to say the least. This corset is probably more valuable than a month of therapy. It’s ‘retail therapy,’ as I’ve come to affectionately call it, when I blow a lot of dough on a highly-emotional purchase such as this sexy waist cincher.
The ‘Risque Cincher’ costs $430, which may sound expensive, but when you compare the value to flimsily-constructed impostors, Dark Garden’s prices are completely reasonable.
It creates a dramatic hourglass shape that makes me feel truly giddy with wonder at my own curves. Trust me, there is nothing like the exaggerated silhouette that’s created by a corset–in all its naughty-nice grandeur–that will make you feel quite as feminine. You’ll look like a total temptress!
And this corset is a glamorous addition to the wardrobe on so many levels. You can wear it over a dress to cut a dramatic profile, or keep it under wraps as a sexy surprise for your Valentine. The sheer panelling allows decorative fabrics and tattoos to peek through.
Dress it up or down, wear it in the bedroom or to the ballet, with a theatrical playfulness in costume, or with seduction on your wedding night. It can go vintage, fetish or modern in the blink of an eye.
Most of the girls at Dark Garden have what is referred to as a “corset wardrobe”–a collection of sexy corsets for different occasions, and I can’t wait to get another one.
You’ll need to buy a bra and panties to accompany your corset. I added the Dita Von Teese Savoir Faire set–a vintage-inspired bra, $65, and panty, $45. The set is trimmed in fine chantilly lace and priced very reasonably, especially considering the quality of the laces and the craftsmanship of the work. Grand total with tax: $587.25, and worth every cent. If you’re unsure the size of your Valentine, stop into Dark Garden and let their accommodating staff help you pick up some underpinnings for your love; or, consider a gift card. They always fit.
Autumn said, “Dark Garden was created with the intention of adding to the beauty in the world. Life can be very challenging at times, and we turn to beauty for inspiration and hope. I want people who wear Dark Garden corsets to feel power, beauty, strength, and sensuality.”
And in the words of her client, the famous sex symbol Dita Von Teese, “Glamour isn’t about age, shape or size. You don’t have to be pretty to have it. Anyone can create it.”
Well said, Dita, well said.