"IVE BEEN WAITING ON THE FAN-LACE GIRDLE FOR WHAT FEELS LIKE YEARS. 😍" said Danielle on Facebook this week, and lo, it is, in fact, years since Project Fan Lace Girdle was launched. I think it's actually taken longer than the Great Mimi Factory Disaster of 2011. BUT NOW THEY ARE REAL. I'm sorry this updates unusually shouty, it's just this was a tiny bit challenging at times!
Here's the background and a brief history of Many Of The Things That Make Making Things Surprisingly Hard.
Back in 2014 it seemed like a BRILLIANT idea to do a fan lace girdle, a garment that hasn't really been made by anyone in decades. You can still find them around the place, usually second hand or surplus stock left over from old girdle brands closing down; they were a sort a cross between a corset and a girdle, lighter weight, and the fan lacing means you can get in and out yourself.
I know some of you are perfectly capable of shimmying in and out of full corsets solo, but let's face it, most of us are just not that dextrous, and many of us are aging and/or disabled. Plus it looks AWESOME. Also, all the old ones are white or peach or beige and generally, we prefer it to be any colour as long as that colour is black. Like my sense of humour.
By the time of the La Maupin shoot (where Prior Attire wore it to have a swordfight in, which amused the Polish Prince owner of the venue no end) we'd made a sample using... things that were lying around, in all honesty; some of the sample the metal hardware isn't all matching colours. For making more of them, and making them consistently as possible, we needed to find solid suppliers for everything. We have a regular supplier for duchess satin as we use it for corsets; none stretch, soft sheen rather than the cheap super shiny stuff, comes in lots of different colours, so you can expect there to be choices later on. Tracking down the actual metal widgets you can do fan lacing with? Nightmare. Every supplier we use normally or approached in desperation said "we were just selling old stock, its gone now, you can have them if you order 100,000 though, or smaller amounts but you'll need to pay ten times as much as before per piece". I eventually found them via eBay, which absolutely makes me feel like a consummate professional and not in any way dodgy.
Elastics, suspender bits, eyelets and powernet are just, you know things that we have lying around. Like you do. In bags. Again, we use all those things regularly so supply is OK, though powernet in the UK can be a bit vexatious.
Continuous hook and eye tape suitable for the side front closing turned out to be a problem as it needed to be suitable for clothing, not lingerie, so that took a while and a few returns. Plus, the samples had a light rigilene boning, and after a few tests we decided that wasn't enough - it's now synthetic whalebone instead. People have mixed feelings about this. I like it, I've had some superb corsets made from it, I'm not sold on the notion that spiral steel is the be all and end all, but some of you will only buy metal boned garments. I think the synthetic whalebone brings this another step closer to being a much stronger girdle than we usually do.
The FLG also needs wide grosgrain ribbon for the sides and double-faced satin ribbon for back lacing, and generally I would prefer those to be an exact shade match and also to match other lingerie that we do. I prefer to use Beresfords ribbon for quality (cheap ribbon gets tatty and frays or even breaks easily), but Beresfords won't deal direct with us as 2000 metres is just not enough! We end up going through wholesale suppliers who never have anything in stock and there's an amazing amount of faff. On one occasion I paid out over £300 for ribbon, slapped a next day delivery charge on it for about £14, and the ribbon was delivered the better part of two weeks later, because "the supplier delivered late and you just can't guarantee what couriers will do". Any time you're wondering what I actually do, it's handling this sort of stuff, often in exasperation. It is neither glamorous nor interesting!
Now, I'd previously established that we didn't know any factories who wanted to make this. The factories that can do eyelets tend to take all the shape out of corset-type garments, the factories who work well on shaping inexplicably couldn't do the eyelets, and ABSOLUTELY NO-ONE wanted to do this:
I can't do this, by the way. I spent our Kickstarter shoot trying to lace one and failing epically.
As I'd been working on setting up a workshop in Sheffield anyway to do new product development, shorts runs of things and made to order corsets, I agreed with the colleague that was sharing that endeavour with me that she would make them; we set a timeline, and put them on the site for pre-order. I was so convinced it'd all go smoothly that we released one our videos of me demonstrating, particularly because people were worried about fit. With this much lacing, the none-stretch aspect is really much less of an issue.
Unfortunately, said colleague then spent the next 9 months with health, personal and professional life issues in perpetual chaos. And when it resolved itself, it did so... in Los Angeles. Now, there is absolutely no point shipping things between the UK and US, you're basically risking death by customs duties, getting your stuff impounded, enormous shipping fees and stuff mysteriously disappearing in airports (or Chicago sorting station. Don't ask me why but most stuck parcels in the US are stuck there. What do they do?! It's mystifying).
So, we were back to square one and my colleague basically had to do online tutorials to get Lou up to speed to make these, I had to try and replace some equipment, all whilst Lou was also making a bunch of other stuff that had been taken out by the LA issues (garter pockets, various corsets, etc) and helping with some production issues of our UK made lingerie sets. Oh, and working two other jobs. At this point, she and I started to negotiate for her to get some more training here; she's just this month completed her technical diploma in lingerie and swimwear patter cutting and grading to go with her original degree. David, Godfather of Bras, has also helped with hew physical sewing skills, and she's moving to doing more and more hours for KMD so that we can offer more styles.
In the middle of making the FLG's that had been ordered last year by Very Deadly Enthusiasts with more faith in my abilities to sort these things out than I think I have some days, my close friend and long term sponsoree Tempest from House of Burlesque popped up and said "I need to revamp one of my acts to be bigger and better and more neon and not use EL wire and I want it to look like Tron mixed with classic 50's burlesque outfits, got any ideas?"
And I thought... well, there's nothing that tests shapewear more than an intense dance routine and hula-hooping in a sweaty line of showgirls, right? And thus I can confidently say to you - both the ten of you whose FLG's are shipping this week, and whoever orders next, THESE GIRDLES ARE HARDCORE. Even with "only" 4 narrow metal suspenders and synthetic boning. Plus, Tempest's team includes everyone from the petite to the voluptuous, and we managed to dress them all.
Also, audiences love UV. The matching trimmed Van Doren Bralets and opaque stockings are also ours. Boots and accessories are created by ribbon and glue by the House of Burlesque team, and I can tell you that Beresfords Flo colours are UV reactive, consistent, and come in both grosgrain and satin. The suppliers didn't know, I kept having to order samples and testing them with UV torches, it was ridiculous.
And also Lou is really, really good at what's doing, and I have never seen an audience react to costumes this enthusiastically outside of a Dita show. Which is good, because we broke every single sewing machine needle we had completing the backorders.
This year is the year of the FLG. You can start ordering them again as of today, and Lou and I are working on what colours of satin and ribbon to keep stock of to offer at various point, plus also we bought 20 new sewing machine needles, an electric powered fabric cutter (and metal safety mitts because we like our fingers), a replacement foot press to stop her from injuring her hands/making errors doing the 30 eyelets each garment needs, and applied to for a less cold workshop!