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The "Quilted Waistcosts" of Today

The corset is one of the most identifiable fashion pieces in the world of modern burlesque. Any good burlesque girl has several different corsets at her disposal, and knows the challenges of finding that perfect fit. We have all experienced the frustration at ordering that gorgeous corset online only to have it arrive and look atrocious on the body. However, when we find that perfect fit, there is nothing sexier than a confident woman sporting that timeless garment that has symbolized female sexuality for so long.

But now, Indianapolis women are lucky to have a great new option. Local costume maven Christiebelle Walker has branched out and now gives women the opportunity to have custom corsets made here in their hometown. Christiebelle started making corsets about two years ago, after many years spent making costumes for local burlesque acts and related projects. Business comes her way via word of mouth and she works out of her home. She noticed a need among her many burlesque friends for corsets that fit well, and decided to learn the artform herself. She uses a stainless steel bust and spiral steel boning (similar to a slinky) that is strong yet expandable. This differs from the more readily available plastic corsets that lose their form quickly and tend to bunch and collapse. The spiral steel boning expands at the sides and the back to allow women to breathe easier while the corset keeps its form.

Corsets themselves boast a fascinating history. A traditional corset was a garmet worn to mold or shape the torso, either for aesthetic or medical purposes, not a particularly pleasant thought. The word "corset" comes from an old French word "cors," meaning "body." Corsets were originally quilted waistcoats, worn by French women, and were un-boned. Corset styles changed drastically over the years with lengthening waistlines and changes in materials. The corsets of today are in the spirit of their predecessors, but lean towards the fashion side and to varying degrees, are less painful. Plastic is the most common material used in modern corsets, although ivory, wood, cane, and spiral steel (as in Christiebelle's case) make for a higher quality piece. They are held together by lacing that can be laced up the back, giving us that famous image of Victorian well-to-do ladies being laced by their maids. 

Corsets today can be purchased at stores like Hot Topic and Charlotte Russe, and on a variety of online sites. I personally wear corsets both as a burlesque performer on stage, and, with jeans for a night out. If you are one of the many women who have trouble finding that perfect fit, you might explore the possibility of having one custom-made. Supporting a local artist is just one of the extra perks. All of the proceeds from Christibelle's corsets go to support the local Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School chapter, a group that hosts themed figure-drawing events using burlesque-style models to encourage figure drawing as entertainment and fun. Christibelle makes most of the costumes for these events where themes have ranged from Alice in Wonderland to Green Girls from Orion. All proceeds from local Dr. Sketchy's events go to pinkribbonconnection.org, a group that provides resources for women battling breast cancer.

If you don't yet have a corset in your wardrobe, I encourage you to fix that. Corsets are fun and playful and can be worn for so many occassions and are available in a multitude of styles. It is impossible not to feel sexy while wearing one...they owe their very existence to the natural curves of the female body. Wear one with confidence and heads will turn!

For more information, please contact Christiebelle Walker at christiebelle@gmail.com. For more on the upcoming Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School event on November 16, please visit http://www.myspace.com/drsketchyindy.

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