One of the wonderful things about corsetry is that you are contained by the relatively small area of the garment. Not only does this help the creative process, allowing you to explore ideas without being overwhelmed by dealing with everything! But, it allows for the use of materials that would be prohibitively expensive otherwise. In the same way as interior designers often suggest using the expensive paper in the downstairs loo, we can get a corset from just a metre of luxury. This also means we can be conscious of the enviroment and eek use out of every scrap with careful cutting for minimal wastage.
Of course the traditional corset fabrics are wonderful. Where would we be without coutils, broche and brocades. But when your imagination needs further exercise, well the world is your oyster, so don't fall into the trap of poly satin and chinese brocades. They have their place but it's a small place.
Funny thing, every client I have here in Scotland whom I suggest satin to pulls a face. For some reason it's not popular at all here, and yet I have colleagues in England who use nothing else. Now of course in the context of the post, we're not talking £5 poly duchesse here (and some of those are nicer than others) but rather the beautiful silk and silk mix satins or the traditional corset satin coutil. It's very often duchesse which is used for corsets. It's not the most forgiving fabric, it's not nicknamed Satan for nothing. it tends to wrinkle and stitches are very visible. It needs careful handling.
The classic is dupion, both the smoother machine woven and the slubbier hand loomed. It's pretty ubiquitous in corsets, I've lost count of how many I've made from it. It works, people love it, and it's easy to handle. It also comes in countless colours. But, bit predictable. Why not look at some of the more interesting variations. There are silk and linen mixes, heavier textures and colour blends. Look beyond the obvious.
I'm a huge fan of silk crepe. It's not that common in corsets, as it needs a bit of extra work but it has such a beautiful feel; soft, matt and touchable.
These have improved greatly. I've always had a huge aversion to poly shantung, it makes my skin crawl. But I had a swatch recently for a faux silk that was really lovely! There are also some amazing blends. But if you prefer synthetics on ethical grounds your choices have massively increased. But you also now have the option of wonderful new fabrics from plant fibres such as bamboo which have a lovely hand.
I use wool a fair bit. I prefer to use as many local fabrics as I can, and I live in a country where wool fabric is rightly famed. Tartan (10oz), and various suiting weights work beautifully. So does Harris Tweed, if you can get a lighter weight as it does make a bulky seam, an issue in corsetry. You'll need to grade the seams carefully and keep your bulk minimal. It's worth it though, especially to support a traditional industry which is a way of life in Harris and Lewis. Artisans should support each other as much as possible.
The ultimate luxury, we nearly all love using lace. It is expensive, and if you're gong to use it then swallow that fact and appreciate why it is luxurious. Antique lace is still very available and beautiful, but do keep in mind that it's a finite and diminishing resource. If you're going to use then do so with care, avoiding destroying one beautiful (rare) garment to make another. Luckily, the nature of it's application to corsetry means that damaged pieces find their perfect use.
Of course, the wonderful laces made in the north of France for generations are just astounding, and give a real couture edge to your garments. They are expensive but a little goes a very long way. We had Solstiss at the conference with samples a couple of years ago, and it was wonderful to have the time to browse the exquisite designs.
There are laces produced elsewhere of course. Many countries in Europe have a lace tradition, including the UK. I've made several pieces using Ayrshire lace, produced just 20 minutes from my home. Again, supporting a traditional product and keeping those miles down too!
This is a very brief selection of examples of course. Largely based around what I use myself. Explore options, don't feel restrained by what other people use. Look at fabrics not meant for garment use (I used to use a glitter fabric meant for exhibition and window design!) and look at what is produced in your home country or even closer to home. It's a wonderful way to give your work a distinctive mark, not easily appropriated by others. Above all, have fun. Experimenting is the most enjoyable part!