When I first saw the theme for this contest, it really sparked my interest, as I love everything it was about: black and white, light and shadow, lace, transparency, contrast... So I immediately went looking for inspiration!
The starting point of my design was creating a black structural shape that would "float" around the shoulders, both making a contrast against the skin, and casting an almost tattoo-like shadow on it when exposed to light. To achieve this, I used a Victorian lace-making technique: tatting (which we call "frivolité" in French, meaning "frivolity", isn't that a lovely name?) More precisely, I used needle-tatting, which means I made all the lace for this piece using only black cotton thread and one needle. The making of the shoulder piece was a very long and intricate process, it measures approximately 1.8 meters (almost three yards) long by 15cm (6") wide, and took me at least 50 hours of work, without taking into account the development of the pattern. I rigidified the whole piece with a water-based fabric hardener, then hand-sewed it to the corset. I think tatting was really interesting for this project, as a modern reinterpretation of a decorative art form from the Victorian era. The result creates a nice contrast with my model's fair skin, and elegantly enhances her cleavage and her head carriage.
I decided to make a corseted dress with a full skirt to counterbalance the volume created by the shoulder piece, thus balancing the silhouette and enhancing the cinched waist. I designed it with a mix of several inspirations in mind: the A-line skirt references Rockabilly dresses, the shape of the corset was inspired by both 1860s ballgowns (with their pointed front line and their off-the-shoulder collars) and the 1650-1660 bodice in Norah Waugh's "Corsets and Crinolines", and the construction of the skirt was inspired by Charles James' Ribbon dress. I used the relationship between black and white to bring out the lines and construction of the garment, as the white top stitching on the black satin creates a contrast which really accentuates the hips and the waist.
I also explored this theme by playing with transparency at the bottom of the skirt, using black polyester mesh stripes. This brings both a modern look to the dress and a sensual touch, as you can get a glimpse of the wearer's legs, while she remains elegant. The satin fabric also creates a play of light and shadow, thanks to its shine. Finally, I opted for a white cotton lacing and a black modesty panel to really make the lacing pop out.
I didn't use any existing pattern for this dress, I entirely draped my own. The skirt is made of 14 different pieces, and the corset of 9 pieces, with 15 bones. It gives a waist reduction of 7cm (2.7inches).
I must say, I am rather proud of this creation, as it matches closely with the idea I had in mind. I've only been making corsets for one year, and this is the most ambitious project I have ever made, so I am very thankful for this contest. I am just now starting my career as a corsetiere, and carrying out this project to the end gave me more confidence and made me learn a new technique. To me, my biggest achievement is that my model (namely, my gorgeous mother) told me she felt beautiful wearing my dress!