Ashley Price, Oregon, USA
The first insect that came to my mind was a cicada, from memories of a summer week spent exploring Japan with my sister. It was surreal being immersed in a sound that was ubiquitous in the films and manga I had enjoyed growing up. Cicadas live underground, then molt to become their recognizable state. I needed a molt too, spending April to August feeling uninspired and stuck in my Foundations Revealed project.
Down the Pinterest rabbit hole I happened upon a series of molting cicada images, specifically an instance that went all wrong. A bit of foreleg failed to separate properly, dooming that specimen to death. That was what I was afraid of. Doing something completely different when the project could come out wrong or useless. With those images came the realization the paralysis was due to feeling that my design was going in the wrong direction. I needed to cast off the historically accurate imposed box that wasn't right for this project. I'm just not a fancy gown person. What I do love is athleisure. The materials support and compress your shape while looking effortless, which is what also drew me to corsetry. I relish knowing that I annoy people with my stretchy pants and my extreme shape. I'll wear what I like. Sewing is my escape and you'll usually find me playing in leggings and a sweatshirt.
The color and markings of the Zammara genus of cicadas drew me in. Specifically it was the combination. The idea of working with a bright blue color made me immediately uncomfortable. It was against my all-black-everything creed - perfect for an experimental piece. These cicadas have a head that is mostly blue with black markings, and their bodies are the reverse. I pursued the idea of two pieces, one mostly black and the other mostly blue. My goal was to create separates that referenced the colors and shapes of the cicada while remaining wearable. Flashy, but not too costume-y. The sweater is slouchy, cropped, and textured to emphasize how the smooth, color blocked corset looks. The gathered trim is the element that remains from my initial design. I took advantage of the stretch in the lycra to make the corset look smooth. The tabs and color blocking effect reference the curved window pane look of the cicada’s wing vasculature. These elements combine to make an outfit I am looking forward to sewing in.
Most of my favorite corsets have a light construction, but are quite longline. I wanted to try a high backed waspie with tabs. The waspie pattern is a transformed version of a very worn and well-loved corset, my first custom commission. I made the full length version, then chopped it down on the dress form so I could decide where the tabs would go. I ripped up that toile and smoothed out the seam lines to create the pattern for the final corset. A shorter corset with a lighter reduction would be easier to chuck on and run errands with, especially when the busk was exchanged for a nylon coil zipper. The tabs created an uneven lower edge to diffuse the corset line for stealth purposes. The tabs would also leave extra space to prevent the corset from muffining my ample squish. Hand sewing the binding showed me that in the interest of preventing future bloodshed, I must learn more about hand sewing.
Light construction is my preference, so I planned a two layer piece: one sateen coutil strength layer with external bone casings, one fashion layer of four-way stretch alternating black and turquoise lycra panels. I sewed the coutil panels wrong sides together to ensure a smooth corset interior. I placed the synthetic whalebones in the center of the panels so that the fashion layer could be stretched and sewn down at each seam. I put extra care into stretching the fashion layer so it floated over the bones, giving the illusion of effortlessness. The 48 synthetic whalebones were added to combat wrinkling that would dispel that illusion. My steel corsets are quite heavy due to the amount of boning I prefer to support the pattern. In this corset I wanted to keep the same amount of boning, but use a lighter and more flexible material to ensure it would be comfortable for hours of wear.
The cropped sweater pattern was taken from a men’s sweatshirt and cut down so you can actually see the corset from the front. The look is from the instructors I’ve seen at the pole studio. The looser fit combined with a stretch material allows for a comfortable and stylish range of motion. My hands get cold quickly, so the sleeves were left long. To take advantage of how extra black the fabric looked when crumpled up, I planned a variety of Victorian-inspired gathered trims. I basted lines by machine then gathered and sewed them to the sweatshirt by hand.
Color, stretch materials, and a shorter corset were the elements I wanted to try out this year. This project highlighted the gap in my knowledge for proper hand sewing techniques. I was pleased to learn, however, that I can work on a project for months and actually finish it. Having the FR community to ask questions of and inspire me kept me going, instead of saying, "Maybe next year!"
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
Just do the thing. The FR Mentors and Members are so supportive, it is worth giving things a try.