Photo: Sean Keane Photography
Energised by the unique challenges of corsetry; fascinated with shaping a body rather than simply draping it; inspired by working for myself rather than a client - an opportunity to try new things and take risks that I never could otherwise. I made the decision to enter the competition when I saw the 2017 entries, well before the 2018 theme was announced. I was very pleased that the theme was a good one.
I immediately immersed myself in research and ended up with a number if ideas. When I was looking through historical sources I came across a lovely photo of an edwardian lady. She was very helpfully standing in front of a mirror, which allowed me to see the whole corset in one image. I knew I had my final direction when I noticed that the wings of an insect were already there, hiding in the panels, just waiting for me to define and accentuate them.
As the drawing and planning developed, I knew I wanted to extend my wings above and below the main body of the corset. This led me to wonder whether i could exploit the lateral flexibility in spiral steel to create these shapes?
With the final design planned out on paper, the project started with an Edwardian-inspired pattern I had already developed to my model’s measurements. My always obliging model (and sister) tried on three toiles before I was finally happy with the shape of the corset and wings. With each toile I tested variations of boning position and channel construction. When I finally cut the fabric, I actually cut pieces for one and a half corsets and had a trial run at each step before I sewed the actual corset.
The corset is made from a dense cotton canvas with a fashion fabric in a colour I love but with unknown composition and temperament that I had in my stash. The wing panels are overlaid in Chantilly lace and the vein detail is sewn on by machine, over a paper template. I used a continuous line to embroider the wings, giving shade and depth to the lines where they were sewn over multiple tiles. The external boning channels are black coutil. The boning is mostly spiral steel, with flat steel surrounding the eyelets.
The long and curved boning channels were cut on the bias and needed to be hand tacked down both sides to get them flat enough to sew. Where they extend beyond the top edge of the corset there is a strip of bias covering the raw edge underneath, which allowed the outside edge of the channel to be sewn down. Where they cross over a bound edge, the only solution was to make the binding as fine as possible and trim back any bulk I safely could.
It has been an incredible challenge and a lot of work but I feel incredibly inspired and proud. I would encourage everyone who is thinking about it to at least give it a go. Start working on something and see where you get to when it is submission time.