Photographer: Tim Tronckoe
Model: Sharon Boucquez
Hairstylist: Julia Lion Hair
Make-up Artist: Anneke Wastyn
This winter I wanted to challenge myself to make a customized corset. A friend told me about Foundations Revealed and the yearly competition. This year’s theme immediately got my attention and I had designs in mind from renowned designers like Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Iris Van Herpen… After browsing the Internet on all kind of insects I decided I wanted to make a corset inspired on the Blue Milkweed Beetle or the Chrysochus Cobaltinus. I love the blue green metallic colours and wanted my corset have that same effect.
Elytra is the name of the corset, but it’s also the name given to the hardened front wings of beetles and some other insects. It protects the hind wings underneath, which they use to fly.
I chose to use a front opening to give the idea of a beetle opening its front wings (elytra). As it protects the beetle, so does a corset. Maybe not literally, but wearing a corset boosts my confidence and it protects me in an emotional way in social occasions. I'm sure I'm not the only one sharing this sentiment.
I added tulle on the hips to give a more curvy silhouette since I have very narrow hips, but it also looks like the wings underneath the elytra to me. Very delicate and transparent.
I always like to find a balance between historical and modern, between high fashion and gothic style, and that’s what I wanted to achieve with this design.
It was the first time I made a real corset. I’ve been making bustiers before in school, but the system of pattern making wasn’t adjusted for corsets. So I was looking for another pattern drafting system, and used the free corset drafting pattern from Cathy Hay on FR. The steps were very easy to follow. After the first mock-up I found the neckline to be too wide, it didn’t snug in the bust and the hips looked way too small. In the second pattern I used the natural measurements of my hips and didn’t make them smaller. I also adjusted the seams above my bust, by curving them inwards, so that the pieces close around my breasts.
After another mock-up it was time for the real deal. I ordered a beautiful green blue toned dupion silk. I love its metallic look and yet it still looks very historical. I wasn’t sure yet if I wanted to use the fabric as a separated layer from the lining, or use both the fashion fabric and lining as one fabric. In the end I decided to make two different layers, and added some fusible interfacing on the back of the silk. For the lining I used a herringbone coutil in black. I first inserted the opening front busk, it was the first time I tried this. I used the tutorial from sewcurvy.com, which was a big help to me. For a first time it worked out pretty well, though I had to re-stitch on a specific point. The silk was, in contrast with the coutil, very easy to pull away which made my stitches not look straight. When closing the busk, I can see that there’s a little bit too much space in between. Next time I’ll insert the dots a little bit farther from the edge.
Next were the boning. I put the two layers on each other and stitched the boning channels on the side of the silk, through both layers. By doing this I was sure the stitches would be parallel with the seams. It wasn’t very easy to keep the seams of the two layers flat, especially those from the coutil were very sturdy, even after ironing them on the highest temperature.
To finish the neck and bottom line I used a faux leather bias to give a modern touch.
Something I never liked to do before were inserting the eyelets in the back. I feel like I don’t have the strength in my hands to this. But I finally found some good pliers from Prymm that really helped me a lot.
The best part was decorating it! I first hand sewed the ruffled tulle on the hips, then I decorated them with an applique from black pearls. I found a necklace and fitting earrings with beads in the exact same colours of the silk! Even the shape of them reminded me of beetles. I bought two sets and separated the pieces to hand sew them on the corset. A few I used on the edges of the hipfins and the rest was to decorate the neckline.
Overall I’m proud of the result. For a first time it’s more than okay, but as a perfectionist I see a lot of mistakes and things that could have been done better, this experience will surely help me in my future ventures of similar projects.
It gave me a goal to make something new and to focus more on corsetry. This year I want to make more corsets, so this competition was a good start. It's not about winning, I just want to see what I'm capable of making. I love the idea of the three categories, which gives newbies like me a chance. And it also seems a fair competition to me, by letting members and professionals vote. So no reason not to enter!