Photographer: Angela Bloomfield
Model: Abigail Wood
Make up: Francesca Wood
I had previously only made one and a half corsets before deciding to enter this competition, which I mainly blame on the FR live mentoring calls!! My inspiration for this project comes initially from two places; the insect Rajah Brookes bird wing, and my daughter Abbie's love of burlesque. I aimed to create a burlesque butterfly costume using the colouring and features of this beautiful butterfly. The shape of the corset was designed to be reminiscent of the thorax and abdomen region of the butterfly, with the belt emphasising the shape. It was important that the piece was a functional burlesque costume so it needed to incorporate items that could be removed as part of the tease. A simple sheer removable skirt flowed from the corset to complete the elongated form of a butterfly's abdomen.
Butterflies have two pairs of wings - forewings and hindwings - and the Rajah Brookes wings are predominately black with green flashes. Inspired by a Worth butterfly gown, I wanted the wings to flow gracefully down the back of the costume.This led to the development of a hindwing as a pleated train that attached to the waist of the corset at the back and the arms of the wearer, with bows for easy removal during the act. The green colouring wasn't directly applied to the pleated train as when this was removed all the butterfly features would be lost.
To enhance the drama of the piece I wanted the green parts of the wings to be a more 3D element that remained on the corset for longer, so I drew inspiration from Victoria's secrets wings. Separate green wing sections would remain on the corset whilst the black section of the wing remained... and of course I used Swarovski crystals. The forewings developed from this concept and were attached to the top of the corset. All these green wing sections are fully removable.
Finally, the corset needed to be paired with some high waisted knickers, which were embellished with a crystal tattoo moon on the back.
The corset pattern was drafted by myself incorporating a belt design I had seen on a Ralph Pink pattern. This was the first time outside of the classroom that I had created my own corset, although I do make patterns for wedding dresses. The corset was constructed using herringbone coutil with internal cotton tape boning channels, covered with a silk fashion layer and floating silk lining. To add visual interest to the finish of the corset, and to incorporate some texture, I wanted to try a technique that uses layers of material that are sewn though in channels, and then cut through the top fabric to reveal the a lower hidden level. This leaves ripples on the surface which reveal unexpected flashes of colour. To achieve this I fused some green silk satin to the coutil layer, and then covered with two fashion layers; one of a green silk organza and the other the external black dupion. Once the corset sections were joined I added internal boning channels. The bones throughout the corset were spiral steel and the bones at the back were flat steel. I used the "Beautiful Boning" tutorial on Foundations Revealed to help. I then added channels in a similar fashion to those that would be used for cording a corset. I cut the top layer of black silk dupion open to reveal the green silk organza, and then fused the silk satin crepe to the coutil.
The belt section was a major construction issue as it seemed to distort the corset when flat, and on tailors' dummies into strange shapes and wrinkles. However, on a real body it worked. As it was a burlesque costume it needed an opening busk. I had previously only inserted half an opening busk in a corset making class so the competition was the perfect time to insert a full one! Luckily I had been reading the tips that the Mentors and other Members were sharing in the FR Members' Facebook group, which helped. The lining was made from the same green silk satin fused to the coutil, and it would be important that it looked good as it would be seen during the burlesque performance. I found the FR article on Clean Finishing helpful to do this and apply the binding.
The black pleated wings were made from black polyester chiffon, which I chose after research suggested that the pleats would take and last longer in this fabric. I cut a half circle and gave it a rolled hem, and sent it for pleating at Ciment. The green wings are made from shot metallic silk. The shape was patterned and the wings constructed from two layers with 2mm thick wire inserted into a channel at the wing edge. I chose this so the wings had a more variable ethereal shape. I applied Swarovski crystals to the belt on the corset, the wings and the pants using E6000; another first for me, as I have previously only sewn on beads.
Fun, challenging and inspiring.