Photographer: Ambra Photography & Makeup
This year’s entry was a happy accident - I was looking for a mermaid but I found a cathedral instead...
Stone arches rise up, merging and converging in hard, geometric patterns. There are no flourishes of fussy ornament, no gaudy paint to call your eyes from the towering temple. Only curves and angles to admire. Simple materials crafted into magnificently complex structure, rigorous discipline designs a swooping, soaring space that feels both airy and deeply rooted to the earth. Like a magic trick, all that stone, hanging high above your head. A cave for gods. A force of nature, tamed.
All corsets are inherently architectural: they must balance the force of the skeletal and muscular structures against the tensile strength of the fabrics they are made from. They use a skeletal system of steel or plastic to maintain smooth lines. Lines that flow so gently they belie the subtle force the corset applies to the body underneath. In corsetry, as in architecture, both form and function must be carefully balanced to achieve a harmonious result.
I loved the Other Worlds theme* as I had a corseted mermaid that I was itching to make. I decided to make my mermaid anyway, just to be vaguely taking part in the competition and to make something that pleased me.
But when I made the first mock up of the corset dress that was to be the base of my mermaid, I was struck by how naturally architectural the garment was. It reminded me strongly of weathered gothic cathedrals, with soaring arches and sparse ornamentation.
There were also distinct Bettie Page overtones, which made my pin-up heart beat a little faster. I took a lot of inspiration from fetish corset dresses, particularly in their partial exposure of the wearer’s bottom, which I exaggerated, and in their deliberate restriction of the wearer's mobility.
I used my favorite method of construction: single layer coutil with 5mm spiral steels either side of each seam, enclosed in twill tape on the inside. No lining, just neat 1mm stitches and an exposed internal waist tape. Edges bound in black silk taffeta. Front zip closure with internal and external plackets for comfort (I love busks too, but they don’t make ‘em this long!) A combination of 5mm spiral and 6mm flat steel boning throughout, from rib to knee.
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
As someone who relishes ornament of all kinds it is pretty scary to submit something so pared-back. No covering ‘flaws’ with lace, or dazzling the eye with rhinestones here! It’s terrifying!
I love this piece and I'm grateful to the competition for giving me the push I needed to get going with the project. It's nice to have a hard deadline for a personal project - I have too many unfinished projects languishing sadly in my workroom!
* Editor's note: Foundations Revealed Members were invited to vote for this year's theme from a choice of three options, which were taken from suggestions made by those who entered in 2018. One of the discarded themes was "Other Worlds".