June Marston, UK
Walking around in the heat of the old Sri Lankan capitals of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, I found the carvings under my feet fascinating. The entrance to each temple is dressed with a “Moonstone”: these intricately carved, semi-circular stones are embossed with animals, flames and foliage, each symbolising various stages of Buddhist life. Millions of bare feet have trodden over the stones, yet, despite their age, the carvings are still discernible today. These hot stones massaged my feet as I walked into the temple ruins with bare feet.
Thus, the decision for the front of the corset was an easy one: I wanted the relief work and the shape on the front to be the main focus, and this would be more prominent with a single colour, to resemble the stone. However, the sides and back were more of an issue; I felt the back needed some colour. I also visited the cave temples at Dambulla: the five main caves are spectacularly decorated with hundreds of golden Buddha statues, surrounded by plinths, columns and ceilings painted in red, black and blue. I took inspiration from the checked pattern, which when painted onto the rock of the cave ceiling, looked like draping fabric above our heads. The geometric lotus flower design adorned the plinths of some of the statues.
I wanted to emphasise the semicircular shape and relief of carving of the moonstone. Having only made one over-bust corset before, under tuition, I decided to base the design on “The Dore” pattern by Laughing Moon. The standard pattern stops at mid bust, so I needed to extend it vertically upwards to form a semi circle, which stands away from the body. A busk would have spoiled the line and embossing of the stone, so I decided to proceed without.
Needing to resemble stone, cotton was chosen as fashion fabric. Herringbone coutil formed the strength layer, with 5 spiral steel bones in the front panel. The top layer comprises 2 layers of fabric, using free motion machine embroidery to form the elephants and horses. Each animal had the back layer slit, then stuffed. The rest of the moonstone design is quilted with wadding, carefully matching the concentric rings across the three pattern pieces.
Each side panel is boned mid-piece and near the seam, the panels being too thick to facilitate the usual in-seam boning. Not wanting any boning channel stitching to be visible from the exterior, cotton boning channels were added to the coutil before adding the outer layer. There are 14 spiral steel bones and four flat steel bones supporting the eyelets.
The chequered pattern was created as patch-work in a single piece, then cut to pattern match. The lotus flowers are machine appliquéd onto the black fabric then attached to the patchwork.
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
Just go for it! I had not made many clothes for myself for over 20 years. Albeit that for the last five years I have been working in a clothing alterations shop, but would really like to get back to designing and making clothes and corsets. With the last of my children having left the nest, I now feel like I need a new challenge and to give my confidence a bit of a boost.