Photography: Sally Sparrow Photography
Makeup: Charlotte Cashmore
The light of suns unseen, through depths of sea descending,
Within her street awakes the ghost of noon
To bide its little hour and die unheeded, blending
Into her night that knows nor stars nor moon.
The hurrying feet of storms that trample o'er the surges
Arouse no echo in these silent deeps;
No thunder thrills her peace, no sword of lightning scourges
The dim, dead calm where lost Atlantis sleeps.
-Guy Wetmore Carryl
I wanted to tell a slightly dark and haunting narrative with my entry: a beautiful, decorative city that had fallen beneath the waves and been left to decay and be reclaimed by nature. My personal aim was to find ways to tie in techniques and materials used in prop making, my day job. Due to storage restrictions I knew I couldn’t make something big and structural, so a textural, layered corset started to take shape in my mind.
Initially I went for a monochromatic color scheme, a grey-ish green-ish silk taffeta overlaid with a gold lace to imitate the effect of light shining through murky water. I planned for black lace and gold swirls, for a patch of white, bleached coral across the front of the corset. When I got to the stage of adding the coral, I could not stand the effect, and the element I thought would ruin my entry became my favorite: a pop of color stretching from one corner of the corset to the other.
Knowing that I wanted the surface of the corset to be very textural, I decided to keep the construction of the corset as simple as possible. I altered a 4 panel Symington pattern (REF #32730), roll pinned the gold lace, silk, and coutil, and boned it with 7mm artificial whalebone in internal boning channels. The black lace and gathered strips of silk organza on the hips were hand sewn on before I started on the more unusual elements.
The gold swirls across the front are vacuum formed out of 0.5mm gold plastic sheets. They are incredibly thin and light, but surprisingly sturdy as they get their strength from the complexity of the shapes. I gave them a dusting of matte black paint that I rubbed on the raised edges to give them more depth.
The coral section is made of a base of puff binder, which I airbrushed with several different colors. The 3D pieces are made of a quick setting casting resin, using molds that I made from scraps of electroformed copper. The casts were trimmed back, primed, and painted to match the puff binder. I added beading and pearls to finish off the effect.
The main challenge I faced in the construction was working with a variety of heat sensitive materials. The puff binder had to be heated once it was on the corset to turn three dimensional, but the gold lace melted with too much heat, and the vacuum forms lose their shape if reheated.
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
Competing taught me that trusting your creative vision for a project doesn't necessarily mean following your initial design exactly. Trust that there is no mistake that isn't fixable, and that the unexpected solutions can end up being more beautiful than if it had gone right the first time.