A Corset for Julie
Photographer: Debbie Burrows
I’m privileged to live on the doorstep of a stunning house, a house for Essex fondly known as Julie’s house. Designed by artist Grayson Perry and FAT architecture, it embodies architecture and art and tells the life story of a fictional character, Julie. I loved the idea that I could celebrate a local landmark with my entry. The building is a Taj Mahal, created out of love and inspired by Julie’s life (mistakes and all). She is meant to be a symbol of every woman, and one of them is me.
Just drawing on the visual elements of the house, there is a wonderful colour palette which I interpreted quite literally in the deep olive green and ivory tiles, burgundy highlights from the doors and window frames, and then I traded the gold for bright yellow as this is a key colour inside. Then there is the tiling, which inspired the beaded lace and patchwork decoration.
Some of the tiles on the outside of the building depict a pregnant Julie. Having made this corset eight months after giving birth to my second child I felt that it was relatable to me, using it to manipulate my shape, coming to terms with the changes in my body, and learning to love what it had done, even if the fact that I’m still breast feeding meant that it was a nightmare to fit the bust!
This corset represents a series of firsts for me in corset making. Starting with drafting the pattern myself, rather than manipulating an existing one. I followed Cathy Hay’s tutorial on this and then made more adjustments to suit my figure. I’m short waisted and have a deep, very inflexible rib cage so my next first was to make the corset cup my ribs and this solved a problem I’ve always had in my previous corsets, which asides from not being able to breathe, was a proper (and comfortable) waist reduction. Hallelujah!
My third first was roll pinning, using tips from a video with FR mentor Lowana. I used a fusible woven interfacing to stabilise the silk dupion fashion fabric and secured it to a coutil strength layer. I’m converted by the outcome.
It is also the first time I’ve had exposed boning channels on the inside, so as you can really see the guts of this corset, which forced me to pay that extra attention to the precision of my stitch lines on both sides. The bones are flat steel, bent into shape.
My fifth first was adding the hip fins and external bust pads. These became the focus of my decoration, patchworking tiny triangle “tiles” and using some of the lines from the buildings to work them into interesting shapes. I linked these together with additional lace tiles, beads based on motifs from the sculptures inside, and finally some simple flossing to mirror the golden window arches.
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
After wanting to do this for years, I had to make a promise to myself to compete. I should feel nervous about having offered myself up to be judged, but in reality it feels quite liberating, and I have loved every minute. You have to do this for yourself!