Zoe Beattie, Melbourne, Australia
I got incredibly excited when I saw the theme of Renewal for this year's competition. The official inspiration board pulled me in so many directions, I didn't know what to do. And then I realised that one of the limiting factors for how I wore corsets was based on the embellishments. Too many, and I couldn’t dress it down for everyday situations or wear it under clothes; too few and I struggled to feel dressed up for fancier occasions. What I wanted was a versatile, transformative garment that could be worn for multiple purposes, and appear unique at each event with relative ease.
So, I decided to focus on making it possible to change the embellishments and keep the corset itself simple. I opted for an underbust for maximum versatility, as the only thing I might not be able to do in it is ride my horse, but I could still do everything up to the point of sitting in the saddle easily.
Since the theme was renewal, I used it as a chance to thoroughly examine my craft room for things that could find a new purpose. Heirloom crochet cotton, off-cuts of fabrics, jewellery I no longer wore and hadn’t pulled apart yet.
And, since I could have many embellishment sets, I learned new crafts too, like shuttle tatting, embroidery, and blackwork. Even though not all of them made it to the final images, I’m so excited to wear my corset with different looks.
In the spirit of the themes, I decided to try and not buy materials unless essential, and repurpose things where possible.
I had a leftover piece of curtain remnant that I had been saving because it was too pretty to throw away, and I realised it was the perfect quasi-neutral silver colour to act as a background for embellishments. It had minimal give, was washable, and really wasn’t big enough for any proper windows. I was able to find the lining cotton in my off-cuts pile, the busk was bought at a closing down sale, and the cotton rope was from a friend’s macramé project. Even the grommets were found at the bottom of a forgotten craft box.
The cherry blossom brooch was tatted using heirloom thread, estimated to be between 35-70 years old, and helped me learn a new skill.
I used the free underbust pattern from Corsets by Caroline, and modified the bottom edge following the Aranea Black free Anna waspie hip line. I was very grateful for these free patterns, since my measurements changed dramatically over the course of the project, and I couldn’t adjust my self-drafted pattern, drafted based on the Foundations Revealed instructions, fast enough. I used zip-ties for bones to accommodate a chronic pain condition, and because they’re easily accessible.
I also attached the lining after binding the strength layer, after watching a YouTube video from American Duchess. This allows the lining to be replaced easily, should it wear or need to be washed.
Corset: silver blackout curtain remnant (fashion and strength layer), black cotton (remnant, lining), busk, industrial zip ties (370mm x 7.6mm), grey bias binding, twill tape (waist tape), cotton thread, cotton rope, gray (lacing).
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
This was a thrilling, and often overwhelming, experience for me.
It's the very first time I have ever sewn something to put it in a competition. It's my first busked corset, my first lined corset, and I was feeling out of my depth for a good part of the year leading up to this. But I learned that it's amazing what you can do if you get little bits of time collected together. I got a corset, and some pretty embellishments, and a sense of pride in myself that I could do this thing despite it not going according to plan.
If you're undecided, remember that you can just make it for yourself, and if you just happen to aim to have it done by the deadline because deadlines are helpful, then you give yourself all the options. No one is going to mind if you make it just for you, but I bet they'll be enthusiastic and supportive if you decide to enter the competition.