Model: Threnody in Velvet
Photographer: Belle Prive
For the Oxford modelled shots
I regularly trawl the local charity shops for interesting pieces of fabric, mainly curtains or bedding as they are fantastic resources for costume making. When the theme was announced, I wanted to make a corset but use a more unusual fabric. I had recently found a pair of mid-20th century curtains: red with a white floral pattern running in stripes down them. The fabric was not ideal as I was unsure how it would hold up to the sewing but I wanted to give it a try; if it didn't work I could select something else. I wanted to create a corset with lots of curve and found that the Gold Exotic half corset shown in Jill Salen's book, "Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques" had the shape I required. I decided to recreate the pattern, changing only the waistband which is quilted and has eyelets on the original.
My entry this year takes the renewal theme to include rebirth, recycle, re-use, even stash busting, giving these old curtains a new purpose and raiding some of my longest-hoarded pieces of fabric for the skirts--both having been bought twenty years ago.
Making a paper version for a half scale dummy confirmed that the shape was what I wanted. I then altered the measurements as required and made a full scale toile to smooth out any oddly-shaped lines from the original. Happy with the toile, I decided to pattern match as much as I could with the limited amount of fabric. I added bondable bodice canvas to stablise it and work as the strength layer. The pattern matching worked in places but the size and shape of the pieces and the regimented pattern of the cloth meant that it didn't work everywhere. I was, however, very pleased with the centre front line.
I had not used a spoon busk prior to this but found it very similar to a straight busk, and once the garment was fully contructed I bent it suit the shape of the corset. The rest of the construction was fairly straightforward: I pressed each seam over a ham to set the curves in before putting in the boning and steaming again to set the shape of the synthetic whalebone. I added steels and eyelets at centre back and a modesty panel.
The piece was originally made for OCOC19. At the time I was unable to add the cascading flowers to the corset and skirts. My confidence has grown substantially; I reconstructed an historical pattern full scale at last. The most challenging was the pattern matching, which was not something I had tried previously; I am happy with the effect overall.
1940s/1950s pair of red curtains, bonding fabric, silver satin-look stretch fabric, red silk bondable bodice canvas, synthethic whalebone, spoon busk, flat steels, eyelets, elastic, red satin ribbon, red satin bias binding, twill tape.
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
The main plus for me was showing what can be done with unusual fabric choices and that you don't always have to have exactly the right fabric to produce a great corset.
If you are worried about entering because you don't have all the right tools or fabrics, go for it because you will still be learning and improving your skills.