Poppaea Bicknell, Middlesex, UK
Model/Photographer: Poppaea Bicknell
MUA/Assistant: Emily Haigh
Filming: James Webber
My interpretation of this year's theme of “Renewal” is a very personal one, as I wanted to create a piece that symbolised a rebirth of my creativity after a long period of laying dormant. My design is based on the classic iconography of the phoenix rising from the ashes, combined with the patterns and colours of the monarch butterfly - both of which are symbols of rebirth and renewal.
The main inspiration for my design is a piece of tambour beading that I created back in 2003 - whilst studying costume design at university - of a monarch butterfly. This was the last time in my life that I felt truly creatively fulfilled, so I wanted to use this image as a symbol of my personal creativity. The design of the corset is mainly based on the pattern of a monarch butterfly’s wing, but is also reminiscent of the shape of a phoenix feather and of flames rising up the body. I also wanted to capture the idea of a swarm of monarchs, on the neckpiece and head, reminiscent of the stunning monarch migration that occurs every year in Central America.
I also wanted to include an aspect of sustainability in this project, so I found an old prom dress on eBay in exactly the shade of burnt-orange raw silk that I wanted to use as my main fabric. All other materials used in the construction of the corset and skirt (apart from final embellishments) I already had in my stash.
For this piece I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone by using several new techniques. This is the first corset pattern I’ve ever made that uses non-vertical seamlines and it was quite a challenge to get right. I created three mock ups before making the final piece, and my final pattern consisted of 30 pieces. This was also the first time I’ve added hip fins to a corset, as I was keen to get that exaggerated shape. The hip fins are all inserted into the hip curve seams, rather than being attached afterwards. I couldn’t have overcome these new challenges without the help of the wonderful Barbara Pesendorfer; her incredible tutorials on creative pattern development, neck corsets and personal advice on hips fins was invaluable.
The corset is constructed from silk dupion, fused to coutil, and has a cotton floating lining. There are 30 steel bones inside, all the channels for which had to be hand sewn, as I did not want to break up the design of the seam lines with topstitched boning channels. This was certainly the most time-consuming part of the process. Really, my biggest challenge when creating this piece was time as, although I had my concept and design worked out early on in the process, I was not able to start construction on the final piece until the new year. That meant I didn’t have enough time to embellish the top of the corset as much as I would have liked.
- burnt-orange raw silk dupion (upcycled from an eBay dress)
- black herringbone coutil
- black soft cotton
- black tulle
- black satin bias binding
- black cotton bias tape
- spiral steel boning
- sprung steel boning
- black eyelets
- black double satin ribbon
- black & white 4mm rhinestones
- rooster feather trim in orange, red & black
- feather monarch butterflies
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
I was quite intimidated to enter the competition, as I’ve always been quite insecure about my ideas and work, but seeing all the wonderful entries from last year's contest really helped inspire me and build my confidence to enter. I would say that, even if you’re unsure about entering, you should just give it a go. Especially if the chosen theme strikes a nerve with you, as it did for me this year. You should grab the opportunity to get your ideas out there!