Photographer: Rhys from Gentlecrow Photography
To the northeast of Tokyo there is a magical little area called Nippori, which is known as Fabric Town because of the dozens of fabric and sewing related shops nestled along the streets. I recently had the privilege to work in Tokyo for three months and had several delightful excursions to this part of town. My entry is made using fabric and lace that I found in Nippori.
I have enjoyed making costumes for some time but, until recently, corsets were something I could not imagine making. In May 2017, I partook in the Vanyanis beginner corsetry course and everything changed! I successfully made a single layer underbust using the Sew Curvy Sophia pattern at the course, and I made my second corset in July, using the same pattern, but in a different colour coutil and with a few extra bones.
In Japan, I first visited Nippori in September. I stumbled across some material for a future project (the Princess from the card game Love Letter) in the 100 yen (about $1) per meter racks and could not resist! To achieve this goal, I need to develop various technical skills, including making an overbust, using fashion fabric and decorating with lace. I have enrolled in the intermediate Vanyanis course for March 2018 (so will learn about overbusts then) and I started to mull over what project would allow me to build the other skills.
I joined the FR Live Mentoring Call (6am in Tokyo was a struggle!) in November and after being fired up and inspired, I decided to give this competition a go! As the Melbourne Midsummer Faerie Rade was set to occur two weeks before the competition deadline, I decided to make a butterfly fairy costume. Reading the competition rules and Facebook discussion, the fact that insects had to have six legs seemed quite a vibrant theme, so I decided to include six legs in my design! In total, my entry consists of a corset (my third in total, and my first with a fashion fabric), over a dress of the same material, with legs and wings.
I returned to Nippori and bought materials for my competition entry. My plane touched down on the 16th December, and later that day I picked up my new sewing machine and got to work! Over the next few weeks, the costume came together and was ready for the day of the Faerie Rade.
My friend Rhys, whose photography hobby usually focuses on flowers rather than people, kindly agreed to meet early on the day of the Faerie Rade and take photos for my entry. I am also grateful to another friend, Stace, for coming as bag carrier, pose and clothing tweaker and general all round helper as we wandered around the Fitzroy Gardens.
I am very happy that I decided to enter this competition. It has been highly challenging, but I have learnt a lot, and my Nippori Butterfly costume will always be a fabulous souvenir from my time in Japan.
The materials used primarily come from Nippori, Japan. As what I bought there was unlabelled, I am not entirely sure what they are! The teal used as the corset fashion fabric and dress material is light and slinky, with a slight stretch in the cross grain. The bias binding was cut from a woven gold fabric. The wings are primarily an embellished tulle, with bias strips of another woven gold fabric used for decoration. The legs are a stretch material with a layer of gold paint.
The corset was made with the Sew Curvy Sophia pattern I had used previously, with a slight widening to the tops of panels four to six. Having watched the recording of the August FR Live Call, which has discussion of preferences for dealing with fashion fabric, I decided to try fusing to a herringbone coutil. Having never done this before, I was mildly terrified. While it was tougher to pin and cut than the spot broche I had used previously, I got there in the end!
I used black Rasant thread for my seams and teal Guttermann for topstitching. When topstitching, I used black in my bobbin for panels two to five, and teal in my bobbin for panels one and six. I am proud with how this came out. I am still working on getting even lines of stitching, but that’s what practice is for!
I was interested to try more boning, so in addition to the bones on each seam, I added as many mid-panels as I could fit! In total there is the busk, six flat steel bones and 26 spiral steel bones. I was very happy with the look and structure that extra bones give. I am fairly pleased with how minimal the wrinkles are, but I will need to work on having a less visible waist tape.
The flat edge of the lace was sewn under the bias binding and the scalloped edge was hand stitched down, to sit flat.
The dress is a simple design: two rectangles of material, with lace and bias binding top and bottom. The lower sides were gathered to create the insect body shape. The most difficult part was that it was made on a 43°C day, and the porch where I sew got to 35°C!
I thought the inclusion of six large legs would be a light-hearted component of this costume and I am happy with whimsical outcome. The fabric was rather fiddly as the gold layer liked to stick to itself. The wings were made by pinning and sewing the beautiful fabric around a wire outline. Unfortunately, it did not sit exactly how I wanted (the middle section tended to compress and wrinkle the fabric) so I decided to include a wire loop cross beam in the middle “vein”, which were originally only going to be decorative.
This competition has helped me develop my skills and left me feeling confident to take on my future projects involving fashion fabric and decoration!
Do it! It's fabulous!