The Silence of the Lambs
Olga Potaeva, Russia
Model: Aleksandra Panfilova
Photographer: Dina Kalinina
I do love the theme of this year so much, but there is one disappointing fact — spiders are not insects. I have some really old sketches of a dress covered with hundreds of tiny crawling embroidered spiders. I still hope that I will bring this idea to life someday. And in spite of permission to make spider entry, that Cathy Hay gave to one of the participants in September's live call for members, I decided to follow the rules, cause that’s why we came together here, to come up with something new, to try new things. So I developed another promising but quite obvious idea — death's-head hawkmoth. I like all that dark creepy stuff and this beautiful moth is an incarnation of everything that inspires me in the insect world, so I just could not refuse it.
Another source of inspiration was my friend, whom I asked to pose for me this year. And I want to share some epic story, that made this project even more nerve-racking (how is that possible?) My beautiful model had a sudden abdominal surgery in the first week of January and lost weight during the recovery period. It was too late to change the construction — I had a very strict schedule for all the sewing stages and had already finished an impressive part of the embroidery. On the other hand I didn’t want to change the model — the corset was created especially for her to fit not only the body but the whole image of this girl, both physical and mental. She consulted with the doctor, got permission to wear a corset and was such a hero during the shoot. But all the same I was totally afraid of lacing her too tight, so our pictures don’t demonstrate proper fit of my garment at all, but I like them anyway. That’s why I included the back view of the garment on the mannequin, and I have more mannequin pictures in my dress diary gallery (link below).
A couple of words to explain the name of my entry: Every admirer of novels and movies about Hannibal Lecter knows the symbolic role of this moth in the story. But there is another amusing fact that confirms this perfect choice. The father of my model looks unbelievably similar to Anthony Hopkins!
Technically this project was pure experiment and pure challenge. The only thing that I knew before any brainstorming was the idea of a fully embroidered corset. I’m highly attracted by everything about tiny beads, luneville hooks, velvet fabrics, hours of hand work, and I try to add this passion in every single recent garment. A common way of using embroidery in corsetmaking is to put premade embroidery on a premade corset. And that was the way I went for my previous competition entry. But I was not quite glad with its results actually, cause it was not reliable enough for such a strong garment as a corset. This year I tried to integrate whole embroidered panels in the construction during the "putting together" stage.
My first idea was to make an underbust corset and a bra (check out the sketch in my dress diary, link below). I searched through two or three different constructions and after several unsatisfying mockups I suddenly realised that the perfect one is Sanakor. I’ve already worked with this pattern from the brilliant series of FR articles by Nikki Swift. But this time I altered the bust area for a more modern look.
The corset has two layers, three panel upper wings and five panel bottom wings. Each panel is also two layered. The strength layer is made of herringbone coutil. The fashion layer is silk organza fully covered with boiled silk, embroidered by hand with feathers, sequins, beads and Swarovski crystals. This sounds like a paradox, but coutil provides more softness and flexibility than organza. That could be the reason I had classic problems with wrinkling and loose fabric around the seams. My solution was to make the outer layer a bit wider and to be extremely accurate in marking and cutting. Another common solution is steaming, but that was not my choice for this particular corset. On the contrary, I wanted to be super careful with pressing because of plastic sequins (I actually made this mistake last year, don’t try that, guys, don’t iron sequins). I couldn’t fully avoid wrinkles and there are some on the front. But it’s ok, I’ll continue my research in making a wrinkle-less corset from organza.
At this point I came to another struggle. The concept was to show just clean embroidery without any visible machine stitching on the face side. I used some kind of sandwich method to join the panels together. I made all the preparation steps (even inserting bones) on the strength layer of single panel, then I covered it with the fashion layer, and only after that I could move on to the next panel. That means that the garment became heavier and harder to manipulate with every step.
I also considered that standard bias finishing was too rough. That’s how I came to the most amazing tip I learned. Try to use straight bobbinet stripes instead of bias tape to finish the edges. This material is super comfy to work with and looks so unusual and pretty, and you save fabric because of the straight cut.
More details on my blog
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
I have a friend who is involved in corsetmaking, does amazing things, and has looked forward to the competition last couple of years. But I still can’t persuade her to take part. But I’ll definitely try to find words next year because it’s worth it. I am deeply convinced that the best way to do something outstanding is to limit yourself with a specific theme, or pattern, or any other rule, that will make you to find a way to push through. The competition provides this limit and it’s amazing to feel that there is a community behind this idea, even though I can’t fully use all the opportunities given by this community because of the language barrier. But I do my best and I’m honored to be part of this group of talented and enthusiastic people.