I wanted to make this entry to bring attention to the decline of the Monarch butterfly, which is drastically dwindling in numbers and we don't know why. When discussing the photo shoot with my photographer, we wanted to make the pictures lovely and graceful, but also moody and dark to express how the world should be feeling about the plight of these fascinating and beautiful insects, and the massive effect that the loss of these important pollinators would cause.
As I was designing it, I was drawn to the way the bones of a corset resemble the veins of the Monarch's wings, so I chose to use a very delicate, sheer fabric to mimic the delicacy and beauty of the butterfly. I chose black as the base color and made the free standing lace butterflies on the darker side to keep with the pensive theme.
The old abandoned dairy barn was the perfect setting. It is in Rosaryville State Park in Maryland, USA, but is seldom visited. As little as a few years ago this park was filled with Monarchs every spring as they migrated, but now they are seldom seen. Once up on a time this barn would have been filled with them, as they are attracted the flowers that grow here in the Spring, and also the manure. Now, the butterflies on my corset are the only ones I have seen here in quite a while.
I'm very excited about this entry. I have been making corsets for about a year for myself and friends, and this one was my first "artistic" design. Although it had to be structurally sound, this was the first time I made a corset that did not have to be on the utilitarian side, or a "tool." I very much enjoyed the freedom to just do something because it was beautiful and I didn't have to worry if it would fit under a dress or interfere with the body shaping the wearer was looking for.
Working with a sheer, delicate fabric was challenging. It is slippery but pins can damage it. I just had to sew very slowly and precisely, using my hands to hold the fabric in place. The second challenge I discovered was that the fabric was strong in the middle but the threads would separate at the edges if pulled, so the seams became weak. To reinforce the seams, after sewing, I glued each seam with flexible fabric glue, giving enough allowances on either side of the seam to also support the fabric. Then I covered the glue with bias tape that also worked as the channeling for the spiral steal bones.
I am fortunate to own an embroidery machine, and the website, UrbanThreads, had a realistic Monarchy butterfly pattern in free standing lace that I downloaded. I made about 75 butterflies on organza in black, yellow or orange, which I hand sewed in strategic locations on the corset. I wanted it to look like the butterflies were swirling around me (I am also the model.) To bring the butterflies over my shoulder, I used clear elastic to make a shoulder strap that the butterflies could be attached to. The elastic also allowed the strap to be taut, but comfortable, so the butterflies stayed firmly in place without sagging down. For the butterflies on the front of the corset, I hand sewed a few 2mm crystals on the wings to highlight their beautiful and delicate nature. My last picture shows the corset "under construction," showing the structure of the corsets, the butterflies and the crystals.
Since this corset's purpose was not for body shaping but simply to be lovely and make a statement, I chose to use black silk ribbon for the laces, sticking with the theme of nature and the combination of beauty, strength and fragility, all in one.
To complete the look, I trimmed the corset in black cotton velvet, and made the crinoline to match.
This is the first sewing competition I have ever entered and I am very excited about it. And I was inspired by the theme, a topic that I am interested in. I am also a little nervous, but in a good way. I would encourage anyone who sews to give this a try. Corsets are not as complicated to make as one might think. It does, however, help if you have a tool shed as well as a sewing room! Or at least a few hand tools to make your life easier when working with boning and grommets. But the rewards at the end are so worth it. I also recommend to START EARLY. I wanted this to be fun, not stressful, and the fact that I was well ahead of the deadline allowed me to enjoy the process, and make changes along the way that only added to the finished product and my pride in my accomplishment.