Our Lady of the Angels
Model and photographer: Threnody in Velvet
My school had a Pugin chapel, built in 1901. The chapel – Our Lady of the Angels – is opulent and filled with gold, stained glass, and ornately carved dark wood. I took a lot of solace from the beautiful chapel, and I wanted to capture the style in my entry.
I went through a lot of different ideas for the design, a process I captured on my Patreon. In the end I decided to take a huge risk in a competition known for its innovative and inspiring entries and leave the corset unembellished. The pattern is inspired by Edwardian corsets to fit with the age of the chapel. The bust gores end in points. These are more subtle than my usual pointed top edges in order to emulate the gothic archways prominent in Pugin’s designs.
Pugin was well known for not only designing the buildings and interiors but all aspects of the churches and chapels he designed. From the incense burners, ciboriums, and patens to the vestments worn by the priests. It is extant Pugin vestments which eventually inspired my final design. I learned that opulence and intricacy are not always the same thing.
I began by drafting my pattern. I think I achieved a modern take on swooping Edwardian lines.
I knew I wanted to use vestment fabric, and was delighted to find there is fabric with original Pugin designs. Unfortunately, it was hard to find fabric that wasn’t over $200/yard. In the end I found affordable fabric with was close to Pugin designs. When it arrived it was orange.
I persevered but my heart wasn’t in it. I tried adding an orphrey with a Pugin pattern, but it felt wrong, and I was devastated. My husband bought me the fabric I used for Christmas. This, and a kind donation from a member who wanted to see me succeed inspired me to retry.
The corset is a single layer of coutil fused to fabric (which I patternmatched) with handmade coutil boning channels covering interior seams. Binding was hand cut and sewn. I’ve shared here how I cut it. The skirt is also simply constructed.
It took a long time for me to accept the corset was worthy of entering. I think that embellishment is one of my strong points, but the corset did not feel right with anything added, it detracted from the lines. A big challenge was accepting that it looked better plain.
I have a large pair of wings so it would become a Pugin angel, but bad weather meant they were impossible to finish. It broke my heart, but I have already arranged a photographer for when they are finished.
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
I had a lot of fun with this year's theme, and it taught me to trust myself rather than panicking about using as many fiddly techniques as possible. The theme was very inspiring and took me out of my comfort zone.
To people who are on the fence I would say this: It is scary to put yourself out there this way, and I know it makes me feel vulnerable to think of people judging my work. No matter what your skill level, someone will look at what you have created and be full of wonder at what you achieved - just like you probably are at all the entries this year.
On a personal level, I think there has only been one year since the competition started when I haven't entered. I get to look back at my entries (way back when there were about ten in total!) and see just how much I have improved. A yearly "checkpoint" really helps you see how your skills have refined.