On Fabrics

One of the wonderful things about corsetry is that you are contained by the relatively small area of the garment. Not only does this help the creative process, allowing you to explore ideas without being overwhelmed by dealing with everything! But, it allows for the use of materials that would be prohibitively expensive otherwise. In the same way as interior designers often suggest using the expensive paper in the downstairs loo, we can get a corset from just a metre of luxury. This also means we can be conscious of the enviroment and eek use out of every scrap with careful cutting for minimal wastage. 

Black and red rosebud corsetry brocade from  Sew Curvy . Copyright Sew Curvy

Black and red rosebud corsetry brocade from Sew Curvy. Copyright Sew Curvy

Of course the traditional corset fabrics are wonderful. Where would we be without coutils, broche and brocades. But when your imagination needs further exercise, well the world is your oyster, so don't fall into the trap of poly satin and chinese brocades. They have their place but it's a small place.

Satin coutil corset by Crikey Aphrodite. Image copyright Alison Campbell

Satin coutil corset by Crikey Aphrodite. Image copyright Alison Campbell

Funny thing, every client I have here in Scotland whom I suggest satin to pulls a face. For some reason it's not popular at all here, and yet I have colleagues in England who use nothing else. Now of course in the context of the post, we're not talking £5 poly duchesse here (and some of those are nicer than others) but rather the beautiful silk and silk mix satins or the traditional corset satin coutil. It's very often duchesse which is used for corsets. It's not the most forgiving fabric, it's not nicknamed Satan for nothing. it tends to wrinkle and stitches are very visible. It needs careful handling.  

The classic is dupion, both the smoother machine woven and the slubbier hand loomed. It's pretty ubiquitous in corsets, I've lost count of how many I've made from it. It works, people love it, and it's easy to handle. It also comes in countless colours. But, bit predictable. Why not look at some of the more interesting variations. There are silk and linen mixes, heavier textures and colour blends. Look beyond the obvious.

Textured silk and wool blend from  James Hare

Textured silk and wool blend from James Hare

I'm a huge fan of silk crepe. It's not that common in corsets, as it needs a bit of extra work but it has such a beautiful feel; soft, matt and touchable.

Threnody In Velvet wearing silk crepe corset by Crikey Aphrodite. Image copyright Clare Loftus Photography,

Threnody In Velvet wearing silk crepe corset by Crikey Aphrodite. Image copyright Clare Loftus Photography,

These have improved greatly. I've always had a huge aversion to poly shantung, it makes my skin crawl. But I had a swatch recently for a faux silk that was really lovely! There are also some amazing blends. But if you prefer synthetics on ethical grounds your choices have massively increased. But you also now have the option of wonderful new fabrics from plant fibres such as bamboo which have a lovely hand.

I use wool a fair bit. I prefer to use as many local fabrics as I can, and I live in a country where wool fabric is rightly famed. Tartan (10oz), and various suiting weights work beautifully. So does Harris Tweed, if you can get a lighter weight as it does make a bulky seam, an issue in corsetry. You'll need to grade the seams carefully and keep your bulk minimal. It's worth it though, especially to support a traditional industry which is a way of life in Harris and Lewis. Artisans should support each other as much as possible.

Tartan corset by Crikey Aphrodite. This is a modern tartan from Anta.  Image copyright Alison Campbell

Tartan corset by Crikey Aphrodite. This is a modern tartan from Anta.  Image copyright Alison Campbell

The ultimate luxury, we nearly all love using lace. It is expensive, and if you're gong to use it then swallow that fact and appreciate why it is luxurious. Antique lace is still very available and beautiful, but do keep in mind that it's a finite and diminishing resource. If you're going to use then do so with care, avoiding destroying one beautiful (rare) garment to make another. Luckily, the nature of it's application to corsetry means that damaged pieces find their perfect use. 
Of course, the wonderful laces made in the north of France for generations are just astounding, and give a real couture edge to your garments. They are expensive but a little goes a very long way. We had Solstiss at the conference with samples a couple of years ago, and it was wonderful to have the time to browse the exquisite designs.

Gorgeous lace from  Solstiss  Image copyright Alison Campbell

Gorgeous lace from Solstiss Image copyright Alison Campbell

There are laces produced elsewhere of course. Many countries in Europe have a lace tradition, including the UK. I've made several pieces using Ayrshire lace, produced just 20 minutes from my home. Again, supporting a traditional product and keeping those miles down too!

Corset by Crikey Aphrodite using Ayrshire lace from  MYB Textiles

Corset by Crikey Aphrodite using Ayrshire lace from MYB Textiles

This is a very brief selection of examples of course. Largely based around what I use myself. Explore options, don't feel restrained by what other people use. Look at fabrics not meant for garment use (I used to use a glitter fabric meant for exhibition and window design!) and look at what is produced in your home country or even closer to home. It's a wonderful way to give your work a distinctive mark, not easily appropriated by others. Above all, have fun. Experimenting is the most enjoyable part!

Iceni Corset Inspiration by Beth Moody

Inspiration is a tricky thing to pin down sometimes. It can be incredibly fluid and often the final creation you end up with looks nothing like the original starting point. Trying to explain your inspiration can be hard.. so bear with me.

When you start making corsets, very often you take inspiration from other corset makers. And why not, there is some brilliant work out there to be inspired by! Much like when you study art at school you examine the work of well known artists to understand how they achieved what they did, you learn from their composition, colours, materials and skills. It's the same with corsets.

It can continue when you start opening your doors to clients. People will come to you saying “I found this picture of a corset, I want one like this...” That's all well and good, but if you want to create something truly original you need to look to find your own inspiration, outside of the corsetry world.

When I signed up to attend OCOC'15 I instantly started plotting my piece for the shoot on Sunday.

I'd, somewhat accidentally, made this underbust corset.

It originally started life as a mock-up to test a new pattern I was working on... when I got a bit carried away with some lace. I absolutely love combining soft drapey fabrics with the strong structure of a corset, and it's a theme you can often see running through my work. I liked the way the lace draped over this piece but I wanted to take it further.

After the models were announced I immediately felt drawn to Gingerface. I LOVE Pre-Raphaelite art, and redheads and I had all sorts of notions of a neo-gothic, painted ceiling inspired, blue and gold, midnight corset... and that was about as far as I got. Life got in the way a bit.

Not long after that I was signed off sick from stress due to my (then) day job. Which soon prompted the decision to quit and attempt to pursue Moody Corsetry as a legitimate business. At this time our little family decided to escape for a weekend to visit friends in Norfolk. We'd not seen them for an age and I definitely needed time away. Whilst we were there we visited Waxham and the coastline there. Walking along the incredibly windswept, rainy beach I had a moment of clarity, deciding to tackle this new venture head on, and understanding what I really wanted and needed out of life.

I loved that beach, despite the weather. I loved how dramatic the wind, rain, waves, stones all made it despite it just being variations of grey. This was something I really wanted to capture and so took this image. (yeah it's not great but that's camera phones for you)

And this was my new source of inspiration. I wanted to create a piece that looked like it belonged here. The rocks would be my structure and the sea would be my soft drape of fabric. I wanted it to look like the sea was twisting around the corset. Like my model had just walked out of the sea.. and it didn't really take me long from there.

Fabrics wise the corset part was straight forward, I wanted it to be black and wet looking. Corsetry satin it is then, with added antique jet beads for a a bit more interest, to bring in that sort of 'stone' quality and, well, jet is awesome so why not?! The watery fabric was a little more tricky, until I stumbled across silk chiffon shot with silver. It was that fantastic “not quite white” colour of sea foam and I literally skipped around my living room when the postman delivered it.

And here is the final piece.

Iceni corset by Moody Corsetry. Modelled by Gingerface. Copyright InaGlo Photography 2015

Iceni corset by Moody Corsetry. Modelled by Gingerface. Copyright InaGlo Photography 2015

Gingerface modelled it to perfection, and InaGlo photographed it beautifully. I was very pleased with myself I must say! I decided to name the piece Iceni. I like naming my showpieces after the source of the inspiration.. but Waxham didn't have a great ring to it. I thought instead to name it after the Brythonic tribe who inhabited Norfolk in 1st century BC. They were the tribe that the infamous Boudica came from, and I felt this not only linked the piece back to where my inspiration came from but also reflected the drama and strength I hope it emanates.

One day I'd really like to take this corset back to Waxham beach and have it photographed on those rocks!

You can see more of Beth's lovely work at Moody Corsetry