OCOC14 - Pop Antique's "College" Corset

Written by Marianne Faulkner. 

Don't forget to check the #ococ14 hashtag on Instagram and Twitter!


The Challenge

The second annual Oxford Conference of Corsetry followed the theme of the design process, from start to finish.  Each of us "Corset Fellows" made a corset that represented our workshop topic, inspired by Oxford and Jesus College, our venue, and of course, showcasing our own design sensibility as well.


The Design Process

My workshop was on standard sizing and grading, as I am in the unusual position of being highly focused on ready to wear rather than bespoke work.  As such, I knew I needed to create something from one of my standard patterns, but I also wanted to show that ready to wear doesn't have to be boring.  Being inspired by a location was a bit of a challenge for me.  My design concepts tend to be derived from mood and music, rather than specific visual elements.

Finally, one day, inspiration struck, fully formed.  At the inaugural OCOC, I had also been featured as a model for our Sunday photoshoots.  The first couple of shoots I did were in the pool room off the JCR, and I particularly loved Angela Stringer's casual snaps of me posing against the gorgeous paned windows set into drab grey stone walls.  Color blocking and other graphic, silhouette-based design details have long been a mainstay for me.  I could combine the "mink" and "dove" herringbone coutils (sold by Sew Curvy) with contrasting black structure to mimic the stone and paned effect.

Modeling for Angela Stringer at OCOC13, our inaugural year. I have an unyielding love for paned windows.

The Corset

Originally, I had planned to make my corset as a mini-dress, attached to a pencil skirt with a peplum.  Unfortunately, I didn't have enough coutil for that to happen, so I kept the peplum and ditched the skirt, which I wouldn't have had time to properly fit on my model anyway.  What I particularly love about the mink and the dove next to each other is that it's a bit unexpected; they have the same value (relative lightness or darkness) but in very different hues: one cool, one warm, both fairly desaturated. Typically color blocking would rely on two different values to make it pop, but in this case, that was done with the contrasting external casings, waist tape, and petersham binding. If I'm not hiding the structure completely (as with my signature knit corsets), I like to put as much of a corset's structure on the outside as possible because I think it's more comfortable.  This also creates design possibilities that are perfect for my graphical tastes.

Original sketch © Marianne Faulkner of "College" inspired corset dress design in color blocked herringbone coutil.

Original sketch © Marianne Faulkner of "College" inspired corset dress design in color blocked herringbone coutil.

I decided on a contrast pattern that I call my "Pop Contrast:" center front and the second-to-last back panel in the secondary color.  As with leaving off the skirt, this was a decision based partially on how much of each coutil I had left - which is to say, very little of the dove!

Sketching out options for color blocking. I settled on what I call my "Pop Contrast," which has the center front and second to last panel only in the contrasting fabric.

Sketching out options for color blocking. I settled on what I call my "Pop Contrast," which has the center front and second to last panel only in the contrasting fabric.

The peplum was simple, with seam allowance that was equivalent to the width of my binding.  I added a petersham binding to the bottom as well, though of course it's hidden by the peplum. The coutil is so firmly woven, though, that I could've gotten away with a raw edge for a sample.


The Photoshoot

My model for the photoshoot was Morgana, aka Threnody in Velvet. Though Morgana has a very distinct look, I tried to style her in a way that was very representative of my brand.  I'm sure the originally planned miniskirt would've been more her style, but in its absence I decided to go for more of a vaguely 40s angle. I was excited to use my drapey silk palazzo pants, purchased from Betsey Johnson a couple years ago but as yet unhemmed and therefore unworn. Fortunately Morgana is fairly close to my size... more so to my size two years ago, I must confess! And to top off the look, a hand-blocked silver sinamay pillbox hat. The silver sinamay also has a faint blue hint to it, making it an excellent match to the cool grey of the dove coutil. The pillbox hat also has a space in the band where interchangeable bows can be clipped in, so I selected one in a beautiful cranberry red to match Morgana's deep lipstick, which otherwise might have seemed out of place in such a strongly monochromatic and (for me) subdued look.

Pop Antique "College" corset with peplum | Model: Threnody in Velvet | Photo © Scott Chalmers

In the crush of shooting our four corsets before the delegates' scheduled shoots, we unfortunately only had time for a few minutes of shooting.  Fortunately, our Jenni is quite a talented photographer, and I am always willing to model.  On Monday, when we had the place to ourselves, we squeezed in another shoot. Though we were unfortunately unable to shoot in front of the windows that had been my inspiration source, I still love what we came up with.

Pop Antique "College" corset with peplum | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Pop Antique "College" corset with peplum | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Pop Antique "College" corset with peplum | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

Pop Antique "College" corset with peplum | Model: Victoria Dagger | Photo © Sparklewren

The Jesus College campus is a wonderfully inspiring environment in which to shoot. The delegates of OCOC15 will have a wonderful array of models and photographers to work with at this singular location. I look forward to seeing this year's batch of OCOC corsets and photoshoots in just a few short weeks!

Oxford Conference of Corsetry 2014 - the run up

It's been 4 weeks since the end of the second Oxford Conference of Corsetry, which is quite an unreal feeling, because it still only feels like the first one took place last week instead of a whole year ago in 2013!  However, we're so advanced at this point that most everything is in place for 2015, and we're busily gathering materials for 2016!

As has now become habit, the 2014 Conference was over and done with in a matter of nano-seconds, at least that's how it felt!  Many people turned up at Jesus on the Thursday evening preceeding the Conference, and more still arrived on Friday.  In fact, by Friday lunchtime, most of the delegates had arrived and were happily meeting up, catching up and going on the various excursions they had planned together via our own private Facebook group for conference attendees.  There were ghost tours, morse tours, science tours, history tours and a fabric discount to be had at the local haberdashery.

 About 75% of delegates this year were returners from 2013 which left a good 25% who were 'new'.  Those new people were comprised heavily of my own Sew Curvy students plus some others who are well known 'online', so between class, online and the Facebook group, many of them knew eachother already and even if they hadn't met before, the atmosphere during the conference is so friendly and inviting that I think I am right in saying that nobody really felt 'new' at all!  More than a few people have likened our Conference community of corsetieres to a big happy family, and this sentiment does leave me feeling extremely warm and fuzzy inside because it is exactly, and I mean exactly,  how I envisioned things should, would and could be.

Corset Makers from around the world gather at Jesus College Oxford over August Bank Holiday.

My own Conference experience obviously starts somewhere in October of the preceeding year when tickets go on sale (the first of many new traditions).  There is of course a constant trickle of Conference administration to do throughtout the year,  but things really hot up about a month or so before.  It really doesn't matter how well prepared one is, there are always last minute jobs to do, things which can't be done until soon before the event and ofcourse there is the press interest which has to first be generated and then worked through to our best advantage. 

Pre-press photography and reporting at the Sew Curvy Studio before the conference.  This appeared in the Oxford Mail

At the beginning of August, the first member of my team, Gerry Quinton arrived at Sew Curvy HQ.  She planned to help me with the workload and complete her own Conference projects during the two weeks leading up to the event.  We soon settled into the routine of Sew Curvy work in the mornings - she would pick and I would pack, and then  conference work in the afternoons and copious amounts of hand stitching in the evenings.   We each made our "Jesus corsets" during this time but more on those in separate posts.

Actually Gerry never really stopped making her Jesus Corset, until the moment she needed it!  Here she is in the packed car on the way to Jesus, needle in hand.

Next to arrive on the Wednesday prior to Conference, was Alison Campbell who has proved herself invaluable to me over the year and has literally been my right hand - responsible for all of the branding and print design for the Conference including this very website which I'm sure you'll agree is pretty snazzy.  Alison bought with her a whole car full of 'stuff' and there was much catching up while gin drinking that evening. 

Gin and catch up, but we're still working! Happy days!

On Thursday the three of us de-camped to Jesus where  the last minute hard work frenzy started - making up badges, packing mannequins, putting the finishing touches to our presentations and class materials, buying party dresses, last minute print and sundry shopping,  and most importantly, sorting out the 70 lace samples which had been loaned to us by Solstiss who had given us a very special deal for conference delegates. 

The lace sorting took a while ... a long while.  No gin this time, couldn't risk getting in a muddle! Note virtuous bottle of water on table.

By Friday evening, the rest of the team, Jenni Hampshire and Marianne Faulkner had arrived from Birmingham and we set about setting up our Conference rooms for the event!   There was much more to set up than last year.  We had pictures to display, more mannequins than ever - in fact some of them were quite naked even after set up - and much more class material to prepare. 

Alison setting up the display in the main plenary room.  Here we have one of her own designs, a silk Sparklewren, the now famous Cage dress made by Rosie Red and last seen being worn by Helena Bonham Carter in Vanity Fair Magazine, and an exquiste leather corset kindly loaned to us by Bizarre Design.

There was also more to go in the goody bags than there was last year.  Our lovely sponsors Janome provided pads, pens and tape measures along with handy sewing machine guides, there was the Morgana Doll, some corset cut outs to clothe her with -both made and designed by Alison, and ofcourse Foundations Revealed provided the beautiful canvas goody bags (again designed by Alison).  While 'team 1' unpacked and dressed the mannequins, 'team 2' stuffed the goody bags and sorted out the fabric swap table which was once again over flowing.

The goody bag this year was packed full of fun and pretty things but would have been wonderful just on it's own!

By midnight, we were as ready as we could be, and far too tired for gin drinking.  Read the rest of the report over the next few days.  There's simply too much to tell for one blog post!!

'Twas the night before Christmas ... Oh no sorry .. .. T'was the night before OCOC ....