Some Tips, From A Model's Point of View - Evie Wolfe

Evie was one of our models from the last two conferences and is an absolute treat to work with. Gorgeous, adaptable and perhaps most importantly fun and easy to work with. She has very kindly written us a blog post to help you through your shoot.


Model details, measurements and selections are passed out to delegates well in advance of the OCOC, so it can be tempting to let the deadline slide for a while, and for all the work to pile up at the end, especially if you're busy with a 'day job' or clients. If you've organised a toile, plan with your model; they might not be able to accommodate you at very short notice, and there are always a hundred things that could go wrong at the worst moment. Start as early as your schedule allows and keep in contact with your model if you want to. The more communication there is before the event, the less chance of a breakdown on the day! I can't speak for everyone, but I get excited seeing the ideas and effort that goes in to creating a corset and/or ensemble, and love to gush and squeal over it taking shape.

If things are running late, communicate! There is so much that goes in to an OCOC event, and such a build up to it, that it can feel like you've failed if things didn't turn out quite how you planned them, or if you didn't manage to get them completed in time. Be kind to yourself, and remember that with or without a photoshoot, you are going to have a fantastic time. You can always book a shoot later, but you can't recapture the magic of the conference if you exhaust yourself before it gets started. If something goes wrong, tell the organisers (and the model and photographer, if necessary) as soon as possible, so the shooting schedule can be amended. 

This last point goes without saying, but be respectful of the schedule, as much as you can. Arriving a few minutes early and finishing on time can mean the difference between me stopping for a cup of tea or not, and the longer I go without tea the more I resemble a goblin. Be kind to the people scheduled after you; don't make them shoot with a goblin.

What To Bring With You

Well, your corset helps! Not everyone brings a full ensemble, so if you'd like your model to bring something extra, like lingerie, skirts, shoes, accessories etc, let them know well ahead of time. Not everything can be catered to, but you'd be surprised what we have hiding in the back of our wardrobes, behind the gimp. 

A few useful items;

  • Small sewing kit (you never know)
  • Any accessories you would like worn
  • An umbrella (not always necessary, but good to have just in case)
  • A couple of pins, and/or a clip
  • Whatever headache treatment works for you
  • Your outfit (it can be helpful to write a checklist if like me you habitually forget important things like keys, phones and your head, if it isn't screwed on tight enough.) I find it easier to read a list than think for myself when I get up in the morning, and it can cut into shoot time if a key piece of the outfit is lost in a suitcase somewhere.

Your model will probably have bobby pins, baby wipes and safety pins, but if you think you're going to need them, maybe grab a couple of those, too. It never hurts to be the only person in a dressing room with wet wipes - you're everyone's best friend.

Alison Campbell lacing Evie into her Crikey Aphrodite corset at OCOC'14 Pic Jenni Hampshire

Alison Campbell lacing Evie into her Crikey Aphrodite corset at OCOC'14 Pic Jenni Hampshire

Getting Dressed

Hair and makeup can be difficult, because it is hard to come up with a look that suits such a diverse range of outfits. For this reason most of the models opt for neutral and classic tones, and hair that can be easily re-styled once one too many quick changes have left it a bit disheveled. If you would like something specific, please talk to your model, they may be able to accommodate you to one extent or another.

It's always helpful when the corset is already unlaced, squishing me can take a couple of minutes and changes are already fraught. If you don't fancy risking the lace to the tangle fairies in your bag, whip over to the changing room a minute or two early (if there is space; if not, there is always somewhere nearby) and unlace it there. The time-related anxiety centres of your brain thank you in advance. 

The Shoot Itself

You finished your outfit, you got the model into it, and you're ready to go. Now what?

If things aren't perfect, don't worry about it. This might be a little general, but I've worked in modelling for a decade, and I've never met a group of people who criticise their work more than designers. I can be standing, starry-eyed, staring at a corset and wondering how far I could run in my stilettos if I made a break for it, and the designer will be looking at the same corset like they might at a pet who peed on the carpet for the fifteenth time. Trust me, your work is beautiful, and you need to give yourself a break.

It's not always going to fit like a corset which has run through four in-person toiles and been blessed by the gods. It might gape a little somewhere, or pinch where you didn't want it to.  Communicate this to your model, and she may be able to help with poses that flatter the fit. Even if she can't, there are not many opportunities to shoot with such talented photographers and models in such an exquisite location. No-one is going to notice the tiny fabric imperfection that is driving you nuts in the splendor of the library, or the beauty of the grounds. 

Take some time to look around and seed some ideas during the conference, and make it known if you would like to shoot in a specific area of the college, or if something has particularly inspired you. Your vision matters to us, and we want to make the shoot the best it can be for you, your corset and your brand. That being said, it can also pay to listen to the advice of the people on your team; they know their craft, and may come up with ideas you hadn't thought of. Similarly, if you really don't like something, be it a pose, a location, etc, let the people you're working with know. The sooner you speak up, the sooner we can move on to something you like.

Flat out in the Chapel. Pic Jennifer Garside

Flat out in the Chapel. Pic Jennifer Garside

After The Shoot

The chances are you will have someone booked in to shoot after you, so the undressing stage of the shoot can be a rushed one for your model, but that doesn't mean we don't want to say thank you and exchange cards, if you want to. The OCOC is also about making friends and connections, and while we might be flying off to our next designer, we appreciate the time and effort you put in to your corset, and that you chose us to wear it. Modeling for you all is a fantastic experience.

Speaking for myself here, while I have been tempted at times to point over your shoulders and run off with your corsets, I have loved working the OCOC, and am always happy to hear from you after the conference, selfie with you in the changing rooms, and drool over the pictures when they come out.

Much Love, Evie Wolfe


Evie at the OCOC'15 Dinner. Pic Chris Murray

Evie at the OCOC'15 Dinner. Pic Chris Murray

How to get to OCOC

Are you wondering how to gather funds in order to get to OCOC next year?  Our Business speaker for 2015 is Fiona Pullen, owner of online sewing resource The Sewing Directory, and author of the number one Amazon best selling Craft Business book "Craft a Creative Business".  Here Fiona gives tips and ideas on how to raise money in order to gather funds for any project, not just getting to OCOC.

Fiona with fashion icon, Zandra Rhodes, October 2014

Fiona with fashion icon, Zandra Rhodes, October 2014

How will you afford to go to Oxford Conference of Corsetry?

Tickets have just gone on sale, you’re looking longingly at the photos of past events and wishing that you could go to the Oxford Conference of Corsetry.  You know it will be great for your business, the networking, the new skills you’ll learn, getting professional photos for your portfolio.  However not everyone has £650 sitting in their account ready to spend on an amazing weekend away.

So how can you fund your trip to the Oxford Conference of Corsetry?

Shift that dead stock
Most of us have items we’ve made or bought that just didn’t sell like we expected.  You are reluctant to drop the price because you still believe that perfect buyer is out there.  However, it is taking up space and energy that could be devoted to products that will sell much quicker and easier.  Have a big rummage through and find that stock that has been sitting there for ages, reduce it down, promote your big sale, share pictures across social media, let them know it’s a flash sale (to encourage immediacy) and get it sold.  Put those funds aside to help fund your trip.

If you can include a little extra in your sale those extra bits of income could help fund your trip.  If you sell corsets could you offer matching accessories so you can sell 2 items per transaction instead of one?  If you’re selling your products as Christmas gifts could you charge a little extra for gift wrapping?   If you teach corsetry could you offer your students a little discount on another course once they’ve booked one, so you sell 2 spaces instead of one?   Or maybe a bring a friend offer?

Increase your profit margin
This is a bit of a trickier one, there are 3 ways of increasing your profit margin.  You either need to make your product faster (thereby decreasing the amount of time you put in), reduce your materials cost or increase your product costs. 

  • a) With regards to reducing the time I’m going to assume most of you have been doing this a while and are working to full productivity.  If you are still fairly new then do take the time to learn new techniques, study and read up on different ways of doing things to see if you find any shortcuts.  Have you tried batching if you are making several of the same item?
  • b) When it comes to the cost of materials many of us stick with the suppliers we found when we first started a business.  But it does pay to look around and see what else is out there, you could look at trade publications or attend trade shows to see what other suppliers there are or do some online research.  Even if it knocks just a couple of percentage of your costs over a year that can add up to quite a big saving.
  • c) Increase your product costs. Can you justify increasing your prices?  Could you aim at a market with bigger budgets, or use unique supplies that people are willing to pay a little extra for?  Has your skill level grown and your products evolved since you first priced them?  Have you looked to see how your prices compare to your competition, if they are charging more than you then perhaps you could get away with a small increase too?

Big promotional push!
It is the perfect time of year for a big marketing push.  Market your products as the ideal Christmas gift, step up your social media campaign, send a few reminder newsletters, send press releases out.  You may be too late for magazine coverage but perhaps you could get something into the local papers?  It might be worth looking at some low cost advertising like Facebook ads, or speak to complimentary businesses about cross promoting each other’s products to help reach a new audience.  Can you display flyers at Christmas events?  Could you write guest pots for relevant websites to help get your name and products out there?  People are planning to spend a lot of money over the next 5 weeks so make sure your products are in their mind whilst they are spending.

Hopefully I will see you at OCOC in August where I will be speaking about search engine optimisation and how it can help people find your products.

Written by Fiona Pullen, owner of The Sewing Directory and author of Craft a Creative Business.


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 ....