OCOC BLOG


Friends of OCOC - Foundations Revealed

The first in a series of posts on the friends and sponsors who support us and help make the weekend extra enjoyable for all of us.

Foundations Revealed kindly sponsored the wine at dinner, as well as supplying a lovely branded mug for the welcome bag. Image copyright Laurie Tavan 2015

Foundations Revealed kindly sponsored the wine at dinner, as well as supplying a lovely branded mug for the welcome bag. Image copyright Laurie Tavan 2015

Firstly, let us introduce Foundations Revealed and the ladies behind it.

Foundations Revealed (and it's sister costume publication Your Wardrobe Unlock'd) is an online subscription publication offering an unprecedented number of tutorials and studies of the world of foundations, predominantly corsetry, through history up to the present day. Although the nature of the material means a strong focus on late Victorian and Edwardian corsets, the remit is far wider. With a huge pool of writers and a massive archive or articles it's a vital resource for any serious makers.

All of us on the team have known Cathy Hay, who runs Harman Hay (publisher of Foundations Revealed) for a number of years. Personally, I'd reckon about a decade, from the old days of the Live Journal corsetry and corsetmaking communities up to the present day. The plans and discussions for FR and it's older sister publication 'Your Wardrobe Unlock'd' were revealed and thrashed out on Cathy's Live Journal page where many of it's original subscribers came from. 

Cathy Hay with our organiser and Director Julia Bremble at OCOC'15. Image copyright Laurie Tavan 2015

Cathy Hay with our organiser and Director Julia Bremble at OCOC'15. Image copyright Laurie Tavan 2015

Cathy approached Julia several years ago to pick her brains about a possible conference idea, but decided it wasn't for her. Julia, with her background in conference management, had been mulling the idea over with a couple of us for a while, so decided then to go for it but in a very different format. Cathy has expressed her 'genuine enthusiasm' for the event and has been generous with her praise and congratulations as well as being a sponsor for the last three years.

As well as Foundations Revealed being a sponsor since the first year, Cathy attended the second and third events. In 2015 editor Marion McNealy was also able to join us.

In year two Cathy also gave an inspiring talk. And has been a keen participator in the workshops from the delegate side, always ready with a question and some input. She has recently been running a business mentorship course, her first group of clients including quite a few of our regular conference attendees.

Cathy Hay absorbed during one of the workshops at OCOC'15. Image copyright Beth Moody 2015

Cathy Hay absorbed during one of the workshops at OCOC'15. Image copyright Beth Moody 2015

It was lovely to see Foundations Revealed editor Marion McNealy able to attend the conference this year. I'd met Marion once before, at a Foundations organised visit to the Symingtons Collection in Coalville (where I first met Julia in person incidentally!), and have of course corresponded with her in the past about articles.  Marion is an expert researcher and fount of historical knowledge. I do hope she was able to chat to some potential new writers for Foundations Revealed while at the conference. 

Marion seemed to manage camera avoidance far better than I can even manage (and trust me, I try) So here is the headshot we published in the conference programme leaflet.

Marion seemed to manage camera avoidance far better than I can even manage (and trust me, I try) So here is the headshot we published in the conference programme leaflet.

It was so amazing to be able to meet so many people I had only known online for years. I know I didn’t get a chance to meet everyone and chat, but maybe next year.
— Marion McNealy
Barbara Pesendorfer of Royal Black trying on one of Stephanie Selmayr's gorgeous antiques under the expert gaze of Steph and Marion. Image copyright Laurie Tavan 2015.   

Barbara Pesendorfer of Royal Black trying on one of Stephanie Selmayr's gorgeous antiques under the expert gaze of Steph and Marion. Image copyright Laurie Tavan 2015.

 

So we thank Foundations Revealed for their continuing support. As Cathy has said herself, our two organisations complement each other. Foundations through continued learning through online tutorials and studies from makers of all levels from beginners to expert, and it's strong focus on historical corsetry and costume. And ourselves, with our ethos of bringing in well known and respected experts to add to our pool of knowledge while fostering sharing and learning from each other, with a focus on pushing innovation and corsetry in contemporary and future fashion. Long may the partnership continue,

www.foundationsrevealed.com/

OCOC14 - Pop Antique's "College" Corset

Written by Marianne Faulkner. 

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

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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!

OCOC14 - Sparklewren's "Jesus" Corset

Written by Jenni Hampshire.

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

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The Challenge

After the first Oxford Conference of Corsetry, we "corset fellows" had the idea that our second year should have an overarching theme. We wanted to take our attendees through the design process from start-to-finish, with a couple of tangents along the way. This meant beginning with design challenges and ending with embellishment/manipulation ideas, via notes on general patterning principles, resizing/grading, and (my own offering) detailed study of how antique-inspired corsetry can lead to interesting new ideas.

We scheduled and planned our classes to reflect this, and set about dreaming up our own Oxford inspired corsets with which to illustrate.

 

The Design Process

My Oxford corset was very clear in my mind at first. I knew exactly what I wanted it to be (a rare occurrence for me, since much of my self-directed work happens as a series of happy accidents). It was to be very much a contemporary revisioning of Renaissance angels. All that gilding, drapery, grandeur, and handsome androgenous beauty.

Even so, things didn't pan out quite as expected...

I wanted this dusty mink coutil to be my base colour with rich pink and gold layered above, very Veronese/Renaissance inspired. Leah Axl photographed by InaGlo Photography.

I wanted this dusty mink coutil to be my base colour with rich pink and gold layered above, very Veronese/Renaissance inspired. Leah Axl photographed by InaGlo Photography.

The initial wish was to create a Birds Wing corset-body, much like the Mink corset above, but with the "spine" of the corset extending upwards and radiating out into a disc behind the head.

image.jpg

This disc would be gilded and embellished, to reference Renaissance halos, whilst the mink coutil would be awash with pink and gold Solstiss lace, freshwater pearls (lots of freshwater pearls), beads and so on. There would also be a big robe of iridescent silk duchess, to hang heavily from the models arms.

I also wanted to revisit this typically stays-inspired topline, for a nod to Queen Elizabeth I. Leah Axl photographed by InaGlo Photography.

I also wanted to revisit this typically stays-inspired topline, for a nod to Queen Elizabeth I. Leah Axl photographed by InaGlo Photography.

Despite being turn-of-the-century inspired, my Birds Wing design is very naturally inclined to give a flattened chest, which was the first connection I had between my work and that 1600s aesthetic. Since my work tends to be about cherry-picking things of beauty (rather than adhering to any sense of historical accuracy), this was an appealing link. For my class, I really wanted to illustrate how things lead into one another, how you could begin by attempting a Victorian corset replica but end up creating a catwalk-style contemporary showpiece... Or how you could have an idea, face a technical challenge, and end up with an even more interesting solution. So in that sense, the challenge I faced with this design was no bad thing, I suppose!

"  Noli me tangere" -  Paolo Veronese .  These were the tones I wanted to use in my Oxford corset.

"Noli me tangere" - Paolo Veronese. These were the tones I wanted to use in my Oxford corset.

It was a very small but very significant thing which killed the dream of this corset... I hadn't ordered the pink/gold lace in time. Without that particular shade of opulent lace, the entire design fell apart. I did not want to compromise on this one. If I couldn't make my angel, I would make something else instead. 

In the end, that "something else" ended up being far more directly connected to Jesus College.

Formally attributed to  Nicholas Hilliard   (1547–1619). Held at Jesus College, Oxford. 

Formally attributed to Nicholas Hilliard (1547–1619). Held at Jesus College, Oxford. 

Whilst I didn't initially want to do a Queen Elizabeth I corset (my friend Alison had gotten there first!), I was drawn to the overlap of regal and religious iconography. My initial Renaissance Angel idea would have had fireball pearls around the halo/disc, in a little nod to Elizabethan whisks and so on, and so I ended up considering that idea more. Elizabeth's symbolic pearls (virginity), her impossible god-like power, her divine rights... I suppose all these things were jumbled up in my mind as I also kept thinking of Gaultier's exploration of religious iconography and the very archetypal way I think many of us instantly imagine icons. The subject very central in the image (often very symmetric), divine light coming from above, sometimes serene, sometimes tortured. I didn't have a clean and simple intent or meaning in mind (and I wanted to do something more "human" and grubby than Elizabeth's magnificent splendour), but the design was beginning to emerge. It was becoming more about the final images than the corset itself, and I could picture many of those images quite precisely. The lighting would be high up and dramatic, the pose inspired by iconography (by Jesus Christ), the tones and textures inspired by Queen Elizabeth I. This meant, as far as I was concerned, many many pearls and lovely silk duchess to capture the light, gleaming subtly. 

The corset, in progress. Freshwater pearls and rose quartz chips, over layered couture lace and silk duchess.

The corset, in progress. Freshwater pearls and rose quartz chips, over layered couture lace and silk duchess.

Of course, there's never just one thing going on, just one idea in mind... This corset, being illustrative of my class, also became an experiment in single-layer silk corsetry. With diagonal seams, I knew I would encounter some challenges as I hadn't toiled this pattern in anything lighter than coutil. So indeed, we ended up with more ripples than a coutil version would have. And overall, I think that I still would have preferred a regular Birds Wing for this, with all those vertical lines nodding to stays. But I am happy to have continued testing the diagonals even so, and hope to take them further.

 

The Corset

Wednesday before the conference I was sewing down pearls. Thursday, my assistant Holly finished the last of them whilst I played with all our guests! We had loads of lovely people visiting that day for photoshoot fun, including "corset fellow" Marianne (Pop Antique) who was going to be my model come Sunday morning of the conference. So we did an impromptu shoot on Thursday evening too. It was a great relief to check the corset on her prior to the conference, as my brand silhouette is not necessarily the best suited to Marianne's natural shape and we hadn't arranged any fittings. That said, she did well in the pieces we tried that day, which I think is in no small part down to the ever lighter construction. A single layer of silk-cotton or silk duchess is a light thing indeed, and a couple of our corsets (including this one) weren't as hard on her ribs as we had expected.

Marianne "Victoria Dagger" in Sparklewren. Image by Jenni Hampshire. Behold the pearl eyebrows! They were a nightmare to stick down without proper eyelash adhesive.  You can also see a piece of body jewellery here, that I made especially for the ensemble. Rose-gold chain connects at centre with three freshwater pearls in ivory, natural-pink, and muted green. I hope to explore many more designs like this, as a little piece of body jewellery can really enhance a lovely corset.

Marianne "Victoria Dagger" in Sparklewren. Image by Jenni Hampshire. Behold the pearl eyebrows! They were a nightmare to stick down without proper eyelash adhesive.

You can also see a piece of body jewellery here, that I made especially for the ensemble. Rose-gold chain connects at centre with three freshwater pearls in ivory, natural-pink, and muted green. I hope to explore many more designs like this, as a little piece of body jewellery can really enhance a lovely corset.

It was also a real relief that the corset didn't fall apart! I know these seams to be very strong (and I hope all our attendees got to see that for themselves during my class), but would the fabric itself be strong enough? I knew silk-cotton was, but what about pure silk? Well, so far it has proven very strong, and we haven't exactly been gentle with it. As a single-layer of silk, it naturally isn't intended for daily or frequent wear, which reduces how "strong" it needs to be. And then, a corset like this isn't intended for that anyway, it isn't built for tight-lacing.

Marianne "Victoria Dagger" in Sparklewren. Image by Jenni Hampshire.

Marianne "Victoria Dagger" in Sparklewren. Image by Jenni Hampshire.

As the "Jesus" corset landed quite low on Marianne, we also tried the "Rose Gold" Birds Wing (above) on her, and ended up layering this beneath the former for the official shoot in Oxford. We always need to take care to not be too risqué at the college!

 

The Photoshoot

Sunday morning of the conference, we "fellows" gathered to have our Oxford inspired designs shot together. Completely thrilling to see how we each took such different directions despite being inspired by the one place. Then Chris and Scott began snapping away, and I was thrilled to receive some perfectly beautiful pictures from Chris. I think this is my favourite.

Victoria Dagger by our wonderful photographer Chris Murray. Headdress by Liv Free, ensemble by Sparklewren.

Victoria Dagger by our wonderful photographer Chris Murray. Headdress by Liv Free, ensemble by Sparklewren.

I was also lucky enough to take 5 minutes to grab some of my own pictures of Marianne... But that's for another blog post.

If I were revisiting this design, I think I would want yet more pearls... I always do though. Plus, to return to the original plan of having vast silk duchess robes as part of the ensemble and perhaps some sort of larger disc, crown or halo to frame the head. Indeed, I had begun making such a crown, but ran out of time and so clever designer (and model!) Liv Free kindly loaned us use of the lovely halo shown above. I wish I had pushed through now, maybe slept one night less! I am pleased that we made those pearl eyebrows though. It's a shame I failed to bring them to the actual conference. They're bonkers, but I love them.

OCOC14 - Crikey Aphrodite's "Queen" Corset

Image copyright Chris Murray Photography, featuring Evie Wolfe. Headpiece by Creations by Liv Free

Image copyright Chris Murray Photography, featuring Evie Wolfe. Headpiece by Creations by Liv Free

Written by Alison Campbell. 

The Challenge

Right at the start this year we had decided to each make a showpiece corset exclusively for the conference, but the form of that was vague at first. We were all chatting general conference plans one day when we had the bright idea to follow a theme, and the theme we agreed on was to be Jesus college itself. It was a lightbulb moment that went on to inform some of the class content. It was especially relevant to my inspiration class as I'd already planned on getting all the delegates out and about around the college.

The Inspiration

All my life I’ve been fascinated with the Tudors and Stuarts. Childhood holidays and day-trips usually involved visits to whatever castles were in the area. I collected the costume dolls sold in the gift shops and one of my earliest favourite books was a Jean Plaidy novelisation of the childhood of Mary Queen of Scots. I also have strong family links to Falkland where Mary Queen of Scots’ favourite palace and hunting lodge was (and is), a place with many happy memories. So as the leap from Mary to Elizabeth is a short one I rapidly decided on the Queen Elizabeth I portraits as inspiration. I gleefully announced my decision to go for Queenie to Julia, Jenni, Gerry and Marianne and especially my plan to use ALL the pearls! As after all you can’t go Elizabeth without a massive dose of pearliness (she even ‘acquired’ Mary’s rare black pearls).

The Design Process

Next step was to find source images, put them together on a mood board and take a good hard look again at those portraits.  I found I was more swayed to the smaller portrait in the Peter North Room, I liked that it was less ornate than the ridiculously overwrought gowns she’s usually portrayed in.

Portrait of Elizabeth I, 1590, artist unknown.

Portrait of Elizabeth I, 1590, artist unknown.

I didn’t want to actually replicate the period, after all we’re most of us in fashion corsetry rather than costume. Stays would’ve been a predictable route but way too literal. Also it had to suit the model I was going to work with. There is no way Evie’s generous assets were going to be done justice by a conical stays shape, those boobs need support. That took me straight to bust gores, straps and a sweetheart neckline. I decided to revisit the shape I’d been working on with the recent black gold corset as the multiple hip gores gives a dramatic shape and I’d been investigating a split bust gore for side support, so it seemed like a good option to pursue.

 

The Corset

Materials                                                                                

Playing with fabrics: An earlier idea sketch: Playing wtih layers: Bead options.

Playing with fabrics: An earlier idea sketch: Playing wtih layers: Bead options.

One of the things that appealed in the portrait was the sleeve of blackwork embroidery. Whilst looking for something else I found my favourite local lace company produce a design in their cotton lace that is very close to the stylised florals of the time. They had two designs, a madras in almost exactly the same design and a lace in a slightly later, more Jacobite style. I ordered a metre of both and found the scale of the madras was too large. But the lace worked, and especially if I dyed it black to overlay on an off white silk, giving the impression of the blackwork without the hours of stitching.

I had already decided to use a leather remnant I had in a strange matt texture as it rather reminded me of old vellum. I’d gathered together various pearls and semi-precious garnet chips and other beads to work out my design.

I tend to work by sketching a design, then letting the materials take over and move on organically. Often the result ends up very different to the original. And so it happened with this. I went through a patch of utterly hating it. I’d chose a red suede for some contrast parts, and in retrospect I wished I’d chosen something more muted as the contrast was too much. I looked at it for days, pinning bits on, going away and coming back to it. I knew it would change once I beaded it but I could not get the visual back into my head. Then I overlaid some fine ivory lace over parts of it and it clicked back into place. Lace can be a useful blender, as well as adding texture.

The beading also took some playing about with. It went from an original plan of draped pearl strands, to pearl and crystal drops before growing into areas of solid pearl beading studded with garnets. I’m sure you won’t be surprised that I was sewing the last of those pearls on at 2am on Saturday morning before the conference started!

Fit without fitting

Freya bra in Evie's size padded out with custom made pads made from close woven fabric filled with micro beads (from a lumbar cushion)

Freya bra in Evie's size padded out with custom made pads made from close woven fabric filled with micro beads (from a lumbar cushion)

Fit was going to be crucial for this, and nerve-wracking.  Normally for a sample corset I work to a tried and tested pattern that seems to work pretty well on a wide range of models. The black gold ones I had Morgana shoot for me recently also were worn by local alt model Kasumi Noir and on the catwalk by some 6 feet tall agency  girls. But this approach wasn’t going to work with Evie’s curves. Due to the distance it was going to have to be measurements only and no fitting. So I got the measuring tape out, the bag of padding and bought a bra in her size. This is when my bra fitting experience is an advantage as I reckoned from pics she was on the top side of the bra size so I padded it out to the maximum. In fact in retrospect I realised her preferred bra runs a bit large so I was glad I picked the same brand, although a slightly smaller cut one. I found the rest of the adjustable mannequin didn’t need much in the way of padding as her measurements matched it pretty closely. I then proceeded by fitting the drafted pattern to the mannequin and used a flat pattern/drape mash up to get the final corset. The results weren’t bad at all. Had I had a mock-up fit obviously it would've been better, as supplied measurements are always a bit of a gamble.

Finished Corset

Image copyright Jenni Hampshire 2014

Image copyright Jenni Hampshire 2014

I was relieved to see the final piece come together in a way I was happy with, no mean feat considering I was fitting it in between client work, and the peak of the graphics work for the conference. I wouldn’t say it’s my best piece ever or the piece most reflective of my own aesthetic. Working to a theme stretches you and takes you out of your comfort zone to some degree. I learned some things from it, I tested out a bust cut that worked well on a full bust, and I did way more beading than I ever normally do. I felt it did answer the brief and had attitude to suit the inspiration source and the model.

 

Image copyright Chris Murray Photography, featuring Evie Wolfe

Image copyright Chris Murray Photography, featuring Evie Wolfe

The Photoshoot

The final stage was our all too brief photoshoot on the Sunday morning. Having met Evie the night before I was glad I’d gone with my instincts for something pretty dramatic. I don’t think she’ll mind me saying it just was more her than a refined and sedate piece would’ve been. I was nervous lacing it onto her, you always are when there’s been no chance to fit. But although it wasn’t quite perfect, it wasn’t half bad. The bust fit was good, gave her the support and coverage I wanted and the whole thing worked on her. I had intended to make a collar and skirt but ran out of time. We got some really nice shots, you can see a couple taken by Chris here, and I’m hoping to do a more styled shoot in the near future when hopefully I'll have all the other bits in place. So all in all, I’m happy with the result and the gains from the process. And I hope you’ve all picked up some useful info from it too. And of course I’m very much hoping that some of the designs being worked on in the inspiration class turn up next year as Jesus corsets of your own.

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

 

OCOC14 - Saturday Workshops

So the morning of OCOC14 finally came and the day started early, as usual with coffee and welcome in the JCR where the programme was outlined, guests were announced, and goodybags and houserules were given out.  We had decided to run the programme along the theme 'making a corset from start to finish' which may seem basic to some, but this conference is all about learning from others and sharing information, so it seemed apt to have one year where we would literally start from the beginning of how to make a corset,  and work our way through to the finish.  And so, with such a packed programme for the day, there was no time to tarry and the first workshop with Alison Campbell commenced at 9.15 sharp.  Alison devised a fun, interactive class with paper dolls, colouring pencils, scissors and in the age of the smart phone, cameras.  Everyone was sent out for 20 mintues to find inspiration from the College itself and for the duration of the workshop, our teacher was "Miss Campbell" !

Seeking inspiration at Jesus - photo by Jenni Hampshire

paper dolls,  colouring pencils and beautiful surroundings bring out everyone's creativity!

Some fabulous ideas came out and people were surprised at how being made to do something they may not normally do,  re-invigorated their own practice.

All of the presenters bought their own interpretation of Jesus College inspirations and tied these in with the subject of their presentation.  Here is Alison's "Jesus Corset" which is ofcourse inspired by Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scotts.

My own workshop followed with an overview of the corset patterning process.  Having studied for years, the theory of having a 'forumula' for corset patterning - and succeeding in finding said formula - I realised that infact, you don't really need to know how to do it from scratch every single time, you just need to either find a good corset block or make a good block, and adapt each design from that one block.  The key is knowing how that block works and imposing your forumla onto it.  I illustrated this theory by encouraging those present to go forth and study something called "Anthropometrics" which is the study of the relationship between human size and the products we use.  It's fascinating and is the whole reason we can use 'standard' sizing to acheive a near perfect fit, depending upon the demographic we are working with and combining that knowledge with our own personal research.

My own "Jesus Corset" mid production before the Conference.  Made using techniques discussed during my presentation.

Jenni Hampshire took the corset block theory further in the next session, by talking about her modern Birdswing Corset patterns which were inspired by a trip to see antique corsets in the Symington Collection a few years ago with Foundations Revealed.  The original antique birdswing corset which we saw on display that day, comprised of as many as 22 panels per side and was boned on every seam - the name birdswing was given because when laid flat, the corset with all it's panels, looked just like a birdswing.  So Jenni has been working on a modern version ever since and during her interactive talk, she not only showed us her beautiful patterns, but gave away many of her trade secrets.  I must say, even I was a bit surprised at how generous she was on that front!

Just one of the multi panneled Modern Birdswing Patterns that Jenni put on show for the delegates to ponder.  This one is 16 panels each side.

The 'original' Birdswing corset on display at Snibston Museum Fashion Gallery, which inspired the modern Sparkelwren versions.

No day dedicated to corset making and theory would be complete without a lesson in grading.  Marianne Faulkner took the stage after Jenni's Birdswing session, to talk about grading standard corset patterns with a view to creating a line of a certain design.  This was quite a complex talk and covered many aspects of sizing and grading in great detail including how to deal with the different demographic groups which I mentioned in my own talk.

Marianne Faulkner talking about corset pattern grading with her Jesus Corset to the side.  Photo by Jenni Hampshire.

The day of workshops finished on a very fun note with Gerry Quinton's class on advanced surface embellishment.  For this class, Gerry wanted people to really think outside of the box as far as embelleshing a corset is concerned and to illustrate this point, brought with her the most beatufully embellished sheer corset with a smocked and draped overlay covered in metallic flowers and crystals.  In her class she taught those present how to create 'American smocking' and how to make various other embellishments using different methods and materials, including ribbon flowers, and different ways to attach crystals.

Gerry demonstrating advanced surface embellishment techniques

Gerry demonstrating advanced surface embellishment techniques

Gerry's 'Jesus Corset' incorporating some of the techniques she discussed in class.

Gerry's 'Jesus Corset' incorporating some of the techniques she discussed in class.

And so we reached the end of day one at OCOC14.  It disappeared at lightning speed but left us all fully inspired, bursting with new ideas and theories, some of which were perfectly mirrored in our 'wall of Mini Morgana's' displayed in the JCR for all to see.

All the ideas at OCOC14

Full sized, real life Morgana arrived on Saturday afternoon to find that she was omni-present!

Full sized, real life Morgana arrived on Saturday afternoon to find that she was omni-present!

The next installment covers what happened on Saturday night at Jesus!

Julia Bremble, September 2014

 

 

 

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 ....