OCOC BLOG


Gaultier at the Barbican - Details Part 1

Now that it is September already and the conference is done for another year, I realise just how jam-packed 2014 has been so far! One thing that stands out as a definite highlight is all the wonderful contemporary corsetry I have had the pleasure to study. 

Alison, Julia and I (Jenni) visited the Gaultier exhibition at the Barbican a few months back. I think most of our corsetmaking friends have done likewise since! As you might expect, it was full of incredible things, and joyously the exhibition is allowing photographs. I certainly think this is a wonderful idea, as seeing so many teasers via Instagram and the like whipped me into a bit of a frenzy for this exhibition! I highly recommend attending. I have even been told by a corsetmaking friend that the official exhibition book features a double-page section on the talented Mr Pearl. 

Here are just a few of my favourite details from the exhibition (all iPhone snaps by Jenni Hampshire, courtesy of the Barbican, London). 

This corset-body was the star of the show, to my eyes. I had always wanted to see this piece, ever since discovering it in Dita von Teese's book. Made by Mr Pearl, it featured elegant cutting, beautiful brown lace, and gorgeous lacing detail. As delicious as I'd imagined and wonderful to briefly study. I wish I'd had more time with this piece! 

This corset-body was the star of the show, to my eyes. I had always wanted to see this piece, ever since discovering it in Dita von Teese's book. Made by Mr Pearl, it featured elegant cutting, beautiful brown lace, and gorgeous lacing detail. As delicious as I'd imagined and wonderful to briefly study. I wish I'd had more time with this piece! 

Oh, how I adore those tiny eyelets over the hips... Seeing a picture of this corset of Dita von Teese might be my first memory of seeing proper couture corsetry and really appreciating what I was looking at. 

Oh, how I adore those tiny eyelets over the hips... Seeing a picture of this corset of Dita von Teese might be my first memory of seeing proper couture corsetry and really appreciating what I was looking at. 

Though it is a crying shame for something so beautiful to suffer damage, I actually rather love signs of use, wear and tear. It means a thing has had a life. I also loved discovering that the lace and flat lacing were brown in colour. I had thought from small photos that they were black. So so gorgeous. 

Though it is a crying shame for something so beautiful to suffer damage, I actually rather love signs of use, wear and tear. It means a thing has had a life. I also loved discovering that the lace and flat lacing were brown in colour. I had thought from small photos that they were black. So so gorgeous. 

These delicious stays finished in a very interesting point where all the exterior casings overlapped. I'm not entirely sure how it was done (I remember having a good idea at the time, but didn't write it down!), but they do remind me of antique pre-boned casings that I have seen at Snibston Discover Museum and elsewhere... I believe they were sold so that women could add them to their existing corsets, perhaps as extra support or to replace damaged casings. Either way, it's a lovely idea that I'd adore to see explored in contemporary corsetry. 

These delicious stays finished in a very interesting point where all the exterior casings overlapped. I'm not entirely sure how it was done (I remember having a good idea at the time, but didn't write it down!), but they do remind me of antique pre-boned casings that I have seen at Snibston Discover Museum and elsewhere... I believe they were sold so that women could add them to their existing corsets, perhaps as extra support or to replace damaged casings. Either way, it's a lovely idea that I'd adore to see explored in contemporary corsetry. 

Building around corsets is still something that really appeals to me. I suppose because it has such scope for playfulness. One could do something structural and humorous like this, or something subtle like the hidden "integrated" corsetry of our "corset fellow" Marianne of PopAntique. Other wonderful details in this piece are the sloping waist-tape (if you wrap a tape around a corseted form you will see that it makes sense) and the apparent delicacy of the fabric. 

Building around corsets is still something that really appeals to me. I suppose because it has such scope for playfulness. One could do something structural and humorous like this, or something subtle like the hidden "integrated" corsetry of our "corset fellow" Marianne of PopAntique. Other wonderful details in this piece are the sloping waist-tape (if you wrap a tape around a corseted form you will see that it makes sense) and the apparent delicacy of the fabric. 

I'd be so intrigued to see this piece being laced on, to know exactly how it all fits together. The spine detail is so gorgeous. 

I'd be so intrigued to see this piece being laced on, to know exactly how it all fits together. The spine detail is so gorgeous. 

Sure, not obviously corsetry, but I love this gown. Kylie worn it in the imagery for her X tour which I thoroughly enjoyed. To the right is a silver corset-body that she then wore on a later North-American tour, and it was interesting seeing how the piece had more detail and textural interest than you can see from pictures. 

Sure, not obviously corsetry, but I love this gown. Kylie worn it in the imagery for her X tour which I thoroughly enjoyed. To the right is a silver corset-body that she then wore on a later North-American tour, and it was interesting seeing how the piece had more detail and textural interest than you can see from pictures. 

So, the end for today dear reader! There were many more wonderful corset-based details and I took many more phone snaps... but they will have to wait for another day.

Have you attended this exhibition at the Barbican or elsewhere? Let us know your experiences in the comments. 

Show & Tell - Purdy Corsetry (plus "skeletons")

By Jenni Hampshire (Sparklewren)

 

Skeleton and ventilated corsetry has many different incarnations. Sometimes being corsets that are decorated with a ribcage motif and sometimes being big sculptural wearable-art pieces (McQueen, Gaultier and Iris Van Herpen spring to mind). But for many of us, "skeleton corsetry" refers more specifically to a breed of Victorian corsets made with cutaway sections. Designed, apparently, to let the skin breathe or reduce heat.

Women traveling to foreign climes might be persuaded to buy corsets like this. Our very own tutor Alison (CrikeyAphrodite!) has an affection for ventilated pieces, wondering if an ancestor of hers would have worn one. Worn over chemises and under gowns (and generally with a rather low waist reduction), there would be little risk of unslightly bulges of skin, and perhaps that extra bit of air would make a difference to comfort.

True skeleton corsets might have no solid bands of fabric, being made entirely of bone casings, waist tape, and binding alone. But I personally find the cross-over point to regular corsetry more beautiful. This is where corsets might have open or cutaway sections, but are not entirely skeletal.

This "ventilated" corset is held by the Snibston Fashion Museum. Shared with permission of Leicester County Council, photo taken by Jenni Hampshire.

This "ventilated" corset is held by the Snibston Fashion Museum. Shared with permission of Leicester County Council, photo taken by Jenni Hampshire.

Contemporary makers often shy away from ventilated corsetry but a friend of mine, Jemma of Purdy Corsetry, has embraced it whole-heartedly, making some of the most striking and clever ventilated pieces I have seen!

Corset by  Purdy Corsetry , neckpiece by  Forge Fashion . Made for burlesque artist  Venus Starr .

Corset by Purdy Corsetry, neckpiece by Forge Fashion. Made for burlesque artist Venus Starr.

Having met Jemma in 2013, I can tell you that her work is technically immaculate and very gorgeous. Combine that with a great understanding of colour and a willingness to explore ideas many shy away from, and you have stunningly unique corsets!

As an aside, this "U" shaped plunge is very popular detail this year... It's been growing for perhaps two or three years, but just now we are seeing it quite a lot. Partly perhaps due to work like Jemma's, partly perhaps due to wonderful antiques that are being brought back to life by people like Nikki... It's lovely to see such trends and experimentation within corsetry. When I started a few years back, there wasn't quite so much variety (and I'm a big fan of variety!).

Corset by  Purdy Corsetry , neckpiece by  Forge Fashion . Made for burlesque artist  Venus Starr .

Corset by Purdy Corsetry, neckpiece by Forge Fashion. Made for burlesque artist Venus Starr.

Another piece Jemma is working on is a more muted dark tone and heavily beaded. I cannot wait to see the finished item!

Beaded corset by Purdy Corsetry.

Beaded corset by Purdy Corsetry.

One of the things I love best about contemporary corsetry, is having so many friends and acquaintances within it. We can only guess at the motivations of individual cutters and designers back in Victorian and Edwardian times, but with our peers we can geek out to our heart's content about the technical challenges surrounding any new design. Add to that the fact that corsetry can also be pretty and shiny and I think you have a perfect artform :-)

There is so much to be inspired by, like Purdy Corsetry's work here. The trick isn't to replicate the work of those you're inspired by, but to replicate their attitude of innovation, hard-work, study, and boldness. There are a zillion ways we can each have an unique take on corsetry, and referencing antique styles is just one of them.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about Purdy's work! Do bookmark us and check back in the future, for more posts all about beautiful corsetry.