OCOC BLOG


An OCOC Journey - by Caroline Woollin

In 2013 I had made two corsets, one of which had been at a weekend ‘learn to make a corset’ course at my local college in Hackney. I have always made things and was looking for a new hobby and this course ticked all my boxes given that I had always admired corsets and wanted one of my own. I then bought Julia’s e book tutorial (thanks Julia!), worked my way through that, bought supplies, poured over YouTube tutorials (thanks Lucy!) and made my first corset on my own from a Truly Victorian pattern. Soon thereafter I saw the advert for the first OCOC and pondered it a while thinking that I was far too inexperienced to attend. After chatting to Julia via e mail she convinced me that it was not just for experienced professionals, that it was for anybody, and that all was required was a passion and propensity to learn about the subject.

Victoria Dagger modelling Caroline's work at OCOC 2013

Victoria Dagger modelling Caroline's work at OCOC 2013

I booked to attend and went along full of trepidation but with a determination to learn from the experience. I learned a few things that weekend;

  • That I loved the art of corsetry;
  • That I was not the only beginner;
  • That I could learn from the people I met;
  • That new friends (giving an excellent support network) could be made;
  • And that there was a world of possibility ahead of me.
Threnody in Velvet wearing Corsets by Caroline at OCOC 2014

Threnody in Velvet wearing Corsets by Caroline at OCOC 2014

The experience made me think, it spurred me on, it created openings and possibilities. In just over two years since this first conference I have started my own business selling on-line patterns, and started taking commissions. Most exciting of all I am coming back to OCOC16 as a presenter where I will be making use of my 15+ years’ experience using  AutoCAD to show how I create digital patterns. I’m also looking forward to having a sabbatical from work where I can push my aesthetic and try and drum up business. And if it doesn’t work out and I have to return to full-time paid employment at the end of 2016? Well at least I can say I tried, I did something very different, and I had a really good time doing it.

And, bang up to date... Corset by Caroline, modelled by Gingerface at the most recent OCOC, in August 2015. Photographed by Tigz Rice Studios

And, bang up to date... Corset by Caroline, modelled by Gingerface at the most recent OCOC, in August 2015. Photographed by Tigz Rice Studios

You can see more of Caroline's work at corsetsbycaroline.co.uk

 

Note from OCOC: We're really looking forward to Caroline's session, as CAD is a bit of a mystery to us, as I suspect it is for many of you. And, seeing corsetry move ahead with new(ish) technology is something we're all interested in. There will be more class info to come so look out for that.

OCOC14 - Morua Design's "Leaded Glass and English Roses" Corset

Chris Murray Photography

Written by Gerry Quinton.

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

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For the 2014 conference each of the fellows agreed to design and make a corset inspired by Jesus College; incorporating elements from our workshops. There were two parts of the college that struck me the most when I first saw them. The first was, as it is for many, that grand dining hall with the beautiful dark panelling and Queen Elizabeth overseeing it all. But these days I am very drawn to light and colour so the dark sombre tones did not suit.  Instead I turned to the incredibly beautiful gardens of Jesus College.   The grand array of  leaded window tiles in the second quad, set into the "Oxford" stone and adorned by slightly wild foliage and layers of flowers are nothing short of magical. The greens and supersaturated vibrant hues came alive  under the often grey skies, which somehow complimented their magnificent colours and shapes. So those striking windows, and the flowers that bloomed in controlled wilderness became my inspiration.

Photos by Julia Bremble and Britain Express

Photos by Julia Bremble and Britain Express

It took a very long time  to solidify my ideas. My talk was to focus on unusual embellishment techniques. I thought of many options and tested quite a few methods. I could have spent two days on everything I originally planned to include in my the class. I had to narrow it down In the end I settled on a focus on fabric flowers, smoking and ruching because I found that they were unusual and rarely used in corsetry. I also touched on pleating, crystals and “found” embellishments. The other dimension that was added to the mix was the stunning model I was lucky enough to work with:  Lovely Ella Rose. I wanted to make something that suited her, but did not overwhelm her fey looks.  I also knew that she was relatively new to corsetry so wanted to keep that in mind when making a corset that would be comfortable and flattering for her.

I decided that a great challenge would be to try to incorporate all of this: the theme, the muse and as many of the techniques as possible into a single corset! It would stretch me as I tend to be quite measured and slick even in my most embellished corsetry work.

With these vague ideas I packed my suitcase with dark grey organza, white corsetry net, a bundle of spray painted metal roses and a few hundred Swarovski crystals. Several weeks before the conference I headed back to Old Blighty, having recently left it after almost a decade living there.  Most of the work would need to be completed at the Sew Curvy Cottage in the lead up to the conference.

I did not have a clear image in my head for this corset, only a mood.   I felt that mesh would be a great choice to mirror the translucence of the windows, while grey organza would keep to the sheer theme while allowing for a great deal of interesting sculptural manipulation. The grey and whites  would echo the leaded silvers and clouded glass I wanted to reference.  I considered adding colour to the mix but in the end only white and crystal were added.

I began the corset by drafting a pattern to Ella Rose’s provided measurements. I knew the fit would probably not be exact as I only had a few measurements to go on, but this did not bother me. In photo shoots it is lucky if you even know the model’s waist size, and it is rarely accurately measured in any case.  

Corsetry net was a material I had never used before. I had tried bobbinet and other materials but never nylon mesh of the variety popular with modern corset makers, so I found this a good excuse to test it out. I then made boning channels. For some reason instead of my usual method I decided it would be a good time to experiment. I used two twill tapes layered as I did not want the bones exposed but did not want to make coutil channels this time. In retrospect this was an unnecessarily fiddly, slow process and one I will not be using again.

Once the corset was assembled it was time to stare at it for a long time before making a choice. This is something I often do, I get an idea, lay the foundations and then let it sit and simmer for some time. I didn't have a great deal of time though, as this was less than two  weeks before the conference!  The first element of the corset came to me almost by accident. I was demonstrating creative pleating during a master class on draping when hip pleats just happened to form themselves without my knowledge!  I decided this was just the thing to begin with.  I then created various textures using smocking, crouching and fraying to overlay on the corset. I wanted the inside of the corset to be clean and perfect so I kept all stitching between the organza and and the net. This was something that added to the stitching time, but I am obsessed with clean finishing to a perhaps unhealthy degree. After the organza was placed I scattered metal roses that I had previously painted silver and white. Finally I added a great deal of crystals.


I was working on this during conference which was unpleasant. Next time will make it  priority to do earlier, even if it is hard on account of client orders. My design was not as cohesive as I would have liked. I think overall I did too many things in one which was great because it is different than my usual aesthetic but felt a bit overworked to me in the end. Either that or it needed to be taken in the other directions even more roses and crystals! 

The morning of the “fellows” shoot I almost squealed with delight when I saw my corset on the enchanting Ella Rose. Seeing it on her, paired with a flowing long tulle skirt and set in front of the very windows and gardens that inspired it made all that hand stitching worth it! I was lucky enough to have Ella photographed in my corset by two outstanding photographers: Chris Murray and Scott Chalmers. 

Chris Murray Photography

Chris Murray Photography

This was such a fantastic exercise in stretching my design muscles. I hadn't designed “to a theme” since university and I forgot how inspiring it can be. I am looking forward to tackling next year’s challenge!  

Scott Chalmers Photograpy

Scott Chalmers Photograpy



OCOC14 - Clessidra's "Pearls of Wisdom" Corset

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

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copyright Scott Chalmers

copyright Scott Chalmers

The Challenge

My presentation which came after Alison's opening inspiration class, was all about patterning, but more specifically, how to work a basic corset block and manipulate it into any design you fancy using standard sizing information and a knowledge of the study of anthropometrics.  This was a short presentation designed to inspire seekers to look further into the endlessly fascinating topic of corset pattern creation, manipulation and grading.

In keeping with my topic  I had to take a basic corset block and change the design quite dramatically, into something different,  and not necessarily recognisable as a basic pattern.  However, I wanted to also prove, that 'dramatic' doesn't necessarily mean 'difficult'.

Inspiration

I had some degraded leather in my stash which I thought would be perfect for this project as it reminded me of old books, and where better to find old books than The Jesus College Fellows Library which houses books dating back as far as the 15th century.  But I didn't just want a boring old brown leather corset - brown is not an inspiring colour to me -  so I looked further for inspiration, the gardens outside, the knowledge within the books, gold leather inlays, pearls of wisdom,  gems of information and  the glorious golden panels at the end of the library.  

These gold leaf panels in The Fellows Library provided much inspiration, the question was, how to incorporate them into a corset design?  I had lots of ideas before finally settling on paint rather than a real metal overlay.

These gold leaf panels in The Fellows Library provided much inspiration, the question was, how to incorporate them into a corset design?  I had lots of ideas before finally settling on paint rather than a real metal overlay.

Of course all this focus on knowledge and inspiration also reflects the whole reason we were at Jesus in the first place, to share and learn from each other, to gather our own pearls of wisdom and to become enlightened with those little gems of ideas which happen mostly by accident when a group of like minds and kindred spirits come together.   

Old leather books in the Fellows library, with gold leaf inscriptions and corded spines. Image copyright: Julia Bremble

Old leather books in the Fellows library, with gold leaf inscriptions and corded spines.
Image copyright: Julia Bremble

I had a lot of inspiration to play with but how to translate this into a corset?

The Design Process

I am not a drawer of pictures or a sketcher of ideas.  The way I design is very hands on and intuitive and usually follows a collection of ideas and concepts.  This means that although I have a basic aesthetic, my design process can be very changeable and will evolve over the whole time of creation until the piece is finished.  I like this more artistic approach as although it can be quite frustrating - ideas tripping over themselves to get out of my head and in the process sometimes getting muddled up and always changing - it does suit the fact that I currently have to fit corset making around all the other jobs I do and so it provides an almost immediate creative outlet for me, without which, I might possibly go mad!  The results are often very surprising.  

The initial sketch is not really like the final design - there were 'pages' symbolised by a stepped top edge and 'golden parchment' symbolised by an organza ribbon trim... this skitch is very literal.  Also shown are close ups of the leather before it was painted, and test pieces with cording.

The initial sketch is not really like the final design - there were 'pages' symbolised by a stepped top edge and 'golden parchment' symbolised by an organza ribbon trim... this skitch is very literal.  Also shown are close ups of the leather before it was painted, and test pieces with cording.

So my initial ideas for the Pearls of Wisdom corset started off very very different to the eventual outcome but, the eventual outcome was better than I could ever have imagined.

The Corset

Of course the design had to illustrate my class - I used the standard Sew Curvy 6 panel corset pattern and changed it very slightly to illustrate that even small changes to a basic pattern, can give dramatically different results and needn't be difficult or too time consuming.  In this case only the bottom and top lines were changed but the practice piece I created beforehand, modelled by our own Marianne after the conference, changed many of the pattern lines too.

The monochrome 'noir' corset was a leather practice piece made with the same original 6 piece per side basic pattern, and modelled by Marianne after the Conference.  The front panels of the pattern here were split 6 ways to create a different effect although the overall shape is the same as the Pearls of Wisdom corset.  Image copyright: Jenni Hampshire

The monochrome 'noir' corset was a leather practice piece made with the same original 6 piece per side basic pattern, and modelled by Marianne after the Conference.  The front panels of the pattern here were split 6 ways to create a different effect although the overall shape is the same as the Pearls of Wisdom corset.
Image copyright: Jenni Hampshire

The Pearls of Wisdom corset is made from two pieces of thin brown leather hide which I had actually saved from the reject pile in a leather factory where the metallic coating process went wrong.  Therefore, some parts were suede and some parts were very shiny.  It was beautiful in itself but I wanted to give it more depth and I wanted to somehow incorporate all of those aspects of our beautiful surroundings, hidden knowledge,  gems of inspiration and those gold panels!     

The front panel of the corset is corded with different sizes of cording and these are made to stand out with aged gold leaf - I had in mind gold inlays in old books and desks and corded spines of books.  To give the fabric of the corset it's depth and to reflect the golden panels in the library, I panted it with gold acrylic.  The floral lace winding around the corset mirros the  beautiful gardens outside the library and hidden within that foliage are the tiny sparkly crystals resembling the twinkling lights of inspiration seeping out of every brick in the college.

Close up of the Pearls of Wisdom corset.  Image copyright: Julia Bremble

Close up of the Pearls of Wisdom corset.  Image copyright: Julia Bremble

Making this corset really pushed my creative muscles.  In making Pearls of Wisdom I learned how to work with leather and explored many different methods of embellishment.  I made many accidental discoveries and over all,   I think it's probably the first time i've ever stood back and loved my work not only for what it is but because there was and still is nothing about it that I would change or do better next time.  

The Photoshoot

As often happens when things are supposed to be, things fell into place rather easily for the Fellows shoot.  None of us could decide which model to work with, so we put names into a hat and these were pulled out by our lovely colleague Ian Frazer Wallace.  I got to work with classic beauty Liv which was very lucky in actual fact because she is very tall and the only one of our models who this corset would fit as it is made to standard measures - it is worth noting here that all of the Fellows corsets were made for the models without prior fitting.  

copyright: Scott Chalmers

copyright: Scott Chalmers

Very serendipitously, a few months earlier, I had been killing time in a shop while waiting for a bus and found the stunning golden skirt on sale which immediately put me in mind of my unadorned distressed brown leather ideas - it was this skirt which gave me the inspiration to literally 'go for gold' in order to tie the two pieces together - it was a catalyst.  Having showed Liv the fabrics I was working with for her, she crafted a perfect golden head piece and the whole outfit looked absolutely stunning.  Together with Liv's excellent modelling and both photographers amazing skills, I got a set of pictures that I adore, and which take pride of place in my studio. 

Saturday night at OCOC14

Autumn Adamme and Ian Frazer Wallace at high table.  picture copyright Julia Bremble

Autumn Adamme and Ian Frazer Wallace at high table.  picture copyright Julia Bremble

Written by Julia Bremble

Saturday night at the Conference is a special affair.  After the workshops of the day, there is a little social time before drinks, dinner and more socialising in the bar.  The evening starts with Pimms on the quad Oxford style and  this is served up with a healthy dose of glamour.  Anybody who has watched Inspector Morse on TV may be familiar with the scene!

The drinks reception is where all in attendance gather before dinner to have a chat and catch up with those who they may not have had a chance to meet yet.

Glasses ready to receive the Pimms - a gin based cocktail which is particularly popular in Oxford.  picture copyright Julia Bremlbe

Glasses ready to receive the Pimms - a gin based cocktail which is particularly popular in Oxford.  picture copyright Julia Bremlbe

Here am I with the Godmother of Modern Corsetry, Autumn Adamme.  It was Autumn who back in the 80's and early 90's decided that corsets should be worn on the outside!  Us modern corsetieres have alot to thank her for.  Autumn was particularly enamoured with the picture of Elizabeth I hanging in the Peter North room where the College silver is stored.  picture copyright Steph Selmayr

Here am I with the Godmother of Modern Corsetry, Autumn Adamme.  It was Autumn who back in the 80's and early 90's decided that corsets should be worn on the outside!  Us modern corsetieres have alot to thank her for.  Autumn was particularly enamoured with the picture of Elizabeth I hanging in the Peter North room where the College silver is stored.  picture copyright Steph Selmayr

Our special guest last year was Ian Frazer Wallace of the Whitechapel Workhouse and he was with us again this year.  It has become a tradition for him to make a showpiece for Saturday night.  This year I was very priveledged to be part of this as Ian asked me to make the corset pattern for his Chanel inspired suit.  More on that in a separate post.

Ian Frazer Wallace with his Chanel inspired corsetted suit made from wool boucle and using traditional corsetry, tailoring and milinery techniques.  Modelled by beautiful and effervesent April.  picture copyright Chris Murray

Ian Frazer Wallace with his Chanel inspired corsetted suit made from wool boucle and using traditional corsetry, tailoring and milinery techniques.  Modelled by beautiful and effervesent April.  picture copyright Chris Murray

After drinks we have dinner in Hall.  Not 'the great hall' or 'the hall' or 'the dining hall'.  In Oxford, the place you eat is simply 'Hall' and all colleges have a very grand Hall where all students eat all meals.   When you become part of an Oxford College, whether as a student, member of staff or conference delegate, you really begin to understand where stories like "Alice in Wonderland" and other fantastical tales from this city come from.  It is literally another world.

Dinner is a three course grand affair followed by a talk by our special guest.   The food is served by attentive waiters and waitresses and wine flows freely along with the conversation.  At night, Hall is a magical place to be.

Jesus Hall is a grand room presided over by Elizabeth I and accompanied by portraits of other luminaries of Jesus including Lawrence of Arabia who was once a student here.  picture copyright  Tavan Photography

Jesus Hall is a grand room presided over by Elizabeth I and accompanied by portraits of other luminaries of Jesus including Lawrence of Arabia who was once a student here.  picture copyright  Tavan Photography

After dinner our very special guest takes the stand.  This year it was Autumn Adamme, Founder and Proprietress of Dark Garden Corsetry and Couture in San Francisco.  Autumn who has been making corsets since she was 10 years old,  spoke about her life in corsetry, her influences, inspirations and mentors,  and then went on to describe her business philosophies which covered the joys and pitfalls of running a corsetry business.  I  found myself nodding vigorously at almost everything she said as I know many others did too.    Autumn gave an interesting and inspiring speech which I am sure will serve to guide many corset makers - beginners and experienced alike, through the rest of their careers in corsetry.   It is always affirming to know that the things we think and believe and are passionate about in our own ideas and practices, are all things that have been felt and experienced before  by others who share those passions, and who have blazed the trails before us.

Autumn also spoke of her time in Paris this summer, studying with Mr Pearl, the acknowledged leader of our field.  picture copyright Chris Murray

Autumn also spoke of her time in Paris this summer, studying with Mr Pearl, the acknowledged leader of our field.  picture copyright Chris Murray

After dinner it's time to assemble in the Fourth Quad - that's the student bar! It's in a cellar and is the perfect place for cosy chatting about corsets!  In naming the pictures below, I see they are a bit of a 'who's who' in Modern Corsetry

Socialising in the Fourth Quad - the student bar - here's Jenni of Sparklewren, Rosie of Rosie Red, Lowana of Vanyanis, Hannah of Neon Duchess, Liz of Elizabeth Armstrong, Steph of Past Pleasures, Caroline of Corsets by Caroline. picture copyright Chris Murray

Socialising in the Fourth Quad - the student bar - here's Jenni of Sparklewren, Rosie of Rosie Red, Lowana of Vanyanis, Hannah of Neon Duchess, Liz of Elizabeth Armstrong, Steph of Past Pleasures, Caroline of Corsets by Caroline. picture copyright Chris Murray

I feel like i'm in Fame!  Here we have Lucy of Lucy's Corsetry, Karolina of Karolina Laskowska Lingerie, Ian of Whitechapel Workhouse, Roxann of Stitched Up, Gerry of Morua Designs, and that little flash of blue hair belongs to Alice of Videnoir.   picture copyright Chris Murray

I feel like i'm in Fame!  Here we have Lucy of Lucy's Corsetry, Karolina of Karolina Laskowska Lingerie, Ian of Whitechapel Workhouse, Roxann of Stitched Up, Gerry of Morua Designs, and that little flash of blue hair belongs to Alice of Videnoir.   picture copyright Chris Murray

Caption competition?   picture copyright Chris Murray

Caption competition?   picture copyright Chris Murray

So that's Saturday night at OCOC.  I am so happy and so proud that so many friendships and bonds have been made at OCOC.   The next post about the conference proceedings will be all about Sunday, where the photographers and models come out to play!  
 

For more pictures, click here.

 

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 ....


The old made new

By Jenni Hampshire (Sparklewren).

 

Centre-left: the antique "Birds Wing" corset, copyright Snibston Discovery Museum, Coaville.

Centre-left: the antique "Birds Wing" corset, copyright Snibston Discovery Museum, Coaville.

Fashion is cyclical, we know this. Perhaps corsetry is too, though on a longer time-frame!

The Birds Wing corset is, I hope, quite well known now. Inspired by this 1900s antique corset, most of the corsets I make are now "Birds Wings" or at least heavily inspired by the idea. Though it may not be apparent at first glance, each bone channel you see in the above corset is actually a new seam, with this particular design having 21 panels per side.

It's insanity!

I remember once, when I was still quite new to corsetry, having someone ask a curious question. They looked at a corset I had made with numerous exterior casings (which, as you may know, gives visually a very similar effect), and said something like, "wow, there must be something like 50 panels in this corset!" I think I smiled and replied with, "oh no, that would be madness! This only looks like that due to the casings, it actually has an ordinary 6 panels per side..." Little did I know!

An example Sparklewren "Birds Wing" pattern, one of my early-ish testers.

An example Sparklewren "Birds Wing" pattern, one of my early-ish testers.

The talk/class I am giving at this year's conference (next month, time flies!) is all about the Birds Wing. I hope that by tracing out its development into a contemporary design I can illustrate how pursuing one bonkers idea can have unexpected and wonderful side effects. The Birds Wing was like my Karate Kid! You think you're learning how to wax a sodding car, but actually you're learning something far more interesting and fundamental ;-)

"Python", a contemporary Birds Wing corset by Sparklewren.

"Python", a contemporary Birds Wing corset by Sparklewren.