It seems fitting somehow that the deprivations and constraint of this year’s lockdowns and upheavals have given rise to some of the most opulent and elaborate requests of my career. The trend predictors suggest that economic struggle usually prompts a demand for minimalism and pared down style, however I see things differently; a hunger for escapism wherever we can get it. Denied our holidays and adventures to places filled with exotic colour, we seek something within ourselves, in the safety and sanctuary of our homes. As our worlds shrink outside, we want to broaden our horizons in other ways.
Little Foxglove was one of those commissions that ensnared my imagination from the first contact. The locking corsetry that I make had garnered a lot of attention but I was itching to take the structures and mechanisms used on previous pieces somewhere different. When Terra got in touch looking for a rich feminine aesthetic with full locking capabilities, I knew we were on the same page.
From the first communication it was clear that I was working with an articulate and thoughtful individual who had really considered what elements were important to him for construction and styling. Terra is a male corset enthusiast, whose wife was excited to see him locked securely into his corset, however they wanted the locks and hardware itself to be as minimal as possible to benefit the soft styling we were working towards. Terra were also open to input from me on design and I was only too happy to oblige! Working with clients who have a strong starting point for our project but want a little guidance on the details leaves room for so much creativity.
After some discussion we had a plan for our design for Little Foxglove; an underbust style in a complex and nostalgic shade of silk satin, embellished with champagne Chantilly lace for a refined and sophisticated colour contrast. The corset would have fully locking panels at the back to cover the lacing, fastening at the front with a locking buckle. The strong busk front would be covered by a locking zip (meaning no padlock was required to secure it) and a subtle Edwardian shape was agreed upon.
I often use an Edwardian cut on feminine corsets for male bodies to visually rebalance the body proportions, as we would classically see a longer distance between underbust and waist and much shorter distance between waist and hips than on a style for female bodies, where these lengths are often around 50:50. The slight dip at the underbust level serves to shorten the effect above the waist, and the flowing low hip shape helps to lengthen the body at that point and also to infer more fullness. The majority of my clients aren’t interested in padding their bodies for greater curves, aside from bust enhancement, so using my skills with cut and design is how we get the most impact!
I’m constantly asked how long it takes me to make a corset, and it’s a very hard question to answer. A simple piece that’s already cut out could be made in 6-8 hours, but a piece like Little Foxglove works out around 2 weeks full time work, say 80 to 100 hours. And I’m not including pattern making or client communication in that time! One of the main reasons this particular corset took so long was the lace work.
The time seems to come far more from planning the placement and being sure that before you’ve sewn any crucial seams, you have any lace that needs to be pre-sewn taken care of. It’s a very logistical process, in which you don’t have much room to deviate from the ideal path! I often spend a whole day on the locking panels, hand basting layers together, plotting lace placement so that it has a chance to blend with other sections on the corset, even though it’s position will alter depending on how tightly the corset is laced each time. Hours pass so quickly when you’re intent on your task and your scissors quietly snip away, revealing flourishes of lace.
Finishing the corset is more handsewing, finishing the binding and any last additions to the lace design (it can be hard to know when you’re done!) and lacing Little Foxglove with her cream satin ribbons. Stronger laces are sent with the corset but, well, sometimes a girl just needs ribbons! One of my favourite details is the post for the padlock that secures the zip fastening. As we wanted minimum impact for the hardware I used lace to help blend it in a little! There is also a lace embellished pouch to slip the padlock at the waist onto, and a little belt loop to keep everything tidy!
Sending a piece like this out is always an unnerving and vulnerable moment. You have tried your best to interpret a client’s vision, in this case working from measurements I wasn’t able to take myself, and you just hope that everything has come together in a way that your client loves and feels connected to. Receiving this message and images from Terra reassured me that Little Foxglove had met with a wonderful reception!
“Thankyou so much for this experience! I have never felt this feminine and pretty before, with the obvious exception of my wedding day!”
Being able to work towards a moment like that is a very moving part of my job. How we feel in our own skin is so important.
If you have your own inspiration you want to breathe life into, please don’t hesitate to contact us– we are still working through lockdown and eager for more adventures in silk and steel!
*Please note that I sought Terra’s permission before sharing his stories and photos- if you prefer anonymity that is perfectly understood and respected*