If you’ve been following our work for a few years now you might be aware that I’m somewhat in love with late-Victorian bridal corsetry. Those delicious silk satin pieces full of baleen, that always seem to be in impossibly delicate off-white, cream, pistachio, or coffee shades.
Generally, those antique corsets seem to have been made of either a single layer of silk duchess, or an outer layer of silk duchess with a thin layer of cotton as lining (bones placed in-between the two). And though I often forget about pinterest, I do actually have a lovely board there which is all about satin corsetry.
Anyway, years ago I was saying that I wanted to make my corsets a bit more like those antiques… More lightly constructed, still with a wealth of bones, with no bulky additional layers or unwieldy seams… But the idea kept being put on hold as I wasn’t sure how to do it and have it be strong enough.
Then, via a circuitous route of the Birds Wing (a multi-panel super-lightly made antique-inspired style), I ended up figuring it out! Well, my own version of it anyway. It’s all in the fabric and seam choices. Plus, of course, the intended purpose of the corset. It makes me very happy that I am now a step closer to making contemporary corsets which have the charm of those late-Victorian bridal pieces. Despite being very different in terms of surface embellishment!
Indeed, nearly all of the corsets we make these days are silk duchess. I think nearly all of the ten or eleven pieces we have just sold in the Winter Sale were made from satin… The remaining three certainly are. And they actually each demonstrate different attributes and benefits of various silk satins.
When I began using satin rather than dupioni or cotton, I felt like I had “graduated” as a corsetmaker. But now I realise it’s all to do with the techniques you employ. Satin doesn’t have to be difficult. Indeed, the way we make corsets now is very easy, I think. It just took a few years of study and progression and experimentation to get there. Basically most corsetmaking methods are quite bulky, which can kill the elegance of satin. The bulk is often a bid to create smoothness, when actually what you need to do is reduce bulk and let the fabric do its thing.
Jonah was made a few years ago, of iridescent silk duchess backed onto herringbone coutil, with many panels per side. This silk is delicious, but not suitable for corsetry without a solid strength layer like coutil. It has a lovely, almost velvety, hand though. Very nice to touch and wear. Jonah’s namesake (my friend’s cat!) is equally soft and velvety!
Platinum is a silk-mix duchess and as such works as a single-layer. Which in turn, allows us to explore fiddly patterns. All those diagonal seams running over the busk? That would be a nightmare with multiple layers of fabric. Keeping it sleek and light also allows for a more flexible and gentle fit.
Lastly, Black Amethyst combines pure silk with a silk-mix, both duchess, for a very sleek and streamlined corset that is none-the-less almost “fully boned”. If that term is foreign, it just means that the corset holds as many steels as possible. Most of our corsetry does. And given I love to have such a lot of steel there is some merit in therefore keeping the rest of the corset as light as possible.
The latter piece, Black Amethyst, is the most like those late-Victorian corsets that so inspire me. Other corsets like Falling Blossoms, Bloom, and Pyrite are even more like those historical inspirations, and they’re exactly the sort of work I want to be making. Opulent but elegant.
Nothing is there that doesn’t need to be there, for function or beauty.