The other week a student sent me some interview questions, one of which made me think about the next trend in corsetry.
I don’t tend to think of trends in a conscious way, whether that be with the intention of creating one or jumping onto something that will more broadly fit into existing/forthcoming fashion trends… But I am of course aware of the waves in corsetry, the fact that one thing will be riding high, then another, then something else again.
A lot of the trends are probably only really noticeable to the very geeky and passionate amongst us. People who are interested in why/how corsetry functions, not just how it looks at a glance. Which, by the way, isn’t to glorify one approach and vilify the other. Far from it, I don’t care what sort of corsetmaker or corset-wearer you are, love whatever you want to love. But for my part, I obviously care about a particular side of corsetry: the dreamy, couture-inspired, intricate-for-its-own-sake side.
For the past couple of years, that side of corsetry has become more and more popular. So much so that I was surprised once when someone commented on a picture of mine saying (and I’m paraphrasing here), “I’d really love to see something clean and classic, there’s too much embellished corsetry around.”
Really? Too much? When I began embellishment was a simple thing. There weren’t many people at all combining embellishment materials/techniques except for perhaps the classic flossing and lace trim combo. In general, corsets were plain with perhaps a “V” of lace, an interesting fabric/colour, or if very adventurous some ribbons. Construction was less varied too. The community, in general (because obviously there were always some people who bucked the trend, such as L’escarpolette ten years ago), was rediscovering corsetmaking and only just starting to look to antiques for inspiration. The community rarely looked to haute couture for inspiration either. And I would say this is what has changed over the past few years, the contemporary corsetmaking industry (for all people were declaring even back then that it was over-saturated) has actually exploded outwards, with more variety and wildness than ever before. We’ve all benefitted from it and been challenged by it. Creativity in corsetry has grown, hugely.
This has been wonderful. But now I think we are on the cusp of another change. I think that people have begun to understand the value of handmade corsetry. They understand it because they can see evidence of it, in all that time-consuming embellishment and posh French lace. But I think that understanding is now becoming deeper. By seeing the value in the obvious, I think customers are now beginning to see the value in the subtle too. It’s about development of the eye. The more you look, the more you see. And so I think that the next big trend may, in some ways, exclude me.
I believe that we may now begin seeing more Saville Row level classics. And the reason I reference tailoring rather than haute couture is that haute couture corsets are generally catwalk showpieces. They are often made quickly and are very eye-catching. They aren’t necessarily as pristine as you might expect. Whereas a Saville Row suit is all about close detail in the subtle sense.
Now, I’m not making this comparison in an obvious visual sense. I don’t mean that there will suddenly be more corsets made from Harris Tweed or lovely wool suiting material. I mean that the ethos behind them may be like high tailoring. There won’t be any surplus layers of fabric or other such unecessary bits and bobs. Boning/construction choices will be thought through to a new level. Stitch quality will be pristine. Everything will be there for a reason and everything will be delicately done. Proportion will be king, and that is where designers will define themselves. It isn’t just a question of making a plain corset at a decent quality. It won’t even be about making things that just fit well. It will be about sculpture, silhouette, boldness.
Since opulent embellishment will soon be exhausted (in terms of industry-wide trends and not least because it’s an impossible way to earn proper money), I think this may be where corset design goes next. And the designers who shine will be the ones who do it with a real elegance.
So what about Sparklewren? Well, I still love the excessive. My mother says, “don’t gild the lily, Jenni” and I think, “but why not?” Though I must admit to enjoying the simple a little bit more since establishing our current corsetmaking technique. If you’ve read our recent blog posts about satin corsetry you will know what I mean. At any rate, it doesn’t hurt to be outside of the big trends of the day. In terms of sheer numbers we’re already outside of the biggest “corsetry” trend, that of budget waist-trainers, which is fine. The more everyone diversifies and defines corsetry from their own brand perspective, the more room and demand there is for all those different points of view.
In fact to clarify all the above I think we will see two things. 1) the move towards an ever higher tailoring ethos, and 2) an ever greater distance between the designers, with each person redefining corsetry in their own recognisable way, to heights we haven’t seen yet.
Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens next. Perhaps I will be wrong, which would be wonderful actually, something new to see and learn! Time will tell.