Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Corsetry books in review

I've recently treated myself to 2 corsetty books ... and as both have been mentioned in a number of corset related 'places' on the interweb, I thought i'd write about my take on each ...

The first, and my favourite, is the V&A Museum's "Underwear Fashion in Detail".  All I can say is this.. I bought it during a trip to the V&A in London - the book is only available there at the moment - and when I saw it, I couldn't put it down, far less leave it there!!  I don't want to embarrass myself describing bodily functions,  but .. my heart was pounding with every page I turned!  

It is a BIG book, and so inside, the pictures are big.  A good start!

Written by Eleri Lynn, a fashion curator at the V&A Museum,  the book is not dedicated to corsets alone, but I would say that probably 75% is to do with corsetry in some form or another, be it bra's, girdles, corsets, bodices, bustiers, garters, etc.,

It looks at the evolution of underwear dating from the 16th century, right up to the present including pieces by famous designers through the ages, there are nighties, dressing gowns, slips, socks, stockings and pants included aswell - something for everyone!  And for the corsetmakers out there who consternate over their every stitch,  there is even a Mr Pearl "rush job" which shows what happens when a corset is made in a hurry - even by the best in the business!  

There are more  pictures than writing - each peice is described in detail, with diagrams and one or more photos - some of which are shot very close, giving incredible detail - it's almost like looking at the things up close and in person!

Overall, this book is an Inspiration.  I just love it... every time I look in there, my mind is overwhelmed with ideas.  From my own perspective of one who makes corsets, It's an absolute  MUST HAVE

The other book is less pleasing - from the same perspective as before  that is.  It is the new book by Velda Lauder, Corsets:  A Modern Girls Guide..

I guess it's been written to catch the wave of interest in everything burlesque, and if you are a modern girl who knows nothing about corsets, but wants to find out, then this is definitely the book for you.

It is right up to the minute - including details from London Fashion Week which has only just finished -  hence the long delay between it's apparent availability and eventual delivery.  

It is TINY - handbag size - which I was surprised about but this means that the book is not "comfortable", and the pictures are smaller than I like.   I know this might sound shallow but, size definitely matters here and this book just isn't big enough.    

The pictures, unsurprisingly, are mostly of the author's own corsets. This isn't such a bad thing because she does make lovely corsets with a focus on modern, not historical, but there is no detailed information on the famous and elusive "uber curve".  Although the book also covers historical aspects of corsetry, along with  'modern' corsetry against backdrops of high fashion, couture, burlesque, and fetish, the book doesn't tell me anything I didn't know already as somebody who has been obsessed with corsets for a number of years.

In saying that I am dissapointed with this book,  I am not decrying the author's talent or her eye for a good design, or indeed her ability  - I have been laced into one of her corsets by the woman herself, and I can tell you, that whatever her uber curve is, it works!  Velda Lauder corsets are extremely light, extremely strong, and surprisingly sparsley boned for the 'control' they give and this is why they are a constant source of fascination and inspiration for me.

BUT, in my own humble opinion,  this is not a "Must Have"  book. It doesn't do anything better or more interestingly, that Valerie Steele's "The Corset: A Cultural History" .  However,  for beginners on the path to corset obsession, then it is a pretty book to have and  less 'academic' than others.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

A corset made in suiting fabric

I've been making a sample of the Laughing Moon Gentleman's corset for my shop and for demonstration at the workshop I'm doing at Darn it and Stitch in Oxford tomorrow.  I bought some Italian design cashmere suiting in London a while ago for this purpose ... I don't think I really needed the 4 metres I bought, but, it was a bargain! and it is sighworthily beautiful fabric.  Actually, I think it would also look nice with satin in a ladies corset. 

Having not sewn a "wool" corset before, I wasn't sure how to go about it, so, I started by steam shrinking it.  Then I bonded it to some plain herringbone coutil, with bondaweb.  I had done a practice patch which seemed not to bubble or come apart, however, one cannot wear a practice patch!

The lining of the corset is a traditional suit lining too - it is very flimsy and very prone to fraying, so I gave it the same treatment as the wool - bonded it to coutil.  Now I have two VERY STIFF pattern pieces for each section, and I sewed it together using my new sewing machine (more on that later) ..

Because of the stiffness of the bonded fabric peices it was hard to sew and even harder to press (esp between two sheets of paper to avoid rogue glue spots).  However,  the end result, was very pleasing.

Now I just have to bone and trim it.  I am VERY pleased with it.  However, it is too big for Mr.M  which is a shame.  If I was to do this one again - which I will, I would definitely bond the layers together again, but if I was to do it for a ladies corset, I might use a softer method for joining the layers.