Monday, 19 March 2012

Corset makers road trip - Symington re-visited

Well it's been a bit of a whirlwind since I signed up to the studio, but something that had been planned for a long time was a corset makers meet up which happened last Friday/Saturday. It was SUCH FUN!

Imagine, a whole 48 hours of non stop sewing chat ... no glazed looks, no secret or stifled yawns, no inappropriate comments, no polite nods .. just pure, unadulterated, enjoyment of the subject matter and the freedom to talk with abandon knowing that we weren't boring anyone by talking about corsets and sewing!
And so it was that I and three lovely and very talented corset making friends met up and went to Leicester to see corsets, and costumes, and to attend a talk all about .... Yes! Corsetry!!

Leicestershire County Council, I'm sure i've mentioned before, owns the world famous Symington Collection of Corsets - the biggest collection of antique corsets in the world. If you want to see it, you can ... for free! All you need do, is book an appointment and you too can get up close and personal with them. On Friday, we had booked such an appointment at their "Resource Centre" and after a tour around the many shelves containing box upon box upon box of corsets, bras, girdles, etc dating from the mid 19th century right up to the present day,  and rail upon rail upon rail of 'costume' from every era including one item from every Next collection that ever was, we got to see some corsets we'd picked out as particularly interesting for our work.

A floral brocade, early Edwardian corset with gorgeous flossing detail
Why don't they make suspender clips like this anymore?
A very delicate and lightweight corset is from 1912
It never ceases to amaze me, how small and delicate these corsets are - this one has incredible shape and hardly any boning at all, the body is entirely supported by cording - string pulled through all of those channels.  But the best thing about this corset is the beautiful shaping.
As I mentioned, in addition to the corset collection, Leicestershire museum also have a huge 'costume collection' containing interesting and beautiful pieces from every era and by many famous couturiers from Vivienne Westwood to Theiry Mugler and everyone before and in between.

Many couture dresses employ corset technology for their foundations.  On Saturday we attended a talk by Jill Salen and Sarah Nicol of the museum, which was all about 'antique corset construction'.  The talk was very informal and hands on, and we were able to examine personally, many couture pieces ...

This Dior dress was exquisite!  Made from beaded tulle and ruched silk, it was a very structured piece with a heavily boned foundation

Utterly gorgeous!
An exquisite dress by John Cavanagh, with strapless foundation and cups
There were fascinating details on this dress, not least the methods by which this outrageously opulent trim was applied.
Modern corsetry to examine, made by the keeper of special collections after much examination of the beauties in her care.
All in all, a fab weekend and one to be repeated as soon as possible!  However, by Sunday it was back to the grind - moving all my stuff over from home to the Sew Curvy Cottage .. more news on that to follow!

Note from the future:  This road trip was with Jenni Hampshire, Alison Campbell and Gerry Quinton.  The original 'fab four' who only the following year would conceive and put together the first Oxford Conference of Corsetry now in it's third year and an internationally renowned event where corset makers from all over the world gather to geek out together!

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