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  • Writer's pictureJoni Steinmann

Dress Diary - 2017 Corset contest

Foundations Revealed Corset Competition 2017
This page will show you how my corset and tutu for the Foundations Revealed corset competition came to be. Just to give you some context the theme I'll be entering this ye ​ ar is:

'En Pointe'

Fifth position, first position, plié…. This year we want to make a connection between corsetry and ballet, either directly through an ensemble for a particular character in a ballet, or one inspired by a ballet story. Let your mind take you to the interaction of the corset and the dance, and explore the corset as a piece of a character.

For a full description of the competition theme and rules please check out Foundations Revealed.

25 November 2016

And so it begins. I had made this sketch quite a while ago well before I owned the laser-engraver or the software skills required to make this corset a reality. It appeared on paper after following Cathy Hay's Successful Creative course. This class made me realise it was ok to embrace the more outlandish, unpractical, couture designs in my head and brake through the fear of truly making what moves me. And so this dragonfly design was born. When I was starting to think about a design for the Foundations Revealed competition entry it struck me that this design was quite reminiscent of a fairy outfit of Midsummer night's dream ballet and that is would look quite amazing if I were to add a tutu. It was the excuse and opportunity to spend some time and make something outside my comfort-zone.

As you may have seen in some of my recent social media posts my husband and I purchased a laser-engraver over the summer. This is all well and good but without the knowledge on how to use the software to make the machine spit out the design you want, it does not do much good. So I spend a significant amount of evenings watching Lynda tutorials to get my vector design skills up to speed. And boy, was I happy when I finally managed to get Illustrator to do what I wanted. This all without the use of a digital drawing-pad which I really wish I had.

For the wings on the corset I started with photo's of actual dragonfly wings.

I fed the photo's into Illustrator and made it trace the the image and expand the anchor points. However, the lines were so thin and not consistent enough forcing me to go back and forth between Illustrator and Photoshop several times to thicken up lines, redraw and close shapes. Which left me in the end with the file on the right. You never really know how detailed your file can be though, for any given material, until you actually cut it out with the laser. For my nightmoth mockup I had used a black satin coutil but had found it a little to fragile when lasercut. So my search for a more suitable material let me to A. Boeken in Amsterdam. I picked up a heavy satin polyester/ viscose mix. My hope was that the polyester in the mix would give nice clean edges to the design. This fabric initially seemed suitable for my purpose (until I started stitching it more about that later...) and I was happy to see the speed and power settings I had used for the coutil, worked well for on the poly viscose mix too.

It took me a few tries and another few back and forths between Illustrator and Photoshop before I had the desired thickness of the lines and look. As you can see the first try turned out way too fragile the entire center broke out of my design. The second try looked a bit too heavy in my opinion. The 3rd try turned out to be the charm with a good balance between strength and look.

Next was trying to decide what to back the cutouts with. I had ordered several iridescent organza fabrics from eBay but on their own, they would be too transparent. I had a rainbow silk dye sample left from a previous project which in combination with the organza looks very promising. If I go down the road of painting some silk for this I may use more blues and greens in the final piece as I feel it is more dragonfly like, but I like the effect of the colours shimmering through the iridescent organza. On the right you see the 4 wing test run I made.

8 January 2017

Christmas came and went and the deadline for this competition draws closer. In December I did have a commission to finish so only weekends and Christmas break were spend working on the competition entry. I decided to construct the corset first before applying the wings by hand later. This would proof a mistake later on, but I had decided on this because I wanted to experiment with a front cutout on the busk as well as the wings. Because aligning under the laser would be a nightmare and the busk might get damaged I cut the front panel cut out before cutting the actual panel pieces. See gallery below:

I used a simple black satin coutil for the main body of the corset so the wings would take center stage. The satin coutil did however proof not to be strong enough after a few times opening and closing the busks, one of wing spokes sadly broke. Were I to remake this corset I would lean to using a pleather or the like. Something more strong and ravel resisted. But that is what these types of competitions are for--- trying out new techniques. I ended up making a double coutil layered corset sandwiching the bones in between the layers.

Once the corset base was done, it was wing time and I was going to need a lot more wings to complete both the corset and tutu skirt. So I set the laser cutter to do it's part, while I painted another large piece of oilsick silk. The larger wing cut outs took about 40 mins per wing to complete, so I was walking back and forth from my studio to the ice cold garage where our lasercutter lives, quite a few times. I ended up designing two more pairs of smaller wings for the lower part of the corset in Ilustrator. It was not an option to just scale the larger wings down because of the amount of detail getting too dense. You see the result of two days of lasercutting and painting below, I love how it looked all laid out on my desk.

It was time to cut all of this out and add the iridescent organza layer. I tried combining the layers under the sewing machine first, but I was not happy with the result so I switched to quilting the layers by hand with a curved needle. This took 3 times as long of course but looked nice and the already quite fragile black fabric stayed in tact better.For the skirt wings I tightly zigzagged the edges. In hindsight I wish I had done this for the corset wings too. I am not trilled with my choice of black fabric at this point. The small amount of stretch makes it annoying under the sewing machine and it is just a little to fragile and crumble to sew nicely by machine. Zigzagging the edges made them ripple a little but steaming seemed to fix it. Again next time I will look for something in the pleather spectrum that does not raffle and is stronger with this many holes.

The smaller wings for the lower part of the corset I combined to overlap first before sewing them unto the corset itself. Making a fan shape like this made it easier to line them up evenly on the corset later.

At last it was time to start combining the wings and sewing them unto the corset by hand with a curved needle. I left the corset on my mannequin laying it sideways on my lap. I had to be careful however not to sew the corset onto my dress-form. Meanwhile I spend some time over the last few days researching how to make a proper pancake tutu and it seems I have inadvertently set myself quite the task... Currently I am waiting for a roll of black tulle and a gathering attachment for my sewing machine to arrive so I can start on the tutu. Without the gathering attachment I doubt I'll get the skirt done in time. I figured it would be an investment and I can sure use it again for wedding underskirts and so on. So this brings me to today where I am sewing wings unto my corset and cutting the blue layers of tulle waiting for my other materials to arrive.

10 January 2017

Yeah, My black tulle arrived! So tomorrow it is tutu cutting time.

I decided the edges of the wings on the corset could do with a little tidying so I added a cord around all the edges.

5 February 2017

A lot of work has been completed since my last entry. As predicted I was able to make a start on pancake tutu after I received both the black tulle and a gathering attachment for my sewing machine. Because there was no way I was going to finish gathering all those meters of tulle by hand in time for the deadline the attachment was brilliant! As I had already made a corset that could hold it's own I decided against a proper ballet suit basque which has panties attached to it. Instead I just made the tutu as if it were a very stiff mini skirt. I did however need a basque type belt that was wide enough to sew all the 14 layers of pleated tulle too. I ended up using the same stretch black fabric that I had laser cut to make just that. I made a simple pattern just by draping some patterning fabric on the mannequin. A long piece of bra hook and eye tape was used to close the back. So my wings on the front would not optically be cut off too much I dipped the top line of the basque on the centre front and curved it up along the sides.

After some research online I found out a good way to structure the length of the tutu layers so it would be self supporting. I settled on 14 layers of gathered tulle in total with the longest layers 14 inch with alternating blue and black layers of tulle. On the top layer I also scalloped the edges mirroring the wing points that I wanted to add on top later.

After putting that gathering attachment to good use I zigzagged all layers unto my mini skirt belt. That proofed a bit of a struggle just dealing with the sheer volume of material and also trying to keep the sewing straight while alternating the direction of the tulle layers.

After 4 layers it looked really nice and pretty fluffy already but as soon as I added the wings on top it drooped horribly so I than realised I was not going to get out of having to add a ring to the 8th layer to give it the support it needs. I used a length of flatsteel boning and inserted it in a tulle casing sewn on the 8th layers taping the ends together. When all layers were attached The layers were steamed flat on top of the ringed layer one by one and tacked together so the tutu would move as one unity rather than multiple layers.

On top of the top layer I ended up adding another scalloped circle of tulle and on top of that the wings. All of this was sewn in place by hand. Leaving me with a pancake tutu! Yeah! The only problem was that the black belt part still sort of interrupted the flow of the design so I settled on going back to the laser engraver and adding yet more small wings to fill in that space. I did really help to make it all flow together and make it look like one costume rather than a corset and a separate skirt. As a finishing touch to the tutu and the corset I sewed on some iridescent glass beads. In my opinion it needed a little something extra on the black front panels of the corset to break it up and accentuated that V above the busk. Since I thought it would be a pity not to show off the bottom half of the corset, as I had used a rather special busk for this project, I also made a knee-length romantic style tutu. This skirt only had 6 layers of black an light blue tulle and a seventh under layer of that iridescent organza which peeks though the top layers and give a really nice shimmer.

This competition is a great opportunity to experiment with some things, one of those thing was the busk cutout. I have skipped over a little detail in my previous post. A while back I had a metal coating company do a custom test run of a rainbow PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coating on some corset busks. Unfortunately it did not turn out durable enough on the loops and pins but on the main part of the busks it looked cool, so I took one of the trial rainbow coated spoonbusks and used it for this corset. As an experiment I wanted to see if a cut out of the fabric covering the busk would stand up to wear – it did not, the delicate cut out tore before the first shoot. I intent to search on in future projects for different fabrics which stand up better to laser cut holes as I still love this idea and I paid good money for the test run of that rainbow coating.

To complete this corset I needed some matching dragonfly coloured laces and since I wanted to do a ombre dye on them I needed double face satin ribbon that would take a dye. At great expense I splurged on a roll of silk ribbon from the USA and dyed them in blue purple and green. They are definitely a luxery and probably not suitable for waisttraining but they did turn out very pretty! I even used a length of the same dyed ribbon to attach to my model's ballet shoes during the shoot (those little details ;) )

After that huge info dump I am sure you are all screaming where are the pictures of the completed corset? Well if you managed to read all the way through to here enjoy! (Click on the slideshow to see enlarged photos)

Dragonfly Dreams

These amazing studio shots were taken and edited by Sanne van Bergenhenegouwen fotografie and modelled by a very good friend. Once again I want to thank you both very much!

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