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NYC weekend and Grand Corset Ball 2015

Lucy with Cathie Jung and Melanie Talkington

To start, I want to say that I did bring my camcorder to New York last weekend, but got very little footage – so a video recap would have been bit boring with just my face waffling for 10 minutes as per usual.

 

I suppose I’ll start from the beginning: back in October 2014, I was delighted to receive an email from Melanie of Lace Embrace Atelier, with news of her Kickstarter campaign. The Grand Corset Ball was to be in the style of La Gracieuses Modernes balls from the past, and would help fund Melanie’s antique corset exhibit, “Fashioning the Body”.

 

Lucy tying sari
Practicing wrapping my sari prior to the event. Although I initially learned from my aunt how to wear them, I required a refresher from Zessinna. Here I’m wearing my overbust from Electra Designs.

I asked both my sister and my boyfriend if either of them would be interested in attending, and both expressed mild interest at the time but made no commitments. My plans, my health and my finances had a wrench thrown into them in late November due to the car accident, and I truly didn’t know how long I would need to go without a corset in order to fully heal from the ordeal. I felt horrible about not being able to contribute to the Kickstarter at the time, and thus made the announcement that I wouldn’t be able to attend the ball (which is why a few people were a bit surprised to see me there after all!).

 

After a few months of recuperation, I finally got the green light to start wearing corsets again from my doctor at the end of January – by which time, neither of my prospective dates were able to go to New York that weekend with me. The ball was approaching fast, so I asked Mina LaFleur of L’Atelier de LaFleur if she was going since I knew she lived relatively close-by in Toronto; we could fly down together and share accommodations. She graciously agreed, and only about 3 weeks before the event, we bought our tickets. We also made some loose plans to visit Body Worlds, the Met Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Frick Collection, Central Park, and FAO Schwarz while we were there. (Perhaps a teeny bit ambitious for less than 48 hours in NYC!)

 

Fast forward to the day before the ball: Mina and I arranged to meet at the airport on Friday morning, and after a brief period of Marco Polo via cellphone, finally found one another in the terminal. Our first flight had been bumped, so we had a 90-minute wait in front of us. I purchased an obscenely large choux bun for the novelty (not a wise choice in retrospect, as I was to be fitted for a corset later). Mina and I boarded our flight, and then we sat on the runway for another hour or so. Thankfully, we had plenty to talk about!

 

Dark Garden Mockup Fitting
Being a complete dork and unable to contain my excitement at a Dark Garden mockup fitting.

We finally checked into our hotel about 2 hours later than anticipated. I had made plans to have a mockup fitting with Autumn Adamme of Dark Garden, so we dropped our bags off at the hotel and took a cab over to Tricia’s Millinery shop, House of Nines Design. I have only had a couple in-person fittings with corsetieres (as opposed to remote fittings) so it was educational to see what Autumn looked for and how she tweaked the toile. The pic on the left shows my excitement:

 

Best. Salad. Ever.
Best. Salad. Ever.

After excitedly discussing the ball and Mr. Pearl, we said our goodbyes and decided to walk back to our hotel, during which time we sufficiently checked off “get lost in NYC” from our Bucket Lists. I made amends for the choux bun at dinner that night with an amazing feta, avocado and butternut squash salad at the Stone Street Tavern.

 

The next day, Mina and I only got to see Body Worlds Pulse and a tiny portion of the Met Museum, but I found it incredibly interesting. At Body Worlds they have a liver which shows natural hepatic grooves from the ribcage – and not caused by corsets – which somewhat confirms the findings of the article I referenced in my Dr. Oz response last month. I would have taken a picture of the liver, but they have a strict no-cameras rule in the exhibit.

 

At the Met, we mostly focused on the Chinese tapestries, Fragonard paintings and the armor exhibitions. We also indulged in a selfie on the balcony before quickly rushing back to the hotel to get ready for the ball. Mina created everything in her own ensemble, from the dove-grey overbust with asymmetric lace, to the matching palest-blue taffeta bustle, to her reticule and tiara. I wore a lace-smothered gold overbust made by Sparklewren (originally made for Immodesty Blaize) which complemented the vintage cream lace sari purchased from Zessinna last year. (My great-aunt, who lived in Pakistan, was the first to teach me to tie a sari when I was a child, but Laysa kindly gave me a refresher as it had been awhile.)

 

Mina and myself at the Met
Mina and myself at the Met

Evidently there was some miscommunication about the starting time for the ball as Mina and I (as well as a few others) arrived a bit early, so we passed the time by chatting and of course taking pictures in the powder room until they were ready to accept us in the ballroom.

Lucy in the mirror
Fixing my sari for the 135894017th time in the ladies’ powder room.

 

Shien Lee (creator of Dances of Vice) helped coordinate the event, and also gave out one of her lipstick shades (Red Lantern) to attendees who donated $100 or more!

 

I saw many familiar faces at the ball – Kirk Whitmer (deux lunes) and his wife Kerstin, Ian Frazer Wallace (The Whitechapel Workhouse), and Autumn Adamme of course (Dark Garden), all of whom I had met last summer in England at the Oxford Conference of Corsetry.

 

When the Royal Court had arrived, I was too shy to introduce myself to Bob and Cathie Jung, so Melanie led me over to them and formally introduced us. It was a dream come true to tell them how much I appreciated their immense contribution to the corsetry community, including their willingness to be in the spotlight of mainstream media to educate others about modern waist training (even though Cathie insists that they are just normal, everyday people), their modern medical tests that demonstrate real-time physical effects of corsetry (including cross-section CAT scans of Cathie while wearing a corset, years before the more recent MRI scans), and Cathie’s slow training over close to 40 years being a responsible influence for those who also aspire to train; teaching others that slow and steady wins the race. Cathie is a living testament that a corseted lifestyle, while not for everyone, is very possible and can be done comfortably while maintaining good health.

Autumn Adamme and Lucy at the Grand Corset Ball in NYC
Autumn Adamme and Lucy at the Grand Corset Ball in NYC
Lucy with Cathie Jung and Melanie Talkington
Cathie Jung (center) with Melanie Talkington (left) and Lucy (right) at the Grand Corset Ball.
Mina, Cathie and Lucy
Cathie Jung (center) with Mina LaFleur (left) and Lucy (right) at the Grand Corset Ball.
KLD and Lucy
Kelly Lee Dekay (left) with Lucy at the Grand Corset Ball.

Other people that I was too happy to finally meet and chat with included designer and model Kelly Lee Dekay (seen above); Jasmine Ines, corsetiere behind Sin & Satin; designer Rachael Reichert; model and illustrator Flora Jasper, and many many others – thanks to Vilma, Debbie, Cassie, Raquel, Samantha, Ellie, and everyone else who came up to me that night, as I’m naturally a painfully shy person and if it weren’t for you I probably would have sat in a corner all evening. :p

 

Later in the night, there was a Q&A session with Cathie and Bob where we could all approach them with our questions, as well as a dance lesson (which I sadly missed), a non-competitive fashion show where people showed off their hand-made and commissioned outfits, and at midnight, two burlesque performances by Perle Noire and Aseult.

 

Sterling Silver Corset Cover
Sterling Silver Corset Cover made by Anthony Pacesa in 1997, designed to fit Cathie Jung. One of the pieces on display at the ball.

After the ball, Mina and I spent the night packing and indulging in some New York pizza (another thing to check off our list!), and with less than 3 hours sleep, we finally said goodbye to NYC and headed home. Since we didn’t get everything finished on our itinerary, we agreed that we definitely have to return to NY again in the future, and for a longer stay next time! ;)

 

As mentioned on Facebook, this ball was an amazing opportunity for many of us in the corsetry community in North America to come together for the first time. It’s a beautiful thing when we can all stand in solidarity and support one another’s work, approaching one mutual interest from completely different directions and knowing that coming together only strengthens our community. The night of the ball, there was no sense of competition for waist size, sewing skills, historical knowledge, or dancing ability. I was nervous going in, but honestly it was so worth it for the networking alone (and the music, performances and countless pretties were a bonus too!). I sincerely hope that there are more events like this in the future. 

 

Thanks to the friendly people of New York for the lovely weekend, thanks to Mina for being an awesome travel companion, and huge thanks to Melanie for organizing the ball! I’m sure this will not be the last of such events.

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Lovely Rats Christine Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Lovely Rats Christine Corset Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length This style is standard sized: Center front is about 11.5 inches high, from underbust to lap is 9 inches, and the center back is 11 inches. Conical ribcage and rounded hip. Waist in this corset is 22″, ribcage is 28″ and lower hip is 36″.
NOTE: updated standard size measurements for a size 22″: ribcage of 30″ and lower hip of 34″.
Material 3 main layers. Outer layer is a psychedelic cotton print, which is fused to twill. Black herringbone coutil as lining.
Construction 6 panel pattern, panels assembled using the sandwich method (lock-stitched 3 times so very sturdy), and double-boned on the seams, sandwiched between two layers.
Binding Hand-made bias strips of complementary gold dupioni silk, machine stitched on the outside and hand-finished inside for a couture finish.
Waist tape 1 inch wide invisible waist tape – sandwiched between the layers.
Modesty panel No back lacing protector because I didn’t order one (but I did get a complimentary storage bag). Front modesty placket is made from black herringbone coutil.
Busk Heavy-duty busk (1″ wide on each side), 10 inches long. 5 loops + pins, equidistantly spaced. Some flat steels adjacent to the busk helps keep the abdomen flat.
Boning 24 bones total, 12 on each side. There are eight 1/4″ wide flats by the front, four flats by the back grommets, and the remaining bones around the side of the body are 1/4″ spirals, double boned on the seams.
Grommets 26 two-part grommets, size #00, medium flange, quite sturdy. Gold finish. Set closer together at the waistline. Large washers on the underside, most of them have rolled nicely without splitting or cracking.
Laces Double-faced satin ribbon in bright green. Too short for my uses, but following this review, Amber started including longer laces with all of her corsets.
Price $350 USD as of 2016. To upgrade to custom-fit, this starts at $450 USD.

 

The details of the fashion fabric of this particular corset. Click through to see Amber's Etsy store for more samples.
The details of the fashion fabric of this particular corset. Click through to see Amber’s Etsy store for more samples.

Amber’s corsets have a distinctive silhouette; normally conical in the ribs and rounded over the hips, stopping at mid-to-low hip. The front of her corsets are extremely rigid while the back of her corsets tend to be more flexible – a pattern she developed on her own to accommodate for her own pronounced lumbar lordosis. As such, if you have lordosis or if you have a “shelf-bum” and you need more curve over the back, Amber will know how to draft for your body.

Amber herself is a joy to work with. Her service and communication were excellent throughout this past collaboration, and she is fun yet professional. During the construction process we had an easy rapport and she asked me whether I would like regular updates on the corsets or if I preferred to be surprised. When I preferred having pictures, she shared with me without prompting. She worked quickly and efficiently, and can make a simple, standard sized underbust corset in one workday! However, her schedule fills up quickly, so if you’re keen on ordering from Lovely Rats for a special event, join her waiting list early.

Check out her website here, or if you’re lucky you might fit one of Amber’s samples in her Etsy store.

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Lovely Rats Princess Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Lovely Rats Princess Corset Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length This style is standard sized: Center front is about 11.5 inches high, from underbust to lap is 9 inches, and the center back is 11 inches. Conical ribcage and rounded hip. Waist in this corset is 22″, ribcage is 28″ and lower hip is 36″.
NOTE: updated standard size measurements for a size 22″: ribcage of 30″ and lower hip of 34″.
Material This style of corset has 2 main layers, and external boning channels (instead of 3 layers with sandwiched bones like her Christine Corset). Outer layer is a cotton floral fabric, which is fused to black herringbone coutil.
Construction 6 panel pattern. The fashion fabric and lining were fused, and the panels were assembled with seam allowances facing outward. External boning channels cover the seam allowances, and more external channels are distributed in the middle of the panels as well.
Binding Bias strips of black twill, machine stitched on the outside and hand-finished inside for a couture finish.
Waist tape 1 inch wide exposed waist tape. Partial: starts at the seam between panels 1-2, and goes to the back edge.
Modesty panel Back modesty panel (4 inches wide) is suspended on the laces and boned for support. Front modesty placket is made from black herringbone coutil.
Busk Heavy-duty busk (1″ wide on each side), 10 inches long. 5 loops + pins, equidistantly spaced. Some flat steels adjacent to the busk helps keep the abdomen flat.
Boning 24 bones total, 12 on each side. There are eight 1/4″ wide flats by the front, four flats by the back grommets, and the remaining bones around the side of the body are 1/4″ spirals, single boned on the seams and also in the middle of each panel.
Grommets 24 two-part grommets, size #00, medium flange, quite sturdy. Gold finish. Set closer together at the waistline. Large washers on the underside, most of them have rolled nicely without splitting or cracking.
Laces Black double-faced satin ribbon: no spring, very strong, low-profile under clothing and easy to tie.
Price $350 USD as of 2016. To upgrade to custom-fit, this starts at $450 USD.
Decorative external boning channels are another $50-75.
Flossing on each of the boning channels is an additional $100.

 

The details of the fashion fabric of this particular corset. Click through to see Amber's Etsy store for more samples.
The details of the design of the floral princess corset. Click through to see Amber’s Etsy store for more samples.

Amber’s corsets have a distinctive silhouette; normally conical in the ribs and rounded over the hips, stopping at mid-to-low hip. The front of her corsets are extremely rigid while the back of her corsets tend to be more flexible – a pattern she developed on her own to accommodate for her own pronounced lumbar lordosis. As such, if you have lordosis or if you have a “shelf-bum” and you need more curve over the back, Amber will know how to draft for your body.

Amber herself is a joy to work with. Her service and communication were excellent throughout this past collaboration, and she is fun yet professional. During the construction process we had an easy rapport and she asked me whether I would like regular updates on the corsets or if I preferred to be surprised. When I preferred having pictures, she shared with me without prompting. She worked quickly and efficiently, and can make a simple, standard sized underbust corset in one workday! However, her schedule fills up quickly, so if you’re keen on ordering from Lovely Rats for a special event, join her waiting list early.

Check out her website here, or if you’re lucky you might fit one of Amber’s samples in her Etsy store.