As you know, throughout 2015 I spent about 2 months traveling for business. You might recall my Thailand adventures video and my Texas adventures video, so here is a brief continuation of what happened in California in July of 2015. (Unfortunately I broke my phone and I had also misplaced some memory cards for my travel camcorder for two years so I lost a lot of my footage – but by some stroke of luck I found one of my SD cards which had a few tidbits of footage).
The clip with myself, Sarah, and Jim Cox (the owner of Timeless Trends) at the beginning of the video above is of one of the first prototypes of the Gemini back in June of 2015 in Bangkok. I had included a very short clip of this in my Thailand video two years ago, but I didn’t want to give away too much about the two different silhouettes and the cut, but now that the Gemini corset is for sale, I’m comfortable extended version now!
There were some great workshops during this weekend, including:
Jasmine (Sind & Satin): how to create her signature ribbon cinchers without a side seam.
Jessica (Ties That Bynde): how to drape and modify patterns from start to finish, and how to grade sizes of a standard size collection.
Sidney Eileen: flossing and other couture hand-finishing techniques.
Jasmine Starfire (the coordinator): millinery techniques that can cross over to corsetry, including using bronze molds on silk petals to make custom flower embellishments.
Amber (Lovely Rats): how to pattern-match / motif-match.
And there were also opportunities to stay longer and visit the amazing fabric market in the LA area.
I also got to catch up with Sidney Eileen, and interviewed Sidney on how her health has improved since the 2013 fundraiser to help treat her lyme and anaplasma infections.
After the Symposium I decided to stay for an extra two days in California and take in what the LA area had to offer (what I could afford at the time). Unfortunately I did not make it to Disneyland, but Laysa and I went shopping in Burbank, visiting stores like Pinup Girl Clothing, What Katie Did, and Unique Vintage. Laysa also took me to Venice Beach where I touched the Pacific ocean for the first time, and the two of us also spent a day with Puimond and his two adorable and well-behaved dogs, Dobby and Handsome (RIP to them both, they passed away I believe in 2017). If you want to see the full interview with Puimond, click here.
I wish I had more footage to show but it really was a whirlwind trip of about 4.5 days! I definitely would love to visit California again in the future. Californians, if you can think of anything that is an absolute “not to be missed” attraction that you think I should see next time I’m there, leave a comment below and let me know!
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”.
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!
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:
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
As a bit of a more light-hearted post, I’ve decided to expose my personal covet-list. The only rules here are that I can’t have owned a piece from any of these makers in the past, they’re in no particular order, and it’s not necessarily supposed to be interpreted as my list of top 15 favourite corset makers of all time. Some of these I may be saving up for in the future, while others are somewhat pipe dreams to own. Scroll down to see 15 corset makers that I will be following closely in 2014 (no pressure or anything):
Jeroen Van Der Klis, the brain and skill behind Bizarre Design, engineers some amazing and unique corsets – yet he also has the ability to make even a simple black satin underbust corset look like the most wondrous wardrobe staple you will ever lay eyes upon.
Scroll through the galleries of Corsets & More for example after example of pure opulence. There is no corset style or design that is too complicated for Doris Müller! She is a master in corsetry, and my favourite discovery of 2013.
Julia of Clessidra Couture is a bit of a Superwoman. She teaches corset making, she sells corset supplies and kits, she writes books, and somehow she still finds the time to make superb corsetry.
Royal Black can do no wrong. Creation after creation, her designs are increasingly innovative, intricate and awe-inspiring, and there’s no sign of her slowing down!
For years, people scoffed at the proverbial “Basket Weaving 101”. This corset by Anachronism in Action put these naysayers and snobs in their proper place, and completely changed my personal views as to what can be used as embellishment. Not to mention the incredible smooth finish, gorgeous earthy color and amazing shape.
Corsets are only made better with cups, and those cupped corsets are only improved by filigree jewelry. Ferrer Corsets offers it all in this fiery piece. My life is complete.
Sin & Satin‘s ribbon cinchers have no side seam, and they’re also embellished with metallic lace. There is nothing to not love, and there are no words for how much I covet a piece like the one on the right.
Temperatures 20° below freezing have me wishing for a cozy, warm knitted sweater corset by Pop Antique – plus, her standard sizes match my custom measurements almost exactly – I feel that it might be fate.
Take a historical corset, and a spectacular sculpture that should be in a museum. Put them together, and this doesn’t even do justice compared to the creations of Atelier Sylphe.
Dear Diary, day 1174 without a Lovesick Corset in my possession. They make stunning work, and their studio is an hour away from me – so close, yet so far; my commission inquiries have received no reply so I’m left to pine after their work from afar. Perhaps one day I’ll gather the courage to try again.
I check Daze of Laur‘s website regularly – if not to see updates of her creations, then to read the little Easter Eggs on Laurie’s constantly changing “title” in the header! (She also studied life sciences in uni and I kinda want to be her friend.)
Angela Friedman. Make it a household name. Because a well-supporting, properly-fitting overbust corset is not a want, it’s a need. Just look at that pattern drafting, it’s magical.
Even the simplest underbust corsets from Waisted Couture have an incredibly smooth finish with a neat nipped-in waistline. According to a fan and client, her training corsets are also nearly indestructible. I’m more than willing to put this to the test.
Before Wilde Hunt, I had never known that such dreamy, ethereal and romantic pieces could be fashioned from hardy leather. This piece has left me wondering if it’s possible to throw a wedding without actually getting married, just so I can wear something this spectacular.
Mr. Pearl. Because no list of coveted corsets is complete without Mr. Pearl. Owning a piece from him is the ultimate pipe dream of this list. He is elusive, rarely spotted in public, and doesn’t leave a trace as to where he has been except for a few polished photos and the appearance of the occasional breathtakingly magnificent piece of art. I can imagine that centuries from now, stories of Mr. Pearl will be spread around the world as he’s promoted to the status of a magical, mythological figure.
Which corset makers will you be watching in 2014? Let me know in a comment!
I’m pleased to announce that a new Guided Gallery is now up! Gentlemen wear corsets too, but sometimes it can be difficult to find a corset that both cinches the waist and maintains a stereotypically masculine silhouette. In the new gallery, Corsets for Men, you’ll find nearly 40 makers who cater to this specifically.
While ribbon cinchers are not the best choice for waist training, they are lightweight, fun, and when constructed correctly they can give considerable waist reduction! Some historical sources mention that ribbon cinchers can be used during sleep or while horse riding. Today they can still be used for the same purposes, or worn over clothing as a great statement piece.
Madame Sher has many gorgeous ribbon-style cinchers to choose from. Most of the styles are not genuine ribbon but rather made from horizontal strips of satin, denim, leather or mesh (shown above, on yours truly). Since they can be made from nearly any material, there is incredible room for creativity here. My review of Madame Sher’s mesh cincher can be found here.
Pop Antique makes some of the curviest ribbon cinchers I’ve ever seen. The corsetiere, Marianne, includes a waist tape on the underside which is almost never seen in other ribbon cinchers; it helps to strengthen the corset where it takes the most tension – at the waistline. These corsets are made from double-faced satin ribbon, which is strong, non-stretch and come in a bevy of colours.
Orchid Corsetry also makes strong custom-measured ribbon corsets from double-faced satin ribbon, and can be patterned to give gentle curves (above) or to give almost a wasp-waist effect. Bethan can make these cinchers curved (above) or pointed, multi-tone or single-colour, simple or embellished with crystals or other details as you see here.
Silvia Aphard Couture is an Italian corsetiere who primarily sells through Etsy. Her gorgeous ribbon corsets are also made with wide double-faced satin ribbon and coutil. Silvia’s corsets are made-to-measure and available in several colours.
Sin and Satin from NYC makes some of the most unique and gorgeous ribbon cinchers in standard sizes 18″ – 36″. They’re different in that they have no vertical side panel, which means uninterrupted contouring from front to back. They can be styled to your liking using petersham or satin ribbon (or even adding eyelash lace, seen above right) and they’re cut for devastating curves, boasting 11″ hip spring and 8″ room for the ribs.
Kiran-Lee is another underestimated corsetiere on Etsy, based in London, England. Her ribbon-style corsets are fun and different, like this patchwork design made from recycled fabrics and old saris. Each of Kiran-Lee’s designs are one-of-a-kind.
Axfords Corsets offers an affordable standard-sized ribbon corset (style C210) in white, black or two-tone (seen here). It’s made from Petersham ribbon (also quite strong) with satin vertical panels, and a flap to hide the busk loops.
Vollers Corsets also has a standard sized ribbon cincher called the “Storm” (style number V50) which is available in various shades of petersham ribbon. They also offer leather ribbon (shown above) which is interesting! This corset can also be upgraded made-t0-measure for a fee.
Versatile Corsets also makes interesting ribbon cinchers in standard sizes or made-to-measure. They specialize in funky PVC ribbon, with almost any satin or brocade you like for the vertical (boned) panels. If you prefer a little less rigidity with the same look, Versatile can also make these cinchers with elastic strapping.
Ms. Martha’s Corset Shoppe offers this “Geometric” ribbon-style cincher in leather and in silk, with several two-tone selections: black/brown, black/red or black/white. These cinchers are standard sized for natural waists 18″ up to 52″. My review of the Geometric cincher is here.
I tried my own hand at a few ribbon corsets and found them rather fun to make! Although I don’t take commissions for ribbon corsets, I’ve shared some tips and tricks on how these were created. Click the photos below to see my case studies on how I constructed them.
*Please note that I have not personally tried every corset brand in this list, nor do I necessarily endorse every company in these guided galleries. This is for informational purposes only.