The Oxford Conference of Corsetry in Review

morgana sparklewren chris murray

Morgana modeling a Sparklewren corset on the grounds of Jesus College. Photo by Chris Murray.

The Oxford Conference of Corsetry was so amazing that I pretty much don’t even know where to begin.  Let’s start with the basics – The Oxford Conference of Corsetry, aka OCOC, was organized by Julia Bremble of Sew Curvy, and took place over the weekend of August 24 and 25 at Jesus College in England.  We had workshops, photoshoots, media coverage, and basically talked about corsets nonstop during all of our waking hours.  I (Marianne Faulkner of Pop Antique) was a speaker/model at the conference along with Jenni Hampshire of Sparklewren, Alison Campbell of Crikey Aphrodite, and Gerry Quinton of Morúa Corsetry.

Photo by Alison Campbell, corset by Clessidra Couture - http://www.clessidra.co.uk/

Playing around in the Fellows Room on Friday night, trying on ALL the corsets.  This one by Julia’s line, Clessidra Couture.  Photo by Alison Campbell.

Friday
On Friday, the early arrivals came and the speakers set up the conference rooms.  This was my first introduction to Gerry, my second time hanging out with Jenni and Alison, and my first time properly meeting Julia.  I myself was jetlagged, fresh off the bus from London that followed the overnight flight from San Francisco, but this didn’t stop me from staying up until 2am, talking shop and trying on corsets.

Drop-in sketching lesson: I gave Julia some personalized tutoring and got newly reinspired to write a fashion illustration textbook.

Drop-in sketching lesson: I gave Julia some personalized tutoring and got newly reinspired to write a fashion illustration textbook.  Photo by Julia Bremble.

Saturday
Saturday was our most structured day.  Jenni and I checked in arrivals, Julia gave a speech, and then it was time for workshops!  We had two scheduled workshops: draping with Gerry, and fitting with Alison.  Drop-in events included my fashion illustration workshop, the embellishment bar/swap, and the corsetry clinic.  We were featured on BBC “In Pictures,” and the lovely Morgana came early to hang out with us.  We had a drinks reception where many of us (myself included) tried Pimm’s for the first time.  “Dinner is served when you are ready, ladies,” we were told before being served a delicious three course meal.  For me, the highlight of the day was the post-dinner keynote speech by Mr. Ian Frazer Wallace, a corsetiere who has collaborated with several talented catwalk designers.  You may have seen his work without even knowing it: check out this stunning video of Immodesty Blaize in a layered corset gown by Ziad Ghanem.  Mr. Wallace was also accompanied by his delightful and singular muse, Polly Fey, who can be seen in the video as the second model in the final line up walk.  After his speech, Mr. Wallace and Polly stuck around, accompanying us to the on-campus bar (who even knew that was a thing?  Ahhh, England…) where we continued to talk shop and Polly even threw on my new “Minx” ribbon waspie over her gorgeous couture gown.

Polly Fey, Julia Bremble, Marianne Faulkner (me), and Morgana, out for drinks after the keynote speech.  Polly's pink-and-pearls ensemble had me enthralled all evening.

Polly Fey, Julia Bremble, Marianne Faulkner (me), and Morgana, out for drinks after the keynote speech. Polly’s pink-and-pearls ensemble had me enthralled all evening.  Photo via Julia Bremble.

Sunday
…was a day filled with, primarily, photoshoots!  And beautiful antiques, and sad, sad goodbyes, as none of us wanted the conference to end.  Morgana and my alter-ego Victoria Dagger modeled for enough corsetieres to make my head spin, including squeezing in brief shoots for Clessidra, Morúa, Crikey Aphrodite, and Sparklewren.  (Sadly, I was the only speaker to not shoot one of my designs at the conference.)  The Oxford Mail visited us and wrote up a feature, catching Morgana in a Neon Duchess creation as well as the antique corset exhibit (the Symington Collection, sponsored by Foundations Revealed).

Silhouetted in a Morúa corset for the last shoot of the day.

Silhouetted in a Morúa corset for the last shoot of the day.

sunday contemporary and antique corsets

Contemporary and antique corsets on display.  Photo by Jenni Hampshire.

All told, it was an incredibly amazing weekend (which I, for one, prolonged by spending Monday in Birmingham with Jenni at the Sparklewren boutique, and Tuesday in London where I met up with The Lingerie Addict’s own Karolina Laskowska).  The number of times we started a sentence with, “Next year…” only increased daily.  And I’m pleased to report that there will officially be a next year!  Julia has reserved the August bank holiday date for 2014 at Jesus College.  Did you attend this year?  Are you planning to attend next year?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.  For more corset photos, check out the Facebook page and Instagram hashtag.  If you attended, please link to your Facebook page or what have you below so everyone can check out your work!

Modeling an Angela Stringer corset.  Photo by Angela, behind the scenes shooting with Paul Mockford.

Modeling an Angela Stringer mesh corset. Photo by Angela, behind the scenes shooting with Paul Mockford.

Marianne

Marianne

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

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8 Comments

  1. 05/09/13 at 6:01

    Great write-up, Marianne! It was a truly wonderful weekend and I’m already excited for next year! I feel like I’ve made some great friends across the world and I can’t wait to see them again next year (or earlier for the ones who live in the UK). It was like a corsetry summer camp!

    Listening to Ian’s talk and hanging out with everyone in the bar on Saturday night was a highlight, the classes were very informative and everyone there was lovely.

    A wonderful weekend and here’s to many more!

  2. 05/09/13 at 6:31

    One of the best weekends I have spent in a long time! I came home with my head filled with so many ideas. Huge thanks to Julia, Marianne, Jenni, Alison, Geri, Ian, Polly and Morgana, and of course all my fellow delegates!

  3. 05/09/13 at 7:44

    Ah, I am envious of all attendees! Someday, I just MUST make that trip to the UK!

  4. AlexaFaie
    05/09/13 at 8:09

    It really was a truly amazing event. EVERYONE was so lovely and welcoming and friendly and all the good positive happy words! ;)
    I’m very new to corset making (one of the newest out of all attendees) and I found that there was lots to learn. The wonderful thing however was that even the more experienced corsetieres came away with a new idea or skill because everyone had a different way of going about things, whether that be construction technique, fabric choices or embellishment ideas.
    We were all able to talk continuously about corsets which is obviously a great passion for all attendees and so we were never met with glazed over faces. I don’t think it was possible to be bored there!
    The antique corsets from the Symington Collection, and the talk about them, was definitely a highlight for me (amongst all the others!!) They were so beautiful and well made with lots of interesting features. Having the chance to learn more about them and see them up close has further inspired me to study what they did to make them to improve on what is done today. The corsets were all factory made and mass produced and so it was interesting to be able to see how different they are from today’s mass produced corsets.
    Whilst I was originally apprehensive about the after-dinner speaker (having not heard of him) and his background in fashion (I’m a wear it till its threadbare girl), I found Ian’s talk refreshing and enlightening. His reasons for working within the world of fashion were not expected and it was wonderful to hear of how his upbringing allowed him to take various talents and apply them to corset making. After the speech, Ian came round and talked to us all. As I had asked a question which he answered during the speech, he followed up further on it when we were chatting. I’ll admit that it was nice to hear that he thought I had a keen sense of style (he liked my dress by Pin Up Couture) and that he does not support today’s throw away culture and feels that it could be ruining the fashion industry. Later when we were all in the bar, a group of us ended up sat in the corner hand sewing and decorating corsets we were working on. Ian came over and was very interested to see what we were all creating. Polly was incredible. She is so unique; I’ve never met anyone else with a personality like hers. Everyone ended up fluttering around her like moths to a flame. She loved to shock and to titillate and everything she did had an undercurrent of humour.

    Another highlight for me was getting to try on the Sugared Leopard birds wing corset by Sparklewren. The photos online just do not do it justice. It has so many layers of detail that it really has to be seen in real life. So if you have seen it in photos and thought it was amazing, your mind would be blown if you were able to see it in real life!! It was incredible how it just wrapped around my curves like it was made for me, though it fit me very differently to everyone else I’ve seen try it on. That’s the beauty of the style. Its absolutely amazing. Jenni and I nattered for a while about the construction of the birds wing style and how it worked. And when I got home and was being treated to an impromptu birthday party by a few friends, I couldn’t shut up about it. I may have bored them just a little bit. (OK, a lot!!)

    So yeah… it was AMAZING!! And I’m so glad that there will be another conference.
    BRING ON NEXT YEAR!!

  5. AlexaFaie
    05/09/13 at 8:33

    Oh yeah, and the bust fit class by Alison was brilliant because though I’ve not yet made an overbust (my first corset was a mid-bust, but as I was on a course I was told how to alter it) it gave me a lot of ideas for how to cope with both small and large breasts, as well as those in between! We all got to fondle Dolly (a mannequin with medical prosthetics as breasts) which was hilarious. She was of great help in showing how different treatments to the top of the corset can effect the fit of the bust.
    I didn’t go to the draping class as I don’t yet own a mannequin and am unlikely to be able to afford one in the near future (I know which one I want and I’m not compromising lol) so I felt I wouldn’t be able to put the skills I learnt to use.
    Instead I had a one on one drawing session with Marianne which I found very helpful. I’m terrible about sketching things in proportion and never knew that there was a way to make it easier (I just assumed some people were just good at it!). I’m going to use the tips and pointers to start drawing up some of the design ideas in my head. And hopefully next year I will have made some progress and can ask for some follow up advice to take my skills to the next level.
    I also realised I forgot to post here a thank you to all the event organisers. They worked so hard to get everything just right and I think they achieved it several times over. :)

  6. Angela Stringer
    06/09/13 at 16:06

    I knew it was going to be an amazing experience but I wasn’t quite prepared for how great it actually was. Meeting so many like minded people and professional corsetieres that I have admired for some time. None of us got bored of talking Corsetry and could have quite happily stayed another night. It was attended by all abilities of corset makers and I don’t think anyone felt like they didn’t belong there, we were all there to learn. There was not one aspect of it I didn’t enjoy, and I really thought I would just go this year to check it out with little intention of attending again due to finances etc but I can’t imagine not going again. I’m already planning how to save up enough for next year!
    And one last aspect I didn’t anticipate was as an aspiring corset maker myself, I hadn’t given any thought to how opportunities and publicity would open up for me post conference. Suddenly it feels like a reality that I could make a go of this, the conference has certainly given me the confidence to go for it!
    You can find me here, and pics I took at the conference aswell as the professional shots I had taken of my work once I have them!

    https://m.facebook.com/InhaloCorsets?m_sess&viewtype=admin&__user=534970847

  7. 07/09/13 at 6:41

    Really sorry I missed this. Hope to go to the next one. Really great to see talented folk making genuine style corsets instead of the tat we often see in high street shops. I’m on the lookout for a corset mannequin. Would greatly appreciate any contacts/suppliers.

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