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The Lace Embrace Antique Corset Exhibition and Historic Fashion Show 2013

Over the weekend, I had the immense pleasure of attending the third annual Lace Embrace Antique Corset Exhibition and Fashion Show. The exhibit and fashion show is a fundraiser for the corsetiere behind Lace Embrace Atelier, Melanie Talkington. You see, Ms. Talkington is not only an expert corsetiere with a client list that includes names like Dita von Teese and Cathie Jung, she also has the largest private collection of antique corsets in the world, and she's working to open an Antique Corset Museum in Vancouver, BC in 2014. In fact, her collection is so impressive, that she just loaned 40 pieces to The Louvre for an upcoming exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. I adore corsetry, and the opportunity to see some of Ms. Talkington's antique pieces (as well as her amazing modern reproductions!) was one I couldn't pass up, so I hopped a train and crossed the border into Canada.

(All photos below are my own.)

A quick snapshot while getting dressed in the Puimond corset I wore to the event.

Melanie Talkington herself.

The venue was the historic Hycroft Manor, which had amazing rooms, lush grounds, and definitely added to the historical, garden party atmosphere of the event. In addition to the main action of the exhibit and fashion show, there was also a silent auction and a "mini-store" of corset magnets, fans, garters, cupcakes, cookies, British pastys, wine, and coffee. All proceeds, including the price of admission tickets, went to the future corset museum.

An antique hat from the silent auction.

Garters for sale

Corset Cookies

Models walked the exhibit room in silk kimonos or antique-style underwear combined with Lace Embrace's historically-inspired creations.

And of course, many of the guests looked fantastic as well!

The blogger Dolly Von Sucre

And the antique pieces were, in a word, stunning.

~Violet Silk Satin Corset, circa 1890~
Evening corset of violet silk satin with cotton net lace and ribbon insertion. Marked F.P. Supported with 36 whale bones. 19" waist. American.
Caption by M. Talkington. From the M. Talkington Collection.
~Petticoat, circa 1890~
Violet moire with purple and green satin stripes, ruffled and flounced hem. American.
Caption by M. Talkington. From the M. Talkington Collection.

~Pink Silk Corset, circa 1898~
PInk silk satin corset with blue bust trimming and ribbon insertion. Marked, BALENA. Supported with 36 whale bones. 22" waist. European.
Caption by M. Talkington. From the M. Talkington Collection.
~Petticoat, circa 1895~
Blue silk taffeta with self trimmed ruffles and flounced hem. American.
Caption by M. Talkington. From the M. Talkington Collection.

~Bridal Corset, circa 1903~
Cotton eyelet corset with bias seams, bust and hip gussets. Cotton net lace with moire bow. Marked, NOBLESSE. Made in France. Imported by MARSHALL FIELD & CO, Paris-Chicago. 26 whale bones. 24" waist. French.
Caption by M. Talkington. From the M. Talkington Collection.
Ivory cotton trained bridal petticoat with ribbon insertion. Lace flounce with cotton pleated godets. American.
Caption by M. Talkington. From the M. Talkington Collection.

~Dressing Gown, circa 1908~
Blue printed silk satin dressing gown with train. Trimmed with rows of net lace and Irish crochet lace with ribbon roses. American.
Caption by M. Talkington. From the M. Talkington Collection.

A closeup of the back of the dressing gown.

A closeup of the front of the dressing gown. (Can you tell this is my favorite piece?)

A closeup of the lace on the dressing gown.

(I couldn't find the caption for this one.)

~Miniature Mannequin with Merry Widow, circa 1958~
3/4 sized mannequin was used in a French department store to sell fabric and trimmings. She was recently purchased in Paris and is now named Babette. Manufactured by SIEGEL.
She models a mauve satin merry sidow with attached garters. Marked, CORSETERIA LAURA Arenal, 14 Jorge Juan 76. Spain.
Caption by M. Talkington. From the M. Talkington Collection.

Finally, it was time for the fashion show. The show was held outside and featured outfits inspired by French fashion magazine illustrations. Ms. Talkington described it as her ideal wardrobe to wear while she was in Paris for the opening of The Louvre's fashion exhibit. Everything was hand-sewn (of course!) and based on patterns taken directly from antique corsets, which Ms. Talkington says she did "very, very carefully without destroying or harming the corset in any way." She also revealed that her collection has grown significantly in the last few years as other collectors decide to sell their collections to her. In addition, all the crocheted camisoles shown in the photo below are actual antique camisoles. The show started with a Victorian/Edwardian undergarment dressing sequence which I'll be posting a video of later.

The antique robe used at the beginning of the dressing sequence.

A back view of the same robe.

The completed look at the end of the dressing sequence.

Mesh summer corsets

Adult and child corset. Adult corset is antique reproduction of a French corset. The petticoat is an antique reproduction of a petticoat from the Met Museum and is based on a quilting pattern.

(No information for this look.)

(No information for this look.)

Watered silk corset and petticoat

Watered silk corset and petticoat back view.

Watered silk corset and petticoat combination.

Watered silk corset and petticoat combination back view.

Honeybee Corset. Basket and Bows petticoat. In the color Heliotrope (popular during Edwardian period).

Rear view of Honeybee Corset. Basket and Bows petticoat. In the color Heliotrope (popular during Edwardian period).

Corset and brassiere combination with scalloped hems. Striped silk petticoat. The entire ensemble is meant to evoke the "colors of the garden." Style circa 1909.

1910 style seaside corset.

Back view of 1910 style seaside corset.

A few detail shots:

A detail of the yellow corset and chemise from the antique dressing sequence. These are all authentic vintage undergarments.

A detail of the Heliotrope Basket and Bows petticoat.

Flossing detail on the adult French corset from the adult/child look.

Button detail on the 1910 sailor corset.

And, finally, a group photo of all the Lace Embrace corsets at the exhibit:

I hope you enjoyed looking at these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them! Had you heard of Lace Embrace before? And what do you think of Melanie Talkington's work?

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

15 Comments on this post

  1. Lara says:

    So much gorgeousness! That antique bridal combination of corset and bridal petticoat is really something. What an incredible collection and show. I don’t understand how she can get the pattern from the antiques and leave them completely unharmed, it seems like magic.

    The way the kimono are worn bothers me though. This event has paid so much attention to detail and history, but the kimono are worn all wrong, even for modern wear. The one in the bottom picture of the three is passable, but the top two honestly shocked me. It’d be one thing for little details to be off, they’re being worn with corsets for a show dedicated to corsets and lingerie, not kimono, but the first and most important rule of wearing kimono is left over right – it’s arguably very disrespectful to wear them right over left. To people who know even the basics of kimono they look terribly sloppy at best and I don’t understand why more care wasn’t put into presenting these garments.

  2. Thank you for sharing and for the wonderful photos. I wish I had remembered about the show. I’ve been to Lace embrace, and have heard about the museum. I’ll be sure to go when it opens.

  3. Lucy says:

    *sigh* SO many lovely pieces! I hope to make it over to that side of Canada one of these days. Thank you so much for your great photos of the event!

  4. Andrea Painter says:

    I’m so bummed I missed this AGAIN (since I live in Vancouver, but was in Seattle for folklife the first two years, and this year my best friend got married Saturday and I had only 4 hours of sleep when this came around, so I opted for sleep). I LOVE the photos here — thank you!! So many inspiring antique styled garments:) I’m saddened that they purposefully excluded tattooed models from the show, though, as a tattooed corset wearer in the area:) I love antique corset styles on ALL modern women, inked or otherwise. Kind of makes me want to make antique styled outfits for a ton of inked ladies and attend next year:)

    As far as general observations, I’ve seen a TON of Lace Embrace’s work, living in Vancouver. Overall, I highly recommend them to people, with a few caveats. Melanie does stunningly gorgeous work for medium to smaller sized women. I’ve seen some of her reproductions up close, and the workpersonship is exquisite on them. A woman at an event had a brand new, buttery as a baby’s bottom leather corset based on one of Melanie’s historical patterns, and it was breathtakingly gorgeous – with the exception that whoever built it didn’t use a coutil base under the leather piece around the busk, and the leather was ripping already and exposing the white boning. It was really surprising, as usually I hear only good stuff about them!

    As a plus sized lady, I have mixed feelings for their stuff for my size, as I don’t feel that they take into account that additional boning is needed. I have one of their off-the-rack demi-bust corsets, and I love the shape that it gives me. However it only has 12 pieces of 1/4″ boning on it, plus the busk. The shopgal laced me in, I fell in love with the shape and bought it, and wore it to a party immediately after leaving the shop — and three hours later I had huge red painful sections on my torso, and the boning at the waist was permanently bent to about 110 degree angle when I took it off. Yes, it was off-the rack, so I shouldn’t have expected a perfect fit. If I’d been paying closer attention and had looked closer, I would have realized that 3″ gap between 1/4″ boning was woefully insufficient for support, and I should have left it in the shop. I’m disappointed, though, because I feel like off-the-rack corsets should introduce clients to the brand, entice them to get a custom one because it’ll be EVEN BETTER, not that the off-the-rack should be a poorer quality but “don’t worry, a custom one will fit you much better!!” kind of idea, because what confidence do I have after being left with welts from the off-the-rack one? I’ve been left with a meh taste in my mouth, and though I want to eventually get a custom historical recreation one from the Atelier, I’m not in any big hurry now.

    • Cora says:

      Oh dear. Thanks for the review. I’m sorry you had a disappointing experience, but I’m glad you shared it here because it’s really important to know how items like this work on a variety of bodies. Thanks again.

  5. Manoela says:

    Oh, this looks totally amazing! I loved the pictures and the fashion show must have been lovely. I wondered how did Ms. Talkington took the patterns out of corsets without doing any harm to the garments… I could never do it!

  6. KathTea says:

    I’m so envious! I’d LOVE to work with Melanie some day…

  7. Courtney says:

    oh dear. I sat behind you at the fashion show, and your hair was somewhat of an obstacle! Lol.
    Her collection is fantastic! I have attended all 3 years and Am allways amazed at both the antique and newly made corsets. None have been the same. So Congradulations to the team at Lace Embrace and i look forward to the museums opening!

    • Cora says:

      Sorry about that! I was hoping there’d be a press area out of the way to take photos, videos, and the like. My vision was frequently blocked as well, which created a bit of domino effect. :-/

      At any rate, I’m glad I was (finally) able to go this year. I hope next year’s event is in the long-awaited corset museum!

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