The Story of a Bridal Corset
This is a journey following the life of not just a custom corset, not just a bridal corset, but one of my own wedding corsets. (Yes, I had two.) I feel so incredibly fortunate (dare I even say blessed?) to have what I truly believe is one of the most beautiful and unique corsets in the world.
For my wedding reception, I wore a corset that was a collaboration between a half dozen corsetieres from California and the U.K.: Pop Antique, Dark Garden, Sparklewren, Karolina Laskowska, Neon Duchess, and Laurie Tavan.
I had the idea for this collaboration early in my wedding planning. As a designer (Pop Antique), creating my own wedding gowns was the most daunting challenge of my career.
The idea was to create a simple corset for my wedding reception and pass it around amongst my extremely talented friends to have them add the embellishment, piecemeal. I'm also a bit of a control freak when it comes to certain things, so this would also be my reminder to trust in the wonderful people that I have in my life. All the designers involved were incredibly gracious in agreeing to contribute to my oddball idea – it really makes my heart swell every time I think of it.
The beginning stages of the corset were typical for a bespoke piece. First, I created a mood board on Pinterest, narrowing down the silhouette and mood of my reception outfit. I drew particular inspiration from a photo set of 50s supermodel Dovima in a Balenciaga ensemble.
Then I made up a new pattern, based on my previous bespoke corsets. Dark Garden stepped in here: my corsetry mentor, Autumn Adamme, helped me with my fittings. Self fitting is nearly impossible (particularly if one is asymmetric, as I am) and I needed her expert eye to help guide me through my bridal choice-paralysis.
Through three mockup fittings, we designed a silhouette with a 50s style darted bustline, arched bottom edge, and a comfortably modest waist for a long night of dancing, cocktails, and mac 'n cheese dinner.
Once the pattern was finalized, I constructed the final corset in a single layer of grey spot broché coutil. Function decides technique, and so I focused on streamlining both the interior and the exterior.
A smoother inside makes for a more comfortable wear, and of course the outside needed to be a blank canvas for embellishment. I opted to leave my waist tape on the outside, but the busk closure I stitched inside out to create a solid-looking front.
On to the UK!
While I was working on the base of my corset, the other corsetieres were secretly discussing their plan of attack.
Not fully trusting the postal service, I hand delivered the mostly-finished corset to English contingent while there for last year's Oxford Conference of Corsetry. I even picked up a couple of trims from our swap table that I thought could be useful, and they went into the bag that Laurie Tavan had started for the project. Actually, I think one of the laces that got used was one that Karolina had rejected and given directly to me! Into the bag it went.
This is where the real fun starts. Jenni Hampshire of Birmingham-based Sparklewren was the first to actually begin work on embellishing the corset. She laid the foundation that the others built on.
Soft chiffon petals envelope the bust with a scattering of pearlescent beads, while a multi-layered lace appliqué meanders down the ribs onto the hips. The gold and faux pearl trim I picked up at OCOC makes a prominent appearance as well.
Jenni worked only on one side of the corset, handing it off to Karolina Laskowska to mirror and build on. In London, Karolina matched Jenni's bust ruffles but tried a new exploration with the lace and gold trim. Naturally, being Karolina, "More lace!" was the answer… as well as some amazing Victorian era rhinestones!
Then, it was on to Portsmouth! Neon Duchess' contribution was immediately apparent to me when I first saw the corset. Hannah Light of Neon Duchess added oversized pearlescent bauble beads, continuing the shape of the chiffon petals. With this addition, the bust detail is transformed into a heart motif. At this phase, the corset also begins to really take on its intended tone of luxurious encrustation.
Back to America!
After its tour of the UK, the corset had to come back to California. Hannah sent the corset to my sister, who lives in England but was, of course, coming to the wedding. On her drive back to my mom's house, my family stopped by San Jose to leave the corset with Laurie Tavan.
Laurie not only added the finishing touches to the embellishment, she was responsible for the "finishing" of the garment itself – the final construction details. Laurie filled in some spots that were a touch more bare, like the back panel, the back hip, and the top edge. Along with the gigantic rhinestones, she also added one of my favorite little touches: a small, gold, filigree heart, at the bottom of the large pearls-and-petals heart.
My parents picked up the corset from Laurie on their way to the wedding. I actually managed to make it to my wedding day without seeing the corset!
As we were beginning the process, I said I hoped to be out of the loop and totally surprised by the final result. The other designers asked me, "What if it turns out ugly?" Their concern was touching, but I had complete faith in them – faith that was, of course, totally justified by the final result!
A Surprise on the Wedding Day
Finally, as I was changing from my ceremony to reception outfit, I saw it. Though I (tragically!) forgot to bring the videographer with me for a reality-TV style first impression, our photographer got a pretty good shot. I was ecstatic! Naturally, I immediately had to take a selfie (256 likes!). I think this corset (which my maid of honor now calls '"The" Corset') nearly stole the show at the wedding reception!
What do you think of this singular collaboration? Who would you want to design a corset for your wedding or another rare occasion?