Coming from a self taught back ground, design work is something I’ve always felt a little intimidated to try. I haven’t got an education in fashion design, or a concept of the “rules” to fall back on. Although I am an avid follower of the work of the couture houses that by no means qualifies me to “have a bash” at it myself… or at least so I’d told myself for quite some time.
I work mostly on commission, where design work is essentially done collaboratively. My clients come to me with design ideas and I bring them to life. Whilst some ideas are very solid and exact, some are a little more fluid, but in each case I am always working to my clients specifications. I like this, I am comfortable with this, and I love nothing more than bringing someone’s idea’s to life… but this does mean that very rarely do I get the chance to show something that is entirely my own idea. On the few occasions when I do its normally to make something for myself, limited to my own figure, the event I am attending, in a limited time frame and with a very limited budget.
At the beginning of 2016 I decided to take a leap. I was desperate to show how amazing corsetry can be when incorporated into a modern and original bridal gown. I wanted to show exactly what a modern corset was capable of. Both versatile and beautiful, not dated, not bland and not restricted to being an undergarment.
Initially I wanted to create a seasonal bridal collection – spring, summer, autumn and winter – and I was going to do it in one go. However life got in the way a little bit. With two bridal commissions, and a prom dress all lined up for the first six months of the year (not to mention, husband and a toddler), I downsized to just one gown. My spring bride, and the concept that had been stuck in my head the longest.
This design actually started life as an alternative design for my own wedding dress, but then was pushed to the back of my head for a few years when I decided to stick with my original (more Edwardian inspired) idea. It was also going to be embellished with lace rather than flowers, but I swiftly changed my mind. I wanted to create something a bit different, and it seems every other wedding dress is covered in lace (not that there is anything wrong with that you understand!)
Floral, ethereal, feminine yet dramatic – that’s what I was hoping to achieve. But I also wanted it to be practical and versatile. I am a great believer in two piece wedding ensembles. If you are going to spend a significant amount of money on something, why wear it only once? The skirt might not be so practical to wear out of an evening (but hey, why not if it takes your fancy), but I wanted the corset to stand on its own, in a boudoir setting or worn out – dressed up smart with a pencil skirt or even teamed with jeans and blazer (cocktail anyone?)!
First thing I did? I booked in Alyvia V Free to model and Sarah Ann Wright as my photographer. Two fantastic people who’s work I had admired for such a long time. As a relatively unknown corsetiere I was very nervous about contacting “Professionals” (stupid really as technically I’m a professional too!). Liv’s stature and dark flowing hair felt elfin like to me, but in a strong and powerful kind of way. I just knew she’d give a depth and emphasis to the ethereal gown I was trying to bring to life. Sarah’s photography is just stunning, and really manages to draw nature into her work with such skill. I’m always taking inspiration from the organic so this quality to her work was really important to me. As you can imagine I was beyond thrilled when both said they’d love to be a part of the shoot.
Next on my list was fabric. You’ve got to get that right, and I cannot tell you how much time I spent trawling the internet for inspiration to no avail. I found plenty of fabric that would have been perfect, but embroidered silk dupion at £85 a meter, and no one is paying me for this… no – I couldn’t stretch to that. So armed with a trusty (and very patient) friend, off I went to Goldhawk Road in search of inspiration… and I found it in this gorgeous digital floral print fabric that was, *hurrah*, budget friendly, and so the design spiralled from there. I found a silk dupion to compliment, swarovski crystals and freshwater pearls to embellish, and I was off into my dream land of lilac florals and sparkly things.
This was my first attempt at this type of appliqué, onto a corset, and I essentially took a decoupage approach to the placement. Reinforcing this very liquid fabric with a fusible interfacing then hand cutting out each flower and positioning onto the corset whilst laced onto the stand. I wanted to create depth, and a real organic feel, drawing inspiration from the work of Monet. Adding the chiffon layer softens the harsh structure of the corset but also adds to this Monet feel and gives even further depth. I added some of the crystals and pearls under the chiffon layer to really highlight that, and then more flowers on top along with more crystals and pearls. Yes – that was a lot of hand stitching.
Corset finished and it was onto the skirt. I adore using historical patterns for skirts. I mean who knows better about voluminous skirts than the Victorians right? I used the Truly Victorian 1865 Elliptical Skirt pattern,which has gorgeous folds over the hips and gathering at the back to give you a bit of ‘booty’ volume and a small train. To give it a more modern vibe, I opted to no use hoops to give the skirt volume – but instead created a petticoat, layered in tulle and with horsehair braid (or crin) around the hem. This created the luxurious feel I wanted and the volume without it looking like forced or like a costume. With the silk chiffon layered over the floral fabric it continued with the theme on the corset. I wish more than anything I had remembered to take a video of Liv wearing it on the shoot. Standing amongst the bluebells there was a subtle breeze which made the chiffon layer of the skirt ripple like water.
All that remained was ‘The Bow’. I’m not quite sure which part of my brain the inspiration for the bow came from, and I doubted myself about the concept for a while, but I’m so glad I went with it because I think it looked amazing. Something truly different to incorporate a detachable train into the ensemble. I was inspired to bring the floral appliqué down the train after attending a wedding a few years ago, where we threw red rose petals as confetti. They settled beautifully on the brides white train and I just had to recreate this look. It also aided to balance the ensemble, picking out the appliqué on the corset. I spent an age positioning each flower to give the impression they had just fallen there. More pearls, and crystals so more hand-stitching.On shoot day I’d quickly thrown together a pair of tie side knickers to go with the corset for a “boudoir” bridal shoot as well as the full bridal shoot. Liv made a stunning headdress that complimented the gown perfectly. Sarah wrote a lovely little blog post about the shoot itself and you can find that here.
This ensemble is now part of my sample collection and I hope to use it at wedding fairs in the future. The images we got from the shoot are stunning and I’ve had a fantastic response so far. I’m really looking forward to creating my next bridal sample piece… whenever that may be!