Hair : Eysméralda Voyance
MUA : Mélanie Dumas
Photography : Eysméralda Voyance & Renaud D.
On Shoot assistants : Mélanie Dumas & Renaud D.
Video editing : Jul'O
It was an ugly, fat, gray-white grub in the midst of plant debris, a whitish spot in the dark brown of our compost. After several months of tending to our garden, it made me happy to see the larvae of this little helper appear in our domain. A few weeks later, I caught a glimpse of an adult in our vegetable patch, a glowing, iridescent beetle, flying from one flower to another without opening its elytras.
Even limiting myself to what I saw in our yard, choosing just one insect as inspiration was a challenge in itself. Pinterest kept offering me pictures of exciting new bugs that quickly filled a very large board. The golden rose chafer won in the end (for a good part simply because I already had beetle wings laying around and wanted another chance to work with them), but I still paid homage to other beetles with my outfit.
I am an amateur printmaker, and decided to combine my love for illustration and corsetry using hand-carved stamps to draw silhouette of bugs on my corset. I used black typographic ink and made stamps showing just the body, legs and antennae. To build up interesting volume onto the corset’s outer shell, the wings were made of changeable gold and aqua silk organza, sewn on by hand, and the elytras over them were made out of real beetle wings, cut to shape and stitched through.
Thinking about the iridescence and shimmer of the chafer’s shell, I went on to play with light and texture for my outfit. Self-indulgent me insisted on using silk, and I chose a changeable peacock colored taffeta that was close to the green and blue hues of beetle wings. I complemented it with gores of silk charmeuse to highlight the shape of the gores and the back panels.
I love how corsets can feel like an outer protective shell, and designed mine to echo the carapace of a beetle. Some of the altered back panels were quilted with a multicolored metallic thread to mimick the texture of insects’ shells. To further the resemblance between my corset and an actual beetle, I added swaths of black voile with spots of golden ink topped with golden aiglets, three to each side of the corset, encircling my body like three pairs of delicate insect legs.
I completed the outfit with golden velvet that added a colorful contrast and continued the shimmery theme I had worked on. I adapted a skirt pattern I designed some years ago that was, quite fittingly, made of petals like the rose that the chafer is named after.
I set myself two challenges for my entry: making my first Edwardian corset, and using printmaking to embellish it.
The printmaking part went surprisingly smoothly. I did a few trial runs with the fabrics and carving materials I was thinking of using, chose the ones that worked best and went with that. I fused the silk to coutil before printing to avoid applying too much heat to the ink. I feared that might make it melt and cause smudges – but in the end I had no trouble when I pressed and shaped my seams. Still, fusing beforehand made printing on the fabric as easy as printing on paper.
The Edwardian shape was a different beast to tame. With no prior experience, I preferred not to draft my own pattern and started with one taken from an antique, Ref N by Atelier Sylphe. I loved the overlapping front piece and how the second and third panels curved over the hips, like fine insect legs. I made several versions of it to refine my pattern and try my hand at the new techniques involved: lapped seams, single layer construction, gore insertion and top-stitching were new territory to me. I have to thank Joëlle, the owner of Atelier Sylphe, for her extremely useful advice on Edwardian construction – putting in the gores and placing the inner boning channels would have been much more complicated without her!
Sourcing the materials was the most challenging part of the process – there were samples lost in the mail, errors in processing my orders, and I was never able to find the shade and texture I had in mind when I designed the skirt and top. I switched gears to make them flowy rather than poufy, scrapped the intended organza and silk layers of the skirt to match, and replaced the rigid insect legs I had envisioned with soft drapings of black voile to match.
I constructed the corset with silk taffetas and charmeuse fused to a layer of soft coutil. This, too, turned out to be easier than I had feared – the FR live mentoring calls helped cleared a lot of roadblocks beforehand! I did not use Vliesofix for the quilted panels – as per the Mentors' advice in the FR Members' group, for those I sandwiched a layer of cotton flannel between the coutil and the charmeuse.
I struggled with the thread I used for quilting. It was stretchy and kept breaking, but thankfully the small size of the pieces and the free-hand quilting pattern were very forgiving. I used double boning channels and 6x1,5mm synthetic whalebone for all the corset. The original had single wider boning for two channels at the side and side back, but I preferred the look of the double channels and found the double boning gave me a better support. The channels themselves are made of basic sturdy twill tape and hold the curved waist-tape in place. I am pleased to report this is one of my comfiest corsets to date.
After entering last year and seeing the beautiful work of the other participants, I was really motivated to up my game this time. I gave myself more time (although I ended up only starting the final entry three weeks before the deadline, ahem), tried out new techniques and I learnt a LOT along the way.
The Live Calls and the advice from Mentors and fellow Members of the FaceBook group were super helpful to construct my entry. I love how people were sharing their process and inspiration, it made for a wonderful atmosphere of collaboration and emulation and it kept me very motivated to finish the entry and coordinate a more complex photoshoot.