Rachel Walker, UK
I was inspired by an exhibition about the design work for the Paris Exposition of 1900, and particularly the introduction of Art Nouveau. The most striking architectural examples of this that I have seen are some of the Paris Metro station entrances which have been preserved in the original style. A particularly good example of this is at Palais Royal, so I chose to name my piece after that.
The use of green external boning channels in contrast to the body of the corset evokes the classic green metalwork railings on the stations. I enhanced this effect further with the swirling Art Nouveau lines on the front, using couching to apply them. I also wanted to develop my metalwork skills, so I extended the front bones up into swirls of metal ending in red ball bearings, suggesting the red lights on the top of the metro entrances.
I used a corset shape from 1890 that I extended up to create an overbust corset that could be worn without a chemise underneath in order to show the metalwork off to its full impact. The slim waisted, long shape from this time was very attractive and suited external boning channels. I was attracted to the idea of applying an Art Nouveau style of decoration to a slightly earlier era’s silhouette.
I drafted the pattern based on one in Mandy Barrington’s ‘Stays and Corsets’ and altered the top line to make the corset fit over the top of the bust. I fitted the toile and altered some of the seams slightly for better fit and appearance.
I constructed the corset from an outer layer of sateen coutil and an inner layer of herringbone coutil and then applied the boning channels, sewing them through both layers. The channels and binding are made from a thick satin reinforced with cotton for strength and a smooth look without too much bulk.
I used a steel split busk and copper coated nickel eyelets at the centre back. I would have liked to have used a busk in keeping with the colour of the other metalwork in the piece, but unfortunately couldn’t source one. I used mainly spring steel boning for flexibility in the body, and flat steel boning either side of the eyelets to make the eyelets more stable.
I attached the curved metal pieces by flattening the ends, and enclosing them with the end of the boning in a piece of sheet steel wrapped around both. I then brazed the join between the sheet steel and the copper to form a more secure connection. I also brazed the ball bearings to the end of the metal swirls then painted them with PlastiKote.
Once the bones were inserted I embroidered the front using couching, and hand stitched in the lining to neaten the inside.
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
I found entering the competition very rewarding. It gave me a chance to push myself to develop my skills further and to experiment with other materials and forms that I would not normally use. As a costume maker I normally have designs given to me, so it was great to be able to be creative in designing my entry.