La Trava Valencia
Model: Lesia Michelle
Photography: Torre Neal of WeNeals Photography
My bones were made for this competition. I am a self-taught hobby corsetier and seamster, but I have seven years of architecture school under my belt and more in design and practice. I have a love for organic, yet intentional shapes, so it was an easy choice to draw my inspiration from Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. His designs for the Lisbon Oriente Station, the World Trade Center Depot (Oculus), and the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia directly influenced the engineering and grace of my corset design. The columns, the way lines flow into each other, and the way his architecture seems to leap away from the ground and curve back in are invigorating and inspirational. The name, “La Trava Valencia”, refers to both the home of Calatrava, and the binding nature (roughly shackles, in Catalan) of the corset.
The first thing I knew, after deciding on my architecture inspiration, was that the corset had to be white, and had to be mesh so that the bone casing and appliqué lines were truly the structure and everything else was secondary. I had my friend Lesia model for me -- her very dark complexion, bald head, and impeccable posing ability were the ideal canvas for this project and she NAILED IT. I chose to shoot downtown Denver as the backdrop for this bit of architecture-meets-fashion, using the Colorado Convention center as the backdrop. My photog friend Torre has a keen eye and captured my piece with perfect composition.
The first corset pattern I ever drafted (Batman Returns Catwoman) had the exact form I wanted. Unfortunately, that pattern has vanished, so I purchased one very similar from Ralph Pink (cheat victory!). I modified the pattern to fit my model and altered the top to peak over the cup.
Bobbinet and exterior bone casing were foreign techniques, so after asking key questions of some talented friends, as well as joining FR and reading up, I felt ready to go, but still nervous. The bone casing covers edges are satin bias. The boning itself is a combination of 1/2" steel, 1/4" flattened spiral, and 1/4" plastic, depending on the location. Everything is top-stitched using my vintage 1970s machine, as my nicer one has been in the shop for the entirety of this project! White 00 grommets and double satin ribbon close openings.
My husband modeled the columns for the hip fins for me based on a sketch I made. We then 3D printed them in ABS, and I used an acetone vapor bath to smooth and shine. I drilled holes in each of the legs, and they’re attached to the hips with screws and washers going through the mesh as needed. The top rail is white steel boning I punched holes into, and screwed on. The screws were painted in white enamel to look like structural rivets.
I had to work slow and methodically, and engineer things in the right order, to make this all come together right!
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
Holy crap. Do it. Deadlines are scary. But stay scared and do it anyway.