Up Close: Gothic Princess Corset

Gothic Princess corset by Karolina Laskowska. Modeled by Lowana, photo by Karolina Laskowska
Gothic Princess corset by Karolina Laskowska. Modeled by Lowana of Vanyanis, photo by Karolina Laskowska

Say hello to the ‘Gothic Priness’! This name started out as a bit of a joke but quite frankly I am terrible at naming things so it may have to stick… This corset was one of the many creations that I frantically stitched in the run up to the Oxford Conference of Corsetry 2015. Originally I’d intended it to be my showpiece (and in fact this is the only corset that I explicitly planned and sketched out), but somewhere along the way I fell very out of love with it and discovered the joys of cotton bobbinet…

Fortunately, I’ve now fallen back in love with it: out of all of my recent corsets, it feels the least like ‘me’ in terms of design aesethetic but it definitely feels the most accomplished as a garment. It’s also the only piece that I toiled the pattern for (my lack of toiles is something that occasionally annoys fellow corsetieres… Suffice to say if I’m making pieces just for fun I dive in head first!).

Gothic Princess corset by Karolina Laskowska. Modelled by Lowana, photography by Jenni Hampshire/Sparklewren
Gothic Princess corset by Karolina Laskowska. Modelled by Lowana of Vanyanis, photography by Jenni Hampshire/Sparklewren

So now to start on the technical corset information… For those of you who’d rather just look at pretty pictures, now may be the time to skip ahead! This corset has a fairly lightweight but strong construction, using small weave herringbone coutil in a single layer with 5mm spiral steels encased in flat felled seams. Plastic boning is used in the shoulders of the piece in twill casings and the front closure is a heavy weight spoon busk. I have a great fondness of spoon busks: they are evil bastards to try and sew in, but I adore the fit and the graceful abdominal curve.

Gothic Princess corset by Karolina Laskowska
Gothic Princess corset by Karolina Laskowska

The construction of this corset was probably the most time consuming out of all the pieces I created in July/August – I believe that I spent approximately 2.5 full working days on it (and if you know the speed at which I normally work, you’ll know that’s an exceptionally long time for me). But the basic construction was an incredibly minor part of the entire workload for this corset… I didn’t bother timing the number of hours or days that went into the embellishment, but it was a lot. There’s so many tiny tasks that you just don’t factor in when  you plot out this sort of garment: the hours spent trimming off tulle from lace appliqué, how long it takes to hairdryer your water-submerged corset because you’re too impatient to line dry it, how long hand stitching binding takes when you’ve run out of sharp needles and don’t want to wait for a new delivery… You may have noticed an impatience theme here.  I estimate that there’s easily around 70 hours of work in this corset, if not more.

Gothic Princess corset by Karolina Laskowska
Gothic Princess corset by Karolina Laskowska

I started with a base of grey small-weave herringbone coutil. It’s a delicious shade of grey and gorgeous to sew but I didn’t feel particularly enamored with it once it was fully stitched up. So of course, I did the sensible thing of drowning the corset in the sink and painting it with watercolours in shades of deep blue, turquoise and hints of purple… Admittedly, most of this is now covered up by embellishment but up close it’s pretty delicious (and I may have upped the saturation a little on the detail photos to help bring it out!).

Gothic Princess corset by Karolina Laskowska
Gothic Princess corset by Karolina Laskowska

The first layer of embellishment began with the beautiful black lace on a subtle pale pink tulle. This piece of lace had been gifted to me a couple of years ago by the wonderful Luthien at Waisted Creations; I’d originally intended to use this lace on the hem of a silk tulle skirt but had the sense to unpick them for this valiant cause. The corset was then placed on a mannequin, whilst I pinned and panicked over the best possible use for this delicious trim, before I arrived on this particular placement… Draping down the shoulders with motifs pieced together at the centre front of the corset.

Gothic Princess corset details by Karolina Laskowska
Gothic Princess corset details by Karolina Laskowska

The next element was the silk tulle: initially this was to be draped in a bit more of a ‘bustle’ style, but Lowana from Vanyanis convinced me that shredded was the best way forward! This was initially pinned and tacked in place, whilst I pinned in place a delicious silver thread/black tulle lace (a gift from Clare at Magpie & Fox!). This was hand stitched in place, with each tiny stitch further securing the tulle to the corset. This was followed by an additional layer of gold thread vintage lace, sprinkled sparingly… It’s a much more delicate design and I also wanted to slightly upset the purists that claim you shouldn’t mix metallics. I deliberately didn’t secure the lace on every side: I wanted it to be draped and organic over the tulle. The shoulder motifs and centre of the corset are deliberately as symmetric as possible: I wanted the hips to have a bit more chaos to them.

Gothic Princess corset details by Karolina Laskowska
Gothic Princess corset details by Karolina Laskowska

I then began beading, with only a few minutes passing before I’d broken 4 needles and was cursing my design ideas… I’d started with tiny labradorite shards. These shards of crystals look pretty dull and grey from certain angles but if you catch them in the right light, they flash the most delicious bright blue. Unfortunately this isn’t something I was able to catch on camera! Following this, there were lashings of Czech glass spikes in various iridescent and metallic finishes and large jet Swarovski crystals.

Gothic Princess corset details by Karolina Laskowska
Gothic Princess corset details by Karolina Laskowska

Finally, there came the flat back Swarovski crystals. I’d been unsure whether the corset even needed these: there can after all be such a thing as too much bling. Once I’d finished stitching all the beading I was at the stage of being distinctly out of love with the corset. Fortunately, I was having a stitching marathon with Lowana when she once again came to the rescue… Of course, she persuaded me that the corset needed more bling. Which it clearly did: because how gorgeous are those little flashes of jet, black diamond, tanzanite and opal?

Gothic Princess corset details by Karolina Laskowska
Gothic Princess corset details by Karolina Laskowska

What really made me fall back in love with this corset though was actually seeing it on a human body. Mannequins can be lovely for display but the fit and proportions are so distorted. Seeing this on a person, with the lovely smooth flowing lines I’d originally planned… That definitely brought a smile to my face. And made me start appreciating this piece properly and not consider those hours wasted. Even though this piece wasn’t made to fit Lowana (especially in the bust!), I still utterly adore how it looks on her. I’m just a little sad now that this piece is too big for me to wear! Clearly, it would be just perfect for doing the weekly food shop…

A huge thank you to Lowana for modelling and to Jenni for the beautiful location and gorgeous photos ❤

Gothic Princess corset details by Karolina Laskowska
Gothic Princess corset details by Karolina Laskowska

What do you think of the Gothic Princess corset? Do you have any better name suggestions? Have you ever had a similar experience of falling in and out of love with a garment?

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4 thoughts on “Up Close: Gothic Princess Corset

  1. The weekly food shop comment killed me! 😂

    I love seeing behind the scenes and the details and process of a masterpiece such as this! It’s absolutely stunning and l love the effect you’ve achieved with a combination of paints, metallics and bling. So much work has gone into this piece and it was absolutely worth it.

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