MEET THE CORSETIERES
Country where you’re based: England, UK
I don’t really have any! Tend to avoid photographs of myself whenever possible…
(Sorry Jenni! You’re so incredible that I just had to snuffle around for these lovely photographs of you.)
Any photos/info from previous Oxford Conference of Corsetry?
I attended the first two OCOCs as helper/teacher, which was a joy. There was an extra element of fun the second year too, as I had taken up photography by that point. So I got to enjoy taking some gorgeous photos of fellow helper PopAntique (modelling name, Victoria Dagger). One of my favourites was taken in the chapel… (black and white photo below)
Unsure really. I used to draw gown designs and such as a kid, but didn’t think about it seriously. Then during university I was interested in costume, but didn’t have the confidence or means to pursue it very far. Corsetry, in particular, seemed impossibly hard, some sort of magic.
What was your first memory of corsets?
No idea I’m afraid!
I had a few bustiers as a teenager, but my first “proper” corsets were ones I’d made myself.
What was your first/favourite corset like?
My favourite designs are generally whatever new ones I’m working on at any given time. So at the moment I am utterly in love with our Falling Blossoms style. Following on from the first version (shown below) we are now working on a couple of bespoke versions in different colours and hope to do a few as studio samples too. I want to do them in every colour of the rainbow!
Photo credits: Helen Teiman by Jenni Hampshire, 2015.
Hair and Makeup Sarah Stonehouse-Robinson. Hair vine by Eva Marie Accessories.
When I first began I was all about rich green/gold dupioni silks with decorative details. These days I still love gold and still love high embellishment (though I bit more intense and refined these days, I hope), but I prefer duchess to dupioni.
I actually haven’t worn one in a fair few months now! Though just the other day I was wondering where I’d put my broche underbust… That particular piece never got its binding added, but I wore it a lot. That’s the thing for me, it’s far more motivating and rewarding making things for other people than for myself. And I love making fantasy pieces, not items that I would have much cause to wear since I don’t like being the centre of attention.
I personally prefer both the fit and look of a conical rib with rounded or well sprung hip.
Lots of boning! Usually spiral steel, but sometimes artificial whalebone. But really the nuts and bolts of how they’re made interest me less and less as time goes on. I can make corsets in any number of ways, but what I want to really get good at is making the construction as simple and clean as possible to let the overall design and surface decoration shine. I think I’m almost there now.
I suppose just to have an open mind and be trusting. There are many approaches to corsetry, it’s not about “right and wrong” or “best and worst”. Trust the corsetmakers you work with (they only want to please you, truly) and trust your own judgement if learning to make your own.
A few! Most of whom are friends… and if I start listing them I fear I’ll leave someone out by accident, so I’m afraid I won’t be giving any names. Oh, although I will say Mr Pearl, because that much should be obvious. The McQueen “Dante” corset is my absolute favourite example of contemporary corset design.
Yes, we have one cat. He has a name (Hercule) but we actually mostly call him CatFace or Chris. He’s very affectionate, but otherwise a standard cat. Expects the world to bend to his whim and doesn’t understand why it won’t.
Favourite quotes? Books? Movies?
My favourite quote is currently from a poem, “From Blossoms” by Li-Young Lee. It’s less a quote and more the whole final section…
“There are days we live as if death were nowhere in the background; from joy to joy to joy, from wing to wing, from blossom to blossom to impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.”
Horses! I’m extremely happy to have them back in my life following pretty much a ten year break (a break which I deeply regret). Isn’t it silly when you convince yourself you shouldn’t have the things that make you happy?
Swimming. Being covered in horse poo. Velvet noses. Fresh air. Crunchy gold-thread lace. My friends. My partner. Reading whilst curled up in my boat (I live on a narrowboat these days which is a real treat).
Fabulously eccentric actress, TV host, curvaceous model and founder of Hong Kong ’s first luxury corset brand, Pearls & Arsenic. I love sharing my passion for all things elegant, beautiful & inspiring. My Dearest Beloved and I live with a fluffy Angora rabbit named Lord Pemberly III, who is a ridiculous snob, and his dwarf-lop bunny brother, The Earl of Tillington. Find me on IG @RavenTao or FB : Raven Tao
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