Symington corset pattern 1907-07 experiment

Victorian Black and Blue-8


When, earlier on this year, the scans of Symington corset patterns were released, (by Leicester County council, link to the patterns, etc: Leicestershire symington patterns), a lot of corsetmakers  stormed the site and bought the images they wanted to use as an experiment in pattern-making. Well, I was one of the horde who grabbed an image (or two…) but it was only recently that I had time enough to have a go at one of the patterns.

I chose 2 complex patterns and up till the last moment I couldn’t decide on which one to make first – but  in the end the decision fell on one with a lot of gores. I know, a masochistic choice, but well… I just couldn’t resist it, as the ‘gore within a gore’ concept worked for me on a variety of levels –  historically accurate and yet with styling  that would not look amiss in a modern or steampunk corset.

So ‘Gore Galore Corset’ it was – and it turned out be be even more gore-tastic than I had imagined….


But,  let us start at the beginning.


The moment I measured the printed out pattern, I knew there would be serious issues with the fit – it just wasn’t very curvy! There were just a few inches of difference between the  hip, waist, and bust, and my bod calls for more than just a few. Still, I worked out (read: husband  did the calculations) how much the  pattern has to be enlarged, and blew it up in the local photocopying place.


Then, I took the sheet, components and lunch and drove over to Sew Curvy for our usual Stitch and Bitch session – the corset was to be constructed there –  good company and nice space make it easy for me to focus, and having an accomplished corsetiere on hand to help with the fitting can only help… 🙂

The work could then begin.


tracing the seam lines on the blown up copy



calico on the pattern and could trace the pieces next…


Pieces traced


and pieces cut out….


At that point I was cleverly distracted by Julia who dug out 2 lovely antique corsets and I stopped to drool over  them… A teaser here, no doubt Julia will put more info and pictures of them on the Sew Curvy blog at some point…



Then it was back to work – I wanted to assemble the mock up before lunch…


The pieces assembled….. outside view



and inside, below…





The moment of truth! How does it look on the body..?



Pretty straight – as expected to be  honest.  As the proportions, length etc worked, I just needed an inch more reduction at the waist – and  to add a few inches at the hip and bust to accommodate my curves…


And the easiest way to do that was just to cut inside the gores and use bits of calico to cover the areas that needed more expansion… and a bit more boning in front for support…


IMG_0308   The hip spring already looks much better, (and feels more comfy too)

 Then it was lunch time!


well, we had soup first…..

After lunch I amended the pattern to accommodate the changes – all that needed to be done was to enlarge the inside gores….  and since the incisions were sort of already there, I decided to let them remain split – and just get another gore in…. A gore within a gore within a gore! A bit mad, but it just seemed to work better than simply making the inside gore bigger – and it resulted in a much more interesting look too…..


Corset pieces cut out in black and blue sateen

Alas, it also meant I had 12 gores to sew in…. ouch….


seam allowances pressed and ready for assembly

but with help of coffee I persevered…


the corset will be boned with internal boning – but since back looked a bit boring in comparison with the front, I decided to make a casting for double bones in contrasting fabric there to balance the design

The rest of the evening was spent flossing the gores…..



And next morning saw me with the gores flossed (is it only me, or does that sound a bit weird? ), and I was ready for some boning. (Seriously, take that sentence out of context and it sounds damned indecent! Corsetry nomenclature joys…)



I marked the channels as close to the original as possible, and added a few more to support my boobage a bit better too…) The tape was applied over a waist stay.



and done!


It was time to try it on – if anything needs changing, there is still some scope for reshaping things, if needs be, before the lining comes in and covers all the inside…


verdict – not too bad!


a tiny bit too loose at the back hip, but easy to amend. very comfortable too!

At that stage I  said goodbye to Julia and Sew Curvy studio and drove back home, where I finished the corset the next day – black cotton lining was added and the bones were flossed in black. Then it was binding time and it was done!  If needs be, suspenders can be added at the front center and sides, but that can be done later once I decide whether to use it as an undergarment – or a modern top layer corset…



As it turned out, it was over a month later that we were able to get any decent photos – and  surprise, surprise, my overindulgence in MMA and other martial activities  at the club meant that I lost some inches… The corset still fitted, but was a bit on a loose side. 😦
Even with the corset a tad too big, we got to shoot it and ended up with some interesting images.

First we shot in in the historical style – with black lawn chemise and drawers, with a matching blue ribbon.

Victorian Black and Blue-7

Victorian Black and Blue-11

Victorian Black and Blue-14

Victorian Black and Blue-17


And later on in the evening,  on the way back from the movies, I  changed into leggings, black top and a wig – and we shot it with a cyber punk/comic/ Tron convention  in mind – the results below….


Black and Blue SciFiAngel Underlight Neon


Black and Blue SciFiAngel Neon-2

Black and Blue SciFiAngel Underlight-4

Black and Blue SciFiAngel Underlight-5

Black and Blue SciFiAngel Underlight-9

Black and Blue SciFiAngel Underlight-8


As you can see, it turned out to be a pretty versatile piece –  just a shame it is a tad too big now….   And as it is a bit too big, it has already been sold to a friend  who plans to use it for some steampunk events – so it is bound to lead an interesting life….

But I am not saying goodbye to the pattern per se – indeed I liked the gores so much, I have now purchased black and yellow lacquered leather – it will be made into a Hornet Corset:-)






Corsetted Victorians and others – myths and reality

1851-60 blue ribbed silk corset, Museum of London Prints. Image Number 002188

1851-60 blue ribbed silk corset, Museum of London Prints. Image Number 002188

“Oh my, this must hurt – how do you breathe in this?!” –  Many re-enactors, (and modern corset wearers), will recognize that remark, whether as a comment under a picture or spoken at an event.  I have heard my fill over the last few years, when dressed in Victorian kit, and the discussions that followed were equally interesting and illuminating for both parties.

Recently I have been browsing through Pinterest boards looking for images  of 1895 corsets, and noticed several nice pictures – yet it was not the pictures that captured my attention, rather the comments and descriptions below that were even more arresting…..

Just a few examples:

* ‘They are lovely, but so uncomfortable’ ( on this pin )

* ‘This is a victorian corset which was used to create the perfect hourglasss figure. This is gorgeous but I can’t imagine wearing it. No wonder Victorian women passed out all the time! …They couldn’t breathe ‘ ( on this )

*’Vintage 1910-1918 Fashion Corsets….women used to be laced up so tight in these corsets that they sometimes endured cracked ribs…..can’t imagine! All for the sake of having a tiny waist….’ ( on this pin)

*’how many ribs do you think had to be removed so the ladies could wear this torture device?’ ( on this pin)

*Talk about taking appearance to extremes! In the 18th – 19th century, it was fashionable to either surgically remove smaller rib bones or crush the waistline into an impossibly small size in order to achieve a “waspish” waist. Incredibly dumb!’  ( on this)

There are more, but no doubt you get the idea…

Well,  I have been wearing corsets for work and for going out for the last 7 years – and earlier-period stays for even longer…. I have also been making Victorian, Edwardian and modern corsets for the last 7  years ( I think I’ve made about 200  altogether)  so have managed to learn a bit about the history of corsets and their day-to-day use….

Let us have a look at a few popular myths.


1898 Print Victorian Woman Spring Toilette Fashion Clothing Costume Dress Hat

 ‘Their waists were tiny!’

Some of them, probably yes – there are always people with  smaller waists, especially when tight-lacing,  but by no means was that the norm.

*Extant corsets have  waist measurements from roughly 18″ to 30″ or more – and considering that they were not meant to be worn closed but with 2″ gap, and allowing 2-4″ tissue displacement (the so-called “squish” factor), the original waist circumference could be anything from 22″ to 40″ or more. Jennifer  from Historical Sewing explains it very well in her own blog.

*optical illusion factor – crinolines, bustles, hip pads, bug sleeves, sloping shoulders and V-shaped blouse cut and decoration – with these, it was easier to emphasize the waist, which looked smaller when contrasted with hide hips and/or shoulders.

*extant clothing and corsets are usually small –  this is true, but again, there may be several explanations for the fact that it is the smaller items that have survived to the present day:

primo –  people did tend to be just a tad shorter than nowadays – so different proportions…

secundo – and that is just my theory – it seems to me that a lot of surviving clothes belonged to teenagers and very your ladies. I have owned, handled and seen a great deal of the clothing  with labels pronouncing that they belonged to ‘Miss Smith’ or ‘Miss Brown’ – so at that time mostly unmarried, young women  (of course there were exceptions). Since they were only worn for a limited time, once young miss outgrew them, (or got married and had babies etc), they were stored ready to be handed down as necessary to the next generation. Clothes that were worn by grown-ups don’t seem to survive that well – mostly because they were worn much more thoroughly, but also because they were remodeled, restyled, etc, so that the original gown could be used for many years.
This is  just a theory, discussed with a few fellow costumiers, but there might be a little truth to it too – I would be interested in other people’s opinions!

*photoshop. No, really –  at least the Victorian/Edwardian version of it.  Most of the fashion plates from that era are drawings. It is easy to draw a tiny waist…. The reality however is a bit different.  A quick search on Pinterest of Google images will show just as much – or better still, a book I happen to have here – Victorian Costume for Ladies 1860-1900, with over 350 original photographs. Yes, there were  a few tiny waists in evidence (  and let us bear in mind that early attempts at editing was already done – by taking the photograph, concealing unwanted bits and taking the photograph of the  retouched original – an excellent blog post on Victorian/edwardian photo shopping by Cynthia from Redthreaded   here), but looking at the photographs  from the era you will find that the majority of ladies are far from willowy. They look natural, with comfortable sizes of 10-18 or more….. the book is amazing, and recommended! Below a few snaps from the book:

IMG_20141219_180838 IMG_20141219_181011 IMG_20141219_180635 IMG_20141219_180756

Also, interestingly enough, have a look at  the  Victorian burlesque dancers –  the lovely ladies are definitely  much more substantial than our “size 0” models…..

burlesque fairies

The chorus of fairies in the burlesque Ariel, Gaiety Theatre, London, 8 October 1883

The fact is also  backed up by the original patterns – they encompass a variety of sizes. I use  Francis Grimble’s books a lot, and if you have a look and do some maths, you will see that many garments  are not that small waisted at all. Plus the names are rather endearing – ‘ a jacket for a stout lady’, or ‘a bodice for a medium size  lady’, ‘a bodice for well-developed ladies’, ‘bodice with narrow shoulders and back’ – etc. A superb resource!

All together I think we can safely agree that  the incredibly small waist myth is just that – a bit of a myth….

 Corsets are so uncomfortable! 

This is very true, as most of the ladies who ever bought a modern generic size cheap corset can say….  Ill fitted corsets can be a torture – I have had the dubious ‘pleasure’ of trying on a few of the corsets-UK modern items,  and though no doubt there are women who will find the fit comfortable,  for me it was a very painful experience – and not because of the waist measurements.  It is usually  the hip and rib part that is too small – not enough hip spring can be very uncomfortable! As a result, I ended up in a ‘corset tube’, which did not reduce my waist, but rather pinched my hips and ribs…

However a well-fitted corset can be a real blessing.  I am a comfortable size 12, with 34F bust, and I find Victorian and Edwardian corsets a pleasure to wear.  My natural waist is 34″ and I usually lace to 27-28″  if I know I am wearing the corset for a whole day. They support my bust from underneath – so my shoulders don’t ache from carrying the burden.  They help me maintain my posture – this is a godsend  especially for markets and events when I have to be standing for long periods – for example, the last 2 weekends I spent working with the public, standing for 6 hours with a short lunch break. Normally my lower back would be screaming – but in corset I could feel the comfort of the ‘exoskeleton’, keeping me upright and supporting my back…

Also, in the last few months I have been suffering from costocondritis – a painful condition of the ribs ( connective tissue), that made wearing a modern bra impossible – the band sits just on the painful parts.   But a corset, laced just enough to support the bust from underneath was a real blessing – as a result I ended up wearing mine for a few weeks daily, just in order to work – and only swapped for a soft bralette once the acute stage subsided.

Corsets and Tunics Dec 16 (58)

this is my favourite corset from the days when my ribs ache a lot – a replica of corded 1850s one.


47. at Holkham (4)

at work…. 🙂


early edwardian corset 27″ waist

Why the difference between the modern and traditional corsets? Apart from the fit issues, the style is also important – modern corsets are usually overbust, designed to be worn on their own.  Historical pieces are usually mid-bust –  and a well fitted  corset squeezes the waist, but accommodates the rib-cage and supports the bust without compressing one’s lungs (so normal breathing is not impaired). Mid bust corsets are more comfortable to wear as they do not ‘ride up’ like many modern overbust corsets when sitting. 🙂

Some Victorian corset feature a spoon busk –  which is  gently rounded, accommodating the belly ( the famous fashionable rounded belly of the time!), so the internal organs were  comfy, but the support and fashion was achieved at the same time,

I have recently made a replica of a 1880 one – and it is one of the most comfortable corsets i have ever owned.


Victorian Dressmaker (85)


Of course, the materials used for quality corsets which can be used everyday are very different to the plastic-boned viscose jacquards available in mass produced versions….

Let’s remember that corsets were worn every day, all day and women were not sitting idly looking pretty.  They walked, danced, worked, rode, played sports – all in corsets. True, sport corsets were shorter (especially important for riding), but still, they were all practical garments… In fact we now have a group showing people doing a variety of activities in corsets ( Corsets in Action)

In my Victorian corset I have danced  ( video here), skated

47.trying on the ice rink - fail....

and ridden side saddle.. in a mock up  first –

7. side view of the mock up - back just a bit too high

8. mock up in action - sides half an inch too high, and digging into armipts when riding - mark the arms position

and in a proper habit


It is also a myth that you cannot bend in a corset as it is impossible to bend from the waist. Well,  try bending from the waist without one –  you won’t go far…. Humans are designed to bend from the hips!!

A brief demo – my apologies for the style of the pictures but grabbed my corset as I was writing this article and took some pictures to show  that it is possible to bend…


corset worn on modern clothes, laced to 27.5 waist – the size of my Victorian clothing


side view


starting to bend from the hips



touching the floor. not the most comfortable position , and usually can go further, but sort of makes a point. warning, dont try at home if you are not naturally bendy! 🙂 If you need to pick something up, crouch down instead of bending – healthier and easier….

Voila!  🙂

And so, in my opinion if the corset is well fitted, laced properly (not too tightly), it can be very comfortable. This  refers to both modern and historical wear – well-made corsets will support your back and bust and won’t crush your ribs.
True, if you are wearing a corset just for a photo-shoot, it is OK to lace tightly- I can get to 24″) for fashion corsets, but then I don’t spend a day wearing them…


natural waist 33″


corseted waist 24″. Here a lovely underbust by Clessidra Couture



 No wonder women fainted all the time! 

Here there is some truth to it – but this mostly refers to the lightheaded feeling you can get if you take off your corset too fast, after wearing it for a long time… As the blood rushes down more abruptly, it is indeed possible to swoon…. so gradual lacing  and unlacing is recommended.

It may also have happened if your fashionable women laced too tightly….. more for a fashion’s sake than practical.

Women had ribs surgically removed!

With surgery as dangerous as it was in Victorian times?  with no antibiotics to battle the infection? Really very, very doubtful…. plus, again, neither medical or the photographic evidence doesn’t really  support it…

Corsets deformed silhouette and caused medical problems

This can be very true if laced excessively, I dare say. Yes, your body will change if you are a trained tightlacer, and wear a corset from early on. We are all familiar with the drawings showing how the organs move and ribs deform and there may be some truth in it. At the same time many of us have seen modern MRI imagery of a corset being worn – and as it turns out it is not as bad as we thought, with the organs being moved in exactly the same way pregnancy would affect them – here the results of the experiment as presented by Lucy Corsetry


Also, corsets did not cause pneumonia, colds, consumption etc. You need viruses, bacteria or fungi to cause the infection in the first place. As for the argument that you breathe differently with a corset on – If you do, then the corset doesn’t fit you properly. Opera singers wore them on stage, singing their hearts out…. 🙂

I do however think that if you wore a corset day in and day out, unless you stayed active, you were in serious danger of suffering from muscle atrophy. Corset supports you very well ( many people with back problems find them  great for pain relief!), but it does all the work your lumbar and core muscles usually do. So unless you are an active person and keep in shape, using the muscles,  prolonged  use of corset will weaken the muscles. Also, an interesting point, discussed with a medical friend as a possibility – many more women than today suffered from prolapsed uterus  – usually after the birth. The reason may be just that – long use of corset, weak muscles, especially in the late stages of pregnancy –  and bad things may have happened. Again, just a theory here.

Still,  usually women did stay more active than we nowadays believe –  and so managed to keep at least some reasonable strength in their core muscles ( horseriding was great for that !).

Well, I think I’d better stop – if you have any other remarks or comments, please do so, very interested in others’ opinions and experiences!

Further reading

Our youtube video, showing Victorian activities in corsets – here


A great article with more references by Johanna  Goldberg : Did corsets harm women
Lovely article by Historical Sewing – here

…and a comprehensive read on the myths are covered here and a few more – by  Yesterday’s Thimble – here

…also, an interesting article by the  Pragmatic Costumer – here

Hope you can find the article useful – best wishes from Izabela of Prior Attire!

Suiting up – WWI style


 Well, I must say that once we hit the Teens, I start to get bored with the clothes.  But, being in  business means that sometimes you have to stretch beyond your comfort zone – and this suit was just such an exercise….  I am not a tailor – and not particularly eager to become one, so I usually leave the tailoring bits  to those who are trained accordingly. On this occasion, however, since it was a friend who asked, I relented and tried my  hand at a tailored suit  1910-14 style.

 Eleanor knew my attitude to suits so  to make it easier we agreed on a commercial pattern to be used, and we got absolutely stunning check wool and soft linen for lining. The undergarments were made,  measurements taken – it was time to unpack the pattern ( Reconstructing History, 1052) and get down to it – make a mock up.

 And that’s when it started….

 The pattern….. though I usually make my own patterns, I have used commercial patterns before – and  as with everything in life, some are better and some are worse; most require some fiddling with the mock up – there are no miracles after all and nobody is the ideal size.

 Well, this one required the most fiddling I have ever experienced….

 The skirt:   Pattern was simple – but the pieces were marked in a weird way – some upside down….

  1. Image

    if you look carefully, you will see the waist darts at the right side. but the description is reversed on one piece

Not a major thing, though confusing. However, here  the size was the issue. We cut out the required size – only to realize that for some reason it was almost 10 inches too big at the waist… So it needed re-cutting and darts needed re-positioning. again, not a big deal, but a nuisance.


fitting the skirt…. not at least the size is right, fiddling with the darts and hem here


the back

 The jacket.

 Well,   mock up was cut out ( 1 fronts 2 side fronts and 2 backs), and put together – and it became apparent straight away that there are several issues:

* front – the front, princess seam needed re- positioning over the bust curve…


the seam is the original, as pattern shows – had to be moved by 2 inches, making the piece bigger

* the back –  the back was simply cut in 2 big pieces – and they hanged loosely, not fitting at all looking at the picture on the pattern, you sort of see the side back seam, splitting the back piece into two –  alas, the pattern piece did not acknowledge the fact, merging the 2 pieces together….


mark the position of the front seam – and the drawing of the back. the side back seam is not reflected in the pattern – you can add it to the piece as on the drawing, or continue the line from the front, as I did

so a back piece had to be split, and since the front piece had a seam, we decided to continue the seam over the shoulder, splitting the back into two, and providing a better fit over the back and size… the correction is marked on the pattern now.


new seam marked on the pattern

 Once we seam was in place, the whole thing looked much, much better – here on the stand, interlined wool turned outsize, ready for another fitting



and on Eleanor…




back looking much better. mark the asymmetric shoulders – a bit tricky!

 Sleeves were next –  the ones cut according to the pattern were HUGE! looked like elephant’s legs:_)





The second fitting sorted the little kinks out – and I was able to proceed with finishing the thing, lining with linen, adding velvet cuffs and collar, and velvet covered buttons.

The hat was next – and here huge was the target size:-) we had black-watch silk tartan, ostrich feathers, peacock feathers and velvet to decorate it…


 The base is made in buckram, wired, covered in calico and then covered with silk, with edges bound in the silk bias binding,


ready! the bird was optional, in the end we decided to go without it….

Altogether, as far as the pattern was concerned – it is not a beginners thing. If you are  familiar with working with toiles,  you will work your suit out of it, but be prepared for quite a lot of fiddling.

To me it seemed that some of the issues we experienced  were due to a few factor – the size – I suppose a size 10 small chested lass may have the princess seams spot on – but on a curvier sizes it simply didn’t work. Also, i suspect the pattern may have been drawn on a dummy  or a model who was not wearing period correct underwear – and we are still in corsets at that time! Admittedly, long line corsets, mid or underbust too, with bust improvers or not – but the position of the bust is changed nevertheless.

In conclusion – workable pattern, but in the future will another draft my own or experiment with another one. It may work for a more experienced tailor – maybe the issues we had wee also due to the fact that I am no such! 🙂

Still, very pleased with how it turned out in the end –   we did a small shoot in the park on a beautiful spring day and Eleanor looked resplendent in the suit:-) Her layers are – chemise, corset,  princess petticoat, blouse, suit, vintage furs, vintage bag and jewellery. shoes by American Duchess 




jacket off….




The inspiration for the finishing touches and hats –  taken from out pinterest board!

The black dress I am wearing – well,  that is another post altogether! Soon!

photos by Pitcheresque Imagery

Quirky outfit for Christmas


Christmas 2013 was supposed to be a bit different.  Well, at least stress free.  So a decision has been made,  we are not doing it.  No tree, presents, food etc, no last minute decisions who is doing what and where and when, no last minute family travelling plans. instead, we made plans to go to London. Not far, we can get a nice hotel for our airmiles, just pure relaxation.

 Until I realized I have nothing to wear….

 Yep, alas, as far as modern clothing is concerned, my wardrobe is rather limited. I buy sports clothing and  occasionally casual clothing, but  apart from a few old dresses ( I don’t think I bought a dress, top or trousers in the last 2 years…), there was nothing suitable to parade about in the posh London hotel.  True, I can take a few Victorian/Steampunk bits, they would work, but since it was Christmas, I wanted to have something special.

 So a project was born – and after a short rummage in the garage I emerged with a few lengths of nice corduroy fabric and a vague idea of what can be made out of it.

 The most important bits to have in mind were – Original, quirky – but wearable, comfortable and suitable for sightseeing in winter.

 Then a ripple jacket pattern caught my eye – and that was really it.  A smart 1895 bodice, can be paired with a skirt – and would look smart, quirky but not too weird.

 December temperatures in London were a bit of a problem – but seeing i have enough fabric, i decided to make the jacket reversible. it worked, sort of, though a major pain, as the jacket still has seams boned, so making it was a bit tricky.

 Skirt was easy – 4 panels, and a waistband, plus a contrasting binding.

 And since i still had some fabric left, and had a few hours left before we were due to leave,  I decided  to make a pair of breeches – just in case it would be either too cold or we wanted to do something more energetic.

 Monday 23, we were packed, with half finished gear –  buttons to sew on etc. I also managed to cram an old hat into the suitcase, plus some fabric straps – may just be able to make a matching headgear!


How long are we staying in London? Are you sure it is only 3 nights?

 The hotel was indeed a tad posh (Crowne Plaza near St.James’ park  ), but our weird clothes met with applause – the first day, after a nice sauna we set off to a Mexican restaurant, braving the gale force winds and rain – wrapped rather nicely in long Victorian skirt and coat, Lucas sporting his  Regency Great coat 🙂


Suave…. 🙂


getting ready 🙂

Next day saw us walking around and looking for quirky bits at Camden town. In the evening, after  a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at Zizzi and a stroll over to the Westminster, it was time to finish my outfit.


Big Ben! 🙂

Buttons were sewn on and it was time to work on the hat.The base was this: a modern I wore for a friend’s wedding:


 a few hours work with leftover fabric, feathers etc, I ended up with this:


I was ready.

  On Christmas day we had a brief photo session with the new attire – the hotel’s lounge and courtyard was ideal!


the jacket and skirt….


the jacket on ‘the dark side’

Imageand with the breeches


perfect for taming elephants,,,,

  and after the session off we went –  on our bikes! the Barclay bike scheme means you can get public bikes for pennies and cycle around London – so we spent Christmas days enjoying a leisurely ride through the Royal Parks – Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, then after a short walk ( just for a change) back on bikes again, heading towards Chinatown for our Christmas meal –  crispy duck and noodles:-)



the Serpentine

  Funny thing, it was not the jacket or the  trews that attracted the most attention – it was the hat! very amusing.

 A very nice break – though badly marred by the Boxing day ‘adventure’ – we got to the train station to discover that when we were sold return tickets nobody bothered to tell us the trains actually don’t run on that day….  so getting back to Bedford was a bit complicated – and costly. well, you cannot have everything!

 Rather pleased with the  result of the costuming experiment too; the jacket was warm and cozy ( though turned out a tad too big)- and am now tempted to make something proper from the 1890ties….  will see….. 🙂

 needless to say, clothing by Prior Attire,

 photography by Pitcheresque Imagery

Steampunk Amazones Collection, Part 2


 And at last I can now share the second part of our collection ( first part here) – this time shot locally, bu Lucas and also by Paul, our regular pro – I will make a separate post with his pictures, they do deserve a moment of glory on their own!

 We were fortunate enough to find a lovely location to shoot the last 3 amazones – about 10min drive from where we live:-)  Beth from Thurleigh Equestrian Centre was more than happy to let us use the premises, and horses for the shoot. After a short visit to the Centre and a chat to Beth, all was settled… everybody was ready to go and shoot, and the weather was simply great. but, without further ado, let us present our last 3 Amazones.

1. South America – Ranchera. Here the image was to be of an independent and proud gaucha, incporporating the original Spanish elements and the vision of the Patagonian plains – a simple outfit with a few exotic touches.

 original sketch:


 I was making this outfit as the last – and since I foolishly made a shipping expedition to the local Leather warehouse, i ended up with some new fabrics – and changed the idea of a corset  completely. Don’t worry if you wanted to see the original leather corset with side lacings – i made that too, in a bit different convention…


leather corset created later for a separate shoot

Nice, but since i happened to get some rather unusual materials at the warehouse, a different corset was created….


glittery stuff!!!


the back

Our Ranchera was modeled twice – first by Anett, in a more stationary shots…


Steampunk Amazone – South American Ranchera


  And for more mobile shots I donned the gear, slightly adapted to provide a variety. My mount was  a gentle creature, and it was my first time in a western type tack – loved it!




and at a rodeo pace too! It looks my steed enjoyed it too… 🙂

and since the whole theme wasn’t far from a Zorro image, we simply had to include one too..


2. Australia.  Our Steampunk Sheila was

to combine style and elegance with practicality – essential in the outback.  and so I decided to use some original Edwardian patterns – and to make the culottes/skirts, popular in the beginning of 20th century when ladies started to ride astride too.   The only concession was shortening the length of the culottes to mid calf…

original sketch

Image and the realization – though I now see we forgot to shoot the culottes with the front panel closed…

 the culottes and corset in soft tweed, the corset is decorated with leather and big buckle:-)




  This is one of my favorite outfits and am keeping it for myself for everyday wear:-)

3. Central America. Here  I wanted a bit of a tough cookie – a cross between a can can dancer, rodeo rider and a fast shooter 🙂 The Escaramuza ladies provided the inspiration for the  outfit – escaramuza ( skirmish) is a highly skilled display of precision riding – all ladies, all side saddle, all at speed….

 the sketch…


 and Lizzie modeling it:-)


linen chemisette, corset with metallic braid and funky decoration, and lots of flounces in the skirt…



 and that’s the Amazones!

and since we finished early and the weather was  superb ad location fantastic – we kept on shooting… -we also revisited Mulan….


on lovely Blackie

and, having borrowed some weaponry from my martial arts club, Rising Crane,  we played around with that too…



 we shoot close up of Anett’s hair – a real masterpiece!


 we  also too some photos of the residents – the owners, their ponies and the livery inmates….


Beth Maloney with her Blackie



 and that’s it – Amazones done!  The whole collection was presented on the catwalk at the Steampunk Asylum in Lincoln, and them advertised for sale at the market.  The Neonavajo outfit has gone on a bit of adventure – to be used in a shoot in Paris, supporting a campaign No Bounds – raising awareness of Scoliosis. The last few remaining bits are  available on etsy

 Now, what shall be the theme of the next collection then, I wonder? some ideas are already brewing in my overactive head…

 credits: Photography – Lucas Pitcher

 make up and hair  – Sarah Dunn:

 own styling and modelling – Miss Lilian Love

clothing – Prior Attire;s branch –

 location –

 models – Anett Novak and Adrienne Renarde

Summer Bride 2013 Collection



 Well, I must say it took Paul record time to sort out the official images – 2 weeks and all done – brilliant:-) all editing done, we can now have a proper blog  entry! 

 I have to admit this shoot was slightly problematic  to organize as just a few weeks before the date the venue changed their mind and decided to charge us for using the premises. Well, that wasn’t going to happen, so we needed t find another venue available on that day ( many of us had already booked a day of work). Fortunately lovely Allyson from St.Audries Park, our own venue, stepped in, and put us in touch with Laura from Gosfield Hall- a truly spectacular place in Essex. Laura was only too happy to help us us and the shoot was sorted out in no time at all, it was a bit of a drive, but not too much – and the location was more than worth spending two hours in the car:-)


We picked Sarah, out usual MUA and Emily, one of our models, on the way through Bedford andwe off we went, in a rather convivial atmosphere:-)


travelling in style…

On arrival, Laura greeted us and showed us around the venue – needless to say, we were hugely impressed and started planning the shoot straight away. The boys had their own room to store their toys, and Sarah was more than happy with our changing and prep room



 Paul and Jason arrived shortly after, and Anette, another model joined us before 11. everything was ready for the shoot. we started with the Edwardian Bride – getting ready photos., shot amidst the elegant splendour of the  Queen’s Suite..



Sarah worked her magic on my face and hair, and i was ready to be laced in the long line Edwardian corset… the result below…


antique camisole, and a corset and drawers by me:-)


Paul wasn’t too happy about my period stockings but in the end the ‘wool socks’ worked out just fine..


absolutely loving the antique effect on this one:-)


being a wistful bride…

 Paul didn’t take any other full gown pictures of this one – Lucas did it instead – ,:-)


 As Emily was preparing for her  session,  Paul was taking a  few product shots:-)


  Then it was Emily in Arabella – very much a Disney princess!






Cindrella running from the palace at midnight:-)

and the real Emily….


Next in line was Anette transformed into a Grecian goddess…



I  manged to snatch a quick photo on my mobile too – Anett’s reaction when she saw the room – absolutely breathtaking splendour of the Bride suite…


and some more of Paul’s magic



All that excitement meant we were quite hungry at that point – but luckily enough Laura was  ready with our lunch – freshly prepared by the chef – and it was simply delicious!



girls hard at work… 🙂

Refreshed, we had two more frocks to do – first Emily in a rather stunning corsetted outfit…




and a close up…

and the beautiful flowers….


The last frock of the day was Jeanette – and Anett definitely had some fun  pulling Marie Antoinette persona and acting it all up 🙂




last shot of the flowers, and that was it!




 but just for fun, here a few behind the scenes pics:-)


boys hard at work , in the Bridal suite… 🙂


the bling!



Anett rocking the Athena look!


a trophy wife?


Paul teaching some modelling tricks…

 And that’s it , folks! more info on the frocks themselves, designs and pricing in the part 1 here

 Many, many thanks to all the team –  you were all superb!


venue: Gosfield Hall

 Photography: Paul Mockford:

Bespoke Bridal gowns: Prior Engagement

Styling, hair, makeup: – Sarah Dunn from


Bridal bouquets: Flowers by Eleanor,

Bridal shoes and accessories


Jewellery – the Unfound Door:


  well,hope you enjoyed it, am already thinking of the autumnal collection… 🙂


The Summer Bride Collection part 1 – the dresses


And we did it again! The Syummer bride collection is done and shoot – and while we are awaiting the professional images from Mockford Photography, I thought I’d treat you to some more info on the dresses – the story behind the dress,fabrics used, estimated cost etc. the photos used here were taken by my ever patient hubby, Lucas, in a spectacular location of Gosfield Hall

Once we have proper photos, I will put a post giving credit to all our contributors, suppliers and models:-)

To start with, I must admit that summer is not my season at all – so designing a summer collection was a bit of a challenge – especially, since they are smaple dresses, one has to make do with primarly the fabrics etc in stock. still, I hope you like the finished products!

1. Athena

The first thought that springs to my mind when you say ‘summer’ is – sea, beach, destination weddings –  and I tried to wrap it all up in a dress that woudl say it all – with a hint of a classical goddess thrown into the mix…


the original design

and 15 metres of silk chiffon later, the final product…



full view of the underbust corset…

fabrics used:

15m of silk chiffon and gold braid for the dress – for the corset, silk taffeta, coutil, steel boning, lace applique, cotton perle for flossing. Estimated cost of the sample, £400, bespoke dress in this fashion will start from £500



A proper Disney princess gown, with a 17th century inspired bodice…


the original design…

In the end I desided to do away withthe underskirt and keep the dress plain, with just gold braiding…


the gown with the sleeves…


and without the sleeves…


the back view…

Fabrics used: 10m of duchess satin and lawn for lining, 12m of gold braid, coutil for the strength layer in the bodice, boning. The dress is worn over Victorian cage crinoline in satin, but modern hoop skirts can be used instead. Cost of the sample – £600,  bespoke dress will start from £700, depening on the fabrics used – and it can be rendered in any colour, with a customised decoration.

3. Alexandra, the Edwardian Bride

This one was a bit special- I fell in love in a 1905 wedding gown from LACMA collection, and wanted to recreate the feel – perfect for summer garden party. Since  I wanted to keep it, or at least most of it, i decided to do it the proper way and stick to the iogiginal layers and design, so that i can use it later for re-enactment purposes.


Original design included a bridal corset based on the Edwardian ashions – in the end  I didnt have time to make another corset – but dont worry, it will happen :-). no time for florrs on the skirt either, they will be added at a later stage – once i make a proper, historically correct bodice to go with the dress. but for the time being, this is the result…


 and there is a whole story what is underneath… first, an antique chemise and my brand new split crotch drawers – sexy! a brouche coutil corset gives the silhuette…


 then an antique petticoat – last time I wore it for my wedding!


 and then the skirt, bodice, tiara and a veil… 🙂


Fabrics used: 6m of silk satin, the same of lawn for lining, silk taffeta for the girdle, 9m of wide cotton lace ( import from Australia…)4m of lace for the bodice. the corset: 1m of broche, steel boning, cotton lace. plus the undergarments, in cotton lawn, with lace.

Estimated cost of the whole outfit made bespoke – from £1400, depending on fabrics, corsetry and decoration used.

4. Celeste.

One of the more modern designs, at least originally –


In the end I went with an alternative skirt option, adapting an original Victorian pattern – the umbrella skirt. i still have some of the silk, so may end up making a more modern mermaid skirt with it anyway… 🙂



back view

Fabrics used: 9m of silk , and 8 of lawn for the skirt lining. for the corset – silk, coutil, silk lining, boning, swarovski crystals, andgold lace motifs for both the skirt and the corset.

estimated cost of this sample – £1000. Bespome dress, depepding on fabrics and decoration chosen, form £1200


5. Jeanette.

I had the taffeta  in bright yellow for over a year – and was looking for ways to use it. It screamed 18th century to me, and since the collection was all about summer colours, i decided to go for it…


 and the end result, worn over authentic 18th century stays,a hip pad and a net petticoat..



Fabrics used – 13m of silk taffeta, purpkle slik taffeta for thebows, coutil and boning for the stomacher;80 flowers and purple braid…

Estimated cost of the sample, not counting the stays – £800. bespoke outfit from £1000- and it can be made in any colour, not necessarily that bright:-). stays from £300


well, that’s it for the time being – more information about the suppliers  ( the usual suspects, btw, at least most of them:-0 ), the day, and most importantly , professional photos – bridal collection Part 2 -!

Spectacular! Spectacular! Masquerade Ball 2013


And it is done.  The Ball has taken place, and what a night it was!

The last few days before the ball ( 27th April) were manic – i only had about a day and a half to get my dress sorted ( a separate post on that here..)  and deal with the last minute issues, problems, cancellations etc.

But all was sorted in time and by 1pm we were on the move, driving first to our hotel in Slough, even managing a short nap there, and then by 4 we were at the beautiful Heatherden Hall – a part of Pinewood Studios.


outside, at 4 pm

Inside, the team from Corporate Events already laid up our oak dancefloor, covering the entire ballroom.


flooring sorted!

We had a quick chat with Paul, our DJ on the day ( also from Corporate Events), about the music, preferences, set up etc –  and with the music working  we simply had to have a go on the dance floor ! we decided to go through our  tango routine, but the stress was making it more of a free style improvisation rather than our proper routine! At that point our photographer, Paul Mockford and his assistant Jason arrived – and without much ado filmed the thing! you can see it here

After that sneaky footage the boys got started on setting their photo studio in the Pools room, and we had a chat with the resident staff who was to care for us in the evening, headed by  the competent Ivona. after that all that was to do was getting ready. Sarah and Lizzie, providing the beauty saloon services, were ready at 5, and the ladies who secured their make up and hairstyling slots were arriving on time  – the rest of the guests were to start arriving at 6.


Sarah and Lizzie hard at work…

By then I was already dresses, make up and hair sorted ( more or less) and helping other ladies to get dressed – the facilities were great as we had the whole of the Conservatory and the PIne room just for ladies.  during various lacing, arranging and pinning, i talked to our dance teacher, Charlotte Ewart, going through the last bits of information on the dances to be taught.


getting ready… the atmosphere was great as everybody was helping everybody else:-)

The weather wasnt perfect – but luckily by 6 it has stopped raining and the guests started arriving on the red carpet. Soon the gardens, patio and the bar, where the welcome drinks were served,  were throbbing with people dressed in their finest..


the bar…


having fun on the patio

The gardens, with their bridges, sculptures and the labirinth-like hedges were a popular destination for strolling and taking photos…





  Then, at 8 the dancing started. We begun with the traditional Polish dance, Polonaise – it is a promenade dance, easy to follow and it is still the dance that opens every Prom Ball in Poland..

I led with Chris , our musician ( Blast from the Past) and Lucas followed with Charlotte.   Our fears that people would be reluctant to dance were quickly dispelled –  the dancefloor was packed full as we processed to the polonaise from Eugene Onegin


Lucas and Charlotte


polonaise in full swing…


leading with Chris

After the polonaise Charlotte  guided us through the Duke of Kent waltz, proper waltz hold and steps, aend even a few polkas. Polkas were a killer, leaving us completely breathless!  all to lovely live music from Sophie and Chris.


a polka


one of the waltzes…


us having a go at a polka

some people preferred a more passive participation though, simply enjoying the view. Some took it very easy indeed!


taking it easy to the next level…

 After the lesson the DJ took over and more waltzes, quicksteps, and more waltzes following for another hour. The dance floor emptied a bit as at the same time food was served and most folks made their way to the pools room to partake in the buffet.


The food was delicious – alas so delicious that some people went to get seconds and thirds – and as a consequence a few folks  who were still dancing, us including arrived to see empty plates – or half full plates being carried back to the kitchen as people piled more food than they could eat… a bit of a lesson on human nature here, so the food issue is one to be seriously addressed in the future, if i decide to organize another ball. As it was, I was lucky enough to get a bite of a tiramisu Sarah managed to secure for me…


At the same time the photography team had their hands full – people were having their photos taken, printed and mounted in one go!


Paul Mockford at work!

After a few more waltzes ( lots of improvisation on our part – but there were a few good couples who could really whirl around!) music gradually changed to a more modern tracks, including music from Moulin Rouge  and a fully eclectic mix of rock, tango ( again, lots of improvisation  and silliness here on our part!) and other dance tunes. The Prince Charming theme went down a treat – many thanks to whoever requested it!  some gilrs chose to take the log skirts off and boogie around in shorter numbers, but the majority danced the night away in their finery!


prince charming walk….


girls having fun!

And so the evening continued – dancing, drinking, chatting in a relaxing manner.

As far ars the costumes are concerned – I was hugely impressed!  I must admit that I dreaded  seeing those cheap fancy dress rental pieces, but I shouldn’t have worried. tTe garments were absolutely divine, in most cased hand made by the participants or by few skillful costumiers present at the ball – Felicity Westmacott, Denise Piggin or Christina Dettmers to name just a few – and of course I had a hand in making a few of the costumes too…..:-) ( historical and bridal)

The range was astounding – from pure blown out fantasy, through fashion corsetry to authentic Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian or Tudor garments. Steampunk was very much in evidence as well – in short a true feast for the eyes!  just a few picture s here, more can be founf on fb – link here






best hat ever!


The fun ended at about 12.30 when the bar closed, and we saw the last of the guests off just after 1am…

Absolutely knackered, we made our way to the hotel when at last, hungry as we were, we shared a left over bagel… 🙂


after party bagel… yum! and after paerty look, not so yum…

Altogether, a successful night, with the food issue to be addressed at any future events. Feedback so far was good, so  many thanks to all of you who contributed to the fantastic atmosphere at the ball – and thank you for those who let me use their photos…

another blog on the ball, written by one of the guests, can be found here

and if you fancy another ball – this year;s event is coming soon!  Check out our Victorian Ball

and some of the feedback received on our pages – many, many thanks for it, i was really down because the food situation, and the feebback received did raise my spirits a great deal!:


Thank you for a truly spectacular evening! We all had a fantastic time! Really appreciate all the time and effort you went to to make it such an incredible event! ♥
great evaning Izabela! Thank you for all the hard work. It ran so smoothly, a testament to your great planning!

What a lovely night! I got to dance to The Sound of Music- Edelweiss and NIN- Closer all in one night… As always I am blown away by the talent that surrounded me. The dresses and coats, the skirts and corsets, waistcoats and pantaloons, each of them were beautifully constructed and many of them by the very people wearing them. It inspires me 🙂 Thanks to everyone who came for making it such a friendly evening, it was a pleasure meeting you, and thank you to the Prior Attire team for putting together a truly Spectacular! Spectacular! event 🙂

We are all amazing. What a beautiful evening.
Thank you Izabella for a great night, and thankyou to all for their fabulous costumes, makeup, masks and headpieces, I so enjoyed looking at all the creativity. As you might have guessed, the kit did get finished, and got some really nice comments from other guests.
We had a lovely evening. Thanks for all your work in putting together such a lovely event in a stunning venue!