As soon as I saw this year’s theme of En Pointe, I knew which ballet I was inspired by: Stravinsky’s “The Firebird”. I think Margot Fonteyn in this role was one of the earliest ballet pictures I ever saw, and it’s remained a striking image in my mind. I am also a big fan of fire colours, and was desperate to try them out in a corset!
A long peruse round my favourite fabric shop bagged the most wonderful shades of crystal organza, and an inspirational roll-end of silk dupion with a yellow warp and red weft (or possibly the other way around), giving it a gorgeous fiery shimmer. These were the fabrics for my firebird corset.
I still consider myself very much a beginner in corsetry, but I wanted to stretch out from my comfort zone and try a few different things this year. The basic design is based on a pattern by Caroline Woollin (Melissa Overbust), from her fantastic Patreon collection.
One of my big issues this year was fitting. Although my skill is improving, I’ve lost quite a bit of weight, and continued to lose throughout the process, so I never quite got a perfect fit. However, I was very happy with the general shape, including my first attempt at a “winged” bust, to try and echo the bird in firebird.
The corset is constructed with a layer of black coutil, twill tape boning channels (hidden between the layers), artificial whalebones and a spoon busk. I did try with a normal narrow busk but I’m still too squishy and it just couldn’t cope! The fashion layer is floating, to minimise seams, and I had a go at using eyelet bones at the back. I’m not sure I’d use them again, at least not without deeper eyelets. This is also my first corset with eyelets that I inserted myself, rather than tape. The busk is painted with enamel paint, as the silver busk was rather jarring. I’m definitely planning to use Nikki Swift’s coloured busks next time! Rather than a traditional binding, the fashion layer was cut slightly longer, turned over the coutil and stitched, then a twill tape sewn over the top (on the inside) for stability and neatness.
The lace was originally a red ribbon, but this proved not strong enough and failed during the photoshoot, so I had to quickly replace it with a black one!
The flames are cut individually from four colours of organza, and each flame sealed, before being hand stitched into place. I wanted to achieve movement of light and colour, and to try and echo the ephemeral nature and indefinable colour of fire. (Note, due to time restrictions the video was taken before I’d quite finished, so some of the flames were loose, but they aren’t in the final item).
I do have rather a lot of flames left over, so a tutu or skirt may be made in the future!
The final challenge was photographing the Firebird. I don’t have access to a studio, so we had to do the best we could! I found that the colour was not at all easy to replicate accurately on camera, especially when I was wearing it, but I hope I’ve managed to get a more accurate reproduction on the mannequin.
The Firebird has definitely stretched my corset making muscles, and given me lots of new ideas.
I’ve discovered I hate eyelets, love hand embellishing, and still have an awful lot to learn. I hope you like her as much as I do!