Chapter Seven: Historical Influence

No contemporary corsetiere can divorce themselves from the influence of historical corset design; despite advances in textile technology, much of modern corsetmaking remains fundamentally unchanged from the techniques of the late 19th/early 20th centuries. This was something that Jenni Hampshire enthusiastically embraced in her creations: studying and refining the shapes and techniques from over a century ago.

Unlike most contemporary makers, Sparklewren’s later corsets are remarkably lightweight. Taking their cue from extant historical design, designs are created from just single layers of coutil or satin and are lightly structured, using ultra fine 4-5mm spiral steel bones. Despite this relatively delicate construction, these corsets retain noteworthy strength and shaping capability.

Alongside the experiments based on the c. 1900 ‘Bird’s Wing’ corset from the Symington collection, Jenni regularly used original historical patterns for her designs, occasionally working on historical reproductions for bespoke clients.

Silk Edwardian Style Corset By Sparklewren, c. 2015, UK. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.

Silk Edwardian Style Corset By Sparklewren

Date: c. 2015

Origin: United Kindom

Fabric: Silk cotton blend

 

This corset was created in the style of c.1900s foundations, with historically accurate techniques, pattern and materials. It is made with a pattern by Atelier Sylphe, taken from an extant corsets of that period.

The garment is constructed from a single layer of silk-cotton blend duchesse satin. It opens with a central busk fastening and is structured with synthetic baleen plastic bones. The bust gores are re-enforced with hand stitching. This piece was created to be worn under clothing with substantial padding, to help achieve a period-accurate and exaggerated silhouette for c. 1900s fashions.

Metal & Silk Brocade Corset With Ribbonslot Lace Trim, c. 1900s. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice
Metal & Silk Brocade Corset With Ribbonslot Lace Trim, c. 1900s.
Brown cotton corset with embroidered bust gores, c. 1890s, USA From The Underpinnings Museum collection Photography by Tigz Rice
Brown Cotton Corset With Embroidered Bust Gores, c. 1890s, USA.
Satin Midbust Corset With Quilted Gores By Sparklewren, begun in 2016 and finished in 2019, UK. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.
Satin Midbust Corset With Quilted Gores By Sparklewren, begun in 2016 and finished in 2019, UK.
Satin Midbust Corset With Quilted Gores By Sparklewren, begun in 2016 and finished in 2019, UK. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.
Satin Midbust Corset With Quilted Gores By Sparklewren, begun in 2016 and finished in 2019, UK.

Many Sparklewren corsets use gores to achieve their distinct shapes: a patterning technique in which a shaped panel of fabric is inserted into the garment to increase the volume, usually at the bust or hip. These panels created a dramatic silhouette and were occasionally embellished with embroidered motifs; in this satin midbust corset, the parallels between the contemporary creation and its historical influence are clear.

Satin Midbust Corset With Quilted Gores By Sparklewren

Date: begun in 2016, finished in 2019

Origin: United Kingdom

Fabric: Silk cotton satin

 

A historically inspired, midbust corset based on an original early 20th c. pattern. It is made in a silk-cotton blended satin, and uses gored panelling to achieve its curved shape. Each hip gore is hand embroidered with tonal hare motifs, and each bone channel is finished with hand stitched flossing motifs in a contrast beige. The corset is structured with a mix of flat steel bones and synthetic baleen, a contemporary polymer substitute for the original baleen bones used in historical corsetry. The garment has a traditional metal busk opening, and closes at the rear with cotton lacing and metal eyelets. The corset was originally begun c. 2016 in the brand’s Jewellery Quarter showroom and atelier, but was left unfinished. It was finally completed in 2019 by former Sparklewren intern Karolina Laskowska.

Satin Midbust Corset With Quilted Gores By Sparklewren, begun in 2016 and finished in 2019, UK. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.
Soft Dove Coutil & Lace Appliqué Midbust Corset By Sparklewren, 2014, United Kingdom.

Soft Dove Coutil & Lace Appliqué Midbust Corset By Sparklewren

Date: 2014

Origin: United Kingdom

Fabric: Cotton coutil, leavers lace

 

The ‘Soft Dove’ corset is named for the coutil fabric’s shade and delicate embellishment. It has a mildly shaped cut, with diagonal seamlines inspired by early 19th century corset patterns, and is made from a single layer of fine herringbone cotton coutil. It is gently structured with only a few spiral and flat steel boned, and opens with a steel busk closure at the front and cotton lacing through metal eyelets at the rear.  Flourishes of symmetrically placed and hand stitched, French chantilly lace appliqué finish the design.

'Soft Dove' corset by Sparklewren. Modelled by Tingyn, photography by Jenni Hampshire
'Soft Dove' corset by Sparklewren. Modelled by Tingyn, photography by Jenni Hampshire
'Soft Dove' corset by Sparklewren. Modelled by Tingyn, photography by Jenni Hampshire
'Soft Dove' corset by Sparklewren. Modelled by Tingyn, photography by Jenni Hampshire
Twig modelling the 'Jesus' corset by Sparklewren and lingerie by Karolina Laskowska. Photography by Jenni Hampshire
Twig modelling the 'Jesus' corset by Sparklewren and lingerie by Karolina Laskowska. Photography by Jenni Hampshire
Twig modelling the 'Jesus' corset by Sparklewren and lingerie by Karolina Laskowska. Photography by InaGlo Photography.
Twig modelling the 'Jesus' corset by Sparklewren and lingerie by Karolina Laskowska. Photography by InaGlo Photography.
Twig modelling the 'Jesus' corset by Sparklewren and lingerie by Karolina Laskowska. Photography by Jenni Hampshire
Twig modelling the 'Jesus' corset by Sparklewren and lingerie by Karolina Laskowska. Photography by Jenni Hampshire

The ‘Jesus’ corset was created for the Oxford Conference Of Corsetry in 2014, and was named for Jesus College, where the event took place. Jenni Hampshire was on the conference’s found ‘fellows’ and spoke that year about the Bird’s Wing patterning and construction techniques. This corset used a historically inspired, diagonally seamed pattern for its base, with a similar shape to the ‘Soft Dove’ corset. The embellishment is a combination of hand stitched lace appliqué and encrusted freshwater pearl beading.

Flossing embroidery samples by Sparklewren
Flossing embroidery samples by Sparklewren
Flossing embroidery samples by Sparklewren
Flossing embroidery samples created by Sparklewren. These samples served both as templates for embroidering actual corsets, and as a place to experiment with new motifs.

Historically, flossing embroidery was a decorative and functional technique to secure corset bones in place and prevent them from wearing through the garment’s fabric. As corsets are rarely worn as a daily garment, this technique is now more commonly used purely as an embellishment technique.

'Shy' Coutil & Lace Appliqué Corset By Sparklewren, 2014, United Kingdom.
'Shy' Coutil & Lace Appliqué Corset By Sparklewren, 2014, United Kingdom.
Black Cotton Sateen Corset With White Flossing & Woven Trim by P. N., C. late 1880s - early 1890s, USA. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Karolina Laskowska
Black Cotton Sateen Corset With White Flossing & Woven Trim by P. N., C. late 1880s - early 1890s, USA.
Silk Dupion & Lace Appliqué Overbust Corset By Sparklewren, c. 2011, UK. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.
Silk Dupion & Lace Appliqué Overbust Corset By Sparklewren, c. 2011, UK.
Black Cotton Corset With Spoon Busk, Pink Flossing Embroidery & Woven Trim, c. 1890-1900s, Great Britain. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.
Black Cotton Corset With Spoon Busk, Pink Flossing Embroidery & Woven Trim, c. 1890-1900s, Great Britain.
Black Star Overbust Corset By Sparklewren, 2018, United Kingdom. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice
Black Star Overbust Corset By Sparklewren, 2018, United Kingdom.
Corded corset with flossing embroidery by S&S, c. late 1880s, Great Britain From The Underpinnings Museum collection Photography by Tigz Rice
Corded corset with flossing embroidery by S&S, c. late 1880s, Great Britain
Design by Sparklewren. Photography by InaGlo Photography. Modelled by Gingerface. MUA by Samantha Gardner.
Design by Sparklewren. Photography by InaGlo Photography. Modelled by Gingerface. MUA by Samantha Gardner.
Design by Sparklewren. Photography by InaGlo Photography. Modelled by Gingerface. MUA by Samantha Gardner.

Lookbook: Platinum

A capsule lookbook showcasing new experimental designs (such as the feathered skirt and bridal headpieces), freshly styled with older sample designs such as the ‘Cloud’ gown and ‘Platinum’ satin corset.

Photography by InaGlo photography, hair and makeup by Samantha Gardner, modelled by Gingerface.

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