Chapter Twelve: Butterflies & Goodbyes

The Corset Paradise finally closed its doors in 2016, with the initial intention of a year’s hiatus from corset making. Prior to the closure, Jenni and her assistants pre-stitched a vast number of plain corset bases. The plan was for these to be embellished from a home work space over the following months at a much slower pace.

The collection of corset was named ‘Butterflies & Moths’: the former referring to the brighter toned satins in cyclamen pink and ruby red, the latter to muted shades of truffle and mouse brown. However, life had other plans. Jenni only finished a handful of these corsets after the workshop closure. The joy of corsetmaking had gone, and she eventually made the decision to close the brand indefinitely in 2018.

Nevertheless, in 2019, Jenni was persuaded to briefly return to corset world, collaborating with three other renowned corsetieres (Pop Antique & Vanyanís) to create a bridal ensemble. Each maker worked on their specialism, with Jenni taking charge of embellishment.

Cyclamen Butterfly Overbust Corset By Sparklewren, 2017, United Kingdom. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

'Cyclamen Butterfly' Overbust Corset By Sparklewren

Date: 2017

Origin: United Kingdom

Fabric: Silk/cotton satin

 

This overbust corset is a late Sparklewren creation, and was one of the final corsets created under the brand name before it finally closed its doors. The garment base was stitched in the showroom prior to closure, with the embellishment completed in the designer’s home.

The dramatically swooping bustline was inspired by butterfly wings. with the garment name taken from the lush colour of the silk/cotton satin fabric. The garment is structured with spiral and flat steel bones throughout, with unstructured hips formed through gored panelling. It opens with a busk front closure and eyelets and cotton lacing at the rear.

The embellishment incorporates several Sparklewren aesthetic signatures: most notably, the textural ‘Falling Blossoms’ appliqué style, created with three dimensional stitched and hand painted lace motifs, and draped pyrite beading.

Black Star Overbust Corset By Sparklewren, 2018, United Kingdom. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

'Black Star' Overbust Corset By Sparklewren

Date: 2018

Origin: United Kingdom

Fabric: Silk/cotton satin

 

This midbust corset is a late Sparklewren creation, and was one of the final corsets created under the brand name before it finally closed its doors. The garment base was stitched in the showroom prior to closure, with the embellishment completed in the designer’s home.

The garment is created from a silk/cotton satin, with the gored hip panel pattern inspired by early 20th c. corsetry. It is heavily structured with a mix of flat and spiral steel bones, and is fastened at the rear with cotton lacing through metal eyelets. Italian leavers lace appliqué is hand stitched at the front of the garment and is further embellished with embroidered black stars and enamelled metal star motifs. Intricate flossing embroidery is applied to the bone channels at the hips, reminiscent of the functional embroidery style seen in extant late 19th c. and early 20th c. corsetry.

Trinity Satin Corset & Skirt By Sparklewren, Vanyanís & Pop Antique, 2019, United Kingdom, Australia & USA. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice
Trinity Satin Corset & Skirt By Sparklewren, Vanyanís & Pop Antique, 2019, United Kingdom, Australia & USA. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

Trinity Satin Corset & Skirt By Sparklewren, Vanyanís & Pop Antique

Date: 2019

Origin: United Kingdom, Australia, USA

Fabric: Silk cotton blend duchesse satin, silk charmeuse, French leavers lace

Brands: Sparklewren, Vanyanís, Pop Antique

 

This wedding gown for designer Karolina Laskowska was created as a collaboration between some of the bride’s favourite designers and friends, Marianne Faulkner of Pop Antique, Lowana O’Shea of Vanyanís, and Jenni Hampshire of Sparklewren. It was worn for the ceremony in September 2019, with the design and construction process beginning in 2018.

The corset pattern was drafted by Pop Antique, and is based on a bespoke version of the label’s signature ‘Madame X‘ style corset. Distance fittings took place over video between Oslo, Norway and San Francisco, USA. The coordinating skirt was created entirely by Pop Antique in San Francisco. It is made from a single layer of silk charmeuse, with the draped silhouette inspired by an extant c. 1910s eveningwear ensemble. A detachable train of French lace has a carefully hand clipped hem to follow the intricate patterns, with the same lace style used to embellish the coordinating corset.

The corset base was stitched in Melbourne, Australia, by Vanyanís. Following a second distance fitting via video, the final corset took in excess of 80 hours to stitch. It is constructed from an outer fabric of silk-cotton satin, with a cotton coutil lining and structured with 70 synthetic baleen and flat steel bones. The busk closure is laser engraved with laurel motifs. The garment features extensive hand finishing, with no visible machine backstitches, hand finished busk loop openings, and hand stitched binding.

The corset was finally embellished in Birmingham, UK, by Sparklewren. Three varieties of French leavers lace are hand stitched in layered appliqué. The star motifs are a mix of antique goldwork appliqués, and newly stitched rose gold toned contemporary goldwork. The corset is finished with draped rose gold chains, and a scattering of cut goldwork wire beading.

Over the decade that Sparklewren was in business, Jenni Hampshire produced hundreds of corsets; sadly it’s logistically impossible to track down and showcase every single piece for you here, and this exhibition has captured only a fraction of the beauty that this label created. Nevertheless, Sparklewren’s influence is undeniable on the corset industry, and more specifically the new wave of corsetieres; these exquisite designs will continue to inspire for years to come.

The Underpinnings Museum relies on your generous support to continue its work. If you’ve enjoyed visiting this exhibition , please consider donating to The Underpinnings Museumsupporting Patreon or purchasing some merchandise. All funds are invested directly back into the project to bring you more free access underwear history.

With special thanks to the following people for their contributions and for making this exhibition possible:

Tigz Rice, Lorraine Smith, Liz Denocte, Jenni Hampshire, Glo Mason,  Caroline Woollin, Cassie Rae Wardle, Alycia Hirani, Rosie Dennington, Marianne Faulkner, Lucy Emke, Holly Snaith, Emilie Wilkinson, Elle Mosbach, Clare Sharpe, Cathy Hay, Erica Krasickaite, Annie Werner, Jeordy Raines, Coco Lam, Danielle Kwan, Angela Tanis, Trish Molder, Gerry Quinton,  Holly Swinburne, Emily Targett, Threnody In Velvet and to all of our Patreon supporters and generous donors.

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