Chapter 6: The Corset As A Canvas, Part 2

These corseted art pieces became status symbols and collectors’ items: wearable art. The nature of corsetmaking is incredibly detail-oriented, tying it in perfectly with the 21st century fascination with ‘artisan,’ ‘craft,’ and ‘small batch’ goods. By investing in a handmade corset, the customer showcases their participation in movements like ‘Shop Small’ and ‘Slow Fashion’. In particular, corsets make an excellent foundation to show off specialty textiles, such as lace.

'Vanyanis' satin overbust corset by Vanyanis. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.
'Vanyanis' satin overbust corset by Vanyanis. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.
'Vanyanis' satin overbust corset by Vanyanis. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.
'Vanyanis' satin overbust corset by Vanyanis. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.
'Vanyanis' satin overbust corset by Vanyanis. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.

'Vanyanís' Satin Overbust Corset By Vanyanís

Date: 2017

Origin: Australia

Fabric: Satin coutil with a cotton lining

Brand: Vanyanís

Designer: Lowana O’Shea


An overbust corset in a single layer of satin coutil with a floating cotton lining. It is sewn with internal bone channels and a 2cm wide waist tape, and structured with 5mm spiral steel bones throughout with flexible 8mm flat steel bones over the bust and at the centre back. The front busk fastening has a gold finish with engraved laurel motifs, an antique inspired technique that was revived by designer Lowana O’Shea with contemporary laser technology. After insertion with machine stitching, the fastening was further re-enforced with hand stitching to close the centre front fabric around the loops.

The corset is profusely hand embellished with multiple layers of lace appliqué, each piece of which was meticulously hand cut and stitched for an invisible finish. Two varieties of gold lace, and one black with pre-stitched sequins, were used. 5mm gold eyelets and satin ribbon lacing close the centre back.

Late in 2016, the Vanyanís label underwent a rebranding which resulted in a corset-themed monogram. Since that time it was designer Lowana’s mission to create a ‘real life’ corset version of the monogram. Her obsession with black and gold and recent ‘Corset Pilgrimage’ trips to the UK sparked an excuse to finally realize the design.

Vanyanís is a luxury clothing label based in Healesville, Australia, offering both ready-to-wear clothing, and made-to-measure couture. Corsetry is a specialty of the label, with an attention to detail and craftsmanship that is rare in the modern fashion industry. Designer Lowana O’Shea offers corsetry classes and is a mentor on Foundations Revealed, an online resource and community dedicated to foundationwear making and design.

Modern corsetry means being able to wear or make any style of corset. There are no limitations in how someone can wear or style a corset today and that results in some truly spectacular garments. They are underwear, outerwear and art. They are whatever the maker or wearer wants them to be. I especially love how there are so many ways to achieve these results today. With the knowledge of the past to draw from and the innovation of the current day new techniques are being rediscovered and discovered every day. It’s an exciting time to be a corsetiere.

– Lowana O’Shea, 2017

Silk & Lace Appliqué Trousseau Short Slip, c. 1930s, Great Britain Photography by Tigz Rice Studios. From The Underpinnings Museum collection.

Silk And Lace Appliqué Trousseau Short Slip

Date:  c. 1930s

Origin: Great Britain

Fabric: Silk georgette and leavers lace

Brand: Custom made

Rayon Satin & Lace Appliqué Full Sleeve Dressing Gown, c.1940s, Great Britain. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

Rayon Satin & Lace Appliqué Full Sleeve Dressing Gown

Date: c. 1940s

Origin: Great Britain

Fabric: Rayon satin & lace

Brand: Unknown

'Tamara' Silk & Lace Appliqué Soft Bra & Briefs by Carine Gilson, 2012, Belgium. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.

'Tamara' Silk & Lace Appliqué Soft Bra & Briefs By Carine Gilson

Date: 2012

Origin: Belgium

Fabric: Silk and leavers lace

Brand: Carine Gilson

'Amilee' Silk Gown With Lace Appliqué by Layneau, c. 2014, USA. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.

'Amilee' Silk Gown With Lace Appliqué By Layneau

Date: c. 2014

Origin: United States

Fabric: Silk and leavers lace

Brand: Layneau Collection

Lace appliqué as an embellishment remains a hallmark of luxury lingerie. The technique involves the careful cutting out of lace motifs, to then be sewn to a new base textile. It requires immense skill and attention to detail. Whilst lace appliqué in historical underwear was mostly hand sewn, contemporary lingerie relies on faster, but still relatively time consuming, machine stitching. The exception to this is modern corsetry. The structured nature of the corset means that embellishment often has to be applied by hand. It’s one of the few areas of fashion that has retained the craftsmanship of hand applied embellishment.

Pearls Of Wisdom leather overbust corset by Julia Bremble. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Julia Bremble

'Pearls Of Wisdom' Leather Overbust Corset By Julia Bremble

Date: 2014

Origin: United Kingdom

Fabric: Distressed leather, acrylic paint, gold leaf, lace, swarovski crystals, cotton coutil, cotton cording

Brand: Julia Bremble


The corset was made as a part of a project carried out by the facilitators of the Oxford Conference of Corsetry 2014, where each designer created a corset inspired by Jesus College, Oxford. The corsets were later used as teaching tools at the conference.

The ‘Pearls of Wisdom’ corset is inspired by the Fellows Library at Jesus College; specifically the old leatherbound books,  gold leafed panels, ‘pearls of wisdom’ contained within the books and the flowers in the quadrangle outside.  The garment shape was adapted from a basic corset pattern block and was used as the starting point for a talk about pattern manipulation.

The corset is made of distressed leather flatlined to plain coutil, painted with gold acrylic paint before assembly, corded at the front panels like the spines of books. The cording was later embellished with gold leaf.  The gold lace represents both the gold leaf panels in the library and the flowers in the quad, it is stitched onto the corset and then embellished with tiny swarovski crystals representing the ‘sparks of inspiration’.

Corsetry to me, is simply is a very deep and boundless well of creative inspiration.

– Julia Bremble, 2017


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