November 7, 2012

Period Corsets® at the Metropolitan Opera in "The Tempest"

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Over the years Period Corsets® has had the priviledge of collaborating with The Metropolitan Opera on several artistically challenging and innovative projects. This year we were delighted to work with them on "The Tempest" a new Robert LePage World Premiere.The costume designer for this international endeavor was Kym Barrett.  The opera was a co-prodution, being built in tandem with Opera Festival de Quebec.  Period Corsets part was to make corsets and petticoats for each singer in the cast. Making one set of costumes to fit two casts of singers, for Quebec and the Met was quite challenging.  The required head scratching  and  perusing of measurement charts was well worth it! This time our corsets would not be undercover but showcased as the central element of the design.

Photo: The Metropolitan Opera
 As with many of our custom projects, we started  our design discussion with creating a prototype.  We sent two mock-ups (see below) to the Met team for their input. The finished corsets were required to be customized to each individual Met performer's measurements and alterable to their counterpart in Quebec.  To accommodate as much flexibility as possible we added another alteration point at the center back to allow 6 inches extra to work with.  Ms. Barrett started with our basic c. 1860 Julia Corset shape.
Period Corsets Julia corset with the
designer's changes and primary research

As you can see on the left, the designer wanted more fullness in the bust with added bust gussets. We made two styles; they chose the style which required under-wires. Bust cups! 60 sets of bust measurements! We came up with an elaborate system  to accommodate so many varying shapes. That 6 inches of alter-ability plus the lacing in the back came in very handy.  No two women's shapes are exactly the same.

photo: Period Corsets mock-ups for The Tempest corset

photo: Period Corsets
 The final corsets were made in brilliantly  liquid linen fabrics glazed with either copper, silver or gold.  Select members of the cast's corsets were made in custom dyed chenille with glittering metallic patterns.

photo: Period Corsets

The costumes each had a custom five ruffle petticoat made in ivory taffeta. It seemed like miles of ruffles! The cast wore them in the first half of the perfomance. They were rigged to be easily taken off for a quick change in to the slimmer  silhouette in the second half.

Photo: Period Corsets

Here they are! Our corsets and petticoats are under the lights in performance at the Metropolitan Opera.  These  production stills  are from The Tempest.
For more photos click here
 For  video click here

November 1, 2012

Period Corsets Interviews Victoria's Secret Fashion Show Designer Todd Thomas

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Period Corsets has had the pleasure of working with many talented designers over the years. For many unique custom projects, including all of our work for the Victoria's Secret Fashion shows, we had the opportunity to collaborate with designer Todd Thomas. Below is an interview with this talented and gifted designer to the stars.

Period Corsets:  How did you find or know about Period Corsets?

Todd Thomas: I found out about Period Corsets through Broadway Costume Designer friends of mine.  I had several suggestions to contact them from many people.  Period Corsets had a reputation of delivering a wonderful product and being a source which would act as a partner in the design process…. allowing the achievement of special pieces.  

PC: How does Period Corsets fit into the way you work as a professional in the costume/ fashion industry 

TT: My needs as a designer are varied, I work on very high profile commercial projects as well as more artistic/ fringe things each requiring a slightly different approach and of course, different budgets to work with.  Period Corsets can work within all of these needs.  For the smaller projects there are fantastic, ready made things which work and when I have the luxury of creating specialty pieces they're always up for the task of tailoring their work to my needs.  We've made some wonderful novelty pieces together along the way and the process has been a breeze.

PC: As a designer how do you collaborate with Period Corsets, for example when you do the designs for the Victoria Secrets Fashion Show.

TT: When developing a special item with Period Corsets we sometimes start with the library of existing silhouettes and work from there.  There's so much to choose from, that's generally a great jumping off point.  At other times, we've worked from scratch, a built from the ground up.  They've made lots of specialty pieces for my work designing the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.  Many of the pieces we've collaborated on have utilized very unconventional fabrics… delicate laces, straw, organic fabrics… materials which take quite a bit of consideration.  Over the years I've never heard the word "no", we can't do that.   
Bespoke corset constructed of sheer wig lace by Period Corsets® 

Photo Credit: Jamie MacCarthy Getty images
Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2011

PC: When you create your designs do you have a Period Corsets shape in mind?

TT: Many times I will have a Period Corset Shape in mind when designing a specialty piece.  With little effort those are easily translated into the design I have in mind. For most of my needs, I'm utilizing the corsets as outerwear so we really spend lots of time on the fabrication, trim and details.  Also, for several of my projects,  there's an important need for very fast changes.  Period Corset has worked directly with me and developed a speed lacing method which has proved to be a huge success.  

Ribbon trimmed corset- material was made of appliqued ribbons over fabric to create the striped designPhoto Credit: Adam Jeffery
Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2012

PC: How does the process go from the design concept to the final product and how is Period Corsets involved the process?

TT: I will have a particular design in mind, submit a sketch to Hilary and we begin our conversation… figuring out the best way to approach the piece.  Do we start with an existing shape, to we make something new?  Next step is to review a toile version of the corset and have a fitting before launching into the final product.  From there we make the necessary revisions and if needed see a second toile or move on to the final piece.

Mock-up by Period Corsets® testing the shaping with attached swatch

From design to the runway- Design sketch by Todd Thomas,
runway photo courtesy Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2012

Why do you like to work with PC?

I like working with Period Corsets because it's delightful and effective.  It's also, many years later…. familiar and foolproof.  Reliable and they're always up for a challenge. 
 How was it working with PC the first year vs. now, when you have more design time? 

When I first began working with Period Corsets it was early in my career designing for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. I think I turned to them in the eleventh hour with an emergency something last minute to be made and it happened…. like "that"!  Now we start months in advance and have wonderful leisurely collaborations which make for great results. 

Bespoke forest green silk waist cinch for Fergie
Photo courtesy Victoria's Secret Fashion Show
Tattered 18th c. stays- design line on mock-up dictated where the final distressed edge should be
Runway Photo Credit: Theo Wargo, Getty Images
Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2010

Looking back through the years, one of the more unique  and challenging corsets PC constructed was the one made out of woven straw for the 2010 show.  Could you tell us about how you came up with the concept, what the collaboration was like and how you felt about the results.  That’s a challenging fabric to make a garment out of, comments?

We wanted to make a very organic corset piece for a Country Girl themed section, for which we incorporated lots of organic materials.  We really wanted the corset to give a bountiful, beautiful wheat field effect.  Without hesitation, PC gave it a try and low and behold… it was a great success. 

On the runway- bespoke corset constructed from diamond woven straw matting
photo- Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2011

Under Construction- straw corset with pink satin lining for comfort 

Final corset by Period Corsets, before the applied trim by VS

Which was your favorite finished corset. Maybe one that you conceived that came out exactly as drawn and one that was more of a rough concept that came to fruition via the collaboration?

One of my favorites was the full body, embroidery anglaise corset which was made for the New Orleans themed section.  Just stunning and simple and beautiful and the fit was fantastic. A great example of PC at its best. 

Anglaise Body Suit Corset- design sketch to final
design sketch- Todd Thomas, photo- Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2011

Designer Todd Thomas with several of his design sketches
photo: Melissa Hom

Interview by Hilary Specht Coffey – Owner Period Corsets® 
See more about our work with Victoria's Secret in our related blog posts

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