I am currently researching untraditional uses of materials and repurposed materials; my research also focuses on keeping costume technology as “healthy” as possible by exploring technology that is mostly water-based or low toxicity.
My piece is an Elizabethan-style corset made from a felted sweater. I have always been intrigued by iron corsets and I find the Elizabethan examples to be most impressive in their scale and intimidating silhouette. The piece I made was based on the amalgamation of two corsets: the silhouette of an Elizabethan iron corset from the collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence (ca.1590, n.14147), combined with the pierce-work from an orthopedic corset of the Musée Galliera collection (ca. 18th C.). I thought the combination of rounded shapes on the base (or peplum area) and back sections of the Galleria corset were an interesting juxtaposition to the geometric criss cross on the front, all contained in the more formal silhouette of the Elizabethan corset. This is the original “business in the front, party in the back” decoration which would seem a popular motif to be later exploited by fetishists. As I considered the uses of iron corsets, I found that there is limited knowledge on the subject: most costume historians agree these corsets were worn for orthopedic reasons to correct spinal deformities and most extant iron corsets were actually Victorian fetish reproduction of Elizabethan corsets. In my piece I used a busk as my front closure which was not invented until the 19th century. The busk’s presence in my piece conveys the addition of the Victorian fetish reproductions to the primary use orthopedic requirement and support.
As I considered how the woman wearing an iron corset must have felt, especially for reasons of spinal deformity, the imagery from the beetle in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis came to mind: both woman and insect with extreme limitations in movement and mobility. I felt that the supportive and constricting iron corset linked quite well with the exoskeleton of a scarab beetle: without neither corset nor exoskeleton, the person or insect in question has no form. My color inspiration was born of this connection between woman and insect, using the colors of a green Scarab Beetle.