Glasgow in corsets - the development of a corsetry collection inspired by Glasgow's history, it's women and it's architecture

Friday, 8 March 2013

A starting point

Mother Glasgow, Dear Green Place, No Mean City  - all names evocative of the good and the bad sides of a city that certainly has its flaws but is also a place of warmth (not in temperature granted) and beauty.  At the heart of Glasgow’s story, good and bad, are some very strong women; campaigners, philanthropists, rebels, workers and even accused murderesses. Aristocrat or stairheid harridan, they’ve all left their mark. It’s to those women that this project is dedicated, to those women and to the very bones and structure of the city itself.

Image uploaded to wikicommons by Postdlf

Bones and structure bring me to the point of all this. I make corsets, steel boned corsets that modify, exaggerate and support the body. The most important element of a corset is strength, to do their job they must be, in this case quite literally, Clyde Built*, yet they are also things of beauty in form and often in embellishment and style. It was considering this joining of beauty and strength that sowed the seed of this project. In addition as this city is, like our other national drink, ‘made from girders**’ there seemed obvious parallels with a garment supported by steel.

As we pass through history fashions change considerably but the one constant until modern times is an underpinning of some sort of corsetry.  As I read about some of the notable women in Glasgow’s history it occurred to me that I could divide them up by the changing styles of support, and that’s support that these women would have worn. I do run into a hiccup in the latter 19th century, but more on that later.

Now corsetry can be a bone (pardon the pun, there will be many!) of contention with many feminists and as I’m no scholar I’m not getting into an in depth study of that (although I’d be happy to see discussion thrive in the comments) however stays and corsets were near universal garments. Outer clothing differed substantially between upper and lower classes but the corset was worn by everyone from the housemaid to the duchess.
The other structures of the city are its buildings, bridges and the general cityscape. I’ll also be referencing them in my inspiration and details.  That structure is worth celebrating and preserving.

So the plan is this; over the next few months to a year I’ll be researching, designing and constructing corsets related to various points in Glasgow’s history. As I go I’ll be blogging the process of their creation and also the history, the elements of the city and above all the women. I’ll be using the corset styles contemporary with the period as a basis but developed through modern eyes. The intention here is not to create a string of reproductions but fashionable modern corsets which celebrate the past. At the end of the project I should have a collection of pieces that I then hope to show. I really hope you’ll join me for the journey, offer me your input, discuss the inspiration and help me over the hurdles I’m sure to encounter. 

* A phrase commonly used to describe something built for strength. It refers to the reliability of the Clydeside shipyards.** The long running advertising slogan for Scottish soft drink Barrs Irn Bru.