What's in a name?
I’ve had a few brand names over the years, and none of them have been particularly ‘right’ for my brand. The first, when I was starting out, was “Marmalade Kiss”. I know I have some ‘fans’ that have been following my work since those days and have seen it progress over the years, from simply a sewing blog, to an internationally renowned brand under the umbrella “Sew Curvy” - it’s a long story but the whole thing was only really started for one reason. I made a corset and discovered a passion, I wanted to make corsets for a living - a common desire it seems, among those afflicted with ‘sudden corsetmaking addiction’. To fund my habit, I started a sewing supplies company, aptly titled “Sew Curvy” with the strap lines “sew yourself curvy” and “make a corset, discover a passion” which is what happened to me and which is what I know happens to others. So my first separate corsetry label was “Marmalade Kiss”. I got it from an online “burlesque name generator” and it fitted my style at the time, fun, sexy, young. The second one, when I got a bit better and a bit more sophisticated was “Clessidra” … This is a word which in Italian means “Hourglass”. I loved it. It was classy, I love Italian style, and it said what it did on the tin, but nobody could remember it - even my best friends would say “cassandra?” “clerinda?” and anything else you can think of which begins with a C. My good friend Alison of Crikey Aphrodite, a former graphic designer turned corset maker, helped me with the logo which was classy with a vintage edge. I loved the logo too.
But nobody could remember the name, and I was uncomfortable saying it because people would say “what?” …. and I would have to explain “it means hourglass in Italian” .. and yawn inwardly. So I had to come up with something else. My own name seemed the obvious choice, because that’s what i’m generally known by. So I came up with this..
In “Waist Technician” I wanted to say something more than just "corset maker" or "corsetière" .. I wanted the description to say something about what I really do and that modern corsetry is not, in any way shape or form, about anything other than the waist - ie: a corset is not a miracle cure for many body image issues - a corset will not get rid of excessive tummy bulge, or make you thinner. A Victorian style modern corset is purely about body modification through shaping the waist, although of course, the side effect is that they may help you with other issues and will smooth and shape when well done. In the words of one of my students "it moves your fat into a more pleasing shape" - yes it does. But the primary focus is the waist and it is the action of compressing the waist that moves everything else around. The trick is to be able to move that fat around in a pleasing way. In my practice, and in modern terms, this means small waist, flatter tummy, rounded hips, well supported, shapely bust and no unsightly bulges caused by the corset's compression.
I may have mentioned before that there are vast differences between makers in the trade. There are 'corset makers' who can do a very good job of making a corset from a purchased pattern, but who have no interest in making a pattern themselves or understanding how to do it or the mechanics behind it - they just want to make pretty things and express creativity - that's fine - some of them are very skilled seamstresses producing lovely work. There are other corset makers who are learning and progressing; passionate but not ready to be a corsetière by trade. There are those who call themselves "corsetière". These are skilled artisans who can draft, and grade their own unique patterns, and have a full understanding of what they are doing and how that effects the body. There are levels of course and some people are obviously better than others at doing it and there are different specialisations -- time is no marker for this by the way. Some have been at it for years and years and yet are not as skilled as others who took up the calculator and needle only months ago. In corsetry there is a lot to be said for raw talent.
What I do, is obsess over patterns and lines, but I also teach corsetry to students who come to me from all over the world. Corsetry has been my life for nearly 10 years, and I consider myself to be a technician because my main fascination is how a corset works and how best to make it work. When I started there was very scant information available on how to make a corset - my 'generation' of corsetières are all self taught. I started first by having to decipher difficult information from various places so that I could understand it myself, and then convey this to others in a concise, easy-to-learn way. I can spend months agonising over literally one line in a pattern! I can do embellishments with the best of them, but I prefer clean lines and unfussy details. Simply, I like to concentrate on the function and form of corsetry and I need to be able to translate what it does to students and clients alike.
My obsession is fit and comfort. Nothing grates me more than to see a corset being described as well fitting, when clearly, one can see a good deal of bulging at the top and bottom lines where the maker really doesn't understand the mechanics of the garment and therefore how to make a bespoke corset fit properly. A well fitted corset should not cause bulges at the hip or over the back and it shouldn't crush the ribs either - unless that is the intention - but most modern ladies really don't want that 'straight jacket' feeling; there are limits to the mantra "beauty is pain"! The true skill of a good corsetière is to include rib room without the corset looking clumsy and inelegant and to make sure that the top and bottom edges have a smooth transition between flesh and corset. The tighter you go, the more difficult this is. Bust fit in overbust corsetry is important - there are way too many gaping tops out there! Although style differs from person to person, some prefer more cleavage than others, all ladies want to feel 'safe'. Boobs that look as if they are going to pop out and do a show any second, demonstrate a lack of understanding in this area - and it all goes back to the waist because the waist is the foundation for corset fit - everything is fitted around it, and the amount of 'squidge' caused by compressing the waist, determines the amount of 'overflow' everywhere else. I always say to my students "fit the waist first - everything else can be altered".
So ... "Waist Technician" it was, becaus I spend an inordinate amount of time experimenting with patterns and technique then processing my findings into the art of how to make the waist appear smaller whilst creating smooth, elegant beautiful lines and shapes - dramatic curves, maximum comfort. Nevertheless, it still didn’t sound quite ‘right’ when you said it out loud. A bit ‘pretentious’ maybe?
I also wanted a little graphic for use in appropriate places, perhaps simply as a label to go into the corsets - an avatar really and something for swing tags. Something iconic and instantly recognisable. My star was born.
It's inspired by many things. I like stars, the last album by Bowie - Black Star - and my vast collection of vintage Portmerion pottery from the mid-century 'Corsets' range which uses Victorian corset adverts as decoration. In many of my videos shown on Instagram and Youtube, you can see these pieces in the background, being used in my studio to hold my tools and corsetry components, or just for decoration here and there - i've been collecting it for years! Whilst my interest has always been in modern corsetry for the modern body, we wouldn't have it - as it exists today - if it weren't for our Victorian forebears and their invention of the archetypal hourglass shaped corset. I wanted the logo to convey a clean, no fuss, technical approach to corsetry which focuses on the beauty and elegance of modern line and silhouette whilst acknowledging our antique inspirations.
And finally as a post script. After coming this far with my new logo (and it has been a process and a half let me tell you), I decided to go by the name JB Corsets. There’s an old brand with that name - long defunct. And after I’d made the star logo, I found this lovely article by The National Trust, which shows an antique corset on it’s original shop display stand. Look at that logo! So eventually, all the stars aligned and we now have JB Corsets, with the star logo inspired by antiques but made thoroughly modern with digital technology whilst maintaining a very ‘technical’ look which reflects my approach to corsetry and keeps everything very gender neutral which is also an important part of my work - most of my clients have a male physique!