Last summer, we bumped into neo-Victorian fashionista Donna Ricci at Labyrinth of Jareth and were taken by her corset. Known as the “Time Traveler's Corset,” it's covered in newspaper print bearing headlines from the Victorian age to the mid-twentieth century. The unusual piece mixes with steampunk, dieselpunk and even modern outfits.
Ricci, who designed the corset, is the owner of Clockwork Couture, the first and, so far, only “ready-to-wear steampunk clothier” online. The former “gothic supermodel” had no previous design experience before opening shop earlier this year and works with independent artisans to bring her ideas to life. We talked to Ricci about the inspiration behind the corset and asked for some tips on wearing waist-cinching pieces.
What was your inspiration for the time traveler corset?
I really loved the idea that a lot of people had a waistcoat and a corset all in one and realized that there must be a place for a pocketwatch to have a waistcoat-type corset to wear on the outside of your shirt. That was the probably the first item. The second was the garter clips because I wanted to have a skirt that did not per se swag by itself, rather you would hold up with those clips. The key on it I thought would be a nice touch to put on a really rich tapestry that was the contrasting fabric to give it some dimension, a little extra kick.
The fabric pattern is interesting. What inspired that?
I love newspaper print and I wanted an excuse to use one, so I found a manufacturer that has one. It's got everything from Amelia Earhart and the Titanic to the landing on the moon, to even further back, from the 1890s. That's why I named it the “Time Traveler's Corset,” because it's just headlines from big events.
It spans so many different eras and times. It can even be a very modern corset, a classically-lined in-style corset.
How long did it take to produce?
We work with a corsetière here in Los Angeles. That's all she does, she specializes in corsets. She probably got the first one to me, which is the one you see in pictures, within two-and-a-half to three weeks. After we got everything nailed down, pocket placement and everything, she can usually turn them out in about four days. They're very time intensive.
What are your tips for wearing a corset?
If you're used to it, get four to six inches smaller than what your natural measurements are. Otherwise, get two inches smaller. If you have a corset that zips up the front or busks up the front, never do that part first. Always fully lace it. A lot of people make the mistake that if you have a corset that's laced to your measurements, they'll zip and unzip. That creates strain where there shouldn't be and you're going to break your corset. Unlace them fully and then bind yourself in and you'll have a more comfortable fit.
Is it hard to dance in a corset?
I guess it depends on if you're scooping up pennies.
It's not really easy to either bend forward and backward or a whole lot side to side. It depends on your moves. If you do something like ballroom dancing, it's incredibly easy. In fact, I think that it's easier because it holds that posture and the stomach in and creates that beautiful line where if you were trying something a little rougher, or ended up in the mosh pit, it would be a bad idea.