By Sarah Dion-Marquis
Photography by Kareen Mallon
One day, Queen of France Marie Antoinette had a corset rebellion. She decided she was thin enough to wear her gowns without the uncomfortable undergarment, so she went without it. In the 18th century, not wearing a corset was a breach of etiquette of considerable proportions.
Today, women are free to wear whatever they like, and a corset has become a fashionable statement piece, found in the closet of many stylish women. The work of a corsetière, however, hasn’t changed: it still involves finding a good, solid fabric and making sure the laces at the back of the piece tighten properly.
Today’s corset makers also have a more exciting life than their predecessors. Let’s take Toronto’s most famous corsetière, Dianna Dinoble: she is a busy designer, who recently flew to Los Angeles to meet with a variety of celebrities and their stylists for the Golden Globes this winter. She left L.A. with many orders that will keep her busy this season.
“I brought ready-made corsets in order to sell them,” she explains. “The demand was high and I had to fly back right away to make custom-made pieces for these clients!”
Dinoble has dressed many celebrities since she opened up her company Starkers! Corsetry in 1992, including singer Katy Perry and actress Julia Stiles. “It’s been a fantastic experience,” she says. “I never say it enough: celebrities and their stylists are great people to work with.”
Corsets are a commodity. Dinoble, a mother of two, works from her Toronto home. Customers living in the GTA drive to meet her in order to get their own custom-made garments. Since 1997, Dinoble has also had a website, which turned out to be very useful for her international clientele. She says she sells half of the clothes she designs on the Internet; the other half – in person.
Her corsets are so popular that she has to have 20 on the go at any given time. Clients frequently wear them during evenings, galas or weddings.
Each corset is entirely custom made for the client: Dinoble takes about 15 measurements for each piece and there are 17 basic styles to choose from.
A typical corset has several layers of sculpted fabric, a minimum of 29 steel bones and laces at the back. Clients pick the fabric – anything from silk to feathers and satin – and the design. Dinoble also usually asks them if they want a traditional busk.
At the end, a corset can take six hours or a few days to make, depending on the style and detail.
Dinoble says that this year’s corsets are more vintage-inspired, with traditional or untraditional designs. They represent a lot of the 50s and 60s old-school glamour.
Torontonians will have the opportunity to see her unique collection at |FAT| Arts & Fashion Week, from Apr.24 to Apr.28, 2012.