My second interviewee uses her lingerie making skills to make some truly magical and theatrical creations. Stef has definitely convinced me to finally delve into the world of sewing performance wear - a place I've been too chicken to visit before!
1.Name and Location:
I’m known as Stef in my everyday life and Persephone Furs is my burlesque persona. I have been living in Wellington for the past 4 years and my hometown is Whanganui.
2. What first sparked your interest in lingerie sewing?
I’ve always had an interest in lingerie sewing but never focussed on it until I started burlesque. One of the benefits of lingerie making is it uses up less space during the production process which is a big win as I don’t have a lot of space in my flat. I converted my lounge into my sewing room and it is always in a state of chaos. And it also means I have no space to entertain people anymore so my days of having friends coming over for dinner is over.
3. How would you describe your lingerie sewing?
I would describe my lingerie sewing as ever evolving as I push myself to try new things. I aim to have my items drafted and constructed in the best way possible but accept that in practice this may not happen and try to learn from it for the next attempt. There has been a few rather underwhelming outputs but I try to think of how this will contribute to my knowledge and that you have to start somewhere and work up from there. For such a small output when compared with other sewing projects there are so many variables to keep in mind when sewing lingerie — stretch factor of fabrics, the right elastic choices for what you want to achieve, elastic lengths, lace details, rings and sliders, underwires, clasps, molded foam cups, cut and sew foam cups not to mention the diversity of butts, boobs and everything in between!
My approach was my usual approach when I don’t know something — I hit the books, studied up, and then started putting theory into practice. I already knew how to sew having learned a good portion of my skills from my mum, friends, particularly my good friend Jo, and courses. I bought several books and Crafty tutorials on lingerie and slowly built up my knowledge. I have also done a short summer course at Toi Whakaari in corsetry and went over to Healesville (an hour outside of Melbourne) to learn the finer details of corsetry at Vanyanis School of Couture. My goal is to go back to Vanyanis and learn more but my work schedule has been quite demanding this year.
The most helpful books I bought were by the same author Jennifer Lynne Matthews-Fairbanks called “Bare Essentials Underwear Construction and Pattern Drafting for Lingerie Design” and “Bare Essentials Bras Construction and Pattern Drafting for Lingerie Design”. I liked these books because it provided a basic bra and panty pattern — in the first section you use this pattern to learn the construction. Once you have a achieved this you move onto the next section about making adaptations to the pattern and the final section is drafting your own once you understand the basics. And as a bonus the author provided the knowledge to draft the pattern via the usual method, pencil and paper, or via the Adobe Illustrator software. As a graphic designer by trade I picked the latter as I had the skills and the technology and it also had the added benefit of not straining my back because when I draft I tend to stand and lean over my table which kills my lower back.
These books are very clearly illustrated and are pretty easy to understand that said I did find a few things confusing so I made sure to note this in my books for future reference.
4. How has it enriched your life?
Lingerie sewing allows me to re-charge my batteries. I work a 9 to 5 job in government as a service designer so being able to create things with my hands is limited. If I can’t make I don’t feel good. I love being able to create a whole costume from concept through to the lingerie and accessories. What I find most helpful with my sewing is having the ability to design the garments to come off really well on stage.
5. Please describe your best 'Ah-hah! Wahoo! Ye-haw! Tah-dah' moment.
My ‘ah-hah! Ta-da!’ moment came when I started drafting through Adobe Illustrator. I was instantly hooked and created a bra block which fits me like a dream. From this block I have created a variety of bra patterns which have all been successful. I’m hoping over the Xmas holiday to try some more bra ideas particularly a shelf bra and an overwire bra which I tried making once before but haven’t completely figured out yet.
6. What is your top tip to share with other lingerie sewists?
My top tip would be binding the edges of garments. After looking at bras I bought I realised inserting a bit of elastic in the binding creates the most fantastic edge with minimal warping. This orange bikini was the first time I used this technique and I was stoked by the end result.
Additionally my other tip is getting the elastic tension right. For a long time I struggled to get the tension right when inserting elastic and my edges were always this horrible lettuce like edging which drove me nuts. I just couldn’t get it right until I started getting it right with experience. Occasionally I still mess up but at least I know it was due to not pulling the elastic taut enough.
7. Random question - do you prefer Halloween or Christmas?
Hmmmm probably Halloween as the costumes are way more interesting.
Thank you so much Stef for inviting us into your world of sewing. I love how your dedication to your hobby has overtaken your house and driven you to travel in search of knowledge!
Below are some of Stef's STUNNING creations!
Here's Stef, babe-ing it up in purple in the middle of the Bandits.
Photo credit: Dan Horne Photography
Bandits of Burlesque — harness lingerie made from Lycra, molded bra cups and 19mm satin finished bra elastic, Arabesque rhinestones (from Rhinestonz.co.nz) and fringing - Stef made all four costumes with each one taking 3-5 hours (minus rhinestone application)
Photo by Theuns Verwoerd
Harness lingerie made from a variety of black elastic particularly 12mm and 19mm satin finished bra elastic. This was the first corset Stef drafted and constructed. Zips, press studs, lots of rings and sliders, rhinestones.
Circus Fish outfit — photo by Paradox Photography
Lingerie made from metallic foiled Lycra, stretch lace, 5mm elastic, cut and sew foam cups, rhinestones
Peignoir made from 20 denier nylon and marabou feathers