Notorious Vancouver: Interview with Melanie Talkington of Lace Embrace Atelier

It is often things which lie beneath that spur interest and imagination. In Vancouver, it’s the underground culture that helps us shake the ‘No Fun City” moniker. Like the city, it’s often what’s beneath the surface of our clothes that’s the diversion. Between some baring it all (Wreck Beach) and some just teasing us with glimpses (Vancouver’s burlesque scene) it’s no surprise that the mystery and allure draw us in and keep us captivated. There is one such lady who is a dab hand at helping us to manipulate and perpetuate this. By sharing her passion for historical undergarments and fitting some of the most famous bodies in the world her with her classic style, Melanie Talkington, owner and designer of Lace Embrace Atelier, has likely shaped more waists, fitted more busts, and managed to leave more than a few ladies (and gentlemen!) in the city slightly breathless….

Melanie Talkington is one of the most talented people you may ever meet. Her dimpled smiled masks a brain that is analyzing your waist and how to shape it with an haute couture corset that is also historically accurate. Corsets are one of the most complicated things to sew, and require such a high level of skill and specialty that true corsetiers are something of a rarity in line with unicorns. Melanie got her start in bridal and then made the leap to corsets which garnered her clientele from all over the globe. In order to offer a large range of styles to suit every body type, her collection of antique corsets and swelled to become the largest in the world. This has allowed her to take any body and give it a beautiful shape and with her eye for design, this tango-dancing couturier will have you cinched into an amazing piece of wearable art. Alexander McQueen himself would likely crawl across broken glass, fly unzipped for the chance to access her knowledge and flair. Starting out strictly as a home-based business available only online (http://www.laceembrace.com) she opened the doors to Lace Embrace Atelier on 16th just off of Main Street in Vancouver where she could meet with clients and invite enthusiasts into her world. Now after having countess examples of her creations on stage and screen (both big and small) she is perusing another dream – opening the world’s first and only antique corset museum. I managed to tie Vancouver’s corset queen down to ask her some questions about life in a corset and where to find her work next…

Little Miss Risk: 1) Your love of corsetry stems from Dolly Parton in Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. Have you had any other great inspirations that drove you to study corsety?

Melanie Talkington: I’ve always loved the history of fashion, antique clothing, details, layers, etc. It was my fantasy as a little girl to be able to wear ‘old fashioned clothes’ and experience life in the ‘olden days’. The  variety of layers in a woman’s wardrobe is quite extensive, when I found it was the corset that created the foundation of her figure, I was intrigued and wanted to know more about these objects – why did she wear one, how did it feel, how small could I lace my waist down, etc. I’ve slowly collected anything related to corsetry and followed my passion which allowed me to flourish as a corsetiere and reviving a lost art.

LMR: 2) You’ve fitted some of the most famous waist’s and who’s who in body shaping such as Dita Von Teese and Guinness World Records Holder, Cathy Jung. Are there any dream waists that your itching to get a chance to shape with your creations?

MT: Yes! Dolly Parton would be the ultimate client for me. I’ve always loved her positive attitude and character, it would be amazing to meet her and fit her for a corset!!! I would also like to work with more film and television and see our corsets on the big screen.

LMR: 3) You’ve got the largest collection of antique corsets in the world. What are some of your favourites in your collection?

The French corsets always seem to have a naughty but nice quality to them – a certain joie de vivre.

LMR: 4) An Antique Corset Museum in Vancouver would be the first of it’s kind in the world. What could people expect in the way of installations? Are there any exhibits your eager to put together?

MT: We are still in the very early stages of envisioning the museum,  a lot of capital is required to make this a complete reality. I feel it’s a shame that my collection remains hidden from public view unless it’s displayed at one of our events or loaned to a museum… it would be lovely to give the collection a home and space to share their beauty. It is a very unusual collection which would be interesting for many to enjoy.

LMR: 5) It’s no secret that when it comes to sewing, making corsets is one of the most difficult and labour-intensive undertakings. What’s been the most time consuming piece you’ve created? 

MT: It seems that any new pattern/ design we undertake requires a lot of time to make the fit and shaping correct. The Doll corset we made for Dita was labour intensive as the lace was hand dyed and actually 5 rows of lace sewn together. Our sexy leather corset cloak is one of the most expensive pieces . And our newest Chloe corset is still a work in progress creating lovely bust shaping and a curvy waist.

 

LMR: 6) May 27th you hosted a fundraiser at Hycroft for the Antique Corset Museum. The exhibition included some of your Parisian antique corsets in your collection. Is there anything in particular you can let people know to about the installation with your pieces?

MT: I had been busy preparing for the exhibition, it was very difficult to choose from the 52 antique French corsets in my collection. I selected a nice variety of colorful corsets in silks and brocades with striped petticoats, some children and doll corsets, advertising pieces. It shaped up to be a lovely exhibition!

LMR: 7) The Antique Corset Museum is anticipated to have quite a tourist draw for Vancouver. Any plans or hopes for potentially doing historical unmentionables installation swaps with other textile museums such as the Met and the Costume History Museum in St.Gallen?

MT: We do currently loan our pieces to museums. I have just received confirmation that Les Arts Decoratifs in Paris will borrow 40 pieces from my collection for their unmentionables exhibition. http://www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/english-439/ It will be an honor to have my collection in a French museum! When I met with the curator, it was surprising to see how little they had of corsetry in the 19th century.

Be sure to catch Melanie and the Lace Embrace on Twitter @laceembrace or on Facebook. Stay tuned, she has another Antique Corset Calendar in the works for 2013, and it’s going to be beautiful!

 

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