Melanie Talkington has always been fascinated with historic costume and collected antique objects that felt precious and needed protection. She was enthralled by the intricate detailing, delicate laces and buttons, including the amazing interior structures of Victorian clothing. The colours, fabrics and details, are pure craftsmanship.
The corset has always held an air of mystery. Grainy black and white images in a book didn’t explain enough- what did the back look like? The inside? What colour and fabric is it made of? The seed was planted and the curiosity grew. Melanie started studying the history of fashion, learning about each era, as fashion changed, not only new gowns were required, but also new undergarments which moulded the final silhouette of the wearer. How could an undergarment do this? Modern undergarments are not capable of this feat!
The Corsetières of the past were far from conventional – they were artisans, masters of their trade and extremely skilled to create patterns that would manipulate the torso into a variety of shapes.
She finally found her first antique corset in 1997. Made of scarlet red wool from the 1860’s with a faint stamp from the manufacturer on the inside, completely moth eaten and quite fragile with black bones sticking out that are brittle and chewed. A perfect study piece!
Melanie carefully patterned the antique corset and intensely studied it to make an exact replica. So many new tools were required to make such a small garment- the front fastening busk closure, the eyelets to lace up the back, the steel boning imported from France where they have produced corset boning since 1888. Finally all of the pieces came together and with much suspense, she was able to experience the fit of an authentic Victorian reproduction corset and experience how a Victorian woman would have felt in her corset. She was hooked and began collecting more antique corsets to study and pattern.
The collection now has over 300 examples of antique corsets from 18th century to 1970, our favourite are the French corsets- so much colour and joie de vivré. The collection also includes, lacy white petticoats, bust bodices, falsies, bustles, hoops and stockings to completely understand the fashionable woman of each era.
Soon, local museums began to contact Melanie for loans of her collection. She began working with Ivan Sayers and Claus Jahnke installing underwear exhibits at the Nanaimo museum and the Museum of Vancouver. The most enthralling, was working with Musée les Arts Decoratifs in the Louvre Palace, loaning and installing 40 pieces from her collection in the Mécaniques des Dessous exhibit. The collection has also traveled to New York and Texas. In addition, we are happy to have our very own Antique Corset Museum nestled in the back of our boutique. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to create and share our exquisite collection.
We get much pleasure from studying the pieces in the collection, the tiniest details are fascinating, we learn so much from each piece. Each piece in is admired for the stories and lessons they share.
Using historical patterns from her collection, Melanie started a business reproducing corsets. Lace Embrace Atelier specializes in bespoke corsetry, crafting authentic corset patterns for people all over the world. From medical grade corsets to wasp waist silhouettes, there’s not much that can’t be done in the Lace Embrace studio. We work with a variety of bodies and have a huge selection of corset samples to fit people in, largely Victorian and Edwardian corset patterns.
Clients of Lace Embrace include Cathie Jung, the Guiness Book of World Records holder for the world’s smallest waist at 15″. World-renowned burlesque dancers Dita Von Teese and Perle Noire have also had custom corsets made exclusively for stage presence in front of thousands of fans.
Melanie also teaches corsetry at Capilano University in addition to producing corsets and costumes for film and television. Some of her work has been in Suckerpunch, Once Upon a Time and A Series of Unfortunate Events plus many other shows.
Fame and fortune are not a prerequisite for an exquisite, comfortable and well-tailored corset. Lace Embrace is happy to help anyone who longs for the comforting hug of a corset. We strive to keep the tradition of corseting alive, one fitting at a time!