“Really?…. A corset! Well yes, but candy pink satin?…Are you sure?”
“Trust me!” I say…
and trust me she did.
My dear friend Juliet had very kindly agreed to collaborate with me on a passion project that has been formulating in the back of my head for some time now. She was the perfect collaborator: enthusiastic, highly imaginative with a great sense of fun. Now I can’t reveal the project at the moment, its still under wraps but I can and wanted to share a small part of it which I like to call “Building Boudicea”.
For this project Juliet and I needed to develop a costume for her to wear, this costume (for reasons I shan’t as yet go into) would be a deeply personal take on the British Celtic heroine Boudicea*. I’d like to emphasise here that this costume was never intended to be historically accurate, it is intended to be a physical representation of psychological notions.
The main constraint I had with this costume was time, closely followed by budget. I needed to come up with an outfit that deeply resonated with Juliet as well as communicating ‘modern day Boudicea’ to others in a couple of days. Our starting point was a beautiful velvet blue, black and grey animal print dress that Juliet had purchased many years ago, absolutely adored yet had never found opportunity to wear. Juliet also owned a short cape that was just perfect, a very traditional style of wool in burgundy and rust as well as a belt that we had purchased together during a personal styling session that has become a fast favourite. We talked about Celtic tattoos, arm bands, armour, spines and wild tribal hair.
As I went off to contemplate our discussion, the notion of armour really stuck with me. It’s likely of course that Boudicea did not wear armour, although in some imaginings of her she is pictured with armour. Her adversaries, the Romans, would have worn upper body armour with helmets and shields. Boudicea, is more likely to have been wearing a simple tunic, and cloak.
However, the notion of our Boudicea taking an item of clothing which has one particular set of social connotations and converting into something totally different, more wild, wilful and empowered, rather appealed to me. Somehow in the conversion from one to the other the item is imbued with greater power and the wearer ownership of the. Off I went to a local charity store and as luck would have it, exactly the item I was looking for was there loitering, just waiting for me to find it.
A cheaply made, candy pink satin corset. In my experience there is likely to be two main types of responses to this kind of an item. Those that see corsetry as a tool for the suppression and control of women: restrictive, unhealthy, painful, sexualised and controlled. The other group (which includes women), see modern day corsetry as empowering: Women embracing their history, owning their femininity and sexual appeal. In truth, I probably have a foot in both camps, but in cheap, candy pink satin I feel this corset sits in the first camp.
So the idea of taking this item, that to me is symbolic of women being sexualised and objectified to suit the whims of men, into an item that appears to provide protection and preparation for a woman going into battle to protect her people, provides a psychological meaning that has deep satisfaction. A notion too that is perfect for our modern day Boudicea – Juliet.
So the conversion began:
The finished Boudicea body armour front and back. No longer apt to call it a corset.
So here is a teensy weeny sneak peek of some of the elements together. I’d love to show you the whole thing, but best not. For now anyway.
We were both so pleased with how it came out. We had enormous fun creating it and the project was a really fascinating, emotionally empowering experience for both of us. Please keep your fingers crossed that all works out and I get more opportunities to produce work of this nature.
*Boudicea has many versions of her name by which she is known including Boudica, Boudicca, Boadicea and Buddug.
Boudicea, who died in cAD6, was a queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe. Legend has it that she rallied her people to fight the Roman conquerors in retaliation for suppression and abuse. She is believed to have been mercenary and blood thirsty in her treatment of the enemy, yet is upheld as a heroine, protector and defender of her people.