My name is Sarah Ottewill and I live in England. I am presently doing a college project about Victorian influences on todays fashion. I was wondering if you or any of your associates could spare a few moments to answer a few questions?


1.Do you personally have any input into the designs?

Yes I do. My clients, I and my corset maker collaborate to come up with final style, embellishments and fit.

2.How much of your designs are influenced by Victorian fashion?

ROMANTASY provides access to the widest variety of patterns and styles in the world as we rep about eight custom corset makers! Thus clients order eveything, but the most popular style is the Victorian underbust by far.

3.Do you think Victorian dress can ever be revived?

I think it already has been, if not the skirts and layers and bustles and undergarments, at least the corset for sure!  Pantaloons and chemises are occasionally ordered but not often!

4. Do you think changes in fashion go hand in hand with changing roles in society for women?

Yes. Functionally, Rosie the Riveter and military women on decks of ships and upstairs, could not wear skirts because men looked up their dresses and pants were certainly more convenient, if not warmer wear! Women used to ride side saddle and the first woman to wear pants and straddle a horse must have been quite something in her day! But her garb had to change to start emulating men and the comfort of riding astride!

Women in sports have certainly changed fashion as well. Remember what the first women tennis players wore: long skirts! As we have thrown off shame about our bodies and our sexuality, we have begun to wear functional, comfortable and skin tight or revealing practical garments. Note the beautiful bodies of both women and men swimmers at the past Olympics who focus on speed and winning, not on superficial things like body image or tradition!

As a young professional in the late 1960s, I remember being petrified as I was along with my girfriend, both Public Administration Interns, walked into our state offices (Mental Hygiene Dept in New York State) wearing the first ever pants suits! We feared for weeks we would get fired. Models had just begun wearing them in Vogue magazine! We did not get fired but got many many distressed and disapproving looks from both men and women, for months. Then gradually other women started wearing pants suits to work. In those days they were tunic tops over bell bottom pants, in a print. Nowadays pants suits are quite tailored with blazer jacket and slim pants, much more classic I think that what we started with!

As a young civil trial attorney in a male profession in 1974 and for many years, I emulated men's dress in the courtroom, certainly not the typical female garb! Once I achieved a measure of self confidence and professional competence, I changed to wearing classic gabardine dresses and beautiful silk scarves and dangly earrings as they applied to the outfit. I remember being petrified the first day I walked into court with no jacket on! But it got easier over time.  I had the benefit of women's roles changing and becoming wider as it were, not narrower, so that our options were multiplied re: what was proper in the courtroom in a "male" bastion as it were.

Nowadays I wear corsets for back support, fashion and ego-gratification. I like that they give my slim and unremarkable figure, curves and 99% of the time draw admiring glances.

5.To what extent do you think items such as corsets, crinolines and bustles are relevant in today's fashion?

Totally. Sheri, an extremely active corset maker for ROMANTASY, handed me a photo out of Bazaar magazine three days ago (late January, 2001) showing a model wearing a cincher with pants pulled over the top, a casual but classy outfit! Catherine Zita Jones was wearing a corset on the cover of Bazaar magazine I believe, two months ago (November, 2000). And she was wearing a Versace elegant black corset over a long black evening gown at the recent Academy Awards. Of course, she could have gotten that made by Sheri for one-half the cost, or had two for the price of one Versace....maybe I'll ring her up and introduce ROMANTASY!

I have an entire 3" wide binder full of covers of Vogue and Bazaar magazines showing corseted gowns. Take a look at any bridal magazine today: the bodice is either structured and heavily plastic boned, or an actual corset over a skirt!

And men provide over 60% of my corset orders today: an entirely new and burgeoning market, quite diverse from the women's market for corsets. Don't forget the men! Not all gay, not all straight, not all into women's fashions, not all fetish tight-lacers, not all for pulling in the middle-aged gut, but all of the above and quite a few more reasons for loving corsets!

Middle aged and older women are also a new market; women with tummies from childbirth and aging, seeking to retain their youthful figure and feel good and pretty again!

Please note I do not market to Club Kids or the Goth crowd, although I welcome this clientele as well, but I know less about their preferences.

6. What do you think is the chief function of the corset today?

To enhance a personal sense of well-being and beauty.

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