Making a Corset with Vanyanis

I am stubborn, and when I want to learn something, I generally teach myself. I taught myself how to sew, and have been making my own clothes for the last five or six years. I’m no expert seamstress, but I have a few tricky garments under my belt (I’m looking at you, wedding dress of ’17) and I’m a competent maker. However, there are some things I am not prepared to attempt to teach myself, and making a corset is right up there with garments that I do not have the patience to try alone. Enter Vanyanis; a studio in Healesville dedicated to corset making and couture.

After a few years of telling myself I would do it, I finally bit the bullet and just signed up for the beginner’s corsetry course, for the weekend just past. Under the careful and patient tutelage of Vanyanis founder, Lowana, I (and the two other women who attended the class) constructed a fully steel boned underbust corset entirely from scratch. Something that would have taken me literal years to attempt myself was managed in three days, and it was absolutely worth the price of admission.

The studio itself, tucked away in a quiet little street in Healesville, was beautifully and tastefully decorated, and had plenty of natural light. Lowana was not only a fabulous teacher, but a wonderful host, and I cannot stress enough how far that goes towards making a learning experience a positive one. The first day was spent learning how to make a toile (pronounced twahl), which is essentially a mock up of the final garment, designed to work out where adjustments need to be made to ensure a better fit. Amidst many cups of tea and chats, our toiles were made and adjusted as per the requirements of our very different bodies. Once all the necessary adjustments were made, the next two days were spent constructing the actual corset.

There is so much involved in making a corset, things that I would never have thought, and it is certainly a time consuming process. But, as someone who loves to learn new things, I was in heaven. Each step was explained and then put into practice, and the breaking down of the total construction into smaller steps made the process – which would otherwise have been a daunting task to tackle – smooth and relatively simple. Short of the final construction, making and piecing together the busk (the front closure of a corset) was one of the more rewarding aspects of the course for me, because it was such a lengthy process, and tricky in a lot of ways. Seeing the satisfactory completion of one of the more difficult aspects of making a corset was a quiet little thrill for my creative heart.

Completed and fully inserted busk

On the final day, we each tried on the corsets that we had painstakingly constructed (I learned how to lace myself into my own corset too, which was a skill I had previously assumed was a two person job), and the silhouette it created was astounding. I think there was a definitely a little bit of jaw dropping going on in that room on Monday evening. And one of the things that struck me most was how comfortable it was to be laced into a corset. Despite the misconceptions about corset wearing, it wasn’t in any way painful, or uncomfortable, or difficult to breathe. Much like any other garment I make to fit myself, it was comfortable and well fitting and, if I may say so myself, quite a lovely creation.

Over the three days I spent at the studio, I learned things that would not only allow me to now complete a corset on my own, but I also picked up a few tricks and tips that will aid me in my general sewing as well. It was honestly such a rewarding experience, and one that I am glad I finally decided to treat myself to. If you happen to be nearby, and want to check the course out for yourself, I have nothing but positive things to say about it, and for all my sewing friends out there, it’s a class I highly recommend.

Anxiety in Learning, and People Who Refuse to Understand

How do you explain anxiety to someone who doesn’t understand it? How do you open a discussion about how you’re feeling, when the other person is sitting across from you in judgement, and telling you that you’re wrong? These are questions I asked myself this week, when I had an encounter with a friend that left me feeling frustrated for those very same reasons.

I do not have anxiety in any diagnosed sense. But, like every other person in the world I’m sure, there are certain things that do make me incredibly anxious. I find being in crowds acutely uncomfortable. Meeting new people either turns me into some kind of overly expressive, unintentionally aggressive(ly energetic) person, or into a silent, dismissive, seemingly moody person who can’t make conversation. But another thing that makes me feel anxious is learning from other people, one on one.

I like to teach myself things, for a few reasons. Firstly, I am as stubborn as a mule. I like tackling challenges – despite often getting a little overwhelmed by them – because I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment after completing something that I spent time and effort on. Of course, this doesn’t always mean it’s an effective way to learn; my lack of musical ability (despite trying to teach myself various instruments over the years) is a testament to that. The other major reason why I enjoy trying to teach myself things as opposed to learning a skill from another person, is because I hate feeling like I’m stupid. And as silly as this might sound, learning new things can make me feel incredibly stupid.

See, the thing about learning from someone else, is that somewhere in my brain there is a little voice that tells me that the teacher is judging my inability to do ‘the thing’. And even though I know realistically they’re not thinking that at all, I can’t help but feel awkward when I’m learning something new that I haven’t yet mastered. It’s one of many reasons why starting a new job makes me nervous. The idea that I might not get it right, that I might take too long to learn, that the teacher might get frustrated with my questions and think I’m an idiot…these are all factors that contribute to the feeling of anxiety and inadequacy. I like to learn in solitude, where no one can witness my inevitable mistakes, and where it doesn’t matter how long it then takes me to fix them. Learning from someone else can come with a level of pressure that doesn’t come from teaching yourself how to do something.

I was trying to explain this to my boss the other day. I said learning new things can sometimes make me feel stupid, and his exact verbatim response was “Well, you’re wrong, but ok.” There it is. You’re wrong. With those two words, he managed to simultaneously belittle me, and prove my point. When I tried to further explain what I was talking about, he cut me off and told me that it didn’t make sense, and that feeling like that was weird and “not normal”. Which brings us back to my original question; how do you explain a feeling to someone who is determined not to understand?

There are always going to be people who think you’re weird for feeling a certain way. There are always going to be people who don’t understand. I usually try to avoid having to have those conversations, but in this case it was unavoidable. I guess at the end of the day, I don’t need to explain myself to anyone, and I certainly don’t need to justify how I’m feeling, especially not to someone who refuses to understand. But, I can get mad about it and vent on my blog. Have any of you ever had that experience? Have you ever struggled to explain how you’re feeling to someone else? Tell me your stories!