Saturday 6 August 2016

Interview with Cosplay Corset Genius Lauren Matesic of Castle Corsetry

Photo provided by Lauren of Castle Corsetry
Cosplay costuming is a skill, an art form all of its own. On my hunt for cosplay costumiers I have come across Lauren Matesic of Castle Corsetry. We all know how much I love a corset and the huge difference to an outfit or costume. They help to give great shape, flow, structure and can be beautiful. I was so excited to find someone who has such passion, flair and skill and uses this skill to make such wonderful creations. To make my discovery of Lauren even more exciting is that she makes a whole host of costumes with endless costuming skill. The more I research potential costumes the more I find just how much goes into every part, all the little details, all the hard work, craftsmanship, time and effort. I have had the opportunity to interview Lauren. Take a read below to learn all about her!

It began when her mom taught her to sew at age six. Now, Lauren Matesic of Castle Corsetry has been an award-winning designer for the past decade. After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and training at Farthingales Corsets, Lauren broke through as a designer for the world-famous Trashy Lingerie. There, she designed custom corset and costume orders for superstars such as Kim Kardashian, Julianne Hough, Holly Madison, and Rose McGowan, as well as some pieces for major award shows.

Since launching Castle Corsetry in 2009, Lauren has designed and built hundreds of corsets ranging from compact waist cinchers to full fledged waist-trainers in all materials from silk to leather and everything in between. 

At Castle Corsetry, we only use the highest quality materials, and the European steel bones are the best on the market. Though she does create classic corsets, Lauren’s most popular designs are her pop-culture corsets featuring geek inspired designs from the nerd world’s favorite fandoms. Castle Corsetry occasionally vends at conventions, so follow her pages for the latest news!

In addition to her corsetry work, Lauren has designed and manufactured many custom costume orders, including her specialty in expertly tailored spandex suits. There’s nothing Lauren can’t do with fabrics, whether you need miniature costumes for puppets with her business partner at Fonco, to elaborate couture items for masquerade balls and weddings. Executing dozens of commissions for every major convention across the country, she has now made a name for herself in the cosplay world. You can see some of her designs on geek-culture celebrities like Team Unicorn, Ivy Doomkitty and Adrianne Curry!

There's no project beyond her skill and no design beyond her imagination. As a geeky girl herself, Lauren's enthusiasm for her work is what sets her apart. Her dedication and attention to detail makes her designs truly exceptional. There isn't a finer, quirkier costumer around.
Photo by Estrada Photography

Photo by York in a Box
What is your background in garment construction and/or design and/or ornamentation? How long have you been costuming for?

I’ve always been a nerd. So every year for Halloween I wanted to dress up as my current favorite character. So my mom and I would go out of our way to make and amazing costume that all of my friends would be jealous of. Dress up was one of my favorite activities as a kid, and it hasn’t stopped as an adult. I’ve always had a very active imagination and I loved to dress up and pretend that I was from some other world or magical realm.

How did you become involved in cosplay/geek fashion costuming?

I really started doing cosplay after attending San Diego Comic Con in my first Star Wars Corset. After having so much fun dressing up in that, I decided for the next year I would make a full costume to wear. With my friends and I decked out in costumes that I had made, we kept getting asked where to get them, which is how my costume making business erupted.

Have you found an increased interest in corsets since waist training was put in the spotlight?

I’ve had some increased interest, but modern media has a very incorrect view on what corsets are and what waist training is. So there’s been a lot of need for me to educate my clients before advising them on making a purchase. Waist training can be very dangerous if done without the proper tools (ie a well-made custom fit corset) or research.

Photo by ModelMosa
What makes a good quality corset? 

Really, the quality of the materials and the layered construction are what make a corset high quality. Make sure you have a good heavy cotton as the base, whether that’s a twill or coutil, and also a combination of spring and spiral steel bones.  My steel bones come all the way from Germany to give my clients the best possible quality.

What makes your corsets different?

A lot of the store bought “corsets” that you seen online are, in reality, just tubes of fabric with a few pieces of boning slapped in to them. They don’t have any structure or shape to give the female body any defined curve. It’s more like squeezing a sausage link than creating a feminine hourglass figure. My corsets definitely shape the body to support the breasts while cinching in the waist.

What are some of the challenges of cosplay costuming?

A lot of times artists and creators don’t take into account real life wear-ability. For instance, a video game character may look really cool, but the artist won’t have built in a zipper or closure for the character to get in and out of their costume. So as a costume designer, we often have to troubleshoot the artist’s creations to make it look as accurate to the artwork as possible, while still being able to wear the costume comfortably and easily.  A good seamstress will have to master the art of invisible zippers and hidden closures to make the outside of the costume as clean as possible.
Photo by Joits 

Describe some of your favourite projects?

My all time favorite costume that I have created was Winifred Sanderson from Hocus Pocus. It was a crazy costume to make and by far one of the hardest, but also the one that I am most proud of. It took me two months of nearly non stop work to complete it. But I learned so many new skills and techniques that it's truly is my pride and joy. It doesn't hurt that I also enjoy snarling at small children while I wear it. 

There’s always going to be a place in my heart for any of the Playboy bunny groups. Playboy bunnies are a popular mash-up trend for cosplay right now. My company is well known for both Star Trek and Star Wars Playboy mash ups. As an expert in corset making, it’s been a trend in the community that I’ve been able to thrive on and profit off of, due to its immense popularity. While there are many tutorials and forums online on how to make your own Playboy bunny suit, it will never compare to having one custom made for you by an expert in the field.

Who can we see wearing some of your work?

In the past I used to be the Designer for celebrities for Halloween time and had clients such as Kim Kardashian, Julianne Hough, and Holly Madison. But, now my regular clients include Ivy Doomkitty, LeeAnna Vamp, Raychul Moore, and Adrianne Curry.

Who would you love to make a costume for?

Ru Paul or Dita Von Teese! They’re both goddesses to me. I would do anything to make corsets for either of them.

Have you always had a design/costume type in your head that you would like to fulfill?

I’ve always wanted to make a mesh body suit, where it was just Rhinestones conveniently covering any exposed parts. Just because I love dripping in Rhinestones.

What aspect of costume making do you enjoy the most?

I love pattern drafting. I’m a big math geek, and I can do geometry all day, it’s very satisfying to me to do pattern drafting more so than sewing.

If a new cosplayer was looking to get a costume commissioned/constructed, what should they consider? What difference would a new performer find from off the rack to commissioned pieces?

Off the rack costumes are generally made in China and are of the lowest quality you can possible find. So, while they are affordable, you will generally have an ill fitting, thin material costume that you will almost always be disappointed in. Something from a designer such as myself will be custom made to your measurements. I have access to the most amazing fashion district in the world to get the highest quality fabrics for the most accurate representation of your character.

Photo by Greg De Stefano Photography
All costumiers tend to have a style of costume/way of making or presenting their work. Can you describe what you think makes an obvious Castle Corsetry piece?

Well, if there’s a really well made corset in the costume, 9 times out of 10 it’s one of mine! But I’m also an expert in spandex tailoring. When there’s a really complicated spandex suit with a lot of pieces and designs on it I’m generally the one who can conquer them. Most people don’t know how to work with spandex, but I revel in it!

What would you consider important cosplay must have items?

1. A plain black corset. I may be biased about corsets, but I really think that a good black corset is unparalleled in it’s usefulness in cosplay. There are so many cosplays that use corsets as a base, that to have a well made black corset is essential.
2. A good sewing machine. I can’t tell you how many cosplayers I know use cheap sewing machines from Jo-Ann fabrics or the like ($200 or less) I know not everyone is made of money. But if you’re going to make this a profession or hobby, you really need to invest in a decent machine. I’m partial to Husqvarna, a good starter machine is the Emerald 118, which runs around $400. Also, if you’re looking to do spandex and superhero costumes you NEED a serger/overlock machine. The Zigzag stitch on a regular machine just does not cut it!
3.Lessons! I learn more working on the job or from friends who were more knowledgeable then I, and I have a degree in fashion design. Surrounding yourself with friends who are more knowledgeable than you will only hone your skills further.

Photo by York in a Box
How long on average does it take to make a costume?

I like to have 2-3 months for costume commissions between design and production. But I can work under tighter schedules if the client requires it. Most things can be made in a matter of days if the materials are immediately available.

What are you most asked for/popular items?

My Harry Potter house themed longline corsets and mermaid leggings are probably the most popular pieces I sell! But in terms of Cosplay, my Dark Phoenix from X-men and Mortal Kombat costumes are probably the most sought after.

How should a cosplayer care for their costumes?

Treat your costumes as nicely as you would treat any formal attire. So, keep it hung up in a cool dark closet. Don’t ever leave it in your trunk of your car for extended periods of time. A lot of costumes have glue or other pieces that can melt, especially here in Southern California where we are. It’s really just about treating your costumes kindly.

What would you like to experience in your creativity and/or your business in the near future?

I would love to be at the point where I could hire more help or get some of my ready to wear pieces made in local factories. Just taking more off of my own plate would be nice.

What are your long term plans for Castle Corsetry? 

While I love being in the cosplay culture and scene, I would really love to expand upon my ready-to-wear lingerie collections while still staying in the ‘geeky’ vein. I’ve had a lot of design ideas tossing around in my head for while, but just not the time to execute them as of late. I would love to expand my corset collections to include bras, panties, garters, etc. Someday! (with all that spare time I have…)

Photo by ModelMosa
I would like to thank Lauren for her time with this interview. Visit Lauren's website to check out more of her work. Stay tuned for more cosplay posts coming soon.


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