Corsets have never fallen completely out of fashion but in the last decade they have really been thrust back into the limelight by the flurry of infamous designers tackling the iconic garment and making it their own. More designers are now sending their beautifully sewn creations strutting off down the catwalk. Not to mention the bevy of beautiful starlet donning the corset for everything from rock concerts to red carpet walks.
But behind the big designer fashion houses who makes all these corsets? Who draft the corset patterns and sew on the frills, feathers and sequins? Well one name stands proud of all others – Mr Pearl, who is as exotic in character as his corsets are in design. With an 18 inch waist sculpted using corsets made by his own hand his silhouette is alarmingly unnatural. An English gentleman born in Africa and originally named Mark Pullin, Mr Pearl is a reserved man now residing in Paris working for the numerous couture houses that require his expert corsetry skills. Now in his forties he has been in the fashion industry longer than any other corset maker and is arguably the best Corsetiere in the world. Mr Pearls first experience of tightlacing came at an early age helping his grandmother lace her corsets. He started corset training himself in his early thirties having been inspired by another famous male tightlacer Fakir Musafar. Mr Pearl says he is not interested in fashion but is instead preoccupied by the idea of the ideal figure: “Corsetry presents endless, almost unobtainable possibilities, it could always be tighter, more beautiful, longer in the front. The limit is physical – outward appearances are endless.” – Mr Pearl
Corsets from Mr Pearl are available to the general public but they run into the thousands like any couture garment, wearers of his work include Beyonce and Dita Von Teese. More impressive than the individuals in his corsets though are the designers he has worked for. The big fashion houses he has turned his hand to demand some exotic and challenging corseted garments. Mr Pearl has a team of hard working couture corset makers and several people work on any one piece. He has worked in fabric, metal, sequins and various other exotic materials such as resins. My favorite Mr Pearl creations include the little number worn by Dita Von Teese at the Gaultier autumn winter ’10 catwalk show with its black skeletal ribcage and spinal column over a pale skin toned corset, the beautiful pastel pink Sophie Dahl Gaultier dress of spring summer ’10 with its reams of down-to-the-floor ribbon lacing and the Metal ‘Biker’ Corset made for Thierry Mugler with its flame paint work and wing mirrors!