No trend has stolen the sartorial spotlight in 2021 quite like corsets. It began with the wildly popular Regency-era series Bridgerton causing a 123% spike in searches for the constrictive silhouette, in the four-week span following its December release alone. Then there were the celebrity sightings, with Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Jordan Alexander, and more taking the trend out for a spin. A bevvy of red carpet and runway appearances later, and the corset is the trend of 2021.
But it was well before this year that Welsh designer Rosie Evans began making modernised versions of Elizabethan- and Jacobean-style undergarments.
Evans, 25, initially planned to become a costume designer before realising that creating costume-esque looks for everyday people, rather than actors, was more rewarding. Corsets, in particular, became a primary interest of hers. After studying them at length at UWE in Bristol — she researched the style in her final year — but never actually making one herself, she one day just said, “Why not?”
“I was quite interested in them, so I thought, I’m just going to carry on with this,” she tells Refinery29. “I'm going to give it a go and do some mock-ups myself and just see what happens.” Her first corset was designed using old sofa upholstery fabric and a Jacobean-style pattern. Because Evans’ venture into corset-making aligned with the rise of the trend in fashion and pop culture, she says that the interest from the audience was immediate. “I made that one, [posted it,] and people began to message me,” she recalls.
The rest lined up like something out of the French fairy tales she uses as inspiration. (Her latest collection was inspired by Cinderella, penned by French author Charles Perrault in 1697, and the 1970s French film Donkey Skin, which is based on the 1695 Peau d'âne fable.) Before long, she had acquired more than 16,000 followers on the platform, where she shares her selection of "high-fantasy" corsets, all of which are made using materials you can find in your home, like embroidered tea towels and tablecloths. She’s garnering attention on TikTok, too. There, you can find videos of her intricate process. See: Evans transforming a towel printed with a map of Scotland that her mum bought at a tourism shop into an Eilish-approved bustier.
She’s also designed styles using old pillowcases, which she dolled up with vintage doilies; recycled cotton and felt, embroidered with retro clothing labels; and deadstock ivory silk, inspired by a bustier worn by Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) on The Tudors.
Today, Evans’ namesake brand is stocked across Europe and the U.S., including Paris’ Les Fleurs Studio, which was founded by fashion influencer María Bernad, and Doza Shop, an independent multi-brand retailer based in Los Angeles. In May, her collaboration with British designer Bethany Williams — which benefited The Magpie Project, a charity that assists families in east London — landed her work in British Vogue.
According to Evans, the sudden spike in interest for her brand is due to a combination of things. During the pandemic, people’s consumption habits have changed, with many seeking out more eco-conscious fashion. Then there is the price factor. “Obviously corsets have been really big lately,” she says, “but not a lot of people are making them sustainably or they are making traditional corsets which are very expensive because they're made to your measurements.” On the contrary, Evans makes everything out of recycled materials, and crafts pieces that, though designed in a traditional way — she uses historical corsets as a blueprint for her designs — are more fashion-forward and easy to wear. Price-wise, they typically go for between £120 and £160. In comparison, corsets from a lingerie brand like Agent Provocateur can cost upwards of £695.
“Corsets are all about dressing up and making yourself not really look like a person from this time."
- Rosie Evans
Then there is her signature fantasy-inspired aesthetic that she says appealed to many in lockdown, when a sartorial escape to somewhere far, far away was welcome by many. “Corsets are all about dressing up and making yourself not really look like a person from this time,” she says.
But just because we’re no longer staying home doesn’t mean that Evans is going anywhere. In fact, she’s only just getting started. With a new studio in Brighton and a growing presence on TikTok, where a brand can go from zero to 100 in next to no time, we’re about to see a lot more of the designer. And her dreamy selection of corsets, of course.