Last year the crew of 14 East, Depaul University’s Magazine came to visit me at Department of Curiosities. The result is this little interview and video tour of the shop and studio. I hope you enjoy learning about my process and taking a closer look at some corsets, patterns and the workshop itself.
In addition to Morúa you can also see some of the Department Of Curiosities lingerie that I design in collaboration with Jamie Hayes and in the background pieces from her brand, Production Mode.
Two years ago Morúa moved to Chicago, and to a new atelier and showroom: Department of Curiosities. A collaboration with fashion designer Jamie Hayes and her line Production Mode, this remarkable partnership has evolved from a workshop, to a shop, exhibition space, and salon and is now also lush lingerie line. Inspired by the luminous, strong women of the 1920’s and 30’s this collaboration is a labor of love.
Department of Curiosities cordially invites you to a first look at our collection of luxury lingerie & nightwear. Created from Italian silks, the line features an exclusive print designed by Esther Garcia of Butterfat Studios and is made to order in our atelier. The collection will available for preorder on June 18–19th. As a show of gratitude for your support as we launch, the collection will be offered at special preview prices. If you are far, don’t worry, the line will be available for purchase online very soon.
Preview hours are:
Saturday, June 18th: 1–7 pm; cocktails 7–9 pm
Sunday, June 19th: 2–5 pm
& by appointment
3013 W. Armitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
Special thanks to model Alessia Vaccar, hair and make-up artist Victoria Percival-Smith and Sarah Ann Wright Photography all who helped create the beautiful images featured in this post.
We are proud to announce the launch of Department of Curiosities, a workshop and showroom. We will be holding our first public event this Saturday January 24 at 3013 W. Armitage Ave, in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. Department of Curiosities is the home of Morúa (corsetry and gowns) and Jamie Hayes of Production Mode (leather clothing and accessories). We have been working out our space for a few months, and have been busy working on new designs, orders and decorating the studio and store front. Now we are ready to open the doors and call it official!
Based in Chicago, Department of Curiosities is committed to creative, ethical fashion and quality craftsmanship. In the storefront space, work tables, tools, and patterns are in plain view. The focus is not only on delivering high-quality, designer statement pieces, made in house, but on making the design and sewing process transparent.
As a culture we’ve lost our connection to how clothing is made: cheap disposable fashion has made us forget that there is a human behind every stitch. Making garments is incredibly labor-intensive. We invite our customers into that process.
Much of the work is made by the two of us, but to keep up with demand, we have recently hired our first employee, a stitcher, through Loom, a social enterprise of the Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement program. We are committed to paying a living wage to all workers throughout their supply chain.
Jamie and I met a decade ago while at studying fashion at Columbia College Chicago. Ten years on, our paths have merged in the creation of Department of Curiosities.
Special thanks to Damon Locks for his beautiful logo design.
Over the last few years I have been working to streamline my corsets. I want to make them as delicate as possible while still allowing them to shape the body, and react to its shape and movement. Experimenting and engineering corsetry for flexibility and lightness has been occupying me for some time.
When I first started making corsets and testing materials I had never heard of coutil (the tightly woven herringbone fabric favored by corsetmakers) and had never seen a corset of any kind in person, much less an antique. Like others I believed that corsets were inherently heavy and rigid.
It was quite a revelation to hold a light airy antique corset for the first time. Slight and pretty, the most fascinating were not at all the stiff monsters of our imaginations. Everything about them was tiny. The stitching, the eyelets, the herringbone weave; they were delicately sculptural and imperfectly perfect. While I don’t feel compelled to make reproductions of fashions past; looking at, touching a range of antiques has informed my corsetry ever since.
The lightest, most airy of my experiments to this point is an English cotton bobbinet corset. In some ways it has all come back in full circle. Some of my first dabbling in corsetry involved creating steel boned corselets to support gowns and experimental art to wear. Along the way I discovered that bobbinet was the choice material for creating the inner structures of couture gowns and began to use it myself with lovely results. Julia Bremble has a fantastic spotlight of this beautiful net in her Sew Curvy blog if you’d like to learn more about it. Finally, after thinking about it for years, I decided to make a full blown corset out of this exquisite material.
The main corset is made from the bobbinet, while the boning channels and eyelet panel are made from floral linen. I love the look of sheer corsetry but find the nylon net most commonly used, too warm and synthetic feeling to wear directly against the skin. This sheer cotton corset however perfect as an underwear piece to fit under a wedding dress or gown as it is inconspicuous under clothing. It is steel boned, mostly with spiral steels, and while it is supportive and it reveals the shape and form the wearer. It is flexible and bends with the body more that fabric or nylon mesh corsets, so if a very solid, unyielding silhouette is desired a more stable material should be used.
Ideally a corset in this material would be custom made and take account to the variations of the individual body shaping, “squish” and breast tissue density. I’m curious to test a heavily boned version in the future. I see some experimenting needs to be done to account for the give and take of the net along with a great deal more testing of its durability and tight-lacing capabilities, but overall I’m thrilled at the results.
I’ll leave you with one more image of Victoria Dagger wearing the bobbinet corset and Morúa velvet cocktail hat. This set was taken by Jenni of Sparklewren on a perfectly rainy English morning the day after the Oxford Conference of Corsetry at Jesus College. I am lucky to have such talented friends and colleagues.
Many years ago I shared photographs, thoughts and ideas on LiveJournal. With its informal, diary-like platform, this early social network allowed me to share my explorations of corsetry and fashion and to develop great friendships along the way. Over the years, like many others, I migrated to Facebook and other outlets. These short, irregular bursts and glimpses into my work are often lost in a sea of algorithms and are neither as engaging nor as satisfying as those earlier posts. And so I return to longer form of expression with this blog.
Here, I intend to explore my little corner of the fashion world. There will be a great deal of corsetry; but other things as well. Progress photos, behind the scenes chatter, a bit of travel, and as I prepare to open my first showroom probably a lot of DIY. In the last year Morúa has experienced great deal of change; not least moving across the ocean from London to Chicago. I hope that you will join me as I embark on new journeys.