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Local Woman Touts Versatility of Custom Corsets

Melanie McIntyre Melanie McIntyre
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Corsetiére Larissa Boiwka
Photographer: Chas Ray Krider

It’s arguable that in the collective conscience, corsets usually are linked to costume dramas and renaissance festivals. But maybe it’s time we broaden our horizons.

Larissa Boiwka, for one, would probably appreciate the effort, as the 30-year-old Short North/Victorian Village resident specializes in the design and production of leather corsets − her livelihood for the last five years.

“Corsets are great for any time you need to look really fantastic and be noticed,” she says.

Pieces from Boiwka’s line, Wilde Hunt Corsetry, have been worn to numerous events, including masquerades, weddings, birthday parties − even gallery openings. And if her client roster is evidence, corsets appeal to an equally diverse group of people.

“A few of my clients have included an Iraq war veteran who lives in Kansas, a piercer who owns her own business, a Short North boutique manager, an arts events planner, a stay-at-home mom, a fashion magazine editor, and a receptionist/art model,” she says. “I always say that my customers are some of the coolest, most diverse people I’ve ever met. I am very fortunate.”

So what led a woman with a degree in anthropology (from The Ohio State University) to make corsets?

“I love the exoticism of strange outmoded garments, things that modern fashion doesn’t commonly use anymore– metal bustle cages, spats, lace ruffs,” she says, speaking like a true anthropologist.

“I think that which is strange, startling, and unique is frequently the most concentrated form of beauty,” she continues. “And well, since I just don’t believe that the world is ready for the comeback of the codpiece, the corset seemed a natural choice.”

Presently, Boiwka works out of her home and by herself.

“Since I’m such a perfectionist, it’s hard to relinquish control of the work. I am very passionate about quality and art,” she says.

Wilde Hunt corsets are made-to-measure and the time it takes the corsetiére to produce a piece differs considerably.

Model: Ludie. Make-Up Artist: Erica Stewart. Photographer: Aaron Kennison.

“The least amount of time is probably eight hours,” she says. “The longest to date would probably be the piece I made for a European AIDS benefit calendar which took me 50 some hours to complete. It featured an asymmetrical appliqué that wrapped around the body.”

Model: Patti. Make-Up Artist: Erica Stewart.
Photographer: Aaron Kennison.

Boiwka’s process −from conception to construction− is involved, to say the least.

“I typically draft each pattern from approximately 20 unique measurements taken from the client,” she explains. “And before starting to sew the actual corset, I fit the client through the use of mock-up corsets

in order to test the accuracy of my pattern.”

Boiwka says she prefers working with leather because of its strength, suppleness, and versatility− characteristics that make it an especially good foundation for corsets, which need to hug the body and withstand substantial stress from lace tightening.

She uses German steel boning to stiffen the corsets.

“I find that it really separates my work from cheaper, commercially made corsets,” she says. “Inexpensive, mass-produced corsets often use plastic boning, which creases terribly when worn.”

Through the years, Boiwka has made both overbust and underbust corsets. (The former encloses the torso, extending from just under the arms to the hips, and the latter begins just under the breasts and extends to the hips.)

Model: Lela Rae. Make-Up Artist: Erica Stewart.
Photographer: Aaron Kennison.

“Sometimes it is nicer to have a larger canvas for an elaborate appliqué or beadwork panel, so I’ll make an overbust,” she says. “Other times, if the client is smaller busted, an underbust may be more flattering.”

Simple underbust pieces have sold for $400, while other “important pieces” have sold in the $1,500 range, she says.

Wilde Hunt doesn’t have a top-selling corset per se, as she tries not to duplicate her work. However, the label’s corsets based on Victorian era styles are very popular.

“I think this is because they seem to blend more easily with modern clothes versus earlier forms of the corset,” she says.

Boiwka recently added leather cuff bracelets and a corseted dress (her first) to the line. Handbags also are in the works.

Ultimately, Boiwka would like to have her name associated with high quality and innovative design.

“It would greatly please me, in the future, to be mentioned favorably among names of great corsetiers, such as Mr. Pearl,” she says.

Boiwka’s corsets are available upon request at www.wildehunt.com; her accessories can be purchased at www.wildehunt.etsy.com.

Below, Boiwka shares a few of her favorite things and offers (very) straightforward fashion and grooming advice for the locals.

Favorite color?
I love the color of purple that is more blue than red, the kind that is almost dichroic and shimmers back and forth between the various tones.

Favorite artist?
David Bowie, Dave McKean, and Eugenio Recuenco.

Favorite place to have a drink?
Elevator Bar, Circus, Bristol Bar, and Café Apropos.

Dream vacation spot?
Morocco, Mont-Saint-Michel in France.

What are you most vain about?
Probably my hair. I hate hair that is shoddily dyed a bright color, so I tend to go a bit overboard on the upkeep of my color. I also compulsively collect makeup.

Favorite fashion trend of all time?
Tough one. The pencil skirt, I think. It’s really hard to look disheveled or poorly dressed when wearing one.

What current trend would you like to go away?
Three things:

Crocs. They are the zombies of the shoe world. Whenever I think they are dead and gone for good, they pop back up and rear their ugly, bacteria-ridden, plasticized heads again. I think these are shoes for people who have given up on life, who have buried their dreams. Perhaps they are even a viable form of birth control, because no one will find you sexually attractive in them, thus there is no chance for procreation.

Ass-vertisements. I am always unsettled by women running around in sweatpants with the vaguely prurient label of “PINK” on their bum. Not so good ladies, not so good.

Hot Topic Pants. The sloppy, wide legged, black pants with all the crappy chains dangling off them. I guess the Tripp brand is responsible for this horrific take on Vivienne Westwood’s classic punk bondage pants. Shameful…

If you could come back as any designer –dead or alive− who would it be?
Yohji Yamamoto, Alexander McQueen, Rick Owens, Thierry Mugler, Terry de Havilland, or maybe even Mr. Pearl.

Name one thing every woman should have in her closet.
A well made corset, naturally. And preferably from my label.

A piece of fashion advice for the locals:
I’ve got two pieces:

Shorts, they’re not for everyone. Truly, it’s OK not to wear them, especially if you’re not physically fit or your legs look like a screen-capture of MapQuest.

Foot care. Contrary to quaint local custom, it’s really not OK to forego washing your feet and trimming your toenails. This is especially true when wearing sandals to a restaurant. Yes, I am talking to you, Chipotle customer with the dirty plastic flip flops, the scaly flesh, and yellow curved toenails. Goodness, people.

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