I remember in the late nineties when a fashion epidemic of purses in the shape of women’s bustiers hit the marketplace full force. For months, lacy, patent leather and fabric handbags hung from retailer shelves like tiny corsets on display. Then, as quickly as the fad erupted, it petered out again.
That was, until a year or so ago, when Margot found one of these bustier beauties second-hand (sorry, no “before” pic — it was just plain black with short handles). When she showed it to me I thought, “We could totally transform that into a pirate wench’s bodice. How cool would that be?!” Margot liked the idea and set me to work.
First, I used some red stretch lace and cut out a new set of red lace “cups” for our girl using the existing cups as a guide. Then I squeezed a thin line of Fabri-Tac Glue around the lower perimeter of each cup line and pressed the edge of the lace down with my finger, working my way around. At the bottom of the “U” I had to fold the lace a little bit, making little tucks to fit the roundness of the purse’s breasts (for lack of a better term). I finished the cups by gluing (again with Fabri-Tac) a thin strip of flat faux-leather black cord around the edges of the curves.
To highlight the vertical seams below the cups, I glued down two strips of red velvet rickrack. This mimicked the boning an actual corset would have and gave the front of the purse extra detail.
On the back, I removed the original cheap ribbon used as lacing and cut five strips of the rickrack to repalce it with. Each strip was the measurement of the span I’d need plus about 3/4″ to spare on either end. Globbing some Fabri-Tac on each end and pushing the ends of the velvet rickrack into the grommets with a toothpick, I “threaded” it through like lacing.
I had bought a hot fix rhinestone skull months before, and had yet to use it, so I thought the center front of the purse would be the perfect spot. I ran into a bit of a dilemma, though, on how to iron this onto such a bulky, curved surface. Margot stepped in with her ingenious brilliance and suggested I iron the rhinestone motif onto black fabric first (DUH), cut the fabric around the applique, and glue it to the front with Fabri-Tac, which worked wonderfully.
The original purse had flimsy looking hand straps that just sort of hung limply from the top edges, so I cut them off as close to the seam as I could. As a replacement handle we used a 24″ choke-chain collar for dogs, which you can find at just about ANY retail or pet store (and it comes in many gauges, colors, and lengths). But because the chain was so heavy, we needed something heavy duty to hold it in place.
I made two leather strips to use as tabs and folded them over the large rings at each end of the chain. Margot helped me poke two holes in each side of the purse with something called a needle tool. We made matching holes in the tabs and lined up the tab on the inside the purse. Then we fed one end of a thick leather cord in through one hole in the purse and the hole in the tab that lined up with it. We brought the cord back though the second hole in the tab and out through the hole in the purse that lined up with it. Once that end was back on the outside of the purse, we tied it off with the other end in a nice non-slip surgeon’s knot.
Lastly I strung a couple strands of skulls beads, tied them onto one of the big metal rings and pinned a silver shell brooch to the center of the bodice. Wow, what a transformation! This purse, hands down, gets the most attention when we are teaching classes and doing shows.