The fairies must have had their hand in making sure these beautiful images were created. When we learned, last minute, that Dutch corsetiere Joni Steinmann of Rainbow Curve Corsetry would be visiting Los Angeles, we contacted model Jessica Dru, who jumped at the chance to model Steinmann’s incredible bespoke mushroom corset. But she had almost no time to find a photographer and arrange details. Add the fact that the shoot was to take place in Southern California in midsummer, when beautiful beaches are easy to find but vivid green forests have gone dry and are elusive as unicorns, and it certainly took a bit of pixie dust to pull things off.
But the images speak for themselves. Jessica called upon her friend Bryan Forrest (yes, that’s really his last name), an actor, stuntman, and blacksmith. She had heard that his struggle to find fantastical locations for productions prompted him to transform his front yard into a fantasy landscape, with all manner of secret hidden conveniences (industry secrets, he says, but we suspect sprites are involved) that make filming and photographing there very easy.
The group converged on Forrest’s home, and Dru had her first chance to see in person the stunning corset that had inspired this month’s theme. “Steinmann is one of those artists where you see their work in a photo and swoon over it,” Dru says. “But when you see it in person, you are in awe because of how much more detail and effort and magic there is up close.”
Forrest, beautifully dressed in his own thematic garb by Christy Hauptman, engaged in a method he uses often to get into character as he prepared. “I grew up in the theater so connecting with wardrobe and letting that inform my character is a big part for me,” he says. “As I lace up the costume’s boots they become my boots that I wear to explore the great bogs of the misty marsh lands. This ring I place on my finger is an ancestral ring of my tribe that allows me to face the great orc horde amassing on the border to my village.”
For the shoot, Dru and Forrest met by a mist-laden pond, and photographer Elizabeth Elder captured every magical moment. The concept they kept in mind while posing was perfect: two powerful forest guardians crossing paths in an enchanted glade where fae folk come to meet in mutual respect. “The best part about photo shoots is thinking about who you are becoming as you style your makeup and hair, and then getting to bring your own internal fantasy to life with the photographer and, in this case, alongside Bryan,” says Dru. “So our poses were both coming from a loving and longing sort of place, and we got to progressively tell a story between the two of us throughout the shoot. It’s really delightful, like slow-motion silent acting.”
The acting became a little too real, however, for Forrest, who had never experienced wearing moss as makeup before. “I didn’t realize what happens to moss when it gets wet,” he says. “So as we finished the shoot and I got more and more pond water on me, the moss started to absorb it and spread out. It brought out the bouquet of scents that were held inside.” The fantasy turned into reality, both heady and pungent. “Needless to say I sat on the edge when we went out to eat afterward,” he joked.
Steinmann, the corsetiere behind Rainbow Curve Corsetry, has been an artist for many years but is relatively new to corsetry. She started her company in 2015 after a year and a half of making corsets for friends and herself. Over time, her designs have evolved into more and more sculptural concepts. This corset, named Beautiful Decay, was Steinmann’s attempt to confront her fear of fungi through a study of the innate beauty of the shapes and colors of mushrooms. “The title hints at the circle of life—fungi and other microorganisms break everything down as they return to the earth,” she says. “Making this piece was in essence a reflection on the ephemeral nature of everything: a memento mori.”
The piece is hand-felted, using hand-dyed organza silk squares, glass beads, and Angeline fibers to add shimmer and texture. Its creation took over 150 hours.
Steinmann is thrilled with the images of her corset: “Jessica brought a sense of mystery and otherworldly charm. She looked so pretty and formed a unity with the green surrounding her, as if she had emerged from the earth itself. It was magical to watch her and Bryan pose together among the fog and foliage.”
Photography: Elizabeth Elder
Costume Designer: Joni Steinmann of Rainbow Curve Corsetry
Models: Jessica Dru, Bryan Forrest
Additional costuming (Bryan’s costume): Christy Hauptman
Location: The Forrest Manor