The corsets under the winning performance of Vicky Krieps in “Corsage”

Vicky Krieps won Best Actress in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section for her role in ‘Corsage,’ starring the tragic Empress Elisabeth of Austria, the fashion star of her time.

Director Marie Kreutzer examined the Empress with a more modern feminist view as Elizabeth, affectionately known as Sisi, ages and struggles with insignificance. In her youth, she wielded political power, but as she approached middle age, she realized that power was built on her beauty and popularity. At the age of 40, she finds that her title alone does not confer much real power and she acts with affairs and an eating disorder.

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“At this point in her life, she really struggled with this oversized image of herself that she had come to realize all along, and that she was only loved for that image,” Kreutzer explains. “It’s actually something that we as women grew up with that it’s important to please in order to be liked, and especially when you’re an exposed figure, a celebrity, and she was the celebrity of her time. She was extremely isolated and exposed at the same time.

During filming, Krieps struggled to wear a corset for hours a day, saying it invoked deep emotion to be tied down.

“It was such an unsettling and uncomfortable feeling,” she said. previously told WWD. “The thing that I observed as soon as I got it – and it happened every day – was that after two minutes I was getting sad. Like deep sadness. And I found out that your emotional center is where your solar plexus and diaphragm are, and that’s exactly where it pushes the most.It affects your mood.

No wonder, as she spent up to 10 hours a day in corsets that shrunk her waist by almost four inches.

Vicky Krieps (right) in

Vicky Krieps (right) in “Corsage”. – Credit: courtesy production

Courtesy Production

Costume designer Monika Buttinger constructed the corsets from stiff cotton and plastic boning, replacing the original whalebone of the time. She said the production considered using visual effects to cut the waistline, but later acknowledged that Krieps’ height played perfectly with the cut. “She has broad shoulders and she’s quite tall, with high heels she’s even taller, and we could make her look really nice with this technique.”

Kreutzer and Buttinger also considered character positions and time period, but opted to scale back Golden Age fashions to focus on form.

“At that time, there really wasn’t a centimeter between the body [and the dress], it’s like a second skin. It was very complicated to make the cuts for them,” explains Buttinger. They stripped much of the robe-era exterior decorations to show off their posture and attire. “Our concept was to work the materials to make a straight silhouette. The Golden Age was very ornate, but the costumes we made were elegant and understated. You can see the character better if you can see its shape.

This aesthetic extended to corsets, and Buttinger and Kreutzer were careful to avoid any modern association with sex appeal.

“It was very important to me that the corsets weren’t beautiful or sexy or made of lace. They were instruments to hold her down that were very technical. All the underwear had only a practical purpose” , explains Kreutzer.

Although the extravagance of each outfit may have been reduced, each dress still took around 120 hours to construct. With 50 dresses needed for the Empress. Buttinger made some pieces interchangeable and changed exterior elements such as ribbons and bows to create additional looks.

The athletic Sisi was also a fan of fencing, horseback riding and gymnastics, but even these activities did not free women from their impasse. Sports corsets had a bit more flexibility, created with drawstrings, Buttinger says. A team of 22 people built the costumes, on a budget of 300,000 euros.

Buttinger says she tried to make Krieps as comfortable as possible on set, but underestimated how difficult it would be to get in and out of corsets. “It’s a very long process of taking the jacket off and opening the corset, it takes about 10 minutes just for the corset to be tied,” says Buttinger. “Just being in the corset was really like a sort of cage.”

“I underestimated what the corset would do to Vicky as an actress,” adds Kreutzer. “And I didn’t think so much about what it did to Elizabeth because, unlike Vicky, she grew up in a corset from about 11 or 12. So she was already strapped in a corset every day to that his organs would have already placed themselves elsewhere, not as [where they’re] supposed to be.

“To be honest, I didn’t think about it that much while writing. But when we turned the film, we’ve all underestimated the strength of it, and what it means to wear it all day, and never really be able to breathe and not be able to eat, I mean, it’s absurd,” Kreutzer says, reflecting at the idea of ​​women often considered “hysterical” at the time. “I’m sure it did something for women on many levels.”

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