As you can imagine, I was quite tired on Sunday, having gone to my room at 2am. I managed to drag myself out of bed with some help from my friend Nikki who knocked for me to make sure I didn't miss breakfast!
Which reminds me, I haven't mentioned much about the fabulous service and staff at Jesus College. The ladies and gents working there were so helpful and accommodating all weekend, serving up a full English breakfast with a smile every morning, cleaning up after us and providing endless cups of tea and coffee all day long. Seriously, when I got home it felt weird to have to actually sort out my own food and drink!
Despite the fab food, I felt a bit ill all Sunday. Not because of anything I ate (or drank the night before!), but because I was very nervous about my photo shoot that morning. This was the first time I'd made a corset for anyone other than myself and there were no fittings - I had to make it purely from measurements, so I was doubtful it would fit. I was also fairly convinced that it would simply fall apart as I tried to lace it up, which I know is illogical, but such is fear! So, as you can imagine, I was getting a bit worked up.
Other than feeling nervous, the morning waiting for the shoot was spent adding further embellishment, chatting with my new friends and trying not to actually drool on the other amazing corsets they were working on.
As well as the photo shoots, Sunday brought us antique corsets from the Symington Collection, presided over by Sarah Nicol and her lovely assistant Hannah Wroe (a textile and corsetry teacher I already knew from Nottingham!). Unfortunately, I missed Sarah's talk as it was during my photo shoot, but I did get to go and check out the corsets after lunch and I am so glad I did!
This is the largest selection of corsets Symington have ever sent out for an event like this and it was a truly impressive array; even better, we were allowed to carefully touch and handle the corsets and take photos to our hearts' content! I won't share them all, but this should give you an idea of how unique an experience this was:
So many corsets, so little time!
Alas, all good things must come to an end and the conference was no exception ... 4pm came ticking around far sooner than any of us would have liked. Looks were exchanged - the end was nigh. And sure enough, Julia gave a short speech thanking everyone for their help, support and attendance, and announcing the end of the conference. Had that really been a whole weekend?! Was it over already?!
We dragged our feet and stitched a little longer, waiting for buses and trains, but there was no denying it - this was the end. There were hugs, Facebook friend requests and even tears. Somehow, this weekend of loving corsets didn't just lead to that rather professional and perhaps impersonal idea of 'networking', it actually brought a lot of people very close very quickly and friendships were forged across the world, with many promises of coming again next year and looking each other up if we were ever in their neck of the woods. Julia hadn't even worked out whether there would be a next year at that point, but I don't think we were giving her an option.
And luckily we didn't have to - it has since been announced that the college has been booked again. The Oxford Conference of Corsetry will happen again in 2014.
The journey home was a strange combination of subdued and excited - I was sad that such an amazing weekend was over, but I was also so inspired by everything I'd learnt and all the wonderful people I'd met. There was much sketching of ideas, pondering of possibilities and pawing of finds from the swap and then I was home.
You want to know how good this year's conference was in short? Well, I'm already saving for next year.