Corseted Liberty a la Eddy Betty

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Published by Sugar & Cream, Wednesday 27 September 2017

Text by Lynda Ibrahim, images courtesy of Tim Muara Bagdja

LIBERTÉ by EDDY BETTY

I first saw his design up close and personal over a decade ago, when a friend got hitched. I thought it was interesting—a modern twist of the classic kebaya with a built-in, custom-made, luxurious corset. In fact, as the bottom part of the ensemble flared instead of snugged, as a kain panjang or sarong would, in the end it was more like an evening gown. Eye-catching, and sexy. My friend looked like a million dollar as any bride rightfully should be.
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This year marks the 21st on Eddy Betty’s on-going fashion career. Studied fashion at the prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, Eddy Betty initiated his career in couture upon returning to Indonesia in 1996. Made perfect sense, as Indonesia was, and still is, the country where made-to-measure ensembles are still preferred and, in most cases, affordable the elites have couture designers, the masses have seamstresses to copy designers’ looks. After dabbling in ready-to-wear under the label Ed.Be in 2010 Eddy recently decided to streamline the business back to couture, the latest collection of which he showed this month.
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Eddy Betty

Eddy Betty decided to pick “Liberté” (freedom, in French) as the title of the long-awaited solo show. Curious, because as shown in the 79 pieces that evening, corset was the element that, quite literally, tied the collection together. How is the waist-cinching, tummy-flattening, and sometimes almost rib-crushing, corset liberating? Borrowing Eddy’s own words, the freedom here is defined in the styles and silhouettes of how the corset is presented, including being openly used as the focal point as opposed to hidden support. For Eddy, freedom means making statements. Indeed he pretty much delivered those throughout the 5 sequences of the show.
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Not limited to ball gowns, corset was applied to cocktail dresses, paired down with pants or culottes in the form of bustier, sassed up with jackets, or even donned by certain men with panache. Corsets came in varying colors and materials, often with contrasting ties and lines, one or two adorned with appliques, worn tucked or over bottoms. One corset hanged onto shoulder straps, making them more like a boned vest. Corsets built up silhouettes of 1950s fully-skirted frocks, 1960s minimalistic sheaths and 1970s festive ensembles.  As far as waist contraptions are concerned, Eddy Betty has proven his skillful crafts.
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When not corseted, waist was always defined. I guess, in a reverse psychology, Eddy was probably trying to show women liberated enough to choose to wrap her torso tightly in the age when baggy tops and boyfriend jeans are costume de rigueur for most urbanites. I found it cute that, perhaps in order to loan more freedom to corset-based ensembles, or simply an ode to his Parisian days, Eddy decided to style the collection mainly with French berets worn nonchalantly over loosely curled tresses, as if the models were going for an afternoon stroll along the River Seine. Did they work? Yes. Yet for other selected headgears the few fedoras not quite so, and the sequence featuring lacy gowns would’ve made a much bolder statement styled with oversized Spanish mantilla.
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As a show, it was pleasant to watch, and crowd-pleasing runway moments such as the three models each bedecked in a color of French flag, or the model in tall red boots, made 79 looks seemed breezing in. For a solo show after a 9-year hiatus and a celebration of a 21-year career, it undoubtedly has made his devoted clientele swoon.
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Alexander Lamont