The Life of the Rosa Maria Corset


As it turns, I see my past in its reflection and strength in my future.

It’s a strong, beautiful piece.

Something that represents my dad & me. Strong and beautiful.

This can mean so many different things to different people.

Growing up, my dad was the epitome of a cool motherfucker. He wore a Stetson hat with red feathers and rode beautiful motorcycles.

His mustache always ALWAYS groomed. Leather vest in perfect condition with buttons he made by hand — Indian head buffalo nickels he’d soldered button loops on the back of, and hand-stitched on just like his grandma taught him. He wore two 45’s in an ambidextrous holster to sleep, and a nine on his ankle. Around his neck was a gold chain, Italian-made of course, with a cornicello horn pendant that my dad referred to as my mom’s thigh. I wanted my dad to pass it down to me, but a dope fiend stole it.

On Sundays we would go to mass when he wasn’t locked up, and his shoes had taps on the bottoms that the cobbler put on for him. When my mom and dad would go buy groceries, my mom would be on the back of the motorcycle in her fox fur coat, with 3 bags of groceries on each arm and my sister in between them. If you lived in the bay you got your dope from Dad, and it was probably delivered in my teddy bear.

Some of my best birthdays were spent running late to my parties, because we were wrenching on motorcycles, me in a dress and patent leather black mary janes and my top knot ponytail and big giant black bow. (Dad, I blame you and mom for my forever running late-ness, for a good cause)

If my dad didn’t have the part for the car or the motorcycle, he would make it. If it didn’t run, he would make it. I imagine when I was conceived it smelled of leather and motorcycle parts.

I grew up watching my dad putting his hands on everything he loved and making it bend to his will. Literally and figuratively speaking.

I’ve only ever seen my dad shed tears once, and it was out of pure empathy and deep emotion for loss.

He told me when I was young, “You’re going to pick an art and do it.” He never let me stop. (And it was a fight, sorry Dad ?) If I wanted to do something, Dad put a tool in my hand and one in his and he showed me, but also made me do it.

I always knew about my roots and Italian heritage. He used words like honor, and strength, and art, and taught me about trades.

Since then, my dad has gone on to do his craft on some of the finest jets and aircraft.

He now climbs to the clouds on the San Francisco Bay bridge as the lead worker and structural steel paint instructor for the for the Oakland Regional Training Center for the State of California. And his latest passion is restoring and rebuilding his vintage Porsche 914 LS1 V8 Outlaw.

No more dealing in Teddy Bears ? haha ?.

Love you Dad.

When I started this project there wasn’t another single person I could think of to do it with me but my dad.

We fought through the process. I still lose my temper. (Sorry Dad ?)

He brought all the tools, and sure enough he put them in my hands. When I got over my stubborn shit, I realized he was just trying to teach me, and I began to learn.

We laid my patterns down on a sheet of metal Dad brought from the Bay Area, the place that gave birth to my leather- and metal-loving soul. Getting it from the Bay was important to me.

He packed up his truck (that he rebuilt of course) and drove all the tools down to LA, to my studio.

We cut the metal with a large Dremel tool…. the edges were strong and sharp, and extremely jagged.

They were rough and I was disappointed. But Dad wasn’t done. We weren’t finished.

It took him two days to buff down, smooth, and round each metal corset piece. By then I lost my patience again and was over it.

He drove two more hours and took it to a buffer, and when he came back with them I could see my reflection in each piece. Some reflections were more distorted than others, and it felt like I saw everyone and everything that ever hurt me in those pieces… each one holding a separate story to my past, all staring back at me in this form of art my Dad and I created. And I loved every one of those pieces. I found it beautiful. It was my form of healing and therapy.

And to me, that is strong and beautiful — things that don’t quite seem right. In fact they are wrong according to most. Things that are unfinished and jagged. Dissatisfied and disappointed. Frustration and asking myself to give in and let go a little. Healing hurts, but it can be extremely beautiful.

Dad and I set the metal and prepped it for the holes we drilled into it. Then we pieced them together, one by one. Making sense of its shape, and making sense of my life.

Beautiful things take time, they take healing and understanding and giving and taking. I lost control and gained it and gave into it all at once. And by the end of this all, I finally learned that to make something bend at your will, you gotta put a whole lot of love and respect into it. Otherwise it will fight back, and rightfully so. And I find this is not just with things, but people too. Dad always said if you have to force it Candice, it doesn’t fit.

The last process was to place the corset on the body and watch my Dad bend the metal to the beautiful shape it is now… he gave it life. Just as he gave me life.

Since the making of the corset, it has gone on to walk the runways at NYFW and LAFW, and featured in major publications. It is now housed as a statement piece in my personal collection with my most accomplished and cherished pieces.

I love you Dad, for everything.

I hope you all enjoyed the back story about this piece of art.


Corset made by Michael & Candice Cuoco
Product video shot by Spencer and edited by Candice