1880s corset

The mid-1880’s are all about the dramatic silhouette. The bustle is back in full force, and the fashion is for a small waist, full bust and relatively broad shoulders. In fashion plates you can clearly see this fashionable shape, which is of course exaggerated to near impossible proportions.

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I’ve started working on my first 1880’s dress, which will be a burgundy wool winter gown. Although I already have a 1870’s corset, I wanted to try to approximate the fashionable shape of the 1880’s a bit more. In my case that meant padding in the bust area, as there’s no way I can achieve (or even approximate) it naturally…

That’s when the idea for a new corset started, to be patterned on top of a padded bra. In my previous post I showed the process of patterning, and afterwards I could finally start making the corset!

It’s a single layer coutil corset, so there’s no extra lining or fashion layer. First order of business was inserting the busk. Because there’s no extra lining, I cut a facing for the center front, and the bust is inserted between the facing and outer layer.

 

 

 

I really love cording on corsets, and wanted to incorporate it in this one as well. As first I was wondering if it’d be possible with a single layer, but then I saw this corset on a visit to Stockholm. As you can see, there’s an extra piece of fabric placed on top of the main fabric to serve as corded panel.

Corset ca. 1860-90  From the Nordiska Museet

 

I decided to copy this method. Using small pieces of black taffeta, I stitched 15 thin cords onto the two front panels (on each side). As in the example above, I left the bottom and top piece of the taffeta uncorded.

I made a test piece first. cm next to it to see the tiny cords.

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After that, I corded the actual corset panels.

 

 

 

Construction was done after the cording, and was pretty straight-forward, I didn’t take a lot of pictures of these steps. All pieces were stitched with wrong sides together, leaving the seam allowances on the outside.

The boning channels were made from a cotton polyester mix, leftover fabric from my red spencer. The red with the black gives a lot of extra drama, and you do see contrasting boning channels in the 1880’s quite a bit, such as this yellow-black combination.

Corset, 1880-93

 

5cm wide strips were cut and sewn into tunnels with a 5mm allowance, creating 2cm wide tunnels. Those were then stitched on top of the (trimmed) seam allowances and stitched on in the center and to the side. This created space for 2 5mm wide bones (synthethic whalebone) in each channel. The center back also has a facing, creating 2 layers for the eyelets and an extra channel next to the bones. I also added one more boning channel for 1 bone next to the eyelets. Both this one and the center back were flat steel bones for extra strength.

 

 

 

After the boning channels the boning was cut, the edges molten (plastic is so much easier to finish than steel!), and inserted into the corset. The binding was machine stitched on, I used regular black cotton bias tape.

 

 

 

The final big step was the flossing. I love the fancy decorative flossing you see so often in the 1880’s. I looked around for inspiration, and eventually settled on the design of the corset below. I like the flowers, and how it covers 2 bones.

Terminology: What’s the difference between stays, jumps & a corset | The Dreamstress

 

I made a little prick-template so I could place dots on strategic places of the embroidery pattern. This way, all the bones will have the same size and proportion flossing. I adapted the pattern slightly to also floss the single bones in the center back.

 

 

 

Before you begin flossing it feels like you’re almost done, but I think the embroidery might’ve taken as much time as all the rest of construction… I did 20 double bone motifs and 4 single bone, the double bone ones took about 25 minutes to complete each. And that’s without the test sample.

But, it’s done! I’m really happy with how this came out and I really love the shape. If I ever find some narrow antique black lace I might decorate the top, but as I don’t have that in the stash for now I’m calling it done.

The front and side:

 

 

And side-front and back:

 

Entering the 17th century

Those who follow my instagram account might have already seen that I’m currently working on a gown from ca. 1660.

This project started with a ball. There’s a yearly new-years ball in Gent, in the opera there. I’ve been wanting to go for a while but timing has been off (I was on holiday last year). This year I was talking with another costumer about it and we decided to go! Last years theme was 19th century, but this year it’s going back in time. Inspired by Versailles, the dress code is now 1660 – 1715.

So that means I need a new dress! I’ve decided to go for the early limit of the dress code, as I’d been looking at 1660’s fashions for a bit longer and those are best represented in research as well. As often happens, I started with looking for fabric. I wanted real silk, but keeping it affordable means searching for bargains and that often means picking from whatever happens to be available.

I got really lucky with fabric, and found a golden upholstery silk with a pattern quite suitable for the era. When I got it the color was absolutely stunning. It’s a bit of an ‘older’, antique golden color. What’s even better, it goes perfectly with the antique metallic lace I found a little while back.

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The materials decide the style in this case, and I decided to go for a style that would fit with lace trimming. Lucky for me, many of the existent 1660’s bodices have lace trim and work very well with my materials.

To help with the patterning and construction I also got a new book, seventeenth century women’s dress patterns (part II). It’s absolutely brilliant, showing close up pictures of both inside and outside the garments, x-rays that show the boning, patterns for both exterior and foundation layers and full construction notes.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor seventeenth-century women's dress patterns book 2

 

Even better, it has all of that for this 1660-1670 bodice:

Pale-coloured silk satin bodice, 1660-1669, V&A. Decorated with parchment lace. The boned foundations is made from twelve pattern pieces, reinforced at places with up to three extra layers of linen. The middle side panel is unboned but stiffened with buckram and wool and may be a later addition to increase the size...

 

So that’s the base for my pattern. The skirt will be a pleated rectangle, so doable without any patterning.

For the rest of this post: some more pictures of what I’m going for, as inspiration!

One other dress in this style is the silver tissue gown I saw in Bath last year. So stunning in person.

Ca. 1660 silver tissue dress with parchment lace. Fashion museum Bath

 

I love this painting as well, as it shows the combination of patterned gold silk with lace.

Knallhattens osorterade tankar: Sveriges vackraste porträtt

Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie with his spouse Maria Eufrosyne of Pfalz-Zweibrücken, the sister of King Charles X of Sweden. Painting from 1653 by Hendrik Munnichhoven

 

It’s a style you see quite a lot in Dutch paintings. You do get quite some differences between countries the further back you go in history, and I like the idea of making something that could’ve been worn in the Netherlands.

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Bartholomeus van der Helst: Abraham del Court and his Wife, 1654

 

American Duchess:Historical Costuming | Historical Costuming and sewing of Rococo 18th century clothing, 16th century through 20th century, by designer Lauren Reeser

Bartholomeus van der Helst, Jeanne Parmentier, 1656

 

All of the above show thin linen or lace collars, but you also see what’s more like a thin linen shift above the dress. This is probably what I’ll go for as well for the ball, as it feels a bit more like evening wear.

Isaack Luttichuys   Datering   ca. 1660 (1655 - 1665)  Titel  Portrait of a lady with a fan

Isaac Luttichuys, ca. 1660

 

Details of Dutch fashion of 1658 include a string of pearls tied with a black ribbon, a jack-bodice with matching skirt, pleated sleeves, and dropped shoulder.

Mieris Frans, Duet, 1658

 

At this point I’m done with the foundation layer of linen and boning, and ready to start patterning the top silk layer!

Corset patterning

I’ve started a new corset, 1880’s this time. My goal for this one was two-fold, firstly to try to pattern it on top of a padded bra to give a little more curve. Corsets tend to flatten me a bit up top, and while fashionable in some periods, the 1880’s were all about the hourglass. The second goal was to take a little more time patterning to get it just right.

I haven’t even cut the coutil I’ll be using yet, but that first step of patterning is done. I thought it might be interesting to see the process of slowly adapting the pattern to fit.

I should also give a shout-out to the corset making community of ‘Foundations Revealed’, a online magazine/coaching subscription website including facebook group, where I got some great feedback on my progress.

I started with the 1880’s pattern from Corsets & Crinolines by Nora Waugh.

1880 waugh

 

I didn’t have a scanner, so I eyeballed the pattern onto gridded mm paper until I had the height and waist measurement about right, and the pattern pieces had the same proportions as in the book. I then copied the pattern to full size cm paper and started from there.

The black lines were the pattern as roughly copied from the book. I measured it and found it small, so the red lines are the added width for the first mock-up.

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When fitting, I found I shouldn’t have added the extra space, the corset was too big. So the second mock-up went back to the black lines. Additionally, I found that the corset was too short on me. So I lengthened the pattern by adding a couple of cm above the waist line. This picture shows that pattern, laid out on top of the original.

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This one was much better, starting to fit. It was still short, so I added some more length to the pattern. I also added a little room to the hips on the side, and took some away from the bust and center front bottom curve, as those were too big.

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This was the first one I made a mock-up off in sturdy fabric, including busk and lacing, but no boning yet. The overall fit wasn’t bad, but the busk was tilting quite badly. I’ve had this happen on previous corsets, and thought it might just be me not lacing it straight, but it was too extreme to be a coincidence.  I also didn’t really like the inverted ‘c’ shape the third panel was making over the hip.

Mockup1

 

I suspected the tilting was because I wasn’t symmetrical, so to test this I took a picture of myself, standing solidly on 2 feet. I then traced my outlines on both sides, and then copied the lines to overlap on the other side. As you can see quite clearly, one hip is both a little higher and wider than the other. The things you learn about yourself when sewing…

Bodyshape

 

So, for the next mock-up I made a left and right version. Basically, I added some hip space for the right-hand version. I also transferred some hip room from panel 3 to 4 to make the pattern shape a bit nicer, and I added 1cm at the top. I’d added that in the previous mock-up and it was still a bit low, so I figured 1cm extra room at least would be good.

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This next mock-up I also boned, which makes quite a difference. Also: the hip fixes worked, as it wasn’t tilting anymore, yay! The whole corset was still a bit low at the top though, and I still had too much room center front bottom.

Mockup2.jpg

 

I added even more space up top, and took away a bit of the bottom. I also took away more of the curve on the bottom of panel 2.

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The final mock-up was really close. The height is finally good here, and it’s curving quite nicely. It was a slightly sturdier fabric than the previous one, and I noticed that made it a little tight in the hips.

Mockup3.jpg

 

So the only things I changed for the last draft was to add a little more hip room, mostly on panel 5 as that didn’t have much flare yet. In this picture you can see the final pattern, laying on top of the one I started with!

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The main changes were that I added some length above the waist, and above the original bustline, lengthening the corset quite extensively. I took away some bust and tummy space, and added space for my hips. Finally, I made a left and right hand version to accommodate my own asymmetry.

Now it’s time to cut the coutil, and start planning the boning channels and cording. It’ll be a single layer black coutil corset with red external channels.

 

‘Uit de mode’ – Fashion exhibition Centraal Museum Utrecht

This year it was a 100 years ago that the first fashion curator was appointed in the Centraal museum in Utrecht, and in honor of that they held a fashion exhibition called ‘uit de mode’.

It was organized in themes: the maker, wearer, restorer and visionary. It also spanned the whole time-line of their collection, often drawing parallels between their historical and modern collections.

I only took pictures of the historical pieces, as those were my main interest in coming to the exhibition. I’ve got all images on my facebook page and pinterest. In this post, a couple of my favorite items!

One of the first items on display was this 18th century cotton toile de jouy petticoat. With lovely pleating up top (flatter towards the front), and a cord running along the hem to protect it from wear.

 

This 1830’s dress was one of the first buys a 100 years ago. With gorgeous lace along the edges.

 

One of the show pieces, 1760 robe a la francaise with gorgeous embroidery. I also liked how the robings ran all the way down to the hem.

 

An Edwardian cotton and lace gown. With all the small lovely details and pin-tucks you see so often in this style. This one is definitely on my wish-list to recreate one day. Made of swiss dotted cotton and two types of lace the material part at least would be doable. (Now for time…)

 

Another show piece, a 1886 Worth gown. Very unusual pleating on the top skirt, lovely rose fabric for the underskirt and a spectacular train.

 

Cotton regency. This fabric was super-sheer, and in remarkable condition. I also quite liked how the sleeves were actually pleated and attached on top!

1805-1810 gown of white batist. Collection page: http://centraalmuseum.nl/ontdekken/object/?img_only=1#o:4247

 

Another regency piece, and another showstopper. A lavender court train of moire silk with pearl embroidery. Probably never worn, and it might have belonged to Hortense de Beauharnais.

 

This ensemble isn’t quite as spectacular as the train, but I still really loved it. The fabric especially was gorgeous and shiny, and the lace was really the perfect touch. Another one for the wish-list…

 

To continue with beautiful fabric, this dress also had some stunning silk. I also really love the bodice and the neckline in particular.

 

To finish, two 18th century ensembles. This one is a caraco I’d seen before on a depot visit, and it was really nice to see it displayed. Shown on top of a stunning red quilted petticoat.

 

The other chintz/quilted ensemble. A chintz robe a l’anglaise on top of a light blue silk quilted petticoat. Again, gorgeous fabric and details, and I loved the pleating on the dress.