Sewing – 1866 Victorian corset

As soon as I finished the first corset I made, I wanted to make another one! This time I tried a lot more historical accuracy, especially in pattern and fabric. As I was planning a 1860’s dress, this was the time period I chose. Although there’s a difference in Victorian corsets trough different decades, I figured that the silhouette would be close enough for 1870’s and maybe even early 1880’s. The pattern I used was taken from the De Gracieuse archives. De Gracieuse was a Dutch women’s magazine of which a complete scan can be found online from 1862 trough 1936. Although the pattern pages can be dreadfully small (the print is unreadable), it is doable to trace the pattern pieces.

The pattern I chose was from 1866, and is described as ‘corset for slim ladies’. I figured that this might help with resizing, as the pattern only comes in one size. I also really like gussets on corsets, as they allow for a more dramatic shape. Since I’ve quite a size difference between hips and waist I hoped this would help. In the page below, it is the right corset at the top.

Gracieuse. Geïllustreerde Aglaja, 1866, aflevering 20, pagina 177 - Corsets. The sewing patterns were included


The eventual resizing I had to do was not too bad. The gussets came in handy because I could simply reduce or enlarge those to fit bust and hips. The waist only needed a little more space, the hips fit perfectly and the bust gussets had to be taken in quite a lot, but I’d been counting on that. The other adaptation was to lenghten the pattern a bit. 1860’s corsets are quite low, from what I’ve seen they don’t really reach above mid-bust, but even then my upper body was a bit longer than the pattern.

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The final corset was single-layer, made of coutil with dark red thread. I got the idea from the description in De Gracieuse from the ‘heavy ladies corset’, where they describe a ‘grey coutil’ corset , ‘sewn with red silk’ and bound with ‘red wool’. I really liked the idea of contrasting thread, but it was incredibly scary, as you can see every imperfection this way. I decided to try it anyway and make it a challenge. I eventually sewed the corset with the machine, as I’m not a big fan of handsewing through thick fabrics. All in all, I’m pretty happy with the result, although I feel the gussets could have been a bit neater.

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Ugly mock-up stage

The construction method I used I first saw on one of the corsets of the Aristocrat. Her work is a big inspiration, and it seemed a perfect way to make boning channels in a single-layer corset. Basically, you turn over the edge of the fabric on both fabric pieces about 1 or 2 mm from the egde, and then overlap the pieces.

For boning, I used spiral steel on the side seams and spring steel in all other places. The binding was dark red bias binding and I used a bit of left-over lace of another project at the top. Here’s some pictures of the finished corset, both on my dressform and on me:


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