New Victorian Corset

As soon as I finish a corset I want to make a new one, nevermind that I don’t wear them all that much. My last underbust wasn’t any different, and I started playing with a new pattern almost right after finishing it.

This time I wanted to try adapting a historical pattern using a similar method I used to draft the underbust pattern. I looked at different historical patterns, and decided on a 1870’s Victorian pattern without any gussets. The lack of gussets would make it easier to scale with the method I was using (more about that later). The choice for Victorian was because at the moment, I only have a 1860’s corset. That was the second corset I ever made, and although it fits okay, I can’t lace it quite as tightly as I’d like if I’m wearing it all day. Additionally, its shape is good for 1860’s and early 1870’s, but a bit to ‘short’ for latter Victorian. The 1870’s pattern I picked is a little longer and should work for a slightly later period as well.

A slight comparison. On the left a corset from 1865 (De Gracieuse, Dutch), in the middle from 1876  (Le Moniteur De La Mode, France) and on the right from 1885 (B. Altman & co Catalogue, England). You can see how the left one is much shorter in length than the other two. As time progressed, the flare out from the hips started lower on the body, calling for a more longline corset. The 1876’s one shows the beginning of the natural form movement, with a sleek line. In 1885, the silhouette became curvier than ever, but still with a lower flare over the hips than in 1865.

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While my current corset follows the 1865 shape closest, the new corset is modeled more after the 1876 example.

For pattern, I settled on this historical pattern:

Vintage Corset Pattern:

I then resized the pattern by drawing a digital line through the bust, waist and hip points. I took my own measurements, and first lengthened the pattern so that the distance between bust-waist-hip was the same as for my body. I then took the line through the pieces and adapted the shape of the panels so that the total width of the pattern would fit with my measurements. I merged the first and second panel from the center-front, because these have a straight seam anyway. If you want a full (with pictures) description of the type of method I used, here’s a tutorial. I didn’t follow this exactly, but used the same concept.

I took this pattern and made a mock-up, and made some further changes. Mostly I removed some width at the top of the back patterns, and added a little more to the hip flare. I cut down the length at the bottom front just a bit to be able to sit better, and added a little width on the top front of the left half of the pattern. I’m not 100% symmetrical… The eventual pattern I ended up with looks like this:

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I decided to make the corset out of a white brocade coutil I had bought on sale with no specific plans in mind. I also decided on doing a little more decoration, namely cording at the front. I’ve seen examples of both vertical and horizontal cording, but settled on the horizontal inspired by this corset from the amazing Aristocrat: (seriously, if you don’t know her work, go check it out)

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In order to be able to make the cording, I flatlined the whole corset with white cotton. The busk was put in first. The two front pieces on both sides were corded before construction. After that, all the pieces were sewn together wrong sides together. This left the raw edges on the outside, to be covered with boning channels. I cut the boning channels from the same brocade coutil, ironed the edges to fold over and stitched these over the seam allowances to hide them. Next time, I think I’ll make the boning channels tubes instead of folded strips. In some places, the fold ‘folded back out’ when sewing them on, leaving the edge a little wobbly. Final steps were cutting and inserting the boning (flat steel around the grommets, spiral for the rest) and bind the edges in white cotton bias binding.

The finished corset, here shown over my Edwardian chemise because I don’t have a Victorian one. (And because it’ be quite scandalous without chemise, as it’s very solidly mid-bust, and not over-bust).  I now sort of need to make a chemise with the neckline sitting right above the edge of the corset.

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And lying flat. I love how the coutil makes it curve even off the body.

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A detail of the cording on the outside.

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And an interior picture. You can see that by constructing the panels right sides together, the inside gets a really clean finish.

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The cording on the inside. The only disadvantage of having the coutil as fashion fabric and cotton as lining is that with the cording, the cotton tends to wrap around the cord more than the coutil. So the relief is stronger on the inside. I suspect it’d work best with the thinner fabric on the outside. (Also, I think I’m getting better at hand-stitching, very pleased with the stitches sewing the binding on on the inside.)

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New underbust corset

Remember how my last underbust corset started out as a mock-up? When I started the mock-up I already had the fabric I wanted to make the corset in. Those plans got delayed though, as I decided to just fully finish the mock-up. I’ve now finally finished the underbust it was supposed to be!

This was the fabric that inspired me:

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I slightly adapted the pattern from the last fit, making it a little smaller in the lower front section. Next was cutting out the fabric. This actually took quite some time, as I had a printed cotton I wanted to use, and I wanted to keep the image intact. It took some laying out (and laying out, and laying out), but I think it worked (after shifting everything about 5 times) and I even have quite some fabric left. Not knowing how I’d need to space the pieces I made sure to get enough. The final lay-out:

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As you can see in the image, both the left & right side are layed out here. I used the pattern pieces from the original underbust to fill the other side, the differences were quite small and this allowed me to see if I had enough fabric. Obviously, I used the correct ones for cutting out.

I didn’t take any pictures during construction this time, but I did try something new! (aside from the pattern-matching, because doing that for the first time was a perfect moment to try a new technique…). Previously I’ve used the ‘stitch-in-the-ditch’ method, using very wide seam allowances and folding them back on both sides to create channels, using bone-casings on the inside not following the seams and using bone-casings on the outside following the seams. For this corset, I used the welt-seam method, constructing it both layers at the same time front to back while enclosing the seam allowances between them. I think it worked okay, and I quite like the technique, although I’m not sure it’s best for pattern matching. It requires you to pin both the strength layer and the fashion layer at separate sides to the previous panel, which makes it a bit fiddly. It gives a very nice finish though! I used coutil (also a first, it’s a lot sturdier than previous corsets now!), and I didn’t line the corset as all the seams are nicely hidden.

I’m not 100% happy with how the pattern-matching turned out, but for a first try I think it worked okay. I was also too lazy to un-pick anything, as it’s only noticeable from up close where the matching is not perfect, so it’s entirely my own fault.

I do still really like the fabric for corsetry, and it was another good learning experience doing new things! Some images of the finished corset.

The front:

& the back:

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And laying flat (sort off). As you can see, it’s a lot smoother on me, but this shows off the pattern.

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Sewing – modern with a classic twist

There’s a bi-yearly fabric market which also stops in the town where I live, and I always try to make time to go. This year, there were a lot of digitally printed fabrics. Not very suitable for historical sewing, but they do come in some great prints. I saw a couple which I just couldn’t resist and bought them. Only problem; they were jersey fabrics, which I hadn’t got a lot of experience with. So I sought a sewing magazine with some suitable patterns in it (also on the market), checked the yardage and bought the fabric. My goal was to make 2 jersey dresses which would be suitable for work and wearing in winter. Most of my dresses are summer dresses (i.e. don’t have sleeves or only very short ones), or are either too short or too fancy to wear to work. So I figured they’d make a good addition to my wardrobe. The patterns were published in the Dutch Knipmode magazine of November 2014. The only change I made was to lengthen the 3/4 sleeves to long ones.

Given that this was the first time working with a pattern for stretch fabric, I’m pretty happy with how they turned out!

The first fabric is a greyscale compilation of what looks like vintage children’s advertisements. I combined it with black jersey for the skirt. (The dress sits a lot better over my hips than those of my dummy by the way, the weird shape is gone if I wear it).

The full dress:

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A close-up of the neckline:

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A detail of the fabric: (pattern-matched at the back). I loved these little girls!

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The back of the bodice:

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The second fabric was the one which originally cought my eye. It’s a mix of an antique corset, roses, thread scissors, sewing machine charms and sewing dummy advertisements. I abselutely couln’t resist. This time I used only the print fabric. This dress has the same skirt pattern as the first one, but a slightly different bodice and neckline.

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A close-up of the pleating in the bodice and skirt.

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Close-up of the neckline.

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A close-up of the corset on the print.

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And another close-up of the fabric.

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Additionally, I also made myself 2 new belts recently. I own one black elastic belt, which I wear all the time. It’s also perfect for these dresses, to break-up the look a bit. I wanted more belt like this, but it was difficult finding non-plain black wide elastic which would suit. Luckily, there’s a store in Utrecht which carries absolutely everything considering lace, ribbon, elastic, buttons and closures you could ever want, so I found 2 lovely elastics and closures there.

There’s one with a silver closure:

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And one with a gold one:

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And a quick peek at what it looks like with the dress:

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Modern Underbust corset – with a traditional touch

Corset making is addictive. It can be frustrating, fiddly and there’s little room for error, but as soon as I finish one I’m thinking ‘I want to make more!’. Because despite being all of the above, they’re also incredibly rewarding. I guess this comes from it being so fiddly and precise work, if you do succeed it’s something to be proud of. And there’s so much which can go wrong, it’s difficult to get it to be perfect.

After finishing my Edwardian corset, I started to plan the next one. A modern corset this time, and an underbust. Both firsts for me. Of course, this didn’t stop me from trying to completely draft the pattern from scratch, which I’ve never done before either.

I drafted the pattern using a couple of tutorials and making them my own. I didn’t follow these exactly, but the over-all method I used is described really well here: https://katafalk.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/underbust-pattern-tutorial/ and here: http://ultharkitty.livejournal.com/641477.html . I decided on a 6-panel (per side) pattern.

I made the mock-up of a shiny, sturdy black polyester I had left-over from another project, and it actually worked really well right away. I hadn’t planned on doing anything with the mock-up, but then I followed a workshop on fabric decoration with paint, and the black mock-up fabric was perfect for it. As the pattern seemed to work pretty well, I took a leap and decided to finish it properly.

The fabric decoration technique I used is called ‘dotwork’, and is traditional to the Dutch town of Staphorst. They use it in their traditional clothing as a form of decoration. It came into existence to replace embroidery, which was more expensive because it took more time. Essentially, it’s a technique where you paint dots on fabric using the heads of nails to form patterns. If you get really good at it, this looks something like this:

The traditional colors are red, blue, yellow, green, purple and white. The background is traditionally dark blue or black. The patterns can be made quicker by using stamps, where multiple nails have been hammered into a piece of wood. A special paint is used, which has a plastic base. It applies well to fabric, and doesn’t wash out.

As a friend of mine followed a course in this technique, I was able to use some of her stamps and paint to decorate this corset. Making the stamps is one of the most difficult things of the whole process, so it made things a lot easier and quicker for me. Even so, it took me 2 afternoons to place all the dots. Once the paint touches the fabric, there’s no going back, so it’s a job which requires a lot of patience and concentration. It’s wonderfully relaxing to do though.

I ended up using only red and white, as I believed it looked best with the corset. In Staphorst they like very busy patterns, so this is a slightly more modern variation. The corset was constructed of 3 layers, the black as outside, a strong canvas-like cotton for the strength layer and a floating black cotton lining. It has a waist-tape and external red boning channels out of bias tape. The bones in the center-back are flat steel, all the others spiral.

I’m really happy with how it came out, and I love the shape it gives me. I’m planning to make another corset with this pattern, so I want to wear this one a bit to check if the fit stays right over time. There’s probably some small things I’ll change, such as adding a little extra room in the hip at the back, and raising the top, but overall it looks pretty good.

 

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And lying flat, outside and in.

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A little detail of the dots, binding and lining

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Edwardian corset – done!

My edwardian corset is done!

When I left off last time, I was trying to figure out how to avoid wrinkles in the silk when stitching the boning channels on.

I tried to use a different zipper foot, but it didn’t really work… I looked for other solutions, but they involve fusing the fabrics, or pinning them together over a curve. This would mean taking the whole thing apart though, and as I’d already sewn on all the boning channels that seemed like completely undoing every progress I’d made. So I decided to just continue, and accept that it’s a bit wrinkly. Something to consider next time, and if anyone has any tips to avoid these type of wrinkles, I’d love to know!

So, the finished thing:

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Aside from the wrinkles, I’m pretty happy with how this turned out, and I still love the fabric and the lace. I’m wearing it over my Edwardian chemise, bum pad and the Wearing History bust improvers I just made up:

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The Edwardian silhouette is all about emphasizing the waist by having a full bust and wide hips. The hips I almost have, but the bust can use a little help, and these improvers are a perfectly historical solution! I now just need to make a corset cover to cover up the edge of the corset.

Some detail shots:

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And lying flat (which it doesn’t do very well). Here you can also see that the wrinkles are not just caused by fitting issues…

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The lace, attached on the inside:

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And from the outside. It’s so pretty!

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I also made bias tape for the first time, which I think worked rather well! And I flossed the corset. Of course, having no experience in embroidery or flossing I went for the simplest design.. not. It worked out okay though, they’re not all exactly the same, but pretty enough!

 

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At the busk.

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The flossing on the inside & the bias tape hand-stiched down:

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I flossed the bones in the front and the 2 at the back nearest the grommets.

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Edwardian corset progress

A while without any sewing posts, but I have been, I promise! My 1860’s ballgown bodice is almost done (a post will follow when it’s complete), and I’ve been working on my Edwardian corset. In this post some progress on the latter. All photo’s were taken with my phone, and sometimes in bad light, but I wanted to register progress closely this time and this was the easiest way.

I started with tracing the pattern and cutting the pattern pieces (I’m using Truly Victorian E01). After this, it was mock-up time!

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I’m always a bit lazy, so while I wouldn’t skip a mock-up of such a close fitting garment, I usually just pin it together to check for fit. I also included a panel at the center-back because I don’t have lacing yet. The mock-up fitted all-right. It seemed a bit loose at the top, but Edwardian corsets aren’t really meant to support much anyways. I figured that if it would turn out too loose, I’d just stuff in extra padding, because that’s what they did back then as well. Next step was cutting the fabric!

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The strength-layer.

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And the silk. This was really scary! Next to cutting was marking all the pieces. This is especially important in corset patterns, because it isn’t always obvious which piece is which at first glance.

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Marking always takes so much longer than I initially think… Next up was flatlining the strength-layer to the silk. The pattern I’m using calls for a single-layer corset, so I sewed the strength-fabric to the silk around the edges.

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Flat-lined pieces. It’s already pretty! The construction was next, and started with inserting the busk at the center-front. My busk was slightly too long, so I needed to shorten it first.

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After cutting it off, I filed the edges to be smooth and used plumbers-tape to protect it further. (I wouldn’t recommend the cutter I’m using by the way, I need to get a new one).

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For the loop side, I sewed the facing to the center-front piece, leaving gaps at inter falls for the loops to fit through. This is what it looked like right sides together.

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And right side. Next I put the busk in between the seam allowences, with the loops sticking through the holes. I then sewed the facing in place next to the loops. The other side was similar, but here I sewed the facing on normally, and then poked holes through the Center-front piece to fit the knobs through. Next up, construction time!

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This is always the stage I like most, because you can see the corset coming alive. This photo is of all but the center-front piece sewn together.

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After sewing and pressing open the seams, some of the curved seams were ironed to one side and top-stitched to secure them more. This was scary, because I’m using slightly contrasting thread and I wanted it to look pretty on the outside as well.

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I think it turned out pretty nice! These are the seams at the frond of the corset.

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Time for the eyelets! At the center back, I attached the facing and sewed 3 lines of stitching. The first to form the first boning channel, a gap for the eyelets, and then another 2 lines for the second boning channel. I initially wanted to use an awl to poke the holes for the eyelets as the silk frays, but I couldn’t get the hole big enough. I ended up cutting the holes with the eyelet-tong, and using fray-check to keep the fabric under control. I tested it on a scrap, and it looked pretty sturdy, so hopefully it’ll hold. And then I put in all the eyelets! They’re 5 mm prym eyelets.

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Next is planning the boning channels. They’re internal tubes, and I sewed together 3 cm biasbinding to create the channels as I couldn’t find pre-made anywhere. The pattern called for 4 channels in the front, but I could only fit 3.

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Sewing the channels in. I also added a waist-tape. The pattern doesn’t call for it, but it’s supposed to increase sturdyness.

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And then, cutting the boning! Cutting, filing and taping the bones.

This is where I’m at now. I’m having a slight delay, because after sewing on the boning channels, this happened:

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Wrinkles! It’s not entirely avoidable because of the thin silk, but it’s not very pretty either. I strongly suspect that using a special sewing foot will help decrease this. It happens because the top fabric and bottom fabric are moving at different speeds through the machine, and there are foots which help getting things aligned again. As turns out, the machine I’m using comes with such a foot, but it’s at my mother’s, so I don’t have it yet. I’ll probably unpick some of the boning channels and test re-stitching them very carefully to see if I can decrease the wrinkles. It’s a bit of a set-back, but I really want this corset to turn out really nice. I already invested in the fabric and lace, and I’m planning on spending even more time on flossing and I’d hate to end up thinking I could’ve done more to make it as nice as I can. It will probably always have some wrinkles, but I want to have at least tried.

So I’m now waiting for when I can get the foot, and then I’ll be able to continue! Meanwhile I’ve been working on other stuff, so my ball-gown bodice is now nearly done and should be posted about in a couple of weeks.

 

 

Edwardian corset

I’ve been working on a new corset. This time it’ll be an S-bend Edwardian corset, ca. 1903. This type of corset is very specific for the time. It has a straight front, and a very sharply curved back, giving it the S-bend name.

These corsets are meant to minimize the waist, but to keep as much volume as possible in the hip and bust era.

I’m using the Truly Victorian pattern for this corset. It comes with a hip pad to add volume to the back and bust padding to fill up the front. I made the padding last year. It looks a bit weird on its own.

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I also already cut out the pattern pieces last year, and over Christmas cut and pinned the mock-up. Corsets are alwasy difficult to fit, but these even more so, so I decided it was close enough and will just go with my measurements. I’ve a gap at the top front, but that’s sort of the point as Edwardian corsets don’t really support the bust anyways. If it turns out too big, I can always make some more padding to fill it up. There’s loads of examples of Edwardian ‘bust-improvers’, so it would be very period.

Wearing History has a e-pattern of some bust-improvers which I might try.

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So now it’s time to sew! I’ll be using a beige coutil as strength layer and I’ve bought a lovely pale pink silk for the outer layer. It’s my first time working with silk, and I’m very excited but also a bit scared, because it’s so pretty! At the top of the corset I will use a lovely beige lace with tiny flowers and pearls. I’m also planning on trying out flossing for this corset, so it should turn out to be pretty fancy!

My phone camera doesn’t do the fabric justice, but just to get an idea. I want to layer the lace this way at the top.

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For the bottom of the corset I’m planning on using the top side of the lace in a thin border.

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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.

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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 original pattern pieces, lenghtened in the center

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The first mock-up

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.

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. I think this picture shows it quite well (also taken from De Gracieuse):

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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Sewing – Stays

Last year, I made my first corset. All my previous sewing experience had been with modern of costumy garments, mostly a lot of simple skirts, so it was a challenge. Because I’d no idea how well it would turn out and mostly just wanted to try it out, I was hesitant to spend a lot on a commercial pattern. After looking through many online patterns, I settled on the pattern generator of this Danish website: http://www.scandinaviantailoring.com/dtta/interactive/korset_1/index.htm

I have no idea as to how historical the pattern is, but it creates a 18th century type silhouette, which was what I was looking for. The first mock-up didn’t really fit properly, but I think I managed to get it sort of right. I used construction methods learned from youtube, and sort of guessed where to place the boning, as the pattern didn’t say. Everything considered, I’m pretty happy with how well it turned out.

I made it out of left-over fabric of a skirt I made, it’s not very historically correct, but I love the pattern. I had two layers of strong fabric and one outer layer, used spring steel boning and black bias tape.

I didn’t take too many progress photos, but this one is while binding. I had to be very careful to stay away from the pins. It reminded me of a medieval weapon.

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When I started the binding I had 2 meters of bias band and figured that would be plenty. This was the amount I had left at the end. At least now I know that it takes about 2 meters to bind a corset with straps!

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The finished corset, lying flat, still without the ribbons or lacing cord:

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And on my dressform:

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