Tuesday, February 27, 2018

HSF #2: 1880's Reproduction Corset

The goal with this corset: to make an awesome corset, no skimping on the flossing, all the way through, that could work under an 1880's dress.

I wanted to not get too crazy with color choices, so I looked around at all the corsets within this time frame. Overall, I really liked this particular corset because the seam lines were very comparable to the Truly Victorian pattern I already had. I copied the exact boning design; the back diagonal section I had to fudge a little because my corset overall turned out longer, and I think I may be a little smaller, so the exact angle is different. In fact, it didn't turn out the same on both sides, because I finally succcessfully got both sides even; so the one side has 6 diagonal, and the other 7.

c. 1880-85 Corset in the Royal Ontario Museum

After reading some articles and watching some videos, I decided to try roll-pinning. Roll-pinning is the theory that, if you pin something on a flat plane, and wear it on a curved sphere, the outside layer will be too small, and the inner too big. This process involves pinning the two layer together on a sphere; in this case, I used my larger pressing ham. His name is Hammie. The two layers were then hand-stitched together. It was a lot of work....because I haven't done more corsets, I don't know how it would have turned out if I hadn't pinned it like this. But overall, it lays pretty well without many wrinkles. So, success, I guess?

I also decided to try putting the seams on the outside (why?), and covered it with the boning channels. As I was constructing it, I wasn't sure why I picked that, but later it ended up coming in handy.
This is the closest I've come in corset-making to an even back.

Once the grommets, boning channels and busk were in, I tried it on. It had been like 6 months since the mockup had been worn. Initially, it took some time to figure out the best way to lace it up; the first time I laced it too tight in the ribs. Also, I stabbed my hands three times really hard because I pinned the bones in rather than baste across the top. Double hole for each stab, with the pin going in and out and I had to carefully draw it out. So I was hurting and frustrated. After coming back to it with more patience and time (and the bones basted in), I figured out the best way to lace it.

I only have two small regrets with this project that can technically be fixed:

1. The bust shaping. To fix the bust, I ripped the front casing off halfway and added in a really tiny gusset to round it out a little more. Once the seam allowance was trimmed and the casing back on, you can't even tell it's there! It's not perfect on one side, but better overall. Still want to perfect that.

2. I would never have even thought of the wider bone, except for the original, so I thought I'd try it. Whoops....didn't realize that exact seam line curves forward quite a bit, and it hits right at my hip bones. So the tighter I have it laced, the more the bone tweaks, although the hip bone thing is a little uncomfortable, but not as big a problem as I thought. Technically, I could remove the bone and leave the channel (it needs to cover the seam) and re-angle it so it's a little closer to my actual side, and more upright.

There are a few areas of this project that mystify me a little bit: the natural form tummy, and hip spring. Back in July, I had sort of a hip-spring revalation after adding gussets to my older corset. Wow! What a difference! So comfortable and attractive! I no longer looked top-heavy. With the old corset gussets, it gave me a lot more spring out the back. With this particular corset though, it gives me more spring out to the side, and more flatness in the back. Huh. Some people are amazing at that balancing act; I'm still trying to figure out if perfection is possible when you have less body to work with?!? Like, do I have to pick between the back or the side? And if I try to balance between the two will it not be so extreme and not even be worth trying?

The other undergarments made to go with this are a basic natural form petticoat, and a bum pad. Initially, the pad was made to wrap all the way around my hips to the side, but I decided that I was hippy enough without any help. Actually, I wasn't even going to make a hip pad, but after the petticoat was made it was clear that the silhouette was really, really sad without it. It took several tries to get this the right shape; I'm so used to mid-Victorian, with sudden fullness right below the waist, but to get the right shape it really needs to slope, with the fullness gradually being added the further down it gets.

The petticoat is the Truly Victorian pattern, the only adjustment being that I added a tie right at mid-thigh level to pull the fullness to the back. The bum pad is tacked on one side, and then the other side gets safety pinned to the waistband once the waist is tied. I found that the bum pad wouldn't stay up on it's own, and kept riding up in the front and falling down in the back. I'd rather have it sewn permanently to the petticoat, with the petticoat closing at the side front. But....I'm lazy, so that isn't happening.

What the item is: Natural form corset, petticoat, and pad. 
Material: Coutil, silk-faced satin, cotton sateen, muslin.
Pattern: TV 1880's pattern, and the TV basic petticoat
Year: 1870's-1890's for the corset, and 1877-1882 for the petticoat.
Notions: Metal busk, German plastic boning, 2 wider metal steels, thread, embroidery floss, twill tape, metal grommets, stuffing (for the pad)How historically accurate is it? The corset is based on an extant, and I can't think of any techniques which aren't accurate, other than the plastic bones. The stuffing for the pad is polyester, because there comes a point where you just don't care. Patting myself on the back with an 80%, although for natural form I'm a little flat in the belly area. I was wanting to make some combinations to finish this challenge off, but that's going to have to wait.
Hours to complete: 60 hours for the whole thing, started way back in July or August.
First worn: For my next project, it's been a constant on-off act, so I've already worn these undergarments for a few hours at a time maybe 8 times.
Total cost: $80; satin was expensive, coutil was stash, busk and boning was new, I had to buy a new grommet-setting kit because I was tired of the size 0's so I'm counting that as part of the cost. 

By the way....if you see any black galloon beading lace....LET ME KNOW. I searched high and low for something close, to no avail, and I wasn't willing to settle since it seemed like a simple request. 


  1. It's lovely! Fat as I am, I haven't got much happening at hips or bum, so I tend to sew some padding inside the corset, and add tie on pads on the outside if the shape demands. I love your flossing- I haven't yet bothered to do it on any of my corsets, although I want to try it eventually.