Ca. 1860 Corset For ME! (HSF #4)

Unfortunately, I’m a few days late completing my project for the HSF Challenge #4: Under It All. I tried really hard on this one and was definitely motivated to keep working consistently by the fact that I wanted to get it done for the HSF challenge. I was held up by a severe cold that took me out for about a week and other dealing with life things. So while I’m late, I’m super glad and excited to be done with this project (especially because the last two days have included a lot of flossing, and my fingers/hand muscles are so done with that for awhile)!

The last ca. 1860 corset I built for myself was made in 2006 or 2007 (you can see it in this post). It’s been worn more times than I can count and has stood up to the test of time and tension well, especially considering it was the first corset I ever made! But the time has come for a new corset for this period–one that is made to fit me using all the skills in pattern making and construction that I’ve gained over the last 7 or 8 years.

I realized while working on this corset that aside from building my first corset to fit me in 2006 or 2007, the only other stays or corsets I wear with my historic clothes that were made to fit me are my 18th century stays, my short Regency stays, and my c. 1825 long stays. I wear other corsets from 1895 (hm, I don’t think there are pictures of this on the blog), 1903, and 1913 but none of them were constructed to fit me (though I did construct them beautifully!). I’ve made them work and they sort of fit me, but all of them have problems because they were made to fit other people: a busk that’s too long, being a little small, especially in the hips, or being too big and needing a tuck. So it occurred to me that I should probably invest in making a few more corsets made to my measurements for the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Sounds obvious, but it was a revelation to me when I sat down and thought about it!

So that’s what this project is: a ca. 1860 corset made to fit me!

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Hard to see the details in this picture, I know. There will be detail shots and lots of commentary in an upcoming post!

I have lots of other thoughts and inspiration to share with regard to this project, but I expect it to be lengthy, so I’ll be writing it up in a separate post. Plus, I want to post about my completion of the challenge as soon as possible. So for now, the very much condensed details.

Fabric: 1/2 yd ish of white herringbone cotton coutil and ½ yds ish of slightly slubby pale pink silk satin.

Pattern: Created by me, though I began with a corset pattern in Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines and made lots of changes to it.

Year: c. 1860.

Notions: Metal boning, metal grommets, a recycled metal busk from my old ca. 1860 corset, regular weight ivory thread, and heavy weight ivory thread for flossing.

How historically accurate?: Pretty darn accurate, I’d say. I wanted to create a corset using the seam lines found in extant garments, but which don’t seem to be much recreated. I used construction methods that are accurate as far as I know. Let’s say 90% because you can’t ever quite make it to 100% if it’s modern, can you?

Hours to complete: A lot. I didn’t keep track, but I’ve been working on this for  at least 2 or 3 weeks, and some of those days have been a full day’s work on the corset, not just evenings.

First worn: Has not been worn yet, but will be worn to a ball in March.

Total cost: Free (all stash materials)!

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Project Journal: 1815-1820 Regency Ensemble Part II: Corset Construction

Well, it’s been a little bit of time since I shared with you my research and plan to build a Regency corset to accompany my 1819 gown. I’m excited to say that I was successful! The corset is complete, although I still plan to quilt a diamond pattern along front rib section within the next few months (I’ll share photos of that once it is complete). You can see the diamond quilting in the photos in the link, above.

The dummy isn't quite the right shape for this corset, but here it is!
Corset back

This corset is constructed of two layers of pink cotton twill with a layer of coutil sandwiched between them to provide stability and support. I began construction by flatlining the coutil to the outer layer of twill. I sewed the non-gusset seams (the front and back pieces) together in these flat lined pieces, leaving the inside twill layer for later. Each gusset had all three layers flatlined together and sewn into place with the seam allowances pressed away from the gussets themselves. Then I went back and basted the inner twill pieces into place that had been left aside. I turned under the seams on these pieces and hand sewed them over the seam allowance of the gussets so that no seam allowance was showing.

After completing the inside construction I bound the edges with purple bias silk taffeta, scraps from another project. The final step was to create eyelets. I decided to do these by hand in purple cotton embroidery floss. Each eyelet is reinforced with a metal jump ring that is caught under the thread on the inside of each eyelet. This reinforces the edge of each eyelet and keeps them from stretching out of shape when laced. The jump rings are only visible on the inside of the eyelets, where the stitching is bulkier because it passes over the rings.

Hand sewn eyelets, on the outside

The corset is lightly boned at center front and center back. I struggled over what material would be best to create the 2″ wide center front bone. Eventually I remembered a suggestion from a friend, Carly, who had used a creative option for boning that I decided would be perfect for this project. Home supply stores such as Home Depot and Loew’s sell plastic wire ties that are about 3/8″ wide and which come in lengths up to about 20″. The ties are a good 1/8″ thick, strong, but still bendable. They have a similar tension to a steel bone, but are a little thicker. And the nice thing is that you can cut and shape them easily with scissors! Of course, plastic boning is not historically accurate, but it is functional and affordable (a pack of these wire ties is about $5, and there are about 12 per pack) and creates a boned garment that feels similar to one boned with steel bones (and once you finish the garment, who would know?).

In this corset, each side of center back has a single bone. The 2″ wide center front bone is actually 5 wire ties attached to one other with (shhh!!!) masking tape! This is an experiment that I hope will work (I have slight fears that body heat might one day cause the tape to lose its grip and the bones to start to move around in funny ways, or worse, that the tape will leech sitcky goo onto the fabric that will stain the exterior). I put the center front bone in between the layer of coutil and the inside twill, so even if the masking tape does one day create stains, it is unlikely that the stains will make it to the outside of the corset.

For now, success and wearability!

Project Journal: Victorian Women’s Tailoring Part VII: Fitting 1913 Garments

Finally, here are some pictures of my fitting for my 1913 tailored look!

We’ll start here, where you can see the mostly dressed view. This look is a tailored suit from 1913. In the picture you can see the pleated skirt. I actually wound up making the finished length longer than I originally thought I would.

The skirt is worn with an Edwardian blouse featuring cluny lace, pin tucks, pleats, and pleated cuffs.

To the right you can see the look with the unfinished jacket and hat. The jacket still has a mock-up collar and at this point there is no facing, so the interior canvas is visible on the lapels of the jacket.

This period is a strange mix of Victorian holdover clothing (like the blouse) and 20th century clothing (the tailored suit).

Under the skirt are undergarments that have slimmed down since 1883 and 1903 while still remaining numerous and Victorian in principle. On the left you can see the full length chemise which still features lace, pin tucks, and silk ribbon. The silhouette has narrowed considerably from the Victorian shapes of the 19th century, but the whole look is Victorian, not modern. The corset is much longer at this time, but the bones stop about four inches above the bottom edge so that movement is not impaired. This corset is constructed of a silk/linen blend that is flat lined with coutil. The seams are flat felled on the inside. It is edged in the same fabric cut on the bias. The top edge is also edged with lace and silk ribbon. To the right you can see the corset cover for this look: simple and straight forward, with just a small edge of lace. There is also a matching fabric petticoat for this look. The petticoat (or underskirt) is edged with a pin tucked ruffle and finished at the bottom with matching embroidery. It closes at the waist with a hook and eye. The chemise, petticoat, and corset cover are all constructed of the same ivory cotton.

Project Journal: Victorian Women’s Tailoring Part VI: Fitting 1903 Garments

Well, if you remember from a few posts ago, I completed my mockup undergarments and exterior garments for this 1903 look in muslin (the same fabric I used for the 1883 and 1913 mockups). But now I’ve completed first fittings for my garments in their actual fabrics!

Let’s start at the outside and work our way in. The exterior “suit” is two pieces: a jacket and walking skirt. Both layers are constructed of fairly heavy wool, so tightly woven it is almost like melton. Melton is a felted wool frequently used for outerwear and constantly used historically for it’s water resistance and ability not to fray–thus allowing tailors to leave their cut edges raw and not finish them with time intensive seam finishes. The walking skirt is intended for use out of doors: specifically for talking walks (hence the name) and promenading about in the public eye.

Under the jacket is a silk crepe blouse with a lace yoke, collar, and cuffs. If you look closely you can see the three points of the lace yoke on the blouse. The blouse is pulled off-center in this picture because of the alterations I needed to make-only one side has the alterations pinned.

Under the skirt there is a cream colored lace edged silk shantung petticoat. The petticoat has two circular, gathered ruffles at the bottom. The top ruffle has a wavy hem edged in lace and the bottom ruffle is edged in matching lace. There are also arches of lace above the ruffles.

There is also a cream colored corset cover that is not pictured in these photos. This s-shape corset is made of green silk shantung flat lined with coutil. The seams are flat felled on the inside. The edges are bound in bias cut shantung and the top is also edged with white lace threaded with pink silk ribbon. Under the corset is a cotton combination that buttons up the front. A combination is an undergarment that is functions as a chemise but has bifurcated leg openings, like drawers. This pair is edged in white lace at the leg openings and neck edge. The neck opening is threaded with a green silk ribbon to coordinate with the corset.

Project Journal: Victorian Women’s Tailoring Part IV: Fitting 1883 Undergarments

I’ve put together my actual fabrics! First to fit is my 1883 undergarments. These garments are essentially finished and ready to be worn.

The first layer is a cotton chemise with intersecting zigzag pattern lace insertion at the hem and simple lace edging around the neck opening and armholes. The tie is navy silk ribbon.

The corset is blue cotton twill flatlined with coutil for stability and grey silk shantung boning channels. The top is edged with black lace and off white silk ribbon. The bust also features cording across the front panels as well as flossing at the top of the boning channels.

It’s hard to see the corset detail in the first picture, so here’s a close-up. You can actually see the cording in this picture. The waistband is decorative as well as helping to cinch in the waist. The top and bottom of the corset are bound in bias silk shantung.

Here’s a small back view as well. It looks like I could have laced the bottom half a little tighter!

The next layer is the cotton corset cover with pin tuck decoration and navy silk ribbon threaded through lace around the neck. The front closes with pearl buttons down the front. You can see the corset cover detail in the two pictures below

After the corset cover is the bustle itself! It is constructed of off-white striped cotton with hoop steel bones inserted into the horizontal channels. The bottom is finished off with a nice box pleat.

Back bustle view on the left!

On the right you can see the pin tuck detail on the corset cover.

After the bustle comes the petticoat! It is constructed of cotton with lace edging. Here’s a front and side view. You can also see the pin tuck detail on the corset cover in the front view bustle picture.