Historical Sew Monthly – January, Firsts and Lasts

I like the corset.  I get progressively less interested in fashion the further it gets from the corset.  Maybe it’s because it feels less like history and more like “fashion” which has never really been my thing.  Anyway, we did a 19-Teens Tea through the costuming guild in February, which was a new time period for me.  New period = new underwear = new corset.

Nice thing is, this works great for the 2017 January Sew Monthly challenge.  (I like challenges; they keep me focused)

Material:  5/8 yard green dupioni, 1 yard cotton drill

Pattern:  Jen’s 1910 corset, with adjustments

Year: 1911

Notions: two dozen size 00 silver grommets, 6 yards of continuous white steel boning, corset busk, 6 yards of lacing, tool dip

How historically accurate is it?:  Jen’s pattern is taken directly from an extant source.  However, I altered it by raising the bust line, which may or may not be period.  80%

Hours to complete: 20

First worn: The Dallas-Forth Worth Costuming Guild’s Valenteens Tea, 4 Feb

Total cost: The fabric was from my stash, so for boning ($15), tool dip($8), grommets ($4), and busk ($15), about $42

I considered a few options for a pattern.  There’s a nice 1910s corset in Corsets and Crinolines, but there are gores, which makes it harder to fit.  Truly Victorian has a pattern, but I’ve recently been hit with some massive and unexpected bills, so frugality is necessary.  Then, luckily, I stumbled on Jen’s awesome pattern and tutorial.  I can’t recommend it enough!

Here are the ways I deviated from her instructions.

I sized up the pattern in Microsoft Publisher.  (To do this, open a document at least 24×26 inches, drag the file in, and size until the grid and program scales are a 1:1 ratio).  I then printed it out as “tiles”, taped it together, and cut it out.  Following Jen’s instructions, I cut out the correct amount of paper to turn it into a 27″ waist.

I did not bother piecing the side front piece together.  It’s a straight line, after all.  I taped these two piece together and used as one piece.

I raised the line of the front significantly; an inch and a half at the center of the bust.  I’m rather top-heavy, and I didn’t want to make a bust bodice (a period bra) in addition to this.  I did look at some corset advertisements from the period, and it seems that higher bustline corset were available for us busty girls.  It fits perfect.

I never fit corset mock-ups unless I have a bra on.  For this one, I was wearing a cloth, unlined, minimizer type bra that doesn’t compress or raise, but keeps my bust line further down on my chest.  I figured this was the correct period configuration.  Wearing a bra that pre-configures the bust line makes it a lot easier to manage a mock-up.

I cut my mock-up out of drill.  Stiff fabric = better results.  Plus, I could then use it for the strength layer with minimal adjustment!

Instead of treating this as a single-layer corset, I did line it.  Since there are only four pieces per side, and you have to put facings on the front and back piece, I figured it was only slightly more work to just fully line it.  The strength layer of cotton drill is on the inside, the silk is on the outside.  My hunch turned out not to be entirely true, and you cover the seams with casing anyway… but I like the green silk better than the plain cotton drill.  I don’t have any nice coutil laying around!

I used 1/4″ continuous white steel corset boning.  I don’t bother with the little clamp-on ends.  Tool dip is great stuff and much easier to deal with.  There are a LOT of bones in this corset.

I cut the sides up a LOT.

I re-positioned the boning termination points, as well as cutting the front up significantly.  I’m short-waisted, so I usually have to do this with corsets.  However, on my first round of boning, I got it the right length in the front but the wrong length in the back.  Too short.  If you’re going to shorten the boning, stagger the lengths so they don’t align and cause wrinkling.  I had to pick out the bottom stitches and redo five of my eight channels!  I also had to make new bones… I now have 12 10.5″ bones that’ll be repurposed at a later date.

I added diagonal bones at the center front.  Since there is no shaping in the seams, this holds things in a nice flat plain.

Since I cut this from a scrap of green silk (God bless the High Fashion Fabric sales rack), I did not have enough of the fashion fabric left to do the binding.  I used a plain ivory cotton, cut on the bias in a “quilt binding style.”  Instead of folding the bias tape in on the sides a quarter each, you cut it 2.5″ and fold it in half over in the middle, stitching both raw edges down with a 1/4″ seam allowance.  Most of the time, this method is too thick for dressmaking but it is so much easier to deal with.  Works great for corsets.  I sewed it on by hand.  I’m still contemplating lace.  I probably should, when I get a chance.

I was dubious, but overall, this is a relatively comfortable corset.  I’m naturally curvy, and shortwaisted, so this isn’t as comfortable for me as my mid to late Victorian corset.  Go figure.  But the bust being raised is nice and supportive.  The only issue I have with this is that it tends to ride up when I sit down.


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