Monday, March 18, 2013

Ageless Patterns #1036 (AP1036) "1869 Short Corset for Fleshy Lady 36 Bust - 26 Waist"

Inspired by Lauren over at, I decided to attempt a more comfortable corset. I selected Ageless Patterns #1036, which is described as a "Short corset for fleshy lady" *ahem*, but the measurements are close to my ideal corseted measurements of 37" bust, 27" waist AND this pattern was reviewed by many to be very, very short waisted. This might drive most people away, but my ridiculously short waist is my biggest fitting issue, so I was hopeful. Here's the design image:
From Lauren's research, I had learned to look for a pattern with large hip gores. The design drawing of AP 1036 is a little misleading, as there are two front hip gores instead of one large one, but it's mostly correct. When you cinch in the waist, not all of that flesh simply compresses. One has got to give it somewhere to go, and the easiest place to go is down around the hips and low belly. This may not sound attractive, but it totally compliments the Victorian silhouette. In modern patterns, my hips are always a size or two smaller than my waist would indicate. This means that I don't think of my self as someone who has to compensate for my hips, but giving them extra room made a tremendous difference.

The first muslin
For the first muslin, I decided to work with the pattern completely unaltered. There were some issues, but waist length was NOT one of them. I did take a picture from the front, but it was tragically out of focus.
Muslin #1: back view
Pressure points and other problems. The red arrow points to the way that the side bones seems to bend the corset out of shape. The X indicates where the second set of lacing bones pushes uncomfortably on my low back. The oval indicates the biggest problem: pressure on the back hip crest. After about 30 minutes, the pressure was almost crippling. 

The front hip gore was too large. You can see where I  pinned in it a bit. Also, I decided to raise the bust line about 1". My arm is raised in this shot, but I felt I needed a little more support.  You may also notice that the front stands away from my body. At first I was troubled by this, but when I sat down I realized that this corset does a great job of accommodating my seated shape. 
Overall, this was not a bad first go. I was also amazing to see how much waist reduction I got. My natural waist fluctuates between 30.5" and 29.5". In all other corsets, I was able to lace to 27". With the addition of the hip gores, this laced to 25.5" on the first go. It's not really my goal to lace tighter than 27", since I've use that measurement for most of my costumes, but it was an eye opener to see what a different they made.

I thought about what changes to make and I decided on the following adjustments:

  1. raise the bust line 1"
  2. remove the outer lacing bones for low back comfort
  3. also for back comfort, widen the back hip gore
  4. reconsider boning placement
Second Muslin (in which we learn the folly of hubris)
I was so pleased with the way the first muslin had turned out, that I decided I was ready to move on to the final version. I went with a double layer corset, so I would not have to mess with channel tape. After carefully aligning the gores and triple stitching them (you can tell this was my mistake), I started adding bones and testing for the best placement.

adding the second fabric layer and more boning meant that I could not lace the back closed any more. Time to had some width at the waist. The widened hip gores seem to be helping and the removal of the second back boning piece also made me more comfortable, but the pressure on my upper hip crest is still excruciating -- not a word one wants associated with one's underwear. 
Placing the side bones along the seam didn't solve the original problem and now put considerable pressure on the top of my hip. Also, you can see that the front stands well away from my body. 

The center most bust gores are really too big, and probably should be raise to better support my shape, but the new bust line feels more secure. There is still a lot of wrinkling, but I am chalking that up to the fact that none of the bones are secured in place yet. 
The next day, I decided to sew the front gores closed, just to see if that helped at all. 
Laying more smoothly in the front now. In the back,  things are still unpleasant. 
The pinkest line on my hip is where the top of the gore was cutting in.  Ouch!

Transition to the Third Attempt
As much as I had wanted the second version to be the final version, it just wasn't going to happen. I decided to mark my waist line and hip arc right on the corset so that I could make a more careful decision about where to place the gores.

Using this information, I decided to do the following on the third version:

  1. add 1" just at the waist (+1/4" on the back and side seams)
  2. move the waist grommet up so that they are centered on the waist line
  3. move the back gore opening 3/8" towards the center back
  4. widen the back gore opening 1/4" at the top
  5. remove the center front hip gore
  6. add a small gore and the side seam
  7. move the second front hip gore forward 1/4" so the front seam was no longer right on top of my front hip
  8. remove 1/4" from the center bust gore
  9. go back to a single layer corset. 
Third and final (but not perfect) version
I made the changes listed above. I followed Semptress's excellent advice on single layer corset building, and went to town.

I felt very clever for thinking of button holes for busk openings after I realized that I forgot to make a double layer of the front piece. This is a costume corset, so it doesn't need to be strong enough for everyday wear. Just a few long days about 4 times a year. 
I used a buttonhole stitch length to reinforce the gore points.

I added bones one at a time, searching for the right combination of support and wrinkle smoothing. I really like the tree-like effect I got on the front. That totally happened by accident. 
There's still some room in the front, but it's very comfortable when I'm seated. 

In the end, I had to run some boning over my hips to smooth wrinkles at the waist. These wrinkles were both unsightly and really uncomfortable when they bit into my waist or pinched my skin in a fold. 

I have been wearing the finished version for about 5 hours now. I've been mostly seated. I'm am getting a little sore around my floating ribs and the muscles at my low back are uncomfortable, but nothing it unbearable as it has been in previous versions. I have laced to 26", but I intend to lace to only 27" when I am wearing costumes, so I am hopeful that this would relieve some of this discomfort. There is still a little extra room in the bust gores, and I think that I am willing to call that a problem for another day. Steampunk Gettysburg is only two weeks away, and I have more sewing to do.


Sew2pro said...

Well done for persevering. The end result is beautiful. I love the white and black contrast, and the patterns, even if accidental.

I've been thinking of making a corset as I believe it would gain me useful skills. But I lack the occasion! Look forward to seeing the rest of the outfit.

Eurielle said...

It so amazing to see how you manage to point out your fitting issues and solve them ! I'm incapable of resolving fit problems except for the very smple ones so I thoroughly enjoyed following your journey through the comfortable corset. Thank you for the clear and detailed pictures.
I think your corset is beautiful, a real work of art !

ista said...

Well done, that pink line on you did NOT look good! I'm probably going to get this pattern now that I know it's short waisted (I'm crazily so)

ajpiffle said...

ista: I have to say that if you can, try out the Foundations Revealed free draft-your-own corset tutorial. That's where I feel I've gotten the best results.