Sunday, July 14, 2013

Finally! Corset success! (Historical Sew Fortnightly #13: Lace & Lacing)

So, I have long been in search of a corset pattern that would work for my short waisted proportions. I long ago gave up on buying something off the rack. Being short waisted means that nothing fits vertically. In addition, my hips are proportionally narrow; that is, they are not as wide as one would expect given my bust and waist measurements.

I've tried the Laughing Moon Silverado corset pattern, twice. I also made a corset from an Ageless Pattern recreation of an original 1869 pattern. While the fit of each attempt got better, I've consistently had problems getting the laces parallel, which speaks to a problem getting the horizontal proportions right. I've also had problems giving myself room where I needed it. By this I mean that even though my hips are narrow, they need space in the right places to accommodate their changed shape when corseted. Failure to get the fit right has lead to low back pain and cramping after a few hours of wear.

I decided to try this FREE corset drafting tutorial from I cannot say enough good things about this approach. If you have non-standard proportions, this is the right approach for you.

I have to apologize in advance, I didn't take any photos of the process. If I have an excuse, it's that I was too excited by how well things were going to slow down and document the process.

The process starts by carefully taking several measurements. There are vertical as well as horizontal measurements. This means that if you have an unusually long or short torso, that will be reflected automatically in the pattern.

From these measurements, the tutorial walks through the process of drafting the pattern for the right half of the corset. It is important to note a few key things that the instructions didn't make 100% obvious

  1. The pattern drafted does NOT include seam allowances, so it will look waaaaaaay too small. This works to your advantage in the end, as you are free to add whatever width you are comfortable work with for seam allowances.
  2. The pattern is designed to have a 2" gap in the back. This gap is included in the pattern, so one needs to remove 1" from the center back once the pattern in complete. If a larger gap is desired, remove more width from this piece. 
When I completed the first muslin, the fit was great from the waist up, but the pattern was far too small from the waist down.

This. Never. Happens.

I think this occurred because the pattern was drafted off my uncorseted measurements. When the corset goes on and cinches in, some of that flesh simply compresses, but some of it moves downward to the hips.

This presented the opportunity to add a hip gore to allow more room for my hips. This also meant that I could put the extra room exactly where I needed it. I opened up the side seam all the way up to the waist. I then pinned in a piece of fabric to drape the gore pattern and fiddled with it until it felt right and the laces were parallel in the back.

I created the final version with a single layer of corset coutil and a outer layer of blue cotton. I bound it with while bias tape and flossed it with white cotton. I had an 11" busk on hand, which turned out to be a little too short, but I compensated with 3 hooks & eyes at the top.

This will be my go-to corset for 1840's - 1900 for now. I chose the blue fabric so pair with my Steampunk Alice in Wonderland costume, which I hope to wear again in August.

The extra hooks & eyes at the top of the bust line help make up for my slightly too short busk. 

Very few patterns put a gore of this shape where this one ended up, but it was right where the extra "squish" wanted to go, and it helped widen my hips from the front view. Widening the hips make my waist look smaller. 

There's some extra room at the bottom of the hip. This helps create the illusion of more proportional hips (making my waist look smaller) and it provides ease when I sit. It will also allow me to wear a chemise more comfortably, should I choose to do so. 

This laces so comfortably down to my standard corseted measurement that I had to recheck my measuring tape three times to make sure I was reading it right. I could easily take another 2" off my waist. It's amazing what happens when the pattern cinched in where one is squishy and leaves room for all the bones. Go in where you go in and go out where you go out = happy corset. 

This is also my first submission to the Historical Sew Fortnightly project. I hope to have more to contribute to this very fun endeavor.

Fabric: Cotton Coutil & Cotton broadcloth
Pattern: Self-drafted from this FREE corset drafting tutorial
Year: 1860's-ish. The drafting tutorial is for a Victorian-inspired, but modern corset pattern
Notions: 1/4" spring steel bones, 1/4" spiral steel bones, 11" steel busk, metal grommets, lacing, bias binding
How historically accurate is it? Fairly accurate. While I can't pin down the pattern to a specific year, the cotton coutil and cotton broadcloth would have been available in the Victorian era. The bias binding is the standard polyester stuff, the thread is polyester, and I assume that the lacing is polyester. I'm also unclear when exactly metal grommets came into use. Let's say... 8/10
Hours to complete: I didn't track this too carefully, but here's my best guess: 4 hours drafting the pattern, 8 hours for muslin, 16 hours for the final version (including flossing). 
First worn: The first public appearance is scheduled for early August. 
Total cost: approximately $60 of supplies went into this corset, but much of that came out of my existing stash. 

1 comment:

Eurielle said...

It was so good to see this corset happening from thé design on ward . Thank you so much for all your posts !