Sunday, March 11, 2012

Corded Corset from Antique Pattern

My latest corset project is something of an experiment for me.  I needed a new corset to wear on a daily basis around the house (for back support).  I also wanted it to work as an underwear corset to wear under my Victorian day dress.  My previous corset made for the purpose is completely worn out.  I didn't make it to be particularly strong, and then I ended up wear it every day for six months.  It also was always too big and laced up totally closed in the back.

I could have used a corset pattern that I've already perfected, but where's the fun in that?  So I started playing with various patterns.  I've been wanting to try the more advanced technique of using an antique pattern from a corset book and resizing it to my measurements.  I had my eye on a corset in Norah Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines, and when I found a downloadable full-size version of it, I was sold.

Here's the original illustration for this corset:

To bring it up to my size, it was pretty simple.  I measured the pattern carefully, getting the bust, waist, and hip measurements, then figured out how much  I needed to add for it to fit my measurements.  Since the original pattern is only 5 panels per side, I decided to add a panel in stead of trying to add a little to each existing panel.  I basically copied the side panel again, adding about a half-inch to one side, and moved on to the mock-ups.

Here is my first mock-up.  It actually fits pretty well, except in the boobs.  Although the pattern looked like it had a lot of breast room, it felt like it had none.  There was no curve for the breast to sit down in, it just pressed up and out.    So I pondered what to do and decided to pull out my modified Laughing Moon Dore pattern and copy the bust curve from that pattern.  So I lay the Dore pattern over this pattern, and traced the shape of the bust curve from the first two panels of that corset, that I knew fit me well.

I remade the first two panels of my mockup and replaced them.  You can see how much better this fits my bust.  So right there, I was happy, and moved onto the actual corset.  I DID make a few changes as I assembled the pattern and the corset pieces, though.  I cut some off of the front, but not too much, since I had a long busk to use.  I took a tiny bit off the top, since I wanted this to be an underwear corset as well, and didn't want the top sticking up too far.  (I shouldn't have done this, in hindsight.)   After my corset was together, I cut some huge curves out of the front to keep the bones from poking me in the thighs when I sit.

Here's the finished corset.

Some of my limitations in making this corset were that I was reusing the materials from my old corset.  So the busk is much longer that I would have preferred, hence the huge point in the bottom.  But it's a really nice quality busk, so I don't want to get rid of it.  I cut the shape into the bottom to make it more comfortable.   It's made of two layers of domestic (cheaper and less dense) coutil, with 1/2 inch spiral bones at the seams.  It's constructed with the folded seam method, for maximum strength and longevity.

This was also my first attempt at cording.  Cording is a technique used a lot in antique corsets in which twine or some other string-like substance is pulled through narrow channels sewn into the corset panels.  This provides stiffness without bones and is used a lot on the bust and hip gores for extra support that's comfortable.  The original pattern had cording over the bust, and I decided to try it.  I like the way it looks, but it doesn't really do anything for me in how it feels to wear.  For as much time and effort as it took to do the cording, I wouldn't bother doing it again.  Plus, I think it made the fabric over the bust TOO stiff and it flattened the shape of the bust out some, so that it doesn't curve as nicely.

At first I wasn't happy with the fit much at all.  But then I realized I had it on too low.  If I put it on as pictured, it's really pretty comfortable.  I've also worn it for a few days and broken it in now, so that's why it now has the wrinkles at the waist.  Those have developed from me bending in the corset.  I am happy with the shape it gives me.  It will be really nice as a base for Victorian clothing because I have a smaller waist than previously.  Tightened more than is really comfortable, I can get a 5" reduction with this corset, which is the most I've managed.

Overall, I've come away with a wearable corset that will do what I wanted it to, but I also learnt some lessons on what not to do in the future.

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