Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dress Diary: Steampunk Cleopatra: Corset Mock-up pt. 1

So, while I'm still trying to find the right gold fabric, I started working with the pattern for the corset.  As I mentioned before, I'm looking to recreate the Gold Exotic Corset from Jill Salen's book Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques.

My first problem to overcome is that the pattern in the book is 1/2 scale.  When I had problems enlarging it on a copier, I decided to try following the instructions in the Foundations Revealed Draft Your Own Corset tutorial.  I pretty much followed the instructions exactly.  Basically you take a bunch of measurements of you and your original corset pattern and then do a bunch of math to use percentages to scale to corset pattern to your exact measurements.  To get from start to a pattern that I could use to make a mock-up took me two days.  It's a very different way of working than I ever use, since I avoid math as much as possible.  And I'm not really "precise" in my style of working.  But this is much more like architectural drafting than sewing.

The real problems I had were based in the pattern I was using.  This method requires that you have a pattern that is all nice and lined up on the same horizontal axis, and the original pattern was just all over the place.  So I cut up the little pattern pieces and taped them into place, pretty much guessing at the waist, hip, and bust lines of them and how they were supposed to relate.  Similarly, it's a little difficult to determine exactly how much tilt the pieces were supposed to have.  I suspect I messed that up a little, as a tiny tilt in the small pattern becomes much more noticeable in the large pattern.

Here is the tiny pattern on top and the new pattern on bottom.  I honestly had no idea how this was going to turn out.  Up until putting the mock-up actually on my body, I half thought it was going to be an utter disaster and I would have to start all over.

So I was actually really pleasantly surprised to find that it fit!  Actually it fit pretty damn well for a first mock-up.  It was remarkably comfortable.  I thought I was making the corset way too long and would have to take inches off the top.  Not so much.  At first I thought I would leave the top right about here, but now I think I'll add some more to the top.   There are obvious minor things to change, but I am really pleased by the shape.  I intend to take the waist in more, since I can squish about 1-2 inches further than this, and I want the shape to be a dramatic as possible.  I'm not intending this corset for all-day comfort so much as maximum impact.

The original pattern has a spoon busk, and I briefly considered using a spoon busk myself because I like the shape of the panels.  But then I found out spoon busks cost twice as much as normal ones, so that went out the window.  Besides I want a busk with gold hardware.  So for this first mockup I kept the rounded bottom on the first panel because I loved how it looked with the elongated gore of the second panel.  And surprise, it worked great!  It is just rounded enough in the belly to allow for my own curves without trying to smoosh everything, but doesn't look weird.

Now, the side shot shows the big problem with this mock-up: the off-white panel (a different color only because I  ran out) is kinda weird.  It pulls forward in the hips and there is a lot of wrinkling, I think because it's being pulled off-grain.  This is something I needed to work on.

The back view shows that the first mock-up is almost totally closed at the back.  This is easy to fix, though, so it didn't bother me.  

So I set out to make some changes and see what happened.  First I took out the last panel completely.  It was just the lacing bone area and it was about how much I needed to take out for a lacing gap.  

Second, I wanted to experiment with that fourth panel that is twisted.  I started messing with it, when I realized something: I had installed that piece in backwards. Because it was the only non-printed fabric, I had turned it around and put it in backwards.  So I set out to see how it fitted the right way round.

Here is the mockup with that panel turned around, and some taken out of the back.   Notice the radical different in shape?  Where did the waist go?  It's a bit puzzling actually. This is a bit small in the hips now, and that is preventing me from getting real waist reduction.  In addition I think there is less curve in the side seam with the panel the right way round and so no waist.  I'm going to have to mess with this and see.

The side view looks better, now.  Not as much drastic lean to the back, although it's harder to see with all the black and white print (I use what the remnant bin gives me.  This is the duck I had on hand, and I wanted to use duck for these mock-ups to get the best possible shaping.)    The fourth panel is much smoother without all those wrinkles.  Now if I can just get my waist back.

  Here's the back.  Poorly laced, which is why the top is bowing out.  But it gives an idea of the lacing gap.  

So from here I'm going to see what I can do about creating more room in the hip, taking out of the waist on the sides, adding a bit to the top of the bust...and then doing another mock-up.  I know people think my typical three mock-ups is overkill, but I really don't see how to do it in less.  This is like 1.5 mock-ups so far.  


  1. Sign #23 that I'm a little too into the Sherlock fandom: The fabrics you used for the mock-up are fabulous and go together and what do you mean this isn't the final look? ;)

    I am still just in awe that you can do this. I can't always make knitwear that fits, and knits are *stretchy*.

    1. No, I actually really like them, too, and kinda didn't want to use them for this, but they are what I had. :)

      And honestly, knitwear is harder, because you can't just take it apart and reseam it. And you can't knit a practice piece before the real one. Well, you could, but who wants to spend the time? So you only have one shot at it.

  2. I love all the printed fabric you used in the mockup. It would make an awesome corset.

  3. I too love the mockup fabric! I have some chiffon velvet burnout in a similar pattern for sheer curtains…someday ;)

    For resizing I'd recommend going metric. It makes the math so much easier, and more accurate. Doing the math in inches and fractions makes my brain hurt, and inevitably I mess up somewhere.