This was a surprise project from November. My plan for November was to make two nineteenth century themed ensembles, which didn’t end up happening. But I did make this! Which kind of counts.
I was in the mood to do a lot of machine sewing and stitching dozens of boning channels seemed like a good way to cater to that mood. So I decided to make a corset. I used a pattern from Norah Waugh’s “Corsets & Crinolines” and altered it to fit me.
I have plans to make several gowns from the later half of the 19th century, including one dress which is already in progress. Making a proper early victorian corset to wear under them has been on my mind for a while, even though it wasn’t a main priority.
During the time period i’m aiming for corsets were mostly used for support but definitely transitioning into giving some waist reduction as well. I didn’t want anything too major, but I was aiming for a defined shape and two inches off at the waist, which is pretty easy to achieve on me because i’m squishy around the tummy.
After I got the pattern drawn out I made a mock up. This was made following the pattern exactly…just with an extra inch of material on both sides of the back, because I don’t have the 23″ waist this pattern was originally made for!
I ended up taking it in a bit at the bust and hips and raising the neckline by a half inch. I left a few fingers worth of room at the top and bottom because the shape from the boning will push fat down/up to create the defined waist. Which makes your waist measurement smaller, and your bust/hip measurements larger. In the past I haven’t left room and been left with spillage around those areas, which isn’t very pretty or comfortable.
When my alterations were done I cut the pattern out from a very finely woven pillowcase linen. This previously belonged to my grandmother and it feels very different from linen i’ve seen before, but it makes a great backing for lightweight foundation garments.
I marked out all the boning channels on this layer.
I cut the top fabric from a deep red cotton sateen.
Then I had the brilliant plan to sew all the boning channels with cream thread, because I thought it would look fantastic. I’ve seen corsets done this way and they were lovely.
Clearly I need to stop browsing pinterest before starting on projects – just because master corset makers of the 19th century could stitch high contrast channels beautifully, doesn’t mean I can.
(Spoiler: I can’t)
These are just the straight boning channels.
When those were sewn I marked out the curved boning channels.
I sewed those as well, then assembled the corset by machine.
When that was finished I cut out the many pieces of boning. I’m using mostly steel, but some plastic in the curved seams where I don’t really need two strips of metal side by side.
I should also mention that I replaced the busk with four pieces of boning, which should have pretty much the same function.
All the boning was labeled, then tipped with tape and dripped in nail polish. I let them dry overnight before adding them to the garment.
Here is the corset with all the boning in place.
And here it has the edges turned over! I did a quick try on and it was too big on the lower edge at the very front. It was gaping away from the body, which wasn’t good.
Luckily is was an easy fix, I just whip stitched darts into the front, each one took in a little over a quarter inch of material on each side.
The fit seemed much better, so I moved forward! The next step was sewing on some lace and stitching the eyelets. I think these compliment the cream colored stitching quite nicely.
Then it was time for lining. I was dumb and forgot to cut out the lining at the same time I cut out everything else. Since my pattern doesn’t include seam allowances, those have to be marked out with a ruler after the pieces are laid out.
I could have saved myself an hour if I used the cotton sateen pieces as a guide (since the seam allowances were already drawn out on those).
The lining was assembled and sewn in by hand, the same way I always do it.
It still seemed like it was missing something, so I made some matching piping and attached that. This was a huge pain and I ended up stabbing my right thumb with the needle during the process…which led to an infection under the sewing callus i’ve developed. So that hasn’t been fun, but I think it’s okay now.
I actually really like how the finished product looks, even though it isn’t my best work construction wise.
A few people gave me some great tips on tumblr so I think my next corset will be much better quality thanks to that! Apparently fusing the fabrics together helps. And so do better quality fabrics. The thought of ruining silk shantung with my sloppy stitching makes me cringe a little, but if the end result is better i’ll give it a try!
And the fit test – without a chemise so I could show off the fact I don’t get any spillage from it. People more experienced with corsets than I would probably disagree, but I really like the fit of it. I got what I wanted – a defined shape and a bit of reduction.
My photo from the front disappeared somewhere, so here it is with a bodice I have in progress being worn over it! I know it’s really terrible to tie things at the front, but i’m completely incapable of tying tight bows or knots behind my back.
A little bit of back creasing, it could probably do with a modesty panel, but aside from these photos it will never be worn without a chemise, so i’m not too concerned!
Thanks for reading!