*previously published at www.foundationsrevealed.com
In my first article, 1873 T.S. Gilbert 6 panel corset, US Patent #141134, I discovered some idiosyncrasies about Victorian bodies when compared to modern ones (mine in any case!) My bust/waist/hip ratio was not anywhere near as dramatic as Gilbert figured it should be! I went step-by-step through adjusting his patent to fit my modern physique – while still retaining the shaping that was predominant during that time period – and came up with a new pattern to work with for constructing my new corset.
I only made one more change to my pattern from the last time you saw it, and that is I deepened the center front about an inch to make a more sweetheart top edge, as I find it more flattering to my shape. I feel I am quite broad across the chest/shoulders so a straight line just makes me look like a line-backer.
I am going to use spot broche coutil for the outer layer of this project – except for embellishments, which I will get into later on. It is just so beautiful and easy to work with! My inner layer will be regular black coutil #74-1140-90 from Farthingales I could have lined it in a cotton as well, but chose not to this time.
Gilbert states that the fabrication of this garment is ideally two layers, thus facilitating the placement of multiple bone channels wherever you want to put them. Seems like a great idea! Two layers of coutil does mean I can put as many channels as I want! He suggests that one of the purposes of this patent was to introduce the idea of an extra bone parallel to the busk, and that one could add more if so desired. I only did one.
- one of each pattern piece right side up
- one of each piece right side down
- one strip 3¼” (81mm) wide and 1” (25mm) shorter than CF length
- bias strips 1¼” (31mm) wide
- one of each piece right side up
- one of each piece right side down
To make the center front modesty panel, I am going to use a different method than I usually use. I normally add 1” to the front edge on both pieces of the left (knob) side of the corset, and use that as my modesty panel. This time, I am making a separate facing and inserting it into the seam.
Take the 3¼” (81mm) strip and fold it lengthwise and right sides together. Stitch across the top and the bottom edges with a ¼” (6mm) seam allowance. Grade the seam allowance. I like to cut the corner off so it doesn’t add excess bulk right in the corner when it’s turned right side out. Turn and press. Lay the facing on the inner piece of the left (knob) side aligning the seam allowance. I accidently cut the facing with a ¼” (6mm) seam allowance instead of the 5/8″ (15mm) I should have, so I had to mentally place it over to correct for that faux pas.
When you sew the inner layer to the outer layer on the knob side, the facing will stick out, like this, and will cover that gap we sometimes get at the center front edge of the corset.
I inserted the busk in my usual manner, marking the busk loops with pen, then stitching and backstitching at the edges where each loop would go. You then need to press open, then press for a sharp edge. I inserted loop side of busk into slots, and topstitched both layers together! I made sure to have my waist tape (I used petersham ribbon for this one) stitched into that last step as well. I lined the center of the ribbon up with the waistline.
(Red line is the marking/stitching line. Backstitch at beginning and end of each line of stitching to reinforce the edges that will touch the busk loops.)
I did the same on the knob side; align the waist tape with the waistline, mark where the knobs need to come out, use the awl to make the holes where the knobs push through, stab yourself with the awl (optional), topstitch at the edge of the busk, and then take a break.
I used my zipper foot for the busk top-stitching as I can set my needle to be offset and stitch really close to the busk edge.
So far, the construction had been fairly similar to other projects I have done. But we are coming up to the trickier stuff now, so I decided to eat my popcorn and then go to bed…
The next step was to be repeated over and over and over again. Stitch #1 and #2 together for both layers, press, trim seam allowances, and carefully baste the seamlines together while roll-pinning to make the curves permanent and the inner layer not buckle and bulge. (Don’t forget to keep the waist tape in position!) I used many different methods for these steps; by placing the garment over my pressing ham, or over my leg, or just by sheer luck. Once I had the basting in, I stitched “in the ditch” with my machine, and then stitched again, one presser-foot width to the left and the right of the seam. This creates two bone casings. You need to repeat these steps for every seam in the corset.
Here it is “stitched in the ditch”, but with no bone casings yet… Even being really careful, and certain that I had everything lined up just right, you can see that my “ditch stitching” which should have lined-up on the back side perfectly, in fact doesn’t. If anyone has insight into this, I’d be glad to hear how you do it!
Here is what the “in progress” corset looks like, with one layer of spot broche and one layer of regular coutil – seamed, pressed and trimmed. It’s ready to be matched up and basted together, with the waist tape to be sandwiched inside.
Here we’re stitching the next seam. You can see the double bone casings clearly here:
I now realized I messed up, as I forgot to put in the bone casings that butt up to the diagonal ones. I decided I may try to fix that yet… To finish off the back edge, you need to press the seam allowances to the inside and topstitch close to the edge, making sure to catch the inside layer, and the waist tape!
Bias binding 1” wide, stitched with a ¼” seam allowance, folded over to the back side and stitched again, finishes the bottom edge. In hindsight (and for the top edge) I will make the binding 1¼” wide so there is more on the back edge to catch. (I missed a few spots, but in the cutting instructions I included the correct width…)
I always insert bones after the bottom binding is on. That way there is a nice, solid ending place.
To make the diagonal channels, I used a piece of scotch tape to guide me in a nice straight line. It is also helpful that it can be taken off and reapplied until the angle looks right. Painters tape works well too. I should have (again) checked the patent sketch to see exactly where Gilbert had drawn these channels, as he had them right alongside the seam between piece 5 and 6. These channels are one presser foot wide, and there are five of them, as in his sketch. I did decide in the end to remove these ones and make them correctly, as aesthetically it was the right thing to do. It looked heaps and gobs better when I redid it. Buuut… I don’t have photos of it. You will just have to trust me on that, and if I ever get back into my flood-ravaged home, and still have anything left, I will most certainly update you!
Here are the only pictures I have of the finished product:
I have been planning this project for five years, and had hoped to be wearing it at our other business’s national convention in Nashville TN this August. I was working on the Swarovski hot-fixed ‘SnapOn Tools’ logo in two shades of red (Siam and Light Siam) that I was going to appliqué onto the hip area (so I could remove it and make the corset more normal). Alas, I guess it is serendipitous that last time our convention was to be in Nashville there was a flood there, so it got cancelled, and then this year, I got flooded, so I lost the corset. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.
All in all, I had created a well-fitting corset that supported me and accentuated in the way I wanted it to. I also learned that one should never say “It will never flood at my house”, and perhaps I will store all my fabrics that I stockpile in sealable tote boxes from now on…
It was rescued! During the flood cleanup, I found it, and cleaned it using Oxiclean, a lot of oxiclean! I lost the pattern though… figures, since it was the first well fitting corset I’ve made for myself… During the Oxford Conference on Corsetry, Jeri Rossiter took these photos.