1873 T.S. Gilbert 6 panel corset, US Patent #141134
I absolutely LOVE this pattern! I love the vertical strip over the bust, I love the diagonal boning in the back! I love it, I love it!
When I first looked at this patent, I thought, Oh! This will be fantastic for the more bodaciously endowed in the bosom area, and those with more “junk in the trunk”. The major curves in the bust area of panel one and three indicate that there is a lot of space there, and in the patent Gilbert implies that the seamlines in the back aid in adjusting for different size hips and buttocks.
As I am a 34g bra-wearer, I was excited! (I know there are many ladies out there much more endowed than I but it still seems big to me…) I have had good success with using the Foundations Revealed tutorial for drafting corsets, but this will be my first attempt at adapting a historical patent pattern to fit me. (I’m making it for ME!!!) Please join me on my journey!
I envision the original silhouette of this corset to be the foundation for outfits like these.
Smooth lines, lifted and supported but not overflowing bosom, elegant…
Getting that pattern onto paper
I have recently acquired CorelDraw and had my friend’s mom, a graphic designer, give me a few tips that I will share with you. One of the problems I had in using the program is that I had NEVER used anything like it before, and so when reading the instructions, I didn’t know what they were talking about. Therefore, I couldn’t do what they were asking me to do because I didn’t know how to ask for what I needed. “How do I cut this shape in half and keep this corner attached while swinging this section to the left?” apparently isn’t a good question. I now know how to do that! So here goes.
First, save the patent to your computer.
Second, open your CorelDraw program (I am only going to talk about CorelDraw, but I assume that the process is similar for others)
Under “File” open the tab for “import”
This will take you to your folders on your computer. Choose the file that has the patent in it. Import as “curves”, not “text”
Now we need to trace each of the pattern pieces and place them on a separate page. This is one spot I kept getting stuck on.
Here are screen shots of the steps we need to take, and then I will do a video so you can see it in action!
Draw the outline of the pattern piece using the “2-point line tool”. This tool creates a straight line starting at your first click and ending when you let go of the mouse button. If you then click again where you ended the first line, you can keep the following lines all connected as one unit. This is important because then you can “pick up” and move the whole pattern piece as one unit instead of a multitude of random lines.
The red lines are the ones I drew using the 2-point line drawing tool.
Now we need to change those straight lines into graceful curved lines to match the original pattern piece. We do this with the “shape” tool.
Reclick on the line you have just converted, holding down the left mouse button, and drag the line until it has the correct arc you are trying to achieve. Let go of the left mouse button.
Do these steps over and over and eventually you will get this! All the pattern pieces reproduced in a format that is able to be manipulated to your heart’s content!
The next step is to walk your seamlines to ensure that they are the same length. I used to do this by holding my pattern pieces up to a window and turning them to match up the seamlines. Or, I would hold my tape measure on its edge and measure one piece, then the other, and add or subtract length to make them the same.
But with the graphics possibilities of this program, I can do all that on the computer and not waste paper!
Select the pattern piece you want to be moving. (we’ll call it A)(left click on piece)
Move it so either the top or bottom corner is aligned with the corresponding corner of the adjacent pattern piece.(Let’s call it B) (left click and drag)
Double-left click A, and you should see curved arrows at each corner, and a circle, the center-of-rotation mark we’ll call the pin, in the middle of piece A. This indicates you are in rotate mode.
Left click on the pin, and drag it to the matching corners. Drop it there.
Now move your mouse to one of the curved arrows, left click and hold, and move the mouse. Piece A will rotate around the pin. Move it until A and B are aligned over top of each other for a section of their seamlines. Let go of left mouse button.
Left click on the pin, and move it to where the seamlines intersect, and drop it.
Repeat these steps until you reach the end of the seamline.
Hopefully what you will see at the end of this is that the bottom corners match just like the top ones did. If not, you will need to adjust one or both lines so that they DO match.
By simply using the “shape” tool we are familiar with, we can easily adjust lengths of lines to perfectly match. We can also change lines to curves, or curves to straight lines, and this all makes drafting so much easier and more fun for me!
Simply select the piece you want to adjust, select “shape” tool, and then click on the node (corner, spot) you want to move! And move it! No erasing, no taping!
Now that all the pieces are traced off, and the seamlines are the correct lengths, I need to make this thing fit me. I decided that I should really make it up exactly as it was designed, just to see what the proportions are like. I know for a fact that my body isn’t the same shape of the “fashionable silhouette” for the 1890’s. As my friend so delicately put it when I sent her a copy of the photo of me laced into the first mockup “You know, ummm, you do have a waist, it’s just not, ummm, as small as it might have been back then when ummmm, bodies were corsetted and trained a bit… And, didn’t they sometimes pad the bust and butt parts of their corsets?”
I moved the pattern pieces around on the virtual paper and aligned them up about where the waist should be, as best as I could tell. From the patent description, it states that the diagonal piece of the center back panel is“extending inward to the middle of the back, at or below the waist” so I used that as a starting point, and sort of guessed for the rest. Modern logic tells me that the waistline should be a straight line from front to back, but I just couldn’t get that to work, and then thought about my pants that are higher in the back, lower in the front, and just went with it. Then using the “parallel dimension tool” I measured the length of the combined pattern pieces.
My waist is around 39”. Since we traced these pieces essentially off of a 8 ½ x 11 piece of paper, I wasn’t expecting to be close. I was right. The waist measurement was 5.47”…. As I only measured one side of the corset, the total if I were to make this up as is would have been about 10.5”.
So…. Adjustment needs to be made. I figure that 31” might work for me, and so I looked at the screen and noticed that when I have all the pieces selected, there is an adjustable “scale factor” box…
If I have all the pieces selected, and change either of those measurements, the pattern increases or decreases in size accordingly!
Decrease the “x” factor by 50%, leave the “y” factor at 100% has the pieces keep the same height, but decrease in width by 50%
Leave the “x” factor at 100%, decrease the “y” factor to 50% shows that the pieces keep the same width measurements, but are half the height.
Increase both x and y to 200% has the entire project double in size.
So if you notice the rulers along the top and lefthand side the work area, you can see that this isn’t like “zooming” where the actual dimensions aren’t affected, but actually makes the pieces a different size. So I increased the size to 300%, thinking “300% x 10.5 sounds like it might fit!” Of course, this makes all the dimensions 300% bigger.
So I saved it and sent it to the print shop to be printed on 36×24” paper (I ‘m too lazy to tape together all the 8 ½ x 11 sheets if I printed at home, and I’m out of toner…
An hour later, as I’m driving in my car, I was thinking to myself, “Self, you didn’t measure the bust or hips on that thing. I be they’re gonna be HUGE.”. Oh well, I wanted to mock it up as original anyway.
I made the mockup of one layer of coutil, with 5/8” seam allowances. I used the seam allowances as casings. It went together very nicely, and is waaaaaay to big in the bust and hips!
So, it was very obvious I had some changes to make. I think the back from the waist up is fine. It might be a bit low, but I won’t make any changes in that until I make the rest of the changes…
I enlisted the help of a friend to try to pin out the excess and draw on the mockup the changes I wanted to make.
I took a BIG chunk out of the bust, and all from pieces 1 and 3, leaving the piece 2 with parallel edges as intended. I took some off of piece 3 hip between 2 and 3. And I took a pile from between 4 and 5.
Here are the original pattern pieces with the changes marked out but not cut yet. You can see how much too big it was! Hilarious!
I am reasonably happy with the new mock-up, but there are still a few things I want to address.
the bustline seems to flatten rather than lift and flatter my figure.
I want to correct the wrinkles under my breasts as well
I don’t like the lack of definition on the side view regarding the underbust to waist area.
I would like a more dramatic hip to waist ratio
I think that piece 2 should be angled more across my body rather than going straight directly over my nipple point, so want to adjust the pattern so piece 2 is closer to center front at the bottom, angling slightly outwards at the bustline
The pattern changes I made include
adding to the side hip and back hip to allow for more flesh/less compression
removing from piece 1, adding to piece 3 a wedge shaped chunk below the waist to shift the design line of piece 2
following the Foundations Revealed tutorials for full bust adjustment and for pushup design adjustments, I raised the bust line and flattened the line a little from the nipple line down towards the ribcage, and raised the top edge a bit. I also added a little room in the bust.
I also decided to doublebone each seamline of the next mock-up for more support.
Now I’m happy!
In my next article I will document the actual creation of this awesome patent! Please follow along!