The first stop on my Regency Journey is drafting the pattern for my Regency corset. I did a short corset-making course a few years ago, where I learnt the art of moulage in dressmaking, and I will be putting some of those skills to good use!
A moulage is essentially a mould of an individual’s upper body, obtained by their body measurements. An adjustable dressmakers dummy works well as a moulage (however the vertical dimensions of the dummy are not usually adjustable). The moulage can then be used to form a sloper, which is basically a two-dimensional pattern of this body shape, designed to fit the body like a glove. The sloper can then be used to draft practically any pattern by merely changing the design features.
For instance, once you know how big the waist is and how far above the hip line it sits, you can make a skirt with any feature (pockets, thick waistband, full-skirted, etc…) to fit these body dimensions, merely by changing the design of the pattern.
Using some of these techniques, I will be drafting a Regency corset pattern to fit me! The benefit of this is that the resulting garment is very comfortable and should fit soundly.
Whilst I have completed a short-course in corset-making, I am unfortunately no expert in the area of drafting patterns. One day I would love to learn the art of pattern drafting more thoroughly.
Steps to Drafting a Corset Pattern
Step One: Take your circumference measurements (of bust, waist and hips). Also take the vertical measurements, i.e. how far apart your bust line is from your waistline and your hipline. I also took my under-bust measurement. A bust separation measurement (the distance between the nipples) is also useful to help with the bust gusset placement.
Step Two: Mark them out on a sheet of paper. You will have three horizontal lines representing the position of your bust, waist and hips. The lines should be the same distance apart vertically that they are on your body. (But the length of these lines are irrelevant, i.e. the length of the line representing the waist should not be the circumference of the waist. Instead, just make them long.)
Step Three: Begin to draw your pattern. I have conveniently skipped over the making-a-sloper part, and moved straight to the pattern drafting! At this point, it is important to determine the particular design features of your corset. An eighteenth century corset looks different to a nineteenth century one, so look carefully at the design features you want to include.
Some Regency design features of this pattern include: gussets to enable a breast cup, hip gussets, a busk in centre front (to increase rigidity), and shoulder straps (not shown). The actual gussets (which are triangular-shaped pieces designed to be inserted to give shape to a garment) are not shown here, but the vertical slits where they will be inserted are. I decided to partially make my corset and fit the gussets and straps once I could try it on.
Some tips in sketching out your pattern:
- Patterns are usually drawn without seam allowances first, and then these are added later.
- They are also usually drawn next to each other in the way they will be sewn.
- Divide your circumference measurements (of bust, waist and hips) in half (as the pattern will only deal with half of your body). Use these halved numbers to help you make the pattern fit your body. For instance, if you add up the waist measurements of each pattern piece, they should add up to your halved waist circumference to fit correctly because you usually cut two of each piece.
- For this particular pattern, the gussets in both the hipline and bustline change the measurements required. I allowed for two 5cm breast gussets on each side (so I subtracted 10cm from my halved bust measurement), and one 10cm hip gusset on each side (a subtraction of 10cm from my halved hip measurement).
You can use this method with any corset design. This is a Regency corset (1815), but I have also used this same procedure with a Rococo corset (1750) and a Victorian corset (mid-1800’s).
Step Four: Once your pattern is drawn accurately and matches your body measurements, overlay another piece of paper on top and trace the pattern pieces. Add the seam allowances (1.5cm is fairly standard). Add the grainline, which is usually perpendicular to the waistline, unless you are cutting pieces on the bias. If you are cutting a piece on the bias, the grainline will run 45 degrees from the waistline. You could also add notches or some other guide to help you position the pieces correctly for sewing (I didn’t do this).
Tip: Use a dressmaker’s dummy to place your pattern pieces against to double check your measurements. I found this very useful for armhole placement (and to give myself the confidence that I had done it right!). The downside to this is that sometimes the dummy does not have the correct vertical body measurements.
Step Five: Cut out your pattern pieces, pin them on your material and you are ready to cut it out and begin your fabric work!
The next step on My Regency Journey is constructing the corset!
Go to My Regency Journey to view all of my posts in order.
History of Corsets – This site contains many corset designs from different eras
Achieving a proper fit with Regency stays – by Oregon Regency Society
Examples and pictures of Regency era underwear – Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion
An example of Using moulage to draft a Regency corset pattern – Sempstress
Draft Your Own Corset Pattern – by Foundations Revealed (The topic is Victorian corsets, but the same principles apply.)
Jane Austen Festival – website