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A late Edwardian corset, c. 1910-1915, at Corsets and Crinolines.

A late Edwardian corset of pink coutil, c. 1910-1915.

After making the chemise-drawer combinations, my next step was to make a late Edwardian corset.

The late Edwardian corset was quite a change from the early Edwardian corset, commonly called the S-bend. Instead of a focus on the straight-fronted torso and the small waist, the late Edwardian corset concentrated on slimming the hipline into a more tubular shape, which suited the new fashions for long-line, high-waisted, and slim dresses. Some corsets still did nip the waist in tightly, but the waistline was no longer the focus in the emerging fashions.

Generally speaking, the late Edwardian corset was often only made with one layer of fabric, boned with flat steel boning housed in casing strips, and with a split busk that reached to the abdomen. As the corset reached so low over the hips, it was left unboned below the hipline to allow the wearer to sit comfortably. To limit the strain on the front busk when sitting in such a long corset, there was often a lacing or hook-and-eye configuration just below the busk at the centre front. The addition of garters or suspenders helped to both keep the knee-high silk stockings from slipping down, as well as keeping the unboned lower portion of the corset in place. The undergarment was often trimmed with lace (and sometimes ribbon) around the top edge.

An advertisement for corsets in 1912.

An advertisement for corsets in 1912.

This new corset shape did occasionally dip below the bustline and become an underbust design. The prevalence of this lower corset style led to the invention of a new garment, called the brassiere, which was needed to hold up the now-unsupported bust. Overall, the bustline did sink lower during the Edwardian era when compared to previous eras, and I have found it quite difficult to even accurately identify a woman’s bustline on pictures of the period, probably because the Edwardian mono-bosom and pouching-effects of the fashion lead to less definition in the bust area.

Initially I had decided to make an underbust corset, as this type of corset was becoming common in this era. Consequentially I had also planned to make a brassiere to “hold everything up”. Unfortunately I was in such a hurry that I discovered after I had started that they also had corsets to bust level as well, which would have saved the need for a brassiere. Oh well…

The 1911 corset reproduction, made by Bridges on the Body.

The 1911 corset reproduction, made by Bridges on the Body.

Pattern

I used the pattern supplied free by “Bridges on the Body”. This pattern is a reproduction of a 1911 corset that is privately owned by Bridges on the Body. This pattern does not reach to the bust, but reaches just above the underbust.

Bridges on the Body ran a sew-a-long in 2012 on Titanic-era corsets and has a page dedicated to all the steps involved. In this blog series, two corsets could be completed simultaneously, either the 1911 reproduction (pictured right) or the 1911 White Coutil Corset in Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh.

For my fabric, I used a rather bright pink cotton drill (flatlined with white cotton duck). I also used pink polyester ribbon for the boning casings and white cotton broadcloth for the bias binding. The lace was a white cotton cluny lace, and the embroidery was done with one strand of white cotton DMC embroidery thread. (B on the B – the supplies list)

Construction Steps

The construction steps for this corset are located at Bridges on the Body, and were all posted during the sew-a-long. I did find it hard to find all the information scrolling through so many blog posts (as well as gleaning information from all the comments, especially when two corsets were being completed at once), but that is always one of the problems of completing a sew-a-long so long after it has been completed. Here I have attempted to put my whole process in one page, with some of the relevant links to Bridges on the Body. (A thorough read through of the Bridges on the Body posts is highly recommended!)

Step One: Print off the pattern and scale it up. I tend to scale up by hand on grid paper. (B on the B – scaling up the pattern)

TIP: There are grey lead markings on the pattern that did not come out in my printer, so it is worth marking them in. These markings include the underbustline and waistline and positions of the bones. Transfer these markings (including the notches) to your mockup.

As always, I did a mock-up of the pattern in calico. Bridges on the Body goes through how to slash-and-spread the pattern if you are wanting to enlarge the dimensions of the pattern.

Step Two: The 1911 reproduction is a one-layer corset and has facings on the front and back to house the eyelets and the split busk. (B on the B – making back facings and making front facings; sewing back facings and sewing front busk, loop side and stud side.)

As I was doing a two layer corset (a flatlined corset, rather than using the sandwich method), I decided to do my centre front and centre back seams the same as I normally do. Right sides together, I sewed the two layers of the back panels (one white and one pink) together on the centre back seam. (The boning that lies on either side of the eyelets will then be sandwiched between these layers later on.)

 

The back panels, with the outer fabric sewn to the lining.

The back panels, with the outer fabric sewn to the lining along the centre back seam, and turned the right way.

I put the front busk in my regular fashion, using Sidney Eileen’s instructions (How to insert a corset busk).

The front panel, with busk inserted and the embroidery being completed.

The front panel, with busk inserted and the embroidery being completed.

From this point on, I treated the two layers of the corset as one, in the normal manner when flatlining.

Step Three: All the panel seams were sewn, making sure notches and waistline markings were matching. Bridges on the Body gives information on the way the seams were sewn on the original garment. (B on the B – method of stitching the seams)

All panels are sewn together. Only one half of the corset is shown here.

All panels are sewn together. Only one half of the corset is shown here. The boning channels have also been sewn in this picture, and the embroidery is completed.

Step Four: I had decided earlier that the colour pink was a tad too bright and that a little white embroidery along the boning channels might really help. And – of course – I do love embroidering my corsets…

Whilst I have not often seen Edwardian corsets that have been embroidered (aside for a little flossing occasionally), I have seen a number of corsets from the Victorian era with embroidered boning channels. The particular style of embroidery that I have chosen is one I have seen numerous times on corsets from the 1880s. However, to be honest, I can not say that the embroidery really toned down the shade of pink!

The embroidery detail, showing two boning channels, where only one is embroidered.

The embroidery detail, showing two boning channels, where only one is embroidered.

I embroidered the channels after I had sewn and “stay stitched” (or top stitched) the panel seams, but BEFORE the boning channels were stitched.

Step Five: Next I did the boning channels on either side of the eyelets. These channels had not been embroidered, so it was fairly simple to top stitch those at the required distances. As I normally do, I inserted a length of twill tape in between the layers of the corset to reinforce the fabric for the grommets. Then the channels are sewn through all layers. (Sidney Eileen illustrates this method in “Preparing the Grommet Area”.) You can see my twill tape poking out in the photo in Step Three.

Step Six: The 1911 reproduction corset did not have a waist tape, but I have made a habit of including one in almost all of my corsets to prevent pressure on the waistline. (B on the B – waist tape)

The waist tape was pinned in. This could have been tucked neatly under the back and front facings (if only I had done them – silly me!), so I had to fold the waist tape over at the ends and top stitch it so it didn’t unravel.

The waist tape is pinned ready to be sewn in.

The waist tape is sewn down at the centre back, and pinned at the seams ready to be sewn in with the boning channels.

Step Seven: Once the waist tape was in place, I pinned the ribbon for the boning channels in place over the top of the waist tape. The boning channels were topstitched from the outside so as to preserve the embroidery. (And -yes- I was flying a bit blind with the ribbon placed underneath!)

The inside of the corset, showing the boning channels sewn over the top of the waist tape.

The inside of the corset, showing the boning channels sewn over the top of the waist tape for seams 1 and 2.

In terms of boning placement, go back and look at the original pattern and note the grey lead markings. If we number the seams from 1-4 (going front to back), and then number the panels from 1-5 (going front to back), then there was two rows of thin boning (each 1/4 inch wide) on seams 1, 2 and 4. There was one thicker bone (1/2 inch wide) down seam 3. And there was one extra line of two rows of thin boning in the middle of panel 3.

Step Eight: The flat steel boning was inserted.

Here is where I ran into problems… Believe me, the TITANIC PANIC was justified!

Point 1: When using flat steels, it is imperative that the steels run straight up and down the body. Generally speaking flat steels are only used on the centre back and centre front of a corset, as these areas almost always run truly straight up and down on the body. When flat steels are used on the curves of the body, they often twist or stick out and it can be painful to wear a corset that does this.

Point 2: This style of corset often used flat steels on ALL the seams throughout the corset. This means that the seams were made to run perpendicular to the body, and any alterations you make to your seams during the fitting stage can alter this.

TIP 1: If you make alterations during your fitting stage, make sure you do a mock up WITH boning channels AND flat steels along the seam lines. (I didn’t…)

TIP 2: If your bones do twist in your mock up, experiment with changing the angle of the boning channels until they sit flat against you. For instance, pressing the flat steel into the curve at your waistline should show you how the bone will behave when your corset is done up. You can EITHER alter the seam lines to reflect the new position of the channels (as the boning channels did cover the seam lines in the 1911 reproduction example) OR you can put up with your seams being in the wrong place and sew your boning channels in the new position.

TIP 3: If you finish your corset and discover that some of the flat steels do not lie flat against your body, replace those flat steels with spiral steels. This will ensure that your corset lies flat against your body (in the same manner it did in your mockup, anyway), but will still give you the support of flexible boning (though not the same rigidity as flat steels).

The complete corset from the inside.

The complete corset from the inside. The bones in seams 1 and 2 have been changed for spiral steels.

I changed the bones in seams 1 and 2 for spiral steel boning, which did help the corset sit flatter against my body at the front. I tossed up the idea of removing the boning channels and resewing them straighter on my body, but this was complicated by the fact I had already embroidered my boning channels in their current position. I am still considering taking out some more of the flat steels (in panel 3 and in seam 3 particularly) and replacing them with spirals, as I feel this will improve the way it fits.

Step Nine: The grommets were set and the corset was laced up. The top and bottom raw edges were bound with bias binding, and the lace was hand sewn to the top edge.

Step Ten: The garters can then be sewn in. I am still waiting on my garter attachments, so photos of this step will be added later. (B on the B – garter building)

And now for the finished pictures. The garters will pull the corset down so it sits in place better. The horizontal wrinkles can be fixed with some flossing, which hold the bones firmly in the channels. I also want to put two eyelets and some lacing under the split busk to reduce any strain when sitting. Its not perfect, but it will work for the moment, and maybe one day I wouldn’t mind re-doing this corset.

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

The next item in my Titanic wardrobe is a princess slip.

Related Posts

Titanic Panic! : Making a chemise/drawer combination suit

Making a Victorian Corset (1880s)

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: A pink coutil corset, c. 1910-1915, from Corsets and Crinolines: Unique Vintage Clothing and Antique Fashion.

Image Source: An advertisement for corsets in 1912, from Sense and Sensibility Patterns.

Image Source: Titanic-era Corset and Pattern – by Bridges on the Body

Bridges on the Body – 1911 corset: All the steps in one place

Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh – buy on Amazon

How to insert a corset busk, by Sidney Eileen (Sidney has many corsetry tutorials in the “Sewing” menu of her blog, which can be very useful!)

Dressing for Dinner on the Titanic: Early 1910s Evening Dress, by Demode Couture

“Titanic” Theatre Restaurant – Williamstown, Melbourne, Aus.

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A pair of transitional stays, c. 1790, from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

A pair of transitional stays, c. 1790, from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Last year when I attended the Jane Austen Festival, I remember my sister saying how comfortable her short stays were. She felt well supported but not restricted from doing the things she wanted to do. One of the problems I have always had with historic costuming is how restrictive the fashions could be for women, which has the undesirable effect of making you feel uncomfortable when you are wanting to have fun! So for this reason, I decided to have a go at some Regency short stays for myself.

I had planned to do these as part of the Historical-Sew Fortnightly Challenge #3: “Under it all” (for undergarments), due February 11, but I have finished them a tad early!

The corsets, or stays, of this era were first “transitional” (where they transitioned from the eighteenth century stays to the new Regency style) and then they are commonly thought to have been either long or short, with usually little or no boning. The Regency style of stays really just provided posture support and helped to define a high empire waistline, with a “bust-shelf”, that was popular in the fashions of the day. In researching short stays, I have struggled to find information on historically accurate short stays from primary sources of the period (such as pictures, paintings or extant examples). If you are interested in historical research of the so-called “short stays”, have a look at Short Stays’ Studies by Kleindung um 1800, which examines some historical patterns and journals on the topic.

Pattern and Construction Details

Step One: First I drafted my own pattern using the method I used for my long stays (My Regency Journey: How to draft a corset pattern). I found this process a lot more difficult to do than I had previously, mainly because I did not have much of an idea what these types of stays looked like. I could not find many extant examples online, except for modern historical patterns (such as Sense and Sensibility Patterns) that mention that they are based on extant examples and pictures of the era. I decided to do a toile out of calico, just to make sure that it fitted properly, and then I adjusted the pattern pieces accordingly.

Toile pattern pieces: Front, side back and back. I ended up taking of quite a bit at the side seams, and adjusting the curve of the side back.

Toile pattern pieces: Front, side back and back. I ended up taking off quite a bit at the side seams, and adjusting the curve of the side back. Gusset pieces are not pictured.

Step Two: I cut out the fabric, making sure I added the seam allowances. For these stays, I have used three layers of material: the outer and inner layer are white cotton broadcloth, and the interlining is cotton calico.

Step Three: Beginning with the front pieces, I sewed along the centre front seams so that the three layers were all attached and could then be turned with the right sides facing out.

Centre front pieces, turned right sides out. Shows the layers of broadcloth, calico and broadcloth.

Centre front pieces, turned right sides out. Shows the layers of broadcloth, calico and broadcloth.

Step Four: Again treating the outer layer and interlining as one piece, the side back and back pieces were sewn, leaving the front lining pieces free.

The side back and back pieces sewn in.

The side back and back pieces sewn in.

Step Five: For the gussets, I cut slits through all three layers in the top of the front pieces. The slits were marked on my pattern piece and are placed either side of the nipple area. For this reason it can be useful to have a bust separation measurement (the distance between the nipples) for that part of the pattern drafting. I used the instructions from Sempstress’s tutorial on setting gussets, which made it very straightforward.

Breast gussets pinned ready for sewing.

Breast gussets pinned ready for sewing.

Step Six: As you can see in the picture above, I began decorating the outer layers at this point.

  • Boning Channels: I decided to run a decorative stitch along the outer layer of the boning channels, just to make them pretty! I had a line of nylon boning on each side of the eyelets at the centre front, one line of boning on each side seam, and one line of boning running diagonally from under the arm, forward, to the bottom of the corset.

    The decorated boning channels and underbust cording

    The decorated boning channels and underbust cording

  • Cording: I did three lines of cording, with cotton cord, running horizontally under the bust on each side.
  • Decorative stitching: I added a bit of decorative machine embroidery stitching around the bust gussets. I also did some extra lines of this stitching along some of the back seams (see below).

    The bust gussets, with decorative stitching

    The bust gussets, with decorative stitching

  • Embroidery: Just because I love embroidery, I decided to draw out the outline of a little flower stem that I had in my stamp collection. Using a basic backstitch with some coloured embroidery thread, I followed the lines. So pretty!

    The Embroidery

    The embroidery on the side back panel. You can also see the decorative top stitch on the seam (to the left).

Step Seven: In order to complete the lining, I sewed the side back and the back pieces of the lining together. Then I laid it on top of the outer layers (wrong sides together) and sewed a decorative stitch as a topstitch along the back seam lines, through all the layers. For the side seams, the side back lining edge was folded under and pinned to the front lining edge, with the same decorative stitch being sewn through all layers. This seemed an easy way to get the lining attached without fiddling around too much with it!

Front view

Front view

Back view

Back view

Step Eight: The straps were attached. The eyelets were hand sewn and laced with a length of cotton cording. The garment was then bound with bias binding around the top and bottom edges and around the armholes.

It took a few hours for me to draft the pattern, almost two days to get the toile adjusted and looking right, and then three full days of my holidays to sew it. The total cost was approximately $12 AUD. As the fabric, sewing thread, embroidery thread, and boning, were already in my stash box, the only thing I actually bought was the cotton cording and the binding (which came to $5).

I am really pleased with the fit. It really does pay to do an accurate toile first for less fitting dramas later. And I am really pleased with how pretty it is!

For more Regency costumes, go to My Regency Journey.

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: How to draft a corset pattern

My Regency Journey: Corset Construction – construction of a pair of long stays.

Sources and Relevant Links

A pair of transitional stays (pictured), from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Another example of a cotton Regency corset (c. 1800-1825) – from the National Trust website

Cording a corset

How to set a triangular gusset – Sempstress

Achieving a proper fit with Regency stays – by Oregon Regency Society

Making Hand Sewn Eyelets

Examples and pictures of Regency era underwear – Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion

Jane Austen Festival, Australia – website

Historical Sew-Fortnightly – hosted by Dreamstress

‘Short Stays’ Studies, by Kleidung um 1800 – a great blog post looking at a book published in 1810 by J.S. Bernhardt, on the construction of a ‘new’ sort of stays.

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The deliberation required for deciding what to write for one’s first ever post, in one’s first ever blog, is, in one word, excruciating! In the end, I decided to write about something I love: 18th century costumes.

Being a keen sewer – ever since my mother first sat me at the sewing machine at aged 6 – as well as a keen historian, the natural progression to making historical costumes appeared to make sense.

Today I am going to share a reproduction of a sacque-back dress from the 1770’s.

When you make a costume, it is important to have the correct undergarments before you begin, or else the finished result does not look as historically accurate. So this means firstly reproducing the undergarments; in this case, the corset and panniers (hip attachments).

Corset and panniers from the 1770’s

This corset is not the type that was worn in the 1770’s, but is more similar to those worn in 1850’s. However, the corset has been made to perform a similar function of the corsets from that era, as the front contains an embroidered stomacher that shows through to the outside. (There is also a convenient piece of lace gathered to conceal some cleavage, as this type of corset was made to reach the nipple-line and no higher, therefore showing much more cleavage than I felt comfortable with. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to make a chemise to go under the corset…)

The panniers are accurate to this era, and are made of calico and boning.

The outer garments consist of a petticoat as an underskirt, and a sacque-back outerdress. The dress attaches to the corset with large hooks and eyes at the front, and then laces up at the back (hidden under the sac).

A sacque-back dress of the 1770’s

Sacque-back dress Back

The back view of the “sack”

Bodice

Close up of the Bodice

I got many of the details of this dress from pictures and drawings that I could gather from original dresses from the period. This was back “in the day” when the internet was not quite as abundant in resources as it is today! I then used these pictures and descriptions to draft my own patterns.

As this costume was made to go dancing at balls, I made several adjustments to the bodice to help me feel more comfortable! For this reason the bodice is cut much more like a modern bodice. For one of my first “proper” historical costumes (i.e. a costume that wasn’t made for a school production!), I was very proud of it.

I hope you enjoyed looking!

Related Posts

How to Make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

How to use Ribbon to make Decorative Trims

Dress-ups for a Baby

Relevant Links

There seems to be a range of different patterns available to purchase on the internet if you are interested in making historical costumes. Here is a link to only one of many sites.

18th Century patterns

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