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Corset Covers and Bust Ruffles, and White Petticoats, from a Sears catalogue, c. 1912.

Corset Covers and Bust Ruffles, and White Underskirts, from a Sears catalogue, c. 1912.

My panic is rising in my quest to finish off the raft of undergarments required for a Titanic evening costume.

As the list of undergarments required for a Victorian woman increased during the length of the 19th century, new “combinations” were invented to try and limit the sheer quantity of them. There were an almost exhaustive range of these undergarment items that were combined during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods; from chemise-and-corset cover, to corset cover-and-skirt/drawers, to brassiere-and-bust improver. We have already examined the chemise-drawer combinations, but there was also the combination of the corset cover and petticoat, which became known as a “princess slip”.

An Edwardian petticoat, c. 1910-1915, from

An Edwardian petticoat, c. 1910-1915, from The MET Museum.

Princess slips of the time tended to have a series of long panels (often either 6 and 8), with or without a waist seam. There was generally a lightly gathered frill at the knee, which was not very full, especially as the width of gowns was decreasing into the 1910s. The frill was very often trimmed with lace or could be a whole embroidered lace panel fixed to the bottom of the petticoat. Lace often adorned the top of the princess slip as well, which was used instead of fabric at the shoulder straps. The neckline could have a ribbon drawstring to help adjust it properly around the neck, and the princess slip generally reached to the ankle area.

Pattern

I did not use a pattern for this princess slip, but instead relied on what I could see from pictures of surviving extants online.

The petticoat pictured below was one of the sources I used in my design. Some of the design features that I liked were the large insertion lace around the neckline, and a smaller row of lace/ribbon to draw in the neck. The knee length frill and the back opening placket were also features I wanted to include in my garment.

An Edwardian Petticoat, front view - from Antique Dress.

An Edwardian Petticoat, front view – from Antique Dress.

An Edwardian Petticoat, back view - from Antique Dress.

An Edwardian Petticoat, back view – from Antique Dress.

There are more detailed pictures of this particular garment on the Antique Dress website, which is in the “Sources” below.

My princess slip was made from white cotton lawn, and various different types of cotton lace.

Construction Steps

Step One: I decided that the best way to do this was to do a bit of draping. Initially I was going to do a side panel, which went over each shoulder, and then a front/back panel (with the centre back having a button placket). Unfortunately I underestimated how much material would need to go under my arm, so I added an “underarm side panel” in addition to the side front panel I had already cut out.

I cut out the basic pattern shapes and then pinned them together. After I laid it on the dressmakers form, (which was set to my corseted waistline) I realised I had to alter some of the seam lines as the grainline did not sit properly.

The front, pinned together.

The front, pinned together. You can see the centre front fold line.

The side, pinned together.

The side, pinned together. You can see the underarm panel I cut later.

The back, pinned together.

The back, pinned together, allowing a bit extra for the back button placket.

Step Two: I sewed all the seams and then flat-felled the raw edges.

The seams flat-felled. The top seam is how it looks from the inside, and the bottom seam is how it looks from the outside.

The seams flat-felled. Hard to see, but the top seam is how it looks from the inside, and the bottom seam is how it looks from the outside.

Step Three: I wanted to put a wide insertion of lace in the front neckline. I pinned it to fit, adjusting the corners to a mitred edge, and making sure that the resulting angle would go over the shoulders correctly. Then I topstitched it to the top of the garment. The raw edges of the lawn on the underside were trimmed and turned under and slipstitched down.

The finished neckline, showing the wide insertion lace with mitred corners.

The finished neckline, showing the wide insertion lace with mitred corners.

Step Four: The neckline was then finished with a row of large entreduex and a row of lace. These were sewn together in the same manner as is done in heirloom sewing, with a small tight row of zigzag stitches. Any raw edges were trimmed back to the row of zigzag stitches.

The finished neckline. A ribbon was threaded through the large entredeux.

The finished neckline. A ribbon was threaded through the large entreduex, and then tied in a bow at the centre front.

Step Five: The armhole was finished with the same lace as around the neckline. The raw edges were turned under and sewn in a small hem.

The lace finishing the armhole.

The lace finishing the armhole.

Step Six: The centre back (which had been cut on the selvedge line) was finished with a button placket by folding over 1 inch of the edge of the fabric. Buttonholes were then sewn and corresponding buttons attached.

The button placket. The ribbon threaded through the entreduex is attached at the centre back so as not to come undone.

The button placket. The ribbon threaded through the entreduex is attached at the centre back so as not to come undone.

Step Seven: The bottom frill was cut 15 inches deep, and finished with the same large insertion lace as used at the neckline, plus another large row of broider anglaise. The large insertion lace was sewn in the normal way, topstitched onto the fabric and then the material cut away behind the insertion. The raw edges were trimmed and turned under to form a small hem.

The bottom of the frill is edged with a row of insertion lace and a row of broider anglaise.

The bottom of the frill is edged with a row of insertion lace and a row of broider anglaise.

The broider anglaise was sewn right sides together onto the bottom of the lace insertion, and then the raw edges trimmed and neatened with a small zigzag stitch.

Step Eight: The frill was gathered and then sewn to the bottom of the slip, just below the knee level.

The frill; trimmed, gathered and attached.

The frill; trimmed, gathered and attached. The total length of the frill is 15 inches. The lace is attached at the 10 inch mark.

Step Nine: A row of ribbon insertion lace was topstitched around the bottom of the slip, but above the gathered frill. The fabric behind this insertion can be cut away, and often was in extant examples, however I didn’t do that this time.

The ribbon insertion lace attached above the frill.

The ribbon insertion lace attached above the frill.

All finished! A bit wrinkly, but nothing that an iron won’t fix.

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

One of the undergarments that I had been keen to make was a brassiere, but I felt that I had run out of time to manage it for this event.

So next on the list is the Titanic-era evening gown!

Related Posts

Titanic Panic! – Making a Chemise/Drawer Combination Suit

Titanic Panic! – Making a 1911 Corset

Making a Gored Petticoat (1890)

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: 1912 Sears catalogue, in “What real women wore in 1912“, by American Duchess.

Image Source: An Edwardian Petticoat, c. 1910-1915, from The MET Museum.

Image Source: Detailed pictures of an Edwardian Petticoat, from Antique Dress.

How to sew flate-felled seams – by So Sew Easy

Sewing Lace and Entreduex – by Sew Beautiful

Basic Lace Insertion by Machine – Wearing History

Interpreting Edwardian Undergarments – by Lady Carolyn

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

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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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An advertisement in the Sears catalogue for drawers. 1912

An advertisement in the Sears catalogue for drawers, 1912.

When the news of a Titanic-themed event suddenly bursts upon you, panic ensues!

Later this year a costume group that I am a part of is planning a dinner at the Titanic Restaurant in Melbourne. The only unfortunate part about it is that it means doing a whole set of new clothing for a new era – 1912 to be exact – from the undergarments out.

Chemise-drawer-combinations for sale in a catalogue

Chemise-drawer-combinations for sale in a Macys catalogue, 1911.

One of my first concerns upon “embarking on this voyage” was the quantity of undergarments that a late Edwardian woman wore; including a chemise, drawers, corset, corset cover, petticoat, brassiere, and bust improvers. Whilst I do like to make undergarments for all of my costumes, I felt that making a full list of them was going a bit “overboard”! Luckily my research indicated that Edwardian women also felt the same as I, that such an extraordinary number of undergarments could be simplified slightly, whilst still obtaining the same effect.

A chemise was always worn next to the skin, with the drawers either pulled over or slipped underneath it, and both of these were worn underneath the corset. However, as more and more undergarments were added to the undergarment ensemble during the late Victorian times, the chemise and drawers were one of the first to become conveniently combined.

A combination suit, chemise-and-drawers in one. From a private collection owned by

An Edwardian combination suit, chemise-and-drawers in one, showing the split crotch and the wide leg. From a private collection owned by “Lady Carolyn”. (Source link below)

In order to combine these garments, they were effectively just joined at the waistline, with the top of the combinations providing the essential layer between the corset and skin, and the bottom doing the job of the drawers. The chemise of the late Edwardian era was made from thin cotton batiste, sleeveless with thin and often lacy straps, and generally included pin tucks or lace insertion. The neckline was often decorated with ribbon-threaded lace which enabled the top to be drawn in as necessary. The drawers of this era reached to about knee length, and had a very wide leg often with ruffles or lace around the bottom. The crotch was split, as in previous eras, to enable ease of toileting which is generally difficult when wearing a long corset.

Pattern

I didn’t bother using a pattern for this undergarment, but instead used a singlet top and a pair of loose shorts as a guide to cutting out.

As this garment is worn under the corset, it did not matter too much about the fit. I took notice of my waist, bust and hip measurements to make sure I didn’t make it too small, but as this was a looser fitting garment, bigger was a bit better. The most important part of the fit, I found, was to ensure there is enough room in the length (shoulder-to-crotch) so you can still sit down comfortably.

The singlet and shorts I used as a pattern guide.

The singlet and shorts I used as a pattern guide. After cutting out, I pinned and draped the pieces on a dress form to make sure I was on the right track. I made the leg sections longer and wider.

My combinations were made from white cotton batiste, and trimmed with various sorts of cotton lace. The buttons I used were plain-and-plastic.

Construction Steps

Step One: After cutting out the pieces, I began with the top half. The side seams were sewn and then the shoulder seams. The centre front seam was cut on the selvedge and was left open for a button placket.

The top (chemise) of the combinations. The centre front is on the left, and the centre back on the right, showing the side seams pinned.

The top (chemise) of the combinations. The centre back fold is on the left, and the centre front (selvedge) is on the right. This picture shows the side seams pinned. You can also see that there is very little shaping in the bodice area.

Step Two: For the bottom half of the combinations, I first sewed the side leg seams. Then the inside leg seams were pinned and a small part of the centre back seam (at the top of the drawers) was sewn closed.

The combination (drawers), showing the inside leg seam and the split crotch.

The bottom (drawers) of the combinations, with the side seams sewn and a small part of the centre back seam also sewn. This picture also shows the inside leg seam and the split crotch.

Step Three: The raw edge around the split crotch was hemmed. At this point I decided to make the inside leg seams button-up to make it easier to use toilet facilities. As keen as I am as dressing in historical dress, I have not got to the stage of foregoing modern underwear!

The inside leg seam is buttoned up. The split crotch seam has been hemmed.

The inside leg seam is shown here buttoned up. The split crotch seam has been hemmed. At the front the split crotch goes straight into the centre front button placket.

Step Four: The top and bottoms were sewn together at the waistline. I used insertion lace to attach them but there were various other methods used, such as using ribbon-threaded lace or a simple waist seam.

The two halves are attached with insertion lace. Here you can see that the side seams did not match up.

The two halves are attached with insertion lace. Here you can see that the side seams did not quite match up.

Here is a good tutorial for insertion lace, although the method I used was a little different.

Step Five: Ruffles and lace were added to the bottom of the drawers.

The lace was first attached to the ruffle strip, which was then gathered and sewn to the bottom of the leg.

The lace was first attached to the ruffle strip, which was then gathered and sewn to the bottom of the leg.

Step Six: The raw edges of the neckline and armholes were both hemmed with lace, and ribbon inserted around the lace at the neckline.

The neckline and armhole are finished with lace. The neckline has an extra row of ribbon-threaded lace to draw in the top edge.

The neckline and armhole are finished with lace. The neckline has an extra row of ribbon-threaded lace to draw in the top edge.

Step Seven: Buttons and buttonholes were added to the centre front of the combinations. I was a tad lazy and did not make a proper placket for the buttons and buttonholes, preferring to just use the selvedge edge. This has caused a bit of puckering as the material was a bit thin.

The buttons down the centre front.

The buttons down the centre front.

And all finished…

The front view. The inside leg seams are unbuttoned in order for the garment to sit on the form.

The front view. The inside leg seams are unbuttoned in order for the garment to sit on the form.

The back view. The split crotch does look as though it would be a bit breezy. Apparently drawers tended to have so much material in them with made the

The back view. The split crotch does look as though it would be a bit breezy. Apparently drawers tended to have so much material in them which made the “breeziness” not as apparent.

This was a fairly straightforward piece to sew, mainly because the fitting of it did not need to be very exact. The next thing on the list may prove to be more tricky! A 1911 corset.

Related Posts

Making a Victorian Chemise

Making a Gored Petticoat

Sources and Relevant Links

“Titanic” Theatre Restaurant – in Williamstown, Melbourne.

Image Source (1): Sears Catalogue (No. 124) at Archive.com

Image Source (2&3): Interpreting Edwardian Undergarments – by Lady Carolyn

Tutorial: Basic Insertion Lace By Machine – by Wearing History

Dressing for dinner on the Titanic: Early 1910s Evening Dress – by Demode Couture

Turn an op shop find into Victorian/Edwardian undergarments – by Fashioning Nostalgia

Combination Brassiere-and-Drawers – by Lady Carolyn

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