Thanks to the total and abject failure of my 1910s non-travelling corset, and the super-comfortable but slightly too big-ness of my 1916 black and white corset, I decided I needed to make a new 1910s corset to go under my 1914-15 spiderweb evening gown for Costume College.
This may not have been my brightest idea ever, as I was already pushing it to get the evening gown itself finished in time, but 1910s corsets are pretty easy, so…
I used the same 1916 corset pattern from Salen’s corset book as I’d used for the black and white corset, only this time I adapted the pattern pieces slightly for an earlier ‘teens silhouette: reducing the waist to hip ratio, and cutting the front into a lower dip.
I kept the higher scoop of the lower back edge of the corset as it is, although it’s an unusual feature on corsets before 1914, because it’s so comfortable, especially for sitting.
Because the black and white corset was as big as it could be while still fitting me properly, I also reduced the size for this version, which is where things went a little badly. I know from experience that when I’m stressed and in a hurry I tend to get my maths crossed, so I carefully measured and calculated for a corset that was 2.5″ smaller in the waist than my black and white version.
And then I applied those calculations to each half of the corset, rather than the full thing. AND forgot that I wasn’t meant to take the reduction measure off the front and back seams as well. GAH!
I realised this with enough time to let out one seam, but the corset is still 5″ smaller than my black and white corset, which means the corset is quite snug, and leaves a bit more of a lacing gap in back than I prefer.
Choosing fabric for the corset was quite easy – I already had a delicious cotton/viscose blend corset brocade that the wonderful Comtesse (she of the historical dinner party) gifted to me when she left NZ (sniff).
I spent a couple of hours attempting pattern matching on the corset before giving it up as a bad and nearly impossible idea, and just cutting the fabric as frugally as possible.
After a quick test, I wasn’t happy with how supportive the brocade was on its own, so I went rummaging in my stash for lining, which turned out to be surprisingly hard – I have lots of accurate cotton sateens and twills, but all in bright whites or warm creams, which looked awful with the silvery white of the brocade.
I finally remembered a yellow and white ticking that I picked up at Fabric-a-Brac for only $2 (yay!) because it had marks. A good launder, and my fabric was not only pre-washed, but mark free – happiness!
The addition of the ticking makes the corset a little heavier than I’d intended, and if I hadn’t been trying to get this done in record time I’d probably have held out for a lighter secondary fabric, but I’m still happy with the result. And it’s yellow!
As I had two layers of fabric, I set the boning channels between the layers, rather than sewing on extra boning channels, which is nice and fabric and time efficient, but not particularly accurate for the 1910s.
I ran into a further problem when making the corset when I realised I had no 10″ or 11″ busks, but a frantic call to Madame Ornata rescued me, and she ‘lent’ me a busk until I could pick up a replacement one for her at Costume College.
Since I’d already ruined any pretence of HA, and since I couldn’t find my twill binding, or a lace that would look good on along the top of the corset, I just bound the corset in bias, and did really simple garter hooks. I also passed on a waist stay, although I’ve never found an example of a 1910s corset without one, because I hate waist stays in 1910s corsets.
I may eventually decide to undo the binding, possibly even let out the corset another 1″, re-bind with a twill, and do proper garter hooks.
But, for now, it’s done, and has been worn, and works.
It has also received the official cat seal of approval, so that’s good:
It’s a little soft, but I’m still counting for the Historical Sew Fortnightly ‘Patterns’ challenge. I feel better about including softer items if I’ve already made one proper challenge item.
What the item is: a 1913-16 corset
The Challenge: #8 Pattern
Fabric/Materials: 1m of cotton/viscose brocade (a gift), 1m of yellow striped cotton ticking ($1).
Pattern: My own, adapted from the 1916 corset pattern in Jill Salen’s Corsets: Historical Patterns and Techniques.
Notions: cotton thread, a busk ($30), grommets ($5), german plastic boning ($15).
How historically accurate is it? I’m not familiar with any examples of 1910s corsets with the boning channels placed between layers, rather than sewn on as separate channels, nor are there period examples of corsets bound with bias binding, but the shape and silhouette it gives are spot on, so once it’s under an outfit, you can’t tell. So 60%ish.
Hours to complete: Around 8
First worn: For the Costume College Gala Ball, Sat 30 July
* If you hadn’t guessed from my evening gown, I had Robin McKinley very much on my mind while finishing up my Costume College sewing.