As part of my adventures in Natural Form foundations garments I also made a new corset. This is something I’d wanted to do for a while anyway. My previous Victorian corset was fine, but I wasn’t getting quite the curve in my figure or roundness in my bust profile I wanted. It also makes my hips sore because – and this was a big revelation for me! – there wasn’t enough fullness at the hips built into the corset. Duh! One of those things that seems so obvious once you realize it. The adjustability gained from having a lacing gap at the back will get you only so far!
Enter this beauty from Jill Salen’s book, Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques
This is apparently a Symington corset from about 1875. (Note to self – look-up Symington corsets sometime for fun)
This particular specimen is found as an inset before the book’s title page. As soon as I saw it I knew it was the one I wanted to make. But after eagerly flipping through the book (and finding the set of late 18th century stays I also want to make) I realized there wasn’t a pattern for this one and immediately thought “what the fudge?!” to myself.
A close second look through the book revealed this variation instead:
It’s nearly an identically shaped and patterned corset to the Symington one. Interestingly, notice the difference in dates. The first one was dated to 1875, this one to 1890-1900. My thinking is this must have been a very popular model/style that remained commercially successful for up to 25 years. This may also be an example of “trickle down” fashion (which I’m usually pretty skeptical of, mind you). The Symington corset is a high-end, expensive model while the later one would have been more economical (based on materials and what looks like less cording through the body).
Anyhoo, it was an easy decision to use the later corset’s pattern to make my own using the Symington one as more of my stylistic inspiration. I also like the versatility in time periods this style allows, being actually documented as existing from 1875-c.1900. I don’t necessarily need to make a new corset if I suddenly decide to foray into the 1890s (which I will, eventually). And this is the corset I’m wearing under my cranberry wool satin winter ensemble. Win-win!
The base/strength layer of the corset is coutil – my first time using this and I may never go back when it comes to Victorian-Edwardian corsetry. This stuff is great! I got mine at Farthingales. The “fashion” layer is some (very) pink Chinese silk brocade that’s been languishing in my stash for well over 10 years. I only had a metre of it, and at 29″ wide that made it tricky to figure out how to use it. This corset was the perfect application and I was so happy to have finally found just the right thing for this fabric to be!
I used 3 types of supports on the inside: flat steel boning for the centre backs and at the fronts, spiral steel boning on either side of the bust gores and at the side seams, and cording beside the front busk, beside the bust gores, beside the side seam at the back and at the upper backs.
I’d never done cording like this before, so tried out a sample with some fabric scraps. Inside the channels I just used some jute twine I had in a kitchen drawer and experimented with thickness. I also did a test patch of the cross-hatched stitching as I wasn’t entirely sure if I would like it on the brocade:
Turns out I loved it! I did another test of it, though, specifically over a motif just to make sure:
Yup, I’m sure!
The other, MAJOR, thing I tested was the pattern itself. I did a full mock-up of the corset in some sturdy scrap fabric and both boned it and added lacing holes. I will never make a corset without doing a muslin/mock-up again!!!! This made such a HUGE difference. It didn’t take long and was more than worth the effort. Because of this, I now have the best fitting corset I’ve ever had with better shape than I think I’ve ever had!
Here it is laid out “flat” and looking pretty:
Here’s the inside:
While I don’t know how historically accurate the binding of the seam allowance edges is, I really like how clean-looking it makes the insides.
A detail of the stitching at the front hip piece/flange:
The upper and lower edges are bound with ivory duchess silk satin (using scraps long leftover from my old days working in a custom bridal shop).
A detail of the bust gussets on one side – and the little silk ribbon bow!:
a detail of one of the back hip gussets:
Here’s me playing Victorian underwear model:
I love the shape this gives me!
It may not be absolutely perfect, but it’s much better than anything I’ve had before. I think this is largely due to my hips finally having enough room, thus accentuating the waist-to-hip ratio.
Along the back is the one area I’m reconsidering. The laces are not what’s causing the little bit of buckling at the back waist (btw, eventually I’m going to add a hook to the lower front to hook the lacing onto rather than tucking it around the corset itself, which I’m sure if a very naughty thing to be doing), the corset just does that. Looks like my caboose is curvy enough to need a little extra boning back there to smooth out the line.
I’m contemplating adding one or two extra bones down the full length, possibly one on either side of the hip gusset. If anyone has any suggestions/advice on this I’d be very appreciative!
As you can see here, the effect shows most from the front & back, I actually look a little thicker than normal from the side, but that’s how these work. This was the same with most women historically.
Look, I found I have a matching teacup! ‘Cause I’m a crazy teacup lady!
A perfect pairing, I think.
And here’s me realizing the cup’s shape is slightly reminiscent of the corset’s. I love that!
And I couldn’t resist trying a Victorian pin-up pose! ;o)
On a related note, I read this great post earlier today by Cathy Hay that helps bust several corset myths (pun intended, haha), check it out!