Thanks to all of you who had some busk solution suggestions for me. A few of you suggested a spoon busk may solve my fitting problems. That's a good idea, but the spoon busk wasn't invented until 1873, so I feel like I'll disturb the time space continuum if use a busk from the future on my 1844 corset. I realize I've already done that by using a 1950's sewing machine, but you get the point. And since this corset is illustrated without a two piece busk I want to make it without one. I tried on the mock up one more time, and I took two regular busks and slid them in the bias tape pocket.
Better. So maybe just a 1 inch wide steel down the front will be the answer. There is still plenty of fitting to be done, but this looks the right direction. I think what I should do now is sew the alterations in, take the bias tape out of the center of the panels, and put the bones on the seam where they should be. This should give me a more accurate fit and I need to see the fit improvement because this corset is looking dumpy right now, and a corset should never look dumpy!