September 17, 2010

starting on 1844

I still haven't found the 1650's bodice foundation. I was sure I would have found it by now, but I'm starting to think I may have to start again from scratch. I haven't given up finding it yet and hopefully I'll stumble across the bodice while working on the next corset on the list.

The pattern on page 77 of Corsets and Crinolines, is described as "pattern for corset; to be boned on each seam (1844)." This is the pattern I used to make my very first corset. I'm confident this version will turn out much better than that learner's permit one. Here's the pattern enlarged to full size.

I believe the corset would have been constructed from two layers and the boning sandwiched between the layers, not placed in separate casings. However, the boning on the pattern looks like it straddles the seamline so maybe not? Thoughts anyone?

I want to make this corset the way a home seamstress might have way back when. My guess is most women didn't have the luxury of extra fabric to make a fitting toile with, they would have already made several garments fit to their body already and had a fairly good idea what their figure needed, so for this one there will be no mock up. I'll cut the pieces with extra wide seam allowances, sew it up, make alterations, and live with it. It is stressful just thinking about making it that way, but that's exactly why I'm doing it. You know, trying to conquer sewing fears and all.


  1. This corset is one I scaled up from the book, but I got intimidated trying to put the gussets into my mock-up and moved on to a different pattern. I'm very excited to see how it goes for you :).

  2. A little food for thought...For the boning you could use double boning at the seems which would reflect how it is illustrated on the pattern. this way you would have the seams surrounded on either side with boning and the stitching to keep the bones in would help keep that seam strong.
    Also isn't the Victorian corset more an exercise in symmetry as oppose to perfect fit of the wearer? the corset was cut for symmetry and what didn't fit in those measurements could be slightly padded (with either carded cotton or wool) be it in the hips or bust so that the figure would appear perfect. For the home seamstress she would only have to make sure that everything more or less fit and what didn't could be filled in to "improve" the figure. If I'm not mistaken, Valerie Steele makes reference to the padding part in "The Corset".

  3. Sarah, I have sewn a few gussets and they still intimidate me.

    Jim, double boning the seams is a good idea, and since there are very few seams I don't think it would be overkill. And I agree about your point about symmetry. I haven't made an asymmetrical corset yet because of that very reason, sculpt in what you can, pad out what's not there. Hitting that more or less fit over the bust still concerns me. Fitting the bust can be difficult!

  4. I've made this pattern before! It's super awesome! I sewed channels for the boning so that it was sandwiched between the lining and outside. It worked really well.

  5. I third the boning on either side of the seam. I've seen a few more "homey" corsets pictured in Valerie Steele's book "Corset" that were boned in such a way.

    Do the gussets/bust fitting last. Very very last. It was common through the Gibson age to purchase partially manufactured corsets that had the gussets separate, maybe a few of the seams not totally finished in the waist area. When you got the corset home, you would fit these areas to self. Not totally common; it was not the default standard, but it is an already attempted technique.

    If you're worried about fit, couldn't you cheat a little and check the pattern piece measurements against the final 1880's pattern?

  6. Mali, you read my mind. Checking the pieces against the 1880's corset is exactly how I thought I'd gauge the pattern before cutting. I image a home seamstress would have done the same, right? I didn't realize corsets could be purchased partially finished. It makes sense though, I've read jackets and skirts could so why not corsets? And fitting the gussets last? That's a great idea, thank you!

  7. Having done mostly corsets with gussets, don't be afraid. I am inventing one for a young woman I work with who has the largest figure (all around) I have ever met. I did mock it up because I was without pattern help and then cut the gussets pretty deep while she wore the mockup (laced in the back with a removable set of grommets that I use for the purpose), so that the fit was right.
    On the scary sewing-in of gussets:
    I always sew the two layers of gusset material together by zigzagging the edges and treating the two as one. Then, i sew those gussets into the inside (lining) side of the piece by stay-stitching the edges of the gusset slit, then cutting the slit. I then press under the edges of the slit, place the gusset piece (double thick) under it and pin it in place from the top, and topstitch through edge and gusset. (Not sure this makes sense, but it's easier than lots of alternative methods of placing gussets I've tried, that include flipping pieces and whatnot.) then when sewing the front to the lining, I press the stay-stitched edges of the gusset slit under again (to the inside), place it on top of the already sewn-in gusset on the lining (wrong sides together, with gusset piece inside like the meat on a sandwich) and pin and topstitch that. It makes for a cleaner opening than any other way.
    I also usually do a buttonhole stitch around the bottom "v" of each gusset -- it strengthens the bottom of the gusset and is period-appropriate.
    As for the boning, I would assemble the layers separately (so you have four pieces, each paired: Left lining, Left top; right lining, right top), then put the pieces together with channels sewn for the boning. This is much easier than anything else I've seen.
    Wow. This was long. Sorry.

  8. Hey Jo,

    try to do it inverse:
    Let the seam allowances show on the outside. If it fits, superb, you can either leave it that way and cover it with strenghtend bias-tape OR open it again and sew it properly. If you do it inverse, the advantage will be, that you can easily insert the boning under the bias tape.

    And as Mali said, best would be doing the gussets last.

    Greets, Maelis from