December 29, 2011

1911 - for ladies with a more ample bosom

I've received so many questions about foundation options for women with a larger bust it makes me wish I could include steps for patterning and fitting the bust in this sew along. If I had already experimented with altering the patterns we're using to fit the bust I'd happily included those steps, but I haven't, and I don't want lead anyone astray. I can however share a few images of bust support solutions from the period.

The first is a corset at the V&A from just few years earlier than the 1911/12 patterns we're using. The cut combines a higher top edge with a gore to provide support on a garment which measures approximately 41 3/4 inches at the bust, 24 1/2 at the waist, and 38 3/4 at the hip.

© V&A accession number T.67-1938

A 1911 advertisement for the Sahlin Perfect Form and Corset Combined shows another way to enhance the bust.

The ad says this model is for slender or medium figures, but I've seen almost identical styles advertised for women with full figures. Here's a Sahlin corset at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

© Metropolitan Museum of Art accession number 2000.169.2

Can any of you recommend period patterns for the ladies wishing to sew a bust bodice? That might be a good solution for those needing a bit more support. If there were one in Corsets and Crinolines I'd have no choice but to sew it too!


  1. I thought that corsets like the advertisement and the Sahlin corset you have shown are not for bust support at all, but for bust enhancement? Aren't they basically bust extenders? The boned pigeon breast cage was to add width, not hold up the width you already have ;-)

    Perhaps the solution isn't the corset itself, but additional support?

    C&C quotes for Sept 1912 "A brassiere is usually worn in addition [to the corset] certainly is a necessity for those of generous build."

    And for 1915 (yes, a bit late) "A pretty bust bodice or brassiere now counts as quite as much an essential as to the low-cut the corset that...even with the camisole, the addition of a dainty bust bodice is more often than not regarded as necessary to the equipment. ...the brassiere usually supersedes the camisole, and is therefore greatly in demand among women who are other than slim...

    I have to say though, I haven't paid much attention to this as, alas, I do not need any extra bust support! In fact, I suspect that I would be recommended the corset for slender figures that are "somewhat deficient in bust measure."

  2. This discussion is relevant to my interests. But alas I don't see any solutions here. The Sahlin corset is clearly an 'enhancer', no support there. And the V&A corset? With the depth of those gores, there is nothing to prevent the breasts from sliding down, down, down. I am still hoping to see a useful discussion on bust support for the bosomy c.1912, or else this sew-along will have been of little use to me. The "bust bodices" I have seen to date just won't do it; I have to assume some women wore corsets which were cut higher. Help??

  3. I could be missing something but arent the breasts meant to sit low and flat in this period, especially bigger breasts. Speaking from regency and georgian experience, (which here in the UK we do a lot of) as long as the corset/stays are well fitted, they hold the camisole/shift tight, which in turn holds your breasts in place extremly well.
    I have seen a corset pattern with a half bust for 1911 which would act as a shelf for the breasts, but that is still fairly low, as long as the camisole is pulled tight by the corset even low busts would then still get a clevage at the top. The whole underwear ensomble is essential not just the corset.

  4. Oh, and vena cava has the edwardian corset pattern with the low bust, though it is dated 1903-1909.

  5. "...arent the breasts meant to sit low and flat in this period, especially bigger breasts."

    Not by 1911. The low mono-bosom is of the first decade of the century. By the early teens, waistlines (and other things) were rising.

    "I have seen a corset pattern with a half bust for 1911 which would act as a shelf for the breasts..."

    May I ask where one might see this? It sounds like what I'm looking for. Don't need much to work from, just a nudge in the right direction!

  6. I'm just making a corset for my mother, who definitely needs extra bust support, so I thought I'd share what I've found while researching!

    There are some patterns on De Gracieuse (often reprints of Mode Illustrée). Here's one from 1905, rather like the bust enhancer, but the text underneath it actually calls it a "bustehouder", i.e. a bust supporter:

    This one is from 1910:

    In the lower right hand corner, the latticed thing is also a bra.

    These have patterns but you have to find them amidst a ton of crossed over other patterns, and resize them. I've already managed to trace these two though, so should anyone want them feel free to ask me and I'll upload them somewhere, so you don't have to dig through those lines anymore.

    Also, there's a pattern for a "fitted corset cover" in Frances Grimble's "Edwardian Modiste" book (p 297), very similar to the 1905 Gracieuse pattern. I drafted it a little smaller than the bust measurement, so it will keep the bosom together, sort of minimizing it a bit, and I'll bone it on the seams. That's the theory anyway, will see how that works. :)

    And finally, there's also this interesting image collection:

  7. Sharon, I know were not talking the really low pidgeon breast but I still cant see that theres any kind of lift going on. With the shift holding the breasts firmly in position you get the round fullness showing, sitting at its natural low level without the push-up of other period corsets like the regency clevage that you can rest your chin on without looking down. ( of course my idea of low could be distorted by the other periods I do where the bust is extremly high and may not be as low as you think I mean :-S )
    And I think I saw the half bust corset pattern on one of my tralls through google images a few weeks back, I really should save more pages. :-)

  8. If you look in the lower right hand corner of this 1911 Macy's catalog you'll see a bust support or brassiere for the full figured woman.

    It's very similar to the Sahlin design. I think like modern brassieres the difference is in degrees. The enhancer uses a boning to force the shape that others naturally have. The brassiere uses boning to contain the bust. But the shape is still the same. Here is an ad from 1911 that shows again a similar design.

    It looks to be quite similar to a corset cover but with additional boning. You may find wearing a contemporary bra under a chemise and the corset, but adjusting the strap length so it sits a bit lower than normal, may get close to the period silhouette with the comfort you expect. It's certainly worth a try.

  9. this looks just like a contemporary bra if one looks at the lines under the lace, and would be a great thing for us with a larger bust (and it is SO pretty to) it is MADE 1905 it should mean that it would be worn in the 1911 as well?

    in the VA fashion in detail underwear it tells of whalebone that is inserted into the cups for support.
    It says bust enchanter in the book, but as it does not really "build" any volume to the breasts it should work as just a support thing and for prettyness.

  10. Thanks for finding that one katafalk! That's a beauty!

  11. Jo, this whole page
    was very interesting, thank you for posting the link. It surely looks like all or most of these corsets are half-bust. I recognize that this may be an artistic illusion, as the women in the drawings are impossibly long-torso'd. But some of the corsets shown are definitely higher/lower than others, so some variation is certainly possible. At my age and amplitude, not to mention decrepitude, I need something of a shelf. The bust-bodice will serve to prevent the rest of the breast from "spilling", but industrial strength support that aggravates neither the tendinitis in my shoulders nor the spasms in my back? That can come only from below. Half-bust is what I need, so that is what I intend to aim for. Thanks!

  12. Yes, there are some that look to be more half bust. You may want to add an inch or two to the top edge when patterning or with seam allowance when mocking up to start your corset in that direction. Also, here's and illustration that may help with shaping that extra length at the top of the corset.

  13. That's very helpful! The diagram there, that's the one I'd like to make, or something similar. Nice to have the documentation that it existed, and to have such a clear line drawing of it to work from. Thanks!

  14. The corset from the 1997 Titanic film was overbust and there are a few pictures of it here which mught be useful.

  15. Just for the record, here's another pattern, for a DeGracieuse corset which is higher cut. It is said to be for a slim woman, but could easily be altered for a woman with endowments.
    It's nice to have options!