January 17, 2012

1911 - correct corseting

How is the fitting going? Remember that while the adjustments may seem small, an extra 1/8 inch on a seam will add 1/4 inch to one side, 1/2 inch to the entire width. So a few small changes can really add up and make a big change in the overall fit. Since we're fitting our sew along mock-ups it's the perfect time to share this article on correct corseting by Lillian Russell.

Click here to read the full article, published in the Washington Herald on December 3, 1911. Her advice is sensible, "It will not make you look any more slender if you wear a small corset;" and "a woman with the forty-two inch hips must have at least a thirty-two inch waist." She counsels against lacing tightly across the top because it makes an unsightly bulge of flesh at the back. In fact, she recommends lacing the corset looser above the waist so the hips are more suppressed, and you can see this lacing illustrated in the picture captioned "Your Corset Should Not be Tight Enough to Restrict the Movement of Your Arms."

Let's compare that to the lacing on my mock-up.

Please excuse the dust on the mirror, I swear I cleaned it and it didn't show on the other pictures I took, why the shots from the back? Anyway, I have no option of lacing looser, it is tight, tight, tight. Once I lowered my arms that unsightly bulge was present. When I let out the seam allowances at the top not only was it much more comfortable, the bulge was gone, and fabric no longer crushed under the bust. Yesterday, I mentioned leaving the added length at the top until I try on the final corset and that is one reason why. I want that small flare under the bust so I can achieve the smooth line so desired. If I cut that bit off now I've set top edge squarely under the bust, making an abrupt shift from ribs to bust, resulting in more of a capital P shape from the side. That wouldn't be the end of the world, but I'm aiming for a smooth transition and a bit of extra length at the top may help. The other reason is that once stronger fabric is used, seams reinforced, and casings sewn in, the real corset will be a much stronger garment than the mock-up. Boning can be slipped in and it will be possible to better gage that top edge.

If you're working with the post Edwardian pattern, which is a bit longer above the waist than the Corsets and Crinolines pattern, you may not need the extra length at all. The goal is a corset that works for you, so you have the final say in how it fits.

Back to Lillian, she also says people "take their ideas of what the corset is from the wooden figures in the window displaying models for commercial purposes or from the impossible fashion drawings in magazines." Good point Miss Russell.


  1. I guess we'll never get motivated enough to exercise our "flabby flesh" away, if we haven't managed it in 100 years!

  2. I like the tone of the article, and the last quote you mention about the unrealistic ideals obviously still applies to how we see ourselves today in models and magazines.

    I do argue that her mention that "a woman with the forty-two inch hips must have at least a thirty-two inch waist." Naturally (with no corseting) I have 42" hips and a 30" waist. I'm not going to pad out the waist, but maybe the corset will slightly slim my hips.

    1. I wouldn't pad the waist either! !

    2. I have just the same measurements, and was thinking the same thing. Maybe not so much the figure this style was aimed for, but it makes Victorian easy enough to achieve :).

  3. lol me too... the "long lean line" so desirable in both 1911 and today will stay un-reachable to me, no matter how tight the corset or weight loss be :P
    I'm curious to see what the final corset will be able to do to figure.

  4. I read a few other articles (after I searched the library of congress for more) and it the term large waist was mentioned a few times. I guess compared to previous decades, the natural waist would be "large". I guess this was the beginning of the "athletic" look in which slim hips are key that will be fashionable for the next 30 years.

  5. OK, I've got my mock up sewn up ( and wearing right now!.
    I've got it laced up parallel and the gap is about 1 1/2 inches. could I take the extra half inch off the centre back? or should I try and take a littel from all the seams?

  6. How is the fit? Comfortable? Evenly snug all over? If so I wouldn't mess with the seams, just take 1/4 inch off the back center back. That will add a 1/2 inch to the gap on the finished corset.

  7. yeah, nice and even, I will just take the quarter inch off the back.

    thank you!