Monday, June 30, 2014

Historical Sew Fortnightly - Challenge #12 Shape and Support

What It Is:   Corset
The Challenge:  #12 Shape and Support
Fabric:  Corset coutil, muslin, silk dupioni
Pattern:  Reconstructing History Ladies' 1910s Corset
Year:  1910s
Notions:  Busk, grommets, steel bones, lacing, garters, elastic, lace, satin ribbon, embroidery thread
How historically accurate is it?:  Very, based on vintage ads, and the Met Museum link here:
1915 Corset
Hours to complete?:  10 hours
First Worn:  Costume College August 2014 with 1910s Suit
Total Cost:  Coutil, muslin, and fabric were leftover from other projects.  $45.00 for notions.

In May I made my first corset with the help of an online corset class through Historical Sewing and the help of a facebook group.  It was a pattern from Truly Victorian for an 1880s corset and could carry a lady through many decades of the Victorian period.  The Edwardian period had a different silhouette with the S-curve corset and by the 1910s the corset was taking yet another turn.  A corset was no longer designed to support the bust and reduce the waist but instead created a silhouette that smoothed the waist and hips.  The corset was long and many did not cover the bust at all.  In addition, elastic suspenders were attached to the corset to hold stockings which had up until now been held with garters tied around the knee.  The corset of the 1910s is a drastically different shape and support than earlier corsets and is also the last of a true corset as the 1920s brought girdles into use as the universal undergarment.
To make my 1910s corset I used Recreating History Ladies' 1910s Corset pattern.
Now that I've taken the online corset class I can better understand the construction and have changed some of the methods from the pattern's instructions.  The 1910s corset is not boned along the seam lines like the Victorian corset and the bones do not follow the length of the corset.  Instead of using twill tape for the bone casings I'm using a single layer of coutil, a layer of muslin, and a silk dupioni fashion fabric.  I have a gold fabric in the stash and when I place my order for hardware I order antique gold/bronze just for something different.
As I learned in my online corset class, a mock-up is a must and the pattern fits fairly well right out of the package.  Here is a photo of all the pieces cut and marked and ready for assembly.

I'm still nervous about making my first corset without assistance, but I follow the instructions from my class closely and take my time.  The busk is in!  I'm wicked happy!
There is only a front panel, 2-piece side panel, and back panel for one half of the corset so the construction goes quickly.  Setting in the grommets takes some patience and hand strength so I do that in stages as there are 34 of them.

Once both halves are complete and the grommets are in, I sew bias strips made from the silk to the top of the corset.
Here is where I made a mistake by not placing the bones into the side panels before sewing on the top bias.  Because of the 2-piece side panel there is a seam allowance which makes placing a bone from the bottom edge very difficult.  On this next photo you can see how I marked my bone placement from the original pattern, and how I inserted the bones before sewing on the bias strips holding the bones in place with pins.  They can be adjusted after the bias strips are sewn.
After the bias strips are sewn I move my bones to the correct placement.  A horizontal line can be sewn to keep the bones in place but I've wanted to learn some flossing techniques so I decide this is a perfect place to try my hand at the diagram on the sheet.  I really love the look of flossing and have a Pinterest board of Corset Inspiration with many beautiful designs.  Pinterest Corset Inspiration
Now for some stocking suspenders.  As much as I searched the internet I couldn't find any instructions so decided to create my own.  I cut four strips of 4" by 14" silk fabric and sewed it into a tube.  Four strips of 10" long 1/2" wide elastic with a 1/2" loop sewn at one end.  The garters are available at most fabric shops.  To cover the hardware I'm using 1/2" white satin ribbon and then added some 1/4" ivory ribbon.
I turned the silk fabric tubes inside out, pressed them with the seam at the center back and the seam allowance to each side.  Then I turned one end in 1".  I stitched down 3/8" from each side leaving the center for the elastic.  I pulled the elastic into the center of the tube just until the loop had enough showing to hold the garter.  Then I stitched across the bottom 3/8" to hold the elastic in place.  I cut 4" lengths of the ivory and white ribbon and looped them through the garter and sewed them in place and cut the ends at an angle.  Some more ivory ribbon was looped and sewn in the center with French knots with the embroidery thread and then sewn at the lower end of the tube.  I pulled the elastic until the gathered tube and garter measured 10" and stitched off the upper end.  This will be hand tacked to the lower edge of the corset.
Some pretty lace for the upper corset edge, 3 hooks and eyes for the lower center, and a small bow from the ivory ribbon and the 1910s corset is finished!

I think I'll breathe a little easier whenever I make another corset, but my hats are off to those who do it all the time.  You are my heroes!
Love always,


  1. Bravo! It turned out fabulous Jeanette. You inspire me to make a long line corset now. :)

    1. Thank you, Jennifer! It's also very comfortable to wear which surprised me.

  2. Beautiful! And I love your Edwardian style socks!

    1. Thank you, Gabriela! They are an applique but it was the perfect color for the gown. They are fun!

  3. Hi, Jeanette! Just found your blog through the top photo on Pinterest. I am a corset fan, and have made a few--Civil War and Victorian eras. Since you have worn this, I thought I would ask you what seems like a bit of a silly question--did Edwardian ladies have a means to easily use the "facilities" after dressing for the day? Or is that why they changed their clothes three times a day? The length of this corset just seems like it would make it nigh to impossible. :-) Great blog...

    1. Hi Talena! Not a silly question at all as I wondered how everything was possible myself! Because both the busk and boning end where a Victorian corset ends and are held in place by sewing or flossing, the corset bends at that point for sitting. I rode in a car for an hour, then used the "facilities" when we arrived, and it was the same as wearing a Victorian corset. It did create a nice smooth line all the way down the hips. Thank you for reading!!

  4. Thanks for commenting back, Jeanette! Okay, next question--how practical would a corset along this line be under modern "vintage" (50s-style) dresses? Could you wear it with a bra? It looks a little high. Just wondering. :-)

    1. I think you're right, Talena, this corset is higher than the 1950s style girdles I've seen. You could wear a bra with this corset although if you have the lift of a bra the upper flare of this corset wouldn't fit as well.