Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Corset Update

Don't worry, I'm still sewing! I know it's been a little while since I've posted, and I have been taking an admittedly leisurely pace with this project, but I have been steadily moving forward with it. I have been writing about my progress much more frequently in a personal journal, and I think I thought I'd posted some of that here... Oops!

Since I wrote last, I finalized my corset draft; I decided not to add a curve to the front so that it would work for a bigger variety of outer garments, and give a more authentic flat-fronted look. I cut the corset all in one piece with the center front of the pattern on the straight of grain. I'm not wholly confident that this was the best course of action, but it's too late now. All of my shaping (what little of it there is...) is done at the center back, which is my lacing edge. I've left a bit of a gap to lace with, so that I can adjust it there if need be. However, I noticed (after cutting, of course) that by the time the pattern curves around, the back edge is on the bias.


Anyway, I'm going to move forward with this and if it doesn't work out, then I'll use what I've learned and start again. I hate failing, but if I've learned anything, it's that sewing is a lot of trial and error. And I like to think that I'm good at learning from my mistakes!

So that's what happened with the pattern. For the fabric, I used a base of coutil, an inner layer of cotton broadcloth, and an outer layer of very lightweight blue and gold shot silk from an old skirt I had as a child. I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it when I outgrew it because the fabric was so pretty, so I've been hanging onto it for going on 12 or 13 years now! I picked it apart, and managed to get the entire corset with only one seam on it, which I placed on the center front so it wouldn't be too random. I marked the boning channels on the coutil in pencil, making up the placement as I went along (I also had a look at the Elizabethan Costuming Site's corset page). Then, I hand basted all three layers together around the edges, and sewed the boning channels on my machine from top to bottom. For some reason, the silk layer now looks shorter on the center front than the other layers, but the shifting was otherwise minimal. I had to clip the basting threads at the bottom as I went because of the shifting, and I think it helped, but it did not solve the problem completely. I haven't decided yet if I am going to trim the bottom point to meet the silk, or if I am going to try to cover up the gap with bias tape, since that layer is merely cosmetic; the boning will go between the coutil and the cotton.

Speaking of boning, I think I may try to use cable ties to bone this corset. I've only ever used steel, Rigilene and featherweight boning before. But I hate having to mail order steel, I hate that you can't order it in half inch measures, and I hate trying to cut it and finish the ends. If cable ties work, that would be a great solution, since they're easily accessible, easily cut, and inexpensive. Well, we'll see. I am fickle; I may end up using steel after all.

Here's what I've got so far:

There's all of my leftover steel bones from past projects; of course, there's only about four that would actually work for this corset. Isn't that how it always goes? You can also see the bit of white fabric on the bottom from where the upper layer shifted. As of yet, it is strapless, but I plan on making straps separately that can be laced on, if I decide they'd help with the fit or comfort. It has tabs as well, but I haven't cut them yet; the boning will run the length of the tabs. 

As for my next project... I found an old farthingale that I started a few years (and a few pounds...) ago. It's put together and the channels for the hoops are pinned on, but not sewn down. However, if I want to make this work, I'll have to add a bi to the waist so it won't be uncomfortable. It fits now, but just barely, and I don't know about over a corset... It also looks like it's too short! I don't think I've gotten taller, but I wonder if I was being overly cautious the first time around about giving myself enough clearance to walk in it comfortably. I may have to add a band at the bottom with another hoop and some pleats. 

I can't wait to finally have a finished, wearable garment to show you guys! 


  1. Silk is such a rude shifty thing. It looks great though! I have had great success with both spring steel and heavy duty cable ties to bone things. It works very well, and is very inexpensive and easily available. I did two fully boned kirtles that way, and I get full support with no under-corset (and I'm a big girl). I am getting a bit of a perma-curve in the front where it curves under my bustline and then back out for my tummy. This is from stress on the plastic boning from sitting so much in it. If I did nothing but stand, it wouldn't be a problem! Hah!

    Let me know if you have any questions about the process - I'd be happy to answer and help in any way I can.

    1. Thanks Crystal! I just jumped in and did it; the cable ties seem fine so far, but I won't know for sure how I feel about it until I've worn it around a bit. I will surely take you up on your offer if I hit a wall or come up with a question I can't find an answer for, though. It is nice to know of someone who's been there before me and might have some helpful advice.