Tuesday, April 21, 2009

1830s Corset Alterations

In 2007 I made the Past Patterns #001- 1820s/40s Corded Stay. Initially only cotton cording was sewn in for support along with the wood busk at center front.

Well, after my first mock-up fitting of my 1844 bodice I realized I need to make a few alterations to the corset to improve on its purpose. You know from reading my previous post that I had already added a bone to the sides and one on either side of the grommets. I have now done more.

The current alterations included taking a 1/2" dart out of the back hip gusset to reduce the size around the hip area. Instead of cutting the gusset, I simply took up the excess and sewed a traditional dart from hem to point of the gusset. The corset is only two, thin coutil layers so the dart was easy to manage.

I've also now added a total of 10 steel bones to this thing, including the previous 4. You can see the bone casing I've sewn directly to the inside of the corset. I added bones to the outside of the bust gussets and two pairs to the side back area. These help SO much in the wrinkling factor. And the top now keeps me up where I should be.

I also pushed the busk up to the top and sewed a line at the bottom to hold it up there. I can remove the stitching so the busk can be removed if need be (for laundering).

So case in point: for women with more "squish factor" and curvier figures, basic corded corsets don't support as needed. Steel boning can help wonders for this.

I believe women back then with full bust and hips would have added whalebone along with the cording for a supportive garment if the cording itself was not enough (see photo below). However, with more layers of thicker fabric and a fully corded corset, one could manage a decent fashionable figure.

What do YOU think?


Jennifer Rosbrugh said...

You can see from this original that was sold on eBay that both cording and whalebone was used.

Also notice the 3 gussets shaping the bust. This is outside the box for most of us. The general, modern thought is to only have 2. This woman had 3 to support her larger figure.

Barbara said...

I have heard that some women not just used the corset to tie their larger figure, but also to tie a normal shape down to "skinny" size - Empress Elizabeth of Austria was famous for it. This wasn't very healthy of course and the women fainted often. Obviously they were as crazy then as they are nowadays ;)

Jennifer Rosbrugh said...

Craziness has always been around and will continue. Ahhh.. what we do for fashion.

And it's not just to reduce the figure, corsets and stays throughout history have been to support the form and mould it into the fashionable silhouette. "Fainting? I'll handle it when it happens. For now, reduce just another inch..."