The calm before the storm

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I took some time last week for a thorough spring cleaning of the studio. It’s amazing what odds and ends linger in strange places long after a project has ended, and it felt good to get everything back into it’s proper place and all the surfaces cleared off. We also moved in a new piece of furniture – an antique cedar chest that belonged to my wife’s grandmother – so we had to do some trial and error to figure out where it fit best. In the photo you can see it in the back left corner.

So now that everything is cleaned up, it’s time to make a mess again! This is going to be a very busy spring in the studio, with many projects lined up. Here is the current to-do list:

Embroidery – I’ve been working on a line of machine embroidery designs that are currently in the testing phase, and which I hope to release for sale this spring. That means lots of stitching out, making samples, and taking pictures. As well, I have an 18th c. man’s waistcoat of white linen that I am embroidering with a floral design in shades of grey and white.

Client projects – I am working on several big projects for a client. On the list are a WWI ambulance driver’s uniform and nurse’s uniform, a 1912 silk suit and all the underpinnings, and some early 1920’s lingerie.

Costume College projects – I’m also thinking ahead to this year’s CoCo, especially since last year’s weight loss means my closet is empty! On my list are 1830’s underpinnings, a day gown to match a lovely red bonnet I have, and crazy hair to wear with the underpinnings for Sunday undies. I also plan to make a new 18th c. chemise gown and open robe, new stays, and a fabulous new hat. I have a partially-completed pink silk striped gown and raspberry pink petticoat that would be nice to finish for the gala.  If time allows, I’d like to finish a 1950’s day dress and a Gatsby-inspired day dress to wear to classes (and summer picnics!) We’ll see how far I get on this project list, since they have to work themselves in around everything else.

I’m really excited about this list, and as luck would have it, some projects tie in nicely with this year’s Your Wardrobe Unlock’d competition. I hope to have better luck blogging this year’s projects, since they aren’t secrets, rush jobs, or boring renovations of costumes I didn’t originally make.

The Importance of Correct Corseting

by Clarice I. Wile

The Modern Priscilla, March 1911

Fig. 1 A Novel Shaped Corset of Embroidered Batiste

Inasmuch as, all through the coming season, we are to be debarred from the charming, not to say daring, color schemes which have been devised for our benefit and beautifying, it is obvious that, if we wish to achieve success and distinction in our dress, we must pay particular attention to our contours. And as, for their desired perfection we are almost entirely dependent upon our corsets – practically all our day and evening gowns being destitute of any boning in the bodices – we are prepared to appreciate to the fullest extent the beautiful shaping of the new corsets, that are made with careful regard to the comfort as well as the smartness of their wearers, now to be found on the market.

Fashions in corsets for this year are entitled to some attention, although they have, in print, long since been discounted and are at present simply matter-of-course affairs. They are also the outcome of the change in fashions of gowns which began to materialize a year ago.  The vagaries of waist-line fashions and the rather morbid craze for an attenuated physique, frankly outlined, which have lived through several seasons of popularity and are still desperately opposing the change to normal lines, are no longer in power and the feminine cry already is a familiar paraphrase – long live the waist line.

If you will just notice the gowning of an up-to-date woman you will see that the lower edge of her belt or girdle or the cord at the bottom of the latest waists defines the normal waist line. It has no dip at the front, but instead curves slightly upward over the hip and across the back. This indicates that the corset she wears, also thoroughly up-to-date, is shaped to her figure at the line just described.

This season the straight up and down silhouette is the fashionable one, the aim being to give the effect of an uncorseted figure. To gain this end, the lightest of corset fabrics are used. Some of these materials are very handsome, the brocaded fabrics in particular are most alluring, and there are some chic linens and coutils embroidered from the bust to the waist line as a new feature.  The tricot, or silk jersey, on account of its strength and suppleness, is used to a large extent. In fact, one of the features of the new corset lies in the character of the material used rather than the cut. The long hip line must be preserved, and the waist curving, therefore, one of the important features. In order to make the flexibility of the figure pronounced, very little boning is resorted to, and great ingenuity must be shown to give this much desired flexibility where it is essential to use any amount of boning. The harness of hose-supporters, which has created so much ridicule, has been lessened, and although the corsets are long, the bones do not extend below the hip line, all of which makes a plea for comfort.

The most important feature of the new corsets are the long waist lines, decidedly long, but in every way comfortable. The garments fit so perfectly at the lowest possible line that they cannot be moved after once placed in position. It is possible to take hold of the top of the corset and pull it up as hard as you like, without moving it half an inch. This is undoubtedly an unusual achievement and one which has been needed for a long time. The long waist is maintained even when the bust of the corset is very low, and even the wide belts worn on dresses give no appearance of shortness of the figure. Aside from this, the new corsets are better in value than those of preceding years. The boning is stronger, for the importance of good stays in long corsets has been made apparent, and an excellent quality of hose-supporters has supplanted the rather questionable affairs which have been used on really good corsets.

The average woman is not in a position to buy a different corset to wear every day in the month, and many women who never have a corset made to order though abundantly able to do so, might follow with advantage some of the practices of the rich in their over-the-counter buying. Women of fashion, it seems, pay little personal attention to the ordering of their corsets, leaving the selection to their corsetiere, whom they pay by the year as would a parent trying to correct defects in her child’s lines. The new corsets, as made by corsetieres to change the present line of the figure to more natural ones, are expensive, and part of the cost for them lies in the care given to their designing and fitting, both of which must have as much attention as the gowns under which they are to be worn.

Fig 2. A Front Laced Corset With Some Special Features

A new advice to women when putting on a corset has just reached me and which I believe will be a help to you, as it is an important one concerning proper corseting. When the new corsets are put on, the lacers are to be left wide apart and the hooking is to begin at the top, but before drawing up the lacers, pull the corset down in the back as much as you used to pull them down in the front. Slip the hand inside below the waist, first over one hip and then the other, gently pulling up the flesh and pressing the corsets downward. This keeps the stays in place and prevents them from riding up or giving that old-fashioned slant to the waist line. Then the lacing helps to accentuate this effect.

Another new idea devised recently, and with good results, is to draw the lacers downward instead of upward. If this is done, you will notice how the figure gains, and the most perfect lines will result from doing this, while the health of the woman improved at the same time.  This is the normal position for the body to assume.  The new corsets, when properly adjusted, give the back a different curve. Instead of making the figure slope in at the waist with a sway back effect, the spine assumes almost and outward curve there and the abdomen is held in a normal position instead of being drawn inward and upward until it loses itself in other parts of the anatomy. The position does not make the woman look stoop-shouldered. It gives her the proper balance of the body once more and takes away that unbending and cuirassed effect which suggests the stiff corset at once. The silhouette of the latest figure shows the bust in normal position, neither pushed up under the chin nor pendant. The new corsets are responsible for this agreeable effect. The high bust corset never did give a woman good lines. The low busted corsets worn even up the lengths from shoulders to bust and bust to belt, restoring the artistic balance in line that has been absent from the silhouette of the past three or four seasons.

The new corsets are long-waisted and low busted. Although the new waist lines in some of the costumes are higher, it is certain that this rule will be followed in all the gowns of this season at least, but this effect is the result of the position of the girdle and has nothing whatsoever to do with the figure line or change of the corset model. The corset is fitted exactly to the natural waist line and will not slip up and down. It is impossible to even pull it up after it is laced into place. This is a great improvement, because many corsets designed to give the perfectly straight hip effect slipped either up or down every time the wearer changed her position, the hose supporters being depended upon for waist-line adjustment.

Corsets are still quite long below the waist, the extension skirt being a very important feature of all the better grades, but the lines are easier, owing to the very slight hip curve. The waist line in a natural position and and the low, full bust allow a perfect freedom for the upper part of the body, which is shaped into firm, graceful lines by the adoption of a soft, perfectly fitting bust supporter or brassiere.

In the illustrated plates we are showing two types of the new long corsets which are in every particular indicative of the season’s requirements as regards style and comfort. They are corsets chosen as embodying the features which are essential to proper corseting at the present time.

Figure No. 1 shows a novel shaped corset which is long over the hips and shorter in the back and front. It is made of embroidered batiste.

Figure No. 2, as will be noted, is a front-laced corset, which has in addition some special features, as soft top clasps to avoid under pressure, round full bust, and complete support.

This article is accompanied by an ad for a Thomson’s “Glove-Fitting” corset.

Thomson's "Glove-Fitting" Corset

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Day by day and season by season, three generations

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which truly well-dressed women most desire,

are combined in but one corset

— Thomson’s “Glove-Fitting” —

which is evidenced by almost 60 years of ever

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