Reform Corset

One of my current client projects is a reform corset to be worn with a WWI nurse’s uniform. This corset presents an interesting challenge because while there are plenty of old advertisements to be found, images of existing corsets are hard to find and often don’t show much detail. Back views are even harder to find, although there is a Jaeger corset at the V&A with a photo that confirms they do lace up the back. In addition, the closest pattern I’ve found is Ageless Patterns’ corset waist for a 12-14 year old girl, and the V&A corset is also sized for a young girl, which isn’t very helpful when drafting a pattern for a grown woman.

Patterning the second draft.

Patterning the second draft.

So I’ve been slicing and dicing the pattern I do have, making it bigger, adding curves, and adding style lines similar to those on the V&A corset. My first draft was for the rough shape and size I would need, and the second draft focused more on the proportions of the front panels. Luckily, the photo in Underwear: Fashion in Detail appears to be nearly life sized, at least around the neckline and bust. I’m basing this on the fact that the buttons in the photo are approximately 5/8″ and the twill tape binding is about 1/4″, both of which make sense with the scale of the overall garment. The buttonhole openings are 3/4″ wide, measuring from seam to where the edge is bound, which is right for a 5/8″ button. So even though the overall proportions are smaller than what I need, I was able to get some valuable measurements that I could apply to my own version.

I’m not reproducing the Jaeger corset exactly, although I am drawing heavily on it for inspiration.  I’m leaving in a hip gusset from the Ageless Patterns corset, because several the other reform corsets have this detail and it seems useful in fitting a woman rather than a girl. I love the pleated bust gusset, but since my version will be in cotton and my client wants it to be washable, I’m doing a gathered gusset, which is actually more common in the other examples I can find. I don’t see any need to change the width of the buttonhole placket or the straps, other than length.  I intend to copy the method of making buttonholes by leaving spaces between folded and topstitched pieces of fabric rather than by cut and bound buttonholes, because I find the detail very attractive and think it will be sturdy, as well. I also like the quilted detail on the back of the straps and all the cording, so those will also be in my version.

Reform corset pattern draft.

Reform corset pattern draft.

Reform corset mocked up in muslin.

Reform corset mocked up in muslin.

The second draft fit really well, and my client reports that it is very comfortable.  The bust gusset starts at a good point right under the bust, but needs a little more fullness in the gusset itself so the gathers don’t have all their fullness pulled out.  The straps are a little short and I’d like to fine-tune the shaping on some of the pieces, and make the curves a little more elegant. It doesn’t need many changes, however, and I’ll be moving on to construction this week. Before that can happen I need to experiment with the fiddly details, like the strips of fabric that make up the buttonholes down the front and on the straps, and how to cord and bone it without losing too much width and making it smaller than it should be.

Also in progress for this client are a pair of chemise-drawer combinations, to be trimmed with tatted lace and embroidery made by my client’s grandmother, the beginnings of a 1912 long and narrow corset, and a princess slip. I’m also busty checking off items on my personal project list. I started an 1830’s corded petticoat and the 18th c. tall hat was finished over the weekend, with pictures coming soon.

Advertisements

The calm before the storm

image

 

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.