Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Adventures in: Corsetry (The Mock-Up)

I knew this time that making a mock-up was essential. It's not my favourite thing to do, but it really is an important step, especially for such an important garment. I want this to be as comfortable as my regular clothes.

One final bit of history: As I was browsing blogs one day, I had an epiphany. I was reading Quinn's post on her new corset, she referenced one of Merja's corsets. Merja's is so stunning (all of her work is!), but especially in the idea that only the waist is compressed, and the corset shape (and gussets) allow for the body to be moved into its new positions. And then I realized, that while the boning patterns are different on each one, there was no boning over the back of the hip. That is where the fit of my previous corsets was the worst, and this realization was like a lightning bolt. I eagerly searched museum collections for period corsets with gores and boning patterns similar to these, and that was when I decided to give gusseted corsets another try.

Before the bedbug spray in February, I was going to use the scaled pattern from Fashions of the Gilded Age Vol. 1. I'd drafted the pattern and made a mock-up already, but when I went to find the pieces last week, I could only find the back. I knew the pieces had ended up in different places, but I thought I knew where most of them were, and they'd all disappeared. But it was a very similar shape to Simplicity 2890, so I thought I could lengthen the pieces an inch and a half or so and see how it worked. I decided on the inch and a half measurement by using the appropriate scale from Fashions, and comparing it to my busk length. It was a good length for that busk, so I went with it.

The back is... pretty close, actually.

With the extra length added on, 1.5" in front, 1" in back.

I decided to follow the steps given in the instructions at least for now, and see how I liked them. The very second step wants you to put the gussets in right sides together and then somehow turning it out? I hate doing gussets like that. I tried it on the first mock-up and it was awful. Instead, I turned the seam allowances back on the corset body along the marked lines, then marked the seam lines onto the gussets, and top stitched them in place. Much easier. Check out Merja's corset link above for another way to do lapped seams. I skipped flat-felling for now.

Marking the seam allowance.

Folded to the right side because it was the easiest.
The final version will have flat-felled seams on the inside.


And top-stitched! Much easier :)

After that I decided to construct it very differently from the instructions. I applied bias tape in place of bone casing. I put the busk into place (upside down!) while the fronts and backs were still separate. I did the back next, using a selvedge edge in place of turning the facing under and creating a casing for the second bone. Then I did the side seams, and finally punched holes for the eyelets. I was going to set one-piece eyelets into place but my test one didn't turn out, so I said "meh" and just left the hole edges raw. Finally, it was time to lace it up and try it on!

Not bad, not bad at all :) There was a lot of weirdness happening with the boning, for numerous reasons. First, I used large zip ties. Most of these are in the uncut 36" length. It came coiled up, and I think putting the curl outwards helped collapse the fabric around my waist. Second, I had stitched across the bottoms of most of the channels to avoid having to cut the threads and start new seams. Bad idea. For the second mock-up, I opened those up, and turned the boning so the curl went inwards instead and pushed them to the tops of the channels so that all the excess curled around my legs instead. I left more of the full-body picture in the back version so you can see how short this thing is! I added all the extra to the bottom since I have a petite bust point, and the corset supports the ladies well enough that I didn't feel it necessary to raise the back. I also have it sitting a little low here; after taking these pics, I hiked it a bit higher and found it more comfortable, but of course I forgot to take a picture of that too.

Now, I want to talk about the side profile:

I drew in a couple lines to help show it better. The top, short line is the side seam of my camisole (more or less at the side of my body). The longer line is the rather dramatic curve of the side seam. It sits right at my side around the chest, and as it gets to my waist and belly, it pulls far forward. You can also see how the point of the corset sits nowhere CLOSE to my body (thanks, family genetics!), but this should be fine for sitting down. I tested it at this stage, sitting down on the couch. The point goes into the gap at the top of my lap and it shouldn't dig into my legs at any point. I also want to attempt to force the busk to curl a bit more inwards, but since I installed this upside down, I didn't attempt it. I neglected to take pictures of the second fitting but I added a triangular insert at the side, with the straighter side of the triangle facing the back so that the "meat" of the triangle was at the front. That helped with some of the wrinkling at the waist, which I think will be further alleviated with a better material.

I was really excited to try out cable ties as a boning alternative, but I'm not convinced that THESE cable ties are the right ones. The first set I bought came in a straight package so they weren't all curly, but those weren't available when I bought the new ones. I think I definitely want to put steel in at the lacing so maybe some curly bones wouldn't be so bad in the non-essential seams? Or maybe try the store with the non-coiled ties again and get more? I have some time to ponder that, as getting steel bones will require either ordering some (early May at best), or raiding them out of the Corset Story corset (potential length issues).

Next up: The real corset!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Adventures in: Corsetry (A Personal History)

Corsetry is something I have always struggled with. The very first time I attempted a real historical outfit (waaaaaaaay back in 2003), I hadn't quite latched on to the notion that one needs proper undergarments. I did make a half-hearted attempt at it, buying a modern waist cincher from a lingerie store, full of spandex and plastic boning. This was also at a time when I thought $2/m broadcloth was a perfectly acceptable fabric to use as an outer layer. The only day I wore it out it was freeze-your-Winnebago cold, and no pictures exist of it that I'm aware of. I think I am glad!

A year or two later, I started making my first real corset. I made it more to say I did. I used the now-out-of-print Simplicity 7215, a gusseted corset. I would not recommend this type of corset for a beginner. I started making it with some mystery polyester, but ended up having to put it on hold for a long time until I could get a busk and boning and other sundries. It was 2005 or so when I finally was able to order a kit from Farthingales with the pieces I needed. I watched a lot of football (Canadian football runs until the end of November). I was very glad I lived in a basement apartment with a concrete floor. I cut myself very badly getting the roll of boning open. I had to stretch my finger for months before I got full movement back, and I also have a cool scar :D


I was pleased with the result - I made a corset! BOOYAH! It never fit me well. You can see here, the front right gusset is too wide, and I always had a large, somewhat uneven gap. I wore it once in 2006 and then I did not wear it again until 2009. By then, I had gained 30-40 pounds. My gap was even larger and more uneven. The front gusset was still too large. I might have been able to make it work except that the outfit I was wearing was also one I had made 30-40lbs ago, and I had no time to make a new one, so I had to make it work. I wore the corset for about 8 hours and then absolutely could not wear it a moment longer. I had deep welts in my skin for several hours afterwards.


2009. Blurry but you can see how bad my gap is and how poorly it fits!

After that, I purchased a corset from Kitty & Felix, which was too long (it digs into the tops of my legs), and one from Corset Story (bought to waist measurements, and had to alter the bust, but it fits me poorly in other areas too). Neither was ideal in terms of fit, though both are very well-made. I bought a waist cincher from Kitty a year later, and as she was fitting me, she told me that my rib cage is sized more like someone 4-5" taller than I am. Since I have to buy long-torso swimwear, this made a lot of sense! Most off-the-rack corsets I see are very hour-glass shaped, which I am not. My best option to find a corset that fits all of my parts is to either to custom order one ($250, minimum), or make it myself. Since $250+ is out of my budget, I guess I have to make it myself.

 photo pinnedcorset_zpsdfcd5d49.jpg
2012. Corset-Story, being held into better fit with pins (fixed in 2013)

I spent some time waffling over a pattern. I was going to use Truly Victorian's pattern because, as a straight-seamed corset, it would be the easiest. But the more I waffled, the more I resisted the idea. My two purchased corsets were straight-seamed, and while I would be able to manipulate the fit better, I always found them uncomfortable. I've mentioned it before, I have a lower back injury, and the straight-seamed corsets always pull around the hips and I feel it in the injury site. The more I thought about it, the more I thought I might have better luck with a gusseted corset. I gave away the pattern I made the blue corset from since it was WAY too small, and it was discontinued some time ago anyway.

Simplicity made a new pattern, 2890, with a gusseted corset. I found a reference to it being the same as 7215, but I don't think that's strictly true. The front hip gusset is a different shape, and the boning pattern is different. I was going to make it for an HSF challenge earlier this year, but that didn't happen. I made the mock-up and discovered it was REALLY short. Like, really really. It didn't even cover my belly. And then I realized that my busk was longer than the pattern! Of course, I put this project off until it was too late to change patterns or do more mock-ups, and ultimately had to put the challenge aside completely.

I was inspired to start working on it last week, and today I started working on the final version. This is getting long so I will finish this story in another post :)

This is mine. ...Right?

Road to Costume College 2018

Gosh, where did the first half of the year go? (I know where, winter was unusually long and dark and cold, and it's effect lasted longer...