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?

1 comment:

  1. Ouch! You have certainly suffered for your art.
    I haven't even dared thinking about making my own corset, so it's interesting to read others experiences. If I ever do attempt one (unlikely) I will remember your suggestion about not doing a gusset style for the first - a very good tip


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