Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New 1860's Corset and Chemise

Every time I finish a corset and then put it on, I think to myself that there really isn't anything happier to sew than a corset. It's so thrilling to see how it changes your natural shape and makes you look suitable for a period of history. Corsets and other underwear is what really makes the silhouette. The dresses are just icing on the cake.

Anyway, two years ago I made this grey linen corset. I made it from the popular Simplicity 2890 pattern, from famous corsetiere Kay Gnagey. I made it exactly according to the pattern and purchased a kit from Kay Gnagey that came with the necessary supplies and it came out really nice; I really liked the hip flare since it made my waist look smaller by comparison and the cut of it, with gussets, was extremely comfortable. 

However. As I wore it, the less I liked it. Sure, from the waist down it was great. But the bust support (or lack thereof) became more of a problem. The spiral steels that supported the front bust seemed to collapse a bit; the whole front of the corset seemed to sort of wrinkle downwards and by the end of the day I often took my dress off to discover my bust was happily flopping over the top of the corset and the corset had done nothing to support me at all. 
In this pic from two years ago you can see the problem I am talking about - a very low bustline that, probably, was spilling over the edge of the corset when this picture was taken. 

Last year I was pregnant so I didn't bother making a new corset. This year, though, I really need a new one. I thought I'd go back to the Laughing Moon Dore Corset since it was so good for me in the past. However, the mock ups I made I just didn't like. There just wasn't much shaping. I didn't want to fool with that pattern anymore. I tried the Light French Corset from Corsets and Crinolines and had similar results (maybe the gored pattern shape just isn't good for me anymore? But strictly speaking there really is no difference in finished shape between a gored and a gusseted corset; you can fit a gored corset to fit exactly like a gusseted one.) 

I decided to go back to Simplicity 2890. The hip and waist were perfect already; I just needed to do some major reworking of the bust! In the end, it was a very simple adjustment. I cut up my grey linen corset and traced it anew to get the pattern (since I could not find my old copy of the pattern) and slashed across the midriff area and spread it 1.5". I then added another 3/4" to the top edge of the front of the corset, tapering to the original top edge at the side seams. I ordered a busk 2" longer than the original bust (14" instead of 12") and made up the corset in white cotton twill, double layered, with zip ties for boning. This time, I just put the boning where I thought I'd need it instead of following the original lines of boning on the grey corset. 

I also decreased the width of the bust gussets to give a firmer, tidier line to the bust instead of having big bust cups that let the bosom spill into each armpit! 

And so, the finished result: 

I am SO happy with how it came out. It is just as comfortable as the grey linen corset but it gives really good bust support and I won't have to worry about my bosom flopping out over the top of it! 

The odd thing is, it doesn't really decrease my waist measurement that much. It does, a little. But you can see from the side that the view  from that angle is quite thick. If I put on one of my 1860's dresses I can easily fasten the waistband but putting it on over the corset it just barely hooks. I think this has to do with flesh displacement and the fact that the corset firms up your waist so you can't "squish" it when you are putting something on over it. 

I also made a new chemise from the pattern included in Simplicity 2890. I used a cotton sheet to make it so I think it will last quite a long time. I have needed a new 1860's style chemise for a few years now. My old ones were literally falling apart! Quick thought on the chemise pattern: If you have normal shoulders it will be very off-the-shoulder. I made it up exactly according to the pattern and the yoke was enormously wide. I had to take a tuck at the center back neckline, bringing in the width about 2", to make it fit. Even so, it is still very, very off-the-shoulder. 

Today I think I will start my cage crinoline. I need to play around with the dimensions before actually constructing it but I don't think it should take too long. I'll leave you with this picture of Baby Anne and The Violet. 

Oh, and a thank-you to Judah for all the pictures of the new corset. (he has decided it is fun to take photos for Mommy and then asks for money afterwards. Right now he is happy with 50 cents but I am afraid as the years progress he'll decide his skills are worth more monetary reward.) 



  1. How beautiful! I'm making my first corset right now. I'm kind of nervous about it... I love yours! :)


  2. Wow, I love your detail in how you reworked the pattern to fit your needs. Great job.

  3. Your new corset looks so beautiful. Maybe one of these days I'll try to make one....

    Baby Anne's eyes are SO BLUE. She is incredibly pretty.

    And Judah is an excellent photographer. My husband hates taking pictures, so maybe I can train my little boy to, in a few years :)

  4. Don't you love kids? My step son is constantly asking for monetary benefits for doing things like setting the table or making his bed... my response is "no! that's why you get an allowance" :)

  5. It looks so nice! When I first saw the picture, I knew it had to be the 2890, but it looked weird and long. ^.^ I'm glad you got it to work- hopefully it will do good service. I just finished my corset from it (after many months of hardly doing it). I haven't worn it long, but yes, the bust does seem short, and I raised it a little, too. It just seemed to drop too low.

    Judah takes good pictures. Maybe he'll eventually get real money doing this for other people! Also, Anne's eyes are so amazing! I hope she'll appreciate grass and ground soon. Mightily sad not to.

    Thanks for your various notes- I'm thinking about making the chemise, and have heard it runs large. Agh, Simplicity!

  6. That is a very nice corset!
    I really love the patterns from corsets and crinolines and I would recommend you the 1880 corset from page 81. Thank you for sharing with us, baby Anne is so pretty!

  7. My Kay pattern corset did the same thing. I really like it and it's pretty but I wish I somehow boned it better at the top part. Let us know how the new one holds up!

  8. Fabulous. I keep looking at that pattern. I've recently started making my first corded short stay. Its been a learning experience but its making me feel braver about trying to make a corset.

  9. I think it looks absolutely lovely. I agree with you on the flesh displacement; that probably has a lot to do with how much you can squish down. Not that you need to. You look thin as a wisp, girl! What have you (not) been eating?? You look fantastic.

    As for gored vs gussets, I think there is something to the preference over one or the other. I tried many gusseted corsets and have never truly been happy with any of them, even if they gave me basically the same shape as a gored one. I did like how gusseted gave me more control in the waist and hip area, but I liked a lot more reduction in waist, and the only way I could get that was the short gored variety, which meant all the flesh had to displace down some.

    Still, one day, I want to try that blue silk gusseted corset in V&A. I really would like to see if I could get that to fit; I feel like it would make my corseting life complete. Haha!

  10. That is really pretty and amazing thanks for sharing it with us,i like it very much,i mostly searching those type of classic posts.

    Crazy Chick Boned Corset

  11. Oh it is delicious! You do such a fantastic job on corsets, and this one is wonderful!


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!