Monday, August 31, 2015

Corset Pictures

I got a chance to try everything on today and so far, so good. I can see now a few issues with the corset but it's nothing to get too upset over. Mainly the bust is a bit too tight but since I'm still breastfeeding I think that once the baby is weaned the corset will fit better. As any nursing mom can attest to, bust size is a variable thing from day to day, hour to hour and even minute to minute! ;)

Chemise fits well as does the drawers. The cording in the corset looks cool, but otherwise I don't think it changes the fit very much. It definitely makes the corset feel more firm but doesn't contribute to shaping. Of course, I expected that. 

The back has a pretty good gap. Not totally even but I can work on that more when I have more time to properly dress myself. With the layers of drawers and chemise under it, the hip visually looks better. 

I bought some hair to make a hairpiece. There was quite a lot of it. . .I'm still not sure how to style it exactly, but the match is nearly perfect! 

A closer detail of the corset. This corset is darned hard to photograph since it is such a light color. 

And so, that is that. On to the dress, next, I suppose. And a regency corset, because that is perhaps even more important than a dress. At least, it is equally important!

September is tomorrow. My favorite month of the year; so passes summer. 


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Sewing

My jolly little boy and I had a peanut butter and jelly picnic and while he rejoiced in plucking clover blossoms and finding interesting sticks and rocks I finished up a little sewing and we enjoyed the beautiful afternoon together. Can I just say how awesome this August has been?! Lovely days with nights just warm enough to leave the windows open while being cool enough to snuggle under several blankets. It has been like having an early autumn. I have not missed the muggy smothering heat of past summers one bit. Although, my tomato plants died prematurely and bore very little fruit. Sad.

So what did I finish this week? Well, my chemise and yes, YES, I DID finish my drawers! Haha, not too much to get excited about but yeah - go me! Once I put new steels into my hooped petticoat, I will be all set to start a dress. 

The last time I made new drawers my son Judah was a baby. That's like, eight years ago. I was long overdue for a new pair. I had a better idea this time of what I wanted them to look like and how I wanted them to fit (my last pairs were quite long, and the leg rather slim. They worked, but didn't look quite right).

I drew inspiration for my drawers from these two original pairs from the Met Museum

The first pair most closely represent the loose, baggy, shorter fit I wanted. I didn't have any pretty lace to put on the hem, but I did make a scalloped edge ruffle for each leg. And a few tiny tucks. 

Like most drawers of this period (and at this time, drawers were still optional. I like them because they prevent thigh chafe, which is a highly uncomfortable and debilitating condition) the center seam is left open. I finished the edges with a facing and the two sides are overlapped at the waist to provide modesty when worn. The basic practicality of this design is to provide convenience when using the bathroom.

They close at the back with two buttons. 

The rear is quite baggy and loose, and longer than the front. 

I did try these on and the fit is exactly what I want, so I'm happy!! This is the fabric I plan to use for my dress. 

I really do love this fabric. It is a pretty, almost neutral pink with bold stripes. The stripes really pop yet the overall effect isn't very obnoxiously loud. I don't have a lot of yardage but there is enough to make a decent work dress worn with small hoops and it can be dressed up with simple accessories for more formal occasions, like a church service. I'm excited to make it! 


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

1860's Chemise

I started sewing my chemise together last night and before I knew it I was almost done! I finished off the little bit I had left to do today and took some pictures. It was a quick and simple project but it left me feeling happy.

This chemise is really basic in construction. Many chemises of this era had underarm gussets but raglan-style sleeves are also an option. I went with that for this one, using the original chemise pictured below as inspiration:
Original chemise from eBay
I cut two one yard length panels from my fabric for the front and back. I cut a slight scoop for the neckline and slanted edges to attach the sleeves. The sleeves were pieced since I was using a rather small bit of material and didn't want to cut into new yardage, but the piecing isn't terribly noticeable. Plus, piecing is period. ;) The neck band and sleeve bands are just straight grain strips of fabric. 

This was my first chemise ever with puffed sleeves. I don't like puff sleeves since I've always been kind of self conscious about my arms and I feel like puffs just add bulk where I don't necessarily want it. But it's a very common feature of chemises of this era and since the original I was taking inspiration from had puffed sleeves I decided to try them this time.

Mrs. Clarks free chemise pattern is really similar to mine (and in fact is the pattern I used when I first started out!) I used that basic construction method but added a facing to the seams between the chemise and sleeves as per the original chemise pictured above. This facing makes a lot of sense, since that area will have the most friction and will wear out the fastest. The facing strengthens that area and helps keep it intact for a lot longer!
Inside the sleeve you can see the facing stitched down.
Here is an outside view of the sleeve and the facing: 

I added a bit of vintage lace to the neckline and sleeves. I've had it for a while and it seemed to be just the thing to dress up an otherwise very plain garment. I'm not sure if the lace pattern is totally period correct but I'm happy with it!

I mostly sewed it on the machine. The little bit of hand finishing I had to do was slip stitching the inside bands down over the seam allowance. 


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How Should An 1860's Corset Fit

Well, I finally got corset strings. I ended up finding some 100% strong cotton cord in, of all places, the jewelry section at Jo Anns. It's a little bulkier than what I'd like (kinda the same thickness as shoelaces, which, I admit with shame, I have used in the past) but it will work for now and saves me the cost of shipping. And so, I tried on my corset!

Excuse the truly horrible picture. I promise I'll get nice ones when my other undermost garments are done! I tried it on over a thin t shirt and a skirt since my chemise isn't done yet. (But it's cut out. And ready to be sewn.) It fits a bit differently than I expected. Last time I made this corset it fit quite well all over. It still fits well through the waist and bust but the hips for some reason came out very loose. Since two more babies have made their appearance since my last version of this corset I was not expecting this slightly odd predicament. If anything I expected the corset to fit a big snugger. Now I gotta decide if I ought to fix this problem or live with it.

So, how did corsets fit in the 1860's? Were the hips loose? Did they skim the body? Of course, hips that are fit too tightly are not ideal, since that kind of fitting can force the corset to shift upwards when the wearer is seated.

I found this 1859 image from the Hope Greenberg Website that shows a corset that is undoubtedly loose over the hips.
This image depicts a corset from 1862. This was pinned to Iconographique's board on pinterest and I do not have an original reference to link it back to.

It shows a corset very flared at the hips and the shape is very similar to mine. However, without it being illustrated on a body it is impossible to know exactly how this was meant to fit. 

The following illustration can be found, along with others, at Costume Fashion History. It shows a very flared hip, that appears loose if one looks at the shadow the edge seems to cast on the skirts. 

However, these are illustrations of corsets on an ideal figure of the time - not a true representation, per se, of how corsets fit a real, live woman of the era. 

What little time I've had to search for images of real women wearing corsets has turned up nothing. And not terribly surprisingly - it likely was not common that women would have posed for a photograph in such a state of undress. Even "adult" images from this period don't turn up any good visual clues as to the fit of a corset. Darn.

I don't particularly want to have to take in my corset. It fits well every where else. I guess the only way to know if it works for me is to wear it around the house for a while. The only problem I can foresee is chafing, if the hips are loose enough to cause friction between the skin and the chemise. Otherwise, the hips will be unseen anyway beneath the layers of petticoats, skirts and a cage. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

New Corset is Finished!

Yesterday I finally finished this thing. It is definitely the longest any corset has ever taken to make. But I was able to work on it just a little at a time and think about my next step before moving on, so that was kind of a new experience since in the past I've been more of a speed sewer. I'm really happy with how it came out, except - I haven't been able to try it on yet!

I need to get corset laces. In the past I've used shoelaces or twill tape or cording-of-uncertain-fiber-content from Jo Anns. For this one I really want to have the proper cotton laces. I haven't gotten around to ordering them yet so I need to do that. In the meantime I need to make a new chemise and drawers. Maybe I'll get that done this week but I don't want to be too ambitious. 

I ended up doing minimal cording on the back. Just a bit around the hip gusset and then some slanty lines across the middle of the back. To be honest I became a bit bored with it and was eager to hurry up and get these done so I can start on my next corset, which will be early 19th century corded stays. I watched many episodes of M*A*S*H*, Mr. Belvedere and Three's Company while doing all the handwork, including the eyelets. 

This last photo is of the inside. It looks pretty much the same as the outside, except for the where the lining is stitched to the gussets. 

Thought about adding lace to the top edge but decided nah. I like the way they are plain. I hope (hope) to be able to participate the Historical Sew Monthly for next month which I believe is themed "Brown". I have some fabric for a simple working appropriate dress that I'd like to make to wear over this corset! (Pink with brown stripes. It delights me.) 

OK. Off to order corset strings. 


Monday, August 10, 2015

Finishing the Corset Shell

I am plodding along at a semi-consistent pace with this corset. I keep telling myself that I need this in two months PLUS EVERYTHING THAT GOES OVER IT, but for some reason I don't feel that panicky must-get-this-done-NOW feeling I used to get when I had a lot to do before an event. Good I guess? But it's not helping increase my productivity. Alas.

Here's where I am now. I have the back sewn to the front, the back edges finished and most of the boning channels sewn. I have the cording channels sewn and corded on the front but not on the back. 

After sewing the front corset I stitched in the boning channels and then the cording channels. This was frustrating. For some reason it was impossible to get the cording channels on both sides symmetrical. I had to end up ripping out the many little seams on one side and resewing all the cording channels after measuring the ones on the other side. I hated that, I felt like I had wasted so much time! At last however the deed was accomplished and I ended up with this: 

The back was really simple to do. I pressed under the back hip gusset opening seam allowances and pinned the gusset on, just like the front:

The hip gusset sewn in.

Next was to sew the back corset pieces to the front. You can sew this seam by doing a flat felled seam but I like to do it the way I show here, since it saves on time and looks very tidy. First, take your back lining piece and lay it down, right side up: 

Then lay the front piece, right side up, on top of the lining piece, matching side seam. 

Then lay the corset back right side DOWN, on top of the corset front, matching side seams:

So you are left with 3 layers, all matched at the side seam. Pin this seam: 

Sew it: 

Trim it: 

Then fold the back corset and back corset lining out. This completely covers the seam. Press well. 

To finish the back edges, turn the seam allowances in towards each other and press and pin: 

Both sides pinned: 

Stitch very close to the fold. I then sewed a channel for a bone right along the edge. This will support the eyelets. 

To finish the hip gusset, press under the seam allowance on the back lining and pin into place, covering the seam allowance of the gusset and slip stitch into place, the same as the front gussets.  

After this, the depressing thing happened that I ran out of thread. Darn! I won't be able to get to the store til tomorrow or the next day to buy more, so I decided to while away the afternoon by inserting the cording in the front. To do so, I used a pointy upholstery needle big enough to thread my cording through (the peaches n' cream variety). Work the upholstery needle through the channel:
All of my channels ended where crossed by another seam, so I had the pointy end of the needle emerge just before the end of the channel, on the lining side of the corset. 
The little holes left by the needle close up very well when steamed!

Pull the needle through.

Clip off close to the end. Leave a little bit of the tuft hanging out. When you stretch the fabric over the cording channel ever so slightly, the tuft will pop back into the hole. 

And here is the first side of the corset corded. I still will need to sew and cord the back cording channels when I get more thread. 

I really like the texture and visual interest the cording adds. I just hope it all works - one never knows with a corset, until its all done and tried on! As of now I have both front sides corded. I may start working the eyelets soon. Generally corsets of this era use metal grommets but I don't have a good grommet setter and find eyelets much much easier to work than setting rommets and just as sturdy. 

Here are my little helpers! One was just falling asleep as the other was waking up. I thought I'd have some time when both were sleeping but it seems fate did not agree. ;)