#fail: the 1780’s corset

For those of you who have stayed behind and are not following minkipool.co.za, I have a corsetry related post:

#fail: the 1780’s corset

With this 1780’s pair of stays from Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines I tried something new. I was interested in creating a corset that had the flat-chested cone-shaped top half of a 18th century pair of stays, but the hips of a later Victorian steel boned corset. In short, I wanted something that doesn’t have waist tabs. It was not a success.

Read more here —> and be sure to follow minkipool.co.za for any future corset posts!

#fail: the 1780’s corset

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1911 Corset Sew Along: The Pattern

Remember this?

1911 Corset Sew Along

Well, I have been working on it for the past two months, even though I’ve been a bit lax on the blogging aspect of the whole experience. 

I started with the pattern. Following Jo’s very clear and easy to follow steps, scaling up the pattern to fit my apparently considerably larger than average physique was a breeze.

I added 1 inch to every panel of the pattern  including the hip gores. Although I wasn’t extremely convinced of the need for expanding the hip gores, I was keen to follow Jo’s steps exactly to see if it was any easier/more rational than the way I have been doing it. And the verdict? Most definitely.

I have a way of eyeballing and measuring and  guessing and hand drawing enlargements on a pattern  that works for me and has so far resulted in mostly perfect patterns…but it takes a while and often includes the strangest mistakes. In future I will definitely use Jo’s method first and then deviate as I see fit. The photocopier is my friend.

I used the 1911 longline underbust (“White coutil, trimmed broderie anglaise”) pattern from Corsets & Crinolines by Norah Waugh. The pattern consists of four full length panels and two hip gores. Jo suggested that we add 2 inches at the bottom to make it more consistent with other patterns being used in the Sew Along and because a small corset like this can very easily start to look boxy if width is added without also adding a bit of length.

First attempt at the 1911 longline corset pattern.

First attempt at the pattern. 1 inch has been added to every piece and 2 inches have been added at the bottom all the way around.

After the initial pattern drafting we made a mock-up. The mock-up was initially way to big in hip area, so I took out 1 inch from every hip gore (yes, exactly as much as I put in initially!) and then the mock-up seemed to fit quite perfectly:

Mock-up of the 1911 corset.

Mock-up of the 1911 corset.

After fitting the mock-up the pattern was updated with the changes. I took out the extra inches from the hip gores and redrafted the line of piece 4. The were also some further changes that were purely aesthetic in nature, such as the higher rise on the back 3 panels.

Second attempt at the 1911 longline corset pattern.

Second attempt at the pattern.

Analysis of the second attempt at the 1911 corset pattern

Next up: the beautifully evil fabric from hell (although of course I didn’t know it at the time…)

Corset of the Month: Black & Yellow

Corset of the month

Welcome to Corset of the Month! From now on I will do a monthly post sharing a corset that caught my eye / inspired me / that I covet.

First up in what I hope will be a long line of wonderful garments, is the Black and Yellow Corset. This is in no small part to honour my current obsession with black and yellow…

Back corset with yellow flossing and yellow lace. Yellow stitching between the cording over the bust. Straight busk.
This particular corset comes from Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques by Jill Salen and dates from 1890-1900. The corset is made from black sateen with yellow flossing (the embroidery that stops the bones from tearing through the fabric). There is more yellow embroidery under the horizontal cording over the the bust and the garment is rounded off with a black and yellow lace trim on the the top edge. The bones are encased in surface bone casing (the casing is sewn onto the surface of the corset, as opposed to sitting between the layers or in the seams) and it has a straight split-busk fastening. The corset has extra bones with the busk to strengthen it and prevent the busk from breaking under the strain of bending over during chores. This may mean that corset was constructed for a working woman rather than a lady of leisure.

A very similar corset appears in Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh and it is said to date from the late 1880’s.

Black corset with yellow flossing. Cording over bust and yellow and black lace trim. Spoon busk fastening.
This corset is made out of black coutil and also features yellow arrowhead flossing at the top and bottom to keep the bones in place. There is also horizontal cording over the bust (with yellow stitching in between) and a black lace with yellow ribbon trim along the top edge of the garment. The most pronounced difference between this corset and the one from Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques by Jill Salen is that it has a curved spoon busk fastening instead of a straight busk. The other marked difference is in the pattern: this corset’s pattern has only ten panels while the previous one has twelve.

Other sightings:

Lacing Yourself Into a Corset video by Lace Embrace.


This video features another version of the black and yellow corset. The video is somewhat blurry, but from what I can tell this corset is also black with the same yellow arrowhead flossing at the top and the bottom to hold the bones in place. There is no yellow trimming along the top edge, but the top of the busk is adorned with a yellow bow. Make sure you watch to the very end: this is a VERY good and informative video on how to lace a corset yourself. It seems obvious, but if you don’t follow these simple steps you might get yourself tied in a knot that you can’t get out of. And I’m speaking from experience here…

The Shweshwe Corset Part 2: The Pattern

The pattern I decided on for this particular corset was  for a pair of half boned stays from Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines. As this is my first pair of stays or 18th century corsets that I attempt with something as conventional as a sewing machine (no cardboard this time!) the simplicity of the pattern appealed to me. I also really liked the delicate structural pattern of the bones. The direction of the boning in a corset like this is very important since it is only half boned, and a lot of the shape of the garment is dictated by the careful placing of bones.

Pattern for Half boned stays from Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh.

Pattern of stays from Diderot's L'Encyclopedie, "Tailleur de Corps". It is a half-boned stay, cut from six pieces only, the shaping being given by the direction of the bones. It would have the extra busk and the shaping bones across the front and across the shoulder blades. It might also be fully boned.

This corset closes at the back, but since I do not have several ladies to dress me, it made sense to devise a front closure so I could lace myself into the corset. Lacing into a corset with double lacing and the convenient looped “rabbit ear” laces is easy, but lacing yourself into the rigid boned stays of the 18th century would be impossible unless the closes in the the front. I also decided to add a separate stomacher, so as to allow me more freedom with regards to how tight I want to lace it and how much weight I plan to gain/lose in the next few years. In this way the corset would lace in the front over a stomacher that would show through the laces. For an example of what I have in mind, see the lovely corset in the image below. I’m also quite interested by the that seemed to have bits of fabric sewed between them to keep them from flaring open too far. This is something used in the Cardboard Corset to prevent the cardboard tabs from sticking out to far, and I might keep it in mind for use in the Shweshwe corset too.

Front lacing stays with stomacher from the Manchester Art Gallery

Front lacing stays with stomacher from the Manchester Art Gallery

On to the pattern. Since I had decided to lace it open in the front as well as leave a considerable gap between the two front panels (to allow for the stomacher) I ended up drawing the pattern completely wrong. I didn’t take into account that by opening the front up (and therefore making the panels slightly less wide , the shoulder tabs would move to the sides and sit under my arms. On the panel below you can see how far back the shoulder tabs are. If that corset was to lace shut in the front, the tabs would be fine, but as I intended the fronts to reach no further than the point of the breasts, the tabs were in completely the wrong place.

Initial front panel of the Shweshwe corset pattern.

Initial front panel, without the tabs at the waist.

So I redrew the front panel and moved the shoulder tabs forward. The now look like they are going to cover the breasts, but actually that are still running quite wide over the shoulders. Another change I made was to add several inches to the waistline of the corset, as the waist part of this corset was definitely too small for me. Over the centuries our waists have been steadily increasing in size while our breasts remained more or less the same. I cannot find the corresponding article online to substantiate these wild claims of mine, because the internet seems to be inundated with tedious accounts of how obesity is evil. This waist widening has nothing to do with obesity, however, and  it would seem from non-obesity related research that the female waist has been steadily disappearing for one reason or another. Hence the extra needed inches at the waist of this corset.

Final front panel of the Shweshwe corset pattern.

Final front panel, with the tabs at the waist. The shoulder tabs have been moved forward to accommodate the open front closure.

The back panel of the corset was relatively fuss free and easy to measure out. By and by I might mention that my mother (an old hand in sewing) said that the only reason I’m doing this with relative success and optimism so far is that I don’t know what I’m letting myself in for! The luck of the ignorant!

Back panel of the Shweshwe corset pattern.

The back panel.

The shoulder panel was by far the easiest, most boring and incidentally also the one that I find hardest to make work with the rest of the design (as it keeps flapping off to the side whenever I sew the corset).

The shoulder strap of the Shweshwe corset.

The shoulder strap.

On to the layers of fabric –>