Ribbon Corsets: Ideas Magazine competition entry

So it’s been a while…

Anyway, moving right on, here are my competition entries for the Ideas Magazine’s 2012 be creative or whatever competition. I didn’t win (heck, I wasn’t even a finalist….nor did I receive so much as a “thank you for trying, we have received your entry” acknowledgement), so I’ll post it here for other people to see.

Blue and cream satin ribbon corset

I adapted the pattern I have previously used from Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques by Jill Salen and made some pictures of the steps I followed:

Step 2 of the ribbon corset: Cutting out the pieces.

Step 2: Cutting out the pieces.


Step 3 of the ribbon corset: pinning it all together.

Step 3: pinning it all together.


Step 4 of the ribbon corset: Sewing it all up.

Step 4: Sewing it all up.


Step 5 of the ribbon corset: Insert the boning.

Step 5: Insert the boning. I used cable ties because the original version contains whalebone, which is closer to cable ties than to steel. Steel bones also make the line of the waist look straighter and less voluptuous.


Step 6 of the ribbon corset: Inserting eyelets and laces.

Step 6: Inserting eyelets and laces.

Being very ambitious and not at all as lazy as I’ve been all year after I finished this project, I did a whole ‘nother ribbon corset for good measure! I didn’t chronicle the process, but here are some pictures of the finished product:

Pink and red satin ribbon corset

Pink and red satin ribbon corset


Ribbon Corset: Take 1

So I’ve been pottering around with/obsessing endlessly over ribbon corsets for a while now. They seem simple enough, but there are funny structural things going on especially in the pattern I used from Jill Salen’s Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques. This first one I made was made on the exact assumption seen here, namely that the ribbon pieces can be laid out flat together to form a single front and a back panel. This technique works well enough, but on my second attempt (yes, there is a Take 2) it turns out that if the pattern and the overlaps are followed exactly, the panels can’t lie flat. It appears that the ribbons are supposed to curve in such a way that it is moulded around the body, rather than a flat piece that takes all its shape from the curves where the pieces come together. This would also make for a tighter cinch like the one seen in the picture in Salen’s book.  But more on that later. For now, here is my first attempt at the 1900 ribbon corset!

Purple satin ribbon corset with black lace trimmings.

The cinch from the front is not as dramatic as it can be. There is also some weirdness going on along the bottom edge where the side panels don’t form  a smooth line with the front and the back panel. This is the first sign that something is amiss with my interpretation of this pattern.

I made this corset in a hurry so had no time to order the proper materials like a split busk or even steel bones. Instead I improvised by making the corset with a closed front, and  used – wait for it – hacksaw blades to fortify the busk.

Hacksaw Blades

They were the right shape and size, exactly as bendy as spring steels and were lying round the house in great abundance…so I cleaned them and wrapped them in masking tape and voila! A corset that can saw a man in half!

Purple satin ribbon corset with black lace trimmings.

I like this picture. The curve of the back is quite dramatic and any awkward flab displacement is kept to a minimum…or else masked by my makeshift chemise/top.

Purple satin ribbon corset.

Now here is some more weirdness worth mentioning: I left the ribbons loose top to bottom, but added a lining at the back. This means that any flexibility gained by not joining the ribbons is completely destroyed by the flat and rigid lining, that has, might I add, no shape to it whatsoever. *facepalm* Not my brightest structural move.

Black lace detail on purple satin ribbon corset.

Some pretty detail.

Black lace detail on purple satin ribbon corset.

Some more detail.

All in all, I have to say that I am not very pleased. The shape is weird. The corset has no busk which makes it a pain to put on. The workmanship is shoddy at best and does not hold up to close inspection. It has pieces of hacksaw in it.

Still, I think it will look just dandy if I wear it to Madam Zingara’s Theatre of Dreams next week!

Corset of the Month: Ribbon Corset

Corset of the month
So…I haven’t done this is in a while. Maybe a more accurate description would be “Corset of the every once-in-a-while”, but be that as it may, here is a corset of the month. It is a corset that I have been obsessing over for quite some time, and is quite possibly the reason why there hasn’t been a corset of the month for several months. So without further ado let me introduce the Ribbon Corset!

Silk Ribbon Corset circa 1900 - 1905 from Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques by Jill Salen

This corset appears in Jill Salen’s Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques and is constructed entirely from lengths of pink floral silk ribbon. The ribbon is approximately 5,7 cm (2,25 in) wide 5,5 to 6,5 m (6-7 yards) were used. The side panel houses whale boning and the corset features a metal split busk opening at the front. 

There is some debate as to the accuracy of its representation here: it seems like it has been designed to contort the body extremely, or alternatively, has been pinned back around the unlikely shape of this manikin. I am leaning towards the latter, as the reproductions based on the pattern of this corset doesn’t seem to resemble this picture in any way.

Diagram of Ribbon Corset from Jill Salen's Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques

Diagram of Ribbon Corset from Jill Salen's Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques

The drawing accompanying the corset in Jill Salen’s book. Here it can already be seen that the actual shape of the corset may have been a bit over stylised in the main picture as here the waist is not nearly as small, nor are the sides as high ad smooth. This line drawing seems like a much more accurate representation of a corset that would have fitted a normal human being.

Pattern for the Ribbon Corset fron Jill Salen's Corset: Historical Patterns & Techniques.

Pattern for the Ribbon Corset from Jill Salen's Corset: Historical Patterns & Techniques.

Pattern for the Ribbon Corset from Jill Salen's Corset: Historical Patterns & Techniques.

Pattern for the Ribbon Corset from Jill Salen's Corset: Historical Patterns & Techniques.

From the pattern drawings in Salen’s book it is easy to see how the corset is constructed from ribbon. Regular corsets often have a waist stay (a ribbon running along the waistline across all the panels) for support, so it makes sense to create a corset that takes all it’s strength from the waist stay concept. The ribbons of the ribbon corset run horizontally as opposed  to the panels of a corset that would normally run vertically. Ribbons are at their strongest and most stable if a power is exerted on them in this way, and this ensures that the ribbon corset is in fact quite strong and not susceptible to warping.

Corsets made from this pattern:

Jill Salen's 1900 ribbon corset by Leimomi Oakes aka The Dreamstress

Jill Salen's 1900 ribbon corset by Leimomi Oakes aka The Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes who, as The Dreamstress, fascinates and educates with her wonderful and well-researched historical recreations has created this ribbon corset using the pattern depicted in Salen’s book. You can see her post on the ribbon corset here. There are some very nice pictures of her work, as well as some tips on making a faux-ribbon corset. Be sure to look at everything on this site, as the historical research and workmanship is superb!

Other ribbon corsets:

Black satin tight-lacing ribbon corset by Sidney Eileen

Black satin tight-lacing ribbon corset by Sidney Eileen

This is a tight-lacing variety of the ribbon corset created by Sidney Eileen. As can be seen on the photograph, this corset has a much more pronounced cinch in the waist area, created specifically for tight-lacing. This kind of corset can usually only be worn by tight-lacers who have trained their waists for this severe form of reduction. Many beautiful pictures of Eileen’s corset can  be seen here. She also shares a wonderfully detailed tutorial on how to make this particular corset. Well worth checking out as it covers every single thing that will have to be sewn on this corset. She also shares various other tutorials that cover both very simple techniques as well as much more advanced skills.

Now off to attempt some ribbon corsets of my own…

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…