Otherwise entitled, In Which I Post Pictures of Underwear on a Public Blog, Thereby Scandalizing the Good Ladies of Cranford and Corrupting the Eyes of All Children Present.
So, backstory. (Yes. I do backstory.) I have an event coming up this fall (NOTE added in June 2017: that event was the Jane Austen Society of North America's Annual General Meeting and it was swellissimus) that requires at least one new dress, if not two, in a Regency style. So what do I do? I decide that I would also like to have new underpinnings and a new dress for Civil War reenacting.
Because I am, clearly, out of my mind.
Cue the Laughing Moon Silverado corset. (I tried the Simplicity corset pattern a couple of years ago. UGH. Do not recommend.) I did my research, read the reviews, sifted through sewing blogs that talked about Victorian undergarments. The clock started ticking, and I started sewing.
First came the busk. You can't pick up a busk in a fabric or craft store. I went to www.corsetmaking.com for this one. Here it is, sewn into the mockup pieces, draped artfully across the ironing board.
You absolutely have to make a mockup for a corset. I am generally lazy and do not wish to do the mockup step with a new pattern. For a corset, though, it's essential. As seen below.
Yeahhhhh, Laughing Moon patterns run large, turns out. So I went down a size and actually followed the directions for 5/8ths-inch seam allowance instead of my usual skinflint 1/4-inch. Much better.
Here it is pinned onto my trusty Mademoiselle. Note the pins because Mademoiselle isn't quite humanly shaped and doesn't have the same... give and take that the actual Me is in possession of. So the pins kept the mockup on Mam'selle for the picture.
The pattern book (yes, it's actually a book, not just a sheet of instructions- VERY thorough) suggested flatlining fashion fabric to a sturdier background for a little more support, so I took that advice and sewed a lightweight striped cotton to a patterned cream quilting calico. I didn't have anything heavy like twill on hand and wanted to make this on a budget, so it was a good solution.
Close-up of the backing fabric. This got sandwiched between the outer fabric and the lining in the completed version, so that was my last glimpse of it. Farewell, white flowers on a cream background. You were cute, but not long for this world. Hope you enjoy the rest of your life being purely functional with no decorative capacity.
Once a few of the regular pieces were together, it was time to put in the bust gussets. These are sewn normally with right sides together and then topstitched for additional reinforcement. Yes, this was the fourth attempt. It finally turned out all right. :P (Plain white fabric in the photo above is the lining. I didn't bother taking photos of both the lining and outer layer, as the construction is exactly the same.)
A longer shot of the middle busk piece as well as the side gussets. This was the part that involved a lot of Fitting and Fussing and Fidgeting. Eventually I just took a deep breath, made a wish, counted to three, and left it as it was, because it looked like it fit but I knew I was never going to be quite sure until the boning was in and the whole thing was laced up. (And THAT, children, is called FORESHADOWING. Duhn duhn duhn.)
And speaking of lacing, it was time to make EYELETS. The pattern suggest expensive metal grommets that you punch through the fabric with an expensive grommet awl thingy. Why do that when you can have hand-sewn eyelets (period correct, to boot!) for a teensy fraction of the price? The only cost? YOUR SANITY. And fingertips repeatedly stabbed by the back end of a heavy duty needle. (Not delightful.) And several episodes of Call the Midwife, except that part was most definitely not a bad thing.
Close-up of the eyelets. Difficult and painstaking (and pain-inflicting) as they may be, they do look pretty doggone good, and produce a feeling of accomplishment. I MADE DAT.
Okay, and then I didn't take any pictures for a while because I was too busy doing the actual construction. Oops. While this is conducive to making a garment, it is not terribly conducive to writing a blog post ten months after the fact.
But anyway, once I'd put the main structural pieces together (that is, all pieces except the two back ends, which had been sewn together - fashion fabric and lining - and then had the eyelets put in), I added bias tape along the natural waist line for additional reinforcement. Since the waist is the portion of the corset that takes the most stress, the Laughing Moon pattern advocates the addition of waist tape to take some of the tug-and-pull off of the fashion fabric. This tape is "stitched in the ditch" of the lining fabric seams. If you're not familiar with that term (I find it a rather fun one :D), it means that you hand-stitch the fabric in place in the tiny line between seams, so that it doesn't show on the outside. It's almost like interlocking pieces of a chain, weaving the new thread in and out and around the original stitches holding the (perpendicular) original fabric together.
That probably makes no sense but maybe a picture will help.
As you may be able to tell if you squint at the below image hard enough, no stitching shows through on the right side of the corset.
I bound the bottom edge of the corset with the same white bias tape. Um, this would probably be a good place to admit that it's not 100% cotton. This is a historical accuracy FAIL. And yes, I didn't have to actually tell you that. I could have just kept it to myself and probably most of you would have been none the wiser, BUUUUUUUT, for the sake of anyone who might be reading this and would know the difference, I felt I ought to 'fess up. I am a cheapskate and this was some kind of rayon/nylon blend of whatever was on sale at JoAnn Fabrics. Please hold the witch-burning until the end of the post. Thank you.
Accurate or not, it served its purpose. I stitched the right sides of the tape and the corset together along the top and bottom raw edges, flipped the tape around so it gripped the edge, and slip-stitched it to the wrong side. See, it ended up giving a very nice finished look to the bottom and top of the corset! Notice my uneven hand stitching along the inner edge of the busk. *high-fives self* Ma Ingalls would be mortified.
And behold, the garment was complete, and was laid out on a summer-weight patchwork quilt because that looked like a vaguely old-fashioned background, despite the fact that said quilt had come from Bed, Bath and Beyond in 2004. But anyway.
And behold, the garment was furthermore placed upon a dressmaker's form, and then taken off and put on again, this time over a still-unfinished chemise so it would look better. (This photo was taken in September. The chemise has since been finished and worn many times.)
Looking at the corset ten months later (ouch, okay, I should have completed this post a LOOOOONG time ago), I can see a lot of things I would change. The top is not quite as even as it could be. The waist-to-hip flare ratio could be better. (After a long day of wearing it, if I've laced it sufficiently tightly in the back, the right side begins to dig into my hip somewhat.) It creates more of a straight-up-and-down silhouette than the hourglass figure coveted for the 1860's (although it helps TREMENDOUSLY with achieving the proper historical silhouette when compared with modern undergarments - seriously, a comparison is almost ridiculous because wearing a corset makes a huge difference in fit, feel, and appearance for historical garments).
I lost some weight between making the corset and now, and since these photos were taken I've added a narrow edging of lace along the top for prettiness, taken up the inside edge of the top bias tape and run a ribbon underneath it before tacking it back down again, so that I can slightly gather the top and pull it in tighter along the bust line. Because nothing looks more ill-fitting than a corset gapping forward at the top and creating a pocket underneath your dress. Nopety nope to the nope. (I would include a photo of the corset on me to illustrate, but.... it's underwear and I feel skeevy about putting that on a public blog. Photos on Mademoiselle, my dummy, are one thing. Photos of me in 1860's unmentionables are another. Y'all ought to be grateful I'm even letting you see any part of this scandalousness in my sewing room.)
All in all, though, I'm happy with how this project turned out. Is it perfect? No. Was it fun to make? Yes. Is it reasonably historically accurate? Yes. Is it functional for its intended purpose? Yes. Well, then, there you have it. (Will I make another corset somewhere down the road, one that maybe fits better and is more historically accurate and possibly purtier? Well, yeah, probably, but that'll be another post for another time.)
So! What are you sewing these days? (If you sew, that is. If not, tell me a good joke so as to have something to say in the comments.)