Sunday, 29 March 2020

Historical Sew Monthly - Re-Use

Because I had my graduation outfit to complete for the 13th, and I was meant to be going on holiday for a week after the ceremony, I had decided that I needed something quick and simple for the Historical Sew Monthly this month. So I chose February's challenge; Re-Use. This is defined as "Use thrifted materials or old garments or bedlinen to make a new garment. Mend, re-shape or re-trim an existing garment to prolong its life.". This seemed the perfect fit for a job that's been on my to-do list for ages; fixing my 1911 corset.

I made this corset way back in 2012, as part of a sewalong run on the now sadly defunct Bridges on the Body blog. The pattern is taken from Norah Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines.

The completed corset

At the time I didn't know much about corset making. I didn't blog about the making process in much detail, either, so I don't have any clues as to why I chose to have many of the bones ending some way below the top of the boning channels. The diagram in Corsets and Crinolines shows the bones coming to the top of the corset.

Corset pieces and bone placement

The bones end far below the top edge

The effect wasn't obvious when the corset was on the dressform, but when I wore it to photograph my Wiener Werkst├Ątte ensemble, the unboned section buckled and rolled down. It was uncomfortable, messy, and clearly wasn't doing the corset any good.

Initially I planned to take the trim off the upper edge of the corset, cut it down to the tops of the bones, and re-apply the trim. Fortunately, before I could get round to doing this, witness2fashion wrote an excellent series of articles on the changing corseted shape from 1907 to 1914 (click on the links here for Part 1 - 1907-1910, Part 2 - 1910-1912 and Part 3 - 1912-1914). This was how I discovered that the shape of the corset wasn't the problem, it was the length of the bones.

I carefully took off the binding and trim as planned, unpicked the top flossing, and removed the bones (they were all flat steels).

This shows how the fabric had bunched up

I then measured the boning channels from the bottom flossing, and ordered new steels. Most of them were around 2.5cm / 1" longer. These were inserted and flossed, and the binding and trim sewn back on. In the picture below it's just possible to see the marks where the old bones ended.

The replacement bones in place

Please excuse the poor quality bathroom selfies which follow, and the fact that I'm wearing a tee shirt rather than my chemise underneath. I had foolishly put my tea in the oven once I'd finished sewing, and then realised that this didn't leave me much time to take the photos! Despite the quality, they show that the fit is much better.

Front view

Side view

It was only when I dug out the original images from 2012 for this post that I realised that I've sewn the eyelet trim back on wrongly - the pink satin bias underneath should be visible at the top, not the bottom. So guess what tomorrow's little job is going to be?! Despite that, I'm very pleased to have finally fixed this.

The small print:
The Challenge: February, Re-Use
What the item is: Fixing a poorly-fitting corset by replacing some of the steels which were too short
How it fits the challenge: Left as it was, the corset would wear through due to bunching and rubbing. All the existing trim was re-applied once the corrections had been made
Fabric: Coutil for the corset, synthetic satin for the bias trim
Pattern: 1911 corset from Norah Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines
Year: c1911
Notions: cotton eyelet lace for trimming, flat steels
How historically accurate is it? The pattern is from an actual corset, and the materials are accurate apart from the synthetic satin, so I would say 80%
Hours to complete: 8, a fair amount of which was unpicking. Partly because when I sew something, I don't intend for it to come apart easily, and partly because I was making sure that the materials could be re-used
First worn: Not yet
Total cost: I am only including the cost of the new steels, not the materials for the original corset, as the challenge was to fix it, not make it from scratch. £11.47.

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