Sunday, 23 August 2020

Historical Sew Monthly - Go Green Glow-Up - part 2

Well, that took far longer than intended. Once I had completed the mock-up for my 1874 ensemble corset (you can read about that here) I ordered the fabric and other supplies - and then got completely distracted by scrubs, summer dresses, masks, and life in general. But it is now, finally, finished.

I had bought a metre of coutil, but because the supplier was running low on stock at the time, this consisted of a piece of spot broche and a piece of plain sateen coutil in the same colour. My initial plan was to use both, but I found that with careful positioning I could cut the entire thing from the sateen, so saved the broche for another project. The sateen piece was slightly on the diagonal, so I had to cut everything from a single layer, although given the need for accurate cutting I might have done this anyway. The trickiest party was making sure that I remembered to reverse all the pieces!

Everything squeezed in

I had kept the filleted shell of the purple corset to use as a reference. This turned out to be a good move because I found the pattern instructions a bit scant in places, especially as I was making a single-layer corset rather than a lined one.

I had forgotten just how long making a corset takes; the boning channels in particular seemed to go on forever. On the plus side, the eyelet-setting pliers I had bought some time ago but never used turned out to be a great improvement on the setting tool and hammer which I had used before.

Eventually I had a completed corset shell with boning channels, and tried it on.

Clearly, I am hopeless at corset-sizing. My 1911 corset came up too small, and I had to set in an extra strip of coutil down each side. This time I went the opposite way. Despite the fact that the mock-up fitted with a perfect lacing gap, the actual corset did not. Either I have lost a huge amount of weight since early April (highly improbable, given my enthusiastic 'support' of my favourite local café once it started doing cake takeaways!), or something went very wrong in the construction. Whatever the reason, I also discovered the hard way that it is really, really difficult to loosen off the laces of a fully-closed corset!

Spot the problem

Once I had finally extricated myself, I had to consider how best to remove an inch from either side of the corset. Taking the excess out of the back panels seemed like the best approach. They are large pieces and the widest unboned area of the corset, and I could reduce them without cutting and restitching the waist stay, which I didn't want to do. I unpicked the ends of the waist stay from the lacing strips, opened the seam between the back pieces and the rest of the corset, reduced the back panel, redid the seam and boning channel, and reattached the shortened waist stay.

I must say that the inside of the corset looks far neater than the inside of its predecessor.

Everything neatly finished in the right order this time

I bound the edges with purchased satin bias binding in silver grey. The original corset wasn't flossed at all; it relied on the bones being the same length as the channels and held in place by the binding. This time, in line with the instructions, the bones were shorter - and in the interim I had learned about the existence of flossing! I followed the basic instructions in Jill Salen's Corsets: Historical Patterns and Techniques, and used stashed cotton perlé thread as recommended by Julia Bremble of Sew Curvy. The bottom ends were done in cream thread to stand out, and the top ends in grey to blend in.

The corset bound and flossed

For the trim I used some vintage lace from my stash, positioned so that the grey binding just showed through the first row of the net ground. Then I finished off the top edge with a cream binding to match the lace.

Lace detail

The end result is quite a plain corset, but that is what I was aiming for. I wanted something that would look like a Victorian woman's 'everyday' corset, rather than something very ornate.

Worn over my chemise

Now with a proper lacing gap

I used the Laughing Moon pattern because I already owned it, and had some experience of making it up. However this review suggests that it is rather 'cylindrical', around the torso, and looking at the end result, I'm inclined to agree. Possibly the overbust shape gave an impression of greater fullness, but despite the fact that I have gone up a cup size since I made the purple corset, somehow my bust looks flatter in this one.

Side view, not a great shape

However in terms of what the challenge is meant to achieve, I'm very happy with it. The brief is to, "Be environmentally friendly and celebrate how your making skills have 'glowed-up' as you've used and practiced them by taking apart an early make of yours that no-longer represents your making skills, and re-making it so you’d be proud to use it.", and I certainly feel that it fits that bill. This is only the third corset I have made, and the first without any input from a tutor - either online or in person - and it terms of historical clothing it feels a world away from the purple satin corset. It is also something I will actually wear, which the purple corset was not, so that has to be an improvement.

Comparing the two

The small print:
The Challenge: November, Go Green Glow-Up
What the item is: 1874 corset
How it fits the challenge: Made by dismantling a non-HA overbust corset I made previously, and re-using as many elements as possible
Material: Sateen coutil
Pattern: Laughing Moon #100, Dore corset
Year: 1837-1899
Notions: Metal busk, bones and eyelets, cotton waist and bone tape, cotton corset lacing, purchased binding and vintage lace for trim, cotton perlé for flossing
How historically accurate is it? The pattern claims to be accurate for the period, but the binding includes synthetic fibres and the lace is vintage rather than antique, so I'd say 85%
Hours to complete: As they were spread out over more than four months, I lost count
First worn: Only for photographing
Total cost: Because of the nature of the challenge I have only included the items I bought/used from stash, not those salvaged from the original corset. These were: coutil £12, waist and bone tapes £3.13, new shorter bones for the front £1.72, eyelets and lacing £7.93 (the old lacing cord was usable but the wrong colour, so has gone to stash) binding and trimming £5.07. Total £29.85.

The effect on the stash

Next step, the bustle cage!