File this one under “possibly useful to some one, at some time, somehow”: this is a series of pictures of corsets I’ve made over the last several years. Each one shows me standing in profile, next to my dress dummy. This makes the changes in my shape imposed by each corset fairly obvious, and the pictures all together give you a pretty good idea what different types of boning and styles of corset can do for a girl. I feel I should point out that several of these corsets are shamefully tight on me: some were made years ago, and I’d packed on a few pounds in the intervening time. Quite unfortunately, like a camel, I use my bumps for storage. (If you’re wondering how that could possibly be unfortunate, you’ve not tried it.) Incidentally, all of these corsets are front lacing (because I hate being garb-lame), therefore none of them use a wooden busk. What you see is solely a function of the boning material.
This is a very lightly boned, short corset. There’s nothing particularly special about the cut – it’s simply made to be about 2″ smaller than my bust, and 1″ smaller than my waist. It’s made up of medium cotton duck, and has been washed many, many times. The boning is heavy gauge weed-whacker line, and I believe I started with 8 pieces per side (2 of which are on either side of the front lacing). Several pieces have subsequently worked their way out and weren’t replaced. The boning extends only to under the “cup” area of the bustline. This is a trick I learnt from a Bridal Couture teacher – she pointed out, quite rightly, that when boning extends over the bust, there is always a gap between the boned foundation and the body directly below the bust. This gap is the source of a much pain, suffering, and the horrible sinking feeling that your cleavage has decided to take a coffee break. ;) I gave the idea a try with this corset, and several others since. It’s consistent with the boning line on the Pflatzgrafin corset (and the stitching placement in the central busk channel which, ostensibly, prevented the busk from running over the point of the bust. The stitch line in question is visible in Waugh’s redrawing in Corsets and Crinolines (p.10), Arnold’s redrawing in Patterns of Fashion (p.113) and her photos of the original (p.46))
This is very similar to the first corset in cut. I may have used the same pattern – I can’t recall, but I’m fairly lazy so it seems likely. It’s made up of two layers of cotton/linen blend, and fully corded with hemp across the front only. The hemp is run from top to bottom of the corset, over the bust, in straight vertical channels (as much as that’s possible on my decidedly-not-straight frame). There are two pieces of hemp in each 1/4″ channel. I found that the inherent stretchiness of the linen blend really defeated my normal theories on corset sizing. It’s basically fitting in the picture, but worn for more than 15 minutes it starts to stretch out. That’s good in jeans, but really bad in corsets.
This corset was cut with a pattern based on the conjectured patterning of the body of the Pheonix dress: the center back is on the straight of the grain, on the fold, and the body is cut in one piece with the center front ending up on the bias. Now, that’s a horrible way to make a corset, so I cheated with the lining and ran it the opposite way – center front on the straight, and a hidden seam at the center back inside. The outer and lining fabrics are woolen, and the interlining is cotton muslin. The bones are sewn between the lining and interlining, so no stitches are visible through the outer fabric. (Because I like my underthings to be pretty, that’s why.) The boning is done with heavy duty cable ties (the 1/4″ wide dealies). To borrow terminology from a later era, this is a half-boned stay – there’s unboned distance between each piece of boning. (Unlike fully boned stays, which double as armor….) The boning runs in a fan shape, from the bottom point of the waist out over the bust and up to the top of the corset. Well, up to 1/4″ from the top of the corset, so I don’t get that weird spikey effect that happens when the boning and the channel are the same length. The eyelets on this corset were all hand-worked. Since it seems to make no perceptible difference to the final fit of the corset, but does take oodles of time and makes lacing the final product a trickier proposition, I don’t really see myself doing this again.
This corset is cut along the lines of the effigy corset. It’s not a straight reproduction, as the original and I are somewhat different shapes. It’s made of two layers of heavy cotton duck, with a silk outer layer. It’s edged in leather. The boning is held between the two layers of duck, so no stitches are visible through the silk. Originally, this was teal with a buff-colored edging, bit it discolored over the years and I chucked it into a dye pot. It is heavily boned, with heavy-duty cable ties running in a fan shape from the bottom point of the waist out over the bust. There are many partial pieces of boning, run from the top down, to fill in the gaps between the stays that come up from the bottom. The back is also boned, from the tabs up to the mid-shoulder line. This corset will stand on it’s own, and possibly deflect arrows. The corset was made to measurements that were optimistic when I was a 12, and is containing a body that’s roughly an 18 in these photos. Unfortuantely, this means that a completely inappropriate amount of boobage (for the period in question – this is an accuracy judgement, not a moralistic one) is being forced into prominence. However, it gives you some idea just how much those cable ties will shore up!
This is the same style of corset as the last, made several years later. I enlarged the previous pattern somewhat, and I’d finally figured out how to get shoulder straps to work right by the time I made this so they’re sewn in rather than tied like the original. The corset is made from two layers of silk/linen blend, and edged in bias strips of silk, with boning channels sew directly between the two layers. It is fully boned with heavy weed-whacker line. There are two pieces of line in each channel. The boning runs straight up and down, relative to the center front line, as far as possible. I switched at the center back, running the boning straight up and down relative to center back, as far as possible. There’s a weird bit at the sides where I tried to make the definite diagonal that results from the difference between my bust and my waist work out with the straight lines of the back. I think sixteenth century corsetry is easiest on girls whose bodies are a little more consistent in measurements than mine. Ah, well…. Give history a mere 250-300 years, and the Victorian corset comes along to fix all that. ;)