Regency corsets, I’ve decided, are shockingly complexticated little beasties. I mean, they look all simple and they represent a time when, officially, corsets were somewhat démodé (except for how pretty much everyone was still wearing them). The pattern is easy enough. The construction is easy enough. There’s one central wooden busk and all of 14 pieces of bone in this thing. And yet…. I do believe that this is the most subtle and sophisticated setup of light-weight stiffening techniques I’ve ever seen. I’m a little in awe….Remember these reference pictures?
You see all that beautiful quilting and cording work? It’s all structural. It’s crazy-amazing-totally-different-to-everything-I’ve-ever-learned-about-corsets-omg-freaking-awesome. (There should be a word for that. ‘Epiphany’ comes close.)
Here are some of the support elements that I’m using, based on the examples I have in books:
Miss’s Rule 1 of Boning: You can use anything as boning, but the more flexible the material the more you need to really pack it tight into the boning channels.
I have a quarter inch flat fell seam. That means I’ve ended up with 10 layers of fabric inside of a 3/16th inch channel. (Fabric – 2 pieces + single seam allowance + doubled seam allowance is five layers, x 2 because everything is a lining/outer treated as one. Channel width: your stitching on a fell is never right at the edge, so 1/4″ seam is really about 1/16″ shy in terms of stitch spacing.)
It’s pretty stiff. I mean, it’s no cable tie, but it’s easily on par with a hemp-corded channel.
Admittedly, hand embroiderers have much better control over how much their work is stiffening a garment than I do with my machine’s utility stitches, but the basic point remains – the more thread you work into your fabric, the more you’re going to stiffen it.
Most of the corsets I’ve seen from this period seem to have embroidery running around the waistline. This is genius – it’s a lovely, decorative way to work in a waist stay… Sheer cleverness, I tell you! :)
Well, ok, the cording, boning and busk aren’t in yet, but you get the idea. Now, here’s the kicker – I’ve majorly toned it down from the examples I was looking at. I mean, I’d love to put in a little grid of 1″ corded diamonds, but that seems tedious yet annoying. I’d love to replicate some of the larger areas of amazing quilting on some of the pictures, but, again, tedious yet annoying on the machine. I’m the world’s worst embroideress, so if I can’t do it on the machine, it ain’t gettin’ done.
So I’ve got a whole new arsenal of tricks to use on lightly boned corsets now. :) It’s been educational…