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Visual Guide to Corsets for the 1500s

I’m a visual learner. I mean, I owned a copy of Patterns of Fashion for years before I ever looked at the words. (I’m not even kidding. Turns out the words are pretty useful too!) If you find yourself in the same boat, this might help. It’s a set of line drawings of the Pfalzgrafin and Effigy corsets, as well as my cheater curved front corset, lined up side by side for easy visual comparison.

line drawing of three corsets from the front
Em is wearing a Pfalzgrafin corset (left), an Effigy corset (center), and a curved front corset (right).

I’ve drawn in all the seams (heavy lines), and indicated the boned areas and boning direction (littler lines). I showed less boning on the curved front corset, mostly for variety. I’ve tried to show how the body distorts the lines of the boning.

corsets from back
The same corsets, the same order, from the back.

It was faster to do this all with graphics using Em than it would have been to do it in cloth with Lizzle, but only just barely because Illustrator and I do not get on so well. Also, line drawings are slightly more clear than photographs sometimes.

corsets from sideSame corsets, same order, from the side. This is really where the biggest difference in the silhouettes is.

The curved front is not a truly period line from the side, but it will do from the front and back because you can make it up a lot like the Effigy. It will let you accommodate a lot more bust, thought, in a comfortable way. They’re lined up, left to right, by how much they’ll accommodate curves. (The Pfalzgrafin is the low end of the spectrum.)

So, there you have it. Your corset affects both your silhouette and your comfort, so it’s important to know your options and choose wisely.


  1. Sarah A.
    Sarah A. December 2, 2011

    This was incredibly helpful, thank you so much! I am trying to start work on a corset that I can use to build late Tudor and early Elizabethan gowns over, and your website has been indispensable! I’ve started and scrapped way too many to want to make the same mistakes again. Would you mind if I credit some of your tips and link back to your site on my blog as I chronicle my thought process? Once again, thanks for all of the drafting tutorials and examples!

    • missa
      missa December 3, 2011

      Hi, Sarah,
      I’m glad it was helpful! I’ve had my share of corset-fails over the years too. They’re very annoying! And I would be delighted if you through a shout-out or a linksy-doo back my way while you’re blogging. I can’t wait to see how the gown comes together! :)

  2. Starsong
    Starsong May 30, 2015

    so if one is short-waisted, with a proportionally smaller waist and underbust/ribcage and larger bust– then the B or C corset would be better???

    • missa
      missa May 30, 2015

      Short-waisted isn’t as much of a factor as the difference between the bust and the waist. If you’ve got some curves going on, stick with a corset like the effigy or curved front, which do not have a wooden busk at the center front. I feel like the Pfaltzgrafin model works best for straighter bodies because of the busk. When there’s much difference between the bust and the waist, the busk ends up at an angle and wants to dig into the abdomen. (Or, worse, break – I’ve had that happen, and it’s very annoying.)

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