Category Archives: corsets

Finished Projects: Edwardian S-Curve Corset + “Improvers”

If you’re following me on Instragram, you may have seen my progress posts on my Edwardian corset and bust improvers.  The corset project was a UFO from last year’s Historical Sew Fortnightly from the same challenge.  This year I was determined to finish it.  It’s just in at the deadline, barely, but I finished it!

I have a few entries for this challenge, since I decided to make Edwardian bust improvers to go with the corset.  Each project is listed separately, but I’ll include them both in this post.

It was much too small, so I had to add 2″ panels to each side.  Luckily, with the other seaming, it’s not terribly obvious.  I had accidentally cut this WAY too small, and had forgotten I had added extra seam allowance to my mock up but didn’t transfer it to my pattern.  Thank goodness I had *just* enough coutil and fashion fabric to cut panels!

IMG_1058 IMG_1051 IMG_1056 IMG_1057 IMG_1053 IMG_1054


The Challenge: #4- Under it All

Fabric:  Cotton coutil, silk broade

Pattern: Truly Victorian TVE01- 1903 S-Curve Corset

Year: 1903

Notions:  Metal boning, busk, eyelets, ribbon, vintage laces, corset lace, bone casing, twill tape for loops for detachable garters (garters were made for a previous corset, but work for this one as well).

How historically accurate is it?  Pretty close, but I serged the inside seams instead of leaving them raw or flat felling them.  The garters are not really period correct, as they would have been constructed differently.

Hours to complete: Way too many

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost:  Pretty expensive.  I didn’t keep track, but I’d guess in the $50-$60 range.  Most of the materials were bought either last year or several years before, so I didn’t need to buy any new products to complete this during this year.

paddingAlso made were the padding.  I made the “hip pad” from the Truly Victorian pattern that was included with the corset.  For the bust pads, however, I decided I wanted ones similar to those in the LACMA museum, that I had seen in the “Fashioning Fashion” exhibit.


Woman’s Bust Improver (Falsies), England, circa 1900, image from LACMA
I drafted up a quick pattern based on these.  First I made ones that were 16″ across, but they were kind of big and more “Barbie”ish.  Today I whipped up another pair that are 14″ across, and they suit better.
To compare, here’s the larger ones, and the smaller ones.  They’re both somewhat ridiculous, but so period correct!
I actually ended up sticking this up on my site as an e-pattern.  Since I went to the trouble, I thought others might want to make some, too.
e102COVERwebFair warning/disclaimer.   These were based on those in the collection of LACMA, but the pattern I made is in no way affiliated with LACMA, or endorsed by them.  It was just a fun, quick project, using an existing period example as inspiration.
In any case…
For kicks, I took pictures of my corset with a dress I had made a few years ago with padding and without padding, to get an idea of how it changes the silhouette.
improversdress improversdress2
How interesting!  It reminds me so much of this ad:

The Challenge: #4- Under it All

Fabric:  Cotton muslin, cotton shirting

Pattern: Truly Victorian TVE01- 1903 S-Curve Corset, + Wearing History E102- Edwardian Bust Improver

Year: 1900-1908

Notions:  For hip pad: Cotton wadding, twill tape.  For bust improvers: cotton wadding, double fold bias tape, flat lace that was gathered, lace beading, silk ribbon.

How historically accurate is it?  Pretty close.  I think the TV pattern is dead on for the period.  Bust improvers of the time varied greatly, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some exactly like this existed.  The museum examples were constructed open at the back, so they could be stuffed and unstuffed.  For ease, and because I will very seldom actually wear these, I just stuffed them and seamed it in, so they have  closed back.

Hours to complete: These were quick. Probably under an hour for each item.

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost:  Everything was from the stash.  Actual cost of each was probably under $5.  The cotton batting was free, and everything else was constructed of scraps of inexpensive cotton.  The lace was probably the most expensive part, since it was all vintage.  The silk ribbon was maybe a few dollars a yard and under a yard was used on each bust improver.


Corsets: 1916

In our 1910s Suit-A-Long group the question of corset height was brought up.  Here are two pages of corsets from the 1916 W & H Walker catalog.  This was the same year that the pattern was released, so is appropriate to the WWI era and the era of this suit.

1916corset2web 1916corset1webWe see the difference in height of the top of the corset in these images.  There is also a variety in length of the hip.

The size numbers would be for the corset size.  It does not state if these are the actual corset measurements or the measure of the finished waist size.  I am assuming they are the corset measure, as the “spring” allowed at back varied from person to person based on preference.  The corset “spring” refers to the inches allowed at back for comfort- corsets would not be laced edge to edge, but allow, usually from 2″-4″, or even 6″ at the back when laced.

Sizes 18 to 30 have the most options.  We see medium bust and hip (6M50), medium low bust and long hip (2M129),  low bust and long hips (8M49), medium high bust and long hips (3M99).

There is one corset that is for comfort, with tricot for ventilation and front and back lacings (8M98), in the same sizes as above.

There is one corset for “Misses”, which would be for young ladies, and is designed as a “first corset”.  5M89 in sizes 18 to 26 waist.

There is one corset for girls, aged 7 to 13 years, which includes shoulder straps.

There is one nursing corset (7M98), which has nursing flaps at the bust and is available in larger waist sizes than the standard Misses corsets.

There is one corset for larger women, called a “form reducing” corset, which has a reducing flap at the sides, to help pull in the hips, and a spoon bust which “insures absolutely flat abdomen”.

One brassiere is shown on the page (11M29), which was available in sizes 32″ to 46″ bust. The brassiere has the appearance of a corset cover, but was of more substantial construction.  These usually had flat felled seams, boning, or both, and fastened up the back.   They did not have cups or breast support as we’re accustomed to today.  In fact, most styles of dress did not require a separation of the bust, but rather, a smooth line.  It’s a continuation of the “pouter pigeon” look of the S-Curve corset era, but with a slightly higher bust point.  The bust may be restrained, but not as much as in the “flapper” era.  In fact, brassieres would change very little between now and the late 1920s.

There are also various women’s needs that are on the page- mostly of the past “sanitary” variety.  Included are women’s dress shields that are “waterproof”, and a  “sanitary apron”, which would have the long skirt worn at the back so you wouldn’t have any accidents during that time of the month.

I, for one, am happy we’ve progressed… both in terms of undergarments and in terms of these icky “solutions”.  How far we’ve come with both brassieres and sanitary products in one hundred years!

1908 WB Reduso Corsets

WB Reduso Corsets, 190

The weather here has been rainy, and, without fail, rainy weather gets me anxious to make historical clothing.  Wouldn’t you know, I’m knee deep in working on a pattern that’s releasing soon that’s of the vintage variety.  I have serious costume A.D.D., as my friend Val, of Time Travelling in Costume, would say.

One of these days I’ll get around to finishing my Truly Victorian S Curve corset (which is a little earlier in silhouette than the image above, which is a hybrid between the S-Curve and the longer “classical” lines of the 1910s corset).  It ends up I cut it about two sizes too small in my real fashion fabric, a silk brocade I had been hording since before my wedding, and coutil.  I forgot I added extra seam allowances, and then, ages later when I sewed the mock up, used 1/2″ all over.  When I cut the real stuff I was befuddled as to why it was soo much small.  Then I remembered.  Whoops?

 But, until I figure out a solution to my corset making dilemma , I’ll just enjoy this image from the Delieator’s November, 1908 issue.  If you’re wondering what the future held for W.B. Reduso and NuForm Corsets, check out this prior post that shows an ad from 1911.

Finished Project: Late 18th Century Stays

Long time no post!

I have been struggling to keep up with all the sewing I’ve been wanting to accomplish, and after my last blog post about these, which I was feeling so positive about these, that I was very dissapointed that they didn’t come out as I anticipated.  Determination to actually have a useable object, instead of a finished project I wasn’t happy with, made me quickly revisit these to get them to be better, even though I was anxious to start sewing gowns.

After hand binding all the bottom tabs, I tried on the stays and it was no good. My mock up must have stretched on me.  So, I had to chop them at the underarm and insert a panel on each side.  Then, I had to rebind all the tabs.

I was really anxious to get these finished, because I only have a few weeks left and I was hoping to make at least two new outfits, so I machined down as much of the tabs as I could.  The other side got stitched down by hand so the machine stitching wasn’t seen.

Because my shape is more up and down than conical, I added these large bust pads that wrap from near the underarm and around to the front of the stays.  I hand basted several layers of cotton batting together, covered them in white muslin, and then hand stitched them into the stays so I could remove them later if I needed to launder them or replace them.

I still don’t have my other proper undergarments, but it’s enough to get the shape so I can move forward!  If I have time, I’d like to cover my laces in the green contrast fabric.

The good news is that it ended up working out much better.  The bad news is that I think I was overambitious with my piecing and I think they’re a smidgeon too big now.  Oh well!  They’ll work for now.  Heavens knows I don’t want to rebind those darn tabs again!

This was finished a few days late for the challenge, but this was my entry for the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #13- Lace and Lacings.

Finished Project: Blue Corset from 1868

I just put the finishing touches on this today, and I’m so glad to finally have it done!  I started the mock up for this sometime last year.  I really wanted a corset I could wear to get a decent silhouette for late 1860s/early 1870s gowns.  I have one Victorian corset I made myself, but it’s more appropriate for the 1880s and didn’t give me much form.  I started reading up about how women who weren’t endowed got their shapes, and talked to other costumers about it.  Jen of Festive Attyre was especially helpful in figuring out what to do.  This corset has sort of revolutionized my thinking about making them, and I’m glad to say that I’m no longer paranoid about making corsets.  It was revolutionary to me to realize that I could make myself fit a corset shape, and fit a corset to fit *me*, when my shape is so not what was the period ideal for the Victorian era.

When I started thinking about this project I knew I wanted a blue corset, like in Edouard Manet’s painting Nana, from 1877.  Although later than this corset by nearly ten years, I have always loved this painting and knew I wanted to mirror this color scheme when I made mine.

The pattern for this corset came from Francis Grimble’s Reconstruction Era Fashions book.  It was reproduced from an original Harper’s Bazar pattern from 1868 and then scaled down by half.  I re-enlarged the pattern and did my mock up. I found in the mock up stage that the original sizing of the corset pattern was several  inches too big for me, so I did some adjustments at the side seams, and some smaller adjustments to the hip and bust gussets, but made sure to leave enough room and not over fit it, so that I had room to pad out to achieve close to a period shape.

The original pattern called for boning across the back, but I decided I would rather have cording as I thought it would be both more comfortable and more decorative.  My husband was a darling and did the grommets up the back for me.  That’s one thing I really don’t like to do!  The chemise I am wearing is an antique in my collection.  Although I wouldn’t really wear it under clothing for fear of damaging it (although it is quite sturdy), it was fun to wear for pictures.  I need to make one along similar lines someday.

I should also mention that when I went to do my boning channels I realized I missed a tuck that was called for that went from the bottom of the front bust gusset to the bottom of the corset.  Oops?  Since I had already done all my fittings without this tuck I just decided to leave it be, but that accounts for one of the bust gores having a squared off shape at the bottom rather than a point.  Doesn’t bother me, but in case others wanted to try this pattern I thought it should be mentioned.  And as with all period patterns of this age, no seam allowances were included in the original pattern.

The fabric I used was white cotton coutil, to which I flat lined blue cotton sateen.  I was sick for quite a few days last week, so I used the opportunity to do something I don’t usually do- and embroider a little motif up the front of the busk and add some flossing.  I don’t have much skill at this sort of handwork, but it was fun to do and I think it looks kind of pretty!  My initial thought was to do flossing and add a contrast binding and wide lace at the top, but I really like the simplicity of these accents and I’m glad I didn’t go with my first plan.

Just like today, women would pad out what nature didn’t give them naturally.  As I mentioned previously, I was on a quest to get a bit more of a Victorian shape than I had naturally or with my previous corset.  When I took my mock up of this corset to work with me, I had some help from a theatre perspective and found that they still use this trick. One of the “tricks of the trade” are to use men’s tailoring shoulder pads and place them strategically at the sides, both at top of the corset, and at the bottom, to create more of an hourglass shape.  Then you can use little pads in the front for extra support- to create a bit of a shelf.  I tried this, and lo and behold, I actually had a decent shape for the era! Much better than I had had previously.

Since this project was done in conjunction with the Dreamstress’ great group, The Historical Sew Fortnightly, here’s the info required.

The Challenge: Under it All

Fabric: Cotton coutil, cotton sateen

Pattern: Reproduced Harper’s Bazar pattern from Frances Grimble’s Reconstruction Era Fashions Book.

Year: 1868

Notions: Metal spiral and flat steel boning, corset busk, grommets, corset lacing, cotton embroidery floss, stay tape, thread, set of pre-made shoulder pads, cotton quilt batting to make two more pads, white muslin to cover shoulder pads.

How historically accurate is it?  Looks accurate on the outside (embroidery inspired by, rather than reproduced authentically from, period examples), but the inside and construction are done with modern methods.  The gussets were flat lined then serged, and applied with  lapped seams rather than flat felling.

Hours to complete: Several.  From start to finish, perhaps around 10 hours, including several mock ups and time to enlarge and alter the pattern.

First worn:  Not worn yet other than for photos

Total cost: Didn’t keep track but I’m guessing $35-40ish, not including the book cost.

Pretty Corset Ads from The Delineator, 1905.

I’ve been working on and off on a new pattern that I started last year.  No, it’s not a corset, but I will say that the late 1890s and early 1900s are inspiring me a lot lately in view of this project.

Here’s some very pretty corset ads from the November 1905 issue of The Delineator to share with you.

This ad is beautifully drawn, but also kind of humourous.  If only this lady knew her corset was visible to the outside world by her shadow!  I’ll gladly take her jacket and hat, too.



I absolutely adore the line art drawings of this period.  The ones on this WB Corsets ads are so beautiful and romantic, especially with the cute little cherubs and garlands of flowers, and the beautiful gathers and bows on the lingerie.


If you’re interested in making underwear of this period, Truly Victorian has recently come out with an S Curve corset pattern and an Edwardian Lingerie pattern.  Heather’s patterns are amazing- I’m a big fan and customer, so I can’t recommend them enough. I have purchased both patterns and they’re in my stash just waiting to be made.  Images like these make me wish I had time to start them!

Corsets and Dogs- Images from Good Housekeeping 1909

But not dogs in corsets ;)

I haven’t shared images from old periodicals in a long while, and I must confess the reason.  As some of you know, I got really sick a while back. Part of that was due to new sinus problems.  And you know what gets me pretty badly now?  Mold.  I have a hard time handling my dear old paper collections and even old patterns.  Part of that is why I’ve decided to start the Resto-Vival patterns- handing new paper is much easier for me now that I’ve accumilated the sensitivity- so I’d like to get some of my treasured old patterns transferred over and shared.  Ah, my, how the Lord has a sense of humour- let’s give the girl with the vintage patterns and magazines a sensitivity to them ;)  In any case, I’ve been needing to wear a face mask to help keep my reaction down when dealing with old paper, and finally got up the gumption to give it a try and scan in a few images.  Seemed to work well!

My mom loaned me some of her old magazines a while back. These are from Good Housekeeping magazine, November 1909 issue.  I thought the illustrations were rather lovely.

Luckily these days our manner of dealing with bad dogs has changed, but the informal sketchy nature of these illustrations from a short story are rather pretty and fun with the orange accent color.  They are by Reginald Birch.





Hope you’re having a lovely Wednesday!