It’s a…Corset (sort of)!

The idea of wearing a corset has always fascinated me.  If I could manage wearing a Victorian frock on a daily basis with a lovely shape-enhancing , I would.  Unfortunately, I don’t own a Victorian frock, and have you seen what passes for a corset these days?

Umm, no thank you.  If you’re into burlesque, that’s cool, but corsets are strictly underwear for me.  I much prefer the look of this little number.

It’s not a full corset, just a waist cincher type deal, but it’s so cute. If you’ve ever wanted to know the difference between various waist cinching objects, check out this article.  Of course, if you can’t be bothered to don a corset, there’s a new craze that should make you leap with joy 🙂

But let’s get back to the waist-cincher, shall we?  The pattern is from Mrs. Depew Vintage.  It’s a relatively pricey pattern for print-at-home.  It is also pretty severely lacking in the instructions department.  If you’ve made corsets before, or can ask people who have made corsets before tons of questions, I have no doubt the instructions are sufficient.  I, however, had a bear of a time today trying to put this together.

Let’s start with the printing.  I printed out the pattern on regular printer paper and laid them out in order.  The first thing I noticed was that the size 33″ had some wonky lines.  It’s a hand-drawn  (or something) pattern, which doesn’t bother me, but the lines didn’t quite line up for the biggest size.  I will give her the benefit of the doubt because a ton of other people seemed to have no issues.  I’ll be making a different size, so maybe it’ll work better next go-round.

Then there was the actual muslin making.  First things first. You have to add your own seam allowances.  There is NO guidance within the pattern instructions themselves.  I mean, seriously?  This alone took me a good 30 minutes to figure out.  I did consult the blog posts from the pattern-maker and her sew-a-long partner, but shouldn’t the pattern have everything you need to make it up?  I think there should definitely be a disclaimer in her Etsy shop listing.  Since there are a ton of pages between them, I was unable to locate the info before I nearly went insane.  So, in spite of the fact that I knew there was an ideal number, I arbitraily picked 1/2″.  Of course, this evening, after scouring both blogs numerous times, I found that both ladies had chosen 5/8″.  Yay.

I did trace all the pieces, transfer all markings, and add my seam allowances after a few botched attempts.  I sewed all the pieces together using a plain straight seam.  This was the easiest part of construction.  It looked like this.  (Pardon the chaos.  I have more furniture to put together.)

I was feeling pretty awesome after the sewing and pressing.  And then I read the blog post for adding eyelets.  I originally planned to add grommets to the muslin, but then I read that you don’t need to.  Just make some boning channels, add some buttonholes, and lace that baby up!  Hmm, boning channels…  The instructions for this crucial step were so incomplete, so frustratingly incomplete, that it took me HOURS to puzzle through the pictures and written online tips.  HOURS!  Ugh.  I read through the pattern-makers blog entries, and although the pictures looked easy, the fabric widths listed were vastly different from my muslin pieces.  I kept thinking I had missed something.  I decided to wing it, and just sewed a channel on both sides of the back opening.   I I folded each half over, being careful to avoid the  bone casings, and snipped the fabric horizontally in lieu of button holes.  There may have been some aggressive seam ripper action too.  (Oh and it turned out that the “good” instructions were on the sew-along partner’s blog…grrr.) It didn’t end up too poorly!

I put it on, though, and meh.  It did smooth my problem areas, but it fit a little loosely.  (Can’t put the actual pics here, cuz I was skantily clad, ahem.)  Actually, I felt very little support at all until I sat down.  Again, directions, I curse you!  I’m going to assume that when you pick your waist size, you should not pick the size closest to your actual measurements.  After making the muslin, it seems logical, but again, I’ve never made a corset.  It would have been lovely to find that out hours earlier when I was tracing my pattern pieces.  Here’s Maggy looking svelte.

So, I am happy with the height of the front pieces, the fit of the back pieces, and my MacGuyvered lacing.  What I’d like to improve is the height of the back pieces, the looseness of the waist and underbust areas, and the stiffness of the bones.  I’m wondering if it will feel more snug once I remove a few inches, but I’m seriously considering upgrading from the plastic boning recommended on both blogs to steel boning.  The plastic bones bent in weird way that I don’t think should happen.  I don’t want to impale myself on steel boning, though.

So there you have it.  My first corset muslin.  I’m afraid of what the actual version will bring.  I haven’t tried flat-felled seams, eyelet punching, grommet installation, binding or lining the thing.  I also have to retrace the pattern pieces for a 31″ waist, add the new seam allowance, and deal with sewing satin.  Sigh.  If you’ve made a corset before, I may be calling you for help!



2 thoughts on “It’s a…Corset (sort of)!

  1. Ooh ooh! Ok! Corset making advice begins here.

    First, do you have canvas duck? That’s what you need to build this on (if you’ve not figured that out already – forgive me if I duplicate info), and then the fabric will just decorate the outside over your boning channels and so on like a cover. Ok, also, cut your front (busk) pieces on the grain and your side pieces on the bias. Bias cutting allows the fabric to accommodate your hip-waist-highwaist curve and relieves pinching at the narrow point (ow!). This business layer should be two canvas pieces thick and you won’t be adding the cloth layer until last. You may also want to line the inside because sometimes the canvas gets a little icky next to your skin.

    Some make corsets with the fabric right on top of the canvas (So your pattern pieces would be layers of cloth-canvas-canvas-(innercloth). This is nice because you can adjust the fit by taking in and letting out seams, but it also leaves some raw edges against your waist and it’s not as pretty. In the past, I only did this with side seams, but with this style, maybe busk and back lacing seams would be better. If I were doing it, I’d not bother and make a ‘slipcover’ for the canvas core at the very end. You’re going to be wearing this a lot, and having the skin-touching part renewable will be very nice.

    Next, you want to make the waist 3-6″ LESS than your actual waist. Very important. Your lacing will gap at the back, and that’s also important because the lacing serves as a kind of ‘spring’ that takes up and distributes tension. The smaller girth size will allow you to nip and un-nip the waist. If it’s exactly your size, it won’t nip properly and your laces won’t provide the necessary spring. You’ll end up looking lumpy rather than nipped. (This is the voice of experience and a poorly thought out Tudor talking.)

    To fit (sorry again if you did do it this way) wear the muslin inside out. You’ll be able to adjust the seams while it’s on your body if you do it that way. The best method involves getting a friend to do it, but I’ve done it solo too. I picked that one up from a costumer friend and it works for all sorts of garments.

    The corsets I made were all older styles (Tudor, 1750, that kind of thing) so I don’t know how to deal with boning a Victorian/ Edwardian at the hip. The ones I own that I bought all have curved boning there, and I haven’t a notion of where to get those. Civil war re-enactment suppliers?

  2. OHOH! STEEL boning, for the love of Aphrodite! Plastic boning sucks. It will warm up, warp, and make you and small children cry and cry. With the steel boning, be sure you re-enforce the end ‘pockets’ of the boning channels. I’ve seen people do this by dipping the boning ends in glue to blunt the sharp edges. I usually just wrap a little bit of canvas around the end, then slip the boning into the channel, then tack it to be sure it stays in place. This gives it one fabric layer to poke through that isn’t created by a seam. Also, at the end, get some quilt binding bias strips and sew them all around the edges. This doubles as a pretty decorative touch.

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