A Very Loooooong Corset

by thevelvetletter

Every year Foundations Revealed runs a corset-making competition for its members, which is open to all subscribers regardless of skill level or past experience. The aim is not to produce the most perfect finished corset, but rather to follow a concept through from inception to completion. Participants are encouraged to keep a dress diary documenting their design and construction process to demonstrate how they got to their finished corsets. The entries are judged by a vote of all subscribers, so it’s also pretty interesting to see which entries are chosen as they are not always the corsets made by the experienced sewers!

Foundations Revealed gives two themes every year – one abstract and one historical patent- which are meant as starting points, rather than rigid categories.

My entry for last years competition worked with the more abstract theme provided (geometry) and I’m pretty pleased with the embellishment, but I wish I had gone for a full overbust or an underbust! I feel like my mid-bust line is just neither here nor there…

This year I thought I would have a go at working with the historical patent theme, partly just for variety’s sake, but largely because this particular patent gives me space to play with several ideas and techniques that I have been ruminating over for some time.

This year’s patent – the E. F. Hume corset from 1913 – has given me the chance to try out some cording and to make a really long-line corset, both of which I’ve been itching to try for some time.

These are the pics I used for inspiration:

I love the aesthetic of very long-line corsets like this ‘Grable‘ corset by Dark Garden. Note how the ‘v’s made by the lacing point up – this corset (and the ones below) must have been lace from the bottom up!

Mugler

These are gorgeous too – just look at those long rows of eyelets! I think these are by Thierry Mugler, but my Pinterest link is broken, so I’m not sure… If anyone knows please leave a comment. My ‘Google-fu’ is low today;/

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Again, lots of eyelets. Dita Von Teese wearing Jean Paul Gaultier. From Dita’s Book

I love the cording on this corset from Jill Salen's book Corsets

I love the cording on this corset from Jill Salen’s book Corsets

Another example of cording from Salen's Corsets

Another example of cording from Salen’s Corsets

1913 E.F. Hume corset patent

1913 E.F. Hume corset patent

1913 E.F. Hume corset patent

1913 E.F. Hume corset patent

The E.F. Hume corset has nine panels per side, but that is with lacing bones inserted into a very skinny ninth panel. I didn’t have any lacing bones (I have yet to work with them), so I decided to split the width of panel eight between panels seven and nine, making a corset with eight panels per side instead of nine and inserting eyelets and flat steels at the center back as usual.

I absolutely HATE fiddling around enlarging paper patterns so I chose not to enlarge and toile the paper pattern. I got out my trusty clingwrap and duct tape and made a 3D pattern by covering my fitting model (the lovely Zee Hartman – you’ll see pics of her later) in tape and then drawing in my seam lines, taking careful note of where the lines would fall on the original corset.

Zee about to be released from her tape cocoon. This is my favorite method of patterning. I can visualise much better in 3D and I'm a bit of a hardware nut so I like me some duct tape;)

Zee about to be released from her tape cocoon. This is my favorite method of patterning. I can visualise much better in 3D and I’m a bit of a hardware nut so I like me some duct tape;)

A back view of the tape pattern.

A back view of the tape pattern.

The potential disadvantage of working this way is that I might not get the historical shiloette right but I decided that as I am more interested in the longline aesthetic of this corset I wasn’t worried about loosing the period silhouette.

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Tape pattern pieces all cut out and lined up, ready for me to trace around them. it isn’t very clear in this pic, but they are all lined up at the waistline, which I ruled onto the paper before laying out the tape panels.

After tracing around the tape panels I use a ruler and a french curve to smoothe out the lines of the pattern and building a waist reduction. This pattern has a conical rib and a sharply-rounded hip.

After tracing around the tape panels I use a ruler and a french curve to smoothe out the lines of the pattern and building a waist reduction. This pattern has a conical rib and a sharply-rounded hip.

After two toiles to tweak the fit I planned my cording layout by drawing the lines onto the final toile while Zee was wearing it, and transferring those lines to the flat pattern. I traced out all of the panel pieces, including markings for cording, grainline (kept perpendicular to the waist line) and waistline, and added seam allowances.

Here you can see where I have drawn in the guide lines for my cording.

Here you can see where I have drawn in the guide lines for my cording. The lines on the right are my first attempt, which I scrapped pretty quickly in favour of the left hand layout. One of the things I particularly like about this corset pattern are the ‘zig-zag’ panels in the front, all those v-shaped panels, and I placed my cording to emphasize these varying directions.

One of my goals for 2015 is to reduce the size of my fabric stash, so I chose this silvery, olivy silk as a fashion fabric, paired with black lace and with black flossing. I used a single layer of herringbone coutil for the strength layer, with tape channels sewn to the inside of the corset and a floating lining made of thin cotton sateen. Four elements of fabric from the stash!

I sewed the cording channels and set my busk and eyelits first, then roll-pinned all my panels and sewed them together, adding boning channels as I went. I used contrasting black thread for all my seams to emphasize the lenght and number of the channels.

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Cording first…

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Pic pilfered from my Instagram account. All panels corded and sewn together, ready for boning.

Next up, double checking my lengths of boning and cutting and tipping them all.

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This corset is made with a split busk supported by two flat steels (one under the busk and one next to it), flat steels on either side of the eyelets and 5 mm spiral steels at all of the seams around the side of the corset. 12 spiral steels and 8 flat steels, plus the busk.

After inserting the bones I flossed them into place, using a variation on a flossing design on one of my studio samples.

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Fully boned studio sample with flossing in black Gutterman top-stitching thread. The ‘arms’ of this design are 4 cm and 2 cm, measured vertically along the boning channel.

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The flossing on my Hume corset is identical, but has a 1 cm arm added at the base. Am rather enamored of this design – I look forward to playing with it in different colours etc.

After flossing I attached my floating lining and bound the edges of the corset, then set to applying the lace overlay to the top edge.

I pinned the lace flush against the top binding, and gathered the fullness around the rib-cage into tiny ruffles at the lower edge of the lace, trying to keep the scallops nice and even.

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Pinning the lace into place with super-sharp pins. I had to be careful not to get blood from my savaged fingers on the corset!

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Left half of the corset half-way through lace application.

This is only the second or third time I have done a symmetrical lace overlay and I am really pleased with how it looks. I will have to do a few more…

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Lace finished. Loving it.

So, the corset is laced up and ready to go. I have a photo session booked with Zee this week, and the corset has to be submitted for the competition on the 2nd Feb (can you believe January is gone already?!?!). I’ll share a few snapshot from the shoot in real-time on my Instagram account (Velvet Letter), but the official pics will only be out next week. Keep them peepers peeled!

I’m so excited to see this corset on a body for the first time;)

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