Purfylle: 1889-99 Working Corded Corset

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1889-99 Working Corded Corset

Stash Busting was the theme for the March Historical Sew Monthly challenge. The month started out well. By the 7th of March I had gotten this far with making the corset. 



At this stage I tried the corset on. There were fit issues. Whilst I pondered the fit issues I moved onto making the dress for the festival (which I needed a corset for, although this was not the right corset, it would do). 

The corset was made completely from stash scraps and notions. The only thing I didn't have was buckles for the shoulder straps. The busk was re-purposed from a commercial corset that had issues. 

The corset pattern is by Marna Davis of the Working Corded Corset from Kingfisher Chisholm Trail Museum dated to 1889-1899, but considered plausible for as early as mid 1870's, which is lucky because it was the only 19thC corset pattern I had in stash. 

pattern pieces with seam allowance folded out

I used the sized up version of the pattern and removed the seam allowances which was a time saving way of making the pattern work for my measurements.

prewashed cotton string for corset cording

For cording I used cotton twine from my stash that had already been pre-washed. I didn't really have appropriate waist stay tape but as it turns out I put it in the wrong spot anyway and shall need to make a note on the pattern. I added the busk at center front first then stitched in the cording.

When stitching in lots of channels your fabric can creep so to overcome that I stay stitch the ends and remove the stitches later. Because I needed to be adding the cord as I went instead of inserting boning after as you would when with a boned corset I stay stitched everywhere accept where the cording was going. 

stay stitch layers together

I have also found it is helpful to make the lining the exact right size and the outer layer or fashion fabric much larger. This way if the fabric creeps a little you will still have fabric matching edge to edge at all seams. Just trim the excess off each seam just before you stitch it. This gives a beautiful clean seam edge to work with as well. 

front of corded corset constructed

The ruler shows approximately where the waist tape should be placed. 

stay tape positioning

I stitched in the eyelets at centre back before cording the back pieces and attaching them to the rest of the corset. I went with stitched eyelets because I don't have any metal ones in stash.

eyelets at center back of corset

In retrospect I would have attached the lining of the back piece to the rest of the corset then added the cording to allow for the waist stay tape to go from front to back and be securely stitched the whole way.

work area is getting a little out of control

Once the final panel was stitched in I trimmed the bottom edge and bound it with white cotton bias strips.
trim the edges just before stitching

At this stage I tried it on. The fit was not good. It seemed to be too short in the waist and it most certainly wasn't smooth at the side back where I'm a little lumpy. 


By the 26th of March I started to panic. I hadn't had a chance to get into the sewing room since the 12th and I had to just make things work. Remakes were out of the question before the festival on the 29th.

So I did what any self respecting seamstress would do, I cheated.

In addition to adding boning next to the lacing I added boning in the side back. Next tine I'm sure I could add more cording successfully.

adding boning to the side back made all the difference

For years I've used this rather thick sturdy plastic stuff for boning, I think it's nylon but I wouldn't stake my life on it. Recently I've learned that this stuff, or very similar stuff is being referred to as German boning in corset stitching circles. It's nothing at all like rigilene and is at least twice as thick, it has about the same amount of flex and strength as baleen. I purchased it several years ago from a local supplier.

Adding the boning changed the fit and shape dramatically. The corset no longer felt too short in the waist and suddenly it was far more shapely. What's more I thought I could totally get away with not adding shoulder straps immediately, where as before adding the boning my hope was that the straps would sort of provide support at the front and smooth things out a bit at the back.

Skipping the straps meant I didn't have to solve the lack of strap-buckles problem. It also saved me a load of time because I'd forgotten to do that pattern piece and would have needed to make more bias binding and find more fabric scraps to make it from.

After the festival we tried to get a quick photo of me wearing it, but instead we had to play with Geri the Wonder Dog, so for now this is the only shot I've got.



Fabric: 
Outer - 100% cotton damask
Lining - 100% cotton duck

Pattern: The corset pattern was by Marna Davis of the Working Corded Corset from Kingfisher Chisholm Trail Museum.

Year: 
Dated to 1889-1899, but considered plausible for as early as mid 1870's

Notions: 
  • thread
  • cotton bias binding
  • cotton tape
  • steel busk
  • plastic boning

How historically accurate is it? So-so. Plastic boning and no shoulder straps is deviating from the original quite a bit I would say. 

Hours to complete: I'm always bad at answering this question. I spent 4 mornings cutting and sewing. 

First worn: 29th March at the Guildford Historical Festival

Total cost: Everything was already in stash.

If I had to buy everything new I'd be looking at a total cost of about $30 maybe?


2 comments:

  1. Hello,
    I am french and I am 20 years old. I am studying in second year at the Fashion department at the Royal Academie of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Our first project of the year consists in making research about an historical costume we chose so we can sew it as accurate as possible. I chose the British maid uniform from late 1890. She is supposed to wear a corset like you exactly did but i can't find the pattern for that. So I was wondering if you would agree sharing your modified pattern with me? I would be so grateful!
    Here my email adress: florine-fournier@hotmail.fr
    Best regards,
    Florine Fournier

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Florine! I'm so sorry I missed seeing your question earlier. I have you sent you an email.

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