Thursday, June 14, 2018

1872 Green Embroidered Corset

Finally, a UFO that I can say I actually went back and finished! I actually started this new corset way back in December of 2016. I had found a beautiful blue embroidered corset online that I'd become mildly obsessed with, and I wanted something similar. I searched for a long time, but I could never find a blue silk that made me happy. Eventually, came across a good sized remnant of some deep green dupioni silk in my Stash. It wasn't the lovely blue, but I was also trying to keep costs down, so I decided to use the green silk and do the embroidery in the same cream/natural color of the original.

I had been plugging along pretty well, and even managed to finish the embroidery design on all the bust gussets, when I just ran out of steam. I needed to finish other projects for upcoming events, so the corset was put into a project bag and pretty much shoved under the bed and forgotten about, until the need for 1870s undies came up earlier this year.

I dug the project back out from under the bed, dusted off the pattern pieces, and reacquainted myself with my inspiration piece, which is this stunning corset from Abiti Antichi's collection.

Blue corset with ivory embroidery, 1866
I'm still totally in love with the blue color, but I was going to work with what I had, especially since the bulk of the embroidery was already finished.

Back when I had first started on this project, I had taken a lot of time to decide which pattern to use. I didn't want to send away for a pattern, since I was trying to keep costs down, so I looked mainly at commercial patterns you could buy at fabric stores. I knew I wanted something with gussets so I could mimic the look of the original, which helped eliminate quite a few choices. I was originally drawn to Simplicity 7215, which is marketed as late-hoop era, and sold along with another pattern packet for an elliptical hoop, which means they were aiming for the latter part of the 1860s. This fit in with the Abiti Antichi corset being dated at 1866.

It turns out that this corset pattern is actually taken directly from an original that appeared in an 1872 issue of De Gracieuse. The seam lines, boning placement, and gusset shapes are exactly the same, and when I looked at the pattern page from the magazine, the pattern pieces were identical. The same pattern also appeared in La Mode Illustree in the same year. 

The middle left corset looks to be the one used as the baseline the Simplicity 7215.
Unfortunately, the Simplicity pattern has been discontinued. I was told that their new corset pattern, Simplicity 2890, was a direct reprinting of 7215, so I purchased that one instead.
Of course, nothing is ever as it seems, and the two patterns are not identical. Yes, they are very similar, but there are small differences. The bottom edge of 2890 is shaped different, with a rounded point at the center front, while 7215 has a much more subtle dip. The shape of the hip gussets is also different - in 2890 they are triangular, while in 7215 they are much more square.

It looked like 2890 was actually the center corset in the De Gracieuse magazine. It appeared on the same page as the 7215 corset, in the same illustration, and the pattern was published on the same chart. It, too, appeared in an issue of La Mode Ilustree in 1872.

So, there it was - two corset patterns from Simplicity, that originally appeared in 1872 in the same fashion magazine. Pretty neat! (Can someone please tell me why everyone is dating this pattern to 1867?)

Both of the Simplicity patterns are marketed as Civil War era corsets, which turns out to be incorrect. If I was still hoping to stick with 1866 as the year for my corset, this would have been a slight problem. Fortunately, though, I'm now aiming for early-bustle era, and both of these patterns are perfect for that!

After a year of letting this project linger in limbo, I dug it back out and got back to work on it. I had already done a good portion of the work - I had lengthened the pattern as needed (the Simplicity pattern is very short-waisted, so beware) and I had bonded the green silk to the mattress ticking I was using as the strength layer. The embroidery on all four bust gussets was finished. Oddly, I had cut it so I didn't have the curved point at the center front, and I'm not sure why I did that. Since I had been working with a very small remnant, I can only assume that I did it because of the amount of fabric I had available. This made it so my corset was pretty flat across the bottom front. It's not as graceful looking as the original, but I needed to work with what I had, and I was totally out of fabric, so I couldn't piece anything back in.

I had lost my instructions and pattern packet for the corset, so I have no idea whether it called for a lining or not. I don't think it does, and the original is a one-layered coutil corset, but I wanted a lining to hide the embroidery threads on the back of the gussets. I had a bit of cotton sateen left from a previous project, so that is what I used. I had to use my corset pieces as patterns since I had altered the originals so much.

With everything cut out, I started on assembly. The markings around the bust gussets and front dart were transferred to the silk with transfer paper. I started by closing up the front dart.


At this point I realized that I should probably do the embroidery on the busk pocket before I went any further, so I did that during my down time at work. I used a combination of stem stitch, satin stitch, and French knots, just like on the gussets, and tried to stay as true to the original design as I could. With the embroidery done, and the gussets in, I added the lining and inserted the busk.

I used an awl to create the holes that the nubby parts of the busk were inserted through. This way, the holes were stronger than if I had cut through the fabric, and it meant that I didn't have to cut through any of the embroidery, either.

Before I stitched in the boning channels, I went back and embroidered the corners of all the busk pieces with some dense satin stitch. This adds a bit more strength to them, since the corners are usually weak spots, and it adds an extra decorative element.

Then it was finally time to add the boning to the corset. I've used steel boning for most of my corsetry, and have been happy with it, but I wanted to try out using German synthetic whalebone this time. I had heard great things from other costumers about it, and comparisons to original whalebone showed that it acted in the same manner as the real stuff, so I was excited! It's also nice that you can cut it with scissors and shape the ends with an emory board, which is much easier than having to use a dremmel to alter steel boning!

The boning seems really flimsy at first, and I had my doubts. But, when reading about how original corsets were boned, with clusters of whalebone together instead of just a bone here or there, then I felt a bit more confident. Just take a look at my inspiration corset - that corset is packed with boning!

The Simplicity pattern actually had very little boning, which was surprising, but the original 1872 pattern also had very few bones. (The Simplicity pattern actually has the same boning pattern as the original in De Graceiuse, so it's authentic to the period pattern.) However, I'm a substantial girl and needed a little extra umph in the support department, and I didn't fully trust the synthetic whalebone to give me what I needed. I have nearly four times the amount of boning as in the original pattern! I had also read other people's reviews of the pattern, and they had noted some buckling in places and lack of support in others, so I listened to their advice and added boning in the problem areas.

I inserted the boning, and flossed it into place.

I used this original flossing as my inspiration.

Symington Collection

I then bound the top and bottom edges with some narrow bias tape. Since it was cotton, it wasn't quite the same color as the silk, but I wasn't too worried about it since it would end up being covered with lace.

The original corset has zig-zag type embroidery on the bottom and top edges, but I didn't want to do all that, so I searched for some lace that would do the job. I thought it would be difficult to find a natural-colored lace that was the same color as the embroidery, but I was surprised to find the perfect lace at one of my favorite online trim shops!

I added the lace to both the top and bottom edges of the corset.

I could have gone with regular grommets on the back, but I had these fabulous little flower grommets in my Stash that were just perfect for this project. They're actual grommets, too, not eyelets, so they've very secure once they are set in.

I didn't manage to finish the flossing before the Victorian Soiree back in February, so I wore the corset as is. It was super comfortable, and gave me such a great shape! The synthetic whalebone was surprisingly supportive, and it didn't buckle the way that regular plastic boning usually does, even when I was cinched in pretty tightly. The only place that I noticed any weakness was right at the waist around the grommets. Upon further research, I noticed that a lot of surviving corsets actually have steel boning around the grommets, even if they have whalebone throughout the rest of the corset. I may go back one day and switch out my synthetic whalebone for some flat steel, but for now I'm content to let it be.

I finally got around to finishing the flossing last week, which was a huge pain and involved pliers, blood loss, and much cursing, but at last, the corset is 100% complete. I love the final look, and now I have a flashy new Victorian corset to build my future gowns around. I think I may now be addicted to flashy corsets, too, because I have several new embroidered corsets planned. I don't know if I'll ever be able to make a plain white corset again!

1 comment:

  1. This is so gorgeous! I've always been afraid to make my own corsetry but now I want to...