The project is an 1875 Bustle ensemble complete with all the underpinnings. I started the project about a month ago, so I will post this is segments to catch up.
First, I needed a corset. I chose a cotton Matelassé fabric I had bought many years before and a lining of linen-cotton canvas. The cotton matelassé had the look of fine lingerie, and a touchable softness to make it look comfortable and sweet, not harsh or neo-gothic. Mind you, it will have spiral steel bones, but I didn’t want to advertise the fact.
Working on corsets is not the most satisfying work compared to, say, the skirt. You deal with a very small amount of fabric, and the decorative and creative aspects are limited. I wanted to create one that did the job, was pretty, and looked like it could have come from an 1870s lingerie shop in Paris. I decided to get the sewing over with quickly and painlessly. So I decided to only use two layers of fabric and create the channels for the 10 spiral steel bones per side by sewing them between the two layers. In retrospect, I should have used twill tape to make the channels. The matelassé by its very nature stretched more than the linen-cotton and was difficult to work with. Also, since the matelassé was to thick, inserting the bones into their casings became a battle with the seam excess, which wasn’t really a fair fight. Fortunately for the project, I am blessed with a degree of patience sometimes astonishing to myself. After lots of convincing, the bones slid all the way into their channels.
Also, while working with the linen-cotton canvas, the edges began to fray a great deal. So I used some no fray liquid I bought from Joann’s to keep the fraying from distracting me while I worked with the fabric. This is not authentic, but I cut off the edges that had the substance on them after they were sewn. The modern, sticky, unfriendly material had no place on a Victorian Parisian corset. I know that Elizabethans would use wax for the same purpose, and I believe that the Victorians may have as well.
But the results weren’t bad. After inserting the bones I stitched the top and the bottom then bound them in taupe silk by hand. The bottom binding I also made into a ruffle which I found quite feminine and comfortable.
The front has a straight steal busk, and the back has grommets for lacing. I used an awl and a screw driver in tandem to create the holes for the grommets, and they came out perfectly. My corseted waist is smaller than the dress dummy’s so I can not completely lace up the back of the corset for the pictures without it looking awkward.
She’s quite a beauty… though no one will see her worn.