Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Satin 1920s Tap Pants - HSM #3 Stashbusting

The third challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly is Stashbusting! This challenge requires you to make something out of fabric already in your stash.

I went with my original plan of making 1920s tap pants. This is my first challenge of the year since I never finished making the 1920s brassiere for Challenge #1 Foundations.

Many extant examples of 1920s lingerie are made from light, pastel colored silks and trimmed with lace and appliques. You can see more examples of 1920s lingerie in my Pinterest board and a discussion of tap pants in this post.

My tap pants are made with Folkwear's 219 Intimacies pattern. They are made from the same polyester pink satin as my 1920s dress. All of the seams are french seams. The narrow hem is handsewn with a slip stitch, and the bias binding was also sewn down with a slip stitch.

To reduce bulk in the crotch seam, I pressed one french seam to the front and the other to the back. This technique, which wasn't in the pattern instructions, worked very well and the crotch seam is flat and neat.

 They fasten at the left side with 4 snaps in a continuous lap placket. The instructions in the Folkwear pattern are for a placket designed to reduce bulk. I must've been running on just 3 brain cells when I was working on the placket because I could not understand the instructions! I couldn't figure out how to conceal all the raw edges of the placket. After 2 days of staring at the instructions, various tutorials, and vintage sewing manuals, I decided to use the placket and instructions from Vera Venus' Free Tap Pants Tutorial.

Folkwear 219's placket instructions. Note the shape of the placket.
My placket fail. I made a total of 4 test plackets before I decided to try a rectangular, continuous lapped placket.
The finished placket. The placket edges have been sewn down with a slip stitch.
The placket from the inside of the drawers. This was my first time putting a placket in a french seam.
Unfortunately, the pattern instructions, which cover french seams, neglect to describe how to put a placket in a french seam. The trick is to make a french seam up the point where the placket will be inserted; make a horizontal snip at the top of the french seam to free the unseamed fabric; trim 1/4 from the edge of the unseamed fabric; and attache the placket. This process is described in the Vera Venus tap pants tutorial.

I'm most proud of my handsewing on these tap pants! Look at the neat, clean lines of the bias binding waistband, and the sharp edges! I also slipstitched the binding along the fold where it was tucked in, for extra security (if that is unclear, feel free to let me know and I'll upload more photos).

The Challenge: #3 Stashbusting
Fabric: pink polyester satin 
Stashed for how long? I originally bought this fabric 4 years ago with the intention of making my prom dress out of it! 
Pattern: Folkwear 219 Intimacies
Year: 1920s-30s
Notions: snaps
How historically accurate is it? 90% ... I lose points for using polyester fabric, but snaps are a documentable closure on tap pants from this time period.
Hours to complete: 4 days, including 2 days of staring at the placket instructions while my brain cells fizzed into oblivion
First worn: not yet!
Total cost: about $2 for the snaps

I originally wanted to add lace trim to these tap pants, but now I'm not so sure. I love the clean, sleek look of the satin. My plan was to add narrow lace trim around the leg openings and lace bows to the sides, like in Vera Venus' example of tap pants. However, my lace is narrow, stiff, and very synthetic, and I worry it might ruin the elegant look of my tap pants.

Do you think I should add the lace to my tap pants like in this blue example from Vera Venus?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Not Your Granny's Panties: Tap Pants and French Knickers

My entry for the Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #3 Stashbusting is a pair of pink satin tap pants. But what are tap pants?

Tap pants, also known as French knickers or step-ins, are a style of loosely-fitted underwear that was popular from the 1920s to the 1950s. They are characterized by a fitted waistband and flared leg. They were usually made of silk satin or silk charmeuse in soft, pale, feminine colors like pink, beige, and a range of pastels, and were frequently trimmed with lace or decorated with lace appliques.

Here are some examples of tap pants/French knickers from the 20th century:

McCall's 6021, a pattern for tap pants and brassieres, via A Stitching Odyssey

Silk tap pants with ecru lace trim, via Ebay
Silk and cotton lace tap  pants, c. 1926, via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tap pants & Brassiere by Boué Soeurs, French, 1920's via Vintage Textiles

Joyce Compton, 1931, no source

Lingerie and Sleepwear page from 1934 Sears Catalog, via Lileks.com

Black silk chiffon and beige lace knickers (tap pants) with scalloped hem and pointed yoke, attributed to Herminie Cadolle, French, c. 1930 via de Young Museum

Pink satin tap pants, via Voyeur Vintage on Etsy
Advance pattern 3082, via SoVintagePatterns
Powder blue pleated tap pants, via LindyShopper
White Nylon tap pants via Etsy
So what's the big deal with tap pants?
Besides adding the extra touch to your vintage outfit, tap pants are great to wear with modern clothes. Because most tap pants are cut on the bias, they cling to the curves of your body and can be very flattering. Tap pants are perfect to wear underneath dresses, skirts, and certain trousers because they won't give you Visible Panty Line (VPL). You can wear a garter belt underneath tap pants to make using the bathroom easier. Tap pants are comfortable, practical and sexy!

Tap pants sewing patterns
Because of the rarity and fragility of vintage items, I think the best option is to make your own tap pants. They take very little material to make and require basic-intermediate level sewing skills, like french seams, bias bindings, elastic casings, and plackets. There is quite a variety of reproduction tap pants patterns available on the market today.

Reconstructing History 1315 $$$
This pattern from RH features a pair of 1930s tap pants that are cut on the bias. These tap pants include a crotch gusset.

Folkwear 219 Intimacies $$
This Folkwear pattern is printed on thick, strong paper, and the pattern comes with a separate booklet for authentic detailing techniques like crochet, lace, bias binding, and embroidery. The style of tap pants in this pattern is appropriate for the 1920s and 1930s.

Mrs. Depew Vintage $
The Mrs. Depew Etsy store is stocked with a wide range of reproduction vintage lingerie patterns. She carries tap pants patterns from the 1920s to 1950s. Most of her patterns are available as e-patterns.

Vera Venus Tap Pants Tutorial FREE
Vera Venus has a free tutorial for drafting and sewing your own tap pants! This tutorial is easy to follow and a great way to "wet your feet" to period construction and embellishment techniques. Vera Venus also has a tutorial for circular 1930s tap pants.

Have you made or worn tap pants before? Share your experience with tap pants in the comments!

Friday, March 13, 2015

CorsetDeal Corset CDW-1102-MK Style #106 Review

I purchased my first corset!  I found the Brocade Corset CDW-1102-MK Sytle #106 on CorsetDeal.com for $22 (originally $128 and now $50). At only $22, I could justify buying this corset even if it disappointed me--I could always scrap it for materials and a pattern.

Brown Brocade Corset CDW-1102-MK Style #106 -- Front

Brown Brocade Corset CDW-1102-MK Style #106 -- Side

Brown Brocade Corset CDW-1102-MK Style #106 -- Back
I chose this corset because the brocade fabric on the outside looked sturdier than the pretty polyester satin corsets also available on CorsetDeal.com. This corset also had a very moderate sweetheart neckline, which is similar to late 19th century corsets and better suited to my small frame (here are images of late 19th century corsets for comparison). 

Technical Specifications:
The website's description of this corset was really bare, and so I was pleasantly surprised by a few details when my corset arrived.

According to CorsetDeal.com, this corset is constructed with 6 shaped panels. It has 20 spiral steel bones along the seams (2 bones at each seam), and 4 flat steel bones along the back lacing. It fastens with a copper-colored metal busk that is 12.5 inches long and 2 inches wide. Besides the image below, the only other information the website gave about this corset was the following:
  • Authentic Steel Boned Brown Brocade Overbust Corset
  • 20 Spiral Steel Bone, 4 Flat Steel Bone
  • Front Length: 14.5 inch (36.8 cm)
  • Side Length: 12.5 inch (31.75 cm)
  • Back Length: 13.0 inch (33.02 cm)
  • Fabric: Brocade
  • Lining: 100% Cotton
  • Front Opening: Metal Busk

Technical specifications of the Style #106 Corset
Though not indicated in the website's technical description, I think the outer brocade fabric is polyester because it is shiny.
The corset came with a very long shoelace-style lace, which is rather stretchy. However, this kind of lace is still better than polyester cord or satin ribbon, which are not very strong and easily slip out of the grommets--making lacing a more difficult task. I was very surprised and happy to see that the corset has 6 black satin ribbon loops (3 on each side of the corset) stitched to the bottom edge, presumably for holding garters. This corset also comes with 2 satin ribbon loops so you can store your corset on a hanger!

Fit and Feel:
This corset is comfortable but does not fit very well. I ordered a size 20 (for a 24-25 inch waist) instead of a size 22 (for a 26-27 inch waist) because my size was sold out. Even lacing as tight as I can, I have about a 4 inch lacing gap.

Corsets work by displacing fat from the waist into the bust and hip area. I am very bony, with high-set hips, and my shape negatively affects this corset's efficacy in creating the hourglass figure. I get only about 1.5 inches of waist reduction with this corset simply because I don't have much fat around my waist, bust, or hips. The bones rub up against my pelvis and ribcage uncomfortably when the corset is laced too tight. As you can see in the photos below, the corset is too large for my bust, sticks out from my stomach, and is too small for my high-set hips. I can solve these fit issues by padding out the bust and hip area, which was a period practice. If I had bought the larger size, the corset would have been even bigger in my hip/bust area.

Note: This corset comes with a 6 inch wide modesty panel, which I removed with a seam ripper.
  • Steel boned 
    • This corset is boned with a total of 24 steel bones, including 20 spiral steel bones. Spiral steel is a flattened coil of wire and is flexible but strong. Because spiral steels are flexible, they help create the curved hourglass shape. Flat steel boning (also known as spring steel) is very strong and not very flexible; having flat steels along the lacing grommets helps support the corset and make sure it won't buckle under the pressure of being laced.
  • 2 inch wide metal 6-clasp busk
    • The metal busk is the closing mechanism at the front of the corset. The busk consists of two parts: one side with loops and one side with pegs. The loops hook onto the pegs to fasten the corset. The busk on this corset is 2 inches wide when the busk is closed. This busk isn't flimsy like the 1 inch busks found in corsets of the same low price range on Ebay or in costume stores.
  • Sturdy construction
    • The outer layer of this corset is strong brown brocade, and the inner layer is a thick black cotton duck. This corset feels heavy and solid. The cotton (natural fiber) inner layer will help the corset "breathe."
  • Historical look 
    • The subtle sweetheart neckline and overall shape of this corset looks very similar to corsets of the late 19th century. If you're interested in Victorian costuming, this corset is a nice gateway.
  • Garter loops
    • This corset has little ribbon loops on the inside from which you can attach garters. This is a fun detail.

  • No waist tape
    • A waist tape is a piece of twill tape or strong ribbon that is used to reinforce the waistline of a corset. It is usually sewn to the inside of a corset. Corsets with waist tapes are able to take more strain on the waist and are ideal for tightlacing. Additionally, the use of waist tapes is historically correct and documented in 19th century and early 20th century corsets. However, it is possible that a there is a concealed waist tape within the corset; I'm not going to rip open the corset to find out (sorry!).
  • Two-layer construction is not as strong as a three-layer corset
    • Many higher-end corsets are constructed with at least three layers of fabric for strength. Some corsets even use twill tape or bias tape casings for boning for extra strength. My concern with a two-layer corset like this one is that eventually the bones will start poking through the polyester brocade.
  • Sizing
  • Not designed for tightlacing because of grommet placement
    • Grommets placed closer at the waist will support the increased tension at that point; this is more helpful for tightlacers. 

Final Thoughts:
If you are interested in purchasing this style of corset, Style #106, note that CorsetDeal.com is very poorly organized. You practically have to explore every tab to find what you're looking for. Additionally, most corsets are identified by a name like "Jaime Brocade Waist Training Corset" or "Garnet Brocade Corset" rather than by their style number. If you are looking for a particular style of corset, like the moderate sweetheart shape of the Style #106 corsets or the underbust Style #101, then you have to keep your eyes open on a page full of thumbnails for corsets with the same shape but different names. Also, many corsets can be described as the same style but each have different openings,  numbers of shaped panels, and quantities and types of boning--make sure you look at the technical drawing that accompanies each corset to confirm you're getting what you want.

In addition, if you are looking for reviews of a corset on CorsetDeal.com, be aware that reviews aren't organized either. Very few corsets here have reviews; the ones that do are very short and not very information. The corset I purchased didn't have any reviews, so I looked for other Style #106 corsets to see what people thought about them.

On the website, there is no difference between waist training corsets and fashion corsets. Corsets of the same style can be classified as waist training corsets for no apparent reason. If you are a serious tightlacer, this may not be the best website to purchase corsets from.

I was NOT paid to review this corset and am not in any way affiliated with CorsetDeal.com.