Thursday, January 20, 2022

Analysis of Corset Bust Gore Shapes | 1820s/1830s/1840s Corsets/Stays Bust Fitting

I recently started working on an 1820s/1830s/early 1840s style corset/stays using Past Patterns 001 Corded Stays Pattern. This is a simple, straightforward style of corset/stays that looks remarkably similar to the stays in the 1840 edition of the Workwoman's Guide. Both View A and View B of the pattern consist of a front body piece, two back pieces, and gores* to add shaping to the bust and hip areas.

*Please note that I use the term "gore" throughout this post to describe the triangular pieces inserted between slits of fabric to add shape to the garment. Both PP 001 and the Workwoman's Guide refer to these pieces as gores. Some other sources call them gussets.

This was my first time using this pattern, and since it was so easy to put together, I made several mockups - I think my final mockup count was 4! The experience of putting together the different mockups and inserting dozens of gores as I experimented with the gore shapes led to a few observations that I want to share with you.

This certainly isn't the "be all - end all" of corset/stays gore descriptions, but I hope it's helpful!

Bust Gore Shape #1

Narrow Triangle with Straight Sides

This is the gore shape that Past Patterns 001 uses for View B. Note how this gore is shaped like an acute, narrow triangle.

This gore shape...wasn't great. I found that it flattened my bust, and ultimately pushed my bust to under my armpits instead of comfortably lifting it. I felt compressed and disheartened at the shape it produced.

However, it's important to note that the pattern for View A was taken directly from an original 1840 wedding stay of a young woman. I think the slender shape of the bust gores (and the overall corset/stays) makes sense for this. I'm not sure how the larger sizes of this pattern scale up this slim silhouette of View A, so something to keep in mind.

Bust Gore Shape #2

Wide Triangle with Straight Sides

Next, I made a mockup of View B. The bust gores of View B were slightly wider and shorter than those of View A. Look at the difference that made in the shape of the bust area!

View A gore vs. View B gore

I found that while the wide triangular View B bust gores gave me some more room in the bust, my bust felt compressed and I was still getting a lot of side-boobage and not much lift. This would definitely work for me, but maybe there's a way to improve this shape...

Bust Gore Shape #3

Triangles with 1 Straight Side + 1 Curved Side

For my third bust gore experiment, I decided to stray away from the pattern. I've seen several extant corsets/stays that have distinctly uneven bust gores, each gore having a perceptible straight side and a curved side. The curved side is placed towards the center of each breast, and the straight side is placed away from each breast. This 1820s cotton corset from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston illustrates this arrangement:

In 2021 I finished making the gored corset from Simplicity 7215 (this corset pattern is taken from an original garment and has a great shape, but my finished corset was so big that I could lace it closed while stuffing towels underneath it... I feel personally attacked by Simplicity's extra pattern ease!). The gores in this corset pattern have that distinct straight edge + curved edge shape.

Past Patterns View B gores are on the viewer's left; Simplicity 7215 gores are on the viewer's right.

Wowza, look at that bust shape! My bust feels lifted upwards and towards the center of the corset/stays. We've got a winner!

Bust Gore Shape Comparison

Now that I've experimented with these different gore shapes, it makes sense that #3 would produce the most defined shape and lift. With the straight edges of the gores on the outside of the bust, the fullness of the bust ends up being pushed towards the center of each boob, where the curviest part of the gores are... or at least that's how I understand it!

I think if you're anything above an A cup, you might want to start with a bust gore shape like #2 or #3. If you have above a B cup, I recommend starting with something that looks like #3 and adjusting that curved edge of the gore to fit your bust.

Here's the side-by-side comparison of these 3 bust gore shapes: 

Do you have a favorite or go-to bust gore shape? Have you ever sewn a corset/stays with bust gores? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, January 7, 2022

Fanciful Utility - Victorian Needlebook or Pin Holder

Needing a break after my complex 1847 dress recreation project, I decided to make a Victorian needlebook - a small, useful piece for storing pins and needles. This is a much-needed upgrade from me carrying the plastic Dritz box of pins to events!

I was inspired by this free tutorial from The Sewing Academy/Anna Worden Bauersmith for a trefoil beaded needlebook. As this was my first time making such a thing, I didn't want to fuss with beads, embroidery, or whip stitching fabric along a curved, scalloped edge. 

The needlebook is stiffened with a thin piece of cardboard from a casserole dish's packaging. The outer fabric is a poly blend jacquard and the inside fabric is a poly blend satin. The inside of the needlebook has a scrap of worsted wool fabric, finished around the edges with scalloped pinking shears. The wool "pages" are secured to the "binding" with vintage rayon seam binding (as a substitute for silk ribbon) - I used a large upholstery needle to punch holes in the materials and thread through the ribbon. 

The needlebook outer fabric and lining fabric were sewn, right sides together, along three edges on my sewing machine. Then I trimmed the seam allowances, flipped the piece right sides out, and inserted the piece of cardboard. I closed up the previously unsewn edge of the needlebook with whip stitches - these are conveniently hidden in the jacquard.

Lastly, more rayon ribbon was sewn onto the edges of the needlebook - these are tied in a bow to keep the needlebook closed. 

This was a fun, satisfying, and quick (I made it in an evening!) project. It felt great to use up some scraps that I had been saving and turn them into something useful and pretty. One day I'll make the original beaded, embroidered, and scalloped design! 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Making an 1847 Fan Front Yoke Dress | Modifying Laughing Moon 114

My last project was creating a yoked, fan front 1840s dress - these are my favorite types of dresses to make! I tried copying this charming cotton print fan-front, dated to 1847, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

You can watch my Youtube video for an in-depth look into my research of 1840s yoked dresses and process for making this dress.

This fabric is Windham Fabrics Civil War 4 by Nancy Gere. The fabric label says it's c. 1860, but I think the design is plausible for the 1840s - it's close enough for me. 

I bought this fabric from a Facebook group, and it came in two pieces - one approximately 3.5 yard piece, and one approximately 1.5 yard piece, so I had to get creative with my fabric cutting!

Making the Skirt

The skirt is made from 3 panels of 45 inch wide fabric, for a total hem circumference of about 135 inches. Because of my limited fabric, I cut each panel to be a scant 42 inches tall - barely enough for my waist to floor measurement plus seam allowances. 

The panels were seamed up, selvedge to selvedge, with no seam finish - it wasn't necessary with the selvedge edges! I left about 10 inches unstitched on one seam for the back opening.

The bottom of the skirt was finished with an 8 inch wide hem facing. The top of the skirt has two rows of gathering stitches, 1/4 inch apart, to create cartridge pleats. I used normal poly-cotton sewing thread, and waxed it before sewing the cartridge pleats for strength.

Making the Bodice

I used Laughing Moon 114 as the base for the bodice - I think this pattern has the perfect bones for an 1840s dress. I modified the pieces for View B gathered front, View C flat back, and View A sleeves.  The darted bodice made from View C became the flatlining, with the gathered striped cotton overlay sitting on top. The lining has bones in the front darts and side seams.

After modifying the pattern pieces for the gathered overlay, this is what my fashion fabric pattern pieces looked like. Clockwise from top left: sleeve, yoke, gathered overlay, side front.

The bodice overlay was gathered by hand, with essentially cartridge pleats space 1/8 inch apart. Piping was added between the yoke and bodice, along the neckline, and around the armscyes. Because of my limited fabric, I had to piece together the piping from dozens of tiny (between 2 inches and 4 inches long) bias strips!

The waistband was whip stitched to the bodice, with a separate waistband facing covering the raw edges of the bodice, waistband, and piping. The skirt cartridge pleats were stitched onto the waistband facing, just behind the waistband piping.

The bodice is fastened in back with hooks and eyes placed 1 inch apart from each other. The hooks were stitched about a 1/2 inch away from the back edge, and the eyes were stitched along the other back edge. There was no standard "direction" of fastening at that time, but I chose to fasten my bodice right over left, which seemed to be common.

Making the Sleeves

The sleeves are a shortened and slightly narrowed version of the View A sleeves. I wasn't able to cut them on the bias, per the pattern's directions, but with sleeves this short, I don't think it made a difference.

I did have to move the armscye piping and sleeves up about half an inch near the shoulder - the original shoulder line in the pattern was far too low for my petite frame.

The sleeve ruffles were pieced together from scraps, with the piecing seams being flat felled. The ruffles are only about 1.5 times the circumference of the sleeves, but this reduced fullness works perfectly. The ruffles were finished off with a narrow 1/4 inch hem, gathered by hand, and hand sewn to the sleeves. The top ruffle is placed 4 inches away from the sleeve hem, and the bottom ruffle is place 2.75 inches below the top ruffle.

Video Tutorial

You'll find detailed, step-by-step instructions on how I made this 1840s dress in my YouTube video below:

As always, I welcome you to reach out to me if you have any questions! I also love seeing what you make from my tutorials - feel free to tag me on Instagram @pour_la_victoire