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!

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