This is a photo diary of my costuming "travels"; where I've learned and struggled to make historical costumes for myself. They're not always pretty, but always fun. most of the time. And I want to share with others what I learn along the way. **You can find me on Facebook, or have my posts delivered to your email by signing up at the lower part of the right column.**

About Me

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HI, my name is Val. I'm a member of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, Dean Emeritus of 2018 Costume College; member & Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, a representative of the San Diego History Center, & an honorary member of SITU (Someplace in Time, Unlimited) in Seattle. I make my own historical costumes but don't sell any unless I get tired of one.The eras I've made so far are 1770 up to 1918. My favorite is the 1880s bustle.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Over the weekend I hosted another sewing workshop in my home with Shelley Peters’ Historical Sewing Workshops. Since I was already ahead on some of my sewing for Costume College, I decided to take the opportunity to make a new corset since my previous one from three years ago had gotten paint splattered on it while I doing my face-painting for Dia de los Muertos, which wouldn’t wash out, and also had some holes in it where I had replaced a busk. And I must have very dirty hands when I put it on because it was pretty dirty along the front.

The last time I saw Shelley’s coutil brocades for the corsets, I’d seen a white with lavender flowers on it and decided I didn’t want pure white this time. And she had a lavender cotton twill to line it with.

The pattern we’d used in 2013 was Truly Victorian #110 for late 1880, which is primarily the decade I like to dress. I’m not one of those who makes a different corset for the different decades, unless it's really different, like Regency, or the longer Edwardians. So this gets me through 1830s up to about 1905. Where it becomes telling is when the skirt is really flat and tight fitting and the fluff comes out the bottom of my corset. There’s no fuller skirts to conceal that so you need to take that into account how you make that skirt fit.
My corsets prior to this were made from Laughing Moon but after making my first TV one, Shelley said it fit my body better, and gave me better “hip spring”. I’m assuming that means a better shaped hip line and nice curvy hips.
*I wanted to add this quote from Jennifer of Sewing Historical, who said, "The Laughing Moon 100 runs big as you get into the larger sizes. The TV pattern doesn't, and you cut each panel according to your measurements." *
We used the same pattern pieces from my first time using the TV pattern, but took in a few “darts” to better flatten the bottom of the front, which tended to dome on me, and also a bit in the bust area. I tended to slip down inside mine, and she suggested using the little “bust improvers” that you can set down inside the bust cups for the girls to rest on and keep them up. Put on your chemise and corset, and then tuck them down inside and under the girls.  Cha Ching!
These are the "bust improvers/cookies/cutlets" made of a white foam with a thicker section at the bottom. They can be purchased at fabric/hobby stores in the accessories sections. Shelley had her's attached by a bit of a ribbon across the middle.

The workshops normally run for two days, starting about 9 or 10am, and finish each day sometime around 6 or 7pm. Since I was using my previous pattern which we’d already fitted on me, I didn’t have to make a muslin. I didn’t have constant supervision while I was sewing, and of course sewed one panel upside down, and put half of my busk in backwards. This isn’t the busk I used but can you see the little knobs are closer to one side than the other? The wider portion, not the narrow one, should be put up against the outside seam. I did mine with the narrow portion and so it didn’t close very well. So out it came! Yes, my seam ripper as usual got a good workout.
Some corset patterns are made so you sew all the coutil pieces together, then all the outside fabric, and then you sandwich them together, adding boning channels to it. The TV pattern has you sew each pattern piece of coutil and fabric together, then the next two to that one, and then next, and so on. To keep myself from being confused which pattern piece went next I would write on the backside which pattern # it was (1-6). It also helps showing you which is the top and the bottom. Of course I still can’t figure out how I sewed one panel upside down. They look really similar so it’s not hard, so that’s my excuse.
When it’s finally all pieced, you sew your channels down it with your sewing machine. No boning tape is used. It cuts down on bulk and cost, but then that’s not much. Shelley reminded me to do very small stitches when I did a running stitch along the bottom of each half of the corset so it enforced the channel the bones would go in and not poke through. I noticed I had forgotten to do that on my previous one, and they WERE poking through. I also learned I was using bones that were about a half inch too long and were set solidly in my channels right up to the tops and bottoms of them, so there was no room for movement. Thus, they were being forced out of the coutil.
By the end of the second day of sewing, with a really stiff back I might add, I had completed all the sewing except the binding on the bottom after I put the bones in. I was able to finish that the next evening. And voila! A new corset in two days.


1 comment:

  1. Mine is showing it's age, and I'll need a new one soon. I am glad you described the differences between the Laughing Moon and the TV...I have the Laughing Moon, but now that I know the TV is better for the 'hip spring' I've regained, I will use that one for the next workshop!


I would love to hear if this was any help to you. Pretty please!