Corsets and Crinolines
1911 Corset

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1911 Corset from Corsets and Crinolines

I had admired the 1911 corset in Norah Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines for awhile. Having nothing else to do one day, I set out to enlarge it and make a toile. What started out as just for fun, soon turned into a serious sewing project. I was soon asking others about how the corset should fit, be put together, materials, etc., and was delighted to receive help and thoughts on construction from several talented and knowledgeable costumers.

I was able to perfect the fit in just two muslins. The first one I ended up just throwing in the trash, since it needed a ton of work, but the second one was almost right on. I left a generous spring in the back of 2" to account for that once I had worn the corset for a period of time, I would be able to lace it tighter.

To make the toile, I used two layers of inexpensive cotton muslin, the busk I had (this is well worth the trouble of putting in), and a pair of lacing strips that I found out how to make on Margo Anderson's website. It took me the better part of an afternoon to put together, and the end result was being able to have a pretty accurate idea of how the finished corset would be (sans the boning of course). One watch point is the bust-line. Be sure to use either gussets (if you're large busted) or a more flexible boning in the front, if not, you'll be constantly pushed out of the corset. After several adjustments, it was ready to make.

I bought white cotton twill to make the body of the corset out of. I've seen several pictures online of corsets from that era made out of one layer of corset fabric. The boning is set into twill tape casing, and the top and bottom edges of the corset are hemmed. Instead of using this method, I decided to go with the usual double layer method, which would provide enough support for this corset.

Here are the materials I used for this corset:
°  White 100% cotton twill
°  12" busk
°  Bones (bought from Farthingales)
°  Eyelets
°  Lacing cord
°  Twill tape
°  Lace
°  Ribbon

Most of the items, sans the boning, I was able to buy at local fabric stores, cutting the cost considerably since I did not need to pay shipping.

I pretty much followed the online corset construction instructions at Farthingale's website, using the third method. But, I did make a few changes, as the corsets these instructions are most proper for are Victorian era corsets (the corsets tend to be shorter, and boning tends to run the length of corsets prior to the 1910s). Instead of leaving the bottom open, I also sewed that closed while I was sewing the lining front and back to the fabric front and back. Once I turned it right side out, three sides of the corset was finished, and only the top remained open, to facilitate inserting the bones. Once I had done this, I topstitched around the three sides close to the edge. It really helped make the corset lay correctly. I also basted the top edges together (the open edge) before I stitched the bone casings. I tried stitching the casing before I basted the top, but found that I was getting some uneven 'bagging' along the bottom of the corset.

Be careful when sewing bone casings that they are and even width and are the right length!! I marked the casing lines on the lining of my corset with marking chalk (if you don't want to have to wash the corset (without the bones) after you stitch it, I would recommend doing thread tracings), and simply followed those, using the presser foot as a width guide. I would first sew down one side of the casing, across the bottom (back-tacking a couple times for added strength) and then up the other side. One point to watch is casings that cross over seams. I had a lot of trouble inserting those, and even had to take the casing stitches out to trim the inner seams down before I could insert certain bones. Be sure to give those casings a little extra width so you have 'wiggle room' with the bones. (Although on some, I would have to rip out my stitches on a certain section, insert the bone, and re-close the casing with the bone inserted.)

One note about boning: In some places on the sketch of the original corset, it is shown wider than the standard " wide boning readily available. Because I couldn't find the lengths I needed in the proper widths, I had to double " wide bones in some places. It wasn't a big deal, but just something to keep in mind. Also, the longest back bones need to be spiral steel instead of the solid steal boning. If you use solid steel (the kind that doesn't bend as easily), you won't be able to sit down properly.

Another note is that this corset uses an amazing length of lacing! Be sure to purchase more than you think you need!

Overall, it was a great first corset to make. It really fits nicely, and went together quickly!

Note: This pattern came from the book Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh and is not available in indivdual pattern form. The pattern is scaled down, and does require enlargement. Corsets and Crinolines is available from many online book dealers.-Reviewed by Miss C.

This pattern is rated A.

Artwork is October (1877) by James Tissot, courtesy of CGFA.

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