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Author Topic: Corset Layers & Boning  (Read 3826 times)
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Cassidy
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« on: March 04, 2016, 06:26:50 AM »

It's so nice to have an account here and to be able to post!

I realized after an event last year that my corset just didn't have enough hip spring, and decided that I needed to make a new one. (And now I really need to make a new one, because I ripped out some seams to figure how much ease to add.) To make sure I get the proper amount of spring I'm going to use a gusseted construction, which seems to make the sudden flare I apparently need easier to achieve.

Examples (which you've all seen before, but for neatness's sake):
- VAM T.169-1961
- MCG 1947.1629
- CHM 1977.77.1

I've examined 1880-1920 corsets at the museums where I've worked, and 1770-1830 corsets while doing research elsewhere, but I don't think I've ever gotten a chance to handle corsets from the middle of the century! So my question is, how many layers go on here? For the 18th century, it's generally accepted that you use two strength layers, putting the fashion layer on top as a third layer. I can't zoom in as far on the first two corsets above, but the Chicago History Museum example looks like the bones are sandwiched between the satin and whatever cotton twill is underneath it, with the satin acting like a second strength layer.

Is there a generally accepted way of dealing with a silk layer in the 1860s? I'm using actual silk satin for this project, if that makes a difference, because I'm going to be doing a "dressing the fashionable woman" type of demonstration (so might as well make it as pretty as possible), because all the corsets I've made in various eras so far have been very plain and boring, and because I'm a glutton for punishment. Can I really just put the bones between the cotton and silk?
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2016, 10:14:12 AM »

With satin's propensity for slumping, sliding, and snagging, I'd use either a layer of coutil with boning tape for the strength of the corset, with satin as a fashion-fabric outer layer, or two layers of coutil, boning between, with the fashion fabric overlay. The satin will be very, very warm, so that's a consideration for any summer programming.

Another option is to skip the satin, but use a nice silk to do some decorative & functional flossing on the corset. You'll get a very pretty look, without the fuss or heat of the silk.
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Elizabeth
Jessamyn
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« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2016, 01:33:51 PM »

I made a successful white silk satin repro ca.1880 corset that is just satin outside, midweight cotton inside, but it's vintage satin with a sturdy plainweave back. I also just recently finished a blue silk corset based on, among other things, the first one you linked to; it's just silk outside and white cotton sateen inside (per several extant examples). I'm quite happy with it, but the silk is a very crisp, ribbed, very subtle moire. If your satin is anything like charmeuse, as Liz says, it will be very tricky to handle and just won't work as its own layer. I'd say I'm right at the limits of putting strain on the ribbed silk and not suffering distortion or pulled seams -- anything softer or less stable would be a disaster.

I would recommend using the thinnest really stable material you can for the inner layers. My old 1860s corset, made from an ancient Past Pattern kit, was two layers of heavy cotton twill, and I really notice the letup in weight and oppressiveness in my new one. A lot of corsets of this period were actually only ONE layer, a pretty outer being the very distant exception. The vast majority were white or tan sturdy cotton.

As to shape, I have a very wide, bony pelvis, and I cannot express how much better my new corset with a large hip gore is. SO MUCH BETTER. It makes the whole corset work as it should. I basically patterned it after this patent diagram, except that for me it worked better to end the front gore at the side seam and add a separate back inset as per the V&A example.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/394768723563548628/
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Cassidy
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« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2016, 08:54:04 PM »

With satin's propensity for slumping, sliding, and snagging, I'd use either a layer of coutil with boning tape for the strength of the corset, with satin as a fashion-fabric outer layer, or two layers of coutil, boning between, with the fashion fabric overlay. The satin will be very, very warm, so that's a consideration for any summer programming.

Yes, I have been thinking about the slipperiness - it'll be tricky. It's a fairly solid weave, though, so I think it'll be possible.

The heat is a good point! On the other hand, the summer event is just a couple of days and then done. It might end up just being worn for Victorian Strolls around Christmas in the future. (Yes, this is rationalizing for the sake of the Pretty.)

Quote
Another option is to skip the satin, but use a nice silk to do some decorative & functional flossing on the corset. You'll get a very pretty look, without the fuss or heat of the silk.

That is a good option, I'm just not sure I trust myself to actually do the flossing after the rest is finished if I'm not using a nice outer fabric. Bad habits ... Do you think a taffeta would be noticeably cooler? I could always save this satin for a future corset.

I would recommend using the thinnest really stable material you can for the inner layers. My old 1860s corset, made from an ancient Past Pattern kit, was two layers of heavy cotton twill, and I really notice the letup in weight and oppressiveness in my new one. A lot of corsets of this period were actually only ONE layer, a pretty outer being the very distant exception. The vast majority were white or tan sturdy cotton.

(Do you have any pictures of the blue silk corset online? I'd love to see it!) Yes, with each corset I make I'm working at getting rid of assumptions about shaping and engineering and materials - you always start out thinking they need to be bulletproof, and then scale down from there. I think my first was two layers of cotton drill, with a white muslin outer fabric and an unbleached muslin lining, from a Butterick pattern. I didn't realize most corsets of the period were single layer; would one like e.g. this or this have boning channels applied on the side closer to the body?

Quote
As to shape, I have a very wide, bony pelvis, and I cannot express how much better my new corset with a large hip gore is. SO MUCH BETTER. It makes the whole corset work as it should. I basically patterned it after this patent diagram, except that for me it worked better to end the front gore at the side seam and add a separate back inset as per the V&A example.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/394768723563548628/

I am also using that pattern as a guide (taking out the side seam, because it seems a bit unnecessary)! The shape of the gore was giving me pause, too - it seems like the shorter hip gore with another added in the back is more common. I might try out the Sebille pattern as drawn in the mockup phase and see how it goes.
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Jessamyn
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« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2016, 02:57:47 PM »


(Do you have any pictures of the blue silk corset online? I'd love to see it!) Yes, with each corset I make I'm working at getting rid of assumptions about shaping and engineering and materials - you always start out thinking they need to be bulletproof, and then scale down from there. I think my first was two layers of cotton drill, with a white muslin outer fabric and an unbleached muslin lining, from a Butterick pattern. I didn't realize most corsets of the period were single layer; would one like e.g. this or this have boning channels applied on the side closer to the body?

...

I am also using that pattern as a guide (taking out the side seam, because it seems a bit unnecessary)! The shape of the gore was giving me pause, too - it seems like the shorter hip gore with another added in the back is more common. I might try out the Sebille pattern as drawn in the mockup phase and see how it goes.

Yes to interior boning channels. This example doesn't show an inside view, but you can clearly see the boning channels shadowing through the surprisingly sheer-ish material:

http://corsetsandcrinolines.com/timelineitem.php?index=186042

As to the pattern, I found the side seam very useful both for fitting, and for working each end of the corset before joining. At some point you have to close up the busk edge at the front and the eyelet edge at the back, and the whole thing tends to become less manageable in the machine as the bones go in, not to mention shrink -- it was much more convenient to work the thing in halves (quarters? It's already in halves, so halves of halves), and baste the side seams to test the fit before committing finally.

Sorry, no pictures yet! (Nor flossing -- I feel you on that. I was trying to do a lot of fiddly sewing before the March symposium, but here's hoping I actually do it now.)
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Stephanie Brennan
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« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2016, 04:38:00 PM »

I wonder if upholstery silk would work better?
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Jessamyn
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« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2016, 07:10:34 PM »

I would say no -- definitely not the type that has a backing! But even without that, you really don't want to go thicker, you just want a tight, firm weave that will hold up to the strain.
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