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RhondaElvin
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« on: October 30, 2006, 10:54:55 AM »

Okay!  Now that I am getting ready to make myself that new corset...I am thinking fabrics.  I remember on the old forum that corset Coutil was recommended.  Since then and while the forum was down I was told that originial corset material was nothing like our modern corset coutil.  But that a cotton twill or drill was what was more like what they used to make their corsets. 

I have never had an original corset in my little hands...so I couldn't comment one way or another.

So have any of you all had your little hands on an original corset?  What were they made from? 

I like to make my corsets out of two layers of fabric and sandwich the steels inbetween...I have some very tightly woven light weight Japanese Twill...very fine...can't hardly see the twill lines unless I get very very very close.  Wink  I would like to use it but not if it isn't appropriate...dont' know if it should be the 'fashion fabric' of the 'lining'Huh?

Fabric suggestions would be great, thank you!
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Amanda L
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« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2006, 10:59:35 AM »

I know a lot of modern corset makers use cotton duck canvase or drill. My latest is made of drill.
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BarbaraSmith
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« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2006, 11:16:40 AM »

IMHO - In My Humble Opinion - And it's just that - My first corset was coutil, and it seemed to stretch inordinately. By the end of the day, I was sagging. I had to wash it after every wearing to tighten it up.

It was two layers, professionally sewn, but it seemed to stretch too much.

I'd recommend nice smoth drill.  Grin I've got a drill corset right now, and it's comfortable, without being saggy.

I have a Vollers (modern corset) that's black satin outside, lined with a nice smooth drill. It ALSO incorporates a stay tape sewn into the waist. It doesn't loosen, and doesn't sag. Sew, my advice - drill and stay tape. Stay tape is just tightly woven cotton twill tape. I think Farthingale's sells something specifically as stay tape, but just about any nice tight weave twill tape will do. Not the big "Fox" brand braid.  Grin

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B.
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« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2006, 11:18:02 AM »

Oh wait. I misspoke. I have a TWILL corset, not DRILL. It's not that bulky drill canvas that JoAnn's sells. It's smoother. A tight twill weave, both smoother and lighter than canvas.

I don't recommend canvas or jean.

Sorry, brain needs more coffee.., Wink
B.
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RhondaElvin
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« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2006, 12:30:57 PM »

Thanks for the replies.
I have tried canvas myself and didn't like it and the cotton coutil almost too stiff.
I think I will use the tight weave twill I have...but I am still wondering about what was used on originals. Smiley

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Elizabeth
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« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2006, 12:58:09 PM »

Twilled weaves are very common for mid-century corsets; the twill weave seems to help keep the bones from working through as easily.  A very firmly woven, lighter-weight drill (a canvas, only fine!) can also work well.  I've had *very* long life out of my coutil corset (coutil being French for "twill"--modern coutil is a double-twilled fabric), without the stretching problem... I'm wondering, Barb, if the coutil the maker used didn't have some modern content?  Mine is under Extreme Stress, and doesn't stretch out of shape.  Of course, it's also fairly heavily quilted and boned, so the side-stretch is even more minimized.

My advice is to select a smooth, finely-woven, tight weave.  That rules out the cotton duck from the chain store, generally.  The lighter, finer, and tighter the weave, the more lightweight and comfortable I find the corset. 
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RhondaElvin
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« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2006, 02:04:30 PM »

My advice is to select a smooth, finely-woven, tight weave.  

That sounds just like the stuff I have...it is so smooth and doesn't stretch at all.  Should I make it double with the same inside fabric as outside...or can the lining be something else?

I am thinking it should be both the same...more stability??

I gotta go my two year old is helping me type...which really is no help at all. Smiley
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BarbaraSmith
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« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2006, 02:19:57 PM »

Hi Liz! I have no idea where the corset maker got the material, but it did look very much like corset coutil I've seen for sale. My memory is that it was very soft, not hard and smooth. It's been awhile. It never made me happy and I passed it on to someone else.  Grin

So, possibly all coutil is not BAD! Could have been a bad batch of fabric. Thank you!  Grin
B.
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Amanda L
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« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2006, 02:21:48 PM »

where did you get yuour coutil? some suppliers are stiffer than others. for the life of me I can't remember who was who. I had hears this on corsetmakers on livejournal.
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2006, 03:41:21 PM »

I've purchased from Greenburg & Hammer, and Newark Dressmaker's Supply, and Farthingales, and have been pleased with all three batches (but I have NO luck with drill cloth, so perhaps different folks just have different textile gremlins?  Give me silk organza over polar fleece--I can cope with the former, but can't do a thing with the latter!)

I have to go for maximum control, and find that as long as the fabric is a nice lightweight, firmly-woven fabric (fine threads), I can use the same fabric for the outside and lining.  My current version is a Franken-Corset--it's been missing sections of the binding for about 4 years now, without any problems.  It's ugly, but very, very functional. Smiley 

A person with a lighter figure could certainly go for a lighter fabric--cotton sateen works actually very well for corded stays, for instance, and even works well for light boned stays if you use the firmly-woven stay casings (Farthingale's sells these) inside the corset, rather than just stitching channels and threading in the bones.  Sateen is what I like for children's and young teen's corsets/stays, which have primarily cording for support.
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Elizabeth
RhondaElvin
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« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2006, 03:54:20 PM »

I usually get my corset supplies (coutil included) from either corsetmaking.com or Grannd Company (don't remember their web address at the moment...anyone could google it).  It is a stiff fabric, smooth, no stretch, I think it is too heavy.  I don't get any reduction in the waist with a coutil corset (sateen lining)...but with a cotton twill/sateen (lining) corset of the same pattern size I did get about 2 inches off my waist.  The cotton twill was more comfortable and felt lighter (I had the same amount of boning it each).   I think the coutil gives more support. 

I have some coutil left over that I can not do anything with...too little, but enough to give out samples if anyone wants to see it before purchasing.  Just send me a PM.

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RhondaElvin
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« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2006, 04:15:41 PM »

Cotton sateen....now is that the same as polished cotton?  I have some cotton sateen (that I used in described corsets above) but I got it in the upholstery section of JoAnns.  It is about the same weight as coutil...shinier on ones side then the other...soft not a lot of stretch.  The Polished cotton I have had is lighter in weight than that but still very firmly woven...no stretch and and shinier/smooth on the one side than the shiny side of the cotton sateen.  Am I making any sense???  Sadly I am aware that I don't always...Smiley  I ask this cause I have had people at fabric stores tell me they are the same...yet I find them to be very different.  SOOOO which one is it that we are speaking of?

Okay I have totally confused myself...HELP!
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2006, 06:07:10 PM »

Sateen and polished cotton are different.

Polished cotton is a regular-weave fabric (and if I recall correctly, twills can be polished, too), one thread over, one under, etc.  It's then treated to a polishing with high velocity rollers, to "burnish" the face of the fabric.

Sateen is a satin-weave cotton; it has extra "floating" threads on the face of the fabric for a very smooth sheeny fabric.

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Elizabeth
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« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2006, 06:21:57 PM »

You're timing is perfect, Rhonda. I'm in the midst of washing 20 yards of coutil for a corset class this weekend. LOL In response to various comments/questions:

Period coutil different from modern coutil:
I've heard that comment also and I've asked for the documentation on which it is based. Documented Civil War corsets are as scarce as hen's teeth; there are very few in existance when compared to the number of surviving corsets from other periods. I've seen one made from coutil that is virtually identical to the cotton coutil I use, and I've also seen originals made from other twill and plain weave fabrics.  And since there are many different coutil fabrics available on the market, I don't understand how someone could make that general a statement. Good quality cotton coutil is pricy; I wonder if the statement was used to justify using a less-expensive fabric?

Coutil stiffness:
The very nature of coutil - tightly-woven, twill weave - means that you're going to have a stiff fabric. It softens a little with washing, and will soften a little more when manipulated during construction - all that steam while pressing. But it shouldn't be flimsy or it won't serve the purpose or wear well.

Coutil stretching:
I use cotton coutil for my corsets and for all my corset classes (double-layer corsets). I've never had a problem with it stretching excessively. Any corset will stretch slightly as the fabric warms up on your body after an hour or two of wearing. A quick tug of the lacing will snug it back up, but the size adjustment is not much more than 1/2" if that. I also wonder if the coutil in Barb's corset had some modern content. Your corset shouldn't "sag" and you shouldn't have to wash it after each wearing to tighten it back up. My corsets and those in the classes are heavily boned - average 26 bones per garment - so that may also be a factor.

Lightweight twill:
This should be fine for at least one layer of the corset, unless you think you'll have a wear issue at the end of the bones.

Twill or stay tape at the waist:
Sandwiching a tightly-woven twill tape between the layers as you sew will do a lot to keep the waistline of the corset at your waistline and keep it from stretching. I use 1" wide cotton twill tape from Greenberg & Hammer.

Waist reduction:
Waist reduction does not come from the type of fabric used to make the corset or how tightly you lace it. It's cut into the corset during construction. Each section is reduced along one or both edges to create the reduction. The shaping is gradual, over the middle 2/3 of the corset. The reduction along each edge varies from 1/8" - 1/2" depending on the amount of the desired reduction and the shape of your body. I usually recommend my students cut at least a 2" reduction. Two layers of coutil, a busk and 26 bones take up space; if you don't cut a minimal reduction to compensate your waist measurement will be larger with a corset than it is without one. Slight shaping also makes the corset "sit" better on your body and makes it more comfortable to wear.

Cotton sateen vs. polished cotton:
These are two different fabrics. Cotton sateen is woven with a satin weave: one under, two or three over. The weave gives the fabric its smooth texture. Polished cotton is woven with a plain weave: one under, one over. The polish or glaze is created as part of the finishing process. Personally, I'm not fond of either one for a corset. Polished cotton doesn't breath as well as un-glazed fabric and I think it makes you feel warmer when you wear it. Cotton sateen has a lovely appearance, but it tends to fray easily and I don't think it wears as well.  Just my opinion, YMMV.  Smiley


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RhondaElvin
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« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2006, 05:03:41 AM »

Thanks EVERYONE for helping clear things up in my head!  And that is quite the achievement!! Smiley

Carolann wrote:
"Waist reduction does not come from the type of fabric used to make the corset or how tightly you lace it. It's cut into the corset during construction."

Then can you explain to me why when I had a corset or Twill and a corset of coutil both made from the exact same pattern, exact same size...tried on the exact same day, same 15 minutes actually why I experienced a difference?

I laced them both to where it was comfortably snug and had a 2" reduction in the one with twill and the other of coutil there was no difference (I could get a reduction but then I couldn't breath which is never recommended Smiley )  I am extremely curious about this!

the lady that told me about modern coutil being anything like period coutil shall remain nameless to protect her reputation...but she also told me when i asked about documentation on the sleeve treatment on a bodice she made...that it was from a CDV that she has still not been able to locate...but I am pretty sure the sleeve idea came from a simplicity pattern.  I am afraid she thinks I am pretty stupid and I just let her think I am.

I am still unclear on lining fabrics.  I have the cotton twill so would like to use that...what would you suggest for lining fabric (or maybe it should be the lining fabric??)  Should i get something else for the 'fashion fabric' or can I use kona cotton or broadcloth? What about linen?  It frays horribly. 

From what i understand carolann is recommending coutil for both layers, but i am interested in other options...although I am not opposed to using coutil. 

Thanks again,
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RhondaElvin
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« Reply #15 on: October 31, 2006, 05:54:25 AM »

I should clarify that I was thinking of using kona cotton or boadcloth as a lining fabric along with the twill as the 'fashion fabric'...It is pretty bad when you read your own post and don't understand the thought process!  LOL
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Carolann Schmitt
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« Reply #16 on: October 31, 2006, 07:05:56 AM »


Then can you explain to me why when I had a corset or Twill and a corset of coutil both made from the exact same pattern, exact same size...tried on the exact same day, same 15 minutes actually why I experienced a difference?

I laced them both to where it was comfortably snug and had a 2" reduction in the one with twill and the other of coutil there was no difference (I could get a reduction but then I couldn't breath which is never recommended Smiley )  I am extremely curious about this!

Exact same size, exact same pattern, exact same day, 15 minutes apart, but...did you sew them exactly the same way? If you were using a pattern with six panels/seven seam allowances per side, that gives you a total of 14 seam allowances on your corset. Just a 1/16" variation in the width of the seam allowance with create almost a 1" difference in the width of the corset; a 1/8" difference will create a 1.75" difference. That's why I'm such a fanatic in my classes about careful marking and careful stitching after the corset has been fitted. It's very easy to inadvertently make a corset that's larger or smaller than you intended.

And no matter how carefully you lace, I don't thinks it's possible to lace two different corsets exactly the same way. There will always be minor differences in how the fabrics sit on your body, how your body sits in the corset, minor stretch issues with the fabric and lacing. 

Quote
the lady that told me about modern coutil being anything like period coutil shall remain nameless to protect her reputation...but she also told me when i asked about documentation on the sleeve treatment on a bodice she made...that it was from a CDV that she has still not been able to locate...but I am pretty sure the sleeve idea came from a simplicity pattern.  I am afraid she thinks I am pretty stupid and I just let her think I am.

To be fair, I don't always have the documentation for a particular feature at hand when someone asks but I can usually track it down eventually or point them in the right direction so they can confirm it for themselves; i.e. "I saw it on a corset in the Megacity Museum."  But I also try to avoid broad statements in general; they usually come back to haunt you - even if it's not Halloween.  Cheesy  As for the sleeve, if it came from one of Martha McCain's patterns then it did come from either an original or a cdv, but not one in the dressmaker's collection. 

Quote
I am still unclear on lining fabrics.  I have the cotton twill so would like to use that...what would you suggest for lining fabric (or maybe it should be the lining fabric??)  Should i get something else for the 'fashion fabric' or can I use kona cotton or broadcloth? What about linen?  It frays horribly.

Besides "fraying horribly", the use of linen for a corset would have been very unusual for this period. Save yourself the aggravation.  Smiley  If you use coutill for the outer fabric, you could use the twill for the lining. If you want to use the twill for the outer fabric, you could use a very good quality tightly woven cotton for the lining. I don't think a Kona cotton or broadcloth is sufficiently sturdy to use for the outer fabric, but that's just my opinion.

Quote
From what i understand carolann is recommending coutil for both layers, but i am interested in other options...although I am not opposed to using coutil.

That's what I've always used, but it's not the only option. I like the double layer of coutil because:
- I can document it on original corsets.
- It's very sturdy. I've had double-layer coutil corsets last over eight years.
- I don't have to worry about the characteristics of two different fabrics. Does one stretch more than the other? Wear faster or slower?  
Just my opinion. There are many historically accurate options when it comes to corsets: style, fabric, construction method, etc. etc.

Regards,
Carolann
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« Reply #17 on: October 31, 2006, 07:19:02 AM »


Just to say it publickly--now you all know why I love Carolann so much! Smiley  Never, never hesitate to sign up for classes with her--you'll enjoy them tremendously (the few classes I've been able to have with her literally changed my focus in living history--for the better!)

I've heard the "our coutil is not their coutil" as well... but haven't found enough to support that to change my mind on using coutil.  I like the stuff a LOT.  My first corset was drill--and I worked three bones through the weave by noon on the first wearing (and this was in my thin days...)  I switched to coutil with the very next corset, and that's been my constant recommendation since. 

I really, really, really like the way coutil works in a double-layer corset. 

I really, really, really like the period solution of not just boning on seams, but angling the boning to suit the figure.

Okay--back to last minute Halloweeny things... sewing buttons and buttons and buttons on to everyone's costumes.  This is topical only because I tape-draped 1700's half-boned stays for Bethie's Anne Bonney pirate costume, did them with a black brocade outer fabric, and a sateen lining.  They're quite stable, and she adores them.  She's also requested a set of light stays for this next year's 19th century pursuits.  My baby is growing up. Smiley
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Elizabeth
RhondaElvin
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« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2006, 07:35:48 AM »


That's what I've always used, but it's not the only option. I like the double layer of coutil because:
- I can document it on original corsets.
- It's very sturdy. I've had double-layer coutil corsets last over eight years.
- I don't have to worry about the characteristics  of two different fabrics. Does one stretch more than the other? Wear faster or slower?  
Just my opinion. There are many historically accurate options when it comes to corsets: style, fabric, construction method, etc. etc.


I was wondering what these options might be.  Or a resource where I might be able to discern that for myself?  I understand from your post that broadcloth or kona are not good options (not tightly woven or firm enough, etc.), so what might be?   I don't need a corset that will last me 8 years (i have had to make 4 in the last two years due to weight changes), but I do want one made from period correct materials...other than coutil which I find heavy and stiff (forms poorly to the body) and is expensive.  I got my fine japanese twill for $.99/yard.
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Carolann Schmitt
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« Reply #19 on: October 31, 2006, 08:41:18 AM »

Elizabeth -

Oh, wow!   Thanks for the compliment. (Blushing madly.)


Rhonda -

My notes are at home, so I'll have to post a list of specific fabrics from primary sources this evening. As has been mentioned, almost any medium weight tightly woven fabric can be used. I think twill weaves are more durable, but there may be some plain weaves that are as durable. This is one instance where touch and feel are important. When I began researching this topic I was surprised to find how many fabrics used during the period were either wool or had some wool content, and how few of them were silk or had silk in them.
 
I haven't had the problems you mentioned with coutil, but we could be using different coutils from different manufacturers.  Over the years I've even had variations in the coutil from the same manufacturer. It is expensive; your Japanese twill at $.99/yard was a terrific find - I hope you bought all of it.  Cheesy  If you can't find a comparable fabric for the lining, I'd just use it for both layers. BTW - Corsets can be altered (up or down in size), although you will eventually reach a point where it's better to make a new one than try to alter it one more time. But that might be an option if your weight and measurement changes aren't too drastic.

As I mentioned in a previous post, documented original 1860s corsets are few and far between. I've been fortunate to handle a few from private collections at the Conference, and have looked at several more in museums. Period advertisements often mention specific details about fabric. In addition to general costume books, these are a few suggestions for some books on the topic:

Ambrose, Bonnie Holt.  The Little Corset Book: A Workbook on Period Underwear.  New York: Drama Publishers, 1997.
Benson, Elaine and John Esten. Unmentionables: A Brief History of Underwear. New York:  Simon & Schuster, 1996.
Carter, Alison.  Underwear: The Fashion History.  New York: Drama Book Publishers, 1992.
The Corset Question.
Chenoune, Farid.  Beneath It All:  A Century of French Lingerie.  New York:  Rizzoli, 1999.
Cox, Caroline. Lingerie:  A Lexicon of Style.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 2000.
Cunnington, C. Willet and Phillis Cunnington. The History of Underclothes. London:  Faber and Faber, 1951.
Doyle, Robert.  Waisted Efforts:  An Illustrated Guide to Corset Making.  Halifax, Nova Scotia:  Sartorial Press Publications, 1997.
Ewing, Elizabeth. Dress and Undress: A History of Women’s Underwear. New York:  Drama Book Specialists, 1978.
---.     Fashion Underwear.  London:  B.T.Batsford, 1971.
Fontenal, Beatrice.  Support and Seduction: The History of Corsets and Bras.  New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1997.
Lord, William Barry.  The Corset and the Crinoline:  A Book of Modes and Costumes from Remote Periods to the Present Time.  London:  Ward, Lock and Tyler, 1868.
Martin, Peter.  Wasp Waists:  A Study of Tight-Lacing in the 19th Century and Its Motives.  London:  Published by the author, 1977.
Martin, Richard and Harold Koda.  Infra-Apparel.  New York:  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993.
Saint-Laurent, Cecil.  A History of Ladies’ Underwear.  London:  Michael Joseph, 1968.
Steele, Valerie.  The Corset:  A Cultural History.  New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 2001.
Summers, Leigh.  Bound to Please: A History of the Victorian Corset.  New York:  Oxford International, 2001.
Tobin, Shelley.  Inside Out:  A Brief History of Underwear.  Great Britain:  The National Trust, 2000.
The Undercover Story.  Kyoto, Japan:  The Kyoto Costume Institute, 1983.
Waugh, Norah.  Corsets and Crinolines.  New York:  Theatre Art Books, 1954.

Regards,
Carolann
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