Monday, September 16, 2013

White Cotton Damask 1910-1914 Longline Corset

Ah, the corset. There's something about them that I just love, whether they are Edwardian, Victorian, or even seventeenth and eighteenth-century stays, they all fascinate me. However, I had never really attempted to make one myself as they always looked like rather complex garments to construct - after all stay-making and corset-making was completely separate profession from dressmaking and tailoring.

However after completing my 1912-1913 summer day dress I knew I needed the proper foundation garment to make the silhouette of that era really come to life; and my cheaply bought 'Victorian corset', which left a very obviously 'VCL' (visible corset line) where it finished just below my hips,  just wasn't going to cut it.

A corset advertisement from 1910 says it all, "If the corset is not correct, the gown cannot be."

Corsets during the teens era were under-bust, long bodied and more lightly boned their their Victorian and early Edwardian counterparts. This change in style was mostly on account of the fashions of the time, where a streamlined body shape was required for the empire waisted, sheath-like close fitting dresses and skirts.


Within only a decade the fashionable shape went from this:
An 'S-bend' corset from the early 1900s which created an exaggerated waist and forced the breasts forward and the bottom backwards (this style lasted from about 1900-1908)
To this:

French corset advertisement from 1911, notice how there is less emphasis on creating a waist and more on creating a slender, straight silhouette (this style lasted from about 1910-1919)

Unfortunately when it comes to things like corsets and stays there are very few commercial patterns that are any good, and ones for the Edwardian/teens era are pretty much non-existent. When looking around for a teens era corset pattern I came across one from Bridges on the Body.

This pattern was drawn from an extant example in her collection. Not only did she provide her blog readers with a pattern that would create a teen's era corset exactly, but she also provided a step by step tutorial!

The first thing I had to do was draw up the pattern to scale. At the time I didn't have access to a photocopier and I wanted to start that night, so I drew up the pattern up by hand on baking paper.

Lucky for me I'm around the same size as the original owner of the corset, so I didn't change any measurements. Therefore my corset is an exact replica (in terms of pattern and construction techniques) as the original.

The original corset
Bridges on the Body's reconstruction

Halfway through making the corset I came across this antique teens era corset for sale on ebay. It looks nearly exactly the same as the original owned by Bridges on the Body and as my recreation.


The first thing I had to do was to create a mock up, to test the fit and to see if my sketching skills were any good. Turns out they were because besides one minor adjustment to the bottom of one of the back pieces, everything fitted together great. I find that with anything that is worn over a corset, or in this case a corset itself, it is so hard to judge just how it will fit until it is complete. After all something you thought would never fit you actually can once you loose a couple of inches after lacing yourself up. With this in mind I proceeded ahead with the corset pieces exactly as they were.


While the original corset is made from cotton coutil and the example I found on Ebay from cotton drill, I decided to make mine with cotton damask for the outside and plain white cotton on the inside. This is just as historically accurate to use and during construction I treated the pieces of fabric as one, as was done with this historical example where the black satin and cotton lining are used as one (click picture to link off to this corset's page):

I stay stitched the inside seams (as the tutorial specified) and the raw edges were covered by the bias tape boning channels.

Stay stitch seams on the side
What stay stiched seams look like on the outside

After putting together all the corset pieces I then sewed on the boning channels which are made from bias tape.

Not quite sure what happened here. Needless to say I had to go back and unpick it. Doh!
Always check that your boning fits into the channels you've created!
I then sewed two extra pieces of cotton drill onto the centre back pieces which I then folded over so that they were on the inside of the corset, then I sewed them down. This was done to add extra strength to these back seams for the eyelets and lacing.


To sew in the busk I simply folded over the extra seam allowance that I had given to the centre front pieces, made the appropriate holes for both sides of the busk and then sewed them in place using a zipper foot. I decided to hand sew around the open seams where the busk latches together (even though leaving them raw is perfectly historically accurate) as the damask material is prone to fraying.

Unfortunately I was having a little bit of trouble with my sewing machine and the thread tension at the time, so in some places the stitching isn't great. After taking the time to clean out the inside of the machine I also found that it was super dirty and full of fluff, which is why it kept jamming when I was attempting to do these seams.

Nearly Finished!
For the boning I used cable ties and plastic dressmakers boning from a fabric store. I tried to avoid the latter as much as possible because they really aren't firm enough to add much structure, however I had to use them in the centre back boning channels and the side-back seam as the cable ties just weren't long enough.

All that was left to do was to finish off the exposed hem on the top and bottom. For the bottom I used some white cotton sateen fabic (left over from the collar of my 1912-1913 dress) which I made into a bias tape and sewed onto the bottom.


I decided not to add too many frills and lacy things to the top of the corset as the Edwardian combination undergarment that I made to wear underneath it already has pink satin ribbon, etc. So I added broderie anglaise (which the original also had) and white satin bias to the top to finish off the hem. I used white satin ribbon for the lacing and I didn't bother putting covers over the suspenders.

So here is the finished product, my 1910-1914 longline corset. Overall I'm really happy with it and it wasn't nearly as hard to make as I thought it would be! In fact its probably been the most enjoyable construction process out of all the historical garment I've made so far!



Top of the Corset

Corset Garters

Side Garter

Inside the corset

The Challenge: #19: Wood, Metal, Bone
Fabric:  0.5 metres of white cotton damask, 0.5 metre of plain white cotton for lining, scraps of white cotton sateen for hemming, scraps of cotton drill for centre back seam support
Pattern: I drew to scale this Longline Corset ca. 1910-1914 from a pattern provided by Bridges on the Body here and I constructed it using this tutorial.
Year: 1910-1914
Notions: Lots! Thread, Busk, cable ties for boning, bias tape for bone casing, 36 metal eyelets, 6.5 metres of satin ribbon, 1 metre broderie anglaise, 0.5 metre of white satin bias trim, garters
How historically accurate is it? 95%
Hours to complete: 10-15
First worn: Without garters (so incomplete) underneath 912-1914 summer day dress for photo shoot.
Total cost: $8 for damask, $4 cotton, $6 bias tape, $8 metal grommets, $3 satin ribbon, $2 satin bias trim, $2 broderie anglaise, $12 garters. The cable ties I owned already and the busk I took from an old, cheaply bought corset.


  1. Hi There
    Wow, a lot of work has gone in to that, looks like perfect fit too!
    Where did you get the material? i live in australia too and i would love to get some to make something for my GF with it, love the pattern.

  2. Hi Glenn,
    I got the material from the cottons section in Spotlight, so I'm sure if there is a store near you they'll have it. It was on special when I bought it (half price) but its usually only $8 p/m.
    Good luck! :)

  3. Very Lovely! I love your choice of fabrics!

  4. Very good work! You can be proud :)