As part of a donation drive on LiveJournal, I was commissioned to make two different custom corset patterns. One person specifically wanted an adaptation of the Khaki Corded Corset on pages 62-65 of Jill Salen’s book, Corsets: Historical Patterns and Techniques, ISBN-13:978-0-89676-261-9.
Normally, adapting a pattern to measurements is all a matter of mathematics. You proportion out the various measurements within the pattern and adjust them equally to match the measurements of the individual being fitted. In this case, the historic corset was so vastly different in body shape that purely following the mathematics would have resulted in a corset that looked absolutely nothing like the original. As it is, it will have a very different look, but by altering the formation of the pattern to suit the customer’s body shape it can look as near as possible.
The main crux of the problem is the wiastline placement and other vertical measurements.
The original corset: 14″ busk, 5″ to bust top, 2″ from underbust to waist, 8″ from waist to busk bottom
Adapted pattern: 12″ busk, 3″ to bust top, 5″ from underbust to waist, 5″ from waist to busk bottom
To compound the problem, despite being a relatively small corset, the original wearer had a proportionally larger cup size. This last detail is only an issue because the what gives the corset its distinctive look are the gores. A proportionally smaller cup size means that if I stay true to the proportions of the pattern while creating the correct cup size, the gores will look much smaller than on the original corset.
A larger space between the bottoms of the bust gores and the top of the front hip gore is unavoidable. That is a virtue of the customer’s body shape, and at my skill level I cannot alter that without creating an ill-fitting pattern.
The image below is the scale pattern. I made several major adjustments to the front and back panels when making the full-size pattern. The shapes of the gores are intended to be estimates. I find it much easier to create the gores full-size, where I can accurately compare seam lengths and critical points.
If you have Jill Salen’s book (it is worth having if you are interested in drafting your own corset patterns), open it to page 64 and compare the shapes. I tried to retain the major lines of the pattern, while adjusting it to the vertical measurements of the customer. The more exaggerated angle at the side seam of the front panel is a result of the longer torso. I used the waist and underbust measurements to set the angle, and followed it up to the bust so it would retain the same lines as the original corset. It may need to be curved upward slightly, but that is best determined at the mock-up fitting.
On the scale version I also contemplated artificially dropping the underbust, but changed my mind on the final. The way the gores are shaped, they are intended to cup outwards immediately, so if I dropped them by an inch the customer might have needed to pad the bust in order to fit properly.
For a larger view of the full-size pattern, click on the image and it will open in a new tab/window.
Some changes from the scale pattern include moving 1/2″ of the side seam from the front panel to the back panel. I also widened the slit for the back hip gore to 1″, so it will visually consume more space along the hip of the corset.
Changes from the original pattern include widening the slits for the bust gores. I widened the gores correspondingly, so they will take up more visual space in the final corset.
As for the pattern markings, there are match-up points at the hip and underbust for the side seam. each gore is matched at corners and at the top and bottom edges. General seam allowance is 1/2″, with an option for 1/2″ seams at front an back or cut on fold. Gores are marked with 1/4″ and 1/2″ seam allowances, for versatility in construction method. All panels and gores have an optional 1/2″ trim allowance along the top and bottom edges. I don’t normally include such a feature in patterns for my own use, but I have noticed that some people prefer it to be there. Since I neglected to ask earlier, I just included it.