7″x10″ Brush marker on watercolor paper.
This piece is SOLD.
Tonight I processed and uploaded the remaining photos of the corded Regency corset, which is now with its owner. One of my friends was kind enough to model the corset, even if it was a little too small for her.
This is a bespoke plus-sized corded regency corset, made with drill cover and coutil interlining, with padded shoulder straps, drawstring on the bust, a busk pocket, and fan lacing. The chemise is made from cotton muslin, with a drawstring at the neckline. The bodiced petticoat is also made from cotton muslin, and is open at the sides of the bodice, which are held closed with silk taffeta ribbon through hand-stitched eyelets. It also has cotton lace along the bottom edge.
Core: One layer of corset coutil
Cover: Cotton drill
Edging: Cotton taffeta ribbon
Cording: Poly twist cord inserted between the coutil and drill
Piecing: three panels per side, two gores per bust, and two shoulder straps
Busk Pocket: 2″ wide, 13″ long pocket, opening at the bottom, hand-sewn eyelets tied with silk taffeta ribbon
Bust Drawstring: Silk taffeta ribbon sewn into the top edging at the bust
Shoulder Straps: Sewn at back, tie in front, padded over the arc of the shoulder
Project: Regency Corset
Overbust corsets are non-conical, non-bra overbust corsets popular for modern wear. Historic periods of use range throughout the Victorian and Edwardian, and include all manner of piecing styles involving panels and gores.
This is a bespoke plus-sized corded regency corset, made with drill cover and coutil interlining, with padded shoulder straps, a busk pocket, and fan lacing.
The corded Regency corset is finished, including the fan lacing. The chemise is also finished, and the bodiced petticoat is very close to being finished. As soon as all the pieces are ready, I’ll take some nice photos of everything. Then it will be packed and sent off to the customer.
The fan lacing is based on two reference photos the customer sent me showing a period example of fan lacing. In the photo it appears that the lacing is sewn directly into the fabric used to pull the lacing tight. I opted to change this detail so the lacing could be adjusted or changed out if needed, without having to completely re-make the tie. I am including the photos here for educational purposes, so you fine folks can see exactly what I’m talking about.
Each tie consists of two layers of cotton drill fabric, one short length of cotton taffeta ribbon, and one longer length of silk satin ribbon
The cotton ribbon is pinned into the wider end of the fabric, right sides together.
I used a 1/2″ seam, and when I got to the narrow end, I sandwiched in the silk satin ribbon.
I left a large hole along one side of each tie so they could be turned. You may trim your fabric if desired. I did not trim.
The ribbons make it fairly easy to turn the ties. I then stitched the holes closed by hand using a hidden running stitch.
This is what the corset looks like laid out flat, after the lacing has all be put onto the corset.
The lacing ribbon has not been pre-shrunk for the washing machine, and I will want to adjust the lengths once I lace it on something and can see exactly where the ribbons are too long or too short. Thus, I left quite a bit of extra length when it tied off each section of ribbon, creating the extra muddle of loose ribbon on the left of the photo. Each ribbon length ties four grommets (two rows of grommet), except for the very bottom grommets, which are alone because I have an odd number of grommets on each side of the corset.
The Other Undergarments
I apologize for not taking detailed photos of the construction, but I am very short on time at the moment. Hopefully I will make another Regency set at a later date and be able to give all the details.
The chemise is finished. It’s a fairly standard A-frame chemise typical of the Georgian period. Since the customer is busty, the front was cut wider than the back, so when the shoulders are matched up it gives the illusion of a trapezoidal shape to the front. The sleeves are wide enough to be comfortable for a more ample figure as well. The gussets are square. All internal seams are french seam construction. The neckline is very narrow, so I finished it by hand using a hidden running stitch on the inside. The drawstring is silk taffeta ribbon.
The bodiced petticoat is almost finished. The bodice is two layers of muslin, and will lace closed at the sides. I was able to find text reference to drop-front bodiced petticoat, and one example of a drop-front Regency dress, but I had no luck finding any photos of similar extant petticoats. So, I just made my best guess based on what I could find.
The skirt of the petticoat is five panels with a slight flare to each. Two of the panels are in the front, creating less bulk and providing a slimming silhouette. Three panels are in the back, with the most gathering toward the center back. This will give more leg room and help to keep the gown worn over it from sinking into the small of the back.
The two remaining details are eyelets on the sides of the bodice to lace through, and lace trim along the bottom hem.
Project: Regency Corset
“8″ is in quotes because all told this is less than a day’s work, but it happened in very inefficient mini sewing sessions over the past couple weeks. There were several days when all intentions of sewing were thwarted.
So, at this point the corset is technically finished. It is entirely sewn and grommeted. The only detail left is the period fan lacing, and then I will be making the chemise and bodiced petticoat to go with it.
The next step was to add the bust ribbon, a small silk taffeta ribbon along the front of the bust which can be tightened to cinch in the top of the bust slightly, or just tied into a nice little bow for decoration.
I edged the entire top edge of the corset before adding the bust ribbon so the ribbon would not create friction and potentially fray the raw edge of the corset inside the edging. It also means the bust ribbon can be removed without causing any harm to the corset.
My edging ribbon is not quite wide enough to cover the existing edging, so I stitched to lengths of ribbon edge to edge.
I needed to leave a small hole at the center of the bust where the silk ribbon emerges, so, following the same procedure as for normal edging, I started just to the side of center and stitched until I was at the side seam. Roughly one inch of edging ribbon is left loose at the outer edge.
I then repeated the procedure on the other side, leaving a hole about 1/4″ wide. Here, the two silk taffeta bust ribbons are threaded through the hole.
To secure the outer end of the bust ribbon, I stitched it to the loose end of the edging ribbon. I used a zig-zag stitch and went back and forth several times to make sure it will hold.
This photo shows the silk bust ribbon stitched to the cotton edging ribbon.
The new layer of edging ribbon is finished exactly the same as normal edging, but I had to be careful not to catch the silk bust ribbon in the stitching. The outer ends are folded under, but not stitched. That way if the bust ribbon needs to be replaced, new ribbon may be threaded in from the armpit area and secured by hand.
This photo shows the bust ribbon pulled slightly, so there is some gathering along the top edge.
After that, I grommeted the shoulder straps and the back edges. The shoulder straps are smaller grommets than the back edge.
Project: Regency Corset
These photos were taken a couple days ago. I finished the eyelets for the bottom of the busk pocket and attached the pocket.
For the bottom of the busk pocket I decided to make hand-worked eyelets using a looped buttonhole stitch. The first step is to define the eyelets. Then create a running stitch just outside the circumference of the hole size you want. The running stitch will help the eyelet hold its shape, and provide a guide while you create the buttonhole stitches.
Open the eyelet hole with an awl. Depending upon the material, you may need to slash the material inside the eyelet hole so that it will evenly fold back away from the hole. I had to do that for the busk pocket because the material was too thick to nicely open with just the tapered awl.
Each stitch starts from the back side of the eyelet, pulled through to the front. These stitches define the outer edge of the eyelet hole, so try to keep your stitches an even distance out from the circle of running stitches.
Next drop your needle down through the eyelet and have it emerge to the front next to the prior stitch, maintaining your distance from the circle of running stitches. Make sure the tail end of the previous stitch goes around the outside of the needle before dropping through the eyelet hole. It is that loop which creates the border edge. To finish the stitch just pull the thread tight (as tight as you can) and you will be back at the photo above.
If you do not want to create the edge border to your eyelets, just leave out the loop around the needle.
When you have completed the eyelet, instead of dropping the needle through the eyelet hole, run it down through the same place the very first stitch emerged. This will create a loop to complete the edging. As you can see, it’s been a while since I’ve done this and the circle is not even. Practice is the only way to fix this problem.
The busk pocket cover, with both eyelets stitched.
I pinned the cover in place down the center front of the corset.
I then stitched down the busk pocket cover, stitching right along the edges of the cover.
To finish the busk pocket I used a narrow zig-zag stitch along the top edge of the corset. The photo is from the front, but I actually stitched this with the lining up so I could see the border edge of the corset.
It is now ready for the top edge to be trimmed and bound.
Project: Regency Corset
I worked on the corded regency corset some more yesterday. The shoulder straps are padded, the lining is attached, the busk pocket is sewn (if not yet attached), and the bottom edge has been bound.
The prepared padding survived the washing machine perfectly, and didn’t even shrink much at all. In this photo I have trimmed the ends fairly evenly.
This section of padding is trimmed slightly wider than the shoulder strap.
I have centered the padding on the shoulder straps (6″ is the center point), with the smoothly cut edge even with the straight edge of the shoulder straps. The padding is sandwiched between the core coutil layer and the drill cover layer.
I used a slight zig-zag stitch to secure all the layers along the trimmed edge.
I then came back along the other edge, also stitching close to the edge with a zig-zag. The purpose of using the zig-zag is so the edge still has all of its bias stretch in case it’s needed at a later point in the sewing.
This is one of the shoulder straps with the padding layered in, secured, and trimmed.
After finishing with the padding, I attached the lining to the entire corset. Again, I used a slight zig-zag stitch close to the edges so they retain their bias stretch. The back edges are folded under and loose.
After securing along the top and bottom, I secured the lining to the back edges. The lining needs to completely cover the raw edges of the core and cover, so it is stitched just in from the first cording channel with a hidden running stitch.
To create the hidden running stitch, make each stitch alternately through the body of the corset, and inside the fold of the lining. The finished appearance is very similar to a machine stitch.
Next I trimmed the bottom edge so it was completely smooth, and bound the edge. Normally I have the edge binding cover the outer 1/4″, but the cotton taffeta ribbon I am using for this corset is too narrow. Instead I bound the edge just inside from the zig-zag stitches, about 3/16″.
For a detailed tutorial on edge binding, see How to Edge a Corset.
To make the busk pocket, I cut a rectangle of fabric longer than the front of the corset is tall, and 5.75″ wide. Taking into account the 1/2″ seam allowance, that gives me a finished busk pocket cover which is 2 and 3/8 inches wide, wide enough to be sewn down and hold a 2″ wide busk.
I pressed open the seam and stitched closed one end.
Then I turned it. The closed end is to the left.
Both the body of the corset and the busk pocket cover are marked for eyelets. The bottom edge is bound, so there is no fear of the eyelets creating bulk too close to the bottom edge.
Project: Regency Corset
I made a lot of progress on the corset Sunday. The body is now fully assembled, and all the cording has been inserted.
The first task of the evening was to reinforce the points of the bust gores with hand stitching. I used an up-down buttonhole stitch, which is also what I am planning to use on the few eyelets I stitch by hand. I’ll post about the specific hand stitch later, along with illustrations.
I then turned my attention to finishing the assembly of the body of the corset. The back panel is attached to the side panel in exactly the same way the side panel is attached to the front panel with one very minor difference.
When you bone, cord, or reed a corset, some width is lost due to the minute amount of fabric that travels out and then back in around the boning. With a lightly boned corset this difference is too small to worry about, as the lacing gap compensates nicely. However, when you have a corset with a lot of boning channels it can add up to a great amount of difference. The difference will vary depending upon the precise boning used, but on average I have found that I loose about 1/4″ of width for every 20 channels. Since there are a lot of cording channels in this corset, I wanted to add some fabric width to compensate for the fabric width lost to channels. It didn’t need to be much, so I stitched the side panel / back panel seam at 3/8″ instead of 1/2″, effectively adding back 1/4″ of width at the back of the armpit.
I then smoothed out the two layers of the panel and pinned the outer edge.
I made the first stitch (to stabilize the two layers) at the outer boundary of what will be the grommet line. I left only 1/2″ seam allowance over the edge. In hindsight, I should have made it about 1.5″ wide so it would fold back far enough to reinforce the grommets, but it’s too late for that.
After securing the layers, I folded under the raw edge and stitched the cording channel. It will have two channels to the outside of the grommets. The raw edge of the panel will be covered by the lining later.
To give the back panel some strength and help prevent buckling at the grommets, there are seven cording channels inside the grommet line. I also stitched two more cord channels alongside the seam.
I attached the shoulder straps before inserting the cording so the bulk would not cause any interference. If your cording pattern includes cording that ends at the shoulder strap, it should be attached after cording.
In the above photo, both layers of the shoulder strap are lined up, wrong sides out, like was done with the seams between the body panels.
Unlike with the body panels, I slightly trimmed the inner layers of fabric so they will lay more smoothly against the shoulder.
I then turned out the shoulder straps and top-stitched to hold them in place.
I also at this point finished sewing together all the panel pieces of the lining, but I did not take a picture. It’s normal garment assembly because there is only one layer of material. The only difference is that I stitched the side panel / back panel seam at 3/8″ rather than 1/2″ so it will match up to the outer body layers. I would rather have a little extra give in the lining than too little.
After that I turned my attention to another item which will need pre-washing, the padding for the shoulder straps. The recipient of the corset requested extra padding to help make the shoulder straps more comfortable. Ideally I would have used 100% wool felt, but I could not find any at two different fabric stores. Instead, I went with the economy option, felt crafting squares. They are 100% polyester, so they won’t hold up in a washing machine on their own merit. Thus, I created the quilted pads before pre-washing, and I will cut them to size once they are pre-shrunk.
The above photo shows three layers of felt, staggered so it’s thicker in the middle than the outside. The felt is then sandwiched between muslin scraps.
The below photo shows the layers quilted with large zig-zag stitching, and then roughly trimmed. I will be pre-washing this in hot water along with some cotton taffeta ribbon for the edging. That way I know for sure if it can survive washing, and can cut it out to fit the shoulder straps after shrinking.
I then put away the sewing machine and inserted the cording into the back panels. This is how the corset looks right now. It still needs the busk pocket, edging, grommeting, and to finish the shoulder straps.
Project: Regency Corset
I worked a couple hours a couple days last week, taking photos as I went. Today I did a lot more work, and it is now assembled and corded on the front and side panels.
As I worked, I found that it was easier to insert the cording if I did not run the thread through the center of the tape. Instead I cut the leading tape to only about 1cm of length, tied the thread to the cording, and I added another piece of tape over all of that and extending out just past the end of the cording. That way the second piece of tape held the thread to the cording and also provided a smaller start to work into the channels.
Just like on the bust, I used pins to hold the two layers together while creating the cording channels. The bulk added by the cording makes sewing problematic, so I stitched as many channels as I could before inserting the cording. First are the channels directly underneath the bust.
I used the drawn line for the uppermost seam, and after that spaced relative to the presser foot. As you can see, the spacing changed slightly from the drawing, and the squiggly cording in the center will need to be adjusted.
Next I stitched the four lower channels, again spacing relative to the presser foot. If you have a clear presser foot this will be much easier than the way I am doing it with a standard foot. I decided to omit the last straight channel so there would be more room for the squiggly channels.
I extended the curves on the squiggly channels and widened them a little in order to make it easier to insert the cording while still retaining the interesting shape.
After stitching the squiggly channels, I pinned to stabilize the two layers of the corset while stitching the sweeping horizontal channels.
I inserted the cording only after stitching all horizontal channels on the front panel. I made some adjustments to the placement of the sweeping channels while sewing. I also made a couple of the channels too small in a couple places, so I popped the stitches to get the cording through. I re-stitched those spots after taking this photo.
The cording has a gathering effect on the material, effectively shortening the width perpendicular to the channel because the fabric is forced to go out and around the cording. The difference is slight, but it is enough that in places where the cording channels end (most notably the upper hip exit of the sweeping channels) it creates shaping without a joined fabric seam. The front panel is no longer flat. Instead, it lets out slightly at the front of the hip.
Even after adding the last cording channels to the front panel, there is a gentle shaping at the front of the hip just below the waist.
This photo shows the front panel, photographed from the inside where it is free of pencil marks and smudges. This is a much more accurate impression of what the outside of the corset will look like after it is finished and washed.
I added the side panes by sandwiching the front panel between the two layers of the side panel. In the photo it is the wrong side of the side panel cover which is shown. All layers are pinned along the seam before stitching.
To help ensure the seam is strong, I lock stitched. That is, after sewing the seam I went back along the exact same seam with another line of stitches. While not technically necessary, it does add to the durability of the corset.
I pressed both layers of the side panel away from the front panel and top stitched to hold them in place.
The pencil marks along the waist are a guideline for cording placement. Since this corset is plus-sized I am fully cording the side to ensure it does not buckle when worn. I stitched the three channels closest to the open side first, to make sure the two layers stay together and even.
I also stitched three channels parallel to the front/side panel seam. The ruler marks the first seam for the cording channels to go down the body of the side panel.
This is how the corset looks right now. Both halves are to this point, fully corded. Depending upon whether or not I pick up some white buttonhole thread before sewing again, I will either be reinforcing the bust gores or adding the back panels.
Project: Regency Corset
I spent the afternoon and evening working on the regency corset. There will be absolutely no metal boning anywhere in the corset, and all the materials, including the cording, have been pre-washed in hot water so the finished corset will be machine washable. I’m taking advantage of this fact and using pencil to mark the corset. I will be washing it when finished to remove all pencil marks before sending it to the customer.
This is a photo of the mock-up, after it was returned by the customer. If you ever get a mock-up for a custom item, keep this in mind. I have never received back a mock-up so well modified and descriptive. Safety pins are holding folds of fabric to make the corset smaller where needed. It’s drawn on or folded back where it needs to be shorter, and where the armpit needs to be a little larger. Extra material is pinned on at the bust and the back of the hip to show where the pieces should be extended. To top it off, she very boldly marked the part of the shoulder strap which she would like padded out for more comfort.
Following the marks and modifications on the mock-up, I was able to modify the pattern with complete confidence.
There are going to be three layers to this corset. The core layer is white coutil. The cover is white drill, as is found on many extant regency corsets. The lining is white muslin. The cording is white poly twist intended for the core of piping. Stitches will be in white, and the edging will be white cotton taffeta.
Before doing any actual sewing, I first did some testing with scrap core/cover material and the cording. I made channels of different lengths until I figured out a width I could just barely get the cording into. You want the cording to be as snug as possible so it will be more effective for stiffening the corset. If the cording is sloppy in the channel it will have little effect other than decorative. Since this corset is plus-sized, it is especially important that the cording be tight, and that there is a lot of it.
The first step was to add the bust gores to each layer of the front panel.
Then I just grabbed the cover layer, front panel. I marked where the busk pocket will go, and then marked out my cording design. Since this is plus-sized, it will need a fair amount of cording throughout to hold shape nicely. Extra cording is also important if there is very much waist reduction. If the regency corset is very light-lacing, small, and just for bust support, very little cording is necessary. However, it can look very nice.
I looked to extant pieces for inspiration and placement. Almost all of them I saw had some sort of support arching down to the bottom of the corset a short distance from the busk, so I figure there is probably a good reason for it. Even if it’s not necessary for support, it looks nice.
The one thing I did here which I would caution against (now that I’ve corded a bit) is having squiggles with a lot of sharpness to them. It’s extremely difficult to get any cording material into them, so much so that it’s really not practical. I think this explains why so many extant pieces have diamond patterns rather than squiggles.
Once the pattern is drawn, formulate a plan for how to sew and cord. In order to insert the cording, you need to be able to get your hand to both ends of the channel. That means if a set of channels end at the broad side of another channel, you will need to sew the terminal channels first. In this design I have four areas which terminate in the broad side of another channel. Each bust, and the sweeping channels extending from below the bust towards the bottom of the corset. Since the bust is the most hindered by other channels, and the least hindering to any other channel, I will start there.
Before sewing the cording, I lined up the core and cover layers, wrong sides together. I then pinned them together to stabilize while sewing. They are pinned with bent pins so the material can lay flat without puckering (I keep a pin cushion with bent pins just for this purpose). You can also baste by hand if you prefer. The point is to keep the two layers from moving about while sewing, or you’ll end up with ugly distortions.
Stitch the channels in an order where you can make adjustments if needed based on actual channel width. I first sewed the center channels, and then the side channels starting closest to the gores. For the channels alongside the gores, I used the pencil marks as general guides, and used my presser foot for precise guide. I want the channels to be harmonious with the gores, so the outermost stitches are lined up with the edges of the gores via the presser foot edge. Then each successive channel was spaced using the presser foot as a guide so the widths were totally even.
As you can see in the photo, the actual channels are placed a little different from the drawing, so the squiggles need to be adjusted to look right. I used a fabric eraser (yes, a specific fabric eraser – it works much better on fabric than a normal eraser and can be purchased in the notion section of many fabric stores) to erase parts of the squiggle and redraw it before sewing.
When the section is ready to be corded, the next step is to prepare the cording. I am using tape to keep the end of the cord tight so it will go through the channel. My channels are tight enough that there is no room for the cording to bend back on itself and still make it through.
I am using buttonhole thread because it holds up better under heavy tugging. I still had it break every couple channels while working. It is tied tight around the cording just below the tape, and then the needle is run through the tape and out the end so the pressure is direct on the tip of the cord. I am using a very dull and large needle so it will go through the channel instead of poking through the fabric.
Be sure to have enough length of thread that you can get the needle entirely through the channel and have some thread to grab hold of when pulling the cording through. If you do this, it will save you a lot of frustration.
As I worked, I found that I only needed half that much tape on the end, and it was actually a little easier with a shorter tape bit. Also, when your needle is entirely through the channel, guide the tip of the cord into the channel before pulling hard. It sometimes takes some coaxing while tugging, or between tugs, to get the cord started through the channel. Pull it most of the way through, and then tug the fabric so it’s not compressed and the cord is settled in the channel. You don’t want your cord to be shorter than the fabric. Then, while holding the cover material at the start of the channel, slowly tug the cording until it’s just barely visible. Cut the exit end flush as well. If the cording is tight in the channel, it will stay there all on its own.
As I mentioned earlier, I should not have put in squiggles with such deep curves. The first problem was just getting the needle through, which I discovered needed to be done before adding any other cording. The second problem was getting the cord to go around the turns. The pull was towards the edge of the corset, but the cord needed to go sideways, so I ended up having to split the cord in half and run a smaller cord through just to be able to do it. It’s not much good for support, but the presence of some cording material at least makes it look consistent with the rest of the channels.
So, I got the cording into one bust and called it a night. I spent about eight hours working on this today, but it should go faster from here out now that I have some idea what I’m doing.
Project: Regency Corset