Canibalizing a Corset

October 28th, 2011

I am not good at letting go. But after years of suffering in it, and 9 months of kicking it under my desk, I decided to put my old corset out of its misery.

Old Corset

See how the bones are poking out at the top? And see how unlike a female body its shape is? I made it in 2006 to wear under an 1870s ball gown at “A Different Affair,” an Edith Wharton-themed dinner party at India House. Here’s the entry on the event from New York Social Diary. Scroll down to see pictures of me in my gown.

I was very thin in 2006, following a long illness, and the corset wasn’t terribly uncomfortable then. But as I gained weight, it became less able to handle my shape. By last spring, it was downright dangerous, with untipped metal boning (yes, I’m an idiot) digging into my underarm. I wore it to a 19th-century pub crawl, and had to strip in the middle of a bar because I was in such pain. That’s when I decided to retire it for good.

In case you’re curious, I used Past Patterns’s 1840s-1880s corset pattern. I’d already made their Edwardian corset, and adored it (still do). The 1840s-1880s pattern was well done (as are all Past Patterns), and easy to follow, especially since I purchased the kit. It’s a good, standard Victorian corset shape. Not particularly interesting, but safe for many periods of reenacting. The construction is easy, though I don’t know enough to tell if it’s accurate or not. It’s certainly very different from the two sets of period directions I’ve studied so far, but that doesn’t mean anything! After using a number of her patterns, I trust Ms. Altman as an excellent seamstress and proven scholar.

So why did I make such a dreadful botch out of a decent pattern? Well…I made it in a single day. No fittings. I even clipped my own boning and didn’t bother tipping the ends. Idiot. I also spent a day making a boned bustle which is still in existence, but with similar problems.

There was one thing worth salvaging about this corset though: the busk. So I cut it out before I threw the rest away (I should have given it a decent burial, but I’m in a hurry these days).

Cutting out the busk

Leave a Reply