1860's Corsets: My First Attempts

Me in my underwear--the chemise is a disaster but I've made a much better one since then

Corset making can be a difficult challenge, but with patience and willingness to fail the first few times, an amateur at sewing can make one. My first corset was a quick, poorly done project, using cotton broadcloth, zip tie boning, and hook and eye closure. I actually made it as a bodice for my prom dress; it looked great then, but later I altered it to add the open laced back. After taking it apart to re-make the bodice into a corset, I didn’t finish it properly. The zip ties bent and poked me and it hurt. I’m not sure why the zip ties didn’t work, as they are the same as plastic boning, but maybe I didn’t put enough boning into this corset and expected the existing boning to support too much. The pictures here are of the second corset that I made.

Past Patterns 703 Corset

About five years ago, I made this corset with Past Patterns #703 1863 Dayton's Skirt Supporting Corset pattern, altered a bit for the look I wanted. It is made with four layers of cotton duck cloth, something that I would never do again because it is EXTREMELY hot, although sturdy. It has spring steel boning and a steel busk. To make the eyelets on the back, I punched holes in the fabric with a leather hole-punch and sewed around them with a buttonhole stitch and waxed cotton hand quilting thread. I bound the top and bottom edges in cotton bias tape. The corset has an even four-inch gap between the lacing on the back, something that I achieved through alteration because the corset stretched after one or two times wearing it and was then too big. Once I have another reliable corset, I will probably take this one apart because it is too hot to wear. Otherwise, it is very comfortable. I bought all the materials from a friend for $60.

Back view of my Past Patterns 703 corset

I made a skeleton corset last year so that I'd have something cool to wear through the super-hot weather of the Gettysburgh 150th in mid July. That corset turned out really amazing! No pictures yet. It does have a lot of problems and I plan to replace it with a better one, but it is so comfortable. Yet, this Past Patterns corset is a good, reliable option which I wanted to document for reference.


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