Follow along with the making of a second mockup of a historical corset, based on an 1857 corset pattern, to get the fit just right.
I’ve been working on bringing this 1857 corset pattern from Godey’s Lady’s Magazine to life. After making a rough mockup, I’ve made some adjustments and gotten much closer to the final design. This is my first attempt at corset making, and I am stubbornly learning everything through trial and error.
If you want to see my initial research and the first mockup attempt, you can take a look here.
Fixing Past Mistakes
My first attempt at making this corset pattern was… not great. To put it kindly, I had a lot of learning opportunities. Before making a second mockup, I needed to make some corrections to my original corset pattern.
I started by ripping apart my first mockup, so I could use as much of the fabric that I could again. Then I needed to make adjustments to the paper pattern and cut out the new pieces that will, hopefully, fit better.
Back Piece Alterations
The back pattern piece needed the least tweaking. All I did was reduce the width by 1/2 inch, increased the gore depth by an inch, and reduced the side curve slightly. Because it was so close to the original, I was able to use the same paper and fabric pieces, just slightly altered.
Front Piece Alterations
The front pieces needed a lot more work. The bust placement was way off, and I also had to bring in the width. Like the back pieces, I also took out some of the side curves. The gores create enough curve that this added shaping didn’t seem necessary.
These pieces had to be completely re-cut. This time they were cut on the bias, like the pattern said, instead of on the straight grain.
All the gores also needed to be refashioned. They all were lengthened and slightly widened. I actually made two different size bust gore shapes. This way I could check the fit of each in one mock up. I also removed the S curve in the bust gores.
To save on fabric, I cut out as many gores as I could from the front panels of the first mockup.
Putting it Together
Like the first mockup, I put this mockup together by hand. At this point I could have used my sewing machine, now that I can actually get to it, but since this is a mockup, and I’m just doing a lot of quick running stitches, it didn’t seem like it would be that much slower by hand.
I like the control that I get when I’m hand sewing versus machine sewing. It is also more portable, I and find it easier to do a little bit here and there throughout my day. If I want to sew something by machine, I need to block out an hour or two and lock myself in my craft room. I don’t always have time for that much focus.
Construction was much easier with everything I learned from the first mockup. The gores went in much faster and much neater, even though they were bigger and therefore took more stitches.
Once I had the gores placed and the panels sewn together, I took this mockup up a notch.
It’s Hammer Time
I wanted this mockup to be closer to how the final corset will fit. To lace up the first mockup, I just poked some holes in the fabric with an awl.
With this version, I took the time to put grommets in on each back panel. This was my first time ever using grommets. I’ve always been a little intimidated by them. I found my courage to try it out after watching this fantastic video by The Stitchery that went into depth about grommets and different ways to set them.
Since I don’t plan on doing grommets enough to justify the cost of a press and I don’t have enough grip strength for a hand held grommet setter, I decided to keep my grommet setting low tech and just use a hammer. At the advice from this corset making article from The Sewing Academy, I bought a cheap rubber mallet from my local Harbor Freight. It was the first thing I saw when I walked in the door and cost $3.
The grommets I used for this mockup didn’t come with a cutting tool, so I had to cut out the holes with scissors, which slowed things down. The actual hammering of the grommets was pretty fun and easy. It’s a great way to work off a little stress in the middle of the week.
I think these grommets look quite nice. Only one got put in backwards!
Getting a Bit More Structure
The next step to a get a good idea of the fit was to add some more structure to the fabric. In the final corset, this will be provided by the boning. In this mockup, I decided to use cording.
Cording won’t provide as much structure as boning, but it is a lot cheaper to work with. I have plenty of white cotton yarn left over from my corded petticoat to use.
The trick with cording is to use a lot of it. I put cording at the front where the busk will be, at the back around the grommets, on the side seams, and over the bust.
For the front and back, I had enough overlapping fabric to just sew some channels. I cut some long rectangles of fabric for the cording on the sides and bust to create cording channels.
Fortunately, this fabric didn’t fray very much, so I didn’t need to worry about raw edges for this mockup.
The final thing I added to this mockup was a drawstring at the top. This featured is mentioned in the Red Threaded 1860’s corset pattern info. This seems like an excellent idea to me, just to help keep everything where it belongs.
I combined a drawstring with a binding for efficiency. The binding was super simple. I cut out a two-inch wide strips of fabric, as long as half of the corset. To save on fabric, I cut these out on the grain, but bias would work as well.
To attach the binding, I sewed one side of the rectangle down to the front of the corset, leaving half an inch of seam allowance. I attached the cotton yarn so it would be inside this seam allowance.
Then I folded the rectangle over the top of the corset, tucked in the other half inch of seam allowance, and whip stitched it down on the inside of the corset. It was easy to keep the cotton yarn inside the fold and have it hang out at the front of the corset to create the drawstring effect.
This whole process is repeated on the other side.
As I added the binding, I noticed it was covering up the top grommets. In my final corset, I will be sure to leave enough space on either side of the top and bottom grommet.
Trying It On
Adding grommets made lacing into this mock up much easier. The cording provided a bit of support that gave a better idea of how the corset is fitting.
There are a few more tweaks I need to make, but this is very close to the final design.
Further Adjustments to Make
I had two different size gores, but even the bigger size wasn’t quite big enough, so I will make these a little bit bigger for the final corset. They will also be sewn in the correct way to give the right shape.
Front Hip Gore
This was actually a bit too big. I was able to adjust it while I was wearing the mockup, so I will carry over that adjustment to the next version.
The corset is still too big. Even without the compression from a fully boned corset, I can fully lace this closed. I want to have at least two inches of gap between the lacing to leave room for my spine.
The front seems to fit pretty well, so I’ll take more width out of the back panels.
No More Mockups!
Overall, this mockup was close enough to the final shape I want, so I feel like I’ve settled on my final corset pattern, and I am ready to make the real thing, bones and all!
Keep an eye out to see the final product of this historical sewing adventure.
If you want to see more sewing adventures, click here.
Have you ever tried to recreate a historical pattern? Let me know in the comments below!