Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Inspiration for an 1870s/1880s corset

 Ever since I made my first corset, I've been promising myself that I would make myself a fancier one. However, as corsets are rarely destined to be seen, this project continually got pushed off the bottom of my list by other more pressing needs, such as more dresses to wear over the corset that I already had. It would be all very well having corsets in five colours, but who would know?!

Recently though, thanks to a new lifestyle away from teaching which means I actually have time to go out and have fun, not to mention exercise, I have lost about 4 inches round my waist. A new corset has therefore become more of a necessity as my old trusty white coutil mid-victorian corset now practically closes at the back.

When it came to choosing the type of corset I wanted to make, there were a number of factors in my decision. Firstly, I wanted to make a coloured corset, so a later date made sense in line with when more fancy colour choices became fashionable. This also fitted in perfectly with my costume plans for this year as I am really keen to get started on a trained 1876-1882 natural form gown which, of course, calls for a longer corset to achieve that smooth line over the hips, necessary to wriggle into a figure-hugging 1870s concoction. And finally, I fell in love with this...

Victoria and Albert Museum - Corset, 1883
This corset is on the front cover of one of my fashion history dictionaries and I spent all of last year, throughout my Masters studies, looking at it longingly every time I opened the book. I love the combination of colours and textures and particularly the use of the leather over the boning channels.

So I set out to find a pattern close to this design and was delighted when I came across Reconstructing History's Ladies' 1880s Corset (RH944) which is very similar in shape.

RH944 - From Vena Cava Design

With the pattern all ready to go, I started to look for some more extant corsets to inspire my design and interpretation of the pattern. As well as the V&A corset, I also came across this corset with leather boning channels.

Met Museum - Worcester Corset, c.1898
And, inspired by Edouard Manet's "Nana", I looked for blue corsets to get some ideas for the kind of shades that I could aim for.

Edouard Mant, "Nana", 1877
Chicago Museum of History - Corset, 1884
Blue Silk Corset - (found here)
Kyoto Costume Institute - Corset, 1880s
The pale blue is probably the closet to the original portrait, but I am tempted to go a little darker as I love the rich dark blues of the other two examples. However, since I plan to dye the corsetry satin myself I have yet to find out how much control I will actually have over the resulting shade. I have a feeling it may just be "throw it in and hope for the best"! Fingers crossed it will come out somewhere between these examples.

Anyway, taking my inspiration from all of these corsets, my final design features blue silk satin with pale tan leather boning channels, lace trim and a spoon busk.

And here's the design in my album with the inspiration pictures...

I have already started work on mocking up the pattern and I will be sharing the initial stages of my cutting and fitting alterations in my next post. That's after I've been to buy the blue dye tomorrow morning! Hopefully, I will end up with a beautiful corset and lots of posts to share as it all fits together. On the other hand, I might just end up looking like a Smurf if all goes wrong with the dye! But then life wouldn't be fun if it wasn't for new experiences.

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