Underpinnings, c. 1795-1820

Corset made and lined with cotton sateen and interlined with cotton as well, self-fabric cotton binding, cotton cording, eyelets done in silk buttonhole twist. Pattern based off the regency corset pattern in “Period Costume for Stage & Screen 1800-1909,” and I studied period examples for cording placement. This corset is sewn entirely by hand with cotton thread. I used the construction method described by Katherine on her page about her extant c. 1820-40 corset.

Bodiced petticoat made of medium weight white cotton, bodice lined with cotton twill. Pattern used is from La Mode Bagatelle’s “Regency Wardrobe” pattern package.

Stays are shown over what is more of an 18c shift, made from Kannik’s Korner #6102, and will hopefully be replaced one day with a more appropriate shift with shorter sleeves, to be made from Kannik’s Korner #6103.
Dress Diary
Bodiced Petticoat
This bodiced petticoat is made from La Mode Bagatelle's "Regency Wardrobe" pattern package:

The Regency corset is the project that will drive me into madness, if any project ever will. I have started countless drafts of corsets, and brought two or three of them almost to completion (bound eyelets and everything!), but it always seems that they do not work. I've done a lot of studying of pictures of surviving corsets of the eras, and a lot of studying my drafts to try to figure out what could have gone wrong, and I've come up with a few things. Now, I've switched patterns, have some new plans in mind, and am beginning working on The One That Will Work (TM). My plans for what the finished product will look like can be seen in my sketch below.
My sketch of the Regency corset plan
All of my prior attempts have been using Mantua Maker's #1810-3. While I have heard people claim that this pattern worked perfectly for them without alterations, I don't believe it for a second, and won't until one of these people can produce photographs proving this. I'm not saying the pattern is not workable, just that it needs some work. Quite a bit of work, in my opinion. It is infamous for the problems with the fit at the back, but that is an easy fix. What is a far more complicated problem is the mess of the gussets. As are, they simply will not function! Believe me, I've tried. I tried re-sizing and re-shaping them in assorted ways, but always it seemed that my "corset" worked more like 18th century stays, flattening me uncomfortably instead of providing the "lift and seperate" look one desires for the Regency era. So for The One That Will Work (TM), I'm switching patterns so I can have a nice fresh go at things. The only other pattern I know of is the one in "Period Costume for Stage & Screen 1800-1909," so that was the obvious choice. Fortunately, I am pretty much the right size for these patterns to be scaled up as is, so that's just what I did.

The second really major problem with my prior attempts is the busk I was attempting to use. I had ordered a wooden busk from Grannd Garb, which seemed bulky to me, but I figured that's what this sort of busk must be like. When I showed it to my sewing buddy, she was shocked and showed me her busk, which was a thin metal affair, sort of like a wider corset stay. I went home and ordered the same busk she had. Below, I've added some pictures so you can see the difference, and there certainly is one! It could explain why I was having so much trouble getting the thing to lie flat and in between!
Busk Comparison Photo   Busk Comparison Photo
The third change I'm making is the fabric. I was using thick, sturdy twill, like I've used for my 19th century corsets, but I've decided a Regency corset requires a slightly less heavy-duty fabric. Originals I've read about use "cotton sateen." I found a product called cotton sateen at my local JoAnn's, and completely fell in love, as it's probably the softest cotton I've ever had my hands on. I have no idea if it is comparable to the cotton sateen of the era, but I decided to use it. I will be lining it with muslin, however, as the cotton sateen is rather thin on its own.

The next issue I addressed is the fact that I have only seen one corset from around this era that did not have a decent amount of cording and/or quilting, so obviously, this is something that was usually done. I spent some time collecting images and carefully drawing cording patterns for all kinds of surviving corsets, and then combined and altered them until I had a cording pattern I was satisfied with. I will be using a thin cotton yarn as my "cording." Since I'm already putting so much work in to this project, I decided why not do the entire thing by hand, without the aid of a machine? And once I'd decided on that, I thought, heck, let's throw a little embroidery into the mix! So, I turned to my copy of "Early American Embroidery Designs: An 1815 Manuscript Album with Over 190 Patterns" and began studying embroidery patterns, and also referring to my sketches of existing regency corsets, and came up with a simple little motif that might work.

The decision to do all this cording made me rethink my method for constructing corsets. I generally like to make two layers, sew them (with right sides together) at the center front and center back, flip them around, and then sew all the boning channels. Obviously, this doesn't work out so well when the boning channels are horizontal instead of vertical. I've seen so many interesting ways of putting in cording. I was very tempted by Jenny-Rose's excellant instructions on how she made her 1830s stays, but when I re-stumbled onto Katherine's 1820s-40s corset pages, and read about the construction technique, I decided that was the way to go for me.

So. All these plans worked out, the only thing left to do is to actually sew the thing! I've gotten as far as cutting all the pieces out, basting the layers together, and two seams are done, but I've stalled because I'm busy working on my c. 1905 wardrobe for the Centennial Dance Weekend. I will be back to this project shortly though, as I have a deadline for it. It will be worn to the Second Annual Regency Picnic this summer if it's the last thing I do! ;)
I have all the basic pieces together, (except for a second set of hip gores, as I'm not sure I will need them, and the bust gores, which I will not fit until I can lace the corset on), so I marked the cording channels and began stitching. Here is a little work-in-progress picture for now. . .
Beginning the cording - front view   Beginning the cording - back view
And here is the corset now that I have sewn the back boning channels. I have since marked all the eyelets, and those are my next step.
Corset - now with back boning channels
Eyelets have been achieved!
After some serious cording, it's getting there! Here is all the major cording done, and now only a few more rows which are more for decorative reasons than anything.
Yay, progress! And yay, finally getting a Regency corset that works! :) I still have three pieces of lining to finish sewing in, and as you may be able to see, the gussets are only pinned/basted in place for fitting purposes in these pictures, but it totally appears to be giving the "lift & separate" that it should be. Yippee!!! (Why is all that time-consuming cording completely invisible in these pictures? Oh well!)
With the binding of the top done:
This page © 2010 by Jennifer E. Lithgow