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Monday, August 20, 2012

Victorian Corset

So I said I'd write a post on my corset, and here it is. The corset isn't completely finished, but it's quite close. I'm pretty sure I already posted about patterning it and beginning construction, and I possibly even posted about more of the work than that, but the first time I thought I had finished it, I used hook-and-eye closures.  I know, I know--it wasn't my first choice either, but when Jon cut my busks out, he forgot to put the hook-like parts on one side, so instead of asking him to redo all of it, I used some heavy-duty hooks and eyes I had. I knew the small ones you normally buy at the fabric store would just come apart under corset tension, but I had these stronger ones, so that should work, right?

Well, it didn't really. They didn't do what the little ones do. That wasn't the problem at all. There were two completely different problems. First, they didn't exactly "lock" shut, so the corset would end up getting pushed open at the bottom by my skirts and then overlapping, squeezing my guts much more tightly than the corset, properly closed, ever would have. It was painful. And I'm not exaggerating. It wasn't uncomfortable; it was honestly painful. Second, since I did have a sort of busk plate, the hooks and eyes couldn't be sewn through all layers of fabric, which meant that when they were properly closed, they were pulling at the fabric in a way that was damaging it.

So I removed the binding along the front edge on both sides and took the steel busks out and didn't do much else for quite a while. I was trying to decide whether to buy a pre-made busk or have Jon work on the one I had, and that was a rather long and drawn-out decision. Plus, there were always other things to work on. Anyway, I probably should have decided on a purchased busk because it would have been a lot less hassle (my busk has been a bit of a headache for Jon), but my husband seemed to want to finish what he had started, and he can do nearly anything he tries, given time to get it right, so that's what we decided to do. Only it's still not done yet due to the aforementioned "headache."

One minor change I made during this time was to take a little bit off those front edges while I had them unbound because I realized while my corset was functioning semi-correctly (meaning I hadn't moved much yet) that it wasn't quite tight enough to give real support. I have no desire to really shrink my waist significantly--I'm thin enough already, and besides, I don't think it's healthy to significantly reduce one's waist in that way--which is why it ended up not tight enough in the first place. I didn't trim it down a lot, just enough to make it a little more snug. It did an okay job before, so I think it will work well now.

Anyway, to make the post thingies for the one side, we decided to use copper rivets. Jon peened them in with the flat side out and washers stuck between said flat sides and the fabric to create a gap for the hook parts to go around. But because we were using copper, I didn't want the peened side on the actual inside of the corset turning my predominantly white underclothes (yes, I usually wear all the layers) green, I wanted it to go between the layers. And that also posed a problem. If we did it that way without doing anything else to the corset, the tension would all be pulling on the less-strong outer layer, still damaging it.

Jon came up with the solution. I cut strips of the leftover twill from the lining that were the width of the busk channel when it was open and sewed down the center of them to the lining right next to the seam with the outer fabric. The busks would then go between this folded-over piece of twill, ending up with two layers of twill behind and one layer of twill and a layer of decorative fabric in front. On the side with the rivets, the rivets would go through the outer fabric, a layer of twill, the busk, and only one more layer of twill, with the actual lining closing behind the rivets. I sewed the outer three layers of fabric shut around the busk, then re-handstitched the binding around all four

The other side is actually a little simpler for me, but more of a pain for Jon. He's making separate hook pieces out of the same steel as the busk and then rivet them on with copper rivets, and cutting out these hook pieces and completely smoothing all the edges that will be exposed has proved time-consuming. But the reason it will be easier for me is because I have already sewn the binding back down around the outer two layers and put a separate piece of binding around the inner two layers. Then when this half of the busk is completed, it will simply be slipped between the now effectively two layers, and I will handstitch along the edges, leaving openings for the hooks to stick out.

Just for your viewing pleasure, a close-up of the lace along the top of my corset. Jon really likes it.

And in case you're wondering, this is a decent source for corset busks. They have a variety of lengths, widths, and numbers of hooks, as well as a few spoon busks.

Happy corseting! ;)

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