Tag Archives: Corsets & Stays

Robe a la Francaise Photo Gallery

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This semester, I took a course at school called “Costuming: Projects” in which I had to devise and make a large project. I knew I wanted to make an 18th century robe a la Francaise, with all the required underpinnings. These are the photos from the process and photo shoot. I will hopefully publish my documentation later.

In-Progress Pictures:

Final, Formal Photo Shoot:

More 18th Century

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I have been immersed in 18th century and loving it. I am in the process of making an set of stays from Butterick B4254, with a couple minor variations. I have lowered the back (although it may need to be lower still) and narrowed the straps, based on others’ review of the period accuracy of this pattern. One side is finished, barring a 5 inch piece of bias tape binding… One package almost bound the entire half. Oh, and the eyelets that are going to take forever to do.

In addition, my wig came in and has promptly been styled in a hedgehog poof. Or as close to a hedgehog as I could get it. I had initially purchased a Marie Antoinette wig, the blonde one with the pink bows, but it sucked. It had been squished flat into the package and I couldn’t regain the pretty look of the picture. I then ordered a 30 inch wavy brown Lacey wig from maxwigs.com and it was a very nice looking wig! I was almost sad to rat it to death. I would certainly order this wig again for other costumes and uses.

I used a combination of Demode‘s and American Duchess‘s tutorials to style my wig. I initially tried for a pouf, but didn’t leave enough hair in the front to smooth over the pouf so I switched to a hedgehog style halfway through. The pouf might have been a bit too early for my chemise a la reine anyway, and thus, out of fashion. I used a length of brown raw wool that I had laying around as a “rat” to give the style some height, and teased the 30 inch sections around the wig like crazy. I left a little curly/wavy piece for a lovelock.

I want to make a hat SOOOO badly, but my friend is making one for me, in exchange for her chemise a la reine. Maybe I should make one of those tiny crowned hats, that way I can make a hat, but it will be different…

Homemade Glue Update

Last weekend I tested out a couple of the glue recipes I had found. Trial number one from http://www.toddlerhaven.ca/crafts.htm#GLUE with water, corn syrup, vinegar and cornstarch came out very thick and globby and ultimately not usable for this project..

Trial number two from http://www.pennilessparenting.com/2010/08/homemade-glue.html consisted of water, flour and sugar. This also seemed too thick, but spread in a thin smooth layer. A test run made the silk spotty, so I dampened the silk and applied the glue to the cotton duck and the cotton duck to the silk while it was still damp. This solved the problem of “watermarks”, but required a long dry time. In the end, the silk stuck to the glued duck giving me a non-slippery, stiff piece of fabric to work with. I really liked not fighting with the slip-slidey fabric and will use this method in the future for silky fabrics. I intend on washing the corset one last time and I suspect the glue will wash away and leave only the stitching to hold everything together.

Rubber Cement and Glue

I came across an article yesterday regarding rubber cement and corsetry on sempstress.org. I was intrigued by this idea and could immediately see the benefit of gluing your pieces together prior to stitching. This was a particularly nice idea while my fingers are in the healing stages after padstitching multiple layers for my unboned velvet stays a la Eleonora di Toledo. Another of my many projects in the works is a Tudor corset, which I am machine sewing (my fingers are happy). I had Simplicity 2621 from my (technically unfinished) farthinggale project and I made a size 12 mockup rather quickly. With some modifications for back AND front lacing and boned tabs, it fit pretty well right away. Instead of padstitching, I am going to try the above mentioned rubber cement method to layer my fabric, buckram, cotton duck interlining, and cotton lining.

However, rubber cement is not the most period option, which led to me googling potato starch glues. While I didn’t find a whole lot of renaissance glue recipes (I did not search anywhere near hard enough), I did find a good selection of food based glues that I now want to try, especially since I don’t have rubber cement handy.

Grate a peeled potato in a bowl and add three spoons of water. After a few minutes, you can press it with a spoon so the potato starch is on the spoon. Then heat four spoons of the potato starch with four spoons of water until the mass thickens – but don’t let it cook! The potato glue dries yellowish and is suitable for paper works.

3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoons white vinegar
1/2 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup cold water

Mix water, syrup and vinegar in small saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil. In small bowl, mix cornstarch and cold water. Add this mixture slowly to first mixture. Stir constantly. Let stand overnight before using.

Powdered milk – 2 tablespoons
Hot tap water – 1/4 cup
Vinegar – 1 tablespoons
Baking Soda – 1/2 teaspoon

Mix powdered milk and some of the hot tap water (depending on the quantity of powdered milk used) and stir it well.
Add vinegar to milk. Milk will separate into solid yogurt and liquid whey. Stir till all the milk has separated completely.

Strain away the whey. Secure a paper towel with rubber band over the mouth of a large cup. Put the yogurt in it. Place another piece of paper towel on the yogurt and press it firmly so that, almost all of whey drains out from the yogurt.

Put the yogurt in a separate cup and break it into smaller lumps.

Add 1 teaspoon of hot water and ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. Some foaming may occur because the reaction of baking soda and vinegar releases carbon dioxide.

Stir the glue till it has an even consistency. Add water if it is too thick. If it is too lumpy add more baking soda.

Refrigerate it when not in use. Discard it when it starts smelling like spoiled milk.

1 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons white flour
4 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon sugar

1. Put boiling water in a pot.
2. Mix flour and cold water well. Use a whisk to get rid of any clumps.
3. Slowly pour the flour mixture into the hot water, mixing the whole time.
4. Turn on fire under the pot and heat until mixture thickens. Mix constantly. This should take only a minute or two.
5. Once thick, turn off fire and mix in sugar.
6. Transfer to a container for storage, and then put in the refrigerator.
7. Once cool, use as you would any other glue.

Corsetmakers Course II

I’ve decided to make 2 complete corsets. Now that I think I am on the right track, I am making another mockup, but this will be a permanent usable corset… A trial run, really. I dyed some white cotton duck to muddy brown which will be the “fashion fabric” of this corset. I’m using gold grommets and some orange poly cotton to line the corset. I will do external boning channels, but I don’t know yet how.

Last night I ordered a 12 inch busk and some extra grommets from Richard the Thread. Things I liked and didn’t like about this company:


  • They don’t have all busk sizes in every color
  • $35 minimum purchase
  • Shipping: shipping costs aren’t part of checkout, you have to wait until it is shipped and pay whatever the cost of shipping is.


  • Grommets and busks  are a good price
  • awesome store and lots of stuff I want

Once my busk comes in, I can do a fitting. I think I need to add a gore to the hips — I chose to go with a smaller hip size (6) in order to use the gores in the hips. I will probably need a second gore.


Speaking of gores, I came up with a way to stitch my gores in that looks great and is durable. First I drew the seam allowance on the wrong side of the gore. When I reached the point where the two seam allowances intersect, I drew a straight line splitting the bottom space in half. I then stitched over these lines, from widest part to narrowest, including the line at the bottom. This way, the stitching didn’t just end at the tip unsecured.

To keep myself on track, I’ve made a list of the major steps of the process:

  1. Take measurements
  2. Do complicated math to calculate circumference of pattern
  3. Mark & measure waist (compare to above measurements & math)
  4. Mark & measure bustline
  5. Mark & measure hips
  6. Measure length of pattern, adjust if needed
  7. Make toile
  8. Fitting and adjustments
  9. Make corset
  10. Sew boning channels and waist tape
  11. Finishing touches

Corsetmakers Course

With my new subscription to Foundations Revealed, I am following the corsetmaker’s course to construct Laughing Moon #100 Silverado corset. I plan to do a very detailed blog of the process for future reference, though many of the steps that are in depth on FR will just be mentioned.

I initially decided to use the Dore pattern, but Farthingales’ profile view decided it for me – I want more of a cupped breast for the FR challenge ideas that I am pursuing.

The Silverado course starts with taking exact measurements of your body and comparing them with the actual measurements of the pattern pieces. I put on my best fitting bra and made sure the straps were evenly supporting my boobs. I carefully measured in front of a floor length mirror and my resulting sizes gave me a 14 bust, 18 waist and 12 hips. I followed the recommended 75 mm reduction at the waist and 50 mm everywhere else, as well as the 15 mm seam allowance listed on the pattern, as well as a 2 inch gap in the lacing.

I cut the above sizes out of the (photocopied) pattern and sewed mockup number 1.


Made some changes, tried larger cups, went back to smaller cups, added a gore to the hips, and moved the gore to between pieces 13 and 14. My pattern pieces now look like this:

My cotton duck mockup is practically disintegrating around the edges from being handled, so I will cut and sew one more mockup, which will be used to flatline the lining of the real thing. I haven’t picked out a fabric to make it out of, but I’m considering several fabrics for the exterior, then I will pick out a pretty matching lining.

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FR Challenge

I am sort of reconsidering the shape aspect of the challenge. Since I like using plastic cable ties for boning, I am thinking I can use hot water to permanently change the shape of the ties. My initial thoughts are making a duct tape dummy, putting the finished corset on it,  pouring boiling water on it to soften the stays and let it dry on the dummy to take that shape. I don’t know if this will work, but I think it will be a cool experiment.

I found this example on farthingales’ that shows a comparison of the Dore and Silverado corsets and a silhouette like the Silverado would give me the opportunity to test this idea.


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Foundations Revealed Challenge

With my new subscription of Your Wardrobe Unlock’d and Foundations Revealed, I checked out their competitions and I think I want to make another corset. Yes, I am way late on getting started, but if I do this, it will give me a deadline for this corset instead of a vague “in the future” to improve on my last corset. I am going to start by looking through the dresses I already own and designing a corset that can be worn with something I own, rather than making a dress to match the corset. The categories for FR are shape and ornamentation and it covers corsets and other foundation wear.

I could make an Elizabethan pair of bodies or an Edwardian S-bend in the shape category, or a Victorian or modern corset in the ornamentation category. I don’t think the shape of the latter would be anything special and therefore I’d be going for ornamentation with Victorian-esque styles. Or, I could make a proper pair of flapper underwear to totally flatten my bust for shape.

After looking at patterns and pictures, I decided to buy Laughing Moon’s Victorian underwear set (LM100) from Truly Victorian. It has the Silverado and Dore corset patterns of which I’ve heard great and bad stuff about. I feel competent enough to make a good result regardless of any problems along the way. In addition, my friend and my mother are also going to make corsets along with me, so that will be cool. Now, I’m left to decide how to decorate this corset.

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Your Wardrobe Unlock’d & Foundations Revealed

My miscellaneous projects have brought me time and again back to Your Wardrobe Unlock’d: The Costume Maker’s Companion, 1700-1920 and Foundation Revealed: The Corset Maker’s Companion, so I have signed up. I am quite excited at the wealth of information at my fingertips!

I had previously reviewed every free article on FR when I was working on my mint green corset, but there was so much information available across the web that I didn’t sign up then and there. Now, in my searches for Elizabethan drawn thread work, I came across an LJ post of some lovely drawn thread cuffs which leads back to YWU. This was irresistible, I had to have it and I immediately signed up. Theoretically, YWU’s date ranges are just outside of my major interests (1500-1600), but there is still wealth enough to make it worth my attention and money.

Now, back to the drawn thread research!

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Victorian Corset

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Everyone else is working on Victorian stuff lately and so I have been working on a corset as an “easy” break from my Florentine sottana. Turns out, it’s not easy or quick at all. I bought both Simplicity 9769 and Simplicity 2890 recently when Joann’s was having one of their $1.99 pattern sales. I’m using Simplicity 9769 because I like the lines of it. Since I wasn’t sure what size I needed, I got 9769 in the larger sizes, where my measurements put me. After putting together a mockup in size 14, attempting to modify and take it in with a wing and a prayer, I became utterly frustrated and acknowledged the need for the smaller pattern. After a trip to Joann’s, I came home ready to work on my :easy” project again. I was able to cut down the size 14 pieces to size 12, stitched it up and tried it on.

Amongst my frustrated googling, I found this awesome blog post: How to fit a Simplicity 9769 corset. Though I did not do mine the same way, I did pick up some great hints. Namely, instead of safety pinning my lacing strips on, I sewed them on and drastically improved the fitting process. I also LOVED her idea of masking taping my boning on for the fitting – a huge improvement over trying on my mockup without boning.

So the size 12 was not going to close around my hips, but the bust was great. Artemisia found her best fit by using different sizes of each piece, but I didn’t think that was going to give me as much room as I needed in my hips. Instead, I drew out the pattern pieces and merged larger sizes at the bottom with the smaller sizes at the top. This involved NOT mixing up the two different patterns and a lot of freehand drawing. I actually prick holes in the pattern and then use a marker to dot that hole, then freehand the lines and check it against my patterns. I have used this method for a while now because I didn’t like cutting the pattern out in one size, nor did I like placing the pattern on and trying to keep it from shifting while cutting. Fortunately, I have a good sense of shape and spacing, so my pattern drawings are very close to exact. I then rotary cut everything freehand. I recently heard of a french curve and would have picked one up at Joann’s but they didn’t have one, so I’m gonna stick with my sense of proportion.

My measurements are: bust 36″ (squished to 34″), waist 32″, and hips 40″. In the end, I used the following sizes for my pattern:

  • piece 14 – size 10 top, size 12 bottom
  • piece 15 – size 10 top, size 14 bottom
  • piece 16 – size 14
  • piece 17 – size 12 top, size 14 bottom
  • piece 18 – size 12 top, size 14 bottom
  • pieces 13 and 19 were one size

I’m ripping my mockup apart to save as pattern pieces and I will be cutting my fabrics shortly: mint green satin, white cotton duck, and cream cotton. The satin is something I picked up for no reason and noticed when I started thinking about corsets a week or two ago. The cotton duck is my go to for mockups and bodice strength fabric. The cream lining  I got at Joann’s today for $2.50/yard (ish). I wanted something all natural for my lining but couldn’t find anything with a shine, so I decided on a 1 inch cream satin ribbon for the bindings with the cotton lining. I also got a yard of a lace material for decoration inspired by this corset: http://corsetmakers.livejournal.com/1743590.html. I plan to drape the lace similar to a Victorian bustled apron.

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