Along with working on Harriet’s gown, I am going to be doing a living history presentation at the Athens County Historical Society in February. For the living history project, I am going to interpret for a middling class seamstress, as Harriet was. I have no garments suitable for the time period so I have to make them all.

Cotton American Corset, ca1885-1887Metropolitan Museum of Art

I have decided to undertake reproducing an American cotton corset from the 1880s. This corset is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and I fell in love with it on the first glance. I love the blue tambour-work on the front panels. It is from a little earlier than when Harriet made her gown, but it’s safe to assume that being in “rural Ohio”, even with Ohio University, that everyday styles were a little behind (probably no more than 5 years) for practicality reasons.

The only measurements given by the Met are the corset being 13.5″ long at center back. So I decided to make it my own measurements, which are: 33″ Bust, 28″Waist, and 35″Hip. My other corsets bring me down to a 23-24″ waist, but it’s sometimes uncomfortable because the smallest measurements result in complete closure at center back. I also know I could go a couple inches more (with proper training of course)

So, this corset will keep the same silhouette as the original garment, while allowing there to be some wiggle room for my waist sizes. Here was my process: I decided what size I want my waist to be at its smallest; I chose 22″. Then I deducted around 2.5″ from all my measurements (with the new waist measurement) to allow for whatever room between my laces that I want to maintain. This made the measurements of my corset to be ridiculously small: 30″B, 19″W, 32.5″H

Pretty Pattern Pieces

 I flat patterned the corset, using Corsets: Historical Patterns and Techniques and Corsets and Crinolines as visual reference. ^Here are my pattern pieces looking all pretty^

I hadn’t been able to find twill fabric in the color I wanted for a good enough price, so I improv’d. I found a pair of $3 Goodwill khakis (size 12) and went from there.

yay $3!
You can kinda see the nestling I did with the pieces.

After the pieces were drawn onto the fabric, I did some embroidery. I did tambour work using a doily hook.

“Tambour”

Then I put some pieces together!

I wasn’t able to keep the exact number of bones or cording channels as the original, mainly because I think the one I’m making is significantly smaller than the original. The overall effect of the corset seems to be on the right track, but we’ll see when I have the front and back pieces in. My busk hasn’t come in yet, and I’ve not made the grommets in the back piece. But here are some pics of my progress:

Woo back!
The Front!
(and only held together with the waist-tape)
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