After a lot of research into how 50s gowns were made I decided that I needed to make a corselette.  A corselette is an under-bodice built into the dress that has all the structure and  support that the outer layer of the dress is attacehd to. Basically it does all the hard work while the dress just gets to look pretty. Having a corselette will allow me to get the  open off the shoulder v-neck I’m looking for without having to wear an uncomfortable strapless bra because all the the bra bits are already built in!

To start I used the directions on this website for drafting your own corset. I found it very useful and adaptable to a variety of needs. Also its custom made to my measurements to there was minimal need for alteration.

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I made a few changes: This is supposed to be a victorian style corset with a reduced waist size, I modified the numbers to use my actual waist instead of a reduced size.

Even though it was mad to my measurements I did have to do two muslins. On the first muslin I had some pooling in the back so I enlisted Tony to pinch out the excess so I could make a sway back adjustment.You can see in the picture below the top line are the pattern pieces from the first muslin, I re-did all of them accept for #2.  Piecese 3-5 had the sway pack adjustment and then I modified piece #1 for a better neckline.


The second muslin was pretty close to perfect.


So now it came time to cut it out of the actual fabric. For the strength layer I couldn’t stomach the $25/yd price tag of coutil so I used some black cotton twill instead, it seemed pretty sturdy when I was tugging at it in the store. Unfortunately when I made up a bodice in the twill I realized I made a rookie mistake. The muslin, made out of muslin had must have stretched a little and fit like a glove but in the more sturdy twill the bodice was significantly smaller as there was no give to the fabric. Lesson learned always do the muslin in a fabric that behaves similarly to the one you are going to use. To fix the issue I drafted a 6th piece  for the center back.


I put in a fast test zipper to make sure the fit worked and I was on my way. I sewed up the same thing in my taffeta. I trimmed the seams  into points to keep some of the bulk out of the top and bottom.


Instead of making boning channels out of twill tape I decided to use a sandwich. I pinned the strength and fashion wrong sides together and pinned along the seam ( to prevent and holes in the taffeta)


Then I topstitched along both sides of the seam to create a channel for the boning.


Next step was to finish the bottom. I used some 7/8″ Navy satin ribbon. First I sewed it to the right side of the bodice.


Then folded it to the back and stitched in the ditch for an invisable finish.


The satin ribbon looks nice, but in retrospect I wish I had gone with a double fold bias tape because the ribbon is VERY difficult to un-pick.

I slid in the boning and stated finishing of the top in the same manner. I made a spur of the moment decision and placed the bra cups inside for a cleaner finish. This would come back to haunt me later.dsc_0077

After finishing the top I help it up to test the size again…….don don don. Turns out actually putting boning in the boning channels significantly shortens the circumference and so I had to patch it a second center back panel to make up the difference. 😦

After that little detour I put in the zipper and we are done. Right?


After taking these pictures I decided I didn’t like how the bra cups looked tucked inside so I ended up having to un-pick the top ribbon, which got destroyed in the process.  I cut the ribbon out  completely and replaced it from side seam to side seam across the front. An just ended up tacking the cups to the inside. Not as pretty but it gives a much better line.

With the underpinning finally finished I was anxious to start seeing the actual dress. I just draped some fabric over my dress form and started playing around. This is what I came up with.


I am leaning more towards the right side were the gathers form just around the bust and then lay flat for the rest.

Making this corselette was certainly one of the most challenging things I have done to date but it feels very rewarding to have it finished. I may even make another one that can be worn under other dresses as a separate piece.  Though if I do I think I would like to do lacing instead of a zipper as it will be a bit more forgiving in the sizing department and will still work as my weight fluctuates.



One thought on “Underpinnings

  1. I need my own Victorian corset. I love the fact that you don’t have to fasten it between your legs like the one that I have. The zipper goes well with the petticoat, but the idea for a lace up one later would be nice to have too. I fluctuate a lot! LOL 🙂 As far as the dress fabric goes, it is beautiful! I like the way you have the fabric placed on the right side too. It appears to be very flattering that way! Lovely!


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