All about corset making and corsetry components

A blog with plenty of information on Corset Making and corset making supplies.

A new "From the Archives" series will be published every Wednesday and Saturday from 25 February 2023, until 26 March 2023, and these posts will contain 'old' information on corset making which will be updated for the revamped Learn Corset Making information portal whereever that may be.

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Category: Book Reviews

  1. From the Archives : Jill Salen Lingerie Book Review

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    Vintage Lingerie

    Book Review:  Vintage Lingerie, Historical Patterns & Techniques by Jill Salen

    Beautiful, fine silk lingerie items are one of those things which we consider to be the sort of luxury we would rarely - if ever - buy for ourselves due to the sometimes eye wateringly expensive price.  As sewists, we can often look at garments in shops and say “i can make that” (for a fraction of the cost), and so we can too with lingerie - even the type you see in high end shops such as Agent Provocateur and Coco de Mer.  Finding commercial lingerie patterns in the styles and shapes of yesteryear however, is difficult if not impossible  but Jill Salen, a professional costumer of some renown and with a special interest in historical underwear,  has come to the rescue!  

    This book contains no less than 30 well chosen, historically accurate patterns taken from museum collections.  From the 1850’s to the 1970‘s some items could even be customised as outer wear for today, and some, though vintage, have as classic as shape yesterday as they do today.  All are thoroughly inspirational and beautiful.

    Each item in the book has 3 or 4 pages dedicated to it - at least one full page colour photograph alongside a description including relevant dates, fabrics used, measurements, embellishments, and historical notes.  The pattern then follows, scaled down on squared graph paper which is easy to scale up to the size of the original garment.  These scale drawings include the pattern pieces with balance marks and also fine embellishment details and diagrams for things which may be hard to follow from just the photograph - ie: different types of stitching, closures, edgings, facings and attachments.

    This book is not aimed at beginners.  It is assumed that people accessing these patterns, are used to sewing garments together, fairly confident at using scale patterns and comfortable with working intuitively from brief instructions to make something fit a modern body - though it is recommended by the author to first to make a garment to scale and find somebody to fit the garment so that they way it works can be observed as it would have been intended.  A basic knowledge of pattern cutting would be useful though not essential.

    That said, for the less confident, there are 2 full projects included in the book.  which give a list of materials required, plus detailed step by step instructions on how to make each item  - a black net brassier from 1930 which looks remarkably modern and risque, and a very cleverly patterned 1905 petticoat designed to give maximum ‘swish’ and embellished with pretty ribbon and layers of lace.

    There are notes in the back of the book which include brief instructions on how the scaled patterns are used followed by more detailed notes on various hand sewing techniques commonly used in vintage lingerie, such as making button loops, scallop edging, attaching hooks and eyes, fagotting and making broderie anglaise details, to name but a few.

    In summary,  this is another excellent and inspirational book by Jill Salen (her first was dedicated entirely to corsetry).  Along with the individual patterns and beautiful pictures, there is a wealth of information on how and where different fabrics and other materials were used in lingerie, and all of this knowledge can be applied to different projects whether for underwear, corsetry or dressmaking, and ofcourse there is also a list of suppliers, extensive further reading, list of useful website resources and a very handy glossary.


    copyright, Sew Curvy Corsetry, originally published at The Sewing Directory

  2. From the Archives : Understanding Corset Patterns

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    If you want to start making your own corset patterns, it is necessary to understand the mechanics of pattern design and cut.  Here is a quick run down of my own pattern cutting library.

    It was  my adventures in corsetry which led to my fascination with pattern cutting.  I needed to know HOW a corset works - the engineering aspect.  I am one of those types of people who needs to fully understand the reasons behind something in order to 'do it', and so I found this book in my Christmas Stocking one year.  It explains in full detail the concept of the French Block - how to draw one, make one, fit one, and then how to  design your corset or garment within it, for the French block (or sloper as it is also known), is the basis of all garment manufacture and design.This book explained very well the importance of measurements and how they relate to the paper diagram.  Most importantly, this is the ONLY book I have which explains the Bust Point well (or even at all!).  Let me just tell you ... the bust point is where your nipples are - it's different for everyone.  The distance between nipples is VITAL because when you have drawn your front block, you need to know where the dart apex should be - so you draw a line which measures half the distance between your nipples, parallel to the centre front line, and there is the line upon which your bust point should be.Being a book about corsetry, it obviously only deals with the block for the upper section of the body, but this is the hardest part to grasp when pattern making because there are so very many possibilities and one of my other obsessions is how to fit the bust properly - my own having been a constant conundrum.  This book includes instructions on how to make 2 styles of bra - not the type you may find on the high street, but a good basis to get started on your own designs and possibly to integrate into a corset.

    As corsetry ignited my interest in general dressmaking, I decided, along with finding a teacher, that I needed a more general book and this is the one I was recommended.  It's one of the industry standards for fashion students and is very very good.  There are some parts of it which are a little hard to decipher but on the whole, this book is a brilliant introduction with clear and concise diagrams, instructions and explanations.There are chapters on all aspects of flat pattern cutting for all types of garment in a  huge range of  styles.  The initial chapters focus on basic block building for bodice, arms, skirt and trousers, and then the rest has instructions on how to customise those blocks as required.

    There are also chapters in this book explaining how to cut patterns for stretch and jersey fabrics which don't need darts, and at the end, a look at the more commercial aspects of fashion design.
    This book is a new acquisition:It is all about construction of garments from the initial pattern making, to special finishes for special fabrics ...  It starts off with lots of different techniques which are not found in the previous two books - this book is much more "creative", with inspirational pictures from the catwalk and quotes from all the famous designers.
    Rather than be put off by these glamorous catwalk pictures, I find them very interesting.  At first glance these beautiful gowns look absolutely impossible!  But this book breaks them down and shows you that although they are stunning works of art, they are constructed using the same techniques as described in any pattern cutting book.  It is the mastery of these techniques by the designers, the cutters, and the people who sew them, that makes these clothes special.
    There is a whole section in this book on "support" but this doesn't just include corsetry as one might imagine.  It also includes tailoring techniques, information about interfacings and other support structures, along with descriptions and tips on how to generally sculpt, shape and manipulate your fabric.These are the books I have, but there are more on my Amazon wishlist!

    A book about draping - you drape muslin over your dress form, shape as required, and then make a pattern from it.  Fascinating! 
     This book has fantastic reviews and on looking inside as you can on Amazon, seems to be absolutely packed with information.
    Another fabulous resource which will help you to understand corset patterns, can be found in the free articles section at Foundations Revealed.  Click on the link at the bottom of this page to go there!