To support our 18th Century Speculative Design project we undertook a week long project in the costume department making an 18th Century corset. I really enjoyed this project as costume was the area of theatre that I was first interested in and led me to pursue Theatre Design so it was great to learn something new and get back on the sewing machines!
We had to measure our model and then draft these measurements using a basic pattern block on paper. The back and front panel patterns were then transferred onto another piece of paper so that we could clearly see the bespoke pattern and drawn in the boning channels. This pattern was then transferred onto calico (which would become the lining to our garment) and tacked then sewed onto the chosen fabric. We were given a selection of fabric colours, all traditional hues available during the 1700s. I chose a navy blue. I then sewed the front two panels to the back two panels and tacked a temporary channel of eyelets so that I could do a fitting on my model.
Once I had checked and adjusted the fit of my corset on the model I was able to sew in all of the boning channels and attach an extra section to the top lining of the corset, giving the bust area structure as well (as displayed above in the second photograph). We used synthetic boning, cutting it to the right size as I put in each channel. I found this challenging as some of the channels I had sewn were a bit tight. I enjoyed creating the eyelet holes using a hammer and leather although it was difficult! This is when my corset started to really take a form and all that was left to do was the arm straps and binding. The arm straps were fitted on the model to make for the best fit possible.
Unfortunately I didn’t finish the corset in the week we had and therefore the binding is still a work in progress that I aim to have finished at the end of my 18th Century project this term. This week allowed me to see how I would make 18th Century clothing and consider the structures and shapes used at this time.