It’s no secret to friends and family that I absolutely adore sewing. What I enjoy almost as much is having people ask me for advice on creative things – whether it’s about fabric, or starting a project, or what kind of alterations are feasible on RTW. It’s definitely partly my vanity being flattered – who doesn’t like feeling like a fountain of wisdom? – but it’s also because my love of creativity extends past my own projects and into everyone else’s. I love sewing for friends and family, too – or at least, I like offering too; most people I know are kind and savvy enough to politely decline my well-intentioned and enthusiastic offers, knowing that with my timetable and penchant for running a million projects at once, it’ll be some time before they’re likely to receive anything (to my friends still waiting on things, THEY’RE COMING I PROMISE).
It was much in this spirit that I offered to make part of my sister’s Theatre Studies costume, declined on the grounds of “I don’t want to put pressure on you”, Which I accepted, assuming this meant “I’m not sure you’ll actually do it” (and fair enough too, with my track record). But then, in a turn of events (which was really just no better alternatives presenting themselves), my services were called upon: time to produce a somewhat authentic looking Elizabethan bodice in three days!
Fortunately, with my love of project planning, I’d already done a bit of research, and found that I already had a reasonably appropriate pattern – the 1703 corset from the Corset Pattern Compendium, part of the Express Corset Making Course (which I purchased for another project, also soon to appear on this blog!). Although technically a bit later than the Shakespearean era we were aiming for, it had most of the features wanted: wide square neckline, a narrow pointed waistline at the font, and front and back lacing. Close enough for me! In the interests of saving time, money and labour, I’d already decided I’d take some shortcuts and depart a little from proper corset construction; I used lacing tape at the front and back to spare me having to set in grommets, and plastic boning at each seam line instead of spiral steel – this was also for comfort, as my sister didn’t want to be too restricted during her performance! Mum gave me a budget of $50 to make the whole thing, and it’s with no small measure of pride that I managed to get everything for $30 (thank you Spotlight for 30% off all fabrics!). Materials purchased, work could begin!
The patterns included in the compendium are designed to be scaled up and adjusted to the wearer’s measurements. I, being far too lazy to do any such thing, simply printed out the pattern at 350% and taped it together. This worked…reasonably well. I’d originally printed it at 300%, and decided it was too small after making a quick muslin. However, in a rookie error, I added seam allowances to the 350% version when I hadn’t to the smaller, thinking that they’d still be needed. I think that the 300% with seam allowance would have been perfect actually, as the 350% came out too large once made up. But we live and learn,and I managed to alter it down to a good fit.
I made a couple of alterations to the pattern. I eliminated the tabbing along the lower edge of the bodice, aiming for both simpler construction and a cleaner look – the character is a noble woman, but simply dressed. I also put the straps on back to front – I wanted the cleaner sewn edge at the front, leaving the slightly fussy ribbon ties at the back. I ended up using long darts and folds to fit it to my sister, stitching them in place by hand for the neatest look. The back laces completely closed, instead of with a gap – again, a side-effect of it being slightly too large. Still, as it’s a costume piece and not shape wear, it doesn’t really matter.
I think it came out pretty well! The actress is certainly happy with it, and I think it looks stunning on her 🙂 I also found it to be a great introduction to my corset-making journey – even if it isn’t strictly a proper corset, it was really brilliant to have a go at some of the techniques: using one of the patterns, sewing in all the boning, binding the edges and of course, lacing the bodice itself. I really can’t wait to have a go at a more complex project now…which is already underway 😉
Meanwhile, I kept meaning to mention it in a post, but I never remembered until they were already far too long – a few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Kollabora as part of their Meet the Maker feature! For those unfamiliar with it, Kollabora is great website, just for makers – whether you sew, knit, crochet, bead etc., it’s a lovely space to share projects and get inspired 🙂 They’ve been kind enough to feature my work on a few occasions, too:
Until next time,
Miss Maddy x