Rene's first corset was made in 2005 from measurements and purchased from Fashions of the Ages. Tami is the owner/seamstress who does exceptional work for a very reasonable price. The completed corset was finished by a tight deadline and was absolutely perfectly sewn. Tami's workmanship is exceptional. Highly, highly recommended. This corset was used exclusively throughout the 2005 Dickens Fair (every weekend from after Thanksgiving until the weekend before Christmas), as well as for every Gaskells and PEERS event and held up admirably. However, it did see a lot of hard wear.
In the fall of 2006, I took a class at Lacis in Berkeley to learn how to make corsets from Carol Wood, using the Laughing Moon pattern (Dore corset). From this class I made a corset (although not for Rene) in order to learn the technique, with the intent of making more/other corsets for Rene in the future.
The pattern is very easy to construct and Carol is a wonderful instructor. She is a professional tailor, milliner, and costumer and has been researching, recreating, and wearing historical garments for decades. Her work has been honored with awards, shown in galleries, worn to period events, appeared on the stage, and escorted down the wedding aisle. She is a native of the (San Francisco) East Bay, but lived much of her life in Europe where she studied first-hand and began collecting historical garments. Carol has studied corsetry under a number of instructors including Joann Peterson, author of Laughing Moon's "Ladies' Victorian Underwear" pattern! She has extensive experience in constructing corsets and vintage/historic outfits and aptly leads you through the process you need to sew your corset.
The Fashions of the Ages corset was showing definate signs of wear, due to extensive use. It was during the first weekend of the 2006 Dickens Christmas Fair that one of the bones poked thru the outer fabric. As she had also lost a bit of weight so that it no longer fit her as securely as it should have, rather than have me repair the corset (which would not have been a very difficult thing to do), Rene sold it to a Dickens participant. This did leave Rene without a corset at all. Since a corset is absolutely vital for Dickens Fair outfits, if Rene didn't get a replacement, she would not have been able to participate in that year's Fair.
Enter: Mom to the Rescue. :-)
So, using the knowledge I had gained from the corset class, I made Rene an ETC (Emergency Temporary Corset) corset so that she would *have* a corset to wear. I made the Dore exactly as the directions and pattern directed. It turned out that the corset's neckline was slightly lower than Rene prefered and the lower edge needed to be lengthened slightly .. but ... other than that, Rene said it fit perfectly and she was very comfortable wearing it. I thank Carol Wood for her excellent instruction on how to fit the corset pattern, the pitfalls to look for and how to correct them.
Because this was an ETC, I didn't want to use my coutil for it, as I figured some tweaking of the pattern would need to be done. Instead I used a natural colored twill from Joann's (Twill 40) and fused non-woven interfacing to it for extra stiffness. I used the double layer method so that the inside was finished ...no seams showing and no channel tape. The twill is an acceptable substitute but certainly it's not going to be as durable as coutil ... but for an ETC (and a trial run at that), I felt justified in using it. It was never intended to be the final corset.
To differentiate the top from the bottom, I put a lace edging along the top edge. For whatever reason, the center back angled upwards, so evidently I wasn't careful in my cutting of that pattern piece. This hasn't been uncomfortable for Rene, but I know it shouldn't be like that; it was corrected with the next corset (ETC 2).
Creating the holes for the button side of the busk and grommets was more work than I anticipated, as I was trying to be careful not to break too many threads. The table top awl I purchased at Lacis proved to be an invaluable tool for both the busk and the grommets.
By this time, I had learned how to set grommets using the grommet machine at Lacis, but since I didn't want to spend oodles of time at Lacis to set grommets, I ended up buying the Home Pro LR table top grommet setter from Lacis. This piece of equipment is like gold; easy to use, it sets grommets, eyelets, nail heads, corners and bone tips perfectly, as long as you have the proper die. It was quite a luxury to be able to set all the grommets for this corset at 11pm at night. :-)
White, size 00 grommets and white lacing tape were used to lace up the back.
For my very first finished corset, I was pleased with the construction and, more importantly, Rene was happy with the fit. With some judicious adjustments, the next corset should be able to be used as the master pattern for all future corsets.