Inner corselettes and integrated corsetry

I thought I would write a little about a subject I know is something that many are curious about and is not discussed as much as it could be.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to be loaned a few Dior inner corselettes to study. Something I was delighted about. I copied one exactly and then took the pattern on to become a proper reducing corset. I was loaned three variations from the 1950s. One in the dress, one with a petticoat attached and one on it's own. They all differed in shaping but had most basics in common. None were waist reducing in any substantial sense, very much corselettes rather than corsets. 

All were bobbinet, and all double layer and cut in opposing directions. I counted the 'holes's and compared with some samples Julia had. So the bobbinet stocked by Sew Curvy is as close as possible to that used.

All were boned with 5mm spiral steel. Usually in ribbon casings.  Also on the rear closure.

Visible boning, showing how light the construction was.

Visible boning, showing how light the construction was.

All had waist tapes of grosgrain ribbon. 

All had hand worked hooks and eyes mounted on the rear closure reinforced with ribbon.

Some had organza and/or horsehair for structure at key points.


What was notable was the lightness and flexibility of the construction. These were strong but lightweight.

One of the others. Narrow darts were another common factor

One of the others. Narrow darts were another common factor

Petticoats were stitched to the bottom of the corslette allowing a dropped waist to avoid bulk.

They were attached to the top edge of the gown by hand. Some had evidence of thread chains at other points such as side seams, but no solid attachement.

Showing the top edge attachment

Showing the top edge attachment

The waist tape usually fastened with a separate hook and eye to allow it to be closed independently of the gown.

This shows the ribbon channels, the separately hooked waist tape and the hand overcasting on the seam allowances. 

This shows the ribbon channels, the separately hooked waist tape and the hand overcasting on the seam allowances. 

The one I copied had demi cups for lift.


The above picture is the old and the new. The original is on the left, the repro on the right. Not the bobbinet I used on the corset below, which is closer to the original. This was supplied by the client, and then dyed by her which changed the handle. However the pattern is identical.

To translate that pattern into a corset, I simply reduced the waist and added a front solid bone and a lacing closure. I've always intended to add a petticoat but it's never happened sadly. So here it is with a tulle skirt on our own Morgana. Photographed by Louise Cantwell.


If I was building this more waist reducing corset into a gown, I would treat it the same way. Attaching a petticoat to the bottom edge and the corset to the inner top edge of the gown, which would be fitted to close over the corset. The inner laces would be left free with the outer zip closing over it.  The gown could be more firmly attached at the rear, incorporating the lacing through the two parts. Fitting to the wearer would be key.

I've been manically collecting innards pics on Pintrest for a while. You may find some helpful stuff here. https://www.pinterest.co.uk/CrikeyAphrodite/innards-construction/
Modern high end bridal gowns still incorporate inner corselettes, albeit now more likely to be powermesh and plastic boning. But if you can, they are worth a look to see how the construction is ordered. 

Iceni Corset Inspiration by Beth Moody

Inspiration is a tricky thing to pin down sometimes. It can be incredibly fluid and often the final creation you end up with looks nothing like the original starting point. Trying to explain your inspiration can be hard.. so bear with me.

When you start making corsets, very often you take inspiration from other corset makers. And why not, there is some brilliant work out there to be inspired by! Much like when you study art at school you examine the work of well known artists to understand how they achieved what they did, you learn from their composition, colours, materials and skills. It's the same with corsets.

It can continue when you start opening your doors to clients. People will come to you saying “I found this picture of a corset, I want one like this...” That's all well and good, but if you want to create something truly original you need to look to find your own inspiration, outside of the corsetry world.

When I signed up to attend OCOC'15 I instantly started plotting my piece for the shoot on Sunday.

I'd, somewhat accidentally, made this underbust corset.

It originally started life as a mock-up to test a new pattern I was working on... when I got a bit carried away with some lace. I absolutely love combining soft drapey fabrics with the strong structure of a corset, and it's a theme you can often see running through my work. I liked the way the lace draped over this piece but I wanted to take it further.

After the models were announced I immediately felt drawn to Gingerface. I LOVE Pre-Raphaelite art, and redheads and I had all sorts of notions of a neo-gothic, painted ceiling inspired, blue and gold, midnight corset... and that was about as far as I got. Life got in the way a bit.

Not long after that I was signed off sick from stress due to my (then) day job. Which soon prompted the decision to quit and attempt to pursue Moody Corsetry as a legitimate business. At this time our little family decided to escape for a weekend to visit friends in Norfolk. We'd not seen them for an age and I definitely needed time away. Whilst we were there we visited Waxham and the coastline there. Walking along the incredibly windswept, rainy beach I had a moment of clarity, deciding to tackle this new venture head on, and understanding what I really wanted and needed out of life.

I loved that beach, despite the weather. I loved how dramatic the wind, rain, waves, stones all made it despite it just being variations of grey. This was something I really wanted to capture and so took this image. (yeah it's not great but that's camera phones for you)

And this was my new source of inspiration. I wanted to create a piece that looked like it belonged here. The rocks would be my structure and the sea would be my soft drape of fabric. I wanted it to look like the sea was twisting around the corset. Like my model had just walked out of the sea.. and it didn't really take me long from there.

Fabrics wise the corset part was straight forward, I wanted it to be black and wet looking. Corsetry satin it is then, with added antique jet beads for a a bit more interest, to bring in that sort of 'stone' quality and, well, jet is awesome so why not?! The watery fabric was a little more tricky, until I stumbled across silk chiffon shot with silver. It was that fantastic “not quite white” colour of sea foam and I literally skipped around my living room when the postman delivered it.

And here is the final piece.

Iceni corset by Moody Corsetry. Modelled by Gingerface. Copyright InaGlo Photography 2015

Iceni corset by Moody Corsetry. Modelled by Gingerface. Copyright InaGlo Photography 2015

Gingerface modelled it to perfection, and InaGlo photographed it beautifully. I was very pleased with myself I must say! I decided to name the piece Iceni. I like naming my showpieces after the source of the inspiration.. but Waxham didn't have a great ring to it. I thought instead to name it after the Brythonic tribe who inhabited Norfolk in 1st century BC. They were the tribe that the infamous Boudica came from, and I felt this not only linked the piece back to where my inspiration came from but also reflected the drama and strength I hope it emanates.

One day I'd really like to take this corset back to Waxham beach and have it photographed on those rocks!

You can see more of Beth's lovely work at Moody Corsetry

Show & Tell - Purdy Corsetry (plus "skeletons")

By Jenni Hampshire (Sparklewren)


Skeleton and ventilated corsetry has many different incarnations. Sometimes being corsets that are decorated with a ribcage motif and sometimes being big sculptural wearable-art pieces (McQueen, Gaultier and Iris Van Herpen spring to mind). But for many of us, "skeleton corsetry" refers more specifically to a breed of Victorian corsets made with cutaway sections. Designed, apparently, to let the skin breathe or reduce heat.

Women traveling to foreign climes might be persuaded to buy corsets like this. Our very own tutor Alison (CrikeyAphrodite!) has an affection for ventilated pieces, wondering if an ancestor of hers would have worn one. Worn over chemises and under gowns (and generally with a rather low waist reduction), there would be little risk of unslightly bulges of skin, and perhaps that extra bit of air would make a difference to comfort.

True skeleton corsets might have no solid bands of fabric, being made entirely of bone casings, waist tape, and binding alone. But I personally find the cross-over point to regular corsetry more beautiful. This is where corsets might have open or cutaway sections, but are not entirely skeletal.

This "ventilated" corset is held by the Snibston Fashion Museum. Shared with permission of Leicester County Council, photo taken by Jenni Hampshire.

This "ventilated" corset is held by the Snibston Fashion Museum. Shared with permission of Leicester County Council, photo taken by Jenni Hampshire.

Contemporary makers often shy away from ventilated corsetry but a friend of mine, Jemma of Purdy Corsetry, has embraced it whole-heartedly, making some of the most striking and clever ventilated pieces I have seen!

Corset by  Purdy Corsetry , neckpiece by  Forge Fashion . Made for burlesque artist  Venus Starr .

Corset by Purdy Corsetry, neckpiece by Forge Fashion. Made for burlesque artist Venus Starr.

Having met Jemma in 2013, I can tell you that her work is technically immaculate and very gorgeous. Combine that with a great understanding of colour and a willingness to explore ideas many shy away from, and you have stunningly unique corsets!

As an aside, this "U" shaped plunge is very popular detail this year... It's been growing for perhaps two or three years, but just now we are seeing it quite a lot. Partly perhaps due to work like Jemma's, partly perhaps due to wonderful antiques that are being brought back to life by people like Nikki... It's lovely to see such trends and experimentation within corsetry. When I started a few years back, there wasn't quite so much variety (and I'm a big fan of variety!).

Corset by  Purdy Corsetry , neckpiece by  Forge Fashion . Made for burlesque artist  Venus Starr .

Corset by Purdy Corsetry, neckpiece by Forge Fashion. Made for burlesque artist Venus Starr.

Another piece Jemma is working on is a more muted dark tone and heavily beaded. I cannot wait to see the finished item!

Beaded corset by Purdy Corsetry.

Beaded corset by Purdy Corsetry.

One of the things I love best about contemporary corsetry, is having so many friends and acquaintances within it. We can only guess at the motivations of individual cutters and designers back in Victorian and Edwardian times, but with our peers we can geek out to our heart's content about the technical challenges surrounding any new design. Add to that the fact that corsetry can also be pretty and shiny and I think you have a perfect artform :-)

There is so much to be inspired by, like Purdy Corsetry's work here. The trick isn't to replicate the work of those you're inspired by, but to replicate their attitude of innovation, hard-work, study, and boldness. There are a zillion ways we can each have an unique take on corsetry, and referencing antique styles is just one of them.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about Purdy's work! Do bookmark us and check back in the future, for more posts all about beautiful corsetry.

Show & Tell - Sparklewren

"Red Hearts" is a Birds Wing corset-body, made of fine mink coutil (via SewCurvy).

Tingyn in the Red Hearts corset, by InaGlo Photography, 2014.

Tingyn in the Red Hearts corset, by InaGlo Photography, 2014.

I think it can be easy to fall into thinking that plain coutil is not a decorative fabric choice, but that doesn't have to be the case. Aside from how beautiful the fine herringbone coutil is by itself, it is also a wonderful base for draping and/or embellishment, which is what we did with Red Hearts. Bubblegum pink tulle is wrapped across the corset and gathered behind the bustline, whilst layered laces in gold, vanille, neutral-pink and pink/gold add texture. Rose quartz chips and freshwater pearls give a level of opulence that I personally love.

Detail shot by Jenni Hampshire.

Detail shot by Jenni Hampshire.

Of course, any of these ideas can be explored in more subtle (or more dramatic!) ways. You could use coloured tulle flatlined to coutil (or sheer) panels to create an interesting corset. You could completely cover a design in pearls (as my intern Emiah Couture is currently doing on a project of her own), drape different qualities and colours of silk in a more voluminous manner, stick to one lace or layer multiple laces, etc. etc.

For my part, as Birds Wings are quite complicated in the first place, I try to keep their construction as simple and streamlined as possible. Beautiful quality coutils (herringbone, sateen, broche, etc.) allow you to do this with minimal bulk, in comparison to most corset construction. I suppose the basic premise is to shift the balance in terms of where your time goes... I like to streamline the construction and elaborate on the embellishment!