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. 

GNAP and Beyond by Jennifer Garside

Early last year, many of the patterns from the Symington Pattern books held by Leicestershire county council were released as high quality images, a truly amazing resource for fashion historians, corset makers and costumers. As part of the Oxford conference of corsetry, the GNAP project was devised. Attendees of last years conference (and a couple of attendees from previous years) selected a pattern to recreate to take to the conference to see what could be learnt from these patterns.

I selected the pattern with the Symingtons reference number 23300, dating from 1894. This pattern particularly appealed to me because of the scooped, quite un-Victorian looking, neckline.

The patterns are supplied as a high quality photograph, which if printed at A2 size will give an image the same size as the original. I decided to make up the pattern initially as close to the original as I could. I chose to use a grey dot broche, 5mm spiral steels throughout, with the exception of 7mm flat steels either side of the eyelets, and a 13” spoon busk.

The pattern went together beautifully, creating a very curvy final corset measuring 34” at the bust, 22” at the waist and 36” at the hips. However as with most Victorian patterns, this corset is very short waisted, so I decided to make a second version, redrafting the pattern to give a slightly more modern cut, but trying to keep as true to the original as possible. The redraft made the pattern an overbust rather than demi bust and curved the line in slightly more over the lower hip as well as increasing the bust to waist length. The redraft measured 32” at the bust, 22” at the waist and 35” at the hip and had a 14” spoon busk.

While at the conference I was delighted to discover that Jess from Ties that Bynde Designs was pretty much perfectly proportioned to fit these corsets, despite the short waist, so I managed to get a couple of phone photos of her wearing them.

Photo: Jessica Crutchfield wearing Wyte Phantom. Image copyright Jennifer Garside 2015

Not content with just two versions of this pattern, I decided to use it as the basis of the corset I made for Evie Wolfe to model for me at the conference. While this corset pattern was already curvy, it was nowhere near curvy enough for Evie who has an 18” difference between bust and waist! I kept the corset shape and style as close to the original design as I could, adding some extra boning for added support. I didn’t have time to check the fit of this piece on Evie in advance or make a toile, so I was understandably rather nervous the first time I put her into it. I was incredibly pleased with how smooth the corset was, and how curvy. As ever there are things I am not 100% happy with, but that’s why version four is under construction!
I have also taken the pattern and converted it into an underbust, keeping the boning pattern the same and the lovely high back.

Photo: Evie Wolfe wearing Wyte Phantom. Image InaGlo Photography 2015

Jennifer has been an attendee at OCOC from year one. One of our very favourite people for her general loveliness and helpfulness to other attendees and to us (and also for her fabulous wardrobe). You can see more of Jennifer's gorgeous work on her business page for Wyte Phantom

Admin Note: Did you make a GNAP corset for OCOC'15? If so, we'd love a blog post on yours too. We're also looking for posts on your experiences, things you've learned and anything you'd like to share.