Victorianesque Underbust Corset

    

Not a true Victorian corset with its short length on the body but the seams follow a classic Victorian shape which allows for a greater cinch at the waist. It is made using a layer of Herringbone cotton canvas lined in calico. The bones are spiral steel which I haven’t used before. I was amazed with how flexible and strong it is so I am hoping to be able to see it perform in a wedding dress soon.

     

The pattern was drafted by wrapping my lovely fit model in cling film and duct tape. Lots of pinching let me determine where we could get the best reduction. My next version will need double the amount of eyelets down the back, edged with flat steel but on the whole I am really happy with how this turned out.

Beaded lace bridal hair piece

One great pleasure for anyone who does any sewing is working with amazing fabric. I was lucky enough to be able to work with some exquisite beaded lace which leant itself beautifully to being used for a hair piece.

The way most laces are made mean that they won’t fray so it is possible to clip out the details and use them in creative ways. For this hair piece each layer and petal was wired individually to lift them up and give volume to the finished floral spray.

The image at the top shows the hair piece tucked into a lovely soft up-do.

Below are close ups showing the front and the back. The wire visible from the back as well as the clear comb. I would usually cover the comb base in some silk but in this case the lace was so delicate that the invisible comb was much more subtle.

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Bow

The bow has yet to recover fully from what the 80’s did to it. The lingering fear of anything with a bow on the back will take a while to shake off. I would like to offer up some beautiful bows to remind everyone of how great they can be.

Vera wang gown with super wide grosgrain bow above.

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Vintage draped and tied bows.

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Large bow incorporated into a sculpted back by Lanvin.

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Chanel dress from the 30’s with contrast bow.

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Little velvet bows added to a birdcage veil. Perfect for with a sleek and simple dress.

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Dress covered in bows from Stella McCartney. Would it be too much with the above veil?

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Here the bows are embroidered onto the dress. An example from the 20’s and a modern take on a 50’s frock.

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Sculpted and wired bow by Dior.

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Little bows as detail on the back closure. The left as a detail over a zip and right as the actual closure on an informal dress.

Bridal show -Tulle and lace

I really enjoyed making this dress. I don’t think it looked as good in the parade as i was hoping but it was a real challenge to do and I learned a lot. One of the best things about the parade was being able to take some risks.

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I do have some great photos taken throughout the construction I would like to share.

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Foundation techniques – Crinoline hem

To create a wonderful curl at the hem of a skirt a woven trim can be used, Sometimes called Crinoline braid or horse hair braid. Originally woven from horse hair this trim has been used as a stiffener throughout victorian fashion. Developed in Synthetic materials it was used for hats in the 20’s and kept the skirts wide in the 50’s. The flexibility comes from the way it is woven in a strip so is technically on the bias, this allows it to be shaped through curls and circle skirts.

The width and weight can be selected depending on the application. Here is an example from the house of adorn.

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Below shows the braid used to emphasise the curl in a ruffle.

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Here and the top image show a heavier version holding the shape in an amazing gown. Zac Posen uses this technique a lot.

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A more subtle example where the braid is used just to add some extra stiffness to a straighter hem. You can see a little line where the top edge of the braid is tacked inside the skirt. Without it this skirt would be falling closer to the legs and the fish tail would not be so exaggerated as it is.

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Here it is left visible as a contrast at the hem. Dior Haute Couture.

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A fine strip of crinoline can be used to give the same curl to the edge of a veil.

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Silk v Nylon

A little discussion about tulle. The exact weaving technique is what defines tulle but the material it is made from makes it behave as if it was an unrelated fabric.

Silk tulle

Bought back into the spotlight by Katherine middleton and worn perfectly. Silk tulle is made of the same technique as nylon tulle but it looks and feels completly different. It has more drape and inertia than nylon and depending on the quality can look a little more opaque.

Kate shows the way is falls straight down, looking lovely over the face. She also has a wide attachment around the whole front of her tiara. this holds the tulle open so its sheerness can be seen.  A narrow atachment lets the tulle fall straight and none of its transparency  can be seen. I personally think that the kate method is the only way to use silk tulle.

2 veils showing the fall of a silk tulle veil with a narrow base, lady Mary showing how seemingly silk tulle works best with tiaras.

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Nylon Tulle

Normally my fibre snobbery would prevail and I would prefer silk fabric over a synthetic but not when it comes to veils. The threads the fabric is made of are much finer and lighter than silk so the tulle has a lightness and can be incredibly sheer. It also has some stiffness which holds it more open and allows the sheer layers to all be seen. It is also quite inexpensive and available everywhere. I have also seen it in more shades than silk which is usually only white and ivory if you are lucky. Nylon tulles come in white, ivory, The poorly named ‘nude’,champagne and almost caramel (as well as almost all bright colours if you want a coloured veil, I should make a post about coloured veils, against a white dress they are brilliant)

A simple light circle from bhldn (look at the distance from her shoulders the veil is sitting compared to lady Mary), A 60’s bride showing what is possible when you embrace the pouff, A tiny little blusher in an almost invisible whisp of tulle.

Tulle veil bhldn 60's veil   tulle blusher veil

 

Foundation techniques – boning

In most formal dresses I make there is a need for boning. Boning had a bad name from when it was over and poorly used in the  classic off the shoulder 80’s bridesmaid dress. Here are the types of boning available as well as information on what they do and how I like to use them.

Starting from the subtle through to the serious

Woven plastic – This boning is made of strands of plastic wire woven together into a strip. It is the softest boning available and a wonderful way to keep lines smooth over the body and keep strapless tops from falling down. It is easy to use as you can sew straight through it between the plastic.

plastic – Spotlight/lincraft quality. This quality is great for a wear once only dress. It may have some issues but actually can be removed from its tubes and a fresh piece inserted if you want to wear the dress again.

Plastic – specialist online supplier quality. This boning is made of better quality plastic and also comes in more widths than the  basic quality mentioned. The wider boning is useful for areas where more strength is needed.

When boning is used for cinching in a waist it needs to be good quality. The closure also needs to be considered. A tighter dress will be impossible to close with buttons. If you dont want lacing in the back of the dress I would make a lacing closure inside, this can be pulled tight to fit the dress and then buttons or a zip closes the outer layer over the top. One bride I did this for I could foresee some trouble untying after the wedding champagne so  made sure they had some scissors and used a satin ribbon that could be easily cut and replaced.

 Inside a Valentino dress showing boning in the bodice. This dress also has a tape at the waist and under the bust.

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Some time the qualities are mixed and used where they are needed. Harder boning in the centre front and softer against the more flexible sides. Often boning will follow the seam lines and some time I like to use boning on an angle starting on the outside of the breast  going down to meet its twin at the centre front. good to support a fuller bust and flatten a tummy. The lining and boning and outer dress can be joined as one piece or some times the lining and boning is like a little corset, attached only to the dress around the neck line. Below boning used on an angle and the inside of a Christian dior dress showing a lining that closes with hooks and the outer layer of the dress closes over the top

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Spiral steel – This boning is usually used for corset making. Before using corset boning in a dress I would increase the amount of plastic boning and refine its position. If that wanst going to cut it then spiral steel is the next step. It is made from what looks like a spring of steel that has been flattened and is flexible both front to back and side to side. The curly endes are trimmed and capped with a little clip or rubber dipped so there is a nice smooth top.

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Solid Steel – I must admit i haven’t used this type of boning myself although I am working on a pattern that will use them so I can test how they work. This kind of boning is only  Flexible only front to back.

A boned corset in all its complicated and flossed glory.

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The bad reputation of boning I think comes from poor placement, Bones that are too long will dig in under arms and into hips.   Types where the stitching isn’t through the boning need to be secured in place so they dont move up and down inside their channel (this lovely hand stitching seen in corsetry is called flossing and is an art form as well as a technical necessity) Boning quality also matters, if it is a bit weak it will ‘crack’ at the waist when it is bent, This will mean a crease will form in the bone that doesn’t dissapear so will stay pushing into you Craching can also be avoided by using a bone on an angle around curvy areas instead of straight up and down them.

 

 

Tulle, you are the queen of ruffles

The final way that tulle excells is by making the most amazing ruffles. No need to hem the edge leaves them light and frothy.

Cute ruffles below and also a lovely sleeve.

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A wonderful technique using the ruffles vertically, narrower at the top edge and fuller at the hem.

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Tulle wont hold a permanent pleat like some synthetic fabrics will but they can be put through the machine and will pleat beautifully if you only want to wear them once

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I don’t love the below dress but I do quite like the idea. Ruffles of tulle used between placed lace to give softness and texture. The ruffles on the dress below I think are a little too long but it is still very inspiring.1654bf433d17457883ad4e54a7b93913

This dress is not made of tulle but a skirt of cascading ruffles like this could be made easily. This skirt is so effective because the lines of the ruffles don’t follow the usual direction around the skirt.

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Simple but effective rows of tulle ruffles on a separate skirt.

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The rest of my obsession with tulle here and here

 

Foundation techniques – waist tape

The internal structure is critical to getting the fit right for a dress. The more formal and complex the outside the same will be true for the inside.

There is a vintage technique I commonly use for formal and wedding dresses and that is adding a waist tape.

the waist tape is a strip of rigid ribbon placed inside the gown at the narrowest point. I love using it for a few reasons. If the dress is tight it will be closed before the zip making it easier to pull the zip (or buttons) up. keeps the dress sitting well and not riding up. It can be raised to around the ribs giving more support for a strapless dress or larger bust.

I have added some images showing the inside of vintage gowns where a waist tape is visible. Before the 1900’s it was used to keep the bodice in place over a corset, gowns were usually made of a top and skirt and the gap between should never be visible. Later it was used to keep the waist of the dress close to the tiny wasp waist in fashion in the 40’s and 50’s.

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