On Thursday evening I announced that I was going to start posting daily....and here is my next post, very late on Saturday night. Whoops. Well, it's been a crazy, crazy couple of days, full of frantic running about trying to get things in order with my transcript and so forth in time to meet my first graduate school deadline. Not a lot going on in the department of sewing.
However! Today, vestiges of the January Term corset-making class that I taught met in my common room to make further corset progress. The three of them are all coming along nicely; they're all at least as far as constructing the linings of their final corsets. There has been a great deal of fitting along the way, and there are many, many fussy gussets to construct. But they're coming along, and I'm learning so much about corset fitting and shaping and engineering by working with so many different bodies and styles. It's been a great learning experience for me; I hope they feel the same!
After my junior corset-makers left, I went on a very important grocery shopping expeditions with two housemates and a friend, out in the genuinely horrifying weather, but fortunately, I survived the adventure. After some much-needed dinner, I finished cutting out a couple of stray gussets, and voila, my two corset mock-ups were entirely cut out! I then spend a couple hours carefully marking up each and every piece with seam lines and balance marks and all sorts of fussing.
I could only drag myself through pressing the gusset opening seam allowances back on one of them, but now I have a completed mock-up of my 1830s set of stays (that term was more commonly used than "corset," in that period). It even has a little pocket sewn in the front for a wooden mock-up busk. Unfortunately, it was after three in the morning by the time I finished putting the mock-up together, so everyone had gone to bed and there was no one to pin me into it for a fitting. Ohhh well. Once I acquire an assistant and actually do a fitting, I'll try to get some pictures, and then there will actually be evidence of what I'm doing!
In related news - to my extreme delight, I have found someone to make me a wooden busk for my 1830s stays! It will be made out of a thin piece of oak, and I just need to send a picture and dimensions - which I will be able to do as soon as I have a perfectly fitted mock-up and know the finished length. I'm so pleased! It will be wonderful to have just the right thing. He even offered to carve it with my initials!
In other Div III related news, I have decided that something I will start doing is to keep track of questions that arise along the way, particularly things I'm not likely to be able to answer readily, since I don't have ready access to original garments. Some of these questions will be included in my final documentation paper, as points of consideration for further research - this sort of thing is commonly done in scientific research, so why not in what I'm doing, which is as much experimental archaeology as anything else?
It occurred to me to do this after I started wondering today how gussets would be been typically constructed when hand-sewing. I know how to do them by machine, and obviously the same technique could be done by hand, but would it have been? This is something I wish I'd paid closer attention to when I was examining the corsets in Collections at Old Sturbridge Village. Hopefully I can get some idea of the matter by peering at photographs in museum books and online, and looking through things like The Workwoman's Guide. But it will be guessing. And that's acceptable - as long as I admit that I'm guessing, and note that it's a question for further investigation. Because part of the point of what I'm doing is to demonstrate that things can be learned from the clothing construction process. Including things that can help us better understand how women of the past constructed their clothing, and why.
One of the fascinating things I'm learning from working on corsets of different time periods is about the evolution of corset engineering through the 19th century. The hows and the whys are starting to really come together in my head, and it's exciting. I'm starting to think semi-seriously about eventually writing a book on custom-making corsets based on duct-tape draping and different "engineering" principles - how to work with the bias or avoid it, different shapes for different periods, etc. I find it frustrating that so much of what's out there about corset-making largely ignores fitting, and all basically talks about a generic, shaped panel, more-or-less 3rd quarter or the 19th century or so style, completely or largely ignoring gussets, which are extremely useful and were widely used, though of course in some periods more than others.
I'm also of the opinion that patterns are mostly counter-productive when it comes to patterns, and that working with duct tape draping, a couple of colored sharpies, and some diagrams of what you want the pieces to be roughly shaped like, is vastly superior to trying to make a standard pattern both fit your body and flatter your body. Plus, even when a pattern turns out well, your corset still ends up looking like, well, the pattern! There was so much variety in corset styles in the past, even within a single period - it's silly that most reproduction corsets look more or less the same.
Of course, I'm guessing that there's more information about this sort of thing on Foundations Revealed, but thus far I have not been able to scare up the money for a membership, unfortunately. Well, hopefully soon I'll manage it, at least for a little while. And then perhaps I won't need to do quite as much making things up as I go along....slash re-inventing the wheel.
And now, I must sleep. Updates will likely be a bit scarce this week, because I have a grad school application due on Friday that still has a great deal that needs doing, and I'll need to focus much of my time on that. But on the up side, one of the things I need to do for my application is put together a little 2-page PDF on my historical-costuming-experimental-archaeology-stuff, with - guess what! - pictures! So I will endeavor to post that here, or at least put the pictures here, as well, sometime within the week. I know, I know...this sort of blog is quite useless without pictures. I'm working on it! :)