February 09, 2021 1 Comment
According to Elizabeth Ewing in her 1978 book, Dress and Undress: a history of women's underwear, the origins of the corset were rooted in Italy. But it was Catherine De Medici that first introduced it as an undergarment in France, in the 1500’s. Due to the intermarriages among Western European royal families the corset became an identifier of royal status. The corset’s appeal traveled throughout royal courts all over Europe, where the attending ladies of these courts were also quick to embrace this body altering apparatus. The idea that ladies could alter their figures to mimic that of royalty and therefore follow the latest in fashion trends was just too irresistible! This new trend would find its way to the masses and the corset would become the under-garment du jour. Unwittingly, this trajectory would literally alter the shape of women’s fashion for centuries to come. While the corset may not be worn on a daily basis as it once was, this undergarment continues to tantalize with its mystique and myths, some seven hundred years later.
The corset eventually became an essential piece of every European woman’s wardrobe, no matter the class or socio-economical divide and would endure throughout most of modern history. It would seem that every era in history would produce it’s own varying versions of the corset. Even regional folk dress was influenced by the corset - the Polish vest (found in our 126 Vests of Greece and Poland) is called a "gorset" (i.e. corset) in Poland.
When the Folkwear 267 M’ Lady’s Corset was designed, we sought to create the impression of a Renaissance garment, rather than a pure authentic re-creation.
M’Lady’s Corset is a representative of the late 16th- and early 17th-century under-garments. The Square-neck version would have been worn by upper-class women in the royal courts and working class women would have worn the Scoop-neck version. If you consider that one laces up the back and the other closes in the front, you can deduct who was being waited on by a ladies maid and who was dressing themselves.
Both versions feature a dropped waistline at the center front to give the V-shape that was characteristic of the Elizabethan era, and wide set shoulder straps to further emphasize the small-waisted impression. The Square-neck corset laces in the back with purchased eyelets or handmade eyelets, and adjustable straps that lace through eyelets in the front. The Scoop-neck corset fastens in the front with purchased hook-and-eye tape, and features a peplum that reflects the waistline tabs of the 16th-century doublets and corsets. You will find all you need to make your own eyelets and so much more in the instructions included in the pattern.
Our 267 M’ Ladies Corset while not purely authentic to the Elizabethan era, does take advantage of the form-fitting technique that princess-type seam construction easily allows. Princess seams were incorporated into the design of our corset because it is a successful and versatile method of achieving good fit. This type of seam construction is easy to adjust for individual fit and does not require major re-drafting of the pattern pieces.
While well-to-do ladies’ corsets would have provided figure shaping support through the use of stiffening materials such as boning and sturdy underling materials. Both pattern versions included in the M' Lady's Corset, gives you the option to add supportive materials or not. Depending on how serious you are about the construction of your corset… is up to you.
For the purpose of this blog (and lack of having a proper ladies maid), we are featuring the front entry, scooped-neck version. Which easily transforms into a romantic and comfortable top for warmer temperatures to come! This version of 267 M' Lady's Corset, may not have been what peasant women would have worn in their daily lives, but it is still charming none-the-less. And really makes a great modern-day top or sexy undergarment.
I made this particular corset for causal warm-weather wearing, so the boning and any stiffening materials were left out. Instead the princess seaming is relied upon to provide a corseted effect. Any fabric with a bit of body and that can easily be lined without creating bulk will work. Cotton, linen, silk, and summer weight wools would all work nicely for the main outer fabric. Handkerchief linen, cotton lawn, cotton voile, cotton batiste, cotton muslin, rayon, and silk habotai would all make good linings. I made this corset using a light-weight quilting cotton, combined with cotton seersucker for the outer fabric. And I used a finer-weight cotton shirting for the lining. The fabrics used for this blog literally came from my stash and cabbage scraps. Depending on the look you want, this pattern is a perfect candidate for mixing limited amounts of yardage.
Of course, you could make this pattern out of a single layer of fabric and wear more like a bodice blouse. Just be aware that finishing the seams and edges will need to be considered.
In addition to the easy to make construction of his pattern, it provides plenty of good coverage in all the right places for a flattering and comfortable fit. All of which makes it perfect for everyday-wear. Try this corset alone or paired with a light weight linen or cotton top underneath, layer it over a dress length chemise for a modern look with a nod to history. Pair it with a skirt, high-waisted shorts, or pants for a charming and fresh summertime feel. Even paired with your favorite jeans it makes for a great sassy look!
A bit about hook & eye tape
Hook & eye tape makes for a neat and clean closure when two fabric pieces meet, but do not overlap. When purchasing hook & eye tape, know that it comes in different types of fabric. Purchase your tape that most closely matches the fabric you are using if you can. Most tape are made of synthetic or cotton. Cotton is always nice because it can be dyed to match your fabric. Typically, hook & eye tape comes in white, black, and natural linen (for historical use).
Not all hook & eye tapes are created equal when it comes to the spacing of the hooks & eyes. The spacing generally ranges from 1 to 1-1/2 inch spacing. For better closure results, 3/4 inch to 1-1/4 inch spacing works better. You can always add extra hooks & eyes if necessary.
Note that some hook & eye tapes have an underlap or under-curtain, that over lap. While others tapes meet together. Depending on the look you prefer will depend on which tape to use. If hook & eye tape has an underlap, you can carefully trim it away if you like.
Of course you could always create a closure with loops and tiny buttons running down the front of the corset for extra added interest. If you wanted to add buttons with buttonholes, you can adjust the pattern to allow for the center front to overlap. Notice in the photos below, that the buttons are purely decorative. If you look closely you can see the hook & eye closure.
Tip: Hooks go on the wearer's right; eyes on the left.
Supply sources for all your corset making needs, including boning:
Find more sources included in the 267 M' Lady Corset pattern!
Whether you make a more historical version or transform this corset pattern into an everyday garment, the 267 M’ Lady’s Corset pattern is a versatile option for anyone who would like to give corset making a try. Be sure to get your paper or PDF pattern on sale during the month of February! The perfect Valentine's Day gift for yourself or for someone special!
The next time you are watching your favorite period piece film, or the modern fashion trends, pay attention to the corsets and remember the Folkwear’s 267 M’ Lady’s Corset pattern. As always, we look forward to seeing what you have been inspired to make!
I would like to thank Sarahbeth Larrimore for her allowing me to use her as my muse and model.