Corsets were worn by almost all women in the nineteenth century. They provide support for large, heavy skirts as well as shaping for the garments of the era. Laura speaks of her frustration with her corsets in her books. However, she would not have worn a dress without one.
[Laura's] corsets were a sad affliction to her, from the time she put them on in the morning, until she took them off at night. But when girls pinned up their hair and wore skirts down to their shoe-tops, they must wear corsets.
--Little Town on the Prairie
Corsets in the 1880s were not considered optional. An 1880s dress would look very odd without the proper undergarments (The Pragmatic Costumer does a good job explaining this in her blog post). This is not very different from modern underwear. Most 21st century women don't go out in public without a bra of some sort. So, in many ways, the corset is not different from our modern bras. It provides support and shape and for our bodies and our clothing.
I ordered my corset kit from Sew Curvy Corsetry. It was the most affordable corset kit in the style I desired and had good reviews. I began my corset in April and it took me until November to complete. Because it was my first time sewing a corset, I would discover I needed a certain tool, piece of advice, or a tutorial before I could continue. Then my corset would stand untouched for a couple of weeks before I got back to it. For this reason, it took me much longer than I expected, or was necessary.
I wanted a corset that fit well to my shape, which is why I opted to make my own. Because I was completely new at it, I chose a kit with full instructions and all the supplies. My corset kit came with white coutil, spiral boning, a regular flexible busk, eyelets and a setting tool, and laces. This corset had no lining. Prior to beginning the process, I watched a lot of videos and read blog posts on corset construction. There are a lot of great resources available, and whole blogs devoted to corsetry, both modern and historical.
The most difficult part was probably the binding. I wouldn't have guessed, as I've done binding before. What I found was that I had not left enough excess at the top of my pattern, and my bones here slightly too long (they came pre-measured in with the kit). Also, I should have left the boning channel tape a little longer than the pattern. I didn't think about this until I was trying to stuff my boning into the channel so I could sew binding over top. As a result, my boning is now pushing on the binding. I tried a few different methods of fixing this, but its not an immediate issue, so I have just left it for now. Eventually it will probably push its way through the binding, but I can always add new binding. I'm not too worried, as this is my first corset and I feel certain I'll make a new, better constructed one in the future.
My name is Rosalie Silliman, I'm a history enthusiast with a love for sewing and costumes.