|"The Dictates of Fashion", Punch, 1856|
Costumiers have at least one thing in common with architects. When it comes to creating a convincing and well-fitting historical costume, the first consideration must always be the foundations. Throughout history people have experimented with changing the shape of the human body and in modern western society this was usually achieved through the use of structural undergarments, such as corsets, crinolines and bustles that moulded and enhanced the natural form of the wearer. To create the correct silhouette and allow costumes to fit the body in a way that is faithful to the period you are trying to reproduce, choosing the right undergarments is therefore essential.
|Image from https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/276760339573324650/?from_navigate=true|
The first garment I am tackling for this project is the corset. This is perhaps one of the most emblematic garments of the Victorian period and is key to getting your bodice to fit correctly. Corsets in the 1840s aimed to create a small waist and a smooth, rigid torso. Before the adoption of the straight-seamed corset during the 1840s, small triangular insertions called gores were inserted to create the shaping at the bust and hips. Metal eyelets, invented in 1828, were used to reinforce the lacing holes and the front-fastening metal busk with its stud and hook closures was introduced in 1829. Corsets at this period could be boned with whalebone or steel, both of which could withstand the pressure of lacing the corset to achieve the desired figure. Cording (sandwiching narrow cord between layers of fabric in tightly stitched channels) was also used for stiffening the panels of corsets, alone for lighter, less restrictive garments, and combined with stiffer boning often for decorative effect.
|MFA, 51.1959, 1839, corded wedding corset|